Tag Archive for Social Business Processes

Enabling Enterprise-Wide Social Business Processes

With the launch of Cim v2.1 last month, I’ve been engaging with a very different set of business groups amongst our customers.  These are groups that have really never gotten into leveraging SharePoint – even though their organization has it deployed enterprise wide.  They are now looking to leverage Cim on SharePoint 2010 to scale out and up enterprise-wide business processes that have been operating in limited, cumbersome environments.  This scenario that we call enterprise-wide social business processes (EW-SBP) is a targeted scenario for Cim and leverages the entire CorasWorks value proposition.  In this article, I’ll provide the overview of this scenario.  In future blogs, I’ll drill into specific business processes.

 

The Situation

These enterprise customers have existing business processes that require contributions from a large groups of users.  You might say that they have a big, front-end funnel.  The organizations have already determined what their process is and that it works for the business. They’ve been doing it, but, it has been painful. As they exist today, they are too limited in visibility and touch, they are cumbersome and not scalable (usually built or managed using spreadsheets and/or legacy systems such as SAP and Siebel), and, they are expensive and a hassle to maintain and move forward.

As Cim v2.1 has gotten out there, these business groups are bringing us their processes.  Here is what they want:

- Broad User Scale – They want to scale the front-end of the process to be able to engage a very broad set of users – the whole enterprise, a division, or their business group.  They want this to occur with very little upfront or ongoing effort.  They want to be able to launch new initiatives with just a bit of effort and not having to reinvent a new process/system.

- Robust Process Management – They want their core process, the way they manage it now (but better and easier), to be part of the solution.  They want it to be rich, configurable, and flexible without requiring a computer science degree.

- Enterprise Integration – They want this front-end engagement/process to be able to connect to their external back-end systems (like their project management systems) to a) push approved items into these systems or b) expose the enterprise data within the system to assist the users of the process.  NOTE: Some of these business groups are now considering the option of also leveraging SharePoint to do this also.

 

Some Examples

In many cases, the processes that these business groups are looking for are already part of the CorasWorks stable.  Some examples of them are as follows.

New Project Initiation – they usually have multiple project management systems, off SharePoint.  What they want is the front-end where people can submit new project ideas, get visibility and collaboration, and then, put them through a review, evaluation, and approval process.  The approved one then get pushed into their PMO or into Project Portfolios in their enterprise project management system.  Their objective is to reduce project duplication and make sure that the projects that even get considered are thought out and vetted amongst a broad, visible audience.

Change Request Management – We are seeing two main “flavors” of this.  One is driven by product groups, the other by IT.  In sum, they want to open up the front end to a broad set of users to be able to easily submit and collaborate on change requests.  Then, they want to run them through a review and approval process.  The approved ones will get pushed into their external system or into project sites or team sites within SharePoint for implementation.  The value is a broader funnel that allows for better collaboration before the change requests move into consideration.

New Product Innovation – We are getting multiple variations for this scenario.   But at the core, the business owners want to engage the full enterprise to capture ideas for new products and markets.  They want to put them through a review and approval process, and then, push them to external systems or SharePoint sites for people to incorporate into their next product cycle.  With this process they are looking to drive revenue growth and competitive strength through a bigger funnel for innovative ideas, the ability to get more varied collaborative input, and the means to target the “thinking” of the organization towards specific challenges/opportunities.

Continuous Improvement Programs – At the enterprise or division level, organizations are looking to capture ideas, projects, plans to feed into a program they are using to manage their Continuous Improvement.  Usually, these are operations oriented groups.  They are looking for ideas for cutting costs, decreasing cycle time, and overall efficiencies.  They want broad participation (sometimes mandatory), and then, they review and approve the ideas, and move them into implementation.

 

The Cim Enterprise-Wide Social Business Process (EW-SBP) Solution

The basic design of our solution is the same across all of the four examples above.  It is a distributed process that lays on top of and cuts across the SharePoint environment and beyond.  Below is a screenshot depicting a generic process.

Generic EW-SBP

The process breaks down into three distinct sets of activities as follows:

Collaboration: Users will have access to one or more communities to contribute and collaborate with others on the items.  They will do this from wherever they work across SharePoint using the Cim Activity Stream.  The items are all collected in one or more “communities”.

Process: The process owners then go about reviewing, evaluating, and approving the items.  It may be a simple process with a few core decision makers.  Or, they may use collaborative reviews that pull in subject matter experts and other managers.  Further, they can configure multiple stage-gates, with specific activities within each stage that need to be completed before the item is promoted.  Here they will make the decision.  And, they will manage the overall portfolio leveraging various reporting features.

Execution: They then push approved items into downstream project sites, processes, programs, or team sites.  These downstream activities may be in external enterprise systems or may exist within the SharePoint environment.  For instance, CorasWorks provides our Project Portfolio Management solution that runs on SharePoint and is integrated with Cim to make this phase a natural next step.

The core selling points of the CorasWorks Cim v2.1 solution are:

- it runs natively on SharePoint and thus they can leverage this existing enterprise infrastructure

- the CorasWorks Cim solution is largely off the shelf in terms of the core things they want for their process

- Cim is easy to use and feature rich, providing contributor users and process users with a good experience

- Cim is easily adaptable and they can see how they can tweak it where they need it

- Cim is based upon the CorasWorks Solution Platform, which is a mature platform (now in v11) and gives them the flexibility to extend the solution in the places where they require some deep enterprise integration

- the price is very competitive and they are able to launch additional processes using the same framework

 

Summary

In sum, we are seeing Cim v2.1 running on SharePoint 2010 being adopted for enterprise-wide social business processes.  Effectively, these customers are leveraging our solution to scale their existing processes.  They are targeting broad numbers of users (5,000 to 50,000).  The target is usually enterprise-wide or at the division level.  They want the front-end collaboration, a clean, robust process to get to the decision on items, and, the flexibility to then use different means for execution (building, implementing) and or extend the solution as needed.

In future articles, I’ll drill down into specific processes and talk about specific features and benefits.

william

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

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

Situation & Desired Objective

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

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

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

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

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

Solution: Knowledge Pipeline Application

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

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

knowledge pipeline 700

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

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

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

Source

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

Knowledge Pool

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

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

Process

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

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

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

Customer Communities

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

william

Drive tangible results when Social Activity is “In-the-flow” of Business

In my last post about about Cim v2.0 Communities, I talked about how our native design enables social communities to be directly tied into business processes on SharePoint 2010.  The importance of putting social activity into the flow of business is not a novel thought – it has been talked about by the social software/Enterprise 2.0 gurus over the last four years.  In this article, I’ll give you references to their original writings on the topic, and then, I’ll discuss the CorasWorks approach that makes this happen for enterprise businesses.

I’d say the person who coined the idea of “in-the-flow” was Michael Indinopulos, VP of Services at SocialText.  They were one of the first social software companies and Michael is an avid does, thinker and blogger. He coined the term in his post on December 26, 2007 called “In-the-Flow and Above-the-Flow”.  In this article he makes the distinction about social tools being either activities that are within the routine flow of people doing their work (in-the-flow) vs. activity that is not part of their routine work (above-the-flow).  The point of his discussion is that it is hard to drive adoption of social tools that are above-the-flow.  However, if the tool is part of their day jobs, ie., what they get paid to do, then, social tools get high adoption.  Thus, strong adoption will occur where you implement social tools “in-the-flow”.

In 2009, Andrew McAfee published the seminal book on social software in the enterprise called Enterprise 2.0.  He is a Harvard/MIT professor/scientist widely known as a guru in social in the enterprise.  He is credited with coining the phrase Enterprise 2.0 in 2006.

In Enterprise 2.0, he does a great job of explaining various social software tools and the deeper mechanics that make them work.  He calls them ESSPs for Emergent Social Software Platforms. What I really like is the way that he distinguishes the mechanics between the different ESSPs.  He then goes on to talk about the core issue that with all social tools implemented in the enterprise – adoption and tangible business value are issues.  He lays out 6 core approaches.  In the section “Move ESSP’s into the Flow” (page 184), he specifically references Michael Indinopulos’s blog article referenced above.

He says “From what I’ve seen, ESSPs that are perceived as being purely above the flow have difficulty sustaining momentum and often wither over time.  For this reason champions of Enterprise 2.0 often work diligently to move ESSPs into the follow of their organization’s work.”

This line of thinking continues today.  In fact, the conviction is just getting stronger as the research and experience confirm the basic premise.  Just last month Michael wrote an article called “Companies aren’t Communities” (February 18, 2011) that again has at its core the need for in-the-flow approaches to social activity in the enterprise vs. above-the-flow communities.  A related post (February 28, 2011) was written by Andy Jankowski, another Enterprise 2.0 guru, called “How to Ensure Your Enterprise Social Effort Succeeds”.  He refers to Michael’s post and continues to drive the theme of the importance of being in-the-flow of business.  He goes one step further and lays out four core questions to ask as you implement social software.  At their core is the realization that the business problem and the business processes that surround that problem should be addressed first, then, you apply the social tools as part of the solution. 

CorasWorks has been tracking Enterprise 2.0 since 2006.  We decided to take a different tack then the pure-play social vendors.  Our legacy has been about delivering tangible business value with business processes and business applications designed and deployed on top of SharePoint (starting in 2003). Thus, we come from business value/process first within a distributed, virtual collaborative environment.  With CorasWorks Cim on SharePoint 2010, over the last year we have enhanced and extended our “toolset” with the solutions and capabilities that natively open up business processes to incorporate social activities. 

Accordingly, just about every Cim solution is designed to natively be “in-the-flow” of business.  We target solutions that are “just right”, with pre-integration of social collaboration and business process.  Take Cim for Idea & Innovation Management.  We focus on rich ideation and collaboration tied directly into a flexible, very robust stage-gate business process.  The process is what transforms the idea into tangible business value.  However, the richness and breadth of participation of the social activity that drives our ideation provides huge leverage and greater effectiveness to the front-end of the innovation process.  We then enhance the downstream process itself with social collaboration activities that make it more effective and efficient. 

With Cim v2.0, we have gone even further and added a new solution called “Cim for Social Business Processes”. It natively integrates social collaboration with stage-gate business processes in a design that allows customers to flexibly apply it to many business problems.  Our approach is to provide the just right solution for the business need.  We are not too social, nor, are we too BPM (business process management).

Today the distinction may be a bit “cloudy” (sign of the hype cycle).  But, the experience of many over the years has shown us that within pragmatic enterprise businesses the middle ground is where the real value lies – over the next year it will become much clearer.

william

How Cim v2.0 Communities Drive Enhanced Effectiveness of Social Collaboration on SharePoint 2010

A great number of organizations are in the midst of their migration to SharePoint 2010.  This migration carries with it a new set of expectations for the platform.  So, what are the key areas for new value?  A common one cited is potential network effect of social collaboration with your internal workforce.  In this article, I will drill down into Cim v2.0 Communities and how they enable a new level of organizational effectiveness and directly drive tangible business value through social collaboration.  

So, what is it that customers want from social collaboration that enhances the value derived from their SharePoint 2010 workplaces?  Here is my list of common wants:

- a richer set of interactive collaborative features

- greater visibility across the workplace and less navigation

- easier and more convenient to use

- reusability across varying scenarios

- drives improved efficiency AND effectiveness of purposeful activities

- results in tangible improvements in business value

Within Cim, social collaboration is driven through our Communities.  Cim includes a Community module, one of nine in the product. This module is at the heart of the overall social collaboration experience.  As you will see below, Cim Communities are not necessarily destination sites (although they can be and they may be part of one) as we have historically considered a community to be.  Rather, Cim Communities become core features of your SharePoint environment providing a robust Community experience and driving social collaboration.  This distinction makes Cim Communities able to be much more targeted at specific purposes that drive tangible activity and business results.

There are three core aspects of Cim Communities that work together to produce the above result – they are:

- Rich, interactive, social collaboration feature set

- Usage Flexibility

- Designed to Support Direct Alignment to Business Processes

 

Rich, interactive, social collaboration feature set

Because we designed our communities as drivers for business processes, they come with a very rich feature set.  I’ll list the top ones in three sections below.

First, the general features of Cim v2.0 Communities are (NOTE: for more technical people):

- Each is technically a native SharePoint site – thus, data, functionality, security and administration are in native SharePoint

- The user experience is delivered via a distributable Snaplet that can be snapped onto any web part page across your SharePoint environment.  The Snaplet is self-contained – one very robust web part.  The result is that you don’t have to navigate to the community to participate.

- It is a multi-content experience (technically a mash-up) – it is not data typed into separate web parts like those within a team site – the experience and content revolves around each item within a given community

- Customizable contributor web 2.0-style forms, with custom fields that can be set for public or private

- Each Community can be “fit to purpose” with the features and metadata for the purpose, including styling using our CSS-framework

- Communities support configurable Groups to slice the contributions and Managed Tags to further slice contributions – used by users for access and back-end processes

- Users can subscribe to the entire Community, a Group, a Managed Tag, an Author, or individual articles – they will then receive a feed of the relevant activity

- Users can perform searches within one community or across a portfolio of communities distributed across an environment

Now, to some specific collaborative features. Below we show a detail view of a posting to one of our communities whose purpose is to gather Product Ideas that are then put through a downstream stage gate process for approval.

recycled values

 

Here are some of the key features of this display:

- Custom Fields – you can expose custom fields used for management and downstream processes.  Above we expose Status, Group, and Pulse.

- Feedback – users can comment and do star rating (1-5) which translates to Star Power calculation used in supporting Top 10 Listings and Reports

- Documents – the author and community users can upload documents and add notes

- Peer Reviews – each community can have a peer review form tailored to its purpose.  The form is customizable.  You can have choice fields that are used in weighted scoring, and also, absolute fields for numeric and dates (for surveys), or text fields.

- Pulse Auto-Promotion – the administrator can set Pulse categories (such as Bubbling above, Hot, Cold, etc.) and thresholds based upon activity and data to auto-magically promote items to a different Pulse.  It can also trigger notifications and review gate changes.

- Managed Tags – each contribution can be tagged by the author using Managed Tags set by the administrator – these make it easy for users to access related items and subscribe to feeds

- Social tagging – each contribution can be tagged into SharePoint 2010 My Sites which then add it to the social network

 

Additional back-end/downstream features:

- You can create customized emails triggered by activity

- You can trigger notifications based upon changes (like Pulse changes) or time

- You can enable Content Approval to require approval before publishing or to be used in a one to many scenario such as when you use a Community to submit personal requests

- It supports a complete private collaborative display for downstream managers to comment, do separate Management Reviews (with different forms from Peer Reviews), and vote on items in a private environment

- It supports a downstream stage gate process with extensive configurable activities to drive Community contributions into and through a process

 

Usage Flexibility

The above feature set along with other modules of Cim v2.0 drive some typical and some unique usage scenarios.  Let’s start with the typical.  You can create Communities of Purpose.  Most other vendors target their communities for a scenario where you are deploying a site (like a team site) or a portal with features including a core community-like experience.  In our case, you’d create a portal with a Community at the core surrounded by other Cim features and SharePoint features.  These communities tend to be standing and somewhat passive sites.  

A new, more untypical approach with Cim Communities is to think of them as activity driving tools vs. passive sites.  We have found communities to be extremely effective as tools for event-driven activities such as in our Idea and Innovation management scenarios.  In this scenario, you would bring up a Community for a specific campaign, such as gathering product ideas for a business line.  It would be “open” for say 30 days.  Then, it is closed and the results are worked.  This has shown to driven great participation.

A key part of Cim Communities is that they are not Site dependent.  Thus, for instance, you can have many communities as part of a site.  Imagine you are building out the Product Management portal.   The users would work right in the portal with the full feature set of every community at their fingertips. Some communities could be:

- the general Product Management dept collaborative community

- a campaign for a new product line as above

- a standing community for Technical Challenges where needs are posted and resolved

- a community for Process Improvements with a back-end process to vett and approve them for implementation

- a customer stories community to capture stories from the field and expose them to collaborative feedback

- a Help desk, request community of the organization to capture requests (that is on every department portal) and managed by engineers using content approval

Following, this model you could use a Cim Community to augment an existing Extranet or Internet-facing site.  An example would be a community to capture online customer stories to feed into a marketing process.

You can also access a Cim Community from anywhere within SharePoint.  Because of the Snaplet architecture, the same community experience can be be snapped in the Product Management portal as above, and also, the Marketing department, and, the Enterprise portal.  A team may want the convenience of having this Community in their team site, or, the VP, Products may want it in their My Site.  This ability to distribute the “community experience” via a Snaplet enhances visibility, breadth of participation, and level of engagement. Below we show the Snaplet of the Product Ideas community in a My Site.  it is showing the article listing page of the community.  They can do all their work from within their My Site.

my site - product ideas

 

Designed to Support Direct Alignment to Business Processes

Within Cim, the Community is one of many modules.  Its role is to be the front-end for social collaboration.  It is common amongst social tools vendors to talk about how social capabilities and tools indirectly drive business value.  A common refrain is that a Community of Purpose say for an Engineering team adds business value by allowing engineers to share information and develop and improve better processes and techniques.  We definitely agree that this can add business value.  However, typically this Community of Purpose is not directly tied into a flow of business activity or a process which means that it may not really add tangible business value.

With Cim Communities, we have designed them so that they can be tied directly into back-end business processes. Let’s take the above Community of Purpose for Engineering.  Now, lets add a Cim Community to that site.  Its purpose is to capture the ideas for Process Improvements (new, changes, kill, etc.).  It is tied to a formal Process Improvement process. The engineers can share challenges and ideas and provide feedback and additional within the community.  It is a feature of that site.

Behind the scenes (the Management side of a Community) is a structured stage gate process to review and decide on whether to implement a given idea.  The Process Change Management team team has a private collaborative interface where they can comment, do formal reviews, and vote on each contribution.  It also is a Snaplet and may be accessed from any site across SharePoint.  Activity here updates activity in the Community in the site.  Below we show a sample of this Management Activity display. 

mgmtactivity - crop

This back end process is supported by other Cim features to manage the stage gate process, the portfolio, activity management such as delegating tasks, the portfolio, reporting etc.  Now, the Cim Community is directly tied into a business process that drives business value.

The result of this integration of a social community and a business process is that there is a more direct and tangible relationship to business value.  This also tends to drive engagement and participation since people know that this Community drives a formal process (what we call a Social Business Process).

Now, not every community should be tied directly to processes.  In a typical organization, perhaps 20-30%.  However, you will find that many Communities of Purpose come up with items that could and probably should then flow into a downstream business activity.  With Cim Communities, you can tap into these communities as a source to drive downstream processes.  

Summary

Cim and Cim Communities provide the rich, social collaboration experience that you expect with social software.  However, we have gone further to insure that you can take it the next step and very purposely leverage the powerful network effect of social collaboration to drive business value.  The fact that you can use Cim Communities with existing sites where and when you need it makes it a great way to incrementally add value to your organization.

william

Ease, Power and Value of Cim Stage Gate Forms

In my article, moments ago I wrote about Social Collaboration for Managers.  Let’s stay in the process management discussion and cover another important feature for managers that are working items through their Stage Gate process.  The feature is Forms.  Cim has some extra details that really bring out the power of forms in a Stage Gate process and make it unusually easy to tailor the forms thus enabling you to continually improve your process.

So, a form is just a form – right?  Not really.  Let’s put it in context.  Usually, we think of a form as either a New, or Edit, or a View form.  They do one of these.  In fact, in SharePoint they have different names.  In addition, typically we think of a form as a single all in one item.  Thus, if you are entering a record for an item with 20 fields, then, the form will have 20 fields.  We also think of a form as working on a single type of item – particularly in a SharePoint context where end-user activity is typically data typed.

However, in a Cim Stage Gate business process, the activity of people changes at each Stage.  This is the design.  In addition, at each Stage, you may have different people or groups of people acting in the roles for that Stage.  They may act on different types of data that are related.  Further, you may want certain individuals to have special rights to perform unique actions at that Stage.  The upshot is that the activities within Stages are different.  So, we figure that the forms should be able to be different also.

Below we show a typical Cim form.  At first glance it looks like a normal form.  The form has 11 fields.  True.  But, actually it is one form working on an item that has 40+ fields.  This particular form is for Moderator Notes used at the initial Screening stage.  Note that the form has read only fields and edit fields.  Thus, with this form the user can only do 3 things.  They can attach documents, make some notes, or check off the assessments required.  But, they can see other data to put their work in context.  You can also specify what group of people you want to be able to use this form vs. another form.  Yes, in one Stage Gate display you actually can have multiple, role-based forms.

stage gate forms

Below, we show another form to Task a Supporting Team.  This one is available at the Review stage.  It is used to assign tasks to people.  But, it is a rather robust little “form”.  First, it doesn’t just assign the task, it actually goes out and creates a new task in a Team Site for a team located somewhere across a SharePoint environment.  it doesn’t just add the fields you enter on the form, but, it pushed forward say 5-10 other fields from the item that you are working on.  This way the assignor only fills out a few fields, but, the assigned team/user has everything that they need at their fingertips. 

Well almost.  This new task is related back to the item that you are working on so that the person working the task can access additional information such as related documentation, comments, and interact with others “upstream”.  This remotely assigned task is trackable as part of the business process.  The form can also kick off chained actions such as notifying people, logging items or updating other related information.

Now, that is a lot of work for a little form.

taskteam

The Value is in the Ease of Configuration

Okay, so maybe I have you thinking that our Cim forms are quite useful.  But, that is really just the beginning.  The key to business value is that we make it very easy for a non-technical person to create their own “forms”.  This is really where the value comes from.  Your process is different from other business teams and organizations.  Your process changes; you get better, smarter, leaner, and even smarter.  The value is that Cim can very easily adapt to deliver the continuous improvement in your process.

How? Cim leverages the underlying CorasWorks v11 Solution Platform to make this happen.  You use a nifty tool called the CorasWorks Actions Wizard to create or modify your forms.  You have many options to choose from, all by clicking, and then you can snap your new form into your business process.  Bottom line is that it might take 2-3 minutes to create a form and snap it in and try it out.  And, you can even change the color in that time.  The Action Wizard is designed for truely non-technical users, what some like to call the new Citizen Developer.

Remember the Stage Gate

Before ending, let me restate that Cim usually is implemented in a Stage Gate process.  Each stage is different, and, different people will do different things at each stage.  The forms are a key aspect of laying out the work stream through the stage gates.  In future articles, I’ll drill down further into the other types of actions provides by Cim that drive activity in your process such as Human Actions, Task Automation, Workflow, Email Notifications, System Notifications, Chained Actions, Timer Actions and more.  The key for all of these in Cim is that they are easily tailored, by non-technical people using wizards, to meet the changing needs of Your process.  The ability for the software to be easily adapted is a core value proposition for continuous innovation and improvement.

Cim forms, at your service…

william

Social Collaboration for Managers (they are people too)

Cim v2.0 has a lot of new social collaboration features such as Peer Reviews, Scoring, Auto-Promotion, Virtual Workspaces, My Site Snaplets, My Site Bookmarking/Tagging to Social Networks.  Most of these are oriented towards the general community (“the crowd”) and intended to drive broad visibility and participation.  But, what about the managers that have to wallow away actually reviewing, evaluating, and deciding on all of these great ideas, requests, proposals, projects, etc.  Well Cim v2.0 puts some social sizzle in their hands also…

In previous articles, I’ve talked about how Cim blends the two sides of the same coin – Social Collaboration and Business Process.  Generally, we talk about the general community being the spot for social collaboration, whereas, the Stage Gate process is for the managers, reviewers, decision makers.

In Cim v2.0, we introduced the Management Activity Panel.  Now, the managers have their own way to get social amongst their smaller group of people.  Below we show this new feature.

mgmtactivity 

On the left is a listing of the various items that they have to review.  It is like a speed review listing.  It uses a nice, fast and efficient incremental search. Note that they can also quickly see which items they have already reviewed and voted on vs. those that are open.

On the right, is where they do their social collaboration.  This is their private space.  Here they can see the submission description and details in one click.  They can make comments that are private to their group, ie., not shown to the general community.  They can do reviews.  Their reviews can be different from the peer reviews in the general community.  They can have their own review questions, choices, subjective, and absolute and the reviews can be scored with weightings of questions.  Lastly, they can Vote.  Note that their votes are shown to all of the other members of their group.  (Unlike in the community, where the Ratings are averaged and not shown by individual).  And, they can change their votes at any time (but they only get one).

Thus, in Cim v2.0, managers, reviewers, process owners, now have their own private, space to get social.  It is fast, efficient, robust, and compact.  This drives an effective conversation as they deliberate on items, and, it does it efficiently.

Simply, a better way to work.  Enjoy…

william

Crowd and Management Social Eddies in Cim 2.0

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

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

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

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

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

The Crowd Social Eddie

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

CrowdEddie

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

PeerReview

 

Management Social Eddie

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

MgmtActivity

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

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

mgmtreview

 

Summary of Different Sides of the Coin

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

william

Cim for Process Improvements: It’s Official, It’s the BRI in Cim v2.0

Cim v2.0 is coming up next month.  We have Base Reference Implementations (BRI’s) that are part of the shipped product.  These are standardized, off-the-shelf solutions that are initially implemented to get customers up and running quickly.  They are then customized to meet the customers different application scenarios.  Thus, one BRI serves as the base for many applications within that solution type.

In Cim v2.0, we are adding the Social Business Processes solution type – what we call Cim Process.  We have a number of different applications that we’ve built running up to the launch for beta including Project Initiation, Customer Stories, Process Improvements, Technical Solution Challenges, Requirements Gathering, Product Change Requests, Strategic Planning, and Enterprise Best Practices.  We’ve done bake-offs/surveys/debates to decide which should be the BRI in the product.  The official decision is Process Improvements.

The somewhat obvious reason is that a Process Improvement app logically relates to a solution type that is about social business processes.  It makes sense to use it to get ideas, vet them and decide what business processes you want to create, change, etc.  However, an even more powerful reason was that very few of our customers actually had any structured way of managing the process of improving processes.  In addition, those that did only had methods that they could use to big, new, deep processes – this left a huge gap for improvements.  As we showed them Process Improvements, this became clear, and, most quickly recognized the gap and wanted to address it.

Below is a screen shot of the home page of the winner in all of its Blue and Red glory.

PI Home - red

 

Let’s talk a bit about this solution that will now be the BRI…

It is a powerful, yet simple solution.  The nuance of process change is that not all change means creating new processes.  Accordingly, within the application we provide for tagging your ideas for process improvements as New, Kill, More, Less or Change.  Also the biggest process change is not necessarily the one that has the most important result.  So, we let users tag their areas of impact.

It also helps that this solution amplifies the voice of the crowd.  There is no question that many organizations have too much process or the wrong process that hinder results.  So, finding out the reality, through visible social collaboration is a big advantage.  Then, we have the crowd to vet, collaborate, comment, and do peer reviews of suggested improvements.  

In addition, the app has a clean 4, stage-gate process to then put the suggestions through to make decisions on implementing the changes.  Below is our new style Management Activity display where process managers can privately review, vote, and comment on each recommended improvement.  Effectively, they have their own private “social eddie” in which to efficiently vet each suggestion – in both a subjective and empirical way.

mgmt activity

So, you put the crowd “social eddie” for capturing and collaborating with the management “social eddie” for getting the investment decisions made and you have an effective social business process app for driving change in processes. 

As the BRI for Social Business Processes it effectively comes in the box of Cim v2.0, so, this is one app that you can cross off your wish list.

william

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

william

Cim Process for Application Change Requests

The first Cim Social Business Process app I wrote about was Product Ideas.  That article was also a primer for the new line of process apps based upon Cim.  It is a bridge between classic idea and innovation management scenarios and our more standard business process apps.  Let’s take a half-step forward and look at a different social business process – Application Change Requests. 

Application Change Requests Overview

This is a common process for an IT Department to manage their changes to software applications.  It is also a core process in a Product Management department for companies such as CorasWorks that publish software or use software in their solutions and systems.  Many organizations lack a formalized process supported by a system. They may just use emails, meetings and/or excel spreadsheets.  Often, how prioritization decisions are made is at best a secret and at worst unknown.  In addition, most lack a social element that can be used to rate/prioritize (either end-users or people involved in decision making) and/or enhance CRs with comments and information.  Further, they often lack the feedback loops to keep contributors and their “customers” informed.

Process Map

Keeping to our standard of consistency of our Process apps, below is the process map for Application Change Requests (green dots are social, blue are process management).  Note that it is very similar to the one used with Product Ideas.  The names and purpose at each step are a bit different, including, the stage-gates of the CR process.

  Process Map - Application Change Request 

The Process in Practice – CorasWorks Product Management CRs

This is a process I know well.  We use this app internally.  It is used by our Product Management organization to track all change requests to products.  The CRs may be bugs, new features, ideas, designs, documentation, etc.  We have a Change Control Board that reviews the CR’s.   

Below we show a screenshot of a recent Change Request for Cim.  Note a few changes in what information we capture and display that are different from the Product Ideas screenshots. 

- We show a CR number so that it can be referenced to external customers and internally. 

- We log the customer that came up with the CR. 

- We show the Status and a visual view of the workflow and where it stands. 

- When it gets into a product release we reference that.

- We also show the request type.

CR-ACR

 

When CR’s come in they are screened in the first week. Then our Change Control Board reviews them.  They may move them forward right away, try and get more information, prioritize them, and/or look at the level of effort and impact.  When approved for development they are assigned into a product release and tracked in our project system. 

 

Why it Works for Us

Here are the core reasons why this Social Business Process works for us.

- It is easy for people to contribute.  This is really important or else email chaos and politics rule.

- The feedback information is at the fingertips of our customer facing people.

- Our process of prioritization is highly visible.

- Because of the first three, our employees participate at a higher level.

- At the end of the day, we know what we did and did not do (real key) and why we did it.

- The front end process ties into our back end development system which is also in SharePoint.

- It serves our core purposes without overburdening the process with details.

 

william