Tag Archive for Enterprise Shared Application Services

CorasWorks v11.3 is Released-that makes 10 Years, 4 SharePoint Platforms-and now CAPS

On Monday, July 15th, we released version 11.3 of the CorasWorks platform to the CorasWorks download library.  The v11.3 release supports SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint 2010.  This is our first release for SharePoint 2013 (although we’ve worked with Microsoft on this release for 2 years). 

This means that over the last 10 years, we have released the CorasWorks Solution Platform for four SharePoint platforms:

  • SharePoint 2003
  • SharePoint 2007
  • SharePoint 2010
  • SharePoint 2013

With each SharePoint platform and each CorasWorks release we have enhanced the ability of our customers to address their work management needs within a CorasWorks-SharePoint shared application services environment.  We have also continued to perfect our “puttyware” approach that enables users to design, build, enhance and extend applications, without the need for custom compiled code to be introduced into the shared services environment.

CAPS – A Big Step Forward in v11.3 (SP2010 and SP2013)

While v11.3 is just a .dot release, it is also of major importance.  I believe that for CorasWorks customers, the most important part is not the support for SP2013, but rather, that we have included the CorasWorks Application Service (CAPS) technology

CAPS is just the right thing at the right time.  Client side web development is exploding and so is the potential for a mess.

CAPS is a REST-like service (runs server side) that enables client-side web developers to build very rich and performant apps and advanced features that leverage a clean server-side service.  We have been using it in our off-the-shelf Solutions and in custom solutions for the last 6 months.  With v11.3, it is now included in the CorasWorks platform. 

CAPS is targeted towards the web app developer.  It gives them a powerful service, including items like XSLT 2.0 support, one call joins, one call batch requests, Global Variables, mobile/tablet support and lots of good clean stuff.  But, it is also important because it simplifies and structures the architecture to avoid client-side chaos and bloat.

To launch CAPS, we have provided the new CAPS Learning Center (available in the Resources section of CorasWorks Community) that takes a more developer approach to learning with online examples, scenarios, and features that can be re-used, leveraged, and learned from.  If you can cut and paste, you can leverage CAPS in your work environment.

william

IDIQ Task Order Management as a Shared Service on SharePoint

We are doing a lot of work enabling Federal Contractors with IDIQ Task Order Management solutions.  When we first got going with this solution a year ago we focused on the IDIQ/GWAC center that was managed at the Corporate level.  Very quickly it started to integrate with the Capture and Proposal work.  Then, it moved out to serve the needs of the business groups.  Today, we are enabling most of our customers in a Shared Services model powered by CorasWorks within a SharePoint work environment.  I’ll talk about this.

Larger Federal Contractors usually have a Proposal Center.  They may have a corporately managed IDIQ/GWAC center.  The problem is that these capabilities only address the top of the pyramid.  The rest of work, that happens at the Business Group level, is usually very, very ad hoc using the tools of email and excel.

The nirvana is to get each group what they need but to do it in a way that enables corporate standards and operational leverage.  For years, organizations have lived with a pendulum that swings between centralization and decentralization.  With each swing somebody loses.  Effectively, our Shared Services model strikes a working balance that supports both centralization and local optimization.

With our Shared Services model we usually go through a few phases of adoption as follows.

First, we usually take care of the Corporate level.  This entails putting in or augmenting the Proposal Center and often adding in the core IDIQ Task Order Management capability.  We then integrate the IDIQ work into the Proposal System and other enterprise systems including CRM (often Deltek GovWin CRM), their Contract Administration system, and HR recruiting systems.

We then enable corporate to serve up IDIQ Task Order Management to the business groups.  The key is that each business groups needs to have it slightly their way.  Their needs often differ from Corporate (usually much deeper where they have to do most of their own proposals and be concerned about downstream work – after they’ve won), between business groups, and, even between IDIQs (like the reporting requirements and the Partners they are working with).

Accordingly, what we provide is a standard, base IDIQ Task Order Management solution.  This can then be cloned and customized to meet the needs of each business group and even down to the IDIQ level.  Yet, it is all part of your enterprise shared application service and also of the shared SharePoint work environment.  So, corporate capabilities can be standardized and made available as part of the Shared Service to the business groups across the enterprise.  Examples are Proposal Requests and Management, Gate Reviews, Supporting Processes (such as HR Staffing Requests and Conflict of Interest checks), Standards (CMMI, PMO, Partner Onramping), and Knowledge Repositories (such as Pricing, Forms, and Past Performance that are shared with security and in context).

It sum, it becomes a standardized, integrated, yet, distributed and locally optimized system.  You might say that it is a system of systems.  The key is that Corporate is not completely in control.  Corporate has enabled the business groups to have flexibility.  The business groups can optimize the way they work, but, do it within constraints that maintain control and the ability to centrally manage the shared infrastructure.  It is truly amazing what results you can achieve when you hit the right balance between the needs of business groups and corporate.

With this shared services model you get the best of both worlds: central control and standardization, but, the ability for the business groups to get what they need to optimize their work.  And, of course in this model the cost is far lower to support and deliver what users need across the board.

If you visit our Federal Contractor micro-site and review the case studies you’ll get a sense of how this approach has worked with different customers of different sizes and with different solutions.

William

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See additional articles for IDIQ Task Order Management in this blog.

Visit CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management for product information.

New Solutions and Case Studies for Federal Contractors

We continue to enhance our support for Federal Government Contractors.  We just updated the Federal Contractor microsite section of our web site.  Assuming that you have been there before, press CNTRL-F5 to refresh the content.

We now highlight 5 solutions for Federal Contractors.  We have 6 new Case Studies for a total of 10.  The solutions are:

  • IDIQ Task Order Management
  • Capture and Proposal Management
  • Program, Project and Portfolio Management
  • Idea and Innovation Management (new)
  • Shared Services Work Management Environments

For an overview of our Federal Contractor vertical in 2012 and solution plans in 2013 see the following article:

CorasWorks’ Federal Contractor Business Grows 75% in 2012 Fueled by Accelerating Industry Competition–Review and 2013 Plans

Do More With Less and Do More for Less

The new solutions and case studies are evidence of our core message to Federal Contractors which is how we enable them to Do More With Less (the competitive business value) and Do More For Less (our cost improvement value proposition).  As we invest in this area and “standardize” the solutions, our value proposition just gets stronger.

The key is that CorasWorks on SharePoint is a platform approach that is enabling Federal Contractors to get great leverage through a Shared Services model.  Once you have the platform in place, any and all of the solutions we offer or that you build can be dropped in, natively integrated, re-purposed, enhanced and extended.  It just works.

Make sure to look at the 2 case studies under “Shared Services Work Management Environments”.  These given a sense of how this approach has worked for a 1,000 person and a 20,000 person organization.

william

Building a Solution Catalog? Start with These 4 Core Work Management Solutions

Are you building out a re-usable solution catalog?  If you use SharePoint as an application platform, you should.  This is how you get tremendous leverage, save costs, decrease time to app, reduce risk, and, cut out lots of “noise”.  In this article, I’ll give you some context of why you should have a generic, re-usable solution catalog.  Then, I cover 4 core Work Management solutions that I’d recommend you add to your catalog.

Don’t have a Solution Catalog?  You are not alone.

Most folks started with SharePoint for Portals, Intranets, and general collaboration, largely via collaborative Team Sites.  When the idea of doing more on top occurs, such as business applications, they tend to think of development.  Over the years, as the standard enterprise application development teams have been migrating to the SharePoint world, the habit of doing “classic” development of applications has infiltrated the SharePoint world.  So, for anything that sounds like a business application, they do requirements gathering, waterfall development, custom code development, and hopefully, end up with an application.  This approach doesn’t lead to a catalog of re-usable solutions because it is technology focused vs. business focused.

This is unfortunate.  SharePoint, particularly in an environment enabled by CorasWorks, is the ideal environment for re-useable applications.   All of the elements are there to dramatically improve the process of delivering applications and be able to serve demand based upon known, re-usable frameworks and “base solutions”.   It is not just about the cost of developing a single application, but, about how you can transform the process into a virtuous cycle that actually drives business innovation and continuous improvement.

Envision A World of “Magic Apps”

Imagine, a world where there were 10 basic application frameworks or design patterns for information work.  These 10 were the core elements for 90% of what most business users needed.  If you had these 10 pre-packaged as templates in your Solution Catalog, you’d be able to reduce time to solution 5x, cut your costs in half, and, be able to focus right in on the key features that drive productivity and enable innovation.

The challenge is that these 10 core design patterns aren’t easy to see.  We get focused on the specifics of a requested app and fail to step back and see the pattern which is necessary to build up your generic catalog of what I call “magic apps”.  Here is an example…

A business customer comes to you asking for a Materials Storage Request solution for managing the storage of manufacturing chemicals.  They have come up with some requirements.  Of course, the application is unique or so they think.  But, you happen to have a Work Request Management magic app in your catalog.  You whip it out, spin up a site, spend a couple hours tweaking some words, fields, navigation to “localize” your magic app to the “language” of the customer.  Then, you engage with them.  All of the sudden you are not doing requirements, but rather, you are in the stage of “finishing” the application.  You immediately have them working with the app, thinking through the process as they touch and feel it.  In this imaginary world, good things happen all around.  But, is it really fantasy?

4 Base Work Management “Magic Apps” for your Catalog

If it is real, then what are the 10 magic apps for your catalog?  We’ll start with the basic 4 for work management that we use with new customers.  They cover a lot of needs.  Each is targeted at structured work management – getting specific work done.  However, their design is different because of the context of the work.  They are:

  • Team Work Management
  • Work Request Management
  • Role-Based Process Management
  • Stage-Based Process Management

We’ll take a look at each below.  Along the way you’ll get examples and see how they build and differ.

NOTE: I tend to think of Solutions as the somewhat generic way to meet a need.  The Application is the solution that is applied to a specific problem for a specific person or group.  Example: we provide coffee (solution), do you want a Mocha Chai Latte or a Yukon Drip with Soy (specific applications).

Team Work Management

This solution is used by a self-contained team to get work done amongst themselves.  It is not a Team Site where a team can generally collaborate.  It is purpose specific and structured to help the team get something specific done.  A key difference the others that I’ll cover below is that you don’t have external people requesting things or external parties involved in the process.  The team is creating the work and managing the work.

Examples for this would include: Task Management, Marketing Collateral Management, Idea Management, Meeting Management, Knowledge Bases, Design & Work Standards.

This is really the most basic solution for work management.  In a SharePoint-context the key is that the users are working in a controlled UI, with a managed set of things they can see and actions they can take.  This separation of the work from the content (which would be users working directly in native SharePoint in a list or library) is what gets you into structured work management and gives you control, consistency, and user task automation.

Work Request Management

How many apps depend on one team getting requests from a) individuals or b) other teams?  A lot.  The key difference in this solution design is that there is an external individual or group that is making a request.  Then, a specific team manages these requests through to completion.  By its nature this work is “interrupt” driven – the team is responding to outsiders.

Examples include:  a Help Desk, Change Requests, Materials Storage Requests, Product Information Requests, Security Clearance Requests, Contract Review Requests. (see article with examples)

In a sense these apps are just one step up from Team Work Management.  The external Request and the interactivity with the requestor are the additions.  A standard application contains the request form, the work management displays and user activity, and reporting.

Role-Based Process Management

SharePoint is natively content-based and many of us are used to the idea of simple sequential workflows to individuals for document approvals.  With this type of solution, we change the design to provide a common UI where people in their roles vs. as individuals, usually cross-functionally, participate in the process of reviewing requests/submissions to arrive at an outcome.

Examples include: Contract Review, Policy and Procedure Management, Legal Matter Management, Capital Approval, Project Proposal Review.

The standard application is a UI with tabs for different roles and the work management to control the flow and the activity that occurs within each role.

Stage-Based Process Management

This is similar to role-based process management yet fundamentally different.  The process is typically a Stage-Gate based process.  Thus, instead of roles or individuals, work flows through a set of standard Stages.  This solution is designed to open up a process and allow for collaboration within the Stages.

Examples includes: New Project Onramps, Idea Management, Business Development Capture & Proposal Processes, Knowledge Creation/Publishing Processes, R&D Product Innovation, Patent & Trademark Reviews.  (See article with examples)

Again, you typically have a UI with tabs, but here, each represents a Stage vs. a Role.  Then, you have the work management to automate the activity within each stage and promote work through its gate to the next stage.

Build the Catalog.

The above is a bit abstract.  It should be, that is the key to building your catalog of “magic apps”.  You are abstracting from the specific to the general.

My recommendations are simple.  Decide that you will build a Solution Catalog for your organization.  Understand the standard business design patterns that apply in a workplace.  Measure how many solutions you add to the catalog per quarter and how much you use them.  Promote the applications that you deliver leveraging the catalog.  You’ll have better results.

Now of course, I’d highly recommend that you include lots of CorasWorks in your apps.  Our software gives you the consistent framework as your base and we have many base solutions to leverage to augment your catalog.  The great flexibility of CorasWorks allows you to easily customize the “magic apps” of your catalog to meet specific needs and enhance, extend and integrate them.  It is time to get your virtuous cycle humming…

william

CorasWorks Highlights Shared Application Services Successes at TechNet Land Forces–East

Last week we were at the TechNet Land Forces – East conference in Baltimore.  This years theme was Cyber Security.  There were more than 1,000 people from the Defense and Intelligence agencies/industry plus about 100 exhibitors.  This year we highlighted customer application successes at the Army, Navy, and Marines leveraging the CorasWorks-on-SharePoint “Enterprise Shared Application Services” (ESAS) model.  In this article, I’ll talk about the footprint of CorasWorks-on-SharePoint across the Defense and Intelligence landscape, how it enables a shared application services model and talk about some applications that we showed, and, wrap up with some thoughts about how ESAS may evolve.

CorasWorks for Defense/Intel since 2003

CorasWorks has been serving the Defense and Intelligence sector since we started in 2003.  One of our first projects was building out a system to manage Warfighter exercises for the US Army that required near real time changes.  During this time we also used the beta version of SharePoint 2003 to support a mock Federal Disaster Management exercise.   Over the last 9 years, core web-based infrastructure has evolved a great deal, the SharePoint platform has changed, CorasWorks application technology has matured, the CorasWorks footprint has grown tremendously, and, the approach to delivering on the customers’ mission has matured.

The Current Enabling Footprint

I’ll talk about our footprint in the Defense/Intel sector from 4 perspectives.  Each of these relates to the enablement of the shared applications services model and how it impacts the overall mission of Defense/Intel sector.

Adoption – CorasWorks has been deployed broadly across the Army, Navy, and Marines.  It is also widely deployed across DoD Special Operations Commands, Homeland Security, Intelligence agencies, and, amongst supporting civilian agencies such as Dept of Justice and Dept of State.  This means that our solution platform is already deployed on SharePoint which makes it available to all supported users across each of these agencies and can support inter-agency collaboration.

Certifications – CorasWorks has maintained a number of key certifications for our flagship CorasWorks Solution Platform product (now in version 11) across SharePoint 2003, SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010.  These include Certificate of Networthiness (Army), Dept of State, DADMS (Navy/Marines), and Technical Reference Manual (Dept of Homeland Security).

Systems Integrator Support – More than half of the top 50 Federal Systems Integrators are engaged in delivering solutions that leverage CorasWorks on SharePoint.  In some agencies, we have 10-20 organizations all building different solutions, but, leveraging the common CorasWorks-SharePoint platform.  With the broad availability of CorasWorks on these enterprise environments, it is very practical for these systems integrators to look to leverage CorasWorks first as opposed to planning to write custom compiled code that needs to be installed into the environment (SharePoint and/or non-SharePoint) with the attendant delays and risks.

Base of Agency Citizen Developers – Over the years, the personnel in the agencies have learned to leverage CorasWorks as “citizen developers”.  This term was coined by Gartner in 2010 and highlighted in a case study of the US Marines and its use of CorasWorks and SharePoint (Case Study: Citizen Developers Help the U.S. Marine Corps Improve Its Knowledge Management – Gartner ID:G00201455).  These individuals are able to modify CorasWorks-based applications in real time to meet situational needs without requiring environment changes (or they can build new ones without affecting the IT environment).  A more recent Gartner report in June of 2011 further expands on Citizen Developers (and references CorasWorks) and its growing importance in delivering value and also in providing a more secure IT operational environment ((Citizen Developers Are Poised to Grow, 2011 – Gartner ID: G00213183). 

Application Successes and Success of Shared Application Services

At TechNet we highlighted three applications as follows:

Configuration Management (US Navy) – This system centrally manages a range of configuration activities including equipment life cycle, design, fabrication, and, assembly of equipment, and change requests.

Project Portfolio Reporting (US Army) – For a major command, this system provides visibility, reporting and data analysis for senior staff across a broad portfolio of project work throughout the command.

Combat Development Command (US Marines) – This system manages requests for equipment, training, and capabilities across the globe, providing real time visibility throughout the life cycle to senior staff.

Taken individually each application represents a best of breed, custom tailored system supporting a broad group of users.  Each rivals the best option for a far more expensive custom developed system.  However, each of these applications was created leveraging CorasWorks-on-SharePoint.  This means that they did not require custom compiled code development (and thus no new code deployment by IT was required on the enterprise infrastructure).  Accordingly, they were designed and developed to leverage the existing “enterprise shared application services” platform of CorasWorks v11 on SharePoint. 

While each of these systems were built with involvement from CorasWorks Professional Services they also leveraged third-party systems integrators and in-house personnel.  In addition, they are just one of many different applications leveraging the same infrastructure and various teams of people that are able to design and build applications that are part of the inter-connected framework of applications running on the shared application environment in each of these commands. (Meaning, fewer siloes and greater inter-connection.)

Considering the Future of Enterprise Shared Application Services (ESAS) Environments

For the last five years, the approach of enterprise shared application services (ESAS) has been increasingly adopted.  This adoption has often been driven by reasons of proven results, cost-effectiveness and manageability of the approach. Yet, while the infrastructure is broadly in place the overall recognition and use is still in its infancy.

Today, there are a number of forces at work that could accelerate the adoption of ESAS.  Right now, there is a major push for better managed infrastructure/networks lead by initiatives for Private Clouds, Public Clouds, and overall Cyber Security.  Part of the emphasis is lower costs, but also, greater manageability to reduce the surface area of risks/exposure.

Logically, I believe that the emphasis on infrastructure should naturally shift to the application layer and follow the logic that leads to ESAS.  It goes like this – add a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) ESAS layer, with very pliable software, such as CorasWorks-SharePoint, to support a broad set of application requirements and thereby reduce the exposure to risks inherent in siloed, custom built applications, while achieving comparable results at less cost and time.

Realistically, I don’t envision a super majority adoption of an ESAS-model in the next few years in the Defense and Intelligence sector.  But, over the next 10 years, an acceptance of simpler applications, the need for more manageable environments up through the application layer, along with continued innovation in the pliability of application software, can drive the tipping point towards ESAS.

william

Full Service Proposal Center of Federal Contractor Driving $250 Million a Year in New Business

Many SharePoint users make use of team sites to manage individual proposals – primarily leveraging basic document management.  Most don’t get much further.  This leaves a vast untapped potential for driving Business Development results and efficiency waiting to be exploited.  Using CorasWorks, leading companies are making it happen…

One of our customers is a billion dollar plus Federal Government Contractor.  A few years ago they acquired a company that came with a proposal management system built with CorasWorks on SharePoint.  They adopted it and have since enhanced and extended the system to serve as a full service Proposal Center supporting 400 proposal projects per year, in a 24/7 operation, that drives $250m/year in new business.  In this article, I’ll provide an overview of their Proposal Center system, the business impact, and, how they are taking it even further.

 

The Proposal Center System

The original system was built using CorasWorks on SharePoint 2003.  It went live in 2005.  When our customer bought the company that built it – they got it.  It was decided that this system would become the core for a new Proposal Management Center that would offer their service to all business units of the company and that would provide a flexible set of services to meet varying business needs.

NOTE: This decision was surprising.  At the time our customer was a complete SAP shop – even for their Intranet/My SAP portal.  The company they acquired used CorasWorks/SharePoint for their Intranet and many other operations.  Our customer killed everything SharePoint from the acquired company, except for this proposal system. This one app has kept the SharePoint flame burning in the organization which over the years is now starting to more broadly adopt SharePoint.

At the core of the Proposal Center is a good solid proposal development system based upon SharePoint.  Each proposal or proposal project is a SharePoint site (at least one) managed as part of an ongoing portfolio of work.  The native SharePoint capabilities have been enhanced with CorasWorks to automate many aspects of the proposal life-cycle and flesh out the system to support a range of different levels of business development capture and proposal projects and information resources as follows:

- Standard RFP Responses – The standard proposal project is a full response to a government RFP using internal resources.  For this, they use a standardized color review process.  The system structures the work, manages the content, and, keeps everyone up to date via email notifications and workflow.

- Smaller BD Projects – It also supports smaller projects.  Sometimes a business group may only require input on the Executive Summary, a short response to an RFI, Past Performance information, or work on a Pricing matrix.

- Managed Knowledge Resources – In addition to managing the projects, the Proposal Center has become a central source for standardized information such as Past Performance, forms, policies, proposal snippets, pricing information, etc.  People working on proposals can “fetch” relevant information from various managed KM repositories and pull it into the working site.  Over time, the Proposal Center has built up an extensive set of knowledge that is reusable as well as knowledge about the process and results of all Business Development operations activity.

- Large Teamed Responses – Further, the system is designed to also support large proposals involving a broad number of teaming partners.  Leveraging CorasWorks and its “secure separation” design each teaming partner is able to interactively participate within the system but only sees the information that they are supposed to see.  Yet, the core company proposal team gets a holistic view of all of the activity.

- IDIQ Task Order Responses – Last year, a new module was added to the system to support IDIQ Task Order Management where they serve as the Prime contractor.  The Task Order responses are managed through the system.  As IDIQ Task Orders, these have unusually short deadlines, such as 10 days, and require an expedited process.

All of the different types of projects are managed via overall portfolio dashboards and work consoles that allow the business development managers to see, act, and contribute as needed.  It provides extensive real-time reporting across the system for business development executives, program managers, and, overall executives.

There are also many unique features to the system that were created to drive productivity within the specific operating environment of our customer.  One of these is the integration with the customers’ SAP HR system.  Our customer responds to a large number of service-oriented RFPs that are dependent on people. Thus, easy access to resumes and integration of vetted individuals into the proposal is a big productivity boost.  Using CorasWorks, the customer integrated with their SAP HR system which allows them to locate people/resumes, which when selected are dynamically formatted based upon pre-defined templates to be incorporated into their proposals.

NOTE: CorasWorks v11, our latest platform release, contains an advanced toolset enabling customers to integrate with Deltek Costpoint, Deltek GovWin CRM, SAP, Oracle Siebel, MS CRM/Dynamics, Taleo HR, Peoplesoft and most other enterprise CRM, ERP, and HR systems used by Federal Government Contractors.  It supports read/write integration, business logic, and is done without custom development leveraging CorasWorks adapters.

 

Impact on Business

When they first began, they were running fewer than 100 projects through their nascent proposal center using very manual processes.  The Proposal Center’s impact and scope of services has grown considerably over the last two years.  They are now running at 400 proposals/projects per year.  The output is currently driving $250M of new business for the organization each year.  The range of services continues to expand and help drive up the quality and consistency of organizational BD output as well as mitigate the risk of ad hoc activities. Using CorasWorks, non-developer business people in the BD operations groups (vs. IT) are able to maintain the system and enhance and extend it to meet evolving requirements.  This drives down costs and makes continuous innovation practical and efficient.

 

Next Steps

The customer is currently in the process of migrating the system to SharePoint 2010 and expanding its capacity.  In addition, they are enhancing the system to be a broader Business Development system that manages the full life-cycle with proposals as a core process.  To support this breadth, they are moving the overall design to a broad stage-activity-gate approach to give them 360 degree visibility across the life-cycle.  They will be building up and out their IDIQ/GWAC capabilities to create a full service Center of Excellence.    In addition, the system is going deeper to provide additional supporting processes working across other staff functions such as Organizational Conflicts of Interest, At Risk Authorizations, Finance requests and approvals, and Risk Management that are specific to Federal Government Contractors.

And, there is even more on the roadmap.  But, it is a competitive world so I’ll save that for later.  The key takeaway is that many organizations are leaving a lot of value on the table by using just native SharePoint or legacy rigid proposal systems.  There is a better way

 

William

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See additional articles for Capture and Proposal Management in this blog.

Visit CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management for product information.

Large Federal Contractor Drives Customer Intimacy and Value with Dedicated Program Workplaces on SharePoint

Our customer is one of the top 10 largest Federal Government Contractors.  Being so big you’d think that they would act it.  But, when it comes to contracts, performance, and customer value they have found a way to act small, local and drive very tangible customer value.  They are accomplishing this by creating dedicated Program Workplaces using CorasWorks on SharePoint.  In this article, I’ll tell the story of one $150M contract/program and how this has become a successful model that is spreading. By the end of 2012 this approach will cover 5 contracts/programs worth more than $1 Billion dollars.  And, as you’ll see, it is a story of organic innovation at the edge of the business, where the customer value is created.

 

The Challenge

Our customer won a contract worth $150 million over 5 years.  The contract is for services for a program for a Civilian Agency that involves delivering on a schedule of similar yet differing “projects”.  The user base is about 500 people with 200 of them being employees from our customer and the rest being customer and partner employees.  Our customer believed that the best results could be achieved by enabling their employees, partners, and Agency customer participants to work together in a dedicated, seamless, program work environment.

 

The Solution

A year ago the contract started.  Our customers’ Program Manager decided to invest in their Program Workplace out of their own pocket.  They deployed an extranet infrastructure based upon “vanilla” SharePoint.  They then used CorasWorks to build out their Program Workplace.  It took just a month to get the environment up, built and being actively used.

Now, this is not some passive intranet or a skinny extranet portal.  It is a dynamic, integrated, seamless, interactive, role-based workplace for everyone involved with the mission of the program.  Here is what this means:

- it is a dedicated environment for employees, partners, and customers working on the program

- it is role based – the Agency customer people have their work consoles, the functional managers have their work consoles, and the contributors have their consoles and places to go to get the work done.  They are enabled to see, act and contribute from wherever they work.  They see only the information and activities that they have rights to see.

- everything is there – it is a self-contained environment.  All of the information, reporting, processes, collaboration that relates to the program are there.

- it is about the mission and the work – it is a workplace dedicated to delivering the projects on schedule.  Effectively, the projects are managed through a structured set of stages with a final result.  All of the users have their roles and participate in the work.  Any supporting processes are part of the environment

- it evolves – effectively, the workplace gets better every month.  They learn with each project, they make changes in their work processes and the workplace, they get better.

Each project of this program is mission critical.  A project either succeeds or fails.  Everyone is accountable.  By having this workplace, the users share accountability.  And, in the last year they have succeeded with each project.

 

What makes this Workplace Different from an Extranet

Most SharePoint extranets are designed and built as appendages of an Intranet.  They are skinny – a place customers can go to maybe see reports and access information.  What happens is that the extranet is separate from the intranet where the internal people work.  Thus, the work and information environment have lots of seams (holes, gaps, barriers, cracks).  Lots of information, productivity and accountability thus gets lost – it is a seamy way to work with others.

With their dedicated Program Workplace, our customer has changed the game.  They designed it top down from the perspective of the whole team to accomplish the mission of the program.  Thus, everyone works equally together.  The result is that the work and information flow from person to person and task to task instantly and seamlessly.

Technically, the environment has more than 200 SharePoint sites.  But, unlike most SharePoint environments this fact is transparent and irrelevant to the users.  They do not have to navigate to the sites to see what is going on, contribute or act.  The majority of the sites just store information and establish security barriers.  Instead, the users see, contribute and act from their role-based consoles.  The information, work to be done, and results come to them.  You don’t prepare reports, you just do your work – the system takes care of the rest.  It is role-based and seamless. Imagine, a workplace that makes it easy and convenient to be productive.

What is truly unique here is that this customer invested from their own budget to bring up a dedicated environment, that they own, and that has become part of their service offering for this contract.  Plain and simply, it is a better solution for driving customer value and achieving contract success – breakthrough stuff.

 

A Cost Neutral Solution

Federal Contractors, particularly with service driven contracts, have to worry about costs – margins are tight.  Initially, this contractor made the investment up front – a minor miracle.  They were clear in their objective and how to get there.  They had planned that they would get change requests from their users.  They did.  So, in addition to the normal contract task orders, the Agency customer has been issuing change requests as task orders to enhance and extend the workplace.  In this first year they received more revenue in change request task orders then they had projected for the 5 year period.  This revenue has enabled the original team to stay on the project to maintain and enhance the environment and has made the environment a cost neutral part of their offering.

 

The Solution Becomes a Business Model – Organically

This Program Workplace has been very successful.  The approach is being adopted for other contracts/programs across our customer…

For instance, our customer has another contract with the same agency.  They are also a user of CorasWorks but have been supporting the customer via their internal Division Intranet.  The agency has now “guided” the Program Manager to move out of the Intranet and into an extranet workplace – to provide them the benefits that their other agency comrades have on the other contract.  In fact, they are consolidating the workplace of that program into the infrastructure of the first program.

In a new contract with a different Agency to be awarded this year, our customer is including a CorasWorks-based Program Workplace as part of their bid.  This contract will be about 3 times larger than the other two mentioned above.  They intend to leverage the same Program Workplace overall design with the primary difference being the workstreams and processes.

And there is more…  There are two other contracts/programs within the same customer, with different Federal Agencies, that are also following a customer-intimate, dedicated, Program Workplace model based upon CorasWorks on SharePoint. They have been running for years. The fascinating part is that until a couple of months ago these different programs and their managers did not know what the other groups were doing. CorasWorks has now connected them up.

 

Innovation Happening at the Edge of the Company

The miracle of it all…

This approach was not explicitly driven by Corporate or even the Divisions.  It emerged at the edge of the company.  This very large Federal Contractor has somehow magically created a culture that has enabled the drive towards customer intimacy on these contracts.  It empowered the local program managers to truly do what is best for the customer and the mission of their contract.  It delegated accountability.  Now that they know about each other, they are starting to share their designs, approaches, practices, even application templates.  So, without explicit corporate guidance, funds, or systems, there is an evolving common approach, to drive their customers’ success, that is driving the delivery of more than $1 Billion of business.  This is pure goodness.

In our increasingly hyper-competitive world, customer intimacy that delivers exceptional results, is a (if not the) key differentiator – particularly in services based sectors. The fact that this is happening organically in a very big company, sets a new bar for competition in Federal Contracting – one that other organizations large and small should take notice of.

 

william

$0 to $250 Million in 3 Years–Federal Contractor leverages CorasWorks on SharePoint to Support Growth, Productivity and Integration

Planning began in 2009.  Through a series of acquisitions and aggressive organic growth this Federal Contractor has gone from startup to a $250 Million/year business with 1,100 employees in 3 years. Their story is a testament to solid planning and knowing how you will execute before the tornado comes.  It has been very cool to be part of this ride from the initial planning stages.  Here is their story…

 

The Planning

In 2009, the CEO set very aggressive goals to build a big business quickly. They began planning.  A key part of the plan was the infrastructure, systems, and processes to enable very rapid growth, keep costs down, and drive productivity.  They would have no time for experimentation – this was about execution on a business strategy.  The target was to establish an agile infrastructure that could grow to support a $500m business.

Building this infrastructure fell on their seasoned CIO and a few key IT experts who had done it before.  In particular, they had helped build a Federal Government Contractor business before and leveraged a model of CorasWorks on SharePoint to deliver what they needed.  But, this time, the IT team could do it better and leverage new tools, methods, and capabilities.  To succeed, they had to be better.

They planned to rent hosted services online and build out their initial production environment to be operational after the first acquisition  Their objective was to create a unified, seamless, virtual work environment where employees, customers, and partners could all work together.   The key is that they understood how to manage the security of the environment while also eliminating the seams of the workplace (organizationally and technically).

The plan was that as they acquired companies and contracts these would be integrated into the environment – kind of like a workplace vortex.  As an example of the detail of planning, early on they decided that the environment would fully support the use of tablets (iPads primarily) for users to be able to see, contribute, and access information when working on premise or outside.

 

The Beginning of Execution

After the acquisitions started they migrated the initial hosted environment into a Private Cloud environment that they had custom designed.  This environment uses VMware with massive storage and fantastic connectivity.

At the core is a new Intranet running on SharePoint.  But, theirs goes far beyond the norm.  In effect, it is a virtual, unified, seamless work environment – their Federal Contractor workplace.  It is powered by CorasWorks that provides the user experience and the glue to enable people to see, contribute, and act from wherever they work.  This environment is a blend of information and all of the various work processes that are required by a Federal Contractor.  Powered by CorasWorks and some other secret sauce their workplace is integrated with their external ERP and CRM (from Deltek) and additional enterprise systems.

 

Growth and Integration

There are two types of growth: acquisition and internal growth.

Each new company acquired gets merged into the work environment.  This contractor does not leave them as separate operating units.   Instead it merges the people, information, and processes into their organization.  It acquires companies that will be a fit for their integrated model and expand their competencies as they grow.  There is one company, with one culture, and one system.  No redundancies, no loss of productivity to organization or system seams – a focus on win and deliver business and driving customer value.

They are also aggressive with contract acquisition.  For instance, in the last 2 years, they have added four new IDIQs as a Prime Contractor.  These new vehicles are managed using CorasWorks as part of their work environment.  They manage the task orders, proposal responses, teaming partners, all the way through to delivery and overall program management.

 

Evolution

They started with 1-2 Terabytes of active SharePoint data.  In 2012, they completed the upgrade from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010 in a month without major issues.   Again, this was possible because of comprehensive planning back in 2009 that included the design of an architecture and inclusion of vendors that support this type of evolution.  (CW Technote: When they started they built their workplace using CorasWorks v11 running on SP2007.  When they migrated to SP2010 they did not even have to install a new version of CorasWorks, since the same v11 runs on both SP2007 and SP2010).

Their work environment evolves every month.  They continue to not just get bigger, but, better.  For instance, they are building a new data-smart system leveraging InfoPath forms and workflow to streamline and simplify operations.    Most information now becomes PDFs, including forms in processes.  This drives a level of consistency that is unusual which supports productivity.

 

My Take

This customer has done an exceptional job at building their business and providing an optimized environment to support growth, execution and evolution.  The fact that they had done the job before is critical.  Mind you, while they used CorasWorks on SharePoint before, it was in the days of SharePoint 2003, circa 2005.  Their current approach is much more holistic, integrated, current (using the latest and greatest) and just plan cooler (imagine their exec meetings where everyone is on an iPad with instant access to shared information).

As to the overall business model and workplace approach – they’ve set another new bar for competition.  For a mid-size federal contractor with a consistent set of service-based contracts, this is an optimal approach.  Instead of lots of separate siloes of work and organizations, they’ve shown how you can do it all in an integrated workplace run within your dynamic private cloud.  The way that they mapped their agile infrastructure, systems, and policies to their business strategy is just plain stellar.  And, they are setup to continually innovate – which they do.  The result is accelerated revenue growth, lower costs, and increased productivity.  It is a model that is working and that appears will take them to their objective of $500m in revenue within 5 years.

william

International Health Agency Gets More for Less through App Consolidation on SharePoint 2010

The potential is there.  SharePoint provides organizations with a platform that can be used to consolidate applications (existing and new) and add value through the native integration of the work of the users.  In this article we’ll look at the experience of a customer who drove this home over the last year with benefits in cost savings and organizational improvements.

Our customer is a 3,000 person non-governmental Health Agency.  Their mission is to improve health and standards of living for 35 member countries across the Americas.  Headquartered in Washington, DC they serve a broad and diverse community with 31 in-country offices in the member states.

 

Getting to the New Model

They have been a CorasWorks customer since 2004.  They have used CorasWorks on both SharePoint 2003 and SharePoint 2007.  On these environments, CorasWorks was used to enhance their Intranet with content services, collaboration, and work management.  In planning for 2011, they were preparing to move to SharePoint 2010 and to use CorasWorks v11.  They decided to expand their perspective of SharePoint from a collaborative environment to become an application platform.  To accomplish this they planned a shared services, Service Delivery model heavily leveraging CorasWorks that they would use to consolidate applications and build new apps.

 

App Consolidation during 2011

Armed with SP 2010, CorasWorks v11, and, a new App Service Delivery mandate, during 2011, they began building and consolidating applications on SharePoint.  Below is a list of the top 10 applications that they delivered based upon CorasWorks.

paho2 apps 2

The applications had a broad range of Types. “Typing” and understanding the design patterns behind the types is an important part of the standardization of their Service Delivery model.  In addition, in the table we list how the application was delivered.  While all of them are CorasWorks-based, their service team used a different set of resources to deliver the apps to their business customers.  Note that more than half of the apps were delivered using just internal resources.

 

Cost Impact of CorasWorks-based App Consolidation

We worked with the customer to do an analysis of the delivery cost impact for these applications.  We looked at each application and alternatives evaluated.  Many of the alternatives were apps delivered as separate Application Services.  Some were only possible as a custom project.  The comparison applications were the middle range of applications with a comparable feature set.

The result of the analysis is that using CorasWorks they saved $321,000 or 64% of the cost of using alternative 3rd party off-the-shelf apps and services.  Some of the details are as follows:

- The total cost to deliver the 10 apps above was $184,000 ($18k/app).

- This cost includes software license costs to CorasWorks, CorasWorks Professional Services, services from CorasWorks partners, and, the man-days used internally to deliver the apps. The organization used 75 man-days internally.

- The cost of the applications if delivered using 3rd party software/services was estimated to be $505,000 ($50k/app).

Further, it is estimated that over the next 3 years with the CorasWorks/SharePoint licensing model, the organization will save another $250,000 in additional licensing and services costs over the costs of CorasWorks for these 10 applications.  In addition, they are able to leverage their Corasworks/SharePoint investment and Service Delivery capabilities to build and consolidate additional applications over the three years with even greater savings per app.

 

Overall Success of Service Delivery Model

The cost savings noted above are significant.  But, in their annual review of the model, they highlighted additional benefits as follows:

- The projects were delivered, and, within time, budget, and feature set. By delivered we mean, made it to production.  A 100% success result was significant.  There were few surprises because they knew in advance where they could get to and what it would take.

- The business users got what they wanted.  Unlike the alternative apps that were initially reviewed before they decided on a CorasWorks solution, the business groups were able to get what they really wanted and needed.  Thus, in their opinion what they got was superior to the alternative.

- They did this with little impact on the operating environment.  Only one feature required custom compiled code.  Thus, the apps were delivered on top of the standardized CorasWorks/SharePoint environment which enhances the ongoing maintainability of the entire shared services environment.

- The cost of applications is declining as they gain on the learning curve.

- The user experience is improving as the apps become inter-connected across the environment.  Thus, instead of a user having to go to many separate apps and learn new interfaces they are able to access all relevant apps from wherever they work and use a common interface.

 

My Comments

Here are some of my general comments about this organization and their success with their App Consolidation and Service Delivery model.

- They have very good people managing Service Delivery.  They know SharePoint.  They know and have invested to learn CorasWorks.  They are exceptional at understanding the design patterns for collaborative applications and how to apply them and reuse the designs, frameworks, and components.  They are confident enough to deliver complete applications internally and know when to outsource.

- The Service Delivery group has the trust of the business groups and the support of IT and general senior management.  It helps that a number of the applications were specifically for the senior management of the organization.

- During 2011, they invested in the CorasWorks Solution Frameworks, Cim for Collaboration, and PPM for Project work, which they have leveraged for multiple applications and which had a significant impact on the reduced costs.  The Solutions were on top of the CorasWorks v11 platform.  (These costs are included in the costs analysis above).

- Their organization is really just learning to collaborate.  Six months ago I was speaking with the Service Delivery Manager and he told me “people in our organization don’t collaborate; they work and they share information when they have to”. This may seem odd for an organization that has had SharePoint for 8 years, and, has a globally distributed operating structure.  But, real collaboration is a lot more than sharing documents in a team site.  Over the last 6 months with SP2010, CorasWorks Collaboration and the collaborative applications they’ve delivered and on their roadmap this has started to change.

 

william

Tools and Best Practices for SharePoint Service Delivery Managers

I am spending a lot of time with our customers these days.  In particular, I am working with many Service Delivery Managers.  They usually own the application side of SharePoint (vs. the infrastructure) and serve the role of supporting the user community and delivering solutions to their customers.  They are in a pivotal role to add business value to the organization.  Many of the solutions they deliver are CorasWorks based.  However, in this article, I’ll cover the Top 10 uses of CorasWorks to create “tools” that they use in their work.

NOTE: In large enterprises, you often have a core SharePoint team working globally with SD teams for different business groups.  In this article, I am focused on the local SD teams tied to a Business Group or an SD team in a smaller organization that serves both the end-user community and the business group requests. (addition 7-22) – Increasingly, these SD teams are becoming Application Service Delivery Teams leveraging the enterprise’s private cloud offering.

 

Servicing the Customer

These tools are used to support and interact with their customers.

Site Request System – this is a high-volume system for users to request new standard sites (such as a Team Site) and then allow the Service Delivery team to review, approve, and manage the requests.

Change Request System – this system is used by users that want changes to sites or applications.  It can be combined with the one above, but, this is usually for larger application.

App Request System – this is really a project proposal system where business groups request project-based custom apps.  Typically, these apps go through a stage-gate review and approval process.

End-User Support Community – our best practice is to use a CorasWorks Cim community to make it easy to provide information as articles and provide a collaborative experience where articles can be rated and commented upon

Learning Center – like our CorasWorks Community Learning Centers, this system provides a more structured experience for users to learn.  These are also typically based upon Cim providing users with access to structured and community information.  In addition, it is a great place to surface the Request options, Support Options, and, examples of delivered apps with videos or even links to the apps.

 

The Work of the Service Delivery Team

This category consists of the tools that Service Delivery Teams use to manage their work and insure that they are prepared to deliver.

Work Request Management console – behind the Site Request system, the Change Request System and the App Request system is your teams Work Request Management console.  These requests flow into your team.  Via this console you manage the request process – review the requests, decide whether to them, interact with the user, delegate the task, track the tasks, let the system update the requestor, get reports, etc…etc

Task Management – a great number of items can be acted upon directly via the Work Request Console above.  But, some require that you assign a number of tasks to one or more people.  Using a CorasWorks-based task management solution, you can track the tasks and automate the work of people on them such as updating requestors and close out.

Project Management – some requests turn into projects that span weeks or months and require detailed task and resource management.  Leveraging CorasWorks PPM SDM’s are managing those projects that are big enough to require it.  A key element is that the SDM can track tasks, resources, issues across the projects as a portfolio.  In addition, the users can use see their tasks from projects as part of the day-to-day task management above.

App Catalog – this is a structured Cim-community based catalog of applications that you have delivered, can deliver, and want to be able to deliver.  It serves as both a knowledge base and the site to store and manage app templates, delievered apps, and published solutions.  It gives you a rich collaborative environment with as much structured taxonomy as you need.

Knowledge Base/Lessons Learned Catalog – again a Cim-community to capture knowledge.  There are lots of little tid-bits of useful knowledge.  This site serves as the grab bag.  Got some info, drop it in.  DO NOT worry about organizing or perfecting this knowledge.  Just collect, collaborate, and consume.  The knowledge will get better as people comment, enhance, and collaborate.  It is a resource.  From here, you may and will end up publishing finished product to the App Catalog.

 

Best Practice: Weekly Programmatic Reviews

All of the “tools” above effectively provide you with plenty of ways to track the flow of work and what assets are created. So, each week do a checkpoint and leverage the tools to give you the answers – easily and quickly.

In addition, with SharePoint and CorasWorks, Service Delivery teams have a great capacity to reuse knowledge and “artifacts” (templates, components, features, web parts, etc.).  To be most effective, you should measure each week what assets your team has created AND captured, in addition to, what work got done.   If you do this, after three months you will have a vast catalog and set of skills and your work should be a) more manageable, b) faster to deliver, and c) more robust because you will be better prepared to deliver more value.

 

william