Tag Archive for design

Design More Effective Collaborative Processes by including “external” people and activities

Most of us are familiar with workflow approval processes using SharePoint.  These are targeted towards efficiently routing items for approval usually in a serial fashion with known actors.  However, a great deal of information work is done through collaborative processes.  And usually, this work has a large impact on organizational results.  The key here is to be organizationally effective.  In this article, I’ll define collaborative processes and look at a general design approach that includes not just the core process but the “external” people and activities that drive a higher degree of organizational effectiveness.

What I Mean by Collaborative Processes

Collaborative processes are ways of working where the work progresses through stages that involve a number of people and activities.  Basically, individuals are often not the decision makers.  Rather, work progresses via collaborative group decision making.  Often these processes are oriented towards making the right (or at least a better) decision through collaboration and incorporating relevant activities.  Examples of such processes are:

  • Demand Management: New Project Initiation – onramp to project management
  • Business Development-Capture and Proposal Management – working the process of responding to RFP’s/tendors
  • Policy Management – getting policies out and incorporating feedback
  • R&D Innovation – managing R&D proposals through the funnel
  • Idea Management – the process of capturing, reviewing and deciding on new ideas

The Core Process

When you go about designing such processes, in a SharePoint context, most people initially focus on the core process.  This is typically a single SharePoint site.  Usually, the process is defined as a set of stages for items to pass through (see this article for a more detailed discussion of stage-based applications).  In each stage, items are acted upon, people weigh in, and, an item must pass through a gate to move to the next stage.  The main participants are the core process members.  CorasWorks adds various features to this core process to enable and enhance collaboration amongst these participants.

In most situations, this core process meets the expected requirements. Just getting this done is worth declaring victory for your team. However, we have found that organizations are usually able to make the process more effective by going beyond this core process and incorporating external people and activities in their overall design of their system.

Broader Perspective of Collaborative Process

Below is a schematic illustrating a broader perspective of your collaborative process.  The items in green are the expected elements.  You have the core process and the engagement of the “standard” process members.  The three other elements (in blue) extend the process to engage additional people and activities to flesh out the system.  I’ll discuss each of these three extended elements below.

image

External People

Imagine you are part of a product team.  You all have your ideas.  You put a process in place to enable your product group to work on them in a more collaborative way.  This works.  However, you could broaden your scope of who is engaged in three ways to improve the effectiveness.  First, you could open up the idea funnel to enable people outside of the group to submit ideas.  Second, you can make those ideas visible to the broad community and allow them to collaborate and enhance the ideas – outside of your control.  Third, you can vet your ideas with the external community.  In effect, you take your internal idea and push it out to the broad community or to external targeted groups – allowing them to also engage with other in vetting your idea.

Simply, you are taking your black box process, that has historically been fully controlled by the few and opening it up to external communities.  The objective is to drive effectiveness by a broader set of eyes and experiences on the idea.

Supporting Activities and Teams

You are working to get things through your process.  Within each stage there are various activities.  Most are done by the process members.  But often, the activities involve people that are outside of the core process membership.  Imagine that you are working on business development proposals and you need to resource people.  You may want to drop in a programmatic activity that engages HR and other “sources” of people to check the box on the required people resources.

Some of these activities can be ad hoc.  Others that are common to your process deserve a more permanent and structured way of working.  In a SharePoint context, it is important to note that others work where and how they work.  So, HR might want your activity to nicely become a part of their place and way of working rather then HR folks having to go to your place and work your way.  Thus, you agree on how to work, and then, drop in the element to tie your process activity to their work space.  Over time these “activities” of your process start to become standard ways of working amongst a broader group of people.

Downstream Activities and Teams

So, your process is all set and you start processing.  Imagine that you are working to drive new projects for products and services.  At the end of your process, the approved projects appear in your Portfolio.  You are done – right?  Yet, the project is not.  So, what you now need is a nice, effective handoff from your process to the next downstream activity, maybe the PMO to handle a group of like projects, or, to a project manager.

The key to the handoff is to do it in a programmatic manner and set it up so that the receiver of the handoff has access to the information and decisions that were made upstream.  Likewise, as they do their work on the project, you’d want a certain access to or flow of information back to you to keep track of the results of your decision and help you improve the effectiveness of your process.

As you define this you are again starting to define a broader “workstream” of related activities.  As a design note, these types of workstream are loosely coupled.  This means that each process/activity can live on its own but connects to the other upstream and downstream activities.

Take a Broader Perspective, Start Small and Allow it To Evolve

Collaborative processes are very important to organization success.  You need them to be effective because you are making decisions with a broad impact.  By all means, start by focusing in on the core process and getting the stages and basic activities right.  However, step back and consider the three additional elements outlined above early in your thinking. This broader perspective will enable you to design more effective processes.  As always, I’d say think broadly, start small, and evolve.  The best processes evolve forward with input, lessons learned, and, results. CorasWorks provides you with the flexibility to start simply and enhance and extend your system to add the new elements – take advantage of it.

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

C2C Content Services for SharePoint (Part 2 of 4): Blog-Style Announcements Service

Part 1 of this series introduced you to our approach to C2C Content Services for SharePoint powered by CorasWorks-based application services.  In this article, we will drill down into the free, Blog-Style Announcements service published to the App Store by Spirit EDV-Beratung AG (Germany).  We’ll look at this app from two perspectives.  First, we’ll discuss it as an off-the-shelf app. Then, we’ll look at it as a representative of a class of apps, based upon a design pattern, that play a role in an end-to-end C2C Content Service.

Overview of the App

The Blog-Style Announcement Service allows you to aggregate announcements from multiple sites/lists distributed across your SharePoint environment and display them in a blog-style format. The contributors are able to work “locally” wherever and however they are used to working. The “consuming” end-users use the blog-style display to see and work with announcements across the organization.  They see the monthly listing of announcements, and, they can browse by source site (department, project, business function) or by date published.  The UI also has bulletins that are persistent announcements by corporate or the announcement service manager.

Below is a screenshot of the end-user display that is pulling together announcements across a SharePoint environment from the IT and Operations departments, an Extranet Community and the Corporate Announcements service.

spirit AS home

Before going into more details, take a few moments and watch a video of the Blog-Style Announcements service in action (runtime 10 minutes).  It will describe the app and walk you through a typical user scenario.

Service Design – The “A” Design Pattern

This service is for Announcements – right? Out of the box, yes, however, as you’ll see below it can be re-purposed to work with any type of SharePoint data and in many different scenarios.  It is built following a design pattern that can be applied to many scenarios.

image

This application service is used to connect to distributed data sources across SharePoint, aggregate the data, and transform it into the blog-style display.  There is a single end-user, blog-style UI that can be further distributed (as you saw in the video).  However, the basic design pattern is what we call the A design pattern as depicted here.

Following this design the users contribute their announcements locally, say in their departments, where they work.  They do not have to go anywhere to enter the information. They use their own local interface, be it native SharePoint, CorasWorks, or some other.

The application service represented by the grey box can be located anywhere in a SharePoint environment and connects to information across sites, site collections, and web applications.  It uses a local Site Directory feature that holds the sites and lists that are its data sources.  Thus, you just make one entry in the Site Directory in the application service to add a data source to the service.

The blog-style UI is local to the service, meaning that end-users navigate to it to see the announcements. It can be used in this way out of the box. However, as described in the video, by combining this service with the Virtual Slide Show service, the UI gets delivered to the places where the end-users work, such as their department dashboards, the portal, an extranet, or all of their My Sites.  This will be discussed in Part 3 and Part 4 of this series, but, is a key part of an end-to-end, C2C Content Service solution.

Technical Details About the Service

For those technically inclined, here are some of the key details about this service: 

  • It is a single SharePoint site template that is installed into a SharePoint environment.  It takes just a few minutes to install, setup, and start pulling announcements.
  • The core application service is built using the CorasWorks Data Integration Toolset.
  • The service respects SharePoint security.  Thus, if a user looks at the blog UI but doesn’t have rights to a source site, then, that information will not appear in the service.  Thus, the security is maintained at the source site.
  • The service uses a CSS-based look and feel created by Design Disease and available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.  There are other templates available that you can use for your services, or, you can create your own.
  • The service uses XSLT, XML, and jQuery.  These technologies, in addition to the Toolset resource files, provide a very flexible architecture.  There are no custom DLL’s  – it leverages the CorasWorks software running on SharePoint. The documentation addresses various ways to customize the basic service.

Implementation Options

The service can be used for different purposes by creating multiple instances as separate sites in a SharePoint environment.    You may end up with different services for different audiences, connected to different data sources, with a different UI, and, with different end-user functionality.  For instance, one internal service may allow the end-users to drill down to the source site, list, and item (the default configuration), while the service for an Extranet would remove these drill down features (as covered in the documentation).

In addition, out of the box, the announcements flow through the service in real time with no approval workstream.  A user enters an announcement, tagged for enterprise-wide distribution, and, it shows up via the service.  However, in many scenarios there may be review and approval gates for the distribution of announcements (or other content). There are a number of different ways to drop these gates into the workstream for announcements which are discussed in more detail in the documentation. 

Thinking Outside of the Box

The Announcement service is ready-for-work out of the box.  Here are some ways you could re-purpose this service.  They may require a bit of X-development skills and knowledge of the CorasWorks Data Integration Toolset, but, they are basically supported by the out-of-the-box service.

  • A Company Events calendar – How about using this service with event lists?  You could have a blog-style service showing Company Events with their description.  Using the Event start data you’d end up having the archive, but, you’d also be able to see upcoming company events – yes, a blog UI that looks into the future instead of just the past.  By default, it would organize the events by department (or whatever source site type), year/month, and the listings for the current month events.
  • Executive Briefings Service – How about connecting to sources of Executive Briefings from different departments?  This would be a private briefing service for executives.  Contributors would enter their briefing abstracts locally, with links to supporting briefing material.  Your UI would have the information organized by department with an archive to refer back to what someone said a few months back.
  • Weekly Project Updates – Do you require project or program managers to provide weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly briefings?  Do they work in projects sites?  Using the same service, the managers could enter their updates as an item in their local workspace along with reference material.  The department listings would immediately reflect the different project/programs vs. departments.  You’d have a historical record of the updates.  If you have a new project/program, just add it to the Site Directory of the service and it becomes part of the service.

Role as Part of a C2C Content Service

SharePoint environments are usually distributed environments.  Work is done in different places.  This app plays the role of taking distributed work and transforming into a single useful output to be consumed.  It also provides an innovative use of a blog interface that can be applied in a number of different scenarios.  Whether you use it just for announcements or in other innovative ways its basic design and purpose remain the same.

In Part 3, you’ll learn about the Virtual Slide Show service that addresses the packaging and delivery of content to where the consumers work.  This is the other half of the equation of an end-to-end C2C Content Service solution. 

william

WorkPlace Suite v10 – 4th Generation – The Evolution

Our release of the WorkPlace Suite this month is our 10th within 5 and a half years.  It is also our 4th generation of the product and our product line.  I’ll review our release history and the 4 generations.  It highlights the changes in the  product architecture and gives you a sense of where we have been and where we are going.

Generation 1 – a Componentized, Modular UI

With the release of SharePoint 2003, we launched v1 of the WorkPlace Suite (the “Suite”) in December 2003.  Our approach was to offer a suite of modular components and templates to enable people to create simple collaborative business applications.  The first release includes our now “famous” Roll-Up technology to connect to and aggregate data from across sites, site collections, and web applications.  This proved to be a key way to add value and increase productivity in the distributed environment of SharePoint.  It was a favorite tool to integrate distributed teamsites into peoples portals.  It was also perhaps, one of the first point & click “mash-up” technologies.

In this 1st generation, each modular component was a separate display web part with its own .dll.  The UI, business logic and data connections were all in each .dll.  We had 4 releases over this period during which we greatly extended the core capabilities of navigation and displays, added application templates to get people started quickly, and added additional capabilities such as email notification, data publishing, and Outlook integration.

Generation 2 – Separation of the Business Logic and “Building” of Applications

Generation 2 kicked off with our Summer 2005 release (v5) which included a “builder” administration interface to enable non-technical builders to easily create new display web parts and configure them. In our Winter 2006 (v6) release we brought to market our Action Framework which enabled the builder to create custom actions that automate end-user tasks.  Thus, instead of just seeing information users could act on it, and, they could act on many items in one step from across the environment – great productivity gains.  With the framework and admin interfaces we began to separate the business logic from the UI moving towards a multi-tier architecture.  Through the next 2 versions, we fleshed out this generation running on SharePoint 2003 to include items such as Runtime Action Forms and chained actions, so users could create new items or update items, without having to navigate to where the data was stored.

Generation 3 – Application Configuration and Separation of Data

With our Winter 2007 release (v8) we launched into CorasWorks on SharePoint 2007.  To support our user base, we introduced the Design Migrator to support application migration and to allow for programmatic updates of sites/applications with changes in design.  We also introduced a number of application configuration elements including central configuration and portfolio management.  This was the beginning of our journey to make application configuration of modular apps across the distributed environment more manageable.  We launched v9 in October 2007 chock full of enhanced features to flesh out building applications and business processes on SharePoint 2007 and enhanced it in September 2008 with our Fall 2007 Update.

Beginning in November 2007, we also took another major step by introducing a new product, the CorasWorks Data Integration Toolset (“Toolset”).  This product allows users to build composite applications with read-write access to external data.  It was a major step towards separating the data from the UI and business logic.  The direction was to make SharePoint the enterprise front-end for any data.  It has rapidly evolved over three dot releases, and has been quite popular for building self-service portals, composite business processes and surfacing data from legacy systems and SOA environments.

Generation 4 – v10 Wave – integrated, multi-tier application development system

The v10 wave includes a major new release of the WorkPlace Suite and tight integration of the Data Integration Toolset.  It is a revolutionary release where we brought together the elements of previous releases, and, integrated them via our One Touch system for application life cycle management.  In addition, over the last 5 years web-based application development technology has evolved and we incorporated Ajax and Rich Internet Applications technologies into the UI.  As a result it was a complete re-build from the ground up that can run side-by-side with CorasWorks v9 and that lays the groundwork for the eventual upgrade to the next version of the SharePoint platform.

So today, in v10 what we have is an Ajax oriented, integrated application development and management system.  It is a declarative, point & click “development” model powered by a comprehensive set of Ajax-based wizards.  The UI is separate from the data and the business logic.  Users are now able to enter, view, and edit information from across the SharePoint environment, using Ajax pop-up forms ,without having to navigate to lists and libraries.  They are also empowered to work with the information and to do things like group, sort, filter, search, email, update, publish, and act on their own .  This means that builders don’t have to touch the UI to meet each end-users needs

The business activity/task automation has been enhanced and extended.  The end-user can have a broad range of custom actions at their disposal to automate tasks and now there are automated back-end activities using event triggers and scheduled activities.  All of this is configured with web-based wizards.

The new integration of the Toolset with the Suite, means that you can now see and work with information coming from any data source, external data and/or SharePoint in the same interfaces.   Thus, you can have a mash-up of SharePoint data with any external data from anywhere.  With our v10 wave, we’ve started to publish database applications on SharePoint built with point & click tools.  This is a major breakthrough that really starts to change the role of SharePoint in the workplace.

Lastly, our One Touch system allows organizations to really manage their application environment.  Applications and sites can now be referenced through global links (a variable name) vs. a hard-wired URL. You can build Central Views that are consumed by any displays and are centrally configurable. You can now build applications or components in a “development” environment and push them out into production without having to touch a site, a url, or a display web part.  These and other elements bring programmatic application life cycle management to SharePoint – a challenging problem given its modular and distributed nature.

What’s Next

Since we launched in 2003, the mission on our web site has always referenced the year 2012.  This is the year when we believe that our vision for the workplace will be broadly adopted and the move from content-centric to activity-centric work will be realized.  Not to tip our hand, but, here are a few pointers about our roadmap along the way:

  • -  We’ll see one to two releases of the SharePoint platform and the tighter integration with cloud based environments and application services.
  • -  Take a look at our new Community.  This is evolving to support more business user oriented solutions and the exchange of applications and information.  And, you’ll shortly see partners applications and solutions appearing the community, many of which won’t have any custom code, but, will be very rich in features
  • -  Imagine database applications, departmental applications, and business processes available at a click and easily customized with a wizard – Should it really be so hard to get a pretty simple and standardized app for my department?
  • -  What about real-time collaboration technologies?  When will you have whiteboarding, conferencing, dialing, and video in your workplace?
  • -  At some point will we realize that all of this notification/alert/inbox stuff is getting out of control and perhaps better off in a different interface than our email inbox?  Maybe our mobile device…
  • -  Is the system behind the workplace really helping me?  Couldn’t it be a bit smarter and helpful – maybe it should learn a bit along the way.

Until then,
william

Posted by William Rogers on 25-Mar-09

CorasWorks Bridging IBM Lotus and Microsoft SharePoint

I find it ironic that my first real post is about connecting SharePoint and IBM Lotus Connections…, but that’s the real-world nature of customer environments today. Yesterday, Luis Benitez an IBM Sales Engineer and Social Computing consultant extraordinaire, blogged about an integration he did from Lotus Connections using an iWidget to Microsoft SharePoint – with CorasWorks smack dab in the middle. He is showing a site directory structure from Breeze in Lotus Connections. This is what is happening in our enterprise accounts; so, here’s the scoop…

A few months back we worked with IBM Lotus to integrate IBM Lotus Connections into our applications in SharePoint. The requirement was to wrap the robust Social Collaboration capabilities of Connections around the items that are in the business process. We went ahead and did this and included the technology in our v1.2 release of the Data Integration Toolset. The demonstration app is a Vendor Work Order Management process – here is the profile in Applications (via this link you can see it running live in Breeze).

In that case, we were effectively bringing Lotus Connections info into our Breeze environment. The cool part is Connections is running on Lotus Greenhouse and CorasWorks Breeze is our environment – thus it is a real live business mashup. (BTW, no custom coding required.)

After engaging with IBM and customers, we found that customers also wanted to get information out of SharePoint. This is a good sign. So, working with Luis we did just that. First, we opened up Breeze, by adding our SharePoint Data Provider to the Dataspace. It outputs XML of the Breeze site hierarchy (You can see the XML output at http://breeze.corasworks.net/data/HDefault.aspx). Then, Luis created an iWidget in Lotus Connections. The user can now navigate Breeze, our workplace, from within Lotus Connections. (Again, no custom coding)

As Luis states, it is a 3 way mashup consisting of Breeze on our domain, the iWidget on Luis’s server, and Connections on IBM servers.

The goods news is that the CW Data integration Toolset not only brings external data into SharePoint, but, it pumps it out via XML. A key point is that we can support multiple data connections within SharePoint to aggregate data, or mash it up, or mashup SharePoint data with external data. Thus, the developer on the outside just makes one connection to our XML API to read/write to the SharePoint environment.

As more data gets loaded in SharePoint, we are going to see a lot more interest in making SharePoint part of a federated work environment. So, here you have it – IBM and Microsoft all connected up and made rather easy via CorasWorks. Kinda gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling.