Tag Archive for CorasWorks v11

CorasWorks Today (November 2013) in 3 minutes

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What does CorasWorks offer?  Over the last 10 years, I’ve gotten this question more than a few times.  The answer has changed a bit as we’ve continued to innovate and refine our offerings.  Yet, we still remain focused on enabling organizations to create a flexible, cost effective work environment on SharePoint that meets their needs today and in the future.

Today, the CorasWorks Solution Platform is in version 11.  We have versions for SP2007, SP2010 and SP2013.  We have a rich set of off-the-shelf work management solutions to get you going quickly.  And, we enable you to have it your way through the industry leading flexibility of our platform and leveraging your internal people, our partners, or CorasWorks services.

Click here to see our current 3 minute pitch overview.

william

10 Fundamentals to Know When Delivering Apps in a CorasWorks-powered Environment

I’ve spent a lot of time with customers over the last year working with the internal people who are delivering apps to business users.  You are out there busily building apps, setting standards, listening, supporting and connecting things. Your technical skills range from beginning builders to workplace wizards.  Along the way it has become clear that core fundamentals of CorasWorks have gotten lost or are at least lumpy.  I am not talking about technical items, but, about how to think about what you are doing when delivering collaborative work management apps using CorasWorks.  I guess with the time, new folks coming in and churn it makes sense.  In this article, I’ll go over my list of Top 10 fundamentals of CorasWorks that every app builder and every application service delivery manager should know.

You can templatize an App and Reuse it for another Purpose/Group

A key value proposition of CorasWorks is the reusability.  Yet, a surprising number of people don’t even know that you can templatize and re-use an existing SharePoint site.  So, if you build a CorasWorks app, why not re-use/re-purpose it for another use.  Better yet, how about maintaining a central catalog of cleaned, re-usable application templates, and, giving it visibility across business groups.

Context vs. Content

I often hear business users say that the UI of a CorasWorks PS delivered app is simpler to use, easier to understand and much better than native SharePoint.  The reason is context vs. content.  An average native SharePoint user is used to working in a team site.  By design SharePoint is a content driven experience – really collaboration by proximity.  You go to some place (a site) and hit a page to access content.  CorasWorks changes this.  Effectively, what you do with CorasWorks is overlay a business context.  When our Professional Services does the work we use our in-house standardized application templates that strip away all of the ancillary content baggage like announcements and quick links and provide business users with an experience that is relevant to the business context.  This seems much “easier” to business users.  I recommend that you take a look at our PS standard and do the same.

Three Main Tiers of CorasWorks App Value

When using CorasWorks, you can add value in three main tiers.  Always triage your work into one these tiers as follows:

  • Self-service – this is where you expose native SharePoint and CorasWorks capabilities to a broad group of users that use them to enhance their team collaboration sites.
  • Standardized solution types – CorasWorks has defined, trains on, and supports about 15 types of standardized solutions for collaborative work management.  The idea is for your organization to understand these, buy or build your first one, catalog them, and reuse, reuse, reuse.
  • Custom solutions – These are solutions that are so unique that you need to do requirements and then build them out.  The box for doing this with CorasWorks is very, very big, particularly when leveraging the Advanced Framework of v11 (see next item).

NOTE: Most people are binary; either self-service or custom.  What is really lacking is the middle tier – this is probably the area of greatest opportunity to add value to your organization.

CorasWorks v11 and our Advanced Framework

The Advanced what???  The current shipping version of CorasWorks is v11.2. This is the 11th major release of our core platform since 2003. With CorasWorks all of the software (.dll’s) are in this platform product. Your solutions are created on top by configuration. v11 includes an Advanced Framework. This is a multi-tier app framework that allows you to build very custom extensions or new apps without doing custom compiled code. You can even go as far as to build a custom database app with a separate SQL server database and a CorasWorks front-end surfaced in SharePoint – again without custom compiled code. This means that your IT Governance model can be centrally managed, but, the business groups can get lots of value.  The box of what you can do with CorasWorks is probably a lot bigger than you think.

Basic Apps are Built Up – Like Layering

When you use our basic framework/components we call that a basic app.  A standard, single-site CorasWorks basic app is built up.  It is like an assembly line.  The standard steps are:

  • Create a new site using a standard base solution template
  • Add navigation
  • Modify the data – lists and libraries, custom “workplace” fields, and data relationships
  • Add basic displays (usually grids for apps)
  • Add forms (action forms for new items and in process action forms)
  • Add user task automation actions
  • Add email notification actions, activations and workflow
  • Add reporting
  • Add Advanced Framework extensions (after business user feedback, see last point)

CorasWorks Actions Control What Users Can Do

CorasWorks comes with its Actions Framework.  Using a wizard you can create actions for users to perform.  This is your control point.  It allows you to separate the user from the data (If you think about it with native SharePoint you are pretty much giving users direct access to the data).  So with your apps, think actions for users.  They need not know what magic the action does behind the scenes or what gets kicked off (emails, workflow, other actions, etc.).

CorasWorks Cuts Across Structural Barriers of SharePoint

Native SharePoint has a number of structural “barriers” that constrain your canvas for designing and building apps.  CorasWorks separates the user context from the content meaning that people can basically do anything from anywhere.  We make all of SharePoint your design canvas.  The main barriers we cut across are data types, lists, sites, site collections, web applications, and, even farms.  The impact is that for advanced designers they think in terms of the actual user experience wherever and in whatever context vs. the app user interface.

Apps: Single Sites vs. Distributed Systems

Most people are site bound.  They think of SharePoint site by site – because they have learned to live within the barriers.  In reality, SharePoint is a distributed system or even more correctly a “system of systems”.  Sometimes you will build a single site app, like a Help Desk.  Other times you are really designing and building systems – a collection of sites.  An example is a Portfolio of project sites where you might have a PMO, a couple of Portfolio Management sites, and a mere 50 or 100 project sites spread across departments working in different site collections.  The key is to design at the system level first, thinking about the user role and experience, with the local sites coming next.  Back to the Help Desk and that single site.  Where do the users enter in their Help Desk requests? Where do they see the status and activity?  Can they first search a knowledge base or access a self-service community?  Should it really be designed as just a single Help Desk site for 10 help desk engineers or is it really a system to help users be more productive with a user population of say 3,000?

Think Collaborative Application Design Patterns

Most users think that an IT Help Desk, a Chemical Materials Storage Request system for a Pharmaceutical, and, an IDIQ HR Staffing app are very different applications.  To a CorasWorks builder they are basically the same with a bit of work to customize the “language” of the app.  In effect, they are what we would call a “Request” collaborative application design pattern.  In this world of collaborative work management apps you begin to see that most apps fit into common, re-usable patterns.  This is what drives the repeatability of our Standardized Solution Types mentioned above.  Thus, a catalog of 10 standard base app templates representing each of the solution types can serve your needs to create 100’s of business function specific applications.

Think about the Work-Stream(s)

We are very focused on the app.  In practice, this allows us to focus and meet a need.  However, in reality often work in one activity kicks off work in the next.  Or, in order to get the work done of one app you need to tap into another set of teams/apps/processes. When you step back and see how these activities tie together, you are thinking about what we call the work-stream.  For instance, in the big picture, an Idea Management app, would hand off to a Project Approval App, that hands off to a Development Project app that feeds your Change Management app.  The project approval app may have a process to request a capital expenditure (from finance) or a market study (from marketing).  Each of these apps can live on their own and usually have completely different users and contexts and make up multiple work-streams.  But, they connect.  They are loosely coupled.  And, you can have them all inter-operating within a CorasWorks-SharePoint environment.

william

Federal Contractor Driving $800 Million Business with CorasWorks-based IDIQ Task Order Management System

The Federal Contracting business is very competitive and is getting more so.  A key mission critical business function is the winning of contracts, and, the winning of the right contracts that can be profitably delivered.  Over the last 5 years the use of IDIQ (Indefinite Delivery – Indefinite Quantity) contracts has dramatically grown – particularly for the procurement of information technology and services.   One of the top 20 Federal Contractors has been using a CorasWorks-based system running on Microsoft SharePoint for 6 years to manage their IDIQ-based business.  They started with one IDIQ vehicle and are now managing 14 IDIQ vehicles, 5,000 task order opportunities, and, have driven $800 million in business.  This article will drill down into this customers’ system and their business.

The Challenge

IDIQs are a primary vehicle for the Federal Government to contract for work in IT and related services. In 2011, 30% of all contracts in this space were based upon IDIQ vehicles, representing about $40 Billion.  The 5 year projection is an increase in the use of IDIQs to over 70%.  With IDIQs, the contractor bids to become an authorized vendor for a specific IDIQ vehicle.  This gets them no business, but, it gives them the right to bid for business among the select vendors for that IDIQ. Then, they need to manage and compete on each Task Order that the government releases and win the business.  Task Orders are usually many millions of dollars and span years.  Accordingly, the challenge for these systems is that they are both high volume and they require very detailed management throughout the life cycle of Task Orders.

Our customer wanted a system that would allow them to drive revenue, at high efficiencies, and that was effective at winning the right business (that which is profitable for them).  In addition, they wanted a system that was customizable to their needs so that they could continuously innovate to maintain a competitive advantage.  In addition, in this solution space there are a number of distinct challenges as follows:

  • each IDIQ has different requirements which need to be supported by the system
  • there is a high volume of Task Orders that need to be sorted, prioritized and managed closely – miss a date or a requirements and you are out>
  • each Task Order is different and needs to be managed separately with a process to determine whether to bid on it or not
  • the turnaround time to bid over the years has gotten shorter
  • many Federal agencies or specific Task Orders require teaming partners (small business, women owned, etc.) that are part of the bid, thus, the teaming partners need to have access to information and participate in the process and the delivery – thus security must be tightly managed

 

The Story, the Solution and the Business

Back in 2006, the customer won a single IDIQ (along with 10+ other vendors) that projected $10 Billion of Task Orders over 10 years.  They wanted a solution to manage the work.  They looked at various Project Management systems such as Primavera.  However, they believed that the IDIQ vehicle approach was going to grow in popularity and they wanted a system that would allow them to continuously innovate to competitively differentiate themselves.  Thus, they looked for a COTS product that was very flexible to build their own unique solution.  They selected CorasWorks running on Microsoft SharePoint 2003.

According to the customer, they built the initial system in a fraction of the cost and time of buying the COTS solution and trying to customize it to their needs.  They did this relying on their internal subject matter expertise and leveraging the CorasWorks product and CorasWorks training.  The key is that the customer a) was the subject matter expert, and b) the “builders” of the system.  Using CorasWorks, they were able to “build” the system and innovate without requiring custom compiled code.

Over the last 6 years, that single IDIQ has generated $250+ Million in business in 80+ won Task Orders.  They used the system to purposely bid less than 10% of the 2,000+ Task Orders that were released under this IDIQ to maintain high win rates and make sure that they were doing the business in their profitable “sweet spot”.

Over the years, they continued to innovate and improve the core system. They also migrated the system to SharePoint 2007 and multiple releases of the CorasWorks solution platform to continue to drive innovation. About 3 years ago, their was an enterprise reorganization.  Given the success of their IDIQ TOM system for the initial IDIQ it was decided to consolidate IDIQ operations across programs/practices within this team.  They have since grown to manage 14 different IDIQ vehicles and all of the Task Orders through this CorasWorks-based system on SharePoint.

The current state of the business is as follows:

  • The team/system manages 14 different IDIQ vehicles (including some GWAC contracts) and all of the task orders
  • They have processed and managed 5,000 task orders since 2006
  • They bid about 10% of the task orders received and have 300 active orders 
  • They have driven $800 Million of business
  • They have 250 teaming partners
  • Teaming partners have access to the Task Orders that they have teamed on through the proposal process and forward if the Task Order is won
  • Each Task Order ever issued is tracked for historical reasons
  • The system supports Opportunity Management so that the customer and their Teaming Partners can work on customer opportunities and then drive the process of getting Task Orders issued

The core modules of this system are as follows:

  • IDIQ Portal and Portfolio Management – looking across all 14 IDIQs and reporting on operations
  • IDIQ Task Order Management – process to manage capture, Bid/No Bid decision and full life cycle of Task Orders for each IDIQ
  • Task Order sites – one for each Task Order where information is stored, proposals are managed, status is updated and participants (including Teaming Partners) collaborate – throughout the life cycle of the Task Order
  • Teaming Partner Extranet and Partner Sites – where Teaming Partner go to access partner specific information, submit interest in participating on a Task Order, submit opportunities, access Task Order sites.

Here are some details on the overall scope of the system and some key features:

  • Every task order has a site that is automatically provisioned.  There are 1,000 active sites and a few thousand archived sites in the system.
  • There are 250 different Partner sites providing them with their place through which to work with the customer across IDIQs and Task Orders
  • Security is a key part of the system.  By separating each Task Order into a SharePoint site, the customer has a simpler way to manage security vs. attempting to use a role based approach with complex security.
  • The historical data, particularly the No Bid decision and explanation, is important to determine which Task Orders they bid on and also enabling them to return to rebid when the opportunity arises.
  • The opportunity management sub-system enables teaming partners to bring the opportunities to them, which they jointly pursue, and then, push through the appropriate IDIQ vehicle
  • The system is managed by two Technical people and the there are three Task Order Managers that do the functional work
  • The separate business groups that the team/system serve manage three elements using their own tools: large Proposal Development, Project Delivery, and Customer Portal(s).
  • The customer is planning to migrate the system to SharePoint 2010 this year and to take advantage of the CorasWorks “advanced” capabilities of version 11 to continue their innovation.  When done, over 7 years, they will have evolved the system across three cycles of the SharePoint platform (2003, 2007, 2010) and more than 7 versions of the CorasWorks solution platform.

 

My Comments on this Solution

This is a very valuable mission critical system – arguably the key type of system for Federal Contractors in the IT/Services space given the growing use of the IDIQ vehicle.  Note that while the use of the IDIQ vehicle is growing dramatically, the overall IT/Services spending is barely growing.  Thus, the Federal Contractors are fighting it out within a pie that isn’t growing – if you win, your competitor loses.  Having a system that gives you a competitive advantage for the type of business you want to win is simply core to winning this game.  With CorasWorks, this customer got what they needed.

It is a big system, based upon the vast number of sites.  However, in many key ways its design is simple.  This simplicity is important to drive efficiencies and to be able to effectively maintain the system – most importantly the security framework.  Complex security designs are subject to human error.  This design makes it far easier to get right.

The managers of this system/business function, two key people, have continuously driven this system forward over the last 6 years.  Their experiences and lessons learned are continuously built back into the system.  They just keep getting better and the results of the system get better.  The CorasWorks product and support services are ideally suited to this type of situation where the customer wants a competitive advantage and has the will and skill to build it out with our support. 

This particular customer could also use CorasWorks for some other core IDIQ system elements, in particular, large Proposal Development, Project Delivery, and Customer Portal(s).  However, since this is a very big organization with this operation spanning multiple organizational groups, at this time, each group uses its own tools to do these three things.  They are looking into providing CorasWorks solutions for these as opt-in additional services to the business groups.

The overall design of this IDIQ Task Order Management system is what I refer to as a Broad, Distributed Work System (see my intro article Putting SharePoint to Work).  This type of system is incredibly well suited to a SharePoint environment.  In fact, it is hard to imagine designing and building such a distributed system on an alternative platform.  The features and benefits of this system in terms of flexibility, maintenance, efficiency and business effectiveness would be tough to match.

It is interesting to note that this system is effectively a single app.  It is really large and its impact is critical.  Many SharePoint customers talk about the challenge of managing lots and lots of sites that aren’t used -  a feeling of chaos.  However, in this case all of those sites are part of a single, inter-connected, system.  The overhead of many sites actually increases the efficiency, effectiveness, and security of the business and every site has its purpose.

Regards,

William

+++++

See additional articles for IDIQ Task Order Management in this blog.

Visit CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management for product information.

 

 

 

CorasWorks Customers Putting SharePoint to Work

I spent a great deal of time in January talking with customers.  We did a lot of show and tell, mostly our customers showing what they have done using CorasWorks on SharePoint.  They cover a very broad range of solutions.  A common desire was to learn what others are doing.  In this blog, I’ll go over the general classes of solutions that customers are implementing using CorasWorks to drive value on SharePoint. In following articles, I’ll drill down into specific customer solutions and the business value.

 

Ways that Customers are Putting SharePoint to Work

In this section I’ll give you a sense of the different ways that customers are leveraging CorasWorks to put SharePoint to work by looking at general classes of solutions.  This is a bit of a “state of the union” as it reflects where they are today.

 

Investing in Work on top of Content – A lot of time, money and resources still go into the basic SharePoint infrastructure to support file sharing and good looking, and largely passive, content environments like Intranets.  Our customers tend to drive value when they break out of the general content environment context, and, focus on specific work to be done, i.e., apps. The delta is just a mindset: is SharePoint an application for content or is it an application platform to get work done and drive your business.  Thus, with CorasWorks, often either a business group drives the requirements or an IT organization does a really nice job of demand management and on-ramping applications onto the platform.  In effect, what is happening is the consolidation of business applications onto the SharePoint platform which a) reduces costs and avoids costs, b) promotes reusability, and c) gives them the value of the app and the value of apps working together across a common work environment.  But note, most of our customers also have nice looking Intranets, they just don’t focus on it.

 

 

Self-Service Work Management – With CorasWorks, basic work management is simply the ability to see, contribute, and act with information from anywhere. It is about doing structured work where you can control what users see, what they can and can’t do, and automate the work that they need and want to do. The basics are forms, displays, actions, and workflow/notifications that structure and automate the work of users.  With CorasWorks and our wizards, creating these work management applets is a snap, basically, self-service apps done by business users.  The majority of our customers are leveraging this broadly across their environments.

 

Project Work – This is really a staple of SharePoint and CorasWorks.  It is an extension of work management.  Many customers start with our straight-forward, pretty much out of the box, project portfolio approach where they have a portfolio dashboard and multiple project sites.  With our pre-packaged Project Portfolio Management solution customers are moving up a notch to a more robust and out of the box feature rich solution for project work that is supported as a product.  There is now a rather new trend to leverage our collaboration features with project work for enterprise wide, project collaboration.  In many cases we are finding the new style of project collaboration, that is easy, interactive, and convenient, to be what people really want.  Further, at the high end customers are creating custom “executive information systems” that surface project work and work in other project systems (like Microsoft Project/Server), SharePoint apps and external systems.  With project work, our customers often implement multiple solutions up an down this continuum.  We just make it much easier, standardized, and less costly to get this done.

 

Processes and LOB Apps – This is also a staple of CorasWorks customers.  Using our standard app framework, customers spin up apps to get work done.  A common one is a Help Desk.  This often morphs into Request processes, ticketing systems, approval processes. With CorasWorks, it is easy for customers to create processes/apps that follow a stage-activity-gate structure.  The work flows through stages.  At each stage there is activity.  We structure and automate what the user does and can do at a point.  As required we fire off notifications, flow the work to different user consoles, and/or kick off workflows to support the process.  These solutions may be simple point solutions, or, they can be very broad processes such as a multi-stage, multi-year, innovation process.  Yet, they are easy to create, change, enhance, and maintain.

 

Purposeful Collaboration – You’d really think that by now, most SharePoint users would have effective collaborative environments.  In truth, for most, collaboration is still sharing files within a team site, assuming they know it exists, have access, and, the will to navigate. Or, with SharePoint 2010 it could be social networking or social activity. Leveraging the newish CorasWorks collaboration solutions, customers are putting in place very effective, purposeful collaboration systems.  These are systems with specific collaborative apps for knowledge, team work, project work, ideas, processes, news, policies etc.  Each collaborative app has a purpose and becomes a visible and interactive resource across the environment that is easy, convenient, and interactive.  Very slick, very collaborative, but, focused on the purpose.

 

Blending of Collaboration and Work Management – This is newish as we’ve rolled out the collaboration solutions.  However, many customers are getting the hang of solutions that blend collaboration and work management.  At the core is the idea of having structured work with a broad collaborative footprint.  For instance, you might have the whole organization able to enter Product Change Requests and collaborate.  They then get feed into a Product Team to slice and dice and put to work.  Or, the inverse, you may have a small group that manages HR/Corporate Policies through a review and approval process that then publishes them out to the organization and enables people to comment, ask questions and interact.  The collaborative and process activity is all feed into users business activity streams so that they can easily know what is going on with what matters and act on it.

 

Deep, Unique Applications – Particularly leveraging the “Advanced” toolset now in CorasWorks v11, customers are building very deep, custom applications.  They may use SharePoint data, a database, or a mash-up of enterprise data, applications, and services.  The value is the CorasWorks 80/20/20 value proposition.  80% is CorasWorks COTS software.  20% is the customer getting just the features that they want.  The other 20% is the ability of the customer to continuously improve and extend the app.  Since, all of this can now be done on the CorasWorks v11 platform, we take care of the dll’s and upgrading – no new compiled code.  The result is that customers are able to create unique applications that drive competitive differentiation in a fraction of the time, risk and cost.

 

Broad, Distributed Work Systems – Certain customers are realizing fantastic benefits with distributed work systems that incorporate multiple activities across different phases of a workstream and allow people to engage from wherever they work.  Examples are Idea & Innovation systems, Project Portfolio systems, and Capture/Bid/Manage/Deliver workstreams.  These systems often have many sites, different processes at different phases, and, are loosely connected.  Because of this they also allow for great innovation and extension. It would seem to be a natural for a SharePoint environment.  In fact, I find it hard to imagine how such systems would be designed and implemented on any other platform.  This provides a big competitive advantage.  Yet, at this time most organizations just can’t wrap their minds and hearts around this.  Those that have are really rocking.

 

Dashboards, Interactive Work, Virtual Slideshows and the Apps – It is two sides of the coin: the app and the UI that enables top down visibility and interactive work.  Powered by the “Advanced” toolset, customers are creating very slick, interactive ways of surfacing information and getting work done.  They are using SharePoint as the host, but, incorporating data from SharePoint and external data, applications, and systems.  The secret sauce is the CorasWorks v11 “Advanced” toolset that allows them to structure the “middle-ware” in a SharePoint context.  They can also create apps in SharePoint using CorasWorks for people to do their work that get surfaced.  Because of CorasWorks’ flexibility, customers are able to evolve these systems as the need arises and do so much more quickly, easily, and for less cost.

 

What we have done to help our customers succeed

Let me start by saying that in most cases, success is customer driven.  Our most successful customers have people that know what they want and use us to get there.  You folks are the subject matter experts and the heroes of your success.  With that said, here are a few things that we have done that customers tell us have helped them succeed…

 

CorasWorks v11 Base Improvements – we did a lot of base work for this release which first came out in October of 2010.  It is going into v11.2 in March 2012.  A couple basic items are improved installation and upgrade process, greater system integration, enhanced native SharePoint integration such as actions directly driving Windows Workflow Foundation, and 100’s of small features.  It is also great that the same product runs on SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010 which has made it easy for customers to migrate.

 

Adding “Advanced” Toolset to v11 – In v11 we added the Advanced toolset into the product.  This provides customers with the ability to greatly enhance and extend what they do.  It includes a componentized middle-ware framework, an XML transport layer, and provides a great deal of flexibility at all tiers, UI, business logic, and data.  This has allowed our customers to achieve just about whatever they want.

 

Our Pre-Packaged Solution “Frameworks” – Over the last couple of years we have built pre-packaged solutions for Collaboration, Process, LOB Apps, Idea Management and Project Management.  These solutions make it easier to get to the business solution customers want without having to deeply understand SharePoint, CorasWorks, or do design.  Usually, customers don’t use them right off the shelf.  They customize them and leverage them to do what they want.  With CorasWorks they are then empowered to maintain the solution and even enhance and extend it at will.

 

CorasWorks Product Learning Centers – Over the last year, we brought online product learning centers for the CorasWorks v11 Platform and for our packaged Solutions.  These provide articles, videos, and other information to help customers succeed.  It extends the existing resources in the CorasWorks Community such as Forums, Blogs, Online Help, Downloads.

 

Distance Learning – The recession put a crimp on travel budgets.  This made our classroom training less effective.  Since then we have been doing a lot more distance learning (virtual classes).  We have standard, monthly distance learning classes and we also create custom distance learning sessions to specifically get customers what they need, when they need it.

 

CorasWorks Professional Services and Partners – Over the last few years we have grown our Professional Services.  Our PS used to simply help customers create their own solutions.  Now, we implement our pre-packaged solutions to their specs.  We also do a lot of projects for custom solutions that we deliver to the customer and are accountable for.  At the same time we are working with a smaller group of partners and going deeper to empower them to deliver more advanced solutions.

 

As above, in future articles I will be drilling down into specific customer solutions.  Talk to you then…

 

william

Customers and Partners Show Their Stuff at CorasWorks Hosted Federal Case Study Seminar

Okay, we love to present.  But, we decided to turn the tables and host a Seminar where our Federal customers and their systems integrators showed off what they’ve built with CorasWorks on SharePoint.  This packed, standing room only, unclassified event was held last week at our corporate headquarters.  I was blown away by the breadth and richness of the applications and their mission-critical importance. Here’s the skinny…

First of all, thank you to all of the presenters.  You made it a great experience.  We had the following customers presenting:

- Department of State

- US Marine Corps – Headquarters

- US Marine Corp – Rapid Development and Deployment Office

- US Navy – Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI)

- US Navy – Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC)

We also had two systems integrator partners presenting and assisting presentations that have done a lot of work with CorasWorks on SharePoint in these accounts.  They were: Twin-Soft (Virginia) and Omnitec Solutions (Maryland).  Thank you to the presenters and all of our guests.

Collectively, these customers represent a couple hundred thousand users of CorasWorks on SharePoint.  They referenced more than 20 applications they have put to work.  These applications covered the full CorasWorks solution scope from Collaborative Portals, to distributed business processes, enterprise task management, project management, and idea and innovation management.  Many were truly mission critical (i.e., achieve the result or really bad things happen).  Some of the key one’s presented were:

- HR Portal Management – many different applications and processes to manage the business activity across the State Department’s portal

- Inspectors General Checklist System – system to manage 130 checklists of the Inspector Generals office of the Marine Corp (replaced 40 year old mainframe system)

- Training Registration – application to manage training classes and registrations for US Marine Corps Headquarters

- Enterprise Task Management – comprehensive tasker management and suspense tracking with 150,000 tasks, 3,000 users across ONI

- Urgent Unmet Needs System – extensive work stream to track and manage urgent unmet needs from the battlefield, through the Marine Corp process, and into the development and deployment of solutions

- Enterprise Best Practices System – end-to-end, idea management system based upon CorasWorks Cim v2.0 to drive enterprise best practices across the 50,000 person CNIC command covering 70 installations worldwide

 

Here are a few takeaways from the presentations…

- Broad Perspective of “SharePoint Work Environment” – many customers see SharePoint in a narrow context – often site-bound, and usually no more than site collection bound.  Our presenters all had a common and clear perspective of SharePoint as a broad, distributed, yet, unified work environment.  Thus, their apps were designed to be distributed, with role based consoles, Snaplets, and, with the assumption that data can be anywhere (within or outside of SharePoint).  Refreshing…

- Federal Technical Certifications – the fact that CorasWorks maintains Federal Technical certifications has helped the broad/viral adoption of it as a platform for applications

- Strong Adoption of OpenApp Standard – with CorasWorks v11, the OpenApp standard (based upon the advanced toolkit) is being increasingly leveraged by customers.  Most of the applications presented used it for data integration and custom UI’s.  The Tasker Management ONI application used it to build an application where all of the data is in SQL Server, but, the experience is all SharePoint (and so is the document repository).  Combining the OpenApp approach which allows you to build very deep custom applications without cracking Visual Studio (meaning that you don’t then have to convince infrastructure IT to certify a bunch of DLL’s) with the Technical Certifications has really empowered these customers to take SharePoint to a new level.

- CorasWorks for Distributed Business Processes – probably the best kept secret of CorasWorks is its usefulness to build out custom business processes.  Most of the apps fell into this category.  Typically, these are people-driven processes leveraging our Action framework.  In v11, the framework now allows developers to create the Actions separately and then use them in their custom displays.  Further, the Actions can now directly call Windows Workflow Foundation – thus, you get robust people-system automation.  Again, most of the applications were distributed, meaning that users with different roles, were engaging and working from different places across the SharePoint work environment.

 

Overall, just a stellar day.  We need to more of these types of seminars for Federal and Commercial (PS see my post about the Claims Management app built by Clyde & Co and shown in a webcast a few weeks ago).  If you have a great app that you want to show off ping your CorasWorks contact or email info@corasworks.net.

 

william

Clyde and Co’s Claims Management Application: OpenApp Development with CorasWorks v11

Last week, Rhonda Jenkins of Clyde & Co, a major international law firm, graciously presented their Claims Management application to our customers and partners.  This mission-critical business application was built using CorasWorks v11 running on Microsoft SharePoint.  She presented the detailed business case along with a demonstration.  It is a very compelling business success story that demonstrates the potential of the “OpenApp” style of development made possible with CorasWorks v11.  Here’s the story…

Background and Business Resultslogo

Clyde & Co is a major international law firm of 1,400 people, in 26 offices, covering 130 countries and headquartered in the UK.  It was named Law Firm of the Year in 2011 by Lawyer Business magazine.  The San Francisco office specializes in insurance claims for professionals and insurers with a brand name list of high tech companies.  This was the site for the Claims Management application.

Over the last few years, the insurance claims management practice in San Francisco has grown rapidly and Clyde & Co wanted to build a system that would support their process in a more efficient and effective manner and enable continued growth and better service and lower costs.

In six months over the last year, they built their Claims Management system using CorasWorks v11 on Microsoft SharePoint.  Effectively, they have went from a manual, ad hoc work environment to an integrated system.  This new system has been running for 6 months and has increased productivity 10X (1,000%).  It is used to drive 80% of their business.  They stated a full Return on Investment payback period of 1 month.  It has also vastly reduced cycle time.  For instance, previously it would takes weeks to prepare a status report for a client.  This is now available at the click of a button.  It is chock full of specific features that supports the unique process of Claims Management for Clyde & Co.

 

Getting to the Application

Rhonda did a great job of telling the story by going through the 3 main generations of their “way of working”.  A couple of years back, in Generation 1, their process consisted of emails and distributed file stores.  It was ad hoc at best, with distributed information.  Finding the status and details of matters for a client across attorneys was “challenging” (meaning practically impossible).  The focus with Generation 2, was simply to build an Excel based tracking system to augment the ad hoc work process.  This made it possible to begin to manage top down.  However, the lack of a central repository and database cost a great deal in productivity.  As above, to create a client report across matters could take weeks to prepare.  The goal in Generation 3 was to centralize the documents and information and create a single system with unique features for attorneys and clients.  They decided to go with CorasWorks on SharePoint.  Cost was important.  However, more important was the flexibility of CorasWorks to enable them to follow a very agile process to build out the application and innovate as they got feedback from internal users and clients.

 

OpenApp Development Approach

The team to develop the application was Rhonda Jenkins, Head of Administration and Practice Support and a CorasWorks-certified developer, Michael Bradley.  At first glance, you would refer to their approach as agile.  They built the application in sprints with user feedback at each step.   However, using the OpenApp development environment of CorasWorks, they were able to accomplish this with real hands-on user input.  Since CorasWorks is a componentized, integrated open environment for SharePoint, there is no coding (no Visual Studio compiled code).  Features are able to be added to a running application, providing instant, practical user feedback.  SharePoint provides the data, security, and administration.  The OpenApp pipeline of CorasWorks allows developers to customize the data connections, the UI, and the business logic independently to support new features.  This OpenApp style of development allows for faster and more agile development with a much tighter relationship with business users.

The result is that the application was able to go into production after 6 months and succeed right away.  Since then, the application has continued to evolve, a feature at a time, while, it is delivering business value.  For instance, when we first saw their demonstration (about a month ago) they emphasized the wonderful value for clients that their new reporting provides – they could provide status reports in specialized document-oriented formats in seconds for their clients.  However, by the time of the web cast, they had extended this functionality to an Extranet environment in the cloud (running CorasWorks on SharePoint at FPWeb.net).  This enables their clients to access and get reports whenever they want.  In effect, in a matter of weeks, they now have a hybrid application with an Extranet in the cloud integrated with their Claims Management application running on their Intranet on premise.

 

Summing Up Their Success

This is a mission-critical, very customized application.  80% of their business relies on the application.  CorasWorks provided our v11 software, standard training and support, and, a bit of up front design assistance.  However, their team designed and built out the app working closely with the business users.  The requirements were not documented in detail up front.  They evolved as users experienced the application and discovered how they could improve how they work.

Clyde & Co’s success is a great example of how our customers are succeeding using our software.  Successful projects are always driven by business users that are deeply engaged in the process and committed to driving practical business results.  The CorasWorks v11 OpenApp development style on SharePoint really puts the software at the service of the users and developers which drives unusually effective business results.

 

Cheers…

William