Tag Archive for sharepoint

Mastering the Core Federal Government Contractor Work-Stream

Its been almost 3 months since my last post.  No, no vacation.  Instead, I’ve been heads down supporting implementations with our Federal Government Contractors.  I’ve also been working on a suite of solutions being launched over the next few months that focus in on the core activities of Federal Contractors.  Sure, you’ve probably heard about Sequestration and Federal budget cuts.  This is putting even more pressure on our FC customers to get more efficient and effective.  So, we are helping by “productizing” solutions and pre-integrating them to increase the competitiveness of our customers.

In this article, I am going to cover the 3 activities that make up the “core work-stream” for the folks in this industry.  A work-stream is a set of “loosely coupled” activities that build on each other. They are independent activities but necessary elements to deliver the result.  Even if you are not a Federal Contractor you might find it interesting since at the heart of any industry, its participants have a set of solutions/activities that represent their core work-stream for success.  So, as you read this, think about what your core work-stream might look like.

Now, to Federal Government Contractors.  Below is a graphic depicting the core work-stream.  It consists of three activities (the ones in blue).  If you do them well, you’ll succeed; if you don’t, you hurt your chances of success.  They are different.  They are usually managed by different people.  They have different outputs.  They are managed by different metrics.  Yet, effectively, in this industry, they represent the critical path that transforms opportunities into money in the bank.

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Over the last year, we’ve worked with customers to build out each of these three activities as separate “productized” solutions that can be part of one, integrated work environment. Below I’ll list each solution as it relates to each of the three activities of the core work-stream:

CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management v2.1

This solution is used to manage the process of capturing business including the development of the proposal and the maintenance of all of the Proposal Assets that support the process.  It is a Stage-Phase-Step process that can be managed to be most effective.  This is the key first piece to get you going.

CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management v2.1

About a third of Federal Contractor business now comes through IDIQ/GWAC vehicles.  If you won a single award contract or a multi-award IDIQ, you then will want to process those task orders that come in.  With multi-award IDIQs you have to respond quickly, often with Teaming Partners, in order to really win the business.  You need to master the art of collaborative work that is fast, efficient and effective.

CorasWorks Project, Portfolio and Program Management for Delivery v3.2

So, now you have won the business.  You need to deliver on it.  This is where our PPM solution comes in.  Our solution focuses on helping the users to get the work done in a collaborative manner.  The key is the solutions flexibility which enables users to modify the solution to do very different kinds of “project” work.  Some may have tasks and classic GANTT.  While others may be just about collaboration and reporting or represent Programs of multiple activities by customers, employees, and partners.

The Core and the Supporting Activities

The core activities are the core.  You must do these well.  Surrounding these are a host of other activities that help to make you successful.  A very small list might be:

  • working with HR for recruiting
  • working with Contract Administration to get SOWs with teaming partners
  • managing an overall CMMI or ISO set of policies
  • integrating with CRM that is your database of opportunities and contact tracking
  • working with Legal
  • Partner Engagement
  • Customer Engagement
  • training
  • knowledge management and open collaboration
  • marketing activities
  • solution innovation management
  • executive and management dashboards, reporting, and drilldowns
  • integration with Financial systems/ERP

Using CorasWorks each of the above can also be added to your environment as supporting activities.  Each adds value.  However, to say it again, you need to get the core elements working properly to make money.

What Shape is Your Core In?

Most people can use some help with their core work-stream.  Many can use a lot of help.  Those that have been around for years usually have good practices, but, aging systems.  The possibilities for systems/tools have changed over even just the last 5 years.  With flexible systems such as CorasWorks on SharePoint you are able to extend and enhance existing systems or replace them quite quickly and cost effectively.  If you have the feeling that you are stuck with legacy, fixed, custom coded systems and may be missing the boat to staying competitive – then, there is a good chance that this is the reality.  If you are young and growing but need to put core work-stream systems in place, then, you can step to the front of the technology stack.  However, you will still need to go to work on learning and developing the right processes and practices.  It helps to have systems like CorasWorks’ where you can get started with a simpler approach that is also cost-effective and then change the system to adapt as your people and organization grow and learn.

No matter which situation you are in, with the competitive pressures of today and the foreseeable future, it is critical to continually make sure that your core is in good shape.

william

Federal Contractor Driving $800 Million Business with CorasWorks-based IDIQ Task Order Management System

The Federal Contracting business is very competitive and is getting more so.  A key mission critical business function is the winning of contracts, and, the winning of the right contracts that can be profitably delivered.  Over the last 5 years the use of IDIQ (Indefinite Delivery – Indefinite Quantity) contracts has dramatically grown – particularly for the procurement of information technology and services.   One of the top 20 Federal Contractors has been using a CorasWorks-based system running on Microsoft SharePoint for 6 years to manage their IDIQ-based business.  They started with one IDIQ vehicle and are now managing 14 IDIQ vehicles, 5,000 task order opportunities, and, have driven $800 million in business.  This article will drill down into this customers’ system and their business.

The Challenge

IDIQs are a primary vehicle for the Federal Government to contract for work in IT and related services. In 2011, 30% of all contracts in this space were based upon IDIQ vehicles, representing about $40 Billion.  The 5 year projection is an increase in the use of IDIQs to over 70%.  With IDIQs, the contractor bids to become an authorized vendor for a specific IDIQ vehicle.  This gets them no business, but, it gives them the right to bid for business among the select vendors for that IDIQ. Then, they need to manage and compete on each Task Order that the government releases and win the business.  Task Orders are usually many millions of dollars and span years.  Accordingly, the challenge for these systems is that they are both high volume and they require very detailed management throughout the life cycle of Task Orders.

Our customer wanted a system that would allow them to drive revenue, at high efficiencies, and that was effective at winning the right business (that which is profitable for them).  In addition, they wanted a system that was customizable to their needs so that they could continuously innovate to maintain a competitive advantage.  In addition, in this solution space there are a number of distinct challenges as follows:

  • each IDIQ has different requirements which need to be supported by the system
  • there is a high volume of Task Orders that need to be sorted, prioritized and managed closely – miss a date or a requirements and you are out>
  • each Task Order is different and needs to be managed separately with a process to determine whether to bid on it or not
  • the turnaround time to bid over the years has gotten shorter
  • many Federal agencies or specific Task Orders require teaming partners (small business, women owned, etc.) that are part of the bid, thus, the teaming partners need to have access to information and participate in the process and the delivery – thus security must be tightly managed

 

The Story, the Solution and the Business

Back in 2006, the customer won a single IDIQ (along with 10+ other vendors) that projected $10 Billion of Task Orders over 10 years.  They wanted a solution to manage the work.  They looked at various Project Management systems such as Primavera.  However, they believed that the IDIQ vehicle approach was going to grow in popularity and they wanted a system that would allow them to continuously innovate to competitively differentiate themselves.  Thus, they looked for a COTS product that was very flexible to build their own unique solution.  They selected CorasWorks running on Microsoft SharePoint 2003.

According to the customer, they built the initial system in a fraction of the cost and time of buying the COTS solution and trying to customize it to their needs.  They did this relying on their internal subject matter expertise and leveraging the CorasWorks product and CorasWorks training.  The key is that the customer a) was the subject matter expert, and b) the “builders” of the system.  Using CorasWorks, they were able to “build” the system and innovate without requiring custom compiled code.

Over the last 6 years, that single IDIQ has generated $250+ Million in business in 80+ won Task Orders.  They used the system to purposely bid less than 10% of the 2,000+ Task Orders that were released under this IDIQ to maintain high win rates and make sure that they were doing the business in their profitable “sweet spot”.

Over the years, they continued to innovate and improve the core system. They also migrated the system to SharePoint 2007 and multiple releases of the CorasWorks solution platform to continue to drive innovation. About 3 years ago, their was an enterprise reorganization.  Given the success of their IDIQ TOM system for the initial IDIQ it was decided to consolidate IDIQ operations across programs/practices within this team.  They have since grown to manage 14 different IDIQ vehicles and all of the Task Orders through this CorasWorks-based system on SharePoint.

The current state of the business is as follows:

  • The team/system manages 14 different IDIQ vehicles (including some GWAC contracts) and all of the task orders
  • They have processed and managed 5,000 task orders since 2006
  • They bid about 10% of the task orders received and have 300 active orders 
  • They have driven $800 Million of business
  • They have 250 teaming partners
  • Teaming partners have access to the Task Orders that they have teamed on through the proposal process and forward if the Task Order is won
  • Each Task Order ever issued is tracked for historical reasons
  • The system supports Opportunity Management so that the customer and their Teaming Partners can work on customer opportunities and then drive the process of getting Task Orders issued

The core modules of this system are as follows:

  • IDIQ Portal and Portfolio Management – looking across all 14 IDIQs and reporting on operations
  • IDIQ Task Order Management – process to manage capture, Bid/No Bid decision and full life cycle of Task Orders for each IDIQ
  • Task Order sites – one for each Task Order where information is stored, proposals are managed, status is updated and participants (including Teaming Partners) collaborate – throughout the life cycle of the Task Order
  • Teaming Partner Extranet and Partner Sites – where Teaming Partner go to access partner specific information, submit interest in participating on a Task Order, submit opportunities, access Task Order sites.

Here are some details on the overall scope of the system and some key features:

  • Every task order has a site that is automatically provisioned.  There are 1,000 active sites and a few thousand archived sites in the system.
  • There are 250 different Partner sites providing them with their place through which to work with the customer across IDIQs and Task Orders
  • Security is a key part of the system.  By separating each Task Order into a SharePoint site, the customer has a simpler way to manage security vs. attempting to use a role based approach with complex security.
  • The historical data, particularly the No Bid decision and explanation, is important to determine which Task Orders they bid on and also enabling them to return to rebid when the opportunity arises.
  • The opportunity management sub-system enables teaming partners to bring the opportunities to them, which they jointly pursue, and then, push through the appropriate IDIQ vehicle
  • The system is managed by two Technical people and the there are three Task Order Managers that do the functional work
  • The separate business groups that the team/system serve manage three elements using their own tools: large Proposal Development, Project Delivery, and Customer Portal(s).
  • The customer is planning to migrate the system to SharePoint 2010 this year and to take advantage of the CorasWorks “advanced” capabilities of version 11 to continue their innovation.  When done, over 7 years, they will have evolved the system across three cycles of the SharePoint platform (2003, 2007, 2010) and more than 7 versions of the CorasWorks solution platform.

 

My Comments on this Solution

This is a very valuable mission critical system – arguably the key type of system for Federal Contractors in the IT/Services space given the growing use of the IDIQ vehicle.  Note that while the use of the IDIQ vehicle is growing dramatically, the overall IT/Services spending is barely growing.  Thus, the Federal Contractors are fighting it out within a pie that isn’t growing – if you win, your competitor loses.  Having a system that gives you a competitive advantage for the type of business you want to win is simply core to winning this game.  With CorasWorks, this customer got what they needed.

It is a big system, based upon the vast number of sites.  However, in many key ways its design is simple.  This simplicity is important to drive efficiencies and to be able to effectively maintain the system – most importantly the security framework.  Complex security designs are subject to human error.  This design makes it far easier to get right.

The managers of this system/business function, two key people, have continuously driven this system forward over the last 6 years.  Their experiences and lessons learned are continuously built back into the system.  They just keep getting better and the results of the system get better.  The CorasWorks product and support services are ideally suited to this type of situation where the customer wants a competitive advantage and has the will and skill to build it out with our support. 

This particular customer could also use CorasWorks for some other core IDIQ system elements, in particular, large Proposal Development, Project Delivery, and Customer Portal(s).  However, since this is a very big organization with this operation spanning multiple organizational groups, at this time, each group uses its own tools to do these three things.  They are looking into providing CorasWorks solutions for these as opt-in additional services to the business groups.

The overall design of this IDIQ Task Order Management system is what I refer to as a Broad, Distributed Work System (see my intro article Putting SharePoint to Work).  This type of system is incredibly well suited to a SharePoint environment.  In fact, it is hard to imagine designing and building such a distributed system on an alternative platform.  The features and benefits of this system in terms of flexibility, maintenance, efficiency and business effectiveness would be tough to match.

It is interesting to note that this system is effectively a single app.  It is really large and its impact is critical.  Many SharePoint customers talk about the challenge of managing lots and lots of sites that aren’t used -  a feeling of chaos.  However, in this case all of those sites are part of a single, inter-connected, system.  The overhead of many sites actually increases the efficiency, effectiveness, and security of the business and every site has its purpose.

Regards,

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.

 

 

 

Social Business Software: Give yourself an unfair advantage

Social has been hot for a couple of years.  Now, people are trying to figure out how to apply the capabilities to business.  Often people come to the space with vague notions of social. Every conversation seems to bring up Twitter and Facebook.  It makes sense.   People are coming to the space based upon what they know as consumers.  However, when talking about CorasWorks Cim on SharePoint, I find it very effective to start the conversation a bit differently.  It goes like this…

Business is a team sport.  It is competitive.  Yes, there are rules.  But, what if you could give yourself an unfair advantage over the competition?  An advantage that would make you more powerful at the point of attack.

Think of a team sport like football.  Eleven people on each side.  But, imagine if you and only you were able to tap another 15 people, including 5 ringers with specific skills and knowledge, to turn the situation to your advantage.

Effectively, social business software is an enabler to do just this.  It gives you a multiplier effect of your workforce and enables you to bring this force to bear when and where it matters.

How?  Most of our applications/systems are designed for a purpose.  This is good because it focuses on a specific objective.  The problem (or opportunity) is that most of these applications are inward looking.  They take a constrained inward looking view towards how best to accomplish an outcome.  Part of this historically is based upon technology and design.  However, a more significant part is simply our perspective of the playing field and the rules.

Let’s take a help desk.  CorasWorks has provided help desk solutions on SharePoint for years.  They are always driven by IT Help Desk managers.  They are focused on efficiency.  But, for many items maybe you don’t need one.  With a social business application your “help desk” largely becomes the community in the middle.  People submit questions, and, others answer them.  The community becomes the source of answers (other than resetting passwords).  It is hugely scalable, tends to get it right, becomes a visible repository of correct answers and challenges, and is very convenient to use.  Along the way, you may even find that most of the questions are very, very different from IT issues.  Your employees really want to know how to do something, to find this or that, who knows this information, can I do this, how can we get something done.  For social business, think of your enterprise help desk more like a virtual concierge that brings everyone’s knowledge and experience to bear.

How about product change requests?  For most organizations, this is a very insular process of a limited number of people.  How about opening it up?  Allow users to quickly submit the requests.  Make the process visible.  Let other users outside of the normal process weigh in.  Vet your conclusions with the crowd.  Yes, actually ask them to comment on what you are thinking.  You can also just open it up to partners, customers, or even the public. It is about using your social business system to enable you to tap this broader workforce and deliver the results.

What about narrow technical solutions?  Your engineering office in Chicago has a technical challenge.  The Berlin office has addressed it 3 times already this year.  But, would the Chicago know this.  Maybe yes.  But, the key is that we usually don’t know exactly the right person to ask.  By leveraging a social business system, you are able to tap into people for things that you don’t know have the answer.  If you knew who had the answer, you’d just send an email.  Life would be easy.  The unfair opportunity is not based upon communication (that assumes that the people know one another) – it is about collaboration by people that don’t know each other.

The range of scenarios is huge. The power of the opportunity becomes clear when you change your perspective and ask yourself how you can give yourself an unfair advantage, in a particular situation, by tapping into a broader group of people.  By the way, this thinking doesn’t come easily.  We have been trained to think more narrowly, solve problems, with known resources.  You will find it easier to always think about a specific situation, and, imagine who would be the perfect “ringer” that you could bring to the game to make you successful.  Then, let your system do the work…

In this context, it is easier to see that the role of social business software like CorasWorks Cim on SharePoint is to be the enabler to make this happen.  More on this to come…

william

Customers and Partners Show Their Stuff at CorasWorks Hosted Federal Case Study Seminar

Okay, we love to present.  But, we decided to turn the tables and host a Seminar where our Federal customers and their systems integrators showed off what they’ve built with CorasWorks on SharePoint.  This packed, standing room only, unclassified event was held last week at our corporate headquarters.  I was blown away by the breadth and richness of the applications and their mission-critical importance. Here’s the skinny…

First of all, thank you to all of the presenters.  You made it a great experience.  We had the following customers presenting:

- Department of State

- US Marine Corps – Headquarters

- US Marine Corp – Rapid Development and Deployment Office

- US Navy – Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI)

- US Navy – Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC)

We also had two systems integrator partners presenting and assisting presentations that have done a lot of work with CorasWorks on SharePoint in these accounts.  They were: Twin-Soft (Virginia) and Omnitec Solutions (Maryland).  Thank you to the presenters and all of our guests.

Collectively, these customers represent a couple hundred thousand users of CorasWorks on SharePoint.  They referenced more than 20 applications they have put to work.  These applications covered the full CorasWorks solution scope from Collaborative Portals, to distributed business processes, enterprise task management, project management, and idea and innovation management.  Many were truly mission critical (i.e., achieve the result or really bad things happen).  Some of the key one’s presented were:

- HR Portal Management – many different applications and processes to manage the business activity across the State Department’s portal

- Inspectors General Checklist System – system to manage 130 checklists of the Inspector Generals office of the Marine Corp (replaced 40 year old mainframe system)

- Training Registration – application to manage training classes and registrations for US Marine Corps Headquarters

- Enterprise Task Management – comprehensive tasker management and suspense tracking with 150,000 tasks, 3,000 users across ONI

- Urgent Unmet Needs System – extensive work stream to track and manage urgent unmet needs from the battlefield, through the Marine Corp process, and into the development and deployment of solutions

- Enterprise Best Practices System – end-to-end, idea management system based upon CorasWorks Cim v2.0 to drive enterprise best practices across the 50,000 person CNIC command covering 70 installations worldwide

 

Here are a few takeaways from the presentations…

- Broad Perspective of “SharePoint Work Environment” – many customers see SharePoint in a narrow context – often site-bound, and usually no more than site collection bound.  Our presenters all had a common and clear perspective of SharePoint as a broad, distributed, yet, unified work environment.  Thus, their apps were designed to be distributed, with role based consoles, Snaplets, and, with the assumption that data can be anywhere (within or outside of SharePoint).  Refreshing…

- Federal Technical Certifications – the fact that CorasWorks maintains Federal Technical certifications has helped the broad/viral adoption of it as a platform for applications

- Strong Adoption of OpenApp Standard – with CorasWorks v11, the OpenApp standard (based upon the advanced toolkit) is being increasingly leveraged by customers.  Most of the applications presented used it for data integration and custom UI’s.  The Tasker Management ONI application used it to build an application where all of the data is in SQL Server, but, the experience is all SharePoint (and so is the document repository).  Combining the OpenApp approach which allows you to build very deep custom applications without cracking Visual Studio (meaning that you don’t then have to convince infrastructure IT to certify a bunch of DLL’s) with the Technical Certifications has really empowered these customers to take SharePoint to a new level.

- CorasWorks for Distributed Business Processes – probably the best kept secret of CorasWorks is its usefulness to build out custom business processes.  Most of the apps fell into this category.  Typically, these are people-driven processes leveraging our Action framework.  In v11, the framework now allows developers to create the Actions separately and then use them in their custom displays.  Further, the Actions can now directly call Windows Workflow Foundation – thus, you get robust people-system automation.  Again, most of the applications were distributed, meaning that users with different roles, were engaging and working from different places across the SharePoint work environment.

 

Overall, just a stellar day.  We need to more of these types of seminars for Federal and Commercial (PS see my post about the Claims Management app built by Clyde & Co and shown in a webcast a few weeks ago).  If you have a great app that you want to show off ping your CorasWorks contact or email info@corasworks.net.

 

william

Clyde and Co’s Claims Management Application: OpenApp Development with CorasWorks v11

Last week, Rhonda Jenkins of Clyde & Co, a major international law firm, graciously presented their Claims Management application to our customers and partners.  This mission-critical business application was built using CorasWorks v11 running on Microsoft SharePoint.  She presented the detailed business case along with a demonstration.  It is a very compelling business success story that demonstrates the potential of the “OpenApp” style of development made possible with CorasWorks v11.  Here’s the story…

Background and Business Resultslogo

Clyde & Co is a major international law firm of 1,400 people, in 26 offices, covering 130 countries and headquartered in the UK.  It was named Law Firm of the Year in 2011 by Lawyer Business magazine.  The San Francisco office specializes in insurance claims for professionals and insurers with a brand name list of high tech companies.  This was the site for the Claims Management application.

Over the last few years, the insurance claims management practice in San Francisco has grown rapidly and Clyde & Co wanted to build a system that would support their process in a more efficient and effective manner and enable continued growth and better service and lower costs.

In six months over the last year, they built their Claims Management system using CorasWorks v11 on Microsoft SharePoint.  Effectively, they have went from a manual, ad hoc work environment to an integrated system.  This new system has been running for 6 months and has increased productivity 10X (1,000%).  It is used to drive 80% of their business.  They stated a full Return on Investment payback period of 1 month.  It has also vastly reduced cycle time.  For instance, previously it would takes weeks to prepare a status report for a client.  This is now available at the click of a button.  It is chock full of specific features that supports the unique process of Claims Management for Clyde & Co.

 

Getting to the Application

Rhonda did a great job of telling the story by going through the 3 main generations of their “way of working”.  A couple of years back, in Generation 1, their process consisted of emails and distributed file stores.  It was ad hoc at best, with distributed information.  Finding the status and details of matters for a client across attorneys was “challenging” (meaning practically impossible).  The focus with Generation 2, was simply to build an Excel based tracking system to augment the ad hoc work process.  This made it possible to begin to manage top down.  However, the lack of a central repository and database cost a great deal in productivity.  As above, to create a client report across matters could take weeks to prepare.  The goal in Generation 3 was to centralize the documents and information and create a single system with unique features for attorneys and clients.  They decided to go with CorasWorks on SharePoint.  Cost was important.  However, more important was the flexibility of CorasWorks to enable them to follow a very agile process to build out the application and innovate as they got feedback from internal users and clients.

 

OpenApp Development Approach

The team to develop the application was Rhonda Jenkins, Head of Administration and Practice Support and a CorasWorks-certified developer, Michael Bradley.  At first glance, you would refer to their approach as agile.  They built the application in sprints with user feedback at each step.   However, using the OpenApp development environment of CorasWorks, they were able to accomplish this with real hands-on user input.  Since CorasWorks is a componentized, integrated open environment for SharePoint, there is no coding (no Visual Studio compiled code).  Features are able to be added to a running application, providing instant, practical user feedback.  SharePoint provides the data, security, and administration.  The OpenApp pipeline of CorasWorks allows developers to customize the data connections, the UI, and the business logic independently to support new features.  This OpenApp style of development allows for faster and more agile development with a much tighter relationship with business users.

The result is that the application was able to go into production after 6 months and succeed right away.  Since then, the application has continued to evolve, a feature at a time, while, it is delivering business value.  For instance, when we first saw their demonstration (about a month ago) they emphasized the wonderful value for clients that their new reporting provides – they could provide status reports in specialized document-oriented formats in seconds for their clients.  However, by the time of the web cast, they had extended this functionality to an Extranet environment in the cloud (running CorasWorks on SharePoint at FPWeb.net).  This enables their clients to access and get reports whenever they want.  In effect, in a matter of weeks, they now have a hybrid application with an Extranet in the cloud integrated with their Claims Management application running on their Intranet on premise.

 

Summing Up Their Success

This is a mission-critical, very customized application.  80% of their business relies on the application.  CorasWorks provided our v11 software, standard training and support, and, a bit of up front design assistance.  However, their team designed and built out the app working closely with the business users.  The requirements were not documented in detail up front.  They evolved as users experienced the application and discovered how they could improve how they work.

Clyde & Co’s success is a great example of how our customers are succeeding using our software.  Successful projects are always driven by business users that are deeply engaged in the process and committed to driving practical business results.  The CorasWorks v11 OpenApp development style on SharePoint really puts the software at the service of the users and developers which drives unusually effective business results.

 

Cheers…

William

Knowledge Pipeline: From Raw Information to Published (and improving) Knowledge

In my last article, Drive tangible results when Social Activity is “In-the-flow” of Business, I referenced people/sources over the years that have written about the importance of putting social activity “in-the-flow” of business in order to drive adoption and tangible business value.  In this article, I’ll discuss a specific application that follows this design approach with Cim v2.0 on SharePoint.  The application is a Knowledge Pipeline that works to capture raw knowledge, process it to transform it into publishable content, and then, serves it up to customers for them to consume and provide feedback.

Situation & Desired Objective

For many organizations, having quality knowledge at the fingertips of customers is very valuable to the organizations success.  In today’s world that knowledge is often being re-packaged and presented in different media forms or multi-media packages.  So, how are we doing?

We all have lots of raw information all over our organization – in SharePoint lists somewhere, on people’s laptops, in lots and lots of emails, in a forum, in videos online somewhere, in proprietary systems.  We also have other places where people consume refined, published, passive content.  We usually don’t have defined ways of getting the raw knowledge transformed into the right content in the right place.  We also don’t know what knowledge is really needed or wanted.  We also have issues of getting enough raw knowledge (ever try and get a developer to write some technical documentation) or the right raw knowledge.  And, how are we doing in our knowledge life cycle? Do you have solid visibility into your knowledge pipeline?

Here is my list of the top 10 things that people are looking for to improve the results of getting good knowledge to customers in:

  1. We would want to know the needs of our customers – from their voices. We want this to be easy for them and for us.
  2. We need for it to be easier and more convenient for people to share their raw knowledge and be able to know what knowledge is important to our customers.
  3. We want our people to be able to easily collaborate to generate raw knowledge, validate it and improve upon it.
  4. We also want the raw knowledge, and the published knowledge to be at the fingertips of our internal users – they are customers too.
  5. We’d like to have a repository of raw knowledge that we could draw on to meet the needs.
  6. We’d want a process to effectively transform raw knowledge to publishable knowledge of high quality that meets the needs of customers.
  7. We need a way to efficiently prioritize what raw knowledge gets processed – all knowledge does not have the same value/urgency.
  8. We want to capture feedback on the usefulness of our knowledge and the quality, including the best format of knowledge (we are in a multi-media, digital world)
  9. We’d like to be able to see and manage the life cycle of the process.
  10. We want happy customers that rave about the usefulness and accessibility of our knowledge.

it is about meeting the needs of our customers.  For most of this article, I am thinking of customer as an external customer.  However, everything also applies to our internal people, in  those cases where we want to treat them as customers.

Solution: Knowledge Pipeline Application

There are a number of very different activities that must occur to make a knowledge pipeline process work.  Here I’ll lay out a standard design for a Cim-based Knowledge Pipeline application that brings them all together.  At the heart of this solution is how it aligns the various activities into a broad, process that delivers the results. 

Below is a schematic that lays out the flow of the process.  It consists of four main elements.

knowledge pipeline 700

The schematic above briefly describe the activities that occur within each of the four elements.  In a SharePoint environment, each of the elements are typically completely separate SharePoint sites (or a cluster of sites) that may be located anywhere.  The Process connects them.

This Knowledge Pipeline application is a typical Cim-based social business process.  A core distinction is that it is not designed as a workflow, i.e., a sequential process to get ALL items from A to B.  Instead it is a loosely-coupled, work stream.  Each of the elements can operate and thrive on their own and are valuable in and off themselves.  However, in this application, they are aligned  and connected (loosely-coupled) so that those items that are prioritized CAN flow through a managed process.  In addition, each element has social collaboration activities that help improve the result, including helping to determine what should go through the process and what the output should be.  The result is that a process designed such as this helps to improve the effectiveness of the result and do it efficiently.  There is a cost to any item that goes through the process.  With Knowledge Pipeline, people are able to balance the desired and actual output with the costs.

Below I’ll look at each of the four stages and mention some key drivers of Cim on SharePoint that make for a more effective and efficient Knowledge Pipeline solution.

Source

This application is particularly well suited to a SharePoint environment.  In most organizations, SharePoint is a broadly adopted, distributed work environment.  This means that people often work in their own areas – a site or sites within a portal area.  The Knowledge Pool is a collaborative Cim community – a place to go and share.  However, the main collaborative user interface for the Knowledge Pool can be snapped off and distributed to any site across SharePoint.  Thus, the contributors are able to have it at their fingertips where they work.  For instance, they may be in a project site and access the Knowledge Pool from there and quickly post some raw knowledge.  They may be in a department portal, a team site, their My Site, or, an application – and post.  Thus, as they do their day to day work the Knowledge Pool is effectively at their fingertips.  In addition, they have the ability to search and access the finished product from the Customer Communities, again, from wherever they work.  Thus, a Cim implementation on SharePoint is an effective way to put social activity “in-the–flow” of the day to day work of business.  The result is more content, greater visibility, and more extensive feedback and collaboration.

Knowledge Pool

This is where the raw knowledge resides – it is the pool of knowledge waiting to be used.  It is a place that you can go, typically in its own portal or embedded into an existing one.    Users can find information by search, activity popularity, tagging, taxonomy, etc.  They collaborate on items – comment, rate items, upload files of supporting or contrasting information, even do semi-formal peer reviews.  Items get cumulative ratings and scores that can be helpful in prioritizing them for the knowledge process.  In addition, needs are entered here that come internally or flow back from the Customer Communities. 

A key part of the design is the ease with which people can just post information here in its raw form.  Got good information in an email; just cut and paste it in.  No need for formality – just share.    In addition, Cim creates listings of Most Recent, Highest Rated, Top Contributors, etc. that further drives visibility and provides recognition for ones efforts.  These can also be snapped in anywhere across a SharePoint environment to further increase visibility, participation, and collaboration.

Process

The Knowledge Pipeline application has a Stage Gate process. The Process is used to take the raw information from the Pool and put it through a number of stages that transforms it into publishable knowledge.  The transformation may be simple, like reforming text into a standard document template.  Or, it may involve creating wholly new content or supporting content such as videos, presentations, etc.  There is a cost to any item that goes through the process so only certain items are selected.  The collaborative activity that occurs in the Knowledge Pool helps to prioritize what should go through the process.

The Process itself is very configurable.  Typically, it consists of a number of stages such as Screen, Review, Finish, Decide, Publish, Portfolio.  The Screening Stage is really just a view into the Knowledge Pool from where you select and push items into the Process.  During each stage there are a number of activities – emailing, editing, reviews, comments, tasks, deliverables, votes, decisions, publishing, etc.   When an item meets a certain criteria, a decision is made (the Gate), and, it is moved to the next stage.  In a typical Cim implementation, the Process will have at least one primary collaborative review activity. The activity is tracked.  As items go through the process contributors and others are notified of progress.  Finished items then get published out to the Customer Community sites.

As a pipeline, you can see what is in each stage and make decisions to invest, expedite, hold, and, kill – you can manage it.  Without a process such as this, i.e., in a typical ad hoc environment – there really is no way to manage the Knowledge Pipeline.  Most organizations simply lack visibility.   In addition, there is built in reporting so that managers can look at what is in the Knowledge Pool (upstream), in process in the pipeline, or that has been published (downstream). 

Customer Communities

In a full Cim solution on SharePoint, the communities are also built using Cim or a Cim community is embedded into an existing Internet/Extranet/Intranet site.  If so, the Cim community information is not just static, passive content, rather, it is in the form of articles, with multi-media content – text, video, files, links, pictures – whatever is relevant to the topic.  In addition, it is interactive.  The users can easily find the content, consume it, and provide feedback via ratings and comments.  They can also be enabled to do soft reviews or survey-style more formal reviews.  In addition, the users can post their needs, questions, ideas for additional information which ties back to the Knowledge Pool and the Process and the process owners.  A well designed community provides visibility of new content and makes it easy for users to find the content based upon their need as opposed to the media format of the content.

Summary

The Knowledge Pipeline is a great use of Cim on SharePoint.  I know because we’ve implemented it within CorasWorks and it a key part of our drive for customer and partner success.  It is one of those apps that didn’t get designed on a whiteboard – it evolved through experience with our customers and our internal experiences.  In a future article, I’ll tell you the story of this evolution which I think will help you uncover additional opportunities for other applications that map to a similar pattern.

But for you, the Knowledge Pipeline application is good to go, and you can start with it today.  To summarize…

Each of the four elements can leverage Cim to make them effective in and of itself.  When they are aligned, as shown in this design, you then have an effective and efficient way to turn raw information into published knowledge in your interactive customer community.  It is effective, because the social collaboration provides the visibility and feedback in order to make the right decision about what gets through the process.  it is efficient because the application makes it easy and convenient to get structured work done.

The entire design of the application drives home the leverage that you can get when you align social collaboration activities with your business process – or as said by others – put social activity “in-the-flow” of your business.

If you want to see the Knowledge Pipeline in action, ask your CorasWorks sales rep or email innovation@corasworks.net, and they can demo our internal implementation of it.

william

Crowd and Management Social Eddies in Cim 2.0

A couple of posts ago I talked about Social Collaboration and Business Processes being two sides of the same coin in Cim 2.0.  They are different animals but very related. In this article, I’ll drill down into an example of features in Cim 2.0 that show how and why they are different, similar and related.

We’ll look at a comparison of the experience of  the crowd users (the general community) vs. the managers of the process in terms of collaborative activity.  In Cim as in any social business process tool, activity and more specifically decisions are primarily done in a “social” context.  This is a small “s” meaning group decisions.   This promotes visibility, engagement, and ideally, better decisions.  This differs from a sequential workflow process where decisions are made sequentially and in a black box. For instance, decisions at each stage of a stage gate process in Cim may be made a group of people or a committee.

We refer to each specific context of activity as a social eddie.  So the crowd rating, commenting, and reviewing of an idea is one social eddie.  A management team doing rating, commenting, and their reviews prior to making a decision is another social eddie. social eddies

In a standard social business process the Crowd social eddie is separate, different, but, very related to the Management social eddie.  The schematic here gives you a visual of the relationship.  Again, think two sides of the same coin.

Below we will do the following: 1) look at The Crowd Social Eddie, 2) look at the Management Social Eddie, 3) sum up how they compare, and 4) and present some interesting nuances to a process with social eddies.

The Crowd Social Eddie

Let’s look first at the Crowd Social Eddie and how it feels in Cim 2.0.  Below is a screenshot of the detail for a Process Improvement submission.  Here the crowd collaborates on the idea.  As shown, they have made comments, uploaded some files, and done some peer reviews. 

CrowdEddie

A key piece is the ability for anyone in the crowd to do formal reviews of the idea.  This is a new option in Cim 2.0 – a very nice one if you want some empirical data from the crowd.  As items are reviewed the average score is shown.  The screenshot below is a completed review – the questions are radial choices for empirical results.  However, you can also have subjective questions, dates, numbers.  Thus, you can get empirical data, subjective data, and absolute data (great for getting crowdsourced projections).

PeerReview

 

Management Social Eddie

Now, let’s turn to the management side of the coin.  They can see the activity happening in the crowd as they look to make their decisions.  However, with Cim 2.0 they also have their own, private Management Activity console as shown below. 

MgmtActivity

On the left they see all of the ideas that are in the review stage. For each one, they see details on the right side.  They can also vote (!), comment, and do management reviews for each idea.  Above, we are showing the tab with the Votes.  Note that here each managers’ vote is shown for all of the other managers to see (whereas in The Crowd, the star ratings are not shown to all).

Now, lets look at the management reviews.  Below we show their questions.  They are different form the peer review form that the Crowd uses. 

mgmtreview

 

Summary of Different Sides of the Coin

Let’s review some of the differences and similarities in these two social eddies:

-  in the Crowd they are working on one idea at a time, whereas, in Management they are acting on many ideas in a single Management Activity display (kind of speed reviewing)

-  both social eddies have the ability to have custom review forms to capture empirical data and score it, yet, the questions can be different to meet the objectives

- in the Crowd, you typically don’t show the individual Star Ratings, whereas, in the Management display a) they are called Votes vs. Ratings and b) they are explicitly shown for each person (ideally, the management people are voting as part of collective decision making)

 

In addition, there are a couple of nuances about a social business process as described above… 

As already noted, the activity and decision making is primarily done in a “social” context.  However, at any point you can kick off sequential workflows where it may be necessary to get a specific approval or specific input before the group decision can be made.  Examples are a Legal sign off, a Feasibility Assessment, or a Finance decision.

Further, it is interesting that just because the management team may have started its review process or even made the decision – this does not mean that the Crowd Social Eddie has stopped working the idea.  They will see the Status as an item progresses through the Stage Gates – and their conversation may change.  For instance, imagine the conversation after the management team decides not to implement a process, or, decides that they are actually going to fund a change and go forward.

Yes, this can seem a bit chaotic with all of those social eddies going on.  However, the key is that the role of the tool is to enable the social eddies to occur but as part of a structured process that programmatically moves things forward, with solid empirical data, towards informed and better decisions and results. 

You might say it is the best of both worlds – or, you could say that it is two sides of the same coin.

william

Social collaboration and business processes: Expect them to be two sides of the same coin

As a lead up to the release of Cim v2.0 in February, I’ve been making the rounds with the analysts.  At the same time, I’ve been spending a great deal of time with our beta customers.   There is a very interesting dichotomy between what our customers want and what most vendors are selling and analysts are covering.  So, a bit of sharing…

We are working with customers on social business processes using Cim v2.0.  Of course, we are doing idea and innovation management solutions.  And, with Cim v2.0 we’ve been getting into the new breed of solutions like application change requests, customer stories, project initiation, technical solution challenges, enterprise best practices, etc…

In fact, every presentation I make, the customers come up with at least 2 processes “that would be so much better as a social business process”.  The benefit of having an easy and robust way of engaging more people and providing visibility with the structure of a stage-gate management process to take that activity and translate it into result is very compelling.  The upshot is customers get it – once they see it and experience it.

Now, the analysts.  For years now, they have been analyzing the two separate vendor categories of Social Software and Business Process Management.  These are very different categories of products.  Most of the vendors in each are different.  The Social Software people are going further and further into Social Media.  The BPM folks are getting deeper and deeper into the nuances of heavily structured business process.  To the credit of the analysts they know that the two areas are just going in different directions and they have a sense of something missing in the middle that delivers business value in a reasonable way.  But, since there is no defined, known market with established vendors they do not “cover it”, and, they have nothing to sink their teeth into.

Back to customers.  The typical story from our customers is uncannily the same.  “I have invested in all of these social tools.  We own a bunch of deep BPM and workflow tools.  But, what I just want is a process to go out and gather solutions to a technical challenge or customer stories and be able to vet, collaborate, review and decide on them.’’  Try doing this by integrating the two leading vendors from the two categories covered by the analysts.  A million dollars and 18 months later and you might have a solution.  

Enter CorasWorks with Cim v2.0.  We simply see that there is a great need for nice, clean, robust social business processes that work well in the middle.  They are not totally social.  And, they are not about deep, sequential processes.  They address the scenarios where you want a clean stage-gate type business process that is open and engages a broader group of people in a collaborative, interactive way.  Of course, it just gets better because it runs within a distributed, SharePoint work environment – so you leverage everything that you are already doing.

Our approach to the need is to provide a complete, balanced solution that easily translates directly to the business problem – without the need for integration work and unnecessary bells and whistles and costs.  As we’ve had the discussion we often use the analogy of the two sides of the same coin.  The social side is a bit different from the business process side.  Different user roles, different UI’s, different objectives, different activity, different outcomes.  But, to have an effective solution it is best to see them as the two sides of the same coin.  In fact, you should expect that they are pre-integrated and designed to work as one.  This is very different from trying to integrate and merge two completely different sets of technologies.

I am not holding my breadth to create a new analyst category for Cim-based social business processes on SharePoint.  Our focus is on delivering what our customers want and need, within a reasonable time and cost.  Eventually, as we continue to show them our customers’ successes they’ll get on the bandwagon.

william

Cim Customer Stories for Idea and Innovation Mgmt on SharePoint

So here is proof that My Sabbatical was rewarding for us and our customers – we just published two customer stories for Cim that I worked on during my sabbatical.  The stories are different types of implementations of Cim.  In this article, I’ll briefly cover them.  See the above referenced page for the story and screenshots.

Deluxe Corporation – Corporate Idea Management

This 6,000 person company used Cim for classic corporate idea management.  They have standing idea communities for General Ideas, Product Ideas, and Process Improvement.  They are driving activity using Campaigns and Challenges that target specific business objectives.  They are primarily focused on the targeting of ideation, capturing and collaborating. They determine the objective and then drive participation through campaigns thereby leveraging the experience of their employees. They then process the ideas and move them into the business groups for decision and execution.

 

US Navy CNIC (Commander, Navy Installations Command) – Enterprise Best Practices Process Management

This 50,000 person organization is using Cim to drive Enterprise Best Practices.  It is a fine example of an enterprise-wide, innovation process management solution.  They have an effective approach which is to drive the full process with two different and integrated workstreams.  First, there is an idea process.  The end result of this is implementations at bases around the world.  The successes then get validated.  Then, users submit these successful ideas as proposed enterprise Best Practices which goes through a second process.  The result of this is an enterprise level best practice.  This approach encourages broad innovation via the idea process and effective best practices because they are based upon validated, real world implementations.

 

BTW, see the screenshots at the Customer Stories page referenced above for nice examples of the Portal UI’s that you can do with Cim using the CSS-styled UI.

 

william

Idea and Innovation Management as an IT-Provided, Enterprise Shared Service on SharePoint

As CorasWorks Idea Management (Cim) on SharePoint gets out there more in the SharePoint enterprise community, IT departments are starting to look at providing Cim as an Enterprise Shared Service as part of their offering to the business groups.  I’ll address this by recounting an actual question and answer thread that I had with an organization. (NOTE: This article is written for those in IT with enterprise SharePoint experience). 

General Scenario:

The customer looks at Cim and likes the solution for their Idea Management.  However, they come to the conclusion that innovation within their enterprise is not a single, big solution.  Rather, they see it happening at the department and division level. They also want the burden on the business groups to support themselves assuming Cim supports this (For SharePoint enterprise accounts, this is actually very common).  Accordingly, they want to bring it up as an IT-Provided, Enterprise Shared Service, on their SharePoint infrastructure.  This means that they want to offer it “as an application service” on top of their SharePoint offering so that their different departments/business groups act as separate tenants (multi-tenant) and customize it to their local needs.    

Customers’ Definition:

The customer started off by very clearly articulating what they wanted as below:

“The idea is that IT will provide an Idea Management portal as a service to any department that wants to do ideation. This implies the following:

- Each department’s portal should be completely separate from the portals of other departments – it is not the idea that people from one department can access the portal from another department.

- Also any reporting should be separate.

- As IT only provides the portal, the department is still responsible for defining processes, responsibilities, user rights/management, etc. Each department should be able to set up these things itself, without intervention of IT.”

 Questions and Answers:

Question 1: Can you describe how you would simulate/create/configure your Idea Management solution to meet the needs as described above?

Answer 1: This design is supported by CorasWorks Idea Management on SharePoint – in fact, it is a scenario that we design for.  We refer to it as Cim as an IT-provided, Enterprise Shared Service.  IT instantiates the basic service and then “turns it on” for each department upon demand.  From there, the department administrator manages their Cim solution as part of their department work.

This is possible and practical for four key reasons: 

- First, Cim is a modular solution.  You build up your Innovation Portal from a number of modules (9 come with Cim v1.2); each can be Administered separately. 

- Second, Cim comes with point-and-click wizards that enable IT to offload the Administration and “power user” customization to business groups so that they make their changes without requiring IT involvement.  All CorasWorks customization is done without cracking any compiled code. 

- Third, this is possible because Cim runs on the CorasWorks Solution Platform v11 for SharePoint.  This contains the Dll’s that are installed once on the enterprise server farm, and then, the Cim solution can be made available to the department in a shared, multi-tenant fashion. 

- Fourth, our training and online community provides training on a role basis that is designed to separately train up the business groups on what they need to know. 

Question 2: What would be the "[deployment] architecture" of the tool to provide a service to different departments as described above? Does a complete separation of the different portals (from a department perspective) imply also different implementations, or can there be one "parent portal" (managed by IT), where IT can just create a new child portal for each department. Each department should in any case have complete control over its own child portal (see above).

Answer 2: Let’s start with the “basic Cim” implementation.  IT would install the CorasWorks Solution Platform v11 and Cim modules.  These are the core dll’s and module templates.  This would be available across the farm.  However, Cim, the solution is not yet instantiated.

From there, you can go either way as described above.

Approach 1: IT could bring up a central Innovation Portal.  This would typically be in its own Site Collection.  At the top level, just below the portal you would have the various modules for the central Innovation Portal.  At the same level, you would have the top site for the Department Portal. Below it, you would have the modules for that department.  A schematic of this is shown below.

clip_image002

 

Approach 2: This is similar to the above, however, each Department’s Innovation Portal is within its own Departmental Site Collection.  It may be the top level of the Site Collection or be a sub-level.  For instance, if they already have a top level site for the Department, the implementation would look similar to that above, however, their existing Department Portal replaces the Central Innovation Portal and the Department Innovation portal is below it (say where Dept 1 Portal is located).

In either case, each department would have control over its portal and the modules it uses, i.e., how many communities, its own reporting, its members and groups.  

NOTE: The departments have greater administrative control if they have their own Site Collection.  This allows for them to control the templates, features, and Site Collection Administrators.

Question 3: Linked to the previous question, how will each department be able to manage its own portal, e.g. do they have their own "admin console"?

Answer 1b: Each of the Cim modules has its own Admin console which are rather simple to use.  Thus, they can separately manage the Portal, their Idea Communities(s), the Reporting, the News service (they can control which sites within their department are linked to the News Service), their Blog, and their Management process.

Question 4: Linked to the first question, is custom reporting possible per department, configured by the departments themselves?

Answer 4: Yes, as above.  There are two main types of reporting in Cim – both can be controlled at the department level.  There is the Reporting Service.  This provides reporting on the Idea activity such as the Top 10 and the Dashboard.  It uses a portfolio approach, so you just add the Idea Communities for the department and the reporting lights up.  Then, in the Cim Management Hub, it has customizable Pivot reporting for management.  This is also configurable at the department level.

Question 5: To what extent can the tool be customized by ourselves (IT and/or business groups) and to what extent do you provide support for this customization?

Answer 5: The short answer is extensively.  Cim is very flexible in implementation and very customizable and extenable.  The key is that Cim runs on the CorasWorks Solution Platform v11.  It provides a robust set of point-and-click wizards to enable customization of Cim by non-technical users.  This means that departments can help themselves in most cases.  And, it allows extensive customization by developers without having to modify compiled code.  This would be for extreme cases where IT is brought in at the app level.

We have an extensive Training program that establishes four levels of customization for Cim and sample tasks at each level.  Our training is oriented towards these levels and supported by our Online Community.  Our standard set of training for an Enterprise Shared Services environment would consist of:

- System Administration Training for IT providing the service (not one of the four levels) – installing the platform and managing Cim as a service on SharePoint

- Cim Administrator (Level 1) training for each of the Department Administrators – things like how to create a community, change the navigation, etc.

- Cim Power User Customization (Level 2) for Dept Admins and Power Users – how to customize Cim using point and click wizards to the needs of the department

- Cim Builder Customization (Level 3) for more technical people (but not coders) – This would train a select group in IT or Business Groups in how to customize at a deeper level using Wizards.  They would know how to change the Stage-Gate processes and manage workflows.

- Cim Solution Framework Developer Customization (Level 4) for no-code developers – This training is available to teach people how to build new features without coding using our Solution Framework.  However, it is usually done by CorasWorks or Partners.

In General, we would train you on System Admin and Level 1 and 2.  You’d train the Department Admins on level 1 and a bit of Level 2.  Your IT group would probably end up learning a bit of Level 3.  CorasWorks and Partners support you up the stack.

 

Beyond the Q&A

The Enterprise Shared Application Service (ESAS) model for Cim is an excellent model for enterprises with an enterprise-wide implementation of SharePoint.  Why?

It makes sense.  The truth is that there is no one right innovation portal or process across an enterprise for all business scenarios.  However, with Cim on SharePoint, you set standards, control support costs, create supporting cross-organizational communities/resources, and allow the department/business groups to innovate on their own.  This way innovation is allowed to flourish locally based upon a supported standard enterprise-wide. It is Enterprise Innovation by design…

Further, CorasWorks is designed to make this work as follows:

- Cim and the CorasWorks platform are designed for shared multi-tenant services such as this.  The DLL’s are installed once, then, the tenants (different business groups) can customize their Innovation Portal as they see fit. 

- In addition, our pricing supports the proper charge-back.  We charge a flat organization license plus per user.  So IT pays the flat portion and the business groups pay for users as they come on board. 

- Lastly, CorasWorks supports loosely-coupled, federation.  Thus, while each department may have its own innovation process, you can create central processes that connect to various departments and allow you to do centralized management. These are loosely-coupled and you can make connections in minutes without disrupting the local work.  An example, is that you decide you want to farm the departments for Enterprise Best Practices.  This works across site collections and web applications (i.e, across the whole server farm).

Last note.  I have written about ESAS models in the past on SharePoint.  What is key here is that Idea and Innovation Management is a business application not a technical capability.  It moves IT up the stack as a provider of business application-level services vs. just capabilities.  And, it leverages the whole stack of investments they already have in SharePoint, thereby, reducing the normal cost, risk, and complexity.

william