Tag Archive for IT

IT Requirements Gathering with Cim: Reduce Costs, Drive Collaboration and Visibility, Improve Results

In my last post, I introduced a new way to leverage Cim for group-to-group Channels that increase interactivity.  In this article, we are going to look at a business scenario that takes the Channel approach and integrates it with a more standard innovation management workstream.  The scenario is IT Requirements Gathering and the solution provides a solid way to reduce costs, increase collaboration, and drive efficiencies and effectiveness.

Does your organizations’ IT department gather requirements for new applications, changes to existing applications or infrastructure, or new infrastructure projects?  How is this done?  Meetings perhaps?  Emails? (lots of both) Is it considered effective?  Are the “customers” all local or are they distributed? Do you ever get the questions later on as to who wanted a given requirement, or how important it was ranked, or whether it got into the project?

Requirements gathering is an art.  If you take a look at the normal requirements gathering process, in most organizations, it not easy or neat or efficient.  It is a challenge of engagement, balancing, documenting, feedback, prioritizations, and politics.  When you are working on requirements with “customers” that are across the earth, it is even more challenging.  Further, the flow from the “customers”, through the requirements manager/process, and to those that are doing the project is usually quite constrained – particularly the upstream visibility and interaction from the “developer” to the customer.  The historical record of how the requirements came to be is usually impossible to decipher or get your hands on in a convenient manner.  We can do better.

Below is a schematic that depicts a process leveraging CorasWorks Idea Management and the Channels approach.  The IT department has a management hub to gather and work up requirements and manage all requirements projects.  When a new potential project comes up, they create a Channel community between them and the associated “customer”.  Most often the customer is a single business group or department.  That customer then has the UI for this requirement process right there in their portal – very convenient.  If the potential project is with a cross-functional team, then, you create a Channel from IT to a site being used by the team (it is a cross-functional portal).



Then, the interaction starts.  IT may set a timeframe, say 30 days for the requirements process to happen.  The customers start entering requirements or the IT department can post those that they have.  Everyone within that Channel can review, rate, and comment.  There is high visibility.  The customer (usually many people) can “trade” amongst themselves and the Star Power ranking shows their prioritization.  IT can respond with feasibility information or comments. It is highly interactive.  It is asynchronous – meaning people can engage whenever they want or need to.

IT then processes the requirements in the hub.  They are already initially prioritized by the customer.  They may feed back summary documents or specs to the customer for vetting via the Channel.  Once they are set they push the approved requirements into the project sites that they have created.  The people working on the project can do their work and can interact directly with specific people from the customer on specific requirements.  If you leave the Channel open, new requirements or changes can flow through.  There is a visible and persistent history of what was proposed, said, by whom, decided, assigned, and the status.  Routine updates can be provided via the Channel as the requirements process becomes a development/implementation project.

This scenario is a standard idea to innovation workstream using Cim.  Except these are not individual ideas but a collection of related requirements for each IT project.  They use point-to-point Channels to make it convenient for people to engage from wherever they normally work and to enable a high level of visibility and interactivity for this specific project.  The Channel can be used for the Requirements process, the implementation/development process, and even, future change request management.

The upshot is that this solution can take a challenging and not so neat process of requirements gathering and make it considerably better.  Just add people…


Another Spirit-based Solution – IT Project Management Portal

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

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

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


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

Article detail with documents in Project


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


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



App Review: Software License Management by Future Structure

A couple of posts ago, I discussed a trio of apps for the IT Department published by CorasWorks.  The new Software License Management app by Future Structure is a very useful addition to the trio – starting to really hit the pain in IT work.  Here is my take on it.

For IT folks, managing end-user licenses (desktop and online services) in an attempt to maintain control and be in compliance is a real pain.  FS’s Software License Management (“SLM”) app for SharePoint does a very clean job of eliminating a good deal of the pain, by automating the routine tasks, and providing a new layer of tracking and reporting that happens automatically.

SLM is used for managing your catalog of end-user licenses (what you have in inventory), getting requests by end-users or managers, and assigning the licenses to the end-users and tracking.  These are the basics and it does them cleanly.  It also has a group of very useful additional features as follows:

  • You can create “Image Suites” of licenses.  This is a set of licenses for a particular image by user role, such as a Suite for a Salesperson, an Exec, an IT Help Desk engineer etc.  You can then allocate a Suite to a user, bypassing the license by license process.
  • How about on-boarding? – In a couple of clicks you can allocate a Suite to a new employee during on-boarding. 
  • How about off-boarding? – Imagine in a couple of clicks the licenses from a former employee can be added back into your virtual license inventory.
  • License Key Assignment – It also supports the request and assignment process for license keys.
  • Inventory management – There is reporting that shows where you are in your inventory based upon what you’ve bought and what’s been allocated.
  • Management reporting – There are a bunch of reports, very customizable, that show who has gotten what and when.

In my view, SLM’s sweet spot is organizations with 40-400 end-users.  At 40 people, the problem is usually enough of a pain and a risk to make it worth while.  At about 400 people and up the work starts to be getting so big that you will probably need an automated way of discovering licenses on desktops/laptops.

But, even if you address the “desktop” issue there are two other areas that need to be managed, where SLM might also be a good addition:

  • The first is ad hoc licenses for specific groups.  An example is getting some copies of Camtasia from Tech Smith for the marketing department or even some temporary vendors.  What is being requested, purchased, and distributed?  SLM can handle this.
  • The second is the user/license management for apps/services provided via ASP/cloud offerings.  How many services are you using and who has access and the rights?  With SLM you can keep track of these licenses and provide the reports without having to go through all of the sites of all of the services you are using.  Better yet managers can be the ones requesting access (some self-serving).  This provides a great source of data to routinely review your expense levels for software as a service.

My wish list for the future consists of two items:

  • I’d like to see Future Structure extend SLM to integrate with our Help Desk so that it can be a downstream app.  Thus, if a Help Desk engineer gets a license request they can push it into the SLM system automatically. 
  • Second, is that I’d like to see a Snaplet for it as part of an organizations’ end-user self-service offering.  It would be used for end-users to a) see what software is available and supported by the organization (what a concept?), b) allow end-users to make requests and track them and c) allow end-users to request new software or services to be added to the organizations offering.

As it is today, it is a great addition to the IT Department app catalog – particularly for $1,250.  Any pain we can remove from this “not fun” process for already overworked IT folks is all good.


IT Department App Trio for SharePoint Released

Over the last few days we’ve released a trio of plug-and-play apps that play nicely together to get an IT Department working productively on SharePoint.  They consist of the Department Dashboard, Work Order Approval app and Help Desk.  They all run on the AppEngine for SharePoint.  In this article, we’ll talk about how they work individually and together.

 Quick Start for an IT Department

So, you have SharePoint and want to get an IT Department working more productively.  The trio gives you a solid way to start.  Each of the apps is available from the CorasWorks App Store.  They are as follows:

- Department Dashboard – used as the primary collaborative site for the IT Department and for integrating in the apps, processes, and, connections across the IT department and to other departments

- Work Order Approval – a 3 stage approval process for internal work orders; can be used in many departments

image- Help Desk –designed for an internal Help Desk for your organization; includes the ability to distributed the end-user self-service displays to wherever they work


They can be used stand alone, but together, they provide a tight, integrated solution.  This diagram shows how they basically lay out.  It also shows how the apps in your IT Department can be connected with other departments (see Help Desk self-service scenario below).

How they Plug-and-Play together

The Department Dashboard is typically installed at the upper level of the group.  If you are starting from scratch, you’d make it the top level site of a new Site Collection.  It provides the basic collaborative environment for your department.  As you add apps they are integrated into the department dashboard and features of the other apps are snapped into the department allowing people to do their work from the dashboard.

(For more information about this app: see this 18 minute demo of the Department Dashboard, and, see the app in the App Store).

One thing you’ll do is set up your Department Global Menu (or tie it into your Global Menu).  This is all point and click driven and gives you the ability to centrally configure the menu across all the apps in the IT Department and/or your organization.

You then install the Work Order Approval Process below the dashboard.  It gives you a complete integrated business process with email notifications and 3 stages.  You integrate it with the dashboard through the Department menu.  You will also want to put some displays in your IT department dashboard for users.  For instance, you can add a display that allows end-users to enter new work orders and track their status while working in the dashboard.  You may also want to distribute the Review and Approval functionality to other departments (there are three stages for Department, Executive, and Finance – which you can modify).

(For more information about this app: see this 12 minute demo of the Work Order Approval app, and, see the app in the App Store)

Next, you move to the Help Desk.  This is a robust app that is great for an internal Help Desk.  You’ll also tie it into the Department menu.  It contains two Snaplets that allow you to distribute Help Desk functionality.  One is the End-User self-service display (the other is a Management Reporting Snaplet).   This is an important piece to start to offload the data entry work of help desk engineers.  You simply snap it into the IT Department dashboard, other departments’ dashboards, your portal, my site, or anywhere else and  end-users can enter new requests, track the status and history of requests, and pop-off emails – without having to go anywhere.  In addition, it is centrally configured.  This means that even though the Snaplet could be in 50 or 500 places, the Help Desk admin can make one change in the app and all instances of the Snaplet web part are updated.

(For more information about this app: see this extensive 27 minute demo of the Help Desk app, and, see the app the App Store)

Another connection you may want to do is to connect the Help Desk to the Work Order Approval app.  You do this by adding a CorasWorks action to the Help Desk.  The scenario is that you may have a Help Desk ticket that should spawn a work order, say for a purchase and some labor hours.  The user selects a Help Desk item, runs the action, which automatically enters a new work order tied back to the Help Desk item.  Then, the normal work order process moves forward.

Following the above basic approach, in a couple of hours you can have a robust, integrated environment for your IT Department that also connects with the rest of the departments in your organization.  It is a great way to start.


Getting the Apps

Each of these three apps is available individually via the App Store.  They run on the AppEngine or the Workplace Suite.  They list for $1,000, however, they are all free to CorasWorks customers on our Premier Annual Support & Maintenance program (“PASM”).  You “buy” them through the App Store ecommerce (make sure to login to get the $0 price if you are on PASM), download, install, and use them.  It will take you less than an hour to get each up and running.  You can then connect them up and customize them to meet your needs.  Each has rather extensive documentation that covers installation, use, customization, and connecting it with your environment.

Note that there are two editions of each app in the App Store – Local and One Touch.  the difference is the configuration of the app itself.  The editions released last week are the Local edition.  These are easier to install and use.  The One Touch editions, released previously, are a bit more sophisticated and used when you want central configuration and management.  Here is my blog that explains in more detail how One Touch editions work and the benefits of this configuration.  Both run on either the AppEngine or Workplace Suite.