Tag Archive for Product Management

Examples of Collaborative Resource Forecasting that Drive Global Manufacturing Results

It is a challenge to forecast, allocate and coordinate resources across a globally dispersed manufacturing organization.  It is even more challenging when the work spans functional groups or separate divisions making different products.  These kind of activities typically fall into categories such as Demand Management, Forecasting, and Resource Allocation.  However, the common objective is to simply get all stakeholders working off the same page and collaborating in their forecasting, estimating, and supporting activities.  The value of doing it well can be extraordinary.  In this article, I’ll look at two customers with different needs that leveraged CorasWorks on SharePoint to get the job done.  They cover two of the primary classes of resources where we need to forecast demand: people and material (others being capital, equipment, and facilities).  The solutions are relatively simple, however, leveraging collaboration they drive a new level of global effectiveness.

The General Challenge

Almost by definition, a global organization has a need for coordination and collaboration to forecast demand and allocation of resources.  However, we have lots of barriers to success.  In many situations, organizations reach for two classes of tools.  If the problem is “deep” they tend to leverage their ERP system and build or buy an app.  If the problem or opportunity is not as deep, the tool of choice is usually a bunch of spreadsheets.  However, there are a class of problems where what people really need is a simple way to work together off the same page.  They need an app that is visible, accessible to all stakeholders (even across divisions), easy to use, provides for collaborative work, and has a specific feature set that addresses the needs.  For such an app, the ERP approach can be too heavy and restrictive and the spreadsheet approach is usually a mess.

The Right Solution for Global, Purposeful Collaboration

When you need people to work together globally to coordinate and collaborate on demand forecasting, using CorasWorks on SharePoint, gives you an effective solution.  SharePoint provides the collaborative platform.  CorasWorks provides the application.

Lets see how it works by looking at two specific customer scenarios…


People Forecasting and Resource Allocation for Electronics Product Development

A global electronics manufacturer of 20,000 people has a global division that creates graphics products.  They have a rolling planning process with a five year horizon where new products/product revisions are submitted, approved, and planned.  They wanted a way to forecast the demand and coordinate the people (FTE’s) allocation across many different component functional groups.

They had tried a number of different approaches to the problem.  They first tried spreadsheets which was a mess.  Then, they tried their ERP which was far too heavy.  Then, they tried MS Project Server, which was too inflexible to meet the needs.  With CorasWorks they found a just right solution.

The application lives in their private cloud.  People submit their projects which go through an approval process.  Then, each of the component functional groups enters estimates of FTE’s on a monthly basis to allocate to the projects.  At any time a functional manager can update their estimates which may impact the overall plan.  Each functional manager is able to manage their estimates across projects.  Each product manager is able to see the estimates across functions and across other products.

The solution now provides all of global engineering with a single view of the project demand, the planning, and the resource commitments at a high level over the next five years.  The stakeholders get a full top down view that is consistent.  The level of detail is enough to coordinate the commitments from each of the groups.  Then, each group leverages their internal systems to take it to a lower level of detail to manage specific projects and resource utilization.  When they need to make a change, that change is reflected back up at the global level.


Forecasting Steel Consumption for Automotive Component Supplier

Now, for the flip side – we are looking at a scenario for demand management for commodity materials.  A 15,000 person $2B revenue, global supplier of automotive components wanted an effective way to forecast their demand and track their steel availability and consumption.  Steel is the primary material used in their products.  It is used across all of their main divisions and in plants in more than 15 countries.  Each division can track their purchases using their financial system.  However, given the financial impact of steel prices and supply/consumption they wanted a way to globally collaborate across divisions.

The solution was an application created using CorasWorks running on SharePoint.  Given the scale of the solution, it is a SQL Server database application, but, the front end is CorasWorks on SharePoint, thus, providing the global collaborative framework.  The application tracks forecast needs of steel by type and grade.  It tracks purchases including currency management.  It tracks and organizes the information by plant and supplier.

This application is elegantly simple to serve the needs of a mission critical process. It is global, cross-division, cross-plant in scope.  It puts all of the information at the fingertips of the users and the buyers allowing for the optimal efficiencies on purchases and consumption in the 100’s of millions of dollars per year.


Global Collaboration with a Purpose

At the heart of these applications is collaboration.  It is about people across functions (graphics products) and divisions/plants (steel) working together to get the best results. Each application only has a few hundred users but they have a lot of user interaction in a many-to-many, collaborative environment.  The apps provide a virtual place for many people to see and interact with many others – people they probably didn’t know.  And, note that the applications are for very specific purposes based upon hard data vs. soft collaborative activity.



The two customer scenarios above are very different applications for Demand Management.  One is about people allocation in complex projects.  The other is for commodity material purchases.  Yet, they are both about forecasting, estimating and tracking across a globally distributed manufacturing organization.  Simply put, they make it far easier for a distributed group of people to get a global job done.

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As noted in my Cim 2.0 Overview article, we are adding support for Social Business Process apps in the release in a new category called Cim Process.  We will publish a number of apps in this category during 2011. In this article, I’ll take a look at the current version of the app for the Product Ideas process.  This is the sample app included in the product.  Follow on apps will be in the Cim Learning Center.  This article will give you a feel for this particular process, and, it will serve as a primer for this class of apps. 

Product Innovation Process

Innovation around Products is a staple of innovation activities in many organizations.  The requirements can range from simple to complex and from pure ideation to an end-to-end innovation process.  The implementation represented by this Social Business Process is on the simpler side of the spectrum.  It is a great place to start with Cim providing plenty of flexibility to enhance, extend and expand.


Walkthrough Deck

The attached power point deck (please log into the Community to access document) contains an overview of the Product Idea process implemented in a Cim portal of the Product Management department.  It includes screenshots from our demonstration site.  Basically, it walks you through the process.


Process Map

A key part of our Social Business Process lineup is that the basic design of the processes are very consistent.  The objective is to provide a robust and balanced integration of the social part of the process with the process management features.  For Product Ideas and other apps to follow we use a simplified process map as shown below.  The green dots represent the social areas of the app.  The blue dots show the management parts of the process. 

Process map 


Flexibility of Your Process

While the basic design is similar across Cim Process apps, they are designed to be flexible and easily customized to meet your needs.  Some common elements to customize are:

- the branding of the overall portal and the style of each main area

- the tabs and pages of the portal

- the permissions for who can access Management, Reporting, and Administration

- the Post Idea form and fields

- the managed tags, categories, and filters of the Product Ideas community

- the fields shown on the Idea Listings and Details

- the activity auto-promotion thresholds

- the ability to add Campaigns, Challenges, and supporting communities

- what Resources are available to users – news, recognition, information, knowledge

- the number and definition of the process stage-gates

- the fields, choices, and metadata used in the process

- the displays for each gate and the available process actions

- the management view and edit forms of process actions

- the Review forms used for peer-to-peer reviews and subject matter reviews

- the system email notifications (when, to whom, and format)

- people driven notifications such as custom emails and pre-set task assignments

- actions to create tasks for teams (in their team sites) and track them programmatically

- reporting and actions for users to act on information

- ability to link to other supporting and downstream activities/sites and interact

- ability to distribute most of the features of the process to any site within a SharePoint environment


Integrated Part of Your SharePoint Environment

We are used to thinking of an app in SharePoint or a Saas app as a place you go to (a URL).  This is the case when you install the Product Ideas app out of the box using an app specific Cim portal.  It is built to run natively on SharePoint leveraging the data, security and administration of SharePoint.  

However, it is designed to live within and across your entire SharePoint environment.  Any of the key features of the app can be snapped off and distributed to other portals, sites, apps across your SharePoint environment.  This increases visibility and encourages engagement – key elements that drive the effectiveness of innovation.  

In addition, the actions that people take, such as process managers delegating tasks to others, natively integrates with other parts of your distributed SharePoint environment.  For instance, a manager may assign a task to the Legal Department to perform a patent review.  In doing so, this task can now appear in the team site of the legal department to be worked the way they work.  However, the Legal Department and the Product Management team can then interact and see the status of delegated tasks in real time.

The diagram below depicts the hub and spoke way in which the Cim Process apps live and interact within your distributed SharePoint environment.  Natively, each of these other parts of your environment become an extension of this process. 



Stay tuned for more on Cim Social Business Processes …



Cim for New Products: Primer

New product innovation is a core business scenario for CorasWorks Idea Management on SharePoint (Cim).   Cim allows you to tap into your workforce (internal or external) for the ideas to fuel your innovation objectives.  This is a great value to augment existing processes.  But, that is just the start of a successful new product innovation process.  In this article we’ll walk you through a couple scenarios that build on one another towards a more comprehensive view of an end-to-end process for new product innovation.

A little setup… New products and services are important and typically represent a major investment.  Thus, many organizations have a rather involved review and approval process.  There are typically a host of supporting activities in the decision process. In addition, the workstream for new product innovations must continue further through development and go to market activities to result in a positive business outcome.  The process differs by industry and by company or even by product line.  They tend towards more complex scenarios that have greater integration challenges. Cim addresses this scenario with its flexible design and the ability to engage people in different ways throughout the full process.

Basic Idea Managementimage for New Products 

We’ll start with the simplest scenario.  Typically, organizations have some sort of approval process for new product investments.  With the addition of idea management you are adding the ability to tap into your workforce (internal or external) and engage them in your process.  The basic workstream is as shown here.

- Ideation – Ideas are captured from a broad audience in a standing product idea community.  The community rates, comments, and enhances the ideas with supporting information.  Ideas can be stack ranked by the activity of the community.

- Review and Management – Then, there is the back-side management site (the flip side).  Here your smaller new product management team does their work.  They screen the ideas, select candidates, review and enhance them, put them through their formal proposal and approval process and oversee the portfolio of approved innovations.  This work is complemented with supporting reporting and management features.


Increasing the Flow and Focus image

One of the most common extensions to the basic approach is to increase the flow of ideas and their relevance to an objective.  This is typically done by planning and executing proactive campaigns, challenges, and contests directed towards your workforce.  They typically are for specific time periods and specific new product objectives.

As shown here, the flow from multiple communities comes into the same management site.  An important aspect of the Cim solution is the ease with which your management site (or sites) can be modified to meet differences in your management process and accommodate changes, such as when the flow is greater and different.


Implementing YOUR End-to-End Solution

As mentioned above, your end-to-end process is probably unique and changes from time to time or even by situation.  Cim adapts to this reality.  It delivers on the elements above and provides the foundation to enhance and extend YOUR process to incorporate the other supporting and downstream activities that transform ideas into innovations.  A little definition first:

-  Supporting Activities – These are the activities that are required to support the decision process.  Leveraging our native process integration, add-on CorasWorks-based apps and/or supporting SharePoint supporting sites can be hooked into the process.  Examples are sites/apps for Market Evaluation and Planning, Market Testing Campaigns, Subject Matter Review Teams (Engineering, etc.), Finance Review, supporting collaboration sites, and sites or external services providing necessary data and information to make informed decisions.  The objective is better decisions and pre-planning.

-  Downstream Activities – Once a decision is made to proceed – what happens?  Similarly, you can have integrated downstream activities.  You may have Implementation Teams to implement straightforward product changes.  Or, you may spin up a new product development site.  Or, push the innovation to one or more Program Management Offices.  Or, add the new development project to one or more management portfolio dashboards. These may further leverage CorasWorks, such as using our Project Portfolio Management solution.  Or, you may have your own native SharePoint sites or third party sites/applications that are integrated (and run on SharePoint or externally).

Below is a schematic that shows the workstream from idea through the downstream activities leading to your business outcome.



Benefit of Role-Based UI’s in a Distributed SharePoint Environment

Trying to meet the needs of a complex business scenario in a single UI has challenges such as fragility, constraints of one size fits all design, and less friendly and relevant user design.  Cim on SharePoint provides different role-based UI’s allowing the user to work in one place and do their work – such as working on Market Evaluation.  The modules are integrated across the distributed environment so the right information is available to users where they work.  Thus, users don’t have to navigate the environment or even know about the other elements  And, their UI can be optimized for the work they need to do.  With this approach, a SharePoint environment becomes a natural foundation for the more complex scenarios of new product innovation.