Tag Archive for sharepoint

Channels: Group to Group Inter-activity

A couple weeks back I got wind of a customer that wanted to address a very straightforward problem – getting Marketing and Sales to work better together.  This is an area that can benefit every commercial organization.  With a bit of inspiration, we came up with a rather nifty way of addressing this challenge by leveraging Cim to provide two-way, group-to-group interactivity.  Let’s take a look at the scenario and the solution.

So, what are some of the activities that these two departments typically interact on (or, should interact on).  Here are just a few:

  • Review and vetting of Marketing Collateral
  • Questions about upcoming events
  • Vetting campaigns and events
  • Customer stories that can be used by marketing
  • New market ideas
  • Ideas for new campaigns, events, product marketing
  • Prioritization of activities
  • Information from sales on competition, channel, field and market activity

In May, I wrote an article about the 4 C’s – 4 different types of ways to capture ideas (Idea Communities, Campaigns, Challenges, and Contests).  Last month, I wrote about the two primary ways that ideas flow in an idea and innovation workstream.  These articles address standard idea and innovation scenarios where a larger community of people are engaging with a smaller group of people that own a business process.

However, the situation of improving communication and inter-activity between the Sales department and the Marketing department is quite different.  It is two groups of people that need to work together on lots of things.  It is more of a point-to-point, communication, and interaction scenario.  Hmm…

Below is a graphic of the solution using a new approach that we will call “Channels” (another “C” use).  The objective is to get Marketing and Sales working better together.  What you see here are individuals within each department working in their own separate portals.  Historically, the twain do not meet.  They work in their silos.  To interact they need to go somewhere else.  However, now we introduce Cim and our Idea Communities, and, viola the Channel is born (the green connecting pipe).

idea channel-2-400

 

Here is how it works.  Each person continues working in their department portal.  A Cim idea community is deployed in the background working as a service.  The Community front-end UI goes into each portal.  The Channel is now in place.  To each department, it appears that they have a point-to-point communication channel with the other department – which, in fact, they do.

Now, they start to work.  A few scenarios:

  • The marketing department posts a new presentation for Sales to review.  A number of sales people rate it and make comments.  They upload a couple of presentations that they have done or their own.  Marketing reviews them.  Marketing sets up a meeting to discuss the presentation with all comers and gets feedback – with people logging comments in the virtual workspace.  A few days later marketing comes out with the final presentation which is posted and immediately available.
  • They set up a Section for Customer Stories.  The sales folks gradually start to enter stories – it is easy and convenient to do so.  Other reps rate the stories and make some comments.  Marketing reviews it and asks questions.  Marketing then creates a snapshot for the web site and asks sales to review it.
  • Over time, sales folks have posted ideas for marketing campaigns and events.  Just before the quarter marketing posts 5 fleshed out campaigns/events and allows sales to vet them for a week (rate and comment).  The deal is that marketing will fund the top 3 rated events.  At the end of the time, marketing posts the quarterly plan for all to see.

The list and interactivity goes on and on.  There is now a very rich Channel for collaboration, information, and interaction between the departments.  It is easy to use and convenient because no-one has to go somewhere to engage – they work from “home”.  It has high visibility and there is a persistent history.  It is easy to search and there is a simple Tagsnonomy for folks to use to filter information.  Everyone can see the most recent items entered and highest rated. It is a rich, collaborative way of working with rating, commenting, RSS feeds, notifications, file uploads, etc.

Department to department Channels like this can make a big difference.  It starts with accountability that comes from visibility, easy access, and being given a chance to have your say. So, how about a Channel between Sales and Product Management.  Or, a channel between IT and Operations.  After a while you would come to expect that each Department or Business Function will have a number of Channels to other key departments with which they have a high degree of interaction and information flow. 

With Cim, those items (like a really good idea) that should make their way into more formal process like product development or marketing campaign development can be siphoned off and processed via a Management Hub and flow into the implementation phase.  

Okay, formally, I am adding Channels to my list of uses of CorasWorks Idea Management.  It is now the 5 C’s.  The question for you is what other departments or business functions do you or should you be working closely with to improve business results?

william

Which drives you: More ideas or Better Processes

The driver to adopt Idea Management comes from two primary directions.  One is the desire to tap into your community for more and better ideas.  The other is to extend existing (or new) business processes to get more input and interaction from a broader audience.  Usually, people are coming from one or the other perspective.  Let’s look at it.

I had conversations with two customers last week coming from the two perspectives.  One is a global business software company.  They had tried to engage their customers for change requests (new features) via their web site, but, had limited success.  They wanted a better way to get more ideas and engage better.  The other is a global telecommunications company.  They have existing internal business processes.  They want to use Idea Management to extend those processes to a broader audience to get more input, interactivity, and transparency.

The most general distinction between these scenarios is that the first is focused on external customers whereas the second is on their internal workforce.  With this simple distinction, you will often start to uncover your driver.  But, lets look a little deeper.

Let’s face it, there is hype around anything social. The urge of many is to just go get some of those ideas and show that they want to engage.  It is well placed.  This outreach objective can be an end in itself.  The interactivity, engagement, and visibility amongst the community is indeed an end in itself.  You can succeed by becoming an enabler for your community to interact.  

On the other hand there is the driver for better processes.  These generally start with an internal objective.  You are trying to achieve a result such as a new product, process improvement, better RFP’s, smooth change management, uncovering new markets.   Then, you lay out your process – typically a workstream from idea to review and management to downstream activities to make it real.  Here you are leveraging idea management as the means to engage with those people that you want engaged in the business process.

In sum, what is Idea Management bringing to your business:

- With Ideation as the objective, it is bringing a brand new way of adding value via your community.  This is a new innovation.

- With the business process objective, it is typically making existing processes better and somewhat reinventing many business processes.

 

CorasWorks Idea Management addresses both of these drivers. Our ideation feature set is very robust and evolving quickly with our new releases.  A key is our ability to support many different scenarios on the front side with relevant feature sets vs. a one size fits all approach.  However, amongst competitive products in the space we are unusually or even uniquely strong on the end-to-end business process side.  This is because our business has been built up around applications first.  In addition, we take a platform approach with CorasWorks on SharePoint. Thus, you can lay out your end-to-end business process knowing that you have pre-integration with supporting and downstream applications/sites across your SharePoint environment.  We go a step further with an integration framework to also integrate external information sources, applications, and services.

So, where do we come from?  If we have to choose we are in the business process camp.  Our focus is on helping customers achieve the business outcome –the results through the end-to-end process.  And, via Cim to allow them to lay in new processes for different business scenarios.  

In sum, we are seeing Idea Management as a broad driver of innovation.  It is getting people managing existing processes to think outside of the box.  These legacy processes simply get more effective at producing better results.  And, it is creating a new process, lets call it Ideation, of engagement that is becoming an end in itself.

All good…

william

Idea Management – Differing Business Scenarios

In my previous post, I went into detail about moving to a proactive, event-driven approach for driving “ideation” and the different types of idea communities including Standing Communities, Challenges, Campaigns, and Contests.  In this article, I will drill down into 4 business scenarios and look at the more end-to-end process of planning your activities.

We’ll be covering the four business scenarios as shown in the diagram below.

BusinessScenarios

This 4 step approach gives you a simple tool with which to plan your activity.  It is a quick way to frame your approach.  The four sections bucket a set of questions to be answered.  It works as follows:

  • Scenario – What are you trying to achieve?  For this bucket you want to specify the objective, the context, and the desired result.  This feeds directly into your launch and communication.
  • Type – This is where you design the “community” approach and the actual community site.  Which of the four types of “communities” fits best?  What is the time frame?  What is your tagsonomy and information capture? What submission criteria do you have? How will you launch it?  What reward or fame will you give to it?
  • Process – okay, you have ideas and collaboration.  What will you do with the responses?  Will you have informal or formal reviews?  Who is part of the team?  By what criteria will you make a decision to proceed?  How will you engage the contributors and the community and provide feedback? 
  • Downstream – You have an output – an idea that is ready to be made real.  What are the downstream processes and activities to make it real? Is there a development project?  Do you task it out for immediate implementation?  Is there a change management program?  How and when will your track and review the progress?

Lets take a brief look at how we might break this down for each of the 4 scenarios above.

New Products Needed – Scenario: we specify that we want a few new products in a given market space for launch next year. We have a $5m development and go to market budget. Type: we’ll do this with a Campaign to last 60 days.  We’ll provide 100,000 Amex points to be split amongst the top 5 selected ideas.  We require the idea and a written proposal based upon a pre-set template.  Review: We have a team of 20 reviewers and there is a board of 5 people to decide.  Development: Each will go through your standard product development process that is project driven.

Solutions for an RFP – Scenario: We received an RFP from ACME Widget Co. for proposals to reduce energy consumption for a manufacturing facility.  We want our technical solutions and have 45 days to respond.  Type: We will have Challenge to last for 20 days.  We have a structured tagsonomy and want ideas within 3 categories of technology for the customer.  We have time off days for each selected idea.  Review: We have a 5 person review team supported by the proposal team.  The contributor will be engaged for the proposal write up.  Downstream: Our proposal team will make the proposal via our standard proposal project system.

Continuous Process Improvement – Scenario: We want a continuing flow of process improvement ideas for a manufacturing process for a particular division driving towards efficiencies.  Type: We will have a Standing Community with Quarterly Rewards for contributions, selections, and implementations.  Review: There is a standing team of 5 people that meet monthly to review the submissions and manage the process.  Downstream: We use a task based implementation process with team leads for each implementation.  

Requirements for Application – Scenario: We want to create a new portal for use by our globally distributed Product Management team.  We will be using SharePoint and have a $250,000 budget.  We want to begin development in 60 days and want requirements that are vetted by the users with input for feasibility from our technical communities.  Type: We have a Challenge to gather requirements and vet them in a visible way.  The reward is that the requirements and the solutions that people want get implemented.  They are rated and stacked.  Review: The rating and feasibility are important.  After, the challenge a team agrees on the Requirements and the Solution and publishes the results.  Downstream: We go into our standard development process with continued visibility to the Community on the progress.

This framework gives you a good place to get started.  As you apply it, and think it through, you will find that one good effort often leads to follow on efforts.  For instance, imagine that your continuous process improvement is generating ideas.  One such idea is a zinger and could be generally applied across a number of divisions but would require additional political support (buy in), technical solutions and budget.  The benefits look big.  You may then spin up another Challenge to vet just this one idea.

The permutations are endless.  Thus, it is important to use a basic framework such as this to provide some discipline.  Each campaign/challenge has a bit of overhead and you don’t want to have too many so that the effect is diminished.    

With that said, often, these activities occur at different levels of the organization, some with everyone, and some with smaller groups.  By using CIM on SharePoint, you get the means to have a standardized yet tailored experience. In addition, users can participate in different venues.  You may have one central Idea Community Portal for standing communities and broad campaigns.  However, some of these communities may exist in Department Portals, Extranets, or specific Communities of Interest.  Thus, you are usually segmenting your community market and that gives you more freedom to engage more often and in a more targeted manner.

In addition, the Review and Management module of CIM is very flexible.  So, you can set up different instances of review and portfolio sites to meet differing types of activities.  For instance, you might have one general Idea Portfolio Management site for new products with a lot of structure.  You might have another to be used to manage a continuing flow of Challenges such as the Requirements and RFP responses with a “stack and rack” approach to sorting through the ideas.  Accordingly, you have the ability to tailor the front end ideation process and the back end review and approval process to meet your objectives.

Of course, this leads us to the integration with the downstream processes – that is for another article…

william

Idea Management: Driving results with “Events” and Web 2.0-Style Features

In my overview to CorasWorks Idea Management solution for SharePoint, I touched on our support for custom-tailored, event-driven idea communities, such as Campaigns and Challenges.  In this article, I’ll drill down into what these are and how this approach to idea management complemented by the new Web 2.0-style feature sets drive improved effectiveness.

Most people I talk to about Idea Management initially bring a mindset that is based upon the “Suggestion Box”.  In this classic approach, you have a passive email inbox, form or community for people to enter ideas.  It is passive.  If people have an idea and remember how to share it properly – they contribute.  Its a start…

However, the studies over the last 10 years have shown that proactive, event-driven approaches to idea generation and capture are much more effective.  The event-driven approach involves having specific-purpose, time-constrained “events” for outreach to your community.  Here are three examples:

  • You want ideas for new features of an existing product.  You will have a campaign for 60 days to get ideas.  Then, you begin your formal review process by a smaller team.
  • You are working on a global application for product management.  Instead of meetings, you launch a challenge for 30 days to have all interested parties enter their requirements, and collaborate, vet, horse trade.  Then, you take what you have and work up the requirements.
  • You have a particular manufacturing process that is broken and needs improvement.  You run a two week challenge to get ideas and collaborate on them. 

The key change up here is that rather than being passive and general, you are taking specific business problems and objectives to your community – be it employees, vendors, partners, customers, constituents, or the general public.  You are leveraging your workforce to meet specific objectives, within a specific timeframe.

Further, now with the new feature set of Web 2.0-style communities, you have the opportunity to really drive participation and collaboration with rewards, visibility, peer feedback and collaboration, process updates, fame, and focus.  These features appeal to the fact that we are all human (in addition to being worker bees) – a little competition, fame, reward, and knowing that something is important right now – helps motivate us to participate and do so in a quality way. 

To provide some structure and best practices to use the new methodology, it is common in idea management circles to categorize “idea communities” into 4 types as follows:

  • Standing Communities: This type is most like the Suggestion Box.  You may have Standing Communities for General Ideas, New Products, or Process Improvement.  These still serve the purpose of allowing people to more broadly contribute when they think of it.  However, you now strengthen the motivation with the human features mentioned above.
  • Campaigns:  These are generally event-driven sub-sets of standing communities.  Such as “Spring is the Time for New Ideas for our Omega 2010 product line”.  The campaign runs for 30 days or so, with an objective about the scope and quality of ideas.  And, you put 50,000 Amex points or $500 Amazon dollars up for the best ideas during the campaign.
  • Challenges: These are even more specific.  Here you have very specific calls to action: requirements for this application, solutions for a specific RFP, questions like “How should we change our business in 2011” and “who and why are our top competitors” that will be part of next months planning session.  Challenges may have very short duration, even days.  Your idea community is really a tool to quickly capture, collaborate and vet the challenge.
  • Contests: This is also a specific type of event.  It is simply emphasizing the competitive and reward aspects.  It is often used with external audiences to encourage participation.  Or, it may be an approach to heighten the attention internally.  It really is about putting some reward behind the campaign and get many minds to participate in a competitive way.  

With CIM, we have designed it to make it easy for you to create individual communities of all four types.  Each is a stand-alone SharePoint site where the data is captured and the community is administered.  Yet, the participation is done in a common UI, such as our Idea Community Portal.  In addition, each community can be custom tailored to its purpose.  The most common customization is to change the Tagsonomy for each community.  This means modifying the categories and tags to provide structure for each community.  You can also change the look and feel.  You can add additional fields to capture different information or expose different feedback.

The takeaway is that you will be most effective at driving participation and innovation when you move from passive to targeted event-driven outreaches to your community.  The basic Web 2.0 features of CIM allow you to heighten the human factors that make Idea Management “ideation” successful.  And, the flexibility of CIM allows you to really tailor these community outreaches to be most effective for each objective, and, to be able to handle them separately.

In truth, this approach and this flexibility, really shift the burden onto management to proactively figure out how they will leverage their workforce and communities.  We now have the studies, the tools and the methodologies to influence the results.  Idea Management and its impact on an organizations innovation is now much less the result of chance, but, can be greatly influenced through managed planning, process, discipline, and execution.

With that said, make sure to sprinkle in a bit of fun, sizzle and excitement.  At the end of the day, it is all about people…

William

3 Ready to Go Scenarios for CorasWorks in the Cloud

In my previous post, I did an overview of the new CorasWorks-Fpweb.net service offerings for the Cloud.  In this article, I’ll take a look at three core scenarios for the Cloud offering that are ready to go.

Community Extranet in the Cloud (Extension of Intranet)

This is an obvious scenario.  Most existing SharePoint customers use it in an Intranet scenario.  The challenge is how and where to put an Extranet.  Let’s imagine that you want an Extranet Community for your customers and partners around your products.  You want a nice community with news, access to resources, and community interaction for articles and comments.  And, you want it outside the firewall.

To get there, you would go with the AppServer for MOSS offering.  You would drop in the Spirit Community Services Suite and set it up – this is basically a customizable, web-ready community in the box.  You then customize the Community and enhance it as you need. The next step would be to integrate your Extranet with you Intranet on premise.  This is supported by CorasWorks in a bi-directional way. (See my blog on the X design about the webcast we did with Microsoft

 

Project-Oriented Environments in the Cloud

On premise, increasingly we are finding individual business units that want to bring up a project management environment.  Some typical uses are Global Product Teams, Proposal Management, IT Project Portfolio management, Idea Management.  They are typically adopting our Project Portfolio Management app for the solution.  But, they have to blend it into their on-premise SharePoint environment.  

The Cloud makes it much easier, technically and politically, to bring up a pure project-oriented environment.  Since, it lives in the cloud it is available anywhere, and thus, makes it natural to extend the environment to external parties that they want involved in the work.  To get there, you would go with AppServer for MOSS and implement the CorasWorks Project Portfolio Management v1.2 solution.  its flexibility allows you to have portfolios of projects sites some of which are for internal folks and some for external folks or both. 

 

Intranets/Departmental Workplace in the Cloud

This is where the larger shift comes.  Organizations are starting to look at moving their whole internal SharePoint environment to the Cloud, or, to start with SharePoint in the Cloud.   Two key reasons why organizations hesitate to do this are a) cloud offerings typically limit SharePoint server access (you loose control and you can’t install custom code), and b) they want to do integration with on-premise systems and/or other Cloud services.  

The CorasWorks offerings address both of these.  For this scenario, the AppFoundation for WSS offering is a comprehensive place to start.  You start with the CorasWorks Department Solution Set that gives you your centrally managed, integrated, departmental work environment (Intranet/Workplace) out of the box.  You add your departments, then, you drop in the business apps you want. leveraging the apps from the App Store.  Then, you start to connect the work between the departments and across the environment.  If you want the enterprise app and cloud services integration, then, you go with AppServer on MOSS and extend the environment to integrate with these systems/services. 

 

Bringing It All Together

While these are three distinct scenarios, the key is that you can blend them all together to create an integrated work environment in the Cloud.  You can have the full environment in the Cloud or integration between your Cloud environment and your on-premise environment.  For most of our existing customers, we believe that the first step will be to look at the Cloud for extensions of their internal environment.  For new customers, this offering starts to make the Cloud an appealing alternative to on premise implementations.  No matter which way you go, at the center is the CorasWorks Community and the App Store.  With our consistent app platform, we are supporting both options with the same products, services, support, and applications. 

 

william

CorasWorks Apps in the Cloud on SharePoint

It is time for some apps in the Cloud…  Through a partnership with Fpweb.net, the CorasWorks app platform on SharePoint is now available as a service in the Cloud. It is a powerful offering bringing all of the pieces together.  In this article, I’ll give you a quick overview of the new service offerings.

First, our partner.  Fpweb.net is a leading provider of SharePoint hosting.  They’ve been at it since the beginning.  They provide offerings for WSS and MOSS on a virtualized infrastructure. The way they do it, our customers will have RDP access and can install custom code and apps.  This means that you can control your SharePoint “virtual” server and what runs in it.  Yes, we are all about being DLL-Free, with Ready-for-Work apps, but, every now and then you do need a bit of custom code or a third party app to flesh things out.  With these offerings you can have it your way.

We have brought two offerings to market – AppFoundation for WSS and AppServer for MOSS.  Let’s look at them.

AppFoundation for WSS

AppFoundation for WSS is powered by the CorasWorks Workplace Suite.  You get the full product running on WSS.  You can dial the service up to the level you need.  With the service you get our new Department Starter Set that provides you with a robust, integrated, centrally configured “Intranet/Workplace” framework.  It is set up to go from the get go.  From there, you can go to the App Store and download free or for fee Ready-for-Work apps and plug them in.  You can also customize the apps and environment and even build your own apps.  You are now able to build out a customized, integrated, centrally managed work environment in the cloud.  The cost is $495/month for the CorasWorks service layered on top of the WSS hosting service you choose.  There is no per user fee for CorasWorks or for the apps.  You pay for the fee-based App Store apps on a one time license basis.  

AppServer for MOSS

AppServer for MOSS takes it to the next level.  It includes the Workplace Suite and the CorasWorks Toolset – for the power builder to enhance, extend and integrate the environment.  With the service, in addition to the Department Starter Set, you also get the complete CorasWorks Project Portfolio Management solution (now in v1.2).  The key with the Toolset is that you can now integrate just about everything – across the SharePoint environment and across the cloud.  This means that you can integrate your Extranet in the Cloud with your Intranet, or pump data back and forth to enterprise apps or integrate with other services in the Cloud.  The cost is $795/month (flat) for the CorasWorks layer with the same ability to add in all of the apps from the App Store.

How it delivers Plug and Play Business Productivity

  • The whole stack is pre-integrated – you get the off-the-shelf apps from CW and our growing App Publisher ecosystem, that integrate with each other out-of-the box, powered by the CW app platform, running on the SharePoint collaborative infrastructure, on a world-class managed service
  • This means you can focus on the app layer where the value is for your business
  • You have access to our App Store to feed your app needs and CorasWorks and the online CorasWorks Community to support you
  • The apps are not siloed, they easily integrate with each other as part of one work environment
  • With CorasWorks, you have point and click wizards to customize the apps, connect them up, enhance things and build your own – without the need for custom binary code
  • No per user fees for CW or apps, so you can expand usage and integrate apps without additional cost
  • You have the freedom to manage the environment and install custom code or third party apps whenever you have the need

We are excited to bring this offering to market  We believe that it stacks up well against other app focused cloud offerings.  We hope to see you in the Cloud.

william 

Unique ID Generator tool now Free to SharePoint Community

Being able to relate information across SharePoint lists and libraries is important but fraught with a number of gotchas. A key ingredient for this is the ability to create unique and distinctive ID’s that work well with calculated columns and lookups. CorasWorks has had our Workplace ID field in our Toolset and AppEngine products for some time. Now, to kick off the new year we are releasing this tool the SharePoint community for FREE as part of a new Building Block. The whole package is free to all CorasWorks customers and any SharePoint 2007 or WSS user (no additional CW software is required).

The Workplace ID Generator Building Block is available from the CorasWorks App Store (you do need to register to download it). It includes the Workplace ID field (a DLL in a WSP file). Once installed it adds a new field type that you can use to generate your ID’s. The Building Block also includes extensive documentation on the tool and examples of using it in relational scenarios. We have two scenarios supported by two sample templates: one for native SharePoint users and the other for CorasWorks users.

Some of the core gotchas that it addresses are:

  • You can’t pad the numerical sequential ID that is native to SP or add static text
  • If you do a lookup to an item and want the numerical ID then your lookup will only show the ID when selecting it (i.e., 1, 2, 3 – not very informative or useful)
  • You can’t use the SP sequential ID in a calculated column
  • You can’t use the Name field of a document library (so people have to use the Title which often isn’t filled in) in a calculated column
  • A bunch of other limitations about what you’d want in your item ID’s

The Workplace ID field allows you to create ID’s that have the following 8 elements that can be used in any combination:

  • Numerical ID’s with padding – such as 012, 013
  • Static text – such as DOC012, DOC013
  • Alphabetical sequencing – such as DOC012AD, DOC013AE
  • Date – such as 05-12-2010 (supporting date functions)
  • Day of Year – such as 035, 036
  • Field value – such as picking up the value in a Customer field or including the use of a document name (!!)
  • List ID – use the GUID for the list in an ID to make it really unique system wide
  • Site ID – use the GUID for the site in an ID to make it really unique system wide

The Workplace ID Generator field plays nicely with calculated columns and lookups to give you the ability to create useful relations between information. The sample templates provide working examples of a set of related information. If you are a CW customer, I recommend that you also download the Idea Hub from Future Structure. It is a free app that leverages the Workplace ID to allow you to create and relate more than 10 lists and libraries to each Idea in the hub so that you can see everything related to an Idea in a single view.

Enjoy and have a great 2010!

william

Task Management Console for SharePoint by Future Structure

Refreshed from my 4-part, enterprise C2C Content Service blog series, it is time to turn back to a good old straight-forward productivity app.  The Task Management Console for SharePoint is the first app published by Future Structure for the App Store – it fits the bill nicely.

Very simply, this is an add-on that makes it really easy and efficient to manage tasks in SharePoint.  As an add-on, it can be installed into any existing SharePoint site.  You install the action library and the four web parts into a site collection and then anyone in the site collection can instantiate it in any site.  No UI hassles, no site templates, just, straight up productivity enhancement.

It comes with 4 displays, 3 of them of basically the same Task Management Console in 3 different color schemes (nice touch).  Each TMC display has 5 pre-configured views that deliver to the most common needs.  They are chuck full of actions to automate all of the routine things that people do when managing tasks.  Then, it has a Task Portfolio display.  This is very powerful.  You use it to connect to any task lists across SharePoint and create an instant portfolio in a single display.  You can connect to lists across sites, site collections, and web applications.  You can then group, sort, filter all of the items, and, act on them in one step – across all of the locations.  (BTW, this would be stellar to drop into peoples My Sites or Personal dashboards.)

The picture below shows TMC being used with grouping by Assigned To.  It shows the context menu with a broad assortment of the available custom actions.

taskmgmtbig3

Here is the link to a short 5 minute video of the Task Management Console.  It walks you through a common scenario.

An app like this one reminds me that often “simpler is better”.  How often have we just wanted to get a team focused on getting some work done, but, get bogged down in having to create a site with a bunch of stuff?  Do we really need a site or a complex app?  What we really need is just a simple task list with some robust functionality, like being able to pop off emails about one or more tasks, to nag people to get things done.  This app really hits the mark and can be easily used all over across your SharePoint environment.

Lastly, the price is right at $700, it runs on the Workplace Suite, MOSS or WSS, and, the documentation is quite extensive for an add-on.  I recommend putting on your summer hot list…

Enjoy,

william

CW Apps: Local vs. One Touch Configuration

CorasWorks and partners are releasing more and more apps to the App Store.  Typically, the business applications are being provided in one of two basic configurations – Local or One Touch.  I’ll briefly cover the differences between the two.

 

Local configuration is the classic way of providing portable apps.  By portable, we mean apps that can be built by a partner, and then, shipped to a customer, installed and used – without major configuration.  The Time Off Management app by R3 Business Solutions is an example.  The app is self-contained and ships as a single application template with all functionality.  Technically, the various application features are all configured to work with the data that is stored within the application site itself.  This makes it very portable and easy to install and use.  The end-user is free to customize the configurations, but, it is very easy to get started with.  In addition, local configuration is very useful for apps where you will have many separate instances.  Examples of these are the CorasWorks Our Workspace and the Add-Ons.

 

One Touch configuration is a new type of application configuration that is possible using the new v10 of the CorasWorks Workplace Suite.  Typically, these applications have two parts that are separate application templates.  One is an “application configuration site” and the other is the production site that holds the data.  Examples of these are the CorasWorks Department Dashboard and the Help Desk with Self-Service.  There are a number of benefits to a One Touch configuration as follows:

 

- Application Management – An application owner has control over the app, via the ACS site, and thus, the users can be prevented from “messing” with the app functionality

 

- Centralized Application Governance – You can have many ACS sites for different apps in a centralized site collection with control, even though the production apps themselves are distributed across your SharePoint environment (different site collections and web apps)

 

- Multi-Site Central Configuration Management – You can have a single ACS site, which is centrally configured, that serves as the basis for multiple sites.  this is very useful in situations where you have multiple instances of sites where you want consistency, such as our Department Dashboard or multiple project sites for a single program

 

- Distributed Application Functionality – The One Touch configuration enables you to distribute application functionality across your SharePoint environment.  (See my blog on the Self-Service Snaplets of the Help Desk).  Effectively, you can “snap off” any functionality from a production site and distribute it to portals, dashboards, my sites, or other apps.  Users are able to work wherever is convenient while working with the production app information.  Most importantly, the application manager can make one change to the ACS site and the many distributed UI’s will immediately update. 

 

The key technologies that power the One Touch Configuration are Global Links, Central Views, Lock Down Manager, and CorasWorks Central Configuration.  Using these features it is easy to build apps in a One Touch configuration and very easy to install them and even to distribute the application functionality.

 

For many apps, you’ll see CorasWorks publishing both a Local and a One Touch version.  However, certain apps lend themselves to one approach or the other. The short guideline is:

 

- Local configuration is for apps where you’ll be using it for multiple unrelated instances.  Great for workspaces, add-ons, and, business apps that would apply to different departments.

 

- One Touch configuration is where you want a more controlled environment, multiple instances of an app which are related, or the ability to distribute application functionality.

 

william

 

Check out the new CorasWorks App Store for plug-and-play apps for CorasWorks/SharePoint!

Application Evolution White Paper – A story of continuous improvement on SharePoint

Today, we released a new White Paper called “Enabling Application Evolution”.  It tells the story of how an “application” evolves from a simple vendor work order approval point solution into a more complex, distributed, inter-connected system for vendor management.  It is the story of how organizations can continually improve in this new world of modular, distributed, work environments on SharePoint.

 

We published the white paper to compliment today’s “integration release” of the new CorasWorks Workplace Suite v10.1 and Data Integration Toolset v1.4.  Affectionately known as  r14.14 (10.1 times 1.4), these products are now integrated in such a way as to very effectively empower organizations to naturally evolve their applications and their work environments forward without having to redo things over and over.

 

The white paper tells the story of how Greensleeves Solutions, our fictitious company, goes through five very natural stages of the evolution of this app.  Along the way people argue, haggle, like and don’t like, and, get innovative and productive.  The software plays its role to incrementally meet the changing needs to enable the organization to get to the next stage of productivity.  You can download the white paper from our site (see upper right corner of the landing page).

 

Below is a graphic showing the five stages of evolution covered in the white paper from a single app in Marketing up through a Vendor Self-Service portal.  All of the elements are reusable, inter-connected and centrally manageable – and being CorasWorks – done with point and click modular software vs. custom code development.

 

image  

 

The interesting part is that you’ll probably find it to be a realistic scenario.  It starts to raise a number of questions about application software in the future.  Do the classic options of Buy or Custom Develop really make sense in this new world? Do people really know how they will want to work at the beginning of requirements gathering?  Exactly where is THE application?  What if you build the apps, but, the users actually work from their own departmental dashboards, personal consoles etc. and don’t go to the app per se – they just do task-oriented work across apps and business processes?  Is the application now just the data and configuration?  Have we moved to a services oriented architecture on the front-end?

 

Over the years, our software has evolved to support this evolving new world of applications.  The v14.14 release today is a big step.  We hope that this white paper will give you some insight into how the process of evolution could occur in your organization and the benefits of continuous improvement.

 

Enjoy!

 

william