Tag Archive for PPM

Drive exceptional results by combining social business collaboration and project management

We kicked off October as an exhibitor at the SharePoint Conference in Los Angeles.  At our booth, we were showing our two core solutions for SharePoint 2010 – CorasWorks Cim for Social Business Collaboration and CorasWorks PPM for Project Portfolio Management. These are two robust solutions that work great stand alone.  However, we  got people really excited by demonstrating business scenarios where the two are combined to drive a new experience.  In this article, I’ll cover the three combo scenarios that we were showing and give you an explanation of how they come together.


Over the last year, we have driven each of these solutions forward in their own categories with at least 3 releases for each.  Each solution has its own competitor vendors.  Thus, your analyst reports treat them separately.  And, most customers see them as separate animals.  However, when you start to consider the scenarios where they work together on top of SharePoint – you begin to uncover business results magic.

The three scenarios are as follows:

- Project Collaboration

- Project Initiation, Approval, and Management (Demand Management)

- Innovation Management


Project Collaboration

In our PPM solution, people primarily work in project sites like many other solutions.  It has all of the great structured project management features you’d expect. Yet, how much of the success of a project is based upon structured management vs. collaboration (people communicating and working together)?  80/20? 50/50? 30/70?

With Cim we have collaborative communities that can be embedded into the CorasWorks PPM project sites.  Thus, smack dab in the middle of structured project work you have a very robust collaborative community.  In addition, users can be anywhere else in SharePoint and go to their Cim Activity Stream and see, contribute, and collaborate within any or all of the project communities for all of the projects that they watch.  Even further, other people that may not be part of the specific project team can be enabled to also watch the community and help drive success.

Here is a schematic depicting a typical user experience where Kim White, a web designer, is working on multiple projects.  She only needs to go to her Activity Stream to collaborate on multiple projects.



Let’s look at the types of items that you’d find in your project community.  How about: project updates and snapshots, meeting agenda and notes, issues and resolutions, all points bulletins for required resources and responses/volunteers, technical challenges and solutions, posts of core knowledge/information, announcements of handoffs, ideas to move the project forward and discussions…

One collaborative community to handle information, communication, discussions, and resolutions to drive the success of a project by getting the team and the expanded community to work together.  (NOTE: in many of the types of posts, you have two way communication, like a question and an answer or answers).


Demand Management: Project Initiation, Approval and Management Workstream

I previously wrote about this scenario with a focus on the New Project Initiation part of the workstream.  That article describes the business value of having a robust front-end project initiation process so that you make sure that you are doing the right projects.  More formally, this is often referred to as Project Demand Management.

Our full demonstration shows an integrated workstream where you start with people entering their ideas for projects.  This gives them visibility and allows for robust collaboration.  Then, the projects are evaluated via the Cim Process Management site that enables management and subject matter expert collaboration.  Once approved, you are ready to go into the project execution phase.  The approved projects may be pushed into the PPM Program Management Office.  Or, they can be pushed into a PPM Project Portfolio to kick off the project.

Thus, in this scenario the two solutions are aligned in a sequential workstream.  Again, at any point users can collaborate from their Cim Activity Stream.  Accordingly, a user that proposed the project can track the entire process and be engaged via the project community in the actual execution.  This is depicted in the following schematic.



Innovation Management

This is another workstream similar in design to the scenario above but delivering a different business value – innovation success.  In a typical innovation scenario you have a number of front-end communities.  They may be standing communities or challenges that capture ideas and allow for collaboration.  Then, the ideas go through a process where they are reviewed and worked on.  The additional boxes below at the process stage represent task management.  For instance, you may assign tasks to technical teams or marketing teams whose work supports the decision process.  The users can just use SharePoint team sites or they can use CorasWorks PPM sites so that the tasks can be more thoroughly managed in a programmatic manner.  The approved ideas are then pushed into project execution phase which might be managed by a Program Management Office, a Portfolio or Program Manager, or just a Project Manager.

As in the above scenarios there can be a great deal of collaboration at the front-end, amongst managers, subject matter experts, and, delegated teams in the process phase, or, as part of the project execution phase.  This collaborative activity is all surfaced via the users Cim Activity Stream wherever they like to work.




The Wrap

Typically, we have thought of the two types of solutions as separate animals.  They have been targeted at different user groups who see themselves working in very different ways. With CorasWorks, we have now designed the solutions so that they can be naturally integrated to drive the types of scenarios noted above.  They give you the structure you need to properly manage work and the power of robust collaboration to drive the results.  And, it all works on top of one platform – SharePoint.


September 2011 releases for Cim Pros

We’ve just released a small wave of items that are able to be leveraged by Cim Pros using CorasWorks Cim on SharePoint 2010.  This wave consists of the following: 1) the v2.1.1 Hotfix release of Cim, 2) a new Community module flavor called “Quick Facts”, and 3) the New Project Initiation application.

These three items are all released to the Cim Pro community of the Cim Learning Center.  They are only available to Cim Pros that have access to the Cim Learning Center and are using these items in licensed environments of CorasWorks Cim.  Here are details for each.


Cim v2.1.1 Hotfix

This is a pure hotfix release containing fixes to issues in v2.1.  The majority of the issues are somewhat cosmetic UI issues.  They are documented in the release notes.  The release consists of updates to 11 of the 14 Cim modules.  It does not require the installation of any new DLL’s.  In addition, this release adds some new support for Cim Snaplets.  You’ll start to see the advantage of this over the next few months as we release some cool new Snaplets, particularly around the Activity Stream.


Quick Facts “Flavor” of Community Module

Technically, this is our first formal release of a separate “flavor” of a Cim v2.1 module.  A flavor is simply a customized version of a module that is enhanced with new features, styling, or look and feel. In general, flavors lend themselves to be used for certain scenarios.  Accordingly, you now have a fourth flavor of Community (this one in addition to the communities for Collaboration, Process, and Innovation).

The Quick Facts flavor of the Community Module allows you to easily expose fields of information from the Articles list of the Community in the web 2.0 listing and detail displays of the community.  It adds a box, the Quick Facts box, to do the job.  The release documents how to modify the Quick Facts box and some supporting features such as Pinpoint Search.

PS-We use this new flavor in the New Project Initiation application.


New Project Initiation application

The New Project Initiation (“NPI”) application is proving to be quite popular with customers.  We’ve gone ahead and psuedo-productized this for our Cim Pros.  The application gives you a comprehensive front-end process for managing the onramp of new projects.  For the business value of NPI see my post Driving Business Value with the New Project Initiation social business process  This release is designed for enterprise-wide implementations, but, it may also be implemented at more local levels (say for just IT Project Onramp).

The release contains three customized Cim modules (Portal, Community, and Management Hub).  These are complemented by other out-of-the-box Cim modules to deliver the complete solution.  The release contains an Implementation Guide that provides an overview of the application scenario, the deltas of the modules from the OOTB modules, the implementation tasks, customization options, and, appendixes covering technical items and extended deployment scenarios.

BTW, for those of you with both Cim and PPM, this application is a no-brainer bolt on to the front end of PPM.  The documentation covers the core integration scenarios for pushing approved projects into PPM.




Enabling Enterprise-Wide Social Business Processes

With the launch of Cim v2.1 last month, I’ve been engaging with a very different set of business groups amongst our customers.  These are groups that have really never gotten into leveraging SharePoint – even though their organization has it deployed enterprise wide.  They are now looking to leverage Cim on SharePoint 2010 to scale out and up enterprise-wide business processes that have been operating in limited, cumbersome environments.  This scenario that we call enterprise-wide social business processes (EW-SBP) is a targeted scenario for Cim and leverages the entire CorasWorks value proposition.  In this article, I’ll provide the overview of this scenario.  In future blogs, I’ll drill into specific business processes.


The Situation

These enterprise customers have existing business processes that require contributions from a large groups of users.  You might say that they have a big, front-end funnel.  The organizations have already determined what their process is and that it works for the business. They’ve been doing it, but, it has been painful. As they exist today, they are too limited in visibility and touch, they are cumbersome and not scalable (usually built or managed using spreadsheets and/or legacy systems such as SAP and Siebel), and, they are expensive and a hassle to maintain and move forward.

As Cim v2.1 has gotten out there, these business groups are bringing us their processes.  Here is what they want:

- Broad User Scale – They want to scale the front-end of the process to be able to engage a very broad set of users – the whole enterprise, a division, or their business group.  They want this to occur with very little upfront or ongoing effort.  They want to be able to launch new initiatives with just a bit of effort and not having to reinvent a new process/system.

- Robust Process Management – They want their core process, the way they manage it now (but better and easier), to be part of the solution.  They want it to be rich, configurable, and flexible without requiring a computer science degree.

- Enterprise Integration – They want this front-end engagement/process to be able to connect to their external back-end systems (like their project management systems) to a) push approved items into these systems or b) expose the enterprise data within the system to assist the users of the process.  NOTE: Some of these business groups are now considering the option of also leveraging SharePoint to do this also.


Some Examples

In many cases, the processes that these business groups are looking for are already part of the CorasWorks stable.  Some examples of them are as follows.

New Project Initiation – they usually have multiple project management systems, off SharePoint.  What they want is the front-end where people can submit new project ideas, get visibility and collaboration, and then, put them through a review, evaluation, and approval process.  The approved one then get pushed into their PMO or into Project Portfolios in their enterprise project management system.  Their objective is to reduce project duplication and make sure that the projects that even get considered are thought out and vetted amongst a broad, visible audience.

Change Request Management – We are seeing two main “flavors” of this.  One is driven by product groups, the other by IT.  In sum, they want to open up the front end to a broad set of users to be able to easily submit and collaborate on change requests.  Then, they want to run them through a review and approval process.  The approved ones will get pushed into their external system or into project sites or team sites within SharePoint for implementation.  The value is a broader funnel that allows for better collaboration before the change requests move into consideration.

New Product Innovation – We are getting multiple variations for this scenario.   But at the core, the business owners want to engage the full enterprise to capture ideas for new products and markets.  They want to put them through a review and approval process, and then, push them to external systems or SharePoint sites for people to incorporate into their next product cycle.  With this process they are looking to drive revenue growth and competitive strength through a bigger funnel for innovative ideas, the ability to get more varied collaborative input, and the means to target the “thinking” of the organization towards specific challenges/opportunities.

Continuous Improvement Programs – At the enterprise or division level, organizations are looking to capture ideas, projects, plans to feed into a program they are using to manage their Continuous Improvement.  Usually, these are operations oriented groups.  They are looking for ideas for cutting costs, decreasing cycle time, and overall efficiencies.  They want broad participation (sometimes mandatory), and then, they review and approve the ideas, and move them into implementation.


The Cim Enterprise-Wide Social Business Process (EW-SBP) Solution

The basic design of our solution is the same across all of the four examples above.  It is a distributed process that lays on top of and cuts across the SharePoint environment and beyond.  Below is a screenshot depicting a generic process.

Generic EW-SBP

The process breaks down into three distinct sets of activities as follows:

Collaboration: Users will have access to one or more communities to contribute and collaborate with others on the items.  They will do this from wherever they work across SharePoint using the Cim Activity Stream.  The items are all collected in one or more “communities”.

Process: The process owners then go about reviewing, evaluating, and approving the items.  It may be a simple process with a few core decision makers.  Or, they may use collaborative reviews that pull in subject matter experts and other managers.  Further, they can configure multiple stage-gates, with specific activities within each stage that need to be completed before the item is promoted.  Here they will make the decision.  And, they will manage the overall portfolio leveraging various reporting features.

Execution: They then push approved items into downstream project sites, processes, programs, or team sites.  These downstream activities may be in external enterprise systems or may exist within the SharePoint environment.  For instance, CorasWorks provides our Project Portfolio Management solution that runs on SharePoint and is integrated with Cim to make this phase a natural next step.

The core selling points of the CorasWorks Cim v2.1 solution are:

- it runs natively on SharePoint and thus they can leverage this existing enterprise infrastructure

- the CorasWorks Cim solution is largely off the shelf in terms of the core things they want for their process

- Cim is easy to use and feature rich, providing contributor users and process users with a good experience

- Cim is easily adaptable and they can see how they can tweak it where they need it

- Cim is based upon the CorasWorks Solution Platform, which is a mature platform (now in v11) and gives them the flexibility to extend the solution in the places where they require some deep enterprise integration

- the price is very competitive and they are able to launch additional processes using the same framework



In sum, we are seeing Cim v2.1 running on SharePoint 2010 being adopted for enterprise-wide social business processes.  Effectively, these customers are leveraging our solution to scale their existing processes.  They are targeting broad numbers of users (5,000 to 50,000).  The target is usually enterprise-wide or at the division level.  They want the front-end collaboration, a clean, robust process to get to the decision on items, and, the flexibility to then use different means for execution (building, implementing) and or extend the solution as needed.

In future articles, I’ll drill down into specific processes and talk about specific features and benefits.


The Project Guild: a Micro-community for distributed project environments on SharePoint

In my previous post, I provided an overview of distributed micro-communities built using the Spirit Group Blog Service and served up a “day in the life” video of Idea Central – a micro-community for contributing and collaborating on ideas.  In this post, I’ll look at another example of a micro-community called Project Guild that puts very useful collaborative capabilities at the fingertips of people working on projects across a SharePoint environment.

Project work is typical in a SharePoint environment.  Typically, the projects are separate sites, distributed across a SharePoint environment.  Apps such as the CorasWorks Project Portfolio Management (PPM) do a great job of integrating the hard-core, structured, project management elements.  You can have a PMO, multiple project portfolio dashboards, and many, many project sites – all operating as an integrated system.  And, it is all centrally configurable – which is great.

But, what we are missing is the project community.  Sure, people work on specific projects in a structured way.  But, in the real world, people need information, policies, processes, training, help, tips and additional resources to break through bottlenecks in the critical path.  What is missing is a collaborative community where all this unstructured information, collaboration, and communication can occur to support the success of the people working on all projects.  

This is where our example, the Project Guild micro-community comes in.  It differs from the Idea Central micro-community like this: Idea Central is for a broad community focused on contributing and collaboration; Project Guild is a narrower, more job focused micro-community driving content dissemination, collaboration, and communication (hence the Guild name).

As a solution, it is a distributed, community service.  The information and functionality is centrally managed.  Yet, the users are able to participate from everywhere across SharePoint and even beyond, i.e., no need to go to a place to participate.  Below we have a diagram of how it lays out with people participating from the PMO, Portfolio dashboards, Project Sites, Team Sites, regular SharePoint sites, and even via a Virtual RSS UI. Anyone from anywhere can listen in and chime in.

project guild

In the following “day in the life video” we’ll show you how various people that are part of the “Guild” collaborate via the Project Guild distributed, micro-community. They “socialize” documents, share information, collaborate, and engage in activities to help each other succeed.  Now, we show a lot of the work in the context of the CorasWorks PPM modules but you can be doing this with any SharePoint sites or even (dare I say) competitors solutions.

Click here to view the Project Guild video (runtime 11:20)

As you can see from the video, you can really start to add a whole new layer of rich collaboration to a project environment by adding a distributed micro-community along these lines.  The ability for the PMO to easily disseminate documents to every nook and cranny instantly is really a breakthrough.  The Resource APB (All Points Bulletins) process is just tagging applied to a real world situation that leverages the community.

I hope this video helps get your mind going.  I think this one has legs and is the type of solution where we can start to leverage the Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 approaches in a classically structured work environment on SharePoint.


CW PPM – Thinking Outside of the Box

Our Project Portfolio Management app was released in October.  It has been rapidly adopted by our existing customers and new customers.  Most users are drawn to it for the standard “Out of the Box” capabilities for solid project management and flexible portfolio management.  That is great.  But, the key differentiator is how it can evolve to meet your needs.  In this article, we’ll cover 10 “outside of the box” ways that YOU can enhance and extend PPM using the standard point and click wizards of CorasWorks.  They are things that may not have occurred to you at first, but, tend to be very powerful ways of leveraging PPM in a SharePoint environment.

First of all, let’s add some context.  CW PPM is designed to leverage a SharePoint environment – so it is a bit different.  By its nature SharePoint is a distributed environment.  The UI structure is distributed and the content is usually distributed.  Second, the PPM is usually just one app within this environment.  Not only does it typically not live alone, but, it is only practical to use PPM as an integrated part of your work environment.  Third, out of the box, CW PPM allows you to have many projects sites, located anywhere in the environment.  And, you can have many portfolio dashboards, located anywhere connected to any project sites.

This is the backdrop for thinking outside of the box about PPM.  You’ll find it powerful to think of it more as a system, then, just one app.  Now, let’s look at 10 ways that you can enhance, extend and integrate PPM as part of your SharePoint work environment.

1. Centrally upgrade the distributed PPM System – PPM has a single Application Configuration Site (“ACS”).  it can be located anywhere and is accessed by a CW Global Link. This is part of CW’s “One Touch” architecture.  This means that when you want to upgrade the basic functionality of project sites or portfolio dashboards, distributed across your environment, you just go to the ACS site, make your change and all of the parts of the PPM are updated.  You make your changes using the Action Wizard or the Central Views wizard.  Say you want to add a new Email action to your 100 project sites that allows users to send contracts to legal for review.  You create it in the ACS, attach it to a Central View, and you are done.  No need to touch the 100 project sites. This means that upgrading in-process project sites is now possible and practical.


2. Hybrid Project Site/Portfolio Customization – The ACS is the baseline for your PPM system.  But, a site owner can also customize any project site or portfolio dashboard to meet their specific needs.  Thus, you can have customized hybrids of central ACS functionality and localized changes.  This is done with the Display Wizard that lets you clone a Central View, and then, customize it.  Thus, you have a consistent baseline of functionality with the ability of site owners to customize, enhance and extend their instance.  Of course, they can then re-templatize their changes for the next project.  NOTE: You can also prevent this or limit who can do it using the CorasWorks Lock Down functionality – your call.



3. Role-Based Portfolios – When thinking PPM we typically think of a manager/executive with a portfolio of projects – to keep tabs on the status.  The CW PPM portfolio dashboard contains functionality at two extremes – for the manager wanting a high-level dashboard and for users to be able to do their contributing work on multiple projects form one place.  As such, you can create instances of portfolio dashboards for different roles.  You may have one for members of a team to do work on their 4 projects, another for a department manager, another for a portfolio by say partner or product, another for a program manager for related projects across departments, and, the PMO’s dashboard with just high-level metrics, risk charts, etc.  These changes are done using our Display Wizard.



4. Connect to Central Resources – You can centralize resources in the PPM ACS or elsewhere.  An example is a library of standard processes, an employee list, or a list of vendor contact information and rates.  Each of these can then have a CW Snaplet that is centrally configured and that you can drag and drop into your project site on demand.  You can build up a catalog of drag and drop Snaplets for use by project owners or portfolio users.



5. Push Info In and Out – Project Sites have data.  Often, you might have documents in a teamsite, such as the business case, that you want to add to a Project Site when you set it up.  You do this by adding a CW action to the teamsite/workspace which lets you pick a project to push the documents into.  You can standardize this because you know the schemas in the project sites.  You can also force the contributor to fill it a bit of metadata in the process.  To push documents out of a project site, you just add an action to push to any other sites.  You can also push any other type of information such as tasks, issues, meetings.  This is all done using the CW Publisher action type.



6. Integrating with External Data – You often have external data sources with information that is useful for projects.  Examples are vendor information, accounting codes, facility locations, etc.  You can set up central resources, using a CW Data Provider for all of these external data sources.  Then, you create Snaplets that project managers can drag and drop into their sites for instant external data integration.  Just add them to your Snaplet catalog.  If needed, you can also add read-write functionality to edit or add information to the external data source. The PPM administrator can centrally configure all of the aspects of this – the end-user just decides whether to use this or that Snaplet.



7. Other SharePoint Application Integration – Projects don’t work in a vacuum.  Imagine you want project managers to create Purchase Requests or Work Orders from within a project site (two off the shelf business apps by CW and partners).  You can add a Snaplet from the app to the project site, and viola, you can now kick off those downstream workstreams from within the project site.  As a portfolio manager, you may also want to look upstream at the potential projects managed in a PMO or activity within your Help Desk system.  Just connect them up with displays or actions or Snaplets.



8. Implementing Resource Management at a Manageable Level – PPM manages resources and effort at the project level.  These are attached to tasks and phases.  However, in more structured environments people want to manage resources (primarily people and their time) across projects.  You can see this in a portfolio dashboard.  However, often the level of granularity is too detailed.  One approach is to raise the Resource Management to the Project Allocation level vs. the task level.   You create a Central Resource of Employees and you “schedule” them to work on a project for a set of hours.  Thus, you can see at a high level who is committed to what projects for how much time – a level that you can manage instead of trying to manage resources at the task level.  You can also add a time frame to allocations.  So, provide easy resource allocation visibility and let people negotiate the details of their commitments.



9. Add a PMO (to come) – At this time, project initiation, review and governance is not in CW PPM – out of the box.  It is coming in v1.2, probably next month. Thus, you will have a process for initiating projects and managing them as a separate module.  A nice, clean process that is easily connected to the rest of the PPM system.



10. SaaS PPM (to come) – So, how about running PPM in a Software as a Service model.  CW will be launching its CW in the Cloud service over the next couple of months.  You can bring up PPM just in a Saas model for internal users.  Or, for an external user base.  And, you can integrate your PPM in the cloud with your PPM in your Intranet on premise.  This is done through remote data connections.  On premise, SaaS, or both.

Hopefully, these 10 items give you a flavor of thinking outside of the box about CW PPM. A key is that most of these YOU can do on your own when the need arises. For support on any of these items, ping our support at support@corasworks.net or post to the Community forums.  We’ll be fleshing many of these out in future blogs and Community Resources (videos, articles, etc.).