Tag Archive for SharePoint 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

william

Overview of CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management solution v2.1

Version 2.1 of the CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management (CnP) solution for Federal Government Contractors has been released.  Over the next few weeks you’ll see articles, press releases, webcasts, and customer case studies for the solution.  This article will provide you with an overview of the solution to get you started.

Background of the Solution

Over our 10 years, we have supported many customers that have leveraged the CorasWorks Work Management platform to create custom Proposal Management solutions that run on SharePoint.  Over the last year, as we’ve built our Federal Contractor business we’ve found considerable demand for a Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) solution for Capture and Proposal Management running on SharePoint.  Version 2.1 delivers this COTS solution as a comprehensive, integrated, and flexible way to master the full life cycle of Capture and Proposal Management.  Its flexible design (technically and via pricing) enables it be leveraged by small and mid-sized businesses and the largest enterprises.

Overview of CnP v2.1

CnP v2.1 is a 3 module system.  It is designed to allow you to get started quickly with a COTS, comprehensive, integrated solution that can be easily customized, enhanced and extended.  The schematic below depicts the core three modules.

Modules of CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management

Capture and Proposal Management Center – this module is the center of the system.  It allows you to manage all opportunities/proposals through a structured Stage-Phase-Step life cycle.  It provides you with the top down visibility and overall management of your proposal pipeline.  Typically, customers configure this module to reflect (visually and functionally, see screenshot below) their custom Shipley/Lohfeld/APMP process model.  CorasWorks then automates the work of the users to manage the process.

Proposal Working Sites – this is where the collaborative work takes place for each opportunity/proposal from capture through post-proposal.  It is full of CorasWorks enhanced Work Management features to organize and automate the work with integration with all CnP system features, native SharePoint and external applications and systems.

Proposal Asset Library – a key part of the system is the availability of the Proposal Asset Library (PAL) to manage assets such as Past Performance, Forms, Policies, Boilerplate, Graphics, Resumes etc. Leveraging the integrated nature of this solution these resources are made available to users as they work in proposal sites.

Below is the home page of the CnP Management Center.  In this implementation, a customers’ 4 Stage, 8 Phase, 22 Step “baseline” process is depicted visually to show where everything stands.

[Click on the image to enlarge]

Capture and Proposal Managment Home - Stage-Phase-Step: Shipley-Lohfeld process

Key Features of the Solution

Below I’ll highlight key features of the CorasWorks CnP v2.1 solution.

  • Support for custom Stage-Phase-Step Process -  flexible Stage-based process management and the ability to embed the solution with your customized way of working
  • Auto-provisioning and configuration of Proposal Working Sites
  • All Documents Work Management – special display allowing users to go to one place to see and act on all documents related to a proposal across multiple libraries
  • Color Review Workspaces – special workspaces for proposal color and gate reviews supporting review and commenting
  • Master Calendaring – central master calendar of events such as color reviews across all proposals in the system, editable and accessible from within each proposal working site
  • Pinpoint Search and Fetch – ability for users to search and fetch information from Proposal Asset Libraries while working within a proposal site
  • Writer Assignment Management – automation of the assignment, notification, and management of writer tasks
  • My Work – enable users to see, contribute and act on work related to them as individuals from across the system
  • Support for Role-Based Work Consoles – ability to create work consoles where users of a certain role, such as teaming partners, can go and work with information from across the system
  • Configurable reporting – off-the-shelf you have configurable reporting in Tabular Reports with one click to print, to Excel, PDF, and Word.  You also have configurable Pivot Charting.
  • Integration of third-party CRM Systems – ability to integrate the solution with the leading CRM systems  (Deltek GovWin, Salesforce, MS CRM) and just about any other external system (ERP, HR, Custom, SAAS app)

CnP v2.1: Flexibility to Accommodate and Innovate

If you are using any of the COTS legacy proposal management solutions in the market you are constrained by their proprietary, fragile, and custom coded design.  If you are using SharePoint that is heavily customized by IT or a proprietary system, while this may mean that it could be modified, the cost, risk, and time is so high that change is constrained.  If you use native SharePoint or Alfresco or file shares, you are probably working with tools that are feature constrained, relying on manual content-driven work, siloed document libraries, siloed proposal sites and an environment where assets like proposal asset libraries are siloed.

With CorasWorks CnP v2.1, you are in a different world.  The COTS solution is feature rich but is really your base solution.  As a solution on the CorasWorks Work Management platform, it is unusually flexible and unusually easy to change – so easy that it is normally business users that customize, enhance, and even extend the solution leveraging the market leading CorasWorks Configuration Wizards.  This flexibility enables organizations to get what they want today, change things on the fly to accommodate specific work needs, and to innovate as their needs change.

A new choice

Now, with CorasWorks CnP v2.1 you have a new choice.  If you have little in the way of formal CnP tools or are using native SharePoint, you don’t have to just make do.  Our affordable pricing model allows you to move up the value stack to a COTS solution on SharePoint with a rich feature set to optimize your work and stay competitive.  Or, if you are heavily invested in a legacy, costly system you can replace them or enhance them with just what you need often at less than it costs you to maintain them.

No matter where you come from, the key is that you are not switching to a locked-in COTS system.  CorasWorks CnP is open, flexible and will allow you to decide where you want to go from here.

For more information:

 

william

Getting to a Competitive Capture and Proposal Management system on SharePoint

We just published a case study about an implementation of our new Capture and Proposal Management v2.1 solution for a $30m revenue, 200 person, Federal Government Contractor who is graduating out of small business into the free and open market.  The driver is their need to get up to a full and open competitive level.  They wanted the next generation solution (vs. legacy proposal management solutions), they wanted it their way, they didn’t want to spend a lot for it, and, they wanted control over their future.

The case study gives you the general overview of the situation, the solution and the results.  It is a great story.  I recommend that you read it before reading this article.  Here, I’ll take a different perspective and drill into the details of the implementation that made it successful.

The reason that I am writing this article is that I believe that a Capture and Proposal Management solution is one of those types of solutions that require a strong dose of mind-melding of people.  It involves process at a high level and very detailed task activities.  You don’t just install the software.  You need a good implementation methodology and the right people to be really successful.  In addition, this article will point out the importance of the flexibility of CorasWorks software when it comes to this solution – it makes a big difference to the customers long term success.

As written in the case study this was a five week implementation.  That means that it happened over 5 weeks.  However, the budget included just 5 days of CorasWorks Professional Services.  And, we stuck to the budget.  This is impressive given that this was a soup to nuts implementation including a completely new SharePoint infrastructure and migration of 300 proposals from file shares and Alfresco into the SharePoint environment along with a very custom solution and a lot of empowerment training.

Getting it Right, Getting it Done

So, how did we all manage to get a comprehensive, very customized, rather large, fully integrated, Capture and Proposal Management system, up and running with trained, empowered business users from scratch with 5 days of our services?  Here are some of the elements that made it successful.

  • In our pre-sales, we showed them different “flavors” of our Capture and Proposal Management solution implementation enabling them to narrow down their approach in advance and be familiar with how it would look and feel and what could be customized.
  • Their IT people were very efficient to spin up the infrastructure in advance based upon our best practices (this was a new SharePoint environment) and then they got out of the way
  • The Business Users drove the solution implementation.  Thus, they knew what they wanted and were motivated to get it right and done quickly.
  • The Business Users came to the kick-off meeting armed with 3 core documents: 1) their modified Shipley 22 step “baseline” Stage-Phase-Step process, 2) a comprehensive information architecture for their system (basically top down all of the features/information to be captured and its logical structure), and 3) key dashboard reports with metrics they manage by.
  • The customer made their core business team available and they were able to commit to multiple weekly sessions to get this done.
  • The project had executive visibility from day one of pre-sales.
  • We stuck to our standard Walkthrough/Workout implementation approach.  Basically, we start by implementing our base solution.  Then, we conduct 1-2 hour sessions where we walk the customer through using the system.  Then, they take control and workout the solution following a prescribed process and we note desired changes.  Many of the changes are made real time.  Then, we work it out again.  This approach moves the custom solution forward very quickly and keeps the business users fully engaged and learning.
  • They were reasonable about where they had to get to because they knew that they were also being empowered to take control, customize the solution and move it forward on their own.
  • They began formal CorasWorks “essentials” training half way through the implementation and by the end they were making the changes and doing the work with us just advising them.
  • We set up a semi-automated migration onramp system and their business users did the rest.

Of the elements above, the most significant is that the core team of business users were directly involved and driving the implementation.  Often, we find that these users are “too busy” to be directly involved.  That is a key mistake.  You need to educate them in advance about the new possibilities with CorasWorks configurable solutions if you want them engaged and want to succeed like this customer.  If they understand what they can get and how the process works, then, they will not be too busy.  It helps to do multiple 1-2 hour sessions so that they can fit the work into their schedules.

End of the Beginning

Yes, the implementation is done.  However, it is really the end of the beginning.  They had what they wanted at the end of 5 weeks.  But, a week later we had our Engagement Review/Lessons Learned session and they had already enhanced and extended the solution quite a bit further.  They are rapidly perfecting and innovating on their own as they do “workouts” with other business teams and teaming partners.  (Yes, the business users are now conducting the workouts and making changes.)  This is really the key to long term success and the value of CorasWorks as a competitive platform for them – they are empowered to innovate.  As a growing and maturing business, over the next couple of years this one solution will go through many phases.  If they had gone with some fixed, legacy, proprietary solution or a native SharePoint approach that required expensive custom IT involvement – they would be stuck.

Instead, they are empowered to compete today and get better over time.

William

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

Visit CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management for product information.

Overview of CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management v2.1

Our newest version of the CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management solution for Federal Contractors is now available.  On April 10th, we did a webcast introducing the solution to the market.  For access to the recorded webcast, that includes about 30 minutes of demo time and the powerpoint deck used in the webcast – email info@corasworks.net.  In this article, I’ll provide an overview of the v2.1 release.

The Purpose

Simply put, the solution provides you with the means to efficiently and effectively manage Task Orders through their life cycle.  Below is a graphic showing the core stages of the life cycle supported by the solution.

image

Solution and Implementation Scenario Flexibility

The solution consists of 6 modules leveraging the CorasWorks v11 Work Management platform running on SharePoint 2010.  It is designed to be flexible to meet a number of scenarios such as:

  • Corporate IDIQ/GWAC centers with many IDIQs
  • Prime, multi-award IDIQs
  • Sub contractor IDIQ Task Order Management
  • Single Award Task Orders
  • Business Units with multiple IDIQs and depth of working on Proposals and Delivering the Work
  • IDIQs with extensive partner engagement or no partners
  • Small Business with their first IDIQ as a Prime contractor

Core Features

At its core the v2.1 solution continues to support the core IDIQ work management workload with the following features:

  • Manage Portfolio of IDIQ Vehicles
  • Capture Task Orders
  • Auto-Provisioning of IDIQ Vehicles and Task Order Working Sites
  • Bid/No Bid Decisions
  • Manage Partners, Partner Surveys and Engagement
  • Business Unit Surveys and Engagement
  • Proposal development and review
  • Shared Proposal Asset Libraries (such as Past Performance, Forms and Templates, Boilerplate, and Graphics)
  • Stage-Gate Management Process and Activities
  • Task/Work Request Management
  • Shared Calendaring
  • Real time Reporting/Drill Down
  • Platform support for Integration with external CRM, ERP and HR systems
  • Highly configurable actions and workflow
  • Leverage SharePoint data, security and administration.

New Features in v2.1

This version has been extensively upgraded.  Below I highlight three key enhancements.

IDIQ Management Hub

This new module provides a single place for users to go to see, contribute, and act on work across many IDIQ vehicles and Task Orders.  From one place you can post task orders to different vehicles, see Task Orders across vehicles and their stages and drill down into the working sites, see and respond to partner and business unit expressions of interest (surveys), get reporting across vehicles that aggregates the information or that is comparative.

Below is a screenshot of this module (click to enlarge).

image

Enhanced Partner Engagement Sites

In v2.1, each Partner has their own site where they do their work and engage with you.  From here they can view new Task Orders, submit their expressions of interest, and review previous EOI’s and your response.  In addition, in v2.1 we’ve added support for partners to submit “future opportunities” that you can then centrally manage.  These opportunities can be reviewed and moved into Watch Lists and eventually into the appropriate Task Order when it is released.

Below is a screenshot of the new Partner Site (click to enlarge).

image

Increased Flexibility with new configuration wizard: Features Designer

All of the modules of the solution have been enhanced to make them even more flexible so that you can configure the solution to meet very specific needs.  For instance, you may want to configure vehicles and their processes to be slightly different.  Or, you may want the Proposal Working sites to be different.  Using CorasWorks configuration wizards, power users are able to make changes on the fly without affecting the overall system.  A new configuration wizard added in v2.1 is the Features Designer.  This allows power users to very easily turn on and off features of a module with a click or re-arrange their navigation with drag and drop.

Below is a screenshot of the Features Designer wizard (click to enlarge) for an IDIQ Vehicle site.  Note that the Watchlist, Pipeline, and Vehicle Library are greyed out.  To enable the feature just click the light-bulb.  You can change the names and drag and drop items to rearrange the navigation.

image

With v2.1 – Comprehensive AND Flexible

If you are interested, watch the demo for the webcast mentioned above.  This will show you the comprehensive feature set of the solution out of the box.  However, it is the flexibility of this solution that really makes it work for customers.  In our implementations, we always start with our “base solution” and get the customer up and running quickly.  Yet, every customer at the end of the day is different.  It is typical for each Business Unit and often each Vehicle to need changes that allow users to optimize their work.  The unique configurability of the solution leveraging the CorasWorks wizards supports this.  Thus, with this solution you get the best blend of commercial off the shelf software that can be easily configured as if it were custom.

William

+++++

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

Visit CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management for product information.

Microsoft’s Acquisition of Yammer Tips the Workplace Into a New Era of User-Centric Productivity

Four hours ago the Wall Street Journal reported that Yammer agreed to sell itself to Microsoft for $1.2B.  It is a big deal (dollars) and it is a big deal (shift in technology and impact on the SharePoint community and all business information workers).  In this article I’ll give you my take on: a) why it is good business for Microsoft to do it,  b) why I believe it signals a significant change in the future of applications, the workplace, and end-user productivity, and, c) how we and other ISV’s will adapt and where it will take us.

First off, Yammer is a social networking company – many call it Facebook for the enterprise.  At the core of it is the Activity Stream.  People post updates, people follow people, and it all flows into their Activity Stream.  The stream becomes a single place to go for the user to see their social/collaborative activity.  Ostensibly, it is to be used for business purposes, yet, in reality it is at this time really a communications tool vs. a work tool.

On the surface, Microsoft bought Yammer for two good business reasons…

First, SharePoint was being disrupted at the low end of collaboration.  In 2003, SharePoint was the easy to understand, easy way to share content.  Over the releases it got a little better with collaboration.  But, since 2008, the outside vendors like Yammer started to disrupt SharePoint with an even easier way to share information.  Yammer, Jive, Box.net, Alfresco, etc. etc.  They started to eat market-share and mind-share at the base of SharePoint – those organizations that only use it for the low end work.  SharePoint/Office 2013 would have made the “social” feature set of SharePoint better, but, the independent social ISV’s were way ahead and unfettered by enterprise baggage.  Microsoft couldn’t afford to lag on this one.

Second, Yammer has a user based business model.  The SharePoint market is saturated.  Where will the next billion come from?  Office 365 is the big bet.  But, you need to own the disruptive engine to drive users to it.  Hence, Yammer.  $5/user/month – $60/year.  Just add this feature to the Office 365 package and you justify the price and get your next $1 or $2B in revenue.  And, since it is separate and hosted, you can get the $1-$2B without cannibalizing your on-premise enterprise business. (Note: You’ll see how this will work when I talk about what CorasWorks will do in this context.)

Okay, so what does this signal in terms of the future of technology and the user…

If you read the 100’s of articles to appear tomorrow you will read lots and lots about social this and social that.  As a technologist for enterprise business, this just isn’t that compelling.  Most social-social software is just about the conversation and following people and their conversations.  In its current incarnation, it doesn’t add much business value. Yet, it is super hot – you can sell a company with $30m in revenue for more than $1b.  But, it doesn’t really add much to the bottom line of enterprises, yet…

The significance is the impact on the business end-user experience over the next five years.  What you are witnessing is the tipping point to a new user-centric standard.  For 30 years, when we speak of a user interface we are talking about the interface to a single application – be it Word, Excel, Salesforce, Siebel, SAP, mainframe, any business app.  Now, take a visual look at Yammer.  What if that social activity stream was instead a business activity stream?  What if all of the work you do that you need to stay on top of flowed to you in one place and you could easily collaborate with others?  What if you could start to manage your work across applications from one place?  You, the user, would start to have control and life would be a lot easier than schlepping from app to app.  The user would have a new great experience.  Throw in real time communications technologies and you have the next generation user experience.

But, there is even more business value to be had.  I wrote about this user centric scenario in an article Engage the User with the Cim Activity Stream last year.  CorasWorks has an activity stream but it is a business activity stream vs. a social activity stream.  You follow work vs. following people. With ours all activity is around the work as part of our Work Management platform – programs, tasks, requests, knowledge content, policies, projects, opportunities, task orders, items in processes, etc.  So, we are a bit different.  The reason is that our core business is enabling organizations to build all of those business apps on SharePoint that add tangible business value without coding.  We simply saw the user experience of an activity stream, like the UI of Yammer, as a great way to bring all of those apps together and put work at the fingertips of the user.

So, the Microsoft purchase of Yammer signals a shift to user-centric activity stream experience today, which, over the next few years will extend to encompass more and more of users’ core business activity.  Thus, the real business user interface will move from many app UI’s to their activity stream.

 

Why only Microsoft should have moved on it?

Over the last year, a problem in this beautiful future started to occur – many ISV’s (independent software vendors) started adding activity streams.  If the purpose is a single user experience, then, how will it be good if every vendor had their own activity stream.  We had ours on SharePoint.  Newsgator has a social – social activity stream on SharePoint.  So, we federated ours into theirs. I wrote about the need to do this more than a year ago. We also began the process to federate into Yammer, Salesforce’s Chatter, Jive, Appian, and SharePoint in Office 2013, etc.  Believe me this is costly to support, but, a commitment to cross-federation was the only way to make it work for the users unless…

Viola, now Microsoft buys Yammer.  To us, this means that we can now federate to Microsoft Yammer and push business activity into that stream.  Will others ISV”s follow?  I believe so.  What you’ll start to see is the flow starting to go into this new UI.

Why Microsoft?  Because it is up to them to set the industry standard.  They are uniquely positioned to do so in mass as they have done many times before.  I think on this one, they can and will do it.  We the mass will accept them because there should only be one.  While we hate that it makes life easier in situations where you need a single standard.

 

Where CorasWorks stands in all this?

The base of SharePoint users is really just starting to move in mass up the stack from low end collaboration into work management apps – our sweet spot. We have always pushed the business value of an integrated workplace of inter-connected applications on SharePoint.  We’ve set the standard for configured apps vs. custom coded that accelerates the ability for customers to create the apps they need and drive tangible business value.  We’ve set the standard for cross app integration on SharePoint.    We added the business activity stream to drive that integration and end-user convenience further.

Over the last couple of years we worked to trumpet the move to this new user-centric approach to work.  We have a small trumpet compared to Microsoft.  I see Microsoft’s move accelerating the realization of organizations on how all of this comes together to serve the user which will drive more apps onto the platform to feed the experience.  We will do our part to federate and help drive the movement. My belief is that we are moving into a new era of a virtuous cycle that will simply make it easier and more productive for people to work better together.  It is a good day.

 

Stay tuned…

William

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

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

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

 

Getting to the New Model

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

 

App Consolidation during 2011

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

paho2 apps 2

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

 

Cost Impact of CorasWorks-based App Consolidation

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Overall Success of Service Delivery Model

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

My Comments

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

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

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

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

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

 

william

CorasWorks Customers Putting SharePoint to Work

I spent a great deal of time in January talking with customers.  We did a lot of show and tell, mostly our customers showing what they have done using CorasWorks on SharePoint.  They cover a very broad range of solutions.  A common desire was to learn what others are doing.  In this blog, I’ll go over the general classes of solutions that customers are implementing using CorasWorks to drive value on SharePoint. In following articles, I’ll drill down into specific customer solutions and the business value.

 

Ways that Customers are Putting SharePoint to Work

In this section I’ll give you a sense of the different ways that customers are leveraging CorasWorks to put SharePoint to work by looking at general classes of solutions.  This is a bit of a “state of the union” as it reflects where they are today.

 

Investing in Work on top of Content – A lot of time, money and resources still go into the basic SharePoint infrastructure to support file sharing and good looking, and largely passive, content environments like Intranets.  Our customers tend to drive value when they break out of the general content environment context, and, focus on specific work to be done, i.e., apps. The delta is just a mindset: is SharePoint an application for content or is it an application platform to get work done and drive your business.  Thus, with CorasWorks, often either a business group drives the requirements or an IT organization does a really nice job of demand management and on-ramping applications onto the platform.  In effect, what is happening is the consolidation of business applications onto the SharePoint platform which a) reduces costs and avoids costs, b) promotes reusability, and c) gives them the value of the app and the value of apps working together across a common work environment.  But note, most of our customers also have nice looking Intranets, they just don’t focus on it.

 

 

Self-Service Work Management – With CorasWorks, basic work management is simply the ability to see, contribute, and act with information from anywhere. It is about doing structured work where you can control what users see, what they can and can’t do, and automate the work that they need and want to do. The basics are forms, displays, actions, and workflow/notifications that structure and automate the work of users.  With CorasWorks and our wizards, creating these work management applets is a snap, basically, self-service apps done by business users.  The majority of our customers are leveraging this broadly across their environments.

 

Project Work – This is really a staple of SharePoint and CorasWorks.  It is an extension of work management.  Many customers start with our straight-forward, pretty much out of the box, project portfolio approach where they have a portfolio dashboard and multiple project sites.  With our pre-packaged Project Portfolio Management solution customers are moving up a notch to a more robust and out of the box feature rich solution for project work that is supported as a product.  There is now a rather new trend to leverage our collaboration features with project work for enterprise wide, project collaboration.  In many cases we are finding the new style of project collaboration, that is easy, interactive, and convenient, to be what people really want.  Further, at the high end customers are creating custom “executive information systems” that surface project work and work in other project systems (like Microsoft Project/Server), SharePoint apps and external systems.  With project work, our customers often implement multiple solutions up an down this continuum.  We just make it much easier, standardized, and less costly to get this done.

 

Processes and LOB Apps – This is also a staple of CorasWorks customers.  Using our standard app framework, customers spin up apps to get work done.  A common one is a Help Desk.  This often morphs into Request processes, ticketing systems, approval processes. With CorasWorks, it is easy for customers to create processes/apps that follow a stage-activity-gate structure.  The work flows through stages.  At each stage there is activity.  We structure and automate what the user does and can do at a point.  As required we fire off notifications, flow the work to different user consoles, and/or kick off workflows to support the process.  These solutions may be simple point solutions, or, they can be very broad processes such as a multi-stage, multi-year, innovation process.  Yet, they are easy to create, change, enhance, and maintain.

 

Purposeful Collaboration – You’d really think that by now, most SharePoint users would have effective collaborative environments.  In truth, for most, collaboration is still sharing files within a team site, assuming they know it exists, have access, and, the will to navigate. Or, with SharePoint 2010 it could be social networking or social activity. Leveraging the newish CorasWorks collaboration solutions, customers are putting in place very effective, purposeful collaboration systems.  These are systems with specific collaborative apps for knowledge, team work, project work, ideas, processes, news, policies etc.  Each collaborative app has a purpose and becomes a visible and interactive resource across the environment that is easy, convenient, and interactive.  Very slick, very collaborative, but, focused on the purpose.

 

Blending of Collaboration and Work Management – This is newish as we’ve rolled out the collaboration solutions.  However, many customers are getting the hang of solutions that blend collaboration and work management.  At the core is the idea of having structured work with a broad collaborative footprint.  For instance, you might have the whole organization able to enter Product Change Requests and collaborate.  They then get feed into a Product Team to slice and dice and put to work.  Or, the inverse, you may have a small group that manages HR/Corporate Policies through a review and approval process that then publishes them out to the organization and enables people to comment, ask questions and interact.  The collaborative and process activity is all feed into users business activity streams so that they can easily know what is going on with what matters and act on it.

 

Deep, Unique Applications – Particularly leveraging the “Advanced” toolset now in CorasWorks v11, customers are building very deep, custom applications.  They may use SharePoint data, a database, or a mash-up of enterprise data, applications, and services.  The value is the CorasWorks 80/20/20 value proposition.  80% is CorasWorks COTS software.  20% is the customer getting just the features that they want.  The other 20% is the ability of the customer to continuously improve and extend the app.  Since, all of this can now be done on the CorasWorks v11 platform, we take care of the dll’s and upgrading – no new compiled code.  The result is that customers are able to create unique applications that drive competitive differentiation in a fraction of the time, risk and cost.

 

Broad, Distributed Work Systems – Certain customers are realizing fantastic benefits with distributed work systems that incorporate multiple activities across different phases of a workstream and allow people to engage from wherever they work.  Examples are Idea & Innovation systems, Project Portfolio systems, and Capture/Bid/Manage/Deliver workstreams.  These systems often have many sites, different processes at different phases, and, are loosely connected.  Because of this they also allow for great innovation and extension. It would seem to be a natural for a SharePoint environment.  In fact, I find it hard to imagine how such systems would be designed and implemented on any other platform.  This provides a big competitive advantage.  Yet, at this time most organizations just can’t wrap their minds and hearts around this.  Those that have are really rocking.

 

Dashboards, Interactive Work, Virtual Slideshows and the Apps – It is two sides of the coin: the app and the UI that enables top down visibility and interactive work.  Powered by the “Advanced” toolset, customers are creating very slick, interactive ways of surfacing information and getting work done.  They are using SharePoint as the host, but, incorporating data from SharePoint and external data, applications, and systems.  The secret sauce is the CorasWorks v11 “Advanced” toolset that allows them to structure the “middle-ware” in a SharePoint context.  They can also create apps in SharePoint using CorasWorks for people to do their work that get surfaced.  Because of CorasWorks’ flexibility, customers are able to evolve these systems as the need arises and do so much more quickly, easily, and for less cost.

 

What we have done to help our customers succeed

Let me start by saying that in most cases, success is customer driven.  Our most successful customers have people that know what they want and use us to get there.  You folks are the subject matter experts and the heroes of your success.  With that said, here are a few things that we have done that customers tell us have helped them succeed…

 

CorasWorks v11 Base Improvements – we did a lot of base work for this release which first came out in October of 2010.  It is going into v11.2 in March 2012.  A couple basic items are improved installation and upgrade process, greater system integration, enhanced native SharePoint integration such as actions directly driving Windows Workflow Foundation, and 100’s of small features.  It is also great that the same product runs on SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010 which has made it easy for customers to migrate.

 

Adding “Advanced” Toolset to v11 – In v11 we added the Advanced toolset into the product.  This provides customers with the ability to greatly enhance and extend what they do.  It includes a componentized middle-ware framework, an XML transport layer, and provides a great deal of flexibility at all tiers, UI, business logic, and data.  This has allowed our customers to achieve just about whatever they want.

 

Our Pre-Packaged Solution “Frameworks” – Over the last couple of years we have built pre-packaged solutions for Collaboration, Process, LOB Apps, Idea Management and Project Management.  These solutions make it easier to get to the business solution customers want without having to deeply understand SharePoint, CorasWorks, or do design.  Usually, customers don’t use them right off the shelf.  They customize them and leverage them to do what they want.  With CorasWorks they are then empowered to maintain the solution and even enhance and extend it at will.

 

CorasWorks Product Learning Centers – Over the last year, we brought online product learning centers for the CorasWorks v11 Platform and for our packaged Solutions.  These provide articles, videos, and other information to help customers succeed.  It extends the existing resources in the CorasWorks Community such as Forums, Blogs, Online Help, Downloads.

 

Distance Learning – The recession put a crimp on travel budgets.  This made our classroom training less effective.  Since then we have been doing a lot more distance learning (virtual classes).  We have standard, monthly distance learning classes and we also create custom distance learning sessions to specifically get customers what they need, when they need it.

 

CorasWorks Professional Services and Partners – Over the last few years we have grown our Professional Services.  Our PS used to simply help customers create their own solutions.  Now, we implement our pre-packaged solutions to their specs.  We also do a lot of projects for custom solutions that we deliver to the customer and are accountable for.  At the same time we are working with a smaller group of partners and going deeper to empower them to deliver more advanced solutions.

 

As above, in future articles I will be drilling down into specific customer solutions.  Talk to you then…

 

william

Secret Sauce of Top 10 Custom Solutions of 2011 Powered by CorasWorks v11 Solution Platform

Welcome to 2012!  I want to start the year off properly by providing a solid plug for the CorasWorks v11 solution platform.  Last month, we released our Top 10 of 2011 list of Custom Solutions built with CorasWorks.  We got a lot of interest.  We also got some feedback saying basically, “You all need to talk more about these custom solutions and the power of the CorasWorks v11 platform?”.  It is true.  Last year we spent a a lot of time communicating about our productized solutions for Social Collaboration, Idea Management, Project Portfolio Management and how customers were leveraging them.  The reason is that they were new, they were hot, and, they have broad appeal. (I am guilty as charged).

So, to level the discussion in this article I’ll talk about the Top 10 Custom Solutions and the secret sauce of the CorasWorks v11 platform in delivering the business value.

First, at the bottom of the post is a summary chart of the Top 10 solutions.  The range of industries and business functions where the solutions are used is very broad.  In addition, most of these solutions are “mission critical” – very deep.  A couple quotes from customers about this.  “80% of our business relies on this solution ($10m business)”  “This app can’t go down, it would bring down our business (multi-billion dollar internet company).”

Second, congrats and hats off to the business owners – They deserve a great deal of the credit for the success of these solutions for two reasons a) it was the business user that understood what solution was necessary to drive the business value, and b) the flexibility of CorasWorks means that the business user has the ability and responsibility to tailor the solution to optimize the business result.  A couple quotes from customers related to the business value “It was a 6 month project. We got our payback for the CorasWorks software and services in one month of operation”  “We have gotten a 10,000% improvement in the efficiency of responding to customer requests” (BTW, I got the zero’s right).

Third, in effect for solutions in this category CorasWorks is delivering two levels of value.  One is the lower cost, time, risk of creating the solution and maintaining them.  Another is the operating business value the customer receives from cost avoidance, cost reductions, and revenue increases.  A third value that really started to be realized this year for our productized and custom solutions was the ability of our customers to avoid the cost of very expensive COTS solutions that they would have had to spend a lot to rip up and customize.  In effect, over the last couple of years, the cost to build a comparative “custom” solution leveraging CorasWorks v11 is often dramatically less (factor of 2 to 3) than the COTS option.  And, most customers would say that they are better because they really meet the precise business need, even as the needs change over time (cheers for flexibility).

Some key things about the building/delivery of these solutions:

  • They were all built with CorasWorks v11, running on either SharePoint 2007 or SharePoint 2010.

 

  • While the solutions are custom, they are not custom developed – meaning no custom compiled code. These incredibly powerful, broad and deep solutions, including database applications, where all built without having to install custom compiled code or for the most part ever crack Visual Studio.  This drives down the development costs, the risk, and, the maintainability of the solution over time.

 

  • It takes a community – each solution was built/delivered by CorasWorks Professional Services, CorasWorks Partners and/or customer IT.  In most cases the parties collaborated to deliver the solution.  Again, because we have the v11 platform, any of the folks can pick right up and maintain, enhance, or extend the solution.

 

  • Leveraging the Advanced framework of v11 – many of of the solutions leveraged the Advanced framework.  This toolset, incorporated into the platform in v11, enables the designer/builder to deliver very deep, custom solutions that functionally are all based upon a standardized, integrated, component framework.  It is really the secret sauce of the Top 10 and the reason that so many mission critical solutions got built with CorasWorks this past year.

 

  • In general, each solution came in within budget and time.  This is pretty tough since the expectation is that a CorasWorks solution will cost half of other options and be delivered much more quickly.  It is the way with CorasWorks because we are building with a configurable solution platform (not a development tool), with standard design patterns, largely repeatable solution frameworks, a standardized, reusable componentized framework, and, no need for custom developed code that introduces risk.  Thus, this allows the provider to accurately estimate what it will take to deliver the result.

Below is the table listing the Top 10 solutions.  You’ll note that there were actually 11.  This is because with CorasWorks you always get more than you expect Smile

Have a tremendous 2012!

william

 

Top 10 custom

Put a little Managed Work behind your Collaboration and Make Things Happen

In my post Top 5 Collaborative Apps to Liven Up SharePoint in 2012 I gave you some ideas to get people off to an engaged and lively collaborative start to the year.  A good dose of lively, self-managed, engaged collaboration is fantastic and it will grow on people.  And, if you prepare to drop a little Managed Work into the apps I mentioned you’ll really get a boost.

Here is how it works…

You set up your engaging collaborative community.  Let’s take the Workplace Concierge Community (one of the 5).  People are asking questions, answering them and helping each other to succeed. Let’s say you are watching the activity.  You find out that you are getting a lot of questions about the clarity of your HR or Sales Policies.  So, you look into it and realize that you aren’t doing a great job with how you are publishing that information.  With some CorasWorks Work Management magic you can screen the collaborative activity and then drive tasks to others to make improvements and track the progress.  You can then comment on the item when new and improved material is available.

For instance, below we show a collaborative community for an R&D Research Project.  It is a listing of various posts in this community.  Here the project people collaborate to get things done.

image

 

The next tab is Managed Work.  Behind the collaboration is the ability to look at the collaborative activity and drive things forward in a structured way.  Below we show a view of the posts in Managed Work display.  These are available for managers/moderators to drive forward using CorasWorks actions.  These automate work.  You can create a broad range of actions to meet your needs.  Below we are getting ready to create a task that will be tracked as part of the managed work for a particular item.

image

 

To the users that are participating, this back-end management may be invisible.  The users may just interact in the community and see collaborative activity in their Activity Streams as shown below.  They are focused on easy and convenient collaboration.

activity stream

 

However, to managers you now have great resources to work with.  Lets, take a look at the other 4 of the 5 collaborative apps I wrote about and see how a little work management behind the scenes can leverage the collaborative activity.

 

News Channels – you can set up a process for people to submit News that only they see.  You then approve it and it is public and the collaboration begins. 

 

SharePoint Users Helping SharePoint Users – As the users do their work, you now have the best source of information to drive formal support content, knowledge bases, and training.  So, you can start creating tasks and tracking them for individual articles.  The contributions by the community become the source for more formal output.  BTW, make sure to provide recognition to the contributor and collaborators.  A simply comment that you are using this for x does the trick.

 

What is Working? – This is vehicle to get ideas.  Thus, you would put a simple process behind it to evaluate the contributions as ideas and approve them and then task them out for implementation.  It is a great feeder for best practices.  Again, make sure to provide recognition.

 

Build-Our-Workplace Request Community – This is really a process at its heart.  People make requests and collaborate.  But, by design it is publicly known that Team ABC is screening these items, engaging as a collaborators, and, approving items and pushing them forward.  The Community will be looking and watching for action and results on their requests.

 

Wrap Up

So, just because you have lively collaborative communities doesn’t mean that you aren’t leveraging these resources to make things happen that are concrete and purposeful.  CorasWorks makes it easy to get both elements, engaging collaboration and structured work management, all wrapped up into one package.  

 

william

Top 5 Collaborative Apps to Liven Up Your SharePoint Environment in 2012

Over the last year I’ve worked with CorasWorks customers on lots of deep and broad collaborative systems leveraging the social business collaboration capabilities of CorasWorks Cim on SharePoint 2010.  Examples of some projects are broad idea and innovation management systems, process-intensive knowledge management systems, deep multi-phase R&D innovation processes, and complex enterprise best practices systems.  Its been an intense year.

During this holiday season I am transitioning to 2012 and lightening up a bit.  Here is my thought – start 2012 with some simple, lively, useful collaborative apps to get everyone quickly engaged within your SharePoint 2010 work environment, and then, we can turn back to the heavier stuff.

So, with that here are my Top 5 Lively Collaborative Apps for you to start with in 2012…

 

NOTE: The key for all of these is that all of the collaborative activity for communities that users watch will get feed into their CorasWorks Activity Stream wherever they work – so for 2012 you are starting off with ease and convenience for all of your users.  This will be welcome.

 

News Channels to Watch and Engage In

The News in most SharePoint environments is really far too passive and too managed. You see the News, which is controlled, for wherever you are working.  We can do better. Start off the year dropping in a few News Channel communities.  They can be departmental, enterprise, topical.  Think different channels for news.  The key is that leveraging the Cim Activity Stream Watch feature, the user can decide what to watch at their leisure and let the news flow to them.  Plus, let them vote and comment – liven it up in 2012 and give your users a choice.

 

Workplace Concierge Community

Put all of your helpful people at the service of each person.  Drop in a collaborative community for people to post questions to the group.  Typical categories are Where is?, Who is?, What are?, How can I?, Do we?  People ask questions and they get answered.  It should be open, lively, and rated.  The great part is that each time the question is correctly answered you’ve created useful knowledge.  You’ll really be rocking in a few months when people are referencing this new resource.

 

SharePoint Users Helping SharePoint Users Community

People are using SharePoint, right?  Instead of having the pros write formal support content let your community of users play a bigger role by collaborating.  Users can post tips, tricks, questions, links, ideas, needs, etc. etc.  Let it be raw; let them go.  And, let them vote, comment, and even do reviews of how useful it was.  Let the cream posts rise to the top.  Have a pro or two moderate it and lend a hand, but, you’ll find that your average user knows a lot better what they need then your pros.

 

What is Working? Communities, Challenges, or Contests

This is one of my real favorites.  In my work on Idea & Innovation Management, a core tenant is that people don’t know what other people don’t know.  So, if I’ve been doing something for 2 years, and you ask me for great new ideas, I don’t think of it.  And yet, that thing that is working may be a brilliant idea for the other 20 offices around the globe.  You need to encourage people to share.  Do this by bringing up a What is Working? community and/or launch What is Working? Challenges such as What is Working in Selling to ABC Industry or through XYZ channel.  Let the crowd contribute, vote, comment, and do evaluations where others note whether this idea didn’t work for them or did.  It is a great way to discover best practices.

 

Build-Our-Workplace Request Community

At its best SharePoint 2010 is a living, breathing, evolving work environment.  So, let folks request things.  But, don’t just have a hidden, black box request process.  Open it up so that all requests, through this channel, are open for comment, voting, enhancement, discussion.  The objective is to let the users know what is being considered and find ways of improving on ideas and pre-aligning on good ones and letting not so good ones die a natural death.  Of course, behind the community you will have a process to formally evaluate the requests, hopefully taking into account the community feedback, and move approved items forward with the system keeping all interested parties in the loop.

 

Wrap Up

Think about it.  As we get into the year, we will start getting back to the quarterly sales, the project management, and the ROI decisions.  But, by dropping in some of these collaborative apps we will get folks engaged at the start and can then channel their energy into the more routine and process/project oriented work.

 

william