Tag Archive for Service Delivery

IT at Your Service

atyourservice

A revolution is happening within the enterprise where IT is rapidly becoming much more focused on the business users as customers. The shift has been more than just philosophical. IT’s processes and systems are shifting to support this new focus and best practices have emerged to support this shift. For example, ITIL v3 is helping facilitate the shift through its inclusion of IT Request Management/Fulfillment.

The idea of IT Request Management is pretty straightforward. Make it easy for business users to find and access the various services offered by IT. Then, make it easy for them to request the service, track the request, get status updates, and finally get their request fulfilled to their satisfaction.

But what about IT?

This makes it easy for the business user, but what about IT? How do they benefit from IT Request Management? Well, there are several ways beyond the customer satisfaction you’ll get from your happy business users.

First, if done right, IT now has a much more efficient way to route the right request through the right process, and have the correct teams notified. No more having to route everything through the “help desk” and then forwarding it on. This streamlines the response times. Also each team can manage their own knowledge base to prevent users from asking the same things, over and over again.

Second, it sets expectations. When business users are requesting services, the service descriptions include an SLA and also a cost of the service. This way, business users know what they’re asking for and what the response time should be. No more miscommunications.

But these are not the biggest benefits to IT. Since each service is being tracked, there is transparency, and IT can run reports on the costs per business unit, and even per-person within the units. It makes it easy to show the business function leaders what their units are consuming from IT and why IT needs resources to make things happen. Now that is a really big benefit for anyone who has sat in front of the business functions and tried to explain why they should ante up to fund next year’s IT budget.

So how does an IT department get there?

One way is to purchase an ITSM system and implement it, along with all of the costly process consultants, and per-seat licensing fees. At CorasWorks, we saw this as a great use for SharePoint. Most companies already have SharePoint running internally so that makes it a good candidate for an IT Request Management solution. So we designed a purpose-built Request Management solution. What makes this unique? Well, to start with, it’s built on the CorasWorks platform and as such it not only comes out of the box addressing the specific scenario, but it’s built to be customized. Each company is different, so our solution allows you to define your service categories, service areas, and individual service processes to match your needs. And since it’s built on CorasWorks, it can grow with you.

So what are the feature of the CorasWorks Solution?

There are several key features of the CorasWorks IT Request Management Solution. You can see a complete list of the features here.

But what about people who already have existing ITSM systems but could really use a better front end?

It’s possible. You could leverage our really nice, user-friendly front-end for the business user and even for IT to use to manage the service catalog and requests, then populate the ITSM system at the appropriate time. This is not an out of the box feature, but it is something our services team can do. We’ll take a look at your current ITSM system, determine the best integration points, and using the tools that are part of the system, we will not only build the connections but show you how we did it so you can maintain it. It will also be far quicker and less expensive than you would expect when hear “integration.”

Just ask and we’ll be happy to work with you.

Welcome to “IT at your service.”

william

CorasWorks Application Designer – The “Just Right” Way to Create Business Applications on SharePoint

justright We just released the CorasWorks Application Designer.  It is a tool that you use to rapidly build the most common types of work management business applications.  In this article, I’ll provide you with an overview and explain why it should become the “Just Right” tool for a lot of your business applications.

Getting Started and Building Momentum

It is available for free to all CorasWorks customers on active Premier Support and Maintenance.  You’ll find it in the Download section of the new Customer Center.  It is available for download by any employees that have been given access to the Learning Centers of the Customer Center (see this article for information on the Customer Center).  It requires that you are running v11.3.1 of CorasWorks or greater.

To get going, read the rest of the article, download the tool, upload it to a site collection, create a site with it, and then, build your first app.

When done, templatize that first app, make 10 changes in 30 minutes, and then, deliver your second app for a similar but different need.

Repeat, to create more apps.

Why “Just Right”?

February 13th was our 11th anniversary.  For 11 years, we have been committed to helping our customers deliver business applications on SharePoint.  Principally, we have done this by offering a powerful Work Management platform and COTS purpose-built solutions.  It has worked for many.  However, we think there is a large group of people out there that still haven’t been enabled to add business value.  We believe that there is a “just right” spot that we haven’t tackled yet.

Let me explain.  Our platform requires that you know CorasWorks technology, some SharePoint, and that, you can design a business application.  Our off-the-shelf applications deliver the value quickly — if it is the application you need.

So, for some the platform is Too Cold – they can’t get that deep, don’t have the app design skills, not enough time, just not enough there to get over the hump…

For others, the purpose built apps are too much or just don’t apply – let us say Too Hot.

What we’ve done with the CorasWorks Application Designer is to build a “generic” tool that lets you build very quickly and within a well defined application framework to meet that middle majority of application needs.  The tool is not overbuilt so that it applies only to a narrow application need.  Nor, does it require you to learn much technology to deliver robust apps.  It is in the middle – just the right place to start.

All of the elements are there for you to quickly create work management applications.  And, whatever you build is a) polished and ready to be put to work, b) very easy to modify and c) even quicker and easier to re-configure to deliver for the next similar, but different, application.

So, not too hot, not too cold, just right.

A Sample Application

What does it looks like? What kind of apps are just right?  Here is an example.

I do a lot of work with Federal Government Contractors.  They have a department– Contract Administration–that manages their government contracts.  They get a huge volume of requests, normally by email, from all parts of the organization.  The application is to funnel the requests into a work management application to be centrally managed, assigned, tracked, and reported on.  Below is a sample page, All Open Requests, from the application.

image

How You Get There with Application Designer

You start by creating a new site using Application Designer (or re-using an app already delivered based upon Application Designer). The Application Designer is packaged as a SharePoint template, so it’s as simple as creating a new site using the Application Designer template. Once you create the site, you’re ready to start creating.  The Application Designer design canvas shown below is what you use to layout your application.image

This easy-to-use designer allows you to lay out your navigation and drop “widgets” into it that provide the functionality.  Widgets are navigation items (tabs, buttons), web part pages, displays, actions, and links that build out the user interface.  It is rather amazing how productive people can be just because it is easy to visually lay out the application with pre-built functionality.

You can reuse web part pages with web parts as features.  So, you can create your first one, and populate it with CorasWorks displays and actions and then clone it for use for other similar pages.  For instance, each page above in the “Manage Requests” tab is a clone of New Requests showing different information and with different user work actions.

Each page can be managed here via the Application Designer design canvas.  A key feature is the ability to secure each feature/page to a SharePoint Group or one or more users.  This enables you to easily design a robust role-based UI within a single app.

You then leverage the CorasWorks Application Wizards (Display Wizard, Action Wizard, Activation Wizard, etc.) to get into details for each feature you’ve added to the app such as custom tailoring the user actions or notifications or reports.

Branding.  Yes, people want it to look their way.  The Options feature of the Application Designer console allows you to control the look and feel.  We’ve incorporated ThemeRoller into the solution.  As it sounds, it lets you “roll your own” theme for branding or use one of the default options.

Quick Answers

How do I get it?  Go to the CorasWorks Customer Center, Download link at the top.  You need to be a user that has access to the Learning Centers of the CorasWorks Customer Center.  If you are an employee of a customer and don’t have access, just request access from the home page of the Customer Center.

How to learn to get started?  See the Application Designer video in the Platform Learning Center.  You need to have access to that Learning Center.

How to learn to build with CorasWorks?  See the “Essentials” videos in the Platform Learning Center.

Who can help me at CorasWorks?  Contact us at CustomerSuccess@corasworks.net.  We’ll also set up 1-on-1 sessions with our solution consultants to help you get started.

Enjoy,

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

Customer Examples of Work Request Management apps for SharePoint

Over the last month, I’ve worked with a number of customers that are deploying applications for various scenarios of work request management.  This category of application is very common for all organizations and works great with CorasWorks on SharePoint.  It leverages the collaborative nature of a SharePoint environment and the work management feature set of CorasWorks.  The key design principal is to recognize that they are fundamentally cross-functional processes.  In this article, I’ll look at 4 different customer scenarios.  I’ll talk about what is common amongst them and how they differ.  I believe that any SharePoint Service Delivery Management team should make this category of app a staple of their offerings.  Once you get the core design pattern, you’ll find lots of applications for it.

Basic Work Request Management app

There are six core elements that are common to work request apps as follows:

  • They are an app, meaning there is a core site dedicated to this purpose vs. it being a feature added to a team site.
  • A requestor fills in a form to kick off a request.
  • The requestor can see, track, and engage with assigned “workers” on their requests.
  • Workers and Managers do various things (automated CorasWorks actions and forms) to respond to and complete the request.
  • Requestors and others are notified of activities and/or collaborated with.
  • You have reporting on the activity.

Customers Scenarios

Here are the 4 customer scenarios:.

Materials Storage for Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

This application is for requests to store chemicals (materials) within a manufacturing group.  People make their requests and others work the requests noting how long items are stored and where. Requestors are notified of the work and they get pinged when their storage expiration date is approaching.

IT Requests for SharePoint Work and Help Desk Tickets for Health Agency

This customer uses a couple of different WRM apps for IT to support the organization.  One allows users to log the requests for the SharePoint team for new sites, changes to sites, or new apps.  The SharePoint team then manages these requests.  The other is a WRM-based “Help Desk” app where users enter tickets and Help Desk folks work them.

Employee Requests of HR for Pharmaceutical

This customer is using WRM to enable employee across the enterprise to make requests of HR.  In this case, they created three request workstreams.  Each has a slightly different set of work management activities.  From the user perspective they are able to see the different requests in a single display from wherever they work.

HR Staffing Requests for Federal Contractor

An important process for many Federal Contractors is making requests of HR to find or recruit people to work on contracts.  In this case, a business development (BD) person working on a new proposal/task order makes requests of HR to staff specific positions.  The requests are related to specific Proposals/Task Orders.  However, HR manages all of the requests centrally.

Commonalities

All of the above follow the same basic design as described above.  People make requests.  People work on the requests.  There is back and forth.  The requests are closed out.  There is reporting.

The interesting part is that these are four very different “applications”.  In many organizations, they would presume that they would be looking to go out and buy or build completely different applications.  However, with CorasWorks on SharePoint each of these uses the same basic framework.  Thus, armed with one basic design you can now fill many different needs and save lots of time an money in the process.

Further, when you build them, the things that you will primarily change are also common:

  • The core data (fields) of the “work request” list are different.
  • The request form is different.
  • The worker roles are specific to the process.
  • The app navigation is different.
  • The displays and most importantly the worker/manager actions, work forms, and notifications are different.
  • Reports are different.

With CorasWorks, each of the above is easily modified using our wizards.  So, you have a common app design and you know the common things that you will be changing to accommodate the specific needs of the app.  If you look at it like an assembly line, you are all set to deliver.

Key Deployment Differences of the Apps

While the four apps have many core commonalities, there are differences in the overall deployment approach across the SharePoint environment.  This is important because work request management is fundamentally a cross-functional collaborative process.  Thus, where people go to engage, whether requestor, worker, or manager, can be different based upon the scenario.

All-in-one

In the Materials Storage app, all of the different users work in a single app site.  Requestors go there to make their requests.  Workers go there to do their work.  Managers go there to manage.  This makes it easier to create the app and is the way you would typically start.  However, it is not really a best practice given the ability to distribute functionality using CorasWorks.

Distributed

In the IT Request app, the Requestors don’t go into the app app site to make requests.  They are able to be elsewhere across the SharePoint environment and enter their requests from their and see their requests and interact.  This makes it more convenient for the users.  Generally, you start by building the app as an All-in-one and then just distribute the displays.

Many Projects to Work Management Team (Hub and Spoke)

The HR Staffing app is a bit different.  In this specific scenario, you have many Proposal/Task Order sites (or could be project sites).  A team is working on these projects.  They enter their requests from the site.  However, the HR Work Request site is central – all of the requests feed into the one app.  HR is then able to manage it all in one place and interact with the requestors via their project sites.  This ends up as a Hub and Spoke deployment.

Self-Service

The Employee request design is different also.  In this case, there is a self-service page in the enterprise portal.  Users go to this one place and enter and see their requests across the three types.  The requests are funneled into the three different workstreams managed by HR.  HR is also able to work on them via a single display.

Getting You Spun Up for Work Request Management

The work request management category of app is a staple of SharePoint environments that have gone past basic site centric content sharing.  We often work with customers to train up their SDM teams to deliver this category of app.  We have a standard set of templatized apps and training to help get you going quickly.  Email support@corasworks.net for more information.

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