Tag Archive for Idea management

Exploring Different Adoption Continuums for Idea and Innovation Management

We’ve been active in the Idea and Innovation Management solution area for a few years.  Initially, we introduced a point solution, CorasWorks Idea Management on SharePoint, to compete with the primarily SAAS solutions in the market.  Over the years, we have evolved to look at the “right” solution for innovation as a flexible set of modules/solutions that can be applied at the right time with the right stuff to match where our customer is along their continuum.  In this article, I’ll take a look at quite different adoption continuums (phased rollouts) from two organizations.  I’ll then provide you with my thoughts on which is most right.

The Top Down “Enthusiastic” Continuum

I was recently on a call with a new prospect that has a newly assembled “innovation team” representing their 18,000 person company.  They brought a great deal of enthusiasm to the task of evaluating us, vetting their approach, and seeking to understand product alternatives.  Leveraging the range of CorasWorks solutions and the flexibility of our software, we came up with a continuum for a phased approach to adoption.  it goes like this…

1. General Enterprise Idea Capture and Collaboration – Let’s call it the “idea exchange”.  They want to start off with an enterprise-wide idea capture and collaboration portal.  The reference site/solution is My Starbucks which is basically an inbox for public ideas with collaboration.  It is for the capture of general ideas about anything.  Our customer wants to start off with a similar type of site, but, only for internal employees across the enterprise.

2. Idea Management – They realize that they will have to then manage the contributed ideas through a process to decide what they will implement.  This is the necessary, but, mostly un-fun part of the equation. The “innovation team” will layout and manage the process.

3. Specific Challenges – Once they have that going, they want to engage business groups and launch specific, event-driven challenges.  Each challenge will be “owned” by the business group and they will manage their own process.  CorasWorks supports challenges and separate processes.

4. Collaborative Communities – This customer recognizes the value of introducing collaborative communities into the mix.  This would come after the basics above.  They are used for recognition, knowledge, communities of purpose, and, as hotbeds for collaboration to lead to ideas. In their case, this step is very powerful because they have a distributed organization with 100’s of offices and many services so they can greatly benefit by enabled this virtual collaboration.

5. Portfolio and Execution Integration – Assuming success as above, they envision the ability to look top down and across the activities.  Thus, they want to be able to see the broader innovation portfolio that includes the Idea Exchange and the specific Challenges.  They also want visibility into the downstream execution of ideas done with various project-oriented tools.

6. Open Innovation – Lastly, once the internal innovation is up and going, they will be looking to open it up to their external communities. 

The above 6 phases of the continuum represent logical enhancements/extensions to innovation.  This continuum is common for those that are new to innovation and armed with a top down enterprise mandate.  CorasWorks supports each of these phases.  They could be implemented separately as different modules or as the customer advances through their continuum, the extensions would be added on.

The Bottom Up “Practical” Continuum

For comparison, we recently implemented a customer using a more bottom up “practical” continuum.  The customer is a 9,000 person division of one of the top 10 largest federal systems integrators/government contractor.  They have been a CorasWorks customers for about 5 years.  We started talking to them about Idea and Innovation Management 2 years ago.  They came to us with an enthusiastic “innovation team” evaluating product alternatives as in the above example and following a top down approach.  For 2 years, nothing happened.

A couple of months ago a business group of 800 people within the division came to us and said basically “okay, we are ready to go”.  They were implemented within 2 weeks of the start of the project.  They had their Idea Portal up and running with 6 challenges across 3 departments.  They were capturing ideas and starting the review process.  Their continuum looks like this…

1. Challenges for Their One Business Group – launch a few very specific challenges for one business group that are each managed through a simple and common process by one team within the business group

2. Get better within the Business Group – their objective is to get better at launching more relevant/effective challenges (think about it as evaluating the challenge and the result vs. just the ideas) and at managing the process.  Their approach is that the particulars of their management/decision process will be baked out by using the software.  As an existing CorasWorks customer, they are very aware of the ability to change processes on the fly as needed.

3. Division/Other Business Group Challenges – The division is trying to innovate also using manual methods.  The idea is that at a point where the approach is validated at the business group level, they will take it up to the division level or to other business groups to do their own challenges.  Note that in this phase, they are effectively creating separate clusters for challenge management that are managed locally.

That’s it at this time…

Which is the right approach

I’d like to say it depends.  However, our experience is that the top down, enterprise approach is not effective as measured by the perceived business results and the longevity of an innovation initiative.  In fact, for most organizations that come to us with this top down “enthusiastic” approach, not much happens, and if they do get started, a year or so later the initiative fades away.  While it is logical, the real world doesn’t seem to work that way.  Thus, in the case of the prospect noted above, while we laid out their continuum, I did my best to educate them on our experience with that approach and made some progress. 

There are a host of factors here.  However, at the core is that innovation is a process that requires work, trial, learning, maturation, and, success.  People these days often enthusiastically come to the game to leverage collaborative technologies to tap their workforce, but, they lack the commitment necessary to follow through the full life cycle to show the results.  If you are asking people to take the time to contribute ideas and collaborate, and you fail to follow through with decisions and results, do not expect to build momentum. 

Alternatively, if you start bottom up, with very specific challenges, and build on your success (as in the bottom up “practical” approach) you simply have a much greater chance of succeeding over time.  You build momentum.  Think Facebook.  They did not start by launching a broad social web portal to compete against MySpace.  They built it up one college at a time to become the massive, multi-cluster network that it is. 

On the flip side, too much process discussion and diagramming to start can also kill an innovation initiative.  You need some process to start or else you have no credible way of evaluating ideas, making decisions, and investing. However, your process should evolve as you learn.

As you might conclude, we do support all of the different solutions mentioned above that might appear on Your continuum.  Each solution is modular and they can all be phased in and inter-connected as your system evolves. Yet, CorasWorks is really taking a fundamentally different approach from most pure product vendors.  By design, our software is unusually flexible and therefore supports continuous innovation of your system. The real value with CorasWorks is not necessarily what you get from “the box” when you get started, it is about having a solution that is easy to get started and evolves as you move through your innovation continuum. 


Why would you want just a Social Intranet?

I recently read an article by Toby Ward posted October 18th, entitled Despite SharePoint’s Success, The Social Intranet is Still Rare. He talks of the massive adoption of SharePoint. He does a good job of describing how Intranets are evolving and the use of social media tools to create a Social Intranet. Then, he provides data showing that users of Intranets with social media tools actually are showing low levels of satisfaction. He also says that enterprise Social Intranets are rare, particularly on SharePoint. Bottom line is that I agree with what he writes. In this article, I’ll give you my take on why this is and talk about the other half of the story which is about where else people are going with SharePoint 2010, and, how fast.

The beginning…

SharePoint 2010 was launched in the spring of 2010. Basically, the features that got in were those that were in the market circa 2008. Things like blogs, wikis, discussion forums, social networking, I Like It tags. So, when you implement SharePoint 2010 out of the box, this is what you get – various social media features that can be used in a Social Intranet.

Recognize there are two perspectives of what SharePoint is (even within Microsoft). About 70% of customers think that SharePoint is “an application”. From this perspective, a Social Intranet is probably the high end of the stack of where they plan to go on 2010. The other half (less than half) see it as a platform. They view SharePoint as an enterprise, distributed work environment. It is a canvas to use to meet their organizational goals. For these folks, they may not even go to the Social Intranet, because it isn’t relevant to their objectives – they just leap frog over it.

What you end up with is a bit of a desert in the middle in the range of the Social Intranet at this point in the life cycle. It is too high for most right now. It is too low and irrelevant for the others.

Now, companies like CorasWorks cater to the platform half. We enable these organizations to go to the next level. In our case, in the context of social collaboration, it is deploying Social Business Applications on top of this platform that deliver a new layer of value and leverage an entirely new set of technologies. This next generation of applications are designed to tap into all those zillion users, engage them, and most importantly, channel their collaborative potential into activities that drive business value.

Below we show two comparative lists of items. The ones on the left are the capabilities that the super majority (largely IT-focused) people talk about in the context of a Social Intranet. The ones on the right are the Social Business Applications that the other half (largely business group driven) talk about putting in place to leverage this collaborative work environment to achieve a business result.


When we talk to customers, we are talking about the apps on the right. The conversations are just different. They focus on specific scenarios and how you get there leveraging what we offer along with everything else the customer may have.

It is true that our solutions provide a whole new set of technologies that leverage that collaborative potential and put it to purposeful use -things like Business Activity Streams (that actually filter out social and email noise), Stage-Gate processes, Task Automation, Collaborative Management Reviews, Portfolio management, custom forms, supporting activities etc. But, they are the means to the end, not the end in and of itself.

An interesting change up is that the majority of our customers for these new solutions purchase our products and services BEFORE they deploy SharePoint 2010 in production. This is really new for the SharePoint 2010 cycle (it didn’t happen in SharePoint 2003 and SharePoint 2007). We believe that these customers absolutely get the new breakout potential for SharePoint 2010 and are immediately moving to leverage it to drive business value. In today’s world, it is a luxury to invest the time and effort on something like SharePoint 2010 for a nominal benefit. These organizations are simply looking for leverage to drive significant tangible business value.

Those that breakout

I go back to my original question, “Why would you want just a Social Intranet?”. My guess is primarily because that is what you perceive the high-end of the use case of SharePoint to be within a given view of the cost, time and risk. You are not alone. In fact, as stated above, right now you are in the majority. However, I have a feeling that at this point this position is a risk. These new technologies and the applications they spawn for purposeful collaboration are powerful. Plus, we’ve gotten a lot better at reducing the time, risk and cost to get there. SharePoint 2010 is one of the great platforms to make this happen. Those organizations that figure it out are simply going to outperform those that do not.


Use Challenges to Drive Results with Enterprise Innovation

There are a lot of organizations that are new to Idea & Innovation Management solutions such as CorasWorks Cim for SharePoint 2010.  One of the most significant best practices we emphasize for those new to innovation is the use of event-based Challenges to drive innovation vs. general idea communities.  In this article, I’ll drill down into Challenges as a key ingredient in the standard enterprise recipe for innovation.


Specific Challenges vs. General Idea Management

First off most organizations use both approaches, general idea management and specific challenges. A mix is the best recipe. Let’s look at each.

Most organizations initially come to the idea and innovation game with the thought of having a general idea community to capture ideas and sort through them and find the great ones. It is typically implemented as an open, ongoing community with a team or teams for evaluation.  What they are looking for is breakthrough ideas?  This does work.  People will randomly come up with novel ideas and you are providing a channel and a mechanism to work them when they pop up.

A Challenge-based approach to drive innovation is different.  A Challenge is a targeted, time-limited, request to your community for ideas that address a specific objective.  With this approach, we first decide what business objective we are after.  And, ideally, upfront we allocate resources to invest in ideas we approve.  We then set up the challenge community (like questions asked, information to be submitted) and evaluation process (how, who, when, etc.) in a way that specifically relates to the challenge.  Then, we launch the Challenge, gather the ideas, collaborate, review, evaluate, make decisions, invest, and drive results.


Specific Benefits of a Challenge Approach

A Challenge approach delivers specific benefits as follows:

It Focuses Management on Defining the Challenge – Management must get clear on the challenge and how to present it to the organization.  This insures that the challenge is a real one.

It Focuses Your Innovators and Collaborators Thoughts on the Challenge – Imagine saying to your employees “When you get around to it, submit ideas to make us better” vs. saying “You have 2 weeks to submit your idea for how we can grow the SMB market by 50% in 2012. We have $2m to invest.”  It is simply easier for most people to focus their thinking on something specific.  And, you therefore get specific ideas that are relevant to the challenge.

You Have the Resources to Act – If you get general ideas, they can come from anywhere.  Thus, you can’t know in advance if you have the will and resources to act.  But with a challenge you know what you are asking for.  Thus, you have the will.  You also can align the resources in advance to insure that you can and will act. You are telling your community that you intend to drive change that drives results.

You Uncover Options to Narrow Challenges – We typically address challenges and opportunities with a small group of people.  When you take a narrowed challenge to your organization you will almost always be surprised by three things: a) how many options you really have, b) how much information and experience you have already, and c) who are the people that have something to contribute.

You Drive A Result – With a Challenge, you are taping into the broad potential of your organization and channeling their thought and experience towards your objective.  With the breadth of ideas and the resources to back them up, you have your best shot at innovating around that targeted business objective.


CorasWorks Cim for Challenge Management

I’ll touch on five key features of Cim that make it particularly effective for managing challenges as part of a SharePoint 2010 work environment.

Separate, Customized Challenge Communities – With Cim, each challenge is a discrete entity.  You can customize the contribute form, the questions, the experience and even look and feel, the categorization within each challenge, the user options, the visibility, etc.  Further, the data is separated as with any Cim community it is technically a separate SharePoint site.

Multiple Challenges into Central Process – In a Challenge Management initiative you will have many challenges.  They are easy to set up. They can all feed into a central management process, your Challenge Management hub, where they are evaluated and processed.

Separate Challenge Workstreams – At the same time, you can also have challenges where the front-end community and the evaluation process are part of a separately managed workstream.  This provides you with the ability to have separate workstreams for say different types of challenges (Corporate vs. Technical vs. Market Development) or challenges driven by different business groups.

A Single, Easy and Convenient User Experience – With Cim, users have a single, consistent, easy and convenient user experience across multiple challenges, separate challenge workstreams, mixed with general innovation communities, and, with their other collaborative communities.  When you launch a Challenge it just lights up at the fingertips of the user in their Cim Business Activity Stream. Thus, they can see new challenges, contribute and collaborate from wherever they normally work vs. having to go somewhere.  In addition, all of the collaboration activity and process activity flows to them across all of the challenges and other communities. This drives visibility, engagement, and collaboration.

Drive Downstream Results – With Cim, after you have evaluated and approved the ideas in the Challenge you can push them into downstream activities to make them come alive.  You can push them into Team sites for teams to implement.  You can push them into a PMO to kick off and drive projects.  You can push them into Program sites to implement an idea as part of their program.  You can even push them into external systems, such as separate Project Management systems.


Wrap Up

In sum, challenges are designed to let you tap into the broad potential of your people across the organization to address targeted business objectives. They are a key ingredient of the standard enterprise recipe to drive innovation. Armed with Cim running within your SharePoint environment, you have the means to just light up your organization and channel their thoughts and experience to help you drive results when and where you need it.


Presentation on Social Business to Federal SharePoint User Group

This past week I made a presentation to the Federal SharePoint User Group on CorasWorks Cim v2.0 for Social Business on SharePoint 2010.   I’ve attached the presentation for your reference.  The presentation was oriented to a standard SharePoint audience, particularly one that is looking to migrate or beginning to leverage SharePoint 2010.  I’ll cover some of the key points made in the Social Business Overview and in the live Demonstration.

Key Points of Social Business Overview

- Social Business software is used to enhance engagement of users and collaboration across an enterprise.  It is gaining rapid adoption amongst early adopters.  SharePoint customers are gradually adopting it, a bit slower than the early adopters in the general market.

- The association AIIM has done some quality work in the area.  They have 65,000 members and have specialized in document/record management for 60 years – going back to film.  They are educating their members on the difference between Systems of Record (like SharePoint for Enterprise Content Management) and the new Systems of Engagement (Social Business Systems) and how enterprise IT needs to plan for the addition of such systems in their environments.  Here is a link to the white paper Systems of Engagement and the Future of Enterprise IT written by Geoffrey Moore and based on an AIIM task force on the subject.

- CorasWorks Cim v2.0 allows SharePoint users to drop an integrated System of Engagement on top of their SharePoint environment.  This differs from other market offerings which are advocating for customers to buy separate Systems of Engagement, often running SAAS.  Our message is that you are able to drive a great deal more business value by sticking with SharePoint and laying Cim on top.

- We lay out a Social Business Value Continuum with three main levels of business value.  Most Social Business vendors stop at the first level – Social Collaboration.  Cim enables organizations to drive up the stack into Social Business Processes (that combine Social Collaboration with structured Business Processes) and Social Business Systems (that go the next step and allow for distributed, interconnected systems across a SharePoint environment and to external services/applications, such as our Idea and Innovation Management solution).

- In addition, while other offerings, including SharePoint 2010 itself are primarily targeting the Social side of the equation, highlighting features such as social network, profiles, tagging and personal activity, CorasWorks Cim is focused on the Business side with features such as communities of purpose, business activity stream (no friend feeds), integration of communities with structured business processes, stage-gate support, configurable business actions and activity, reporting and analytics.  And, because we leverage SharePoint, we integrate the pure Social side into the equation, but, within the Business context.

- Cim runs natively on SharePoint, storing its data in SharePoint and leveraging it for administration and security as well as additional capabilities.


Key Points of Demonstration

The demonstration was a scenario of “A Day in the Life of a Process Improvement Idea”.  It showed how an idea flowed through a process that includes all 3 stages of the Value Continuum.  The key points where:

- Cim provides a “collaborative community experience”.  Thus, communities are not necessarily sites you have to go to.  Users are able to engage in a “community/process” from any place across SharePoint – team sites, my sites, department portals, etc. From there, they can See, Contribute, and Collaborate in one or more Cim communities, business processes, or systems across SharePoint.

- Communities may be for collaboration such as for departmental collaboration or for project managers across an organization and/or they may be tied to more specific business purposes and processes such as application change requests, knowledge pipelines, new product development.

- With Cim, users create Articles – a new rich, robust, collaborative document.  Each article is a living document that over its life-cycle may contain text, documents, comments, ratings, peer reviews, management reviews, stage approvals, final decisions, tasks and more.  We don’t talk about collaborating on or processing a Word document any more.  We talk about working on an Idea, a Contract, a Proposal, a Project, a Policy, a Solution, an Issue, an Initiative, etc. 

- The activity of users across communities or by others on items you submit (either collaborative or as part of a business process) are available to you via your personal “business activity stream” (a new Cim v2.1 feature). 

- We showed how the Process Improvements community is tied to a structured Stage-Gate based Business Process.  Management puts the contributions through a set of stages, each of which has business activities that get kicked off and completed, to move it to the next stage.  The process may be light and quick or longer and more involved with complex business activities.

- We also showed how one business activity within a stage can be to task a team to do something.  The system creates a task item in the SharePoint team site of that team.  It is related to the Article and users can interact, ie., the people in the team can do their work on the task and the managers of the process can see and act accordingly.

- After a decision is made on the idea, we showed how the user could push the idea into a “downstream” and related business process.  We showed pushing the idea into a Program Management Office to kick off a project and pushing it into a SharePoint team for implementation. 



The core message of the presentation is that organizations using SharePoint are in a fantastic position to leverage their environment to layer on Systems of Engagement that dramatically improve their efficiency and effectiveness.  It is much more than just Social Collaboration.  It is about enabling your organization to drive up this new business value continuum by leveraging collaboration within business processes that drive results. 

In addition, vendors such as CorasWorks are rapidly creating innovative solutions that can be added to your SharePoint environment.  And, since our solutions are designed for SharePoint, they inter-operate.  In reality, SharePoint is arguably the most “open platform” for Enterprise 2.0.  It isn’t about open-source code, the key to value, is to have an open application environment where users can collaborate, see activity and participate in processes enabled by product vendors, service providers, customer IT, and, the day-to-day activity of business users.

Imagine that – Microsoft SharePoint 2010 – the open Enterprise 2.0 application environment. Move over Open-Source folks, it is Open-App time.


Social collaboration and business processes: Expect them to be two sides of the same coin

As a lead up to the release of Cim v2.0 in February, I’ve been making the rounds with the analysts.  At the same time, I’ve been spending a great deal of time with our beta customers.   There is a very interesting dichotomy between what our customers want and what most vendors are selling and analysts are covering.  So, a bit of sharing…

We are working with customers on social business processes using Cim v2.0.  Of course, we are doing idea and innovation management solutions.  And, with Cim v2.0 we’ve been getting into the new breed of solutions like application change requests, customer stories, project initiation, technical solution challenges, enterprise best practices, etc…

In fact, every presentation I make, the customers come up with at least 2 processes “that would be so much better as a social business process”.  The benefit of having an easy and robust way of engaging more people and providing visibility with the structure of a stage-gate management process to take that activity and translate it into result is very compelling.  The upshot is customers get it – once they see it and experience it.

Now, the analysts.  For years now, they have been analyzing the two separate vendor categories of Social Software and Business Process Management.  These are very different categories of products.  Most of the vendors in each are different.  The Social Software people are going further and further into Social Media.  The BPM folks are getting deeper and deeper into the nuances of heavily structured business process.  To the credit of the analysts they know that the two areas are just going in different directions and they have a sense of something missing in the middle that delivers business value in a reasonable way.  But, since there is no defined, known market with established vendors they do not “cover it”, and, they have nothing to sink their teeth into.

Back to customers.  The typical story from our customers is uncannily the same.  “I have invested in all of these social tools.  We own a bunch of deep BPM and workflow tools.  But, what I just want is a process to go out and gather solutions to a technical challenge or customer stories and be able to vet, collaborate, review and decide on them.’’  Try doing this by integrating the two leading vendors from the two categories covered by the analysts.  A million dollars and 18 months later and you might have a solution.  

Enter CorasWorks with Cim v2.0.  We simply see that there is a great need for nice, clean, robust social business processes that work well in the middle.  They are not totally social.  And, they are not about deep, sequential processes.  They address the scenarios where you want a clean stage-gate type business process that is open and engages a broader group of people in a collaborative, interactive way.  Of course, it just gets better because it runs within a distributed, SharePoint work environment – so you leverage everything that you are already doing.

Our approach to the need is to provide a complete, balanced solution that easily translates directly to the business problem – without the need for integration work and unnecessary bells and whistles and costs.  As we’ve had the discussion we often use the analogy of the two sides of the same coin.  The social side is a bit different from the business process side.  Different user roles, different UI’s, different objectives, different activity, different outcomes.  But, to have an effective solution it is best to see them as the two sides of the same coin.  In fact, you should expect that they are pre-integrated and designed to work as one.  This is very different from trying to integrate and merge two completely different sets of technologies.

I am not holding my breadth to create a new analyst category for Cim-based social business processes on SharePoint.  Our focus is on delivering what our customers want and need, within a reasonable time and cost.  Eventually, as we continue to show them our customers’ successes they’ll get on the bandwagon.


Cim Customer Stories for Idea and Innovation Mgmt on SharePoint

So here is proof that My Sabbatical was rewarding for us and our customers – we just published two customer stories for Cim that I worked on during my sabbatical.  The stories are different types of implementations of Cim.  In this article, I’ll briefly cover them.  See the above referenced page for the story and screenshots.

Deluxe Corporation – Corporate Idea Management

This 6,000 person company used Cim for classic corporate idea management.  They have standing idea communities for General Ideas, Product Ideas, and Process Improvement.  They are driving activity using Campaigns and Challenges that target specific business objectives.  They are primarily focused on the targeting of ideation, capturing and collaborating. They determine the objective and then drive participation through campaigns thereby leveraging the experience of their employees. They then process the ideas and move them into the business groups for decision and execution.


US Navy CNIC (Commander, Navy Installations Command) – Enterprise Best Practices Process Management

This 50,000 person organization is using Cim to drive Enterprise Best Practices.  It is a fine example of an enterprise-wide, innovation process management solution.  They have an effective approach which is to drive the full process with two different and integrated workstreams.  First, there is an idea process.  The end result of this is implementations at bases around the world.  The successes then get validated.  Then, users submit these successful ideas as proposed enterprise Best Practices which goes through a second process.  The result of this is an enterprise level best practice.  This approach encourages broad innovation via the idea process and effective best practices because they are based upon validated, real world implementations.


BTW, see the screenshots at the Customer Stories page referenced above for nice examples of the Portal UI’s that you can do with Cim using the CSS-styled UI.



Idea and Innovation Management as an IT-Provided, Enterprise Shared Service on SharePoint

As CorasWorks Idea Management (Cim) on SharePoint gets out there more in the SharePoint enterprise community, IT departments are starting to look at providing Cim as an Enterprise Shared Service as part of their offering to the business groups.  I’ll address this by recounting an actual question and answer thread that I had with an organization. (NOTE: This article is written for those in IT with enterprise SharePoint experience). 

General Scenario:

The customer looks at Cim and likes the solution for their Idea Management.  However, they come to the conclusion that innovation within their enterprise is not a single, big solution.  Rather, they see it happening at the department and division level. They also want the burden on the business groups to support themselves assuming Cim supports this (For SharePoint enterprise accounts, this is actually very common).  Accordingly, they want to bring it up as an IT-Provided, Enterprise Shared Service, on their SharePoint infrastructure.  This means that they want to offer it “as an application service” on top of their SharePoint offering so that their different departments/business groups act as separate tenants (multi-tenant) and customize it to their local needs.    

Customers’ Definition:

The customer started off by very clearly articulating what they wanted as below:

“The idea is that IT will provide an Idea Management portal as a service to any department that wants to do ideation. This implies the following:

- Each department’s portal should be completely separate from the portals of other departments – it is not the idea that people from one department can access the portal from another department.

- Also any reporting should be separate.

- As IT only provides the portal, the department is still responsible for defining processes, responsibilities, user rights/management, etc. Each department should be able to set up these things itself, without intervention of IT.”

 Questions and Answers:

Question 1: Can you describe how you would simulate/create/configure your Idea Management solution to meet the needs as described above?

Answer 1: This design is supported by CorasWorks Idea Management on SharePoint – in fact, it is a scenario that we design for.  We refer to it as Cim as an IT-provided, Enterprise Shared Service.  IT instantiates the basic service and then “turns it on” for each department upon demand.  From there, the department administrator manages their Cim solution as part of their department work.

This is possible and practical for four key reasons: 

- First, Cim is a modular solution.  You build up your Innovation Portal from a number of modules (9 come with Cim v1.2); each can be Administered separately. 

- Second, Cim comes with point-and-click wizards that enable IT to offload the Administration and “power user” customization to business groups so that they make their changes without requiring IT involvement.  All CorasWorks customization is done without cracking any compiled code. 

- Third, this is possible because Cim runs on the CorasWorks Solution Platform v11 for SharePoint.  This contains the Dll’s that are installed once on the enterprise server farm, and then, the Cim solution can be made available to the department in a shared, multi-tenant fashion. 

- Fourth, our training and online community provides training on a role basis that is designed to separately train up the business groups on what they need to know. 

Question 2: What would be the "[deployment] architecture" of the tool to provide a service to different departments as described above? Does a complete separation of the different portals (from a department perspective) imply also different implementations, or can there be one "parent portal" (managed by IT), where IT can just create a new child portal for each department. Each department should in any case have complete control over its own child portal (see above).

Answer 2: Let’s start with the “basic Cim” implementation.  IT would install the CorasWorks Solution Platform v11 and Cim modules.  These are the core dll’s and module templates.  This would be available across the farm.  However, Cim, the solution is not yet instantiated.

From there, you can go either way as described above.

Approach 1: IT could bring up a central Innovation Portal.  This would typically be in its own Site Collection.  At the top level, just below the portal you would have the various modules for the central Innovation Portal.  At the same level, you would have the top site for the Department Portal. Below it, you would have the modules for that department.  A schematic of this is shown below.



Approach 2: This is similar to the above, however, each Department’s Innovation Portal is within its own Departmental Site Collection.  It may be the top level of the Site Collection or be a sub-level.  For instance, if they already have a top level site for the Department, the implementation would look similar to that above, however, their existing Department Portal replaces the Central Innovation Portal and the Department Innovation portal is below it (say where Dept 1 Portal is located).

In either case, each department would have control over its portal and the modules it uses, i.e., how many communities, its own reporting, its members and groups.  

NOTE: The departments have greater administrative control if they have their own Site Collection.  This allows for them to control the templates, features, and Site Collection Administrators.

Question 3: Linked to the previous question, how will each department be able to manage its own portal, e.g. do they have their own "admin console"?

Answer 1b: Each of the Cim modules has its own Admin console which are rather simple to use.  Thus, they can separately manage the Portal, their Idea Communities(s), the Reporting, the News service (they can control which sites within their department are linked to the News Service), their Blog, and their Management process.

Question 4: Linked to the first question, is custom reporting possible per department, configured by the departments themselves?

Answer 4: Yes, as above.  There are two main types of reporting in Cim – both can be controlled at the department level.  There is the Reporting Service.  This provides reporting on the Idea activity such as the Top 10 and the Dashboard.  It uses a portfolio approach, so you just add the Idea Communities for the department and the reporting lights up.  Then, in the Cim Management Hub, it has customizable Pivot reporting for management.  This is also configurable at the department level.

Question 5: To what extent can the tool be customized by ourselves (IT and/or business groups) and to what extent do you provide support for this customization?

Answer 5: The short answer is extensively.  Cim is very flexible in implementation and very customizable and extenable.  The key is that Cim runs on the CorasWorks Solution Platform v11.  It provides a robust set of point-and-click wizards to enable customization of Cim by non-technical users.  This means that departments can help themselves in most cases.  And, it allows extensive customization by developers without having to modify compiled code.  This would be for extreme cases where IT is brought in at the app level.

We have an extensive Training program that establishes four levels of customization for Cim and sample tasks at each level.  Our training is oriented towards these levels and supported by our Online Community.  Our standard set of training for an Enterprise Shared Services environment would consist of:

- System Administration Training for IT providing the service (not one of the four levels) – installing the platform and managing Cim as a service on SharePoint

- Cim Administrator (Level 1) training for each of the Department Administrators – things like how to create a community, change the navigation, etc.

- Cim Power User Customization (Level 2) for Dept Admins and Power Users – how to customize Cim using point and click wizards to the needs of the department

- Cim Builder Customization (Level 3) for more technical people (but not coders) – This would train a select group in IT or Business Groups in how to customize at a deeper level using Wizards.  They would know how to change the Stage-Gate processes and manage workflows.

- Cim Solution Framework Developer Customization (Level 4) for no-code developers – This training is available to teach people how to build new features without coding using our Solution Framework.  However, it is usually done by CorasWorks or Partners.

In General, we would train you on System Admin and Level 1 and 2.  You’d train the Department Admins on level 1 and a bit of Level 2.  Your IT group would probably end up learning a bit of Level 3.  CorasWorks and Partners support you up the stack.


Beyond the Q&A

The Enterprise Shared Application Service (ESAS) model for Cim is an excellent model for enterprises with an enterprise-wide implementation of SharePoint.  Why?

It makes sense.  The truth is that there is no one right innovation portal or process across an enterprise for all business scenarios.  However, with Cim on SharePoint, you set standards, control support costs, create supporting cross-organizational communities/resources, and allow the department/business groups to innovate on their own.  This way innovation is allowed to flourish locally based upon a supported standard enterprise-wide. It is Enterprise Innovation by design…

Further, CorasWorks is designed to make this work as follows:

- Cim and the CorasWorks platform are designed for shared multi-tenant services such as this.  The DLL’s are installed once, then, the tenants (different business groups) can customize their Innovation Portal as they see fit. 

- In addition, our pricing supports the proper charge-back.  We charge a flat organization license plus per user.  So IT pays the flat portion and the business groups pay for users as they come on board. 

- Lastly, CorasWorks supports loosely-coupled, federation.  Thus, while each department may have its own innovation process, you can create central processes that connect to various departments and allow you to do centralized management. These are loosely-coupled and you can make connections in minutes without disrupting the local work.  An example, is that you decide you want to farm the departments for Enterprise Best Practices.  This works across site collections and web applications (i.e, across the whole server farm).

Last note.  I have written about ESAS models in the past on SharePoint.  What is key here is that Idea and Innovation Management is a business application not a technical capability.  It moves IT up the stack as a provider of business application-level services vs. just capabilities.  And, it leverages the whole stack of investments they already have in SharePoint, thereby, reducing the normal cost, risk, and complexity.


Ideas Flow Two Ways: The 21st Century flow debate

I just posted an article about Social Workstreams vs. Workflow.  While I am still in the “flow” mentally, let’s talk about the fact that ideas are generated and can flow in two different directions. The direction of flow makes a big difference in the application. This is reminiscent of the classic AC (alternating current) or DC (direct current) debate of the early 20th century on electricity.  In a hundred years we’ve ended up with AC for distributed electricity (our homes) and DC for local power (batteries).  Now, in idea management we also have two flows, that I’ll call CC and POV.  Most people are CC’ers, they are not even thinking POV and thus are missing out on a critical use of idea management to improve their organizations results.  Let’s examine these flows and some of the issues around them.

CC for Community Contributed

Almost universally when I discuss Idea Management people are thinking about the approach of tapping into the large, general population to generate ideas.  The community generates the ideas and they flow into a process that reviews them and moves them forward or not.  They want engagement, input, volume, and the wisdom of crowds.  Let’s call this standard flow CC for Community Contributed.



POV for Process Owner Vetting

Here is the new twist.  Without idea management solutions, ideation is really owned by the business process owners.  Most product managers take pride in their ideas.  Yes, they reach out for ideas.  But, usually they believe they know best. They are paid to be great at it. This is the same for almost all existing business processes – process improvement, best practices, RFP proposal creators, program managers, HR policies, marketing managers creating collateral and campaigns, etc.

Then, here we come with Idea Management and suggest that they open up the process to the crowd and let a big flow come rolling in.  Organizations are doing this and the business process owners are adjusting; sometimes, with resistance.

Now, we take the next step.  The process owners aren’t stopping their innovation.  They are still coming up with features, ideas of their own, decisions.  So, now we get to POV or Process Owner Vetting.  How about the process owners taking their ideas and exposing them to the crowd to get feedback – to vet their ideas.  This is the essence of the POV flow of ideas.



Examples of POV

So, let’s look at a few examples of POV:

- a Marketing manager posts their ideas for marketing campaigns for vetting with the sales population

- the Executive team posts its ideas for company objectives to their mid-level managers

- a Product Manager posts their top 10 product features for their next rev of a product for vetting and ranking by the big community

- a Sales director posts their sales projections by product line for the year for the big community to rate (predictive)

- the IT Department posts every application that they are developing for business groups for all to vet

- the HR department posts new policies to the big community before they go into place and ask for feedback, comments, and questions

- the Best Practices group posts Best Practice articles and then receives ratings, comments, and questions to make best practices that much better


Impact of POV

Ask a business process owner and they tend to be more comfortable with CC.  Why?  Because they can always say no or defer.  But, ask them to go POV and vet THEIR ideas with the community and you’ll get some hesitation.  What if the community doesn’t like their idea?  What if the ranking by the community differs greatly from what they think?  You can sense the refrain “It will take time and I already know what I want to do.”  Yet, organizations are learning that vetting with a general population or targeted segments is a great way to be more effective.  Obviously, this is the whole point of test marketing and user testing that we have done for a long time.  But now, we can also do it internally and at a much smaller incremental cost.

POV scenarios are at least 50% of the way that you can leverage Idea Management solutions such as Cim.  Yet, we are only starting to understand the power of going POV in addition to CC.  The reality is that social tools such as Cim are primarily providing organizations with the ability to tap into the power of people – the power of the crowd.  Learning to tap the power of people starts with looking at your internal business processes and simply asking “How can we tap into our internal people and/or external people to improve our business results?”  Sometimes, the answer is CC to get peoples ideas.  Other times, the answer is POV to be able to vet ideas, thoughts, policies, objectives that you are working on.  You can use Cim to address both flows.

In the 20th century the AC and DC debate about electricity eventually worked itself out and became the vehicle to power growth and improvement in the quality of life.  To follow the analogy you could claim that the power for the 21st century business is people.  Learning when and how to use CC and POV to become a people powered business will take some time and getting used to.  But, the value is there.  


Idea Management: Social Workstreams vs. Workflow

I’ve been working with a customer recently that is implementing CorasWorks Idea Management (Cim) for enterprise Best Practices management.  This is a very expansive business process.  Recently, we discussed the design with executives and we got to talking about how the new business process differed from workflow and what the impact on “the way we work” was going to be.  The short answer is that this end-to-end process, like most with Cim, is a “Social Workstream” vs. a workflow.  The impact is big.  In this article, I’ll discuss the differences and the impact.

First of all, when I get to talking with people about implementing Cim for an end-to-end business process the topic of workflow often comes up.  People have a mental model of  workflow that has been burned in over many years.  In addition, since we are on SharePoint they are used to the model of workflow for processing documents and forms.  It is a good place to start to explain the new model of Social Workstreams.


While workflow approaches and implementations differ greatly, at a very, very basic level there are typically two attributes to a workflow:

1) The Thing: You are typically processing a single Thing.  This Thing is a document, a form, or a transaction.  It stays the same across the process.

2) Sequence: It is a sequential process that goes from person to person based upon decisions by people and/or business rules of the system. 




Workstreams are bigger animals. A workstream, such as most Cim business processes, has two key attributes:

1) Activities: A workstream is composed of a number of distinctly different activities.  Each has its own people, roles, skills, information, and tools.  Each works independently, but, is integrated into a process that defines the workstream.  The integration is loosely-coupled.

2) Gates: The work progresses forward from one activity to another through Gates.  A person or a group of people control when and if the items move forward.  Decisions are often board style vs. individuals and sequential.

The diagram below represents a typical workstream for Cim.  The main stages are represented by 1, 2, and 3.  At the highest level 1 is Ideation, 2 is Management, and 3 is Execution. There are gates between them. The swirling eddies, A, B, C, and D represent activities, usually Social Eddies, that will be discussed below.



The Workstream to Build a House

A good analogy I use for a workstream is the building of a house.  Upfront a team lays out the design and files the plan to get permits to continue.  There is a crew that levels the ground and digs the hole for the basement.  There is a crew that pours the concrete and lays the foundation.  Then, the framers.  Then, the roofers.  Then, the wall guys, followed by carpenters, electricians, plumbing, etc.  Largely, they follow a sequence, but, you can also have different activities going on at the same time.  Decisions are made at various stages (the Gates), often with the help of experts that have to sign off based upon standards (such as getting the local certification for the electricity).


Social Eddies of an Idea Management Workstream

A business process taking an idea through to a business outcome maps to a workstream.  There are various gates along the way such as 1) the initial idea contribution and ideation by the general community (A above), 2) screening the idea to bring it into a formal review process with a group of initial reviewers to rate an idea with relative questions/criteria and or vote on it (B above) , 3) moving the innovation into a formal planning exercise where there is objective data and analysis (C above), 4) approving the innovation and pushing it into a project management team, and 5) the team that develops the innovation or implements it (D above).


Before each Gate in your process there is usually a group of people that participate in an activity (A, B, C, D above).  It is a collaborative process that may involve 100’s of people or a handful.  We refer to each of these collaborative activities as Social Eddies.  In the diagram above, the spinning circles represent these Social Eddies.  (Note: Eddies are an interesting phenomena of fluid dynamics that get created when water or air flows around an obstacle like a boulder in a stream.   It creates a vacuum with often a backflow that goes against the current or creates a circular current.)


Example of Enterprise Best Practices

So, lets look at the Social Workstream for enterprise best practices.

- The idea is contributed (Gate 1).  The general community begins to review it, rate it, comment, and augment it.  Social eddie A has begun.  Popular opinion rules.

- At a point a person or persons screen the idea and decide to bring it into the formal review process.  This is the second gate.  Now, a group of specific reviewers will do an initial review on the proposed best practice using a review form with consistent evaluation criteria (social eddie B).

- At a point a person or group has a meeting and decides based upon the reviews AND based upon the popular rating (eddie A which by the way is still spinning) to move it forward into the Planning stage.

- In the Planning stage (eddie C above) a small group do a deep dive to evaluate the best practice, collect evidence, quantify it, and, present results.

- Based upon this, the Best Practice “board” will then decide on the best practice – fourth gate.  It then may kick off one or more implementation projects, or the drafting of a formal best practice “instructions” document to then drive multiple implementation efforts.  These are represented by the social eddie D.

An important aspect of the CorasWorks solution is that along the way people downstream in the process are able to look upstream.  Thus, a person that is drafting the best practice can look upstream to see a) the formal best practice approved, b) the initial and formal reviews, and c) the original idea and the ideation around it.  An interesting aspect is that since a process like this may span say 90 days, when the person is writing the best practice instruction there may well be many more comments or other information contributed to the original idea or by the various review teams.  Those social eddies may continue to spin depending on the interest level.


Impact of Social Workstreams on the Way we Work

Implementing systems with social workstreams impacts the way we work in a number of ways:

-Loosely-coupled work – Workstreams integrate different work activities to produce outcome – these activities can live on their own and be integrated in a number of different workstreams

- Workstream activity happening in “social eddies” – broader participation, visible, social, continuous feedback (even after gate decision), interactive

- People engage in their Social Eddies – people start to see their “eddie” where they will spend most of their effort

- Potentially expedited cycle times – you don’t have to wait for an item in a workflow to get to you before you can see that it may be coming down the road and begin to participate or decide to expedite it

- Board Decision Style – gated decisions often happen in a board-style, based upon both broad input and precise input

- Disciplined rhythm – Can set disciplined rhythm of decision making (bi-weekly “board” meeting) – not dependent on people or system in sequential process

- Your vote may count less – people are used to having specific power to approve or reject.  In social workstreams, there are often “forcing functions”, such as very high popularity combined with visibility, that lessen an individuals ability to say no or yes.

- Increased effectiveness via the “wisdom of crowds” – hopefully leading to “righter” decisions

- Importance of standard criteria – to make this work, you need to start to establish standard evaluation criteria that is consistently applied and enforced, say through the review forms and board decision criteria

- Greater visibility – the design of social workstreams, such as in Cim, is to provide much greater visibility to the end-to-end process, including status updates to initial contributors as their idea moves through the workstream


The Upshot

A nice, structured workflow is straight forward.  It seems simpler.  In many ways it is.  There are many tools to create a workflow.  But, the value is largely simple efficiency.

An end-to-end process for idea and innovation management can be an extraordinarily powerful driver of business success.  It drives organizational effectiveness.  But, it could get messy.  This is where the tool comes in.  The role of CorasWorks Idea Management on SharePoint is be the enabler to bring you the power of tapping into your social eddies, but to do so in a more efficient and effective social workstream.  It does the loosely-coupling for you.  It gives you your control points and process automation.  It uses workflow in specific places to be efficient.  It provides the upstream and downstream visibility.  It is flexible enough to accommodate the different workstreams and social eddies to support different business scenarios (new products, process improvement, best practices, change requests, etc.).

It will take some time (years) for social workstreams to get comfortably understood and make their way into Visio stencils.  But, trust me, they will.  Why? Because in the future (during the 2010’s), organizations simply will not be able to compete without effectively tapping into the full power of their workforce.


Which drives you: More ideas or Better Processes

The driver to adopt Idea Management comes from two primary directions.  One is the desire to tap into your community for more and better ideas.  The other is to extend existing (or new) business processes to get more input and interaction from a broader audience.  Usually, people are coming from one or the other perspective.  Let’s look at it.

I had conversations with two customers last week coming from the two perspectives.  One is a global business software company.  They had tried to engage their customers for change requests (new features) via their web site, but, had limited success.  They wanted a better way to get more ideas and engage better.  The other is a global telecommunications company.  They have existing internal business processes.  They want to use Idea Management to extend those processes to a broader audience to get more input, interactivity, and transparency.

The most general distinction between these scenarios is that the first is focused on external customers whereas the second is on their internal workforce.  With this simple distinction, you will often start to uncover your driver.  But, lets look a little deeper.

Let’s face it, there is hype around anything social. The urge of many is to just go get some of those ideas and show that they want to engage.  It is well placed.  This outreach objective can be an end in itself.  The interactivity, engagement, and visibility amongst the community is indeed an end in itself.  You can succeed by becoming an enabler for your community to interact.  

On the other hand there is the driver for better processes.  These generally start with an internal objective.  You are trying to achieve a result such as a new product, process improvement, better RFP’s, smooth change management, uncovering new markets.   Then, you lay out your process – typically a workstream from idea to review and management to downstream activities to make it real.  Here you are leveraging idea management as the means to engage with those people that you want engaged in the business process.

In sum, what is Idea Management bringing to your business:

- With Ideation as the objective, it is bringing a brand new way of adding value via your community.  This is a new innovation.

- With the business process objective, it is typically making existing processes better and somewhat reinventing many business processes.


CorasWorks Idea Management addresses both of these drivers. Our ideation feature set is very robust and evolving quickly with our new releases.  A key is our ability to support many different scenarios on the front side with relevant feature sets vs. a one size fits all approach.  However, amongst competitive products in the space we are unusually or even uniquely strong on the end-to-end business process side.  This is because our business has been built up around applications first.  In addition, we take a platform approach with CorasWorks on SharePoint. Thus, you can lay out your end-to-end business process knowing that you have pre-integration with supporting and downstream applications/sites across your SharePoint environment.  We go a step further with an integration framework to also integrate external information sources, applications, and services.

So, where do we come from?  If we have to choose we are in the business process camp.  Our focus is on helping customers achieve the business outcome –the results through the end-to-end process.  And, via Cim to allow them to lay in new processes for different business scenarios.  

In sum, we are seeing Idea Management as a broad driver of innovation.  It is getting people managing existing processes to think outside of the box.  These legacy processes simply get more effective at producing better results.  And, it is creating a new process, lets call it Ideation, of engagement that is becoming an end in itself.

All good…