Tag Archive for community

Knowledge Pool: Easier collaboration, Better Knowledge

My last post, Social Business Collaboration Meets SharePoint 2010 Intranet, included a few videos showing your collaborative experience can be enhanced using Cim Social Business Collaboration on your SharePoint 2010 Intranet.  They focused on people working within an IT Department portal.  In this article, we’ll do some “Day in the life” videos and look at a specific scenario where users are sharing and collaborating as part of a knowledge community from across a SharePoint environment.  We’ll see how the knowledge evolves and improves via the collaborative community and the inter-action of participants. 

The 4 “Day in the Life” videos show different users sharing, using, and collaborating on the topic of modifying the branding of a portal on SharePoint.  A key aspect to note is that the users are working from different locations across a SharePoint environment: a Cim-branded department portal, a native SharePoint team site, and, a native SharePoint My Site.  Yet, they are all tapping into the same Knowledge Pool community, interacting, and seeing the activities of others from wherever they work – without having to navigate somewhere else.  This convenience and visibility enables greater participation that drives improved collaboration and results.


Here we show a schematic of how this lays out.  In the scenario, our “community” is not a place that the users go, rather, it is a resource that they leverage from wherever they work.


Knowledge Pool: 4 “Day in the Life Videos”


Knowledge Pool: Contributing an Article (runtime 3:59)

Here Pat Green kicks things off working from the IT Department portal by contributing an article on changing the menu style of a portal.


Knowledge Pool: Enhancing Knowledge, Working from a Team Site (runtime 3:07)

John Gold picks up the ball and leverages this information to update his Process Improvements portal.  He also enhances the article with additional information about modifying the image and the CSS styling.


Knowledge Pool: Using the Knowledge via a My Site (runtime 2:21)

William Rogers needs to brand a new portal for projects.  Working from his My Site he accesses the Knowledge Pool, locates the enhanced article, does his branding, and, provides feedback.


Knowledge Pool: Collaborative Activity in Your Activity Stream (runtime 1:37)

Now, we go full circle. Pat checks her activity stream and sees all of the activity that others have done on this now enhanced article.


The Knowledge Pool community is just one use case of leveraging Cim for collaborative work.  Each community can be customized to fit the need.  As shown here, they can be snapped into any existing SharePoint site so that users can tap into them from wherever they work.  Users no longer have to navigate to go somewhere to access information, collaborate, and see activity.  The system brings it to them.

In the Knowledge Pool scenario, this ease, convenience, and visibility typically results in better knowledge.  The information gets more eyes on it, more use, and gathers value.  It may get so good, that, you want to polish it up and publish it to a more formal community for use internally or customer facing.  How about adding a simple process, where a group of people could tap into this pool of knowledge, make decisions about which items to publish, polish them up, and then publish them?  To see how this works, check out my post Knowledge Pipeline: From Raw Data to Published (and Improving) Knowledge that describes how you can do this.



Channels: Group to Group Inter-activity

A couple weeks back I got wind of a customer that wanted to address a very straightforward problem – getting Marketing and Sales to work better together.  This is an area that can benefit every commercial organization.  With a bit of inspiration, we came up with a rather nifty way of addressing this challenge by leveraging Cim to provide two-way, group-to-group interactivity.  Let’s take a look at the scenario and the solution.

So, what are some of the activities that these two departments typically interact on (or, should interact on).  Here are just a few:

  • Review and vetting of Marketing Collateral
  • Questions about upcoming events
  • Vetting campaigns and events
  • Customer stories that can be used by marketing
  • New market ideas
  • Ideas for new campaigns, events, product marketing
  • Prioritization of activities
  • Information from sales on competition, channel, field and market activity

In May, I wrote an article about the 4 C’s – 4 different types of ways to capture ideas (Idea Communities, Campaigns, Challenges, and Contests).  Last month, I wrote about the two primary ways that ideas flow in an idea and innovation workstream.  These articles address standard idea and innovation scenarios where a larger community of people are engaging with a smaller group of people that own a business process.

However, the situation of improving communication and inter-activity between the Sales department and the Marketing department is quite different.  It is two groups of people that need to work together on lots of things.  It is more of a point-to-point, communication, and interaction scenario.  Hmm…

Below is a graphic of the solution using a new approach that we will call “Channels” (another “C” use).  The objective is to get Marketing and Sales working better together.  What you see here are individuals within each department working in their own separate portals.  Historically, the twain do not meet.  They work in their silos.  To interact they need to go somewhere else.  However, now we introduce Cim and our Idea Communities, and, viola the Channel is born (the green connecting pipe).

idea channel-2-400


Here is how it works.  Each person continues working in their department portal.  A Cim idea community is deployed in the background working as a service.  The Community front-end UI goes into each portal.  The Channel is now in place.  To each department, it appears that they have a point-to-point communication channel with the other department – which, in fact, they do.

Now, they start to work.  A few scenarios:

  • The marketing department posts a new presentation for Sales to review.  A number of sales people rate it and make comments.  They upload a couple of presentations that they have done or their own.  Marketing reviews them.  Marketing sets up a meeting to discuss the presentation with all comers and gets feedback – with people logging comments in the virtual workspace.  A few days later marketing comes out with the final presentation which is posted and immediately available.
  • They set up a Section for Customer Stories.  The sales folks gradually start to enter stories – it is easy and convenient to do so.  Other reps rate the stories and make some comments.  Marketing reviews it and asks questions.  Marketing then creates a snapshot for the web site and asks sales to review it.
  • Over time, sales folks have posted ideas for marketing campaigns and events.  Just before the quarter marketing posts 5 fleshed out campaigns/events and allows sales to vet them for a week (rate and comment).  The deal is that marketing will fund the top 3 rated events.  At the end of the time, marketing posts the quarterly plan for all to see.

The list and interactivity goes on and on.  There is now a very rich Channel for collaboration, information, and interaction between the departments.  It is easy to use and convenient because no-one has to go somewhere to engage – they work from “home”.  It has high visibility and there is a persistent history.  It is easy to search and there is a simple Tagsnonomy for folks to use to filter information.  Everyone can see the most recent items entered and highest rated. It is a rich, collaborative way of working with rating, commenting, RSS feeds, notifications, file uploads, etc.

Department to department Channels like this can make a big difference.  It starts with accountability that comes from visibility, easy access, and being given a chance to have your say. So, how about a Channel between Sales and Product Management.  Or, a channel between IT and Operations.  After a while you would come to expect that each Department or Business Function will have a number of Channels to other key departments with which they have a high degree of interaction and information flow. 

With Cim, those items (like a really good idea) that should make their way into more formal process like product development or marketing campaign development can be siphoned off and processed via a Management Hub and flow into the implementation phase.  

Okay, formally, I am adding Channels to my list of uses of CorasWorks Idea Management.  It is now the 5 C’s.  The question for you is what other departments or business functions do you or should you be working closely with to improve business results?


Idea Management: Driving results with “Events” and Web 2.0-Style Features

In my overview to CorasWorks Idea Management solution for SharePoint, I touched on our support for custom-tailored, event-driven idea communities, such as Campaigns and Challenges.  In this article, I’ll drill down into what these are and how this approach to idea management complemented by the new Web 2.0-style feature sets drive improved effectiveness.

Most people I talk to about Idea Management initially bring a mindset that is based upon the “Suggestion Box”.  In this classic approach, you have a passive email inbox, form or community for people to enter ideas.  It is passive.  If people have an idea and remember how to share it properly – they contribute.  Its a start…

However, the studies over the last 10 years have shown that proactive, event-driven approaches to idea generation and capture are much more effective.  The event-driven approach involves having specific-purpose, time-constrained “events” for outreach to your community.  Here are three examples:

  • You want ideas for new features of an existing product.  You will have a campaign for 60 days to get ideas.  Then, you begin your formal review process by a smaller team.
  • You are working on a global application for product management.  Instead of meetings, you launch a challenge for 30 days to have all interested parties enter their requirements, and collaborate, vet, horse trade.  Then, you take what you have and work up the requirements.
  • You have a particular manufacturing process that is broken and needs improvement.  You run a two week challenge to get ideas and collaborate on them. 

The key change up here is that rather than being passive and general, you are taking specific business problems and objectives to your community – be it employees, vendors, partners, customers, constituents, or the general public.  You are leveraging your workforce to meet specific objectives, within a specific timeframe.

Further, now with the new feature set of Web 2.0-style communities, you have the opportunity to really drive participation and collaboration with rewards, visibility, peer feedback and collaboration, process updates, fame, and focus.  These features appeal to the fact that we are all human (in addition to being worker bees) – a little competition, fame, reward, and knowing that something is important right now – helps motivate us to participate and do so in a quality way. 

To provide some structure and best practices to use the new methodology, it is common in idea management circles to categorize “idea communities” into 4 types as follows:

  • Standing Communities: This type is most like the Suggestion Box.  You may have Standing Communities for General Ideas, New Products, or Process Improvement.  These still serve the purpose of allowing people to more broadly contribute when they think of it.  However, you now strengthen the motivation with the human features mentioned above.
  • Campaigns:  These are generally event-driven sub-sets of standing communities.  Such as “Spring is the Time for New Ideas for our Omega 2010 product line”.  The campaign runs for 30 days or so, with an objective about the scope and quality of ideas.  And, you put 50,000 Amex points or $500 Amazon dollars up for the best ideas during the campaign.
  • Challenges: These are even more specific.  Here you have very specific calls to action: requirements for this application, solutions for a specific RFP, questions like “How should we change our business in 2011” and “who and why are our top competitors” that will be part of next months planning session.  Challenges may have very short duration, even days.  Your idea community is really a tool to quickly capture, collaborate and vet the challenge.
  • Contests: This is also a specific type of event.  It is simply emphasizing the competitive and reward aspects.  It is often used with external audiences to encourage participation.  Or, it may be an approach to heighten the attention internally.  It really is about putting some reward behind the campaign and get many minds to participate in a competitive way.  

With CIM, we have designed it to make it easy for you to create individual communities of all four types.  Each is a stand-alone SharePoint site where the data is captured and the community is administered.  Yet, the participation is done in a common UI, such as our Idea Community Portal.  In addition, each community can be custom tailored to its purpose.  The most common customization is to change the Tagsonomy for each community.  This means modifying the categories and tags to provide structure for each community.  You can also change the look and feel.  You can add additional fields to capture different information or expose different feedback.

The takeaway is that you will be most effective at driving participation and innovation when you move from passive to targeted event-driven outreaches to your community.  The basic Web 2.0 features of CIM allow you to heighten the human factors that make Idea Management “ideation” successful.  And, the flexibility of CIM allows you to really tailor these community outreaches to be most effective for each objective, and, to be able to handle them separately.

In truth, this approach and this flexibility, really shift the burden onto management to proactively figure out how they will leverage their workforce and communities.  We now have the studies, the tools and the methodologies to influence the results.  Idea Management and its impact on an organizations innovation is now much less the result of chance, but, can be greatly influenced through managed planning, process, discipline, and execution.

With that said, make sure to sprinkle in a bit of fun, sizzle and excitement.  At the end of the day, it is all about people…


Another Spirit-based Solution – IT Project Management Portal

In my previous post, I wrote about an Idea Management Community built with Spirit’s new Community Services Suite v1.2 release.  Here we’ll look at second solution which is a Portal for an IT Project Management solution.  I’ll follow the same format, some text graphic and video.

Our Project Portfolio Management application is very popular.  It is very flexible and allows you to build project based solutions with project, portfolios, and PMO’s distributed across your SharePoint environment.  With this Portal component, however, we add a new dimension that brings it all together – the Portal, a project user community, mobile access, Snaplets from the various sites. The Spirit CSS provides the foundation and the community services elements for this complete solution.

Below is a screenshot of the Home Page of the Portal.  If you watched the Idea Management Community video you’ll note that it is a different brand and UI – easy with the CSS styling options of Spirit Communities Services Suite.


Next is a screenshot of the Project User Community.  You’ll see this in the demo of the Portal.  However, here it is shown within our PPM project site.  The key is that this community can be distributed to any SharePoint site, and thus, provides the glue for all project users working anywhere in the solution to collaborate.  Note how they can create articles and upload documents from anywhere and socialized this information across the community.  We’ll point out uses in the video.

Article detail with documents in Project


Now the demo, click here to see a 5 minute walkthrough of the IT Project Management portal.


With the core functionality of the CorasWorks PPM and the easy to use, web experience of the portal based upon Spirit CSS you have the best of both worlds for a great IT Project Management solution.  I believe this solution is a good example of an emerging approach that blends functionally-rich business applications and easy-to-use community services/social collaboration.  There is a lot of productivity to be gained by work sharing vs. information siloing. Getting to an effective balance is the key.



Preview of Spirit Micro-community v1.2 for SharePoint

Communities are great ways to increase the collaborative effectiveness of SharePoint.  Spirit is launching a new version of its micro-community with the release of its Community Services Suite v1.2 in April.  Here is a quick preview video of this new module.

 Click here to watch the preview video (5 minutes)

The micro-community v1.2 is a module of Spirit CSS.  The Spirit Community Services Suite is available in the CorasWorks App Store.  It runs on the CorasWorks Data Integration Toolset.  You can run it on MOSS 2007 or SharePoint 2010.

Screenshots of a Product Idea micro-community: Home Page and Idea Detail

Home Page of the Product Idea micro-community

MCv1.2-product ideas - 750


Idea detail

MCv1.2-idea detail - 750






Demo of Intranet Community Portal solution on SharePoint

We continue to create new solutions based upon the Spirit Community Services Suite.  It is very versatile.  We’ve done a video of an Intranet Community Portal solution.  This would be put in an Intranet.  It is a portal that has 3 micro-communities for General SharePoint Users, an Idea Community, and a Project User Community.  The idea is to have a portal where you can have all of your different types of micro-communities from across the SharePoint environment.

 Click here for video (runtime 12:00)

NOTE: With Spirit, micro-communities are services.  There is a central site for each micro-community with the data and functionality.  The community is made available as web parts that you can drop into any SharePoint sites, thus, it brings the community to you where you work.  However, having an Intranet Portal gives you a nice place for all of the communities, and, you can flesh it out with news and other resources to support the broader community.

Spirit Releases the Community Services Suite for SharePoint

This is cool product. We did a joint webcast with Microsoft in November where we talked about integrating Extranets in the Cloud with Intranets on premise (what we termed the X design). In it, we highlighted the Spirit Community Services Suite which was just released. This product allows organizations to create very webby UI, integrated collaborative communities on SharePoint. It contains a set of 4 modules that you use to create your communities, or, you can use the modules to add “community services” to any site in any SharePoint environment – Intranet, Extranet, or Internet.

 spiritbinoc-800-omega community-as

We’ve been using the different modules for some time in our own Community – so I am a believer. If you visit the Resources section of the Community you’ll see the link service in action. In our Partner Extranet we use the link service, the news service, and the group blog. The neatest part though is the UI that is all clean CSS/XSLT. This is particularly important for the main community navigation template, which makes it very easy to change and rebrand. With that piece, it is quite easy to pop up, eye popping communities across your environment.

A subtle but key part of the design is that the services modules run as centrally configured web application services. You configure them using a simple, native SP interface, then, you distribute the UI’s, called Service Viewers as web parts to wherever you want to use them. So, when you make changes centrally to a service, any and all uses of it across the environment are immediately updated. This allows you to make access to community services convenient for users by putting them where the user works (like in their departments) while minimizing the maintenance.

It runs on the CW Toolset on top of WSS 3.0 or MOSS. You can run it on premise or in the cloud via our offering with Fpweb.net. The documentation is rather extensive. Armed with it, you can deploy your first community, as shown in the demonstration video, in just a couple of hours. In a full day, you can have a slick, branded community, integrating information from across your SharePoint environment.

If you want to get some business leverage for your organization in 2010, interactive communities that engage and leverage people, inside and outside your organization, is a great way to start.


CorasWorks Community Builds Out in 2009

My – what a year it has been.  Thanks for being there, and, I hope you feel we were there for you.  One year ago, CorasWorks didn’t have an online Community at all, we were coming off a new customer acquisition binge, we were running on CorasWorks v9, SharePoint 2010 was no where in sight, and, we were all staring at a very gloomy looking 2009.

In January of 2009, Gary Voight, our CEO sent an email to customers and partners.  In it, when looking forward to 2009, he said “Beyond the current financial crisis we do have several challenges, but the most significant is helping our customers profitably expand the use and value of SharePoint.“

During 2009, we knew that new customer growth would be constrained and that our customers really needed us to help them be productive.  So we focused on helping our customers succeed.  It was definitely the year to make the switch.  Between the Community, our products, our services, and our partners efforts, we have delivered innovation, education, and support to help our customers better use our products to leverage their investment in SharePoint.  In case you’ve missed a few things, here is a rundown of what went down, with a bit of the rationale, and, some color coding to spice things up:

January – We released v1 of the CorasWorks Community to the world.  It was basically Forums, Blogs and a place for downloads.  But, it was built on a very flexible architecture – CorasWorks on SharePoint.  We had the base to start.

February – We started to release initial apps built on v9 of the Workplace Suite to the Community. On February 19, 2009, we released v10 of the Workplace Suite and v1.3 of the Toolset.  With the v10 release, we started the cycle of releasing the Suite with the Toolset at the same time.  The v10 platform was designed to be able to move customers forward with Ajax Forms, Rich Internet Apps and much more.  The plan was for v10 to be designed to be able to bridge customers to SP 2010 – both technically and from a user experience.  Fortunately, Microsoft made us part of the Technology Advisory Program in January of 2009 – so we were able to plan way ahead (and, the plan has worked). 

 March – We started to release core v10 apps such as the Department Dashboard and Central Configuration in the Local and One Touch Editions, and, the Our Workspace app with tutorials to be used to demonstrate simple collaboration on the new v10 platform.

April – On April 29, 2009, we released v10.1 Workplace Suite & v1.4 of the Toolset.  Our customer transition to the v10 platform was heating up.  We included license management in this release.  It was a hassle to our customers, we heard, and we took it out in v10.2.  Thank you for shouting!

May – We released our Help Desk and Work Order Approval apps – representing reference app designs for Departmental LOB apps and Business Processes, respectively.

June – We went to v2 of the Community adding the Resources section.  Since that time the Resources section has grown to have more than 500 items, including more than 120 videos.

July – We expanded the Community (v2.1) to add a formal App Store with ecommerce for our customers and partners.  We began working with a new cadre of App Publishers to build apps for the App Store based on CorasWorks.  Our goal with Apps is simply to eliminate the need for our customers to design and build themselves.  Even with CorasWorks this takes time and knowledge.  With enough Ready-for-Work apps, at low cost, from quality publishers, that are DLL Free, that all work together – customers will be able to focus on customization and integration and vastly increase productivity.

August – We released v10.2 of the Suite/Toolset – our current shipping version.  We also released the CorasWorks AppEngine as a runtime/customization environment for Apps – providing a low cost way for organizations to run apps and leverage the extensive set of core CorasWorks capabilities.  The first wave of App Publisher apps on v10 hit the App Store addressing classic business problems like Purchase Request, Time Off, Help Desk, Software License Management, etc.

September – CorasWorks released our Project Portfolio Management solution which is quickly becoming a cornerstone app for customers, and, is a reference architecture for project solutions.  We also initiated our new Community Update (bi-monthly now) to inform customers and partners of new updates within the Community.  We announced technical integration partnerships with other SharePoint ISV’s including Syntergy for Replication and AvePoint for backup and administration.

October – We had a great time at the SharePoint 2009 conference where we released CorasWorks for SharePoint 2010.  This product, built for SP2010 Beta 1, put us 9 months ahead of where we were in the SharePoint 2007 product cycle.  It also laid the groundwork for our v10.3 release in January 2010 that will bridge customers from 2007 to 2009 without requiring code changes.   We also announced our joint venture with Fpweb.net to take CorasWorks Apps to the cloud (launch January).

November – We opened up our App Publisher program to new partners and began our formal App Publisher onramp.  We also announced our new push of CorasWorks for the web, leveraging the Toolset, in a webcast with Microsoft and highlighting the really-webby Community Services Suite from Spirit (release January).

December – We launched our new online Web Based Training 5 modules and 27 videos to broaden and make it easier for “builders” to learn to customize and build with CorasWorks.  We began launching new waves of App Publishers and their apps ranging from Conference Room Scheduling to Collaborative Hubs to Sales Force Management – many for Free.  And, I did the research and wrote this article :)

So, all in all, quite a bit of activity.  The Community is taking off and we are thrilled with the interaction and engagement.  In truth, it was a building year.  We’ve had to learn how to be responsive with the online community.  I’ve heard that these efforts did help our customers in 2009. And, we did just fine.  But, what it has really done is highlighted how much more is needed to really blow out our customer and partners success with CorasWorks on SharePoint.  We have a long and continuous path now towards plug-and-play business productivity.  The good news, is that we feel that the whole system and community to deliver this value is now in place for great results in 2010.

2010 starts tomorrow.  We will be hitting January big – with the v10.3/1.6 (Suite/Toolset) release - the bridge from SP2007 to SP2010.  With the launch of CorasWorks in the Cloud.  With the launch of lots more Ready-for-Work apps from many more partners and CorasWorks.  With the introduction of CorasWorks Building Blocks – a whole new genre of apps for builders that have grown out of what we learned this year.  And, plans for a lot of improvements in the Community and our content.

Now, I go to celebrate.  Monday, I’ll be back at it.  Talk to you in 2010.