Tag Archive for CRM

CorasWorks Work Management vs. CRM Database System (3 Part Series)

apples and oranges

This month I wrote a 3-part series that provides a comparison and discussion of CorasWorks Work Management system vs. a CRM database system.  This discussion was triggered by a Federal Government Contractor customer demonstration I attended and the discussions between IT and the Business Users of our customer.

The point of these articles is not an argument for why you should buy a CorasWorks Work Management system vs. a CRM database system.  It is about explaining how they are different and play different roles in your enterprise work environment.

In sum, the CorasWorks work management system provides you with a flexible, business user friendly way to optimize your productivity while the CRM system is an enterprise system of record.  Knowing their proper roles, which is best for what purpose and having them work together can yield you big dividends without the pain of unmet expectations and needs.

The articles are as follows:


Empowering business users to have it their way (Part 3)

This is a third is a series of articles posted today that all relate to how the CorasWorks Work Management system compares to CRM systems.  The first talked about our work automation and how it increases business user task productivity 30x.  The second addresses the difference in design between work management systems and CRM systems and why this enables your business users to be optimally productive.  This article will talk about how CorasWorks empowers business users to have it their way.  It ties into the previous two articles.

If you read my first article, I related a story about a demo I had today.  A business user (in Business Development of a Federal Government Contractor) was showing their application to IT and explaining how it helps them manage their work to win business.

Here is the back story…

I arrived early for the demo and was sitting with the business user.  They wanted to set up the demo for IT.  They were showing their production system so they didn’t want emails firing off to real workers.  They spun up our Action Wizard and modified the email notification to instead ping people from IT.  Then, they went into our Display Wizard and changed the display to use the new action.  Then, they decided to change the time when a site was auto-provisioned, so they changed a field in an action.

Now, remember this is a business user who was preparing their demo for IT.  And, it was a BD Manager (think Sales Manager).  Even that is a bit of a change up – right?

So, we did the demo and had a discussion.  During the meeting, the business user showed IT how easy it was to change things using the CorasWorks Wizards.  At the end of the meeting the business user was going to have a meeting with IT to talk to them about changes they wanted in their CRM system.

They were going to have the normal business user-to-IT type of meeting.  They were going to meet with IT and a CRM developer and detail their requirements.  The upshot would be that IT would put the changes into their project queue which would then go into their project schedule, assuming they had the budget and time.  Then, at some point in the future the business user may have their changes.  Then, most probably they’d have to go back through the process to make changes to the changes to get what they really wanted.

Two Points, One Observation, One Question

First, is that with CorasWorks the business user is empowered.  Note that they were using our Wizards to modify their business process and educating IT about the tool, the ease of configuration, and, the business value.  It seemed so natural, yet, in reality it was a startling role reversal.  In addition, IT was fine with it.

Second, IT is guarded about their CRM – for good reason.  The CRM is a single system.  IT wouldn’t allow a business user to make changes directly.  They could mess it up for everyone else.  The skill level required is too great.  It needs to be controlled.  It is a costly, time consuming process.

What I find interesting is that the application of our business user is a business critical application that is used to drive revenue.  It is their IDIQ Task Order Management system.  It is the way they actually do their work to drive business.  The CRM system is a database that our Business Development person “has to update”.  It seemed to be natural that the business person would be empowered to control what they deem to be business critical yet IT would control the corporate system that needs to be updated.

So, in this scenario things are as they should be.  But, I wonder if organizations go far enough to empower business users with the tools they need and want to produce better outcomes vs. corporate systems that support management.


Why you can do more for less using CorasWorks Work Management vs. your CRM system (Part 2)

I just posted an article that works through the numbers of comparing the productivity improvement using the CorasWorks Work Management system vs. a CRM system.  The impact is a 30x increase in productivity at the task level.  It adds up – big time.

You would think that you could achieve productivity improvements and better business results by leveraging a CRM system.  At a base level, like reporting productivity, perhaps.  But, in general, business users are challenged to get real work productivity improvement.  The reason is that there is a fundamental difference in design between a Work Management system like CorasWorks vs. a CRM system.  In this article, I’ll discuss the difference.

Most CRM systems are designed as a database system.  They are organized by content.  You have Accounts, Opportunities, Contacts, Products, etc.  Items are related in parent/child constructs.  If you read my article you see that with CorasWorks it is easy to automate work tasks.  Technically, you may be able to do this in a CRM but at a much higher cost.  But the killer difference, is that it just doesn’t work for users.  In reality your CRM is a system of record.  Fundamentally, the user experience of CRM systems is not designed to support a variety of business activities in different business contexts. Yet, this is really the work of business users.  They are always working in a context.  They really don’t wake up in the morning thinking about having to update a database, they think in terms of the work they need to get done.

The Difference of Business Context Design

Let’s take a Federal Government Contractor.  The work that is done consists of things like this:

  • IDIQ Program Management
  • Task Order Management
  • Gate Reviews
  • Capture and Proposal Management
  • Contract/Program Management
  • Contract Administration
  • Partner Surveys and Expressions of Interest
  • Partner Subcontract Statement of Work and Agreements

With CorasWorks, each of these are applications (or think of them as discreet processes or activities).  Each is self-contained, providing the user with an optimized user experience.  Each is configurable.  Each automates the work that the business users do in that particular context.  And, all of them are actually part of a single integrated work environment running within a SharePoint context.  Thus, while each has its own business context they are natively integrated.

Now, think CRM.  How would you overlay the work of these 8 very different activities on top of your CRM? What is the user interface that puts them in the right business context? How would a user use the system?  How would they know what to do?

In most cases the answer is something like – when you need to Log a Bid Decision go to this place, change these fields, update this, send these emails, etc.  It is a document requiring training.  it relies on the user to get it right or else bad things happen.

You could individually try and add bells and whistles to your CRM to automate some portion of the 200 or so user tasks across the 8 processes above.  But, where is the business context.  How do I, the business user, know what context I am in and have the information I need along with the work automation to get it done.

With the unique flexibility of CorasWorks it is easy to spin up applications that automate work for a specific purpose.  Thus, you end up with the ability to make the users very productive because they have all of the information and automation at their fingertips to get done what they need to get done.

The key difference is that CorasWorks allows you to automate the work in the business context.  It makes a big difference in the results that you achieve.

Overlaying Work Management on CRM

But you say… “my CRM is my system of record. I need it updated”.  That may be correct.  So, the optimal approach works like this.  You use CorasWorks to serve as the front-end to your CRM (or any other system like ERP or HR system).  CorasWorks has a framework that let’s us connect with just about any external system and do reading and writing on behalf of the user.  Thus, you organize the business user work by “application” in CorasWorks and automate it such that as they do the work the information is updated in your CRM or other system.

The result is that you get the work results you need via CorasWorks and maintain the data integrity you want from your CRM or other system.


Using software to improve your capture competitiveness in 2014


Next week the 2014 Federal Government Contractor race begins.  The competitive landscape will just get more intense.  Last week, Bob Lohfeld, CEO of Lohfeld Consulting Group, wrote the article 2014 realities force companies to change tactics in Washington Technology.  They surveyed 300 Federal Contractors to assess where they are today in their capture process and where they plan to invest in 2014 to improve their capture competitiveness.  The article tells you why change is needed by most and what most intend to change.  In this article I address the how – as in how you can actually get to where you need to be and beyond.  I explain how software, the new generation of Work Management systems represented by CorasWorks, can be a differentiator in this increasingly competitive marketplace.

First, a few key takeaways from the Lohfeld article:

  • Only 22% of the 300 companies surveyed felt that they had a competitive capture process that was a) defined, b) repeatable, and c) well-managed.
  • 49% of the survey respondents planned to invest to improve their capture process.
  • Another 24% believe they need to improve pricing methods and 22% need improvement in the quality of their proposals.

In summary, most Federal Contractors have a lot of room to improve the effectiveness of their capture process, capture analytics, and pricing approaches to be at a top competitive level.  It starts by defining your process, including the phases, activities, methods, and decision making approaches.  But, to be competitive in 2014 you have to ensure that you not only have a process but ensure it is standardized across your company, is repeatable, is flexible enough to tailor as things change, is measurable, and provides good management visibility to enable educated decision-making. Translating this defined approach into software systems that drive the process and support its management will accomplish this. The new generation of Work Management systems like CorasWorks makes this practical and raises the bar.  The mix of people, process, and technology as applied to the capture function of Federal Contractors is in a big state of transformation.

Let’s look at where most competitors are in terms of their systems to support their capture process…

The Situation

Based upon my many discussions with Federal Government Contractors, here is what I would define as the norm for mid-size to larger organizations:

  • They have a commercial CRM/Opportunity Management system.  The most common are Deltek GovWin CRM, Microsoft CRM, Salesforce and Oracle Siebel.  For small businesses, Zoho CRM is up-and-coming.
  • They have a “modern” document management (DM) system.  They are off file shares.  The most common are SharePoint, Documentum, eRoom, and Alfresco. I estimate that half are using SharePoint as their primary DM system.
  • The majority use their DM system to manage Proposal Development, basically to store documents.  Each proposal is usually siloed.  A smaller portion also have a commercial, proprietary Proposal Automation system such as Privia or VPC.
  • Reporting is all over the map, pulling from different systems.

Limitations of the Status Quo

The current status quo noted above is limiting and constraining.  Here are the realities of this situation:

  • Siloed, mostly proprietary systems – the core systems noted above are greatly siloed.  The systems aren’t usually connected.  Even within systems, like the DM systems, the information is in silos. In addition, within the same organizations they often have different systems or instances of the system for the same purpose. The glue for capture activity is ad hoc email, excel, and navigation links. It is everything except a unified, manageable system to support a defined capture process.
  • The process is not embedded in the software – if they have a defined process it is usually on the whiteboard, in a 100+ page manual, and, in people’s heads.  At best, they might have broken the activities of the process into sections stored as documents or web page narratives. The capture process, the activities, the work to be done is not “instantiated” in a software system that structures the process, captures the activity, drives the results, and measures progress.
  • No Phase-Gate based process system – the religion of capture is by definition a Phase-Gate based process. The best processes have systems to track the activities and automate the work. Yet, most organizations don’t have a process-based system to use for capture. Instead, they tend to leverage CRM databases or document management to do parts of the work. Then, to address process needs they do a great deal of manual work.  They simply lack a process-based system.
  • Lack of Work Automation – the day-to-day work is still incredibly manual vs. automated which results in lost productivity and inconsistencies in results.
  • Little Real time Visibility – given the above, the real-time visibility of executives, managers, and contributors into capture is limited. In most cases organizations invest a great amount of effort to manually put information together for gate reviews, executive reviews, and briefings, often repeatedly “repackaging” the same data (hosted in myriad documents) into templates or formats du jour—an unbelievable waste of time.
  • Advanced Management Tools are missing – capture process analytics, portfolio optimization, real-time reporting, capture M&S/B&P burn-down, resource allocation management – largely doesn’t exist. The core data for capture activity isn’t captured in a way to drive these management capabilities.

If the above sounds a bit like where you are, that is okay because 60-70% of your competitors are also in that place. The question is how to do better.

How to Get Ahead of the Pack

The design of software systems has greatly changed over the last 5 years to accommodate collaborative processes such as capture. We provide software, particularly Work Management software that, when combined with good capture process definition, will get you ahead of the pack. Our approach is simply different than the databases, document management systems and proprietary applications of the past.  Here are the core elements…

  • Purpose Built, Off-the-Shelf Solution – We put the capture process front and center. We have a purpose-built, off-the-shelf base solution called CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management. It is built specially to address the full life-cycle of capture. This provides an out-of-the-box integrated system. It brings all of the core parts of the capture process together.  But it is— by design—just the start.
  • Phase-Gate Based Process System – Our solution is designed from the ground-up to support the full capture life-cycle. This means that at its core it is designed to support a collaborative Phase-Gate based process and to automate and track the capture activity. Our design gives you the foundation for your process.
  • Unique Flexibility - Our solution is built using the CorasWorks Work Management platform which runs on Microsoft SharePoint. This platform approach makes the solution open (vs. proprietary) and uniquely flexible. Thus, organizations are able to easily embed their defined process, their language, their data to capture, and their activities into the system. In fact, it is so open, flexible, and non-proprietary that our customers are able to customize it and enhance it on their own, and even, create new features and completely separate applications that support the capture process. As a result, organizations are able to create a capture system that is a competitive differentiator.
  • On and Within SharePoint – As above, our solution and our platform runs on SharePoint which we use for data, security and administration. If you already own SharePoint, then we leverage your existing investment and skills and lower your costs. In addition, it means that it is a native part of your existing work environment on SharePoint and can natively connect to and interact with other existing information and applications.
  • Work Automation Drives Consistency and Analytics – With the above, a great deal of the work becomes automated. By automating the user actions and activities based upon your defined process, the work is done more efficiently, in a consistent way, and you are then empowered to have real-time visibility, reporting, and analytics.
  • The Glue for Capture – Our Work Management platform contains a comprehensive integration framework to integrate with external systems such as your CRM, HR, ERP, Contracts and Program and Project Management systems. This puts your CorasWorks based Capture system in the middle of the activity serving as the glue to bring it all together. For instance, many Federal Contractors leverage Deltek products.  A common integration for capture processes is with Deltek GovWin IQ and GovWin Capture Management (their CRM, read a case study of this in Leveraging CorasWorks to integrate Deltek GovWin CRM with SharePoint-based Capture and Proposal system).

Quick ROI and Continuous Improvement

There are two practical benefits to adopting a CorasWorks-powered approach for capture: Quick ROI and Continuous Improvement.

The pricing and cost of our software and solutions is incremental so you have a low cost to start. You can also get up and running very quickly, usually faster than proprietary systems and way faster than custom development.  And, the flexibility of our software allows you to decide where and when you want to address needs.  The result is a Quick ROI from the start.

In addition, in the past, when you had to buy proprietary software or invest to custom develop it, you were locked in. Improvement was too hard and costly. Where CorasWorks really excels is empowering you to continuously improve your process (now instantiated via software) and the results you get. The unique flexibility of CorasWorks means that you can have it your way to start, learn, then easily and cost-effectively change the software to get better.

People, process, technology – have the right mix and you’ll be on top.