Tag Archive for Social Business Software

September 2011 releases for Cim Pros

We’ve just released a small wave of items that are able to be leveraged by Cim Pros using CorasWorks Cim on SharePoint 2010.  This wave consists of the following: 1) the v2.1.1 Hotfix release of Cim, 2) a new Community module flavor called “Quick Facts”, and 3) the New Project Initiation application.

These three items are all released to the Cim Pro community of the Cim Learning Center.  They are only available to Cim Pros that have access to the Cim Learning Center and are using these items in licensed environments of CorasWorks Cim.  Here are details for each.


Cim v2.1.1 Hotfix

This is a pure hotfix release containing fixes to issues in v2.1.  The majority of the issues are somewhat cosmetic UI issues.  They are documented in the release notes.  The release consists of updates to 11 of the 14 Cim modules.  It does not require the installation of any new DLL’s.  In addition, this release adds some new support for Cim Snaplets.  You’ll start to see the advantage of this over the next few months as we release some cool new Snaplets, particularly around the Activity Stream.


Quick Facts “Flavor” of Community Module

Technically, this is our first formal release of a separate “flavor” of a Cim v2.1 module.  A flavor is simply a customized version of a module that is enhanced with new features, styling, or look and feel. In general, flavors lend themselves to be used for certain scenarios.  Accordingly, you now have a fourth flavor of Community (this one in addition to the communities for Collaboration, Process, and Innovation).

The Quick Facts flavor of the Community Module allows you to easily expose fields of information from the Articles list of the Community in the web 2.0 listing and detail displays of the community.  It adds a box, the Quick Facts box, to do the job.  The release documents how to modify the Quick Facts box and some supporting features such as Pinpoint Search.

PS-We use this new flavor in the New Project Initiation application.


New Project Initiation application

The New Project Initiation (“NPI”) application is proving to be quite popular with customers.  We’ve gone ahead and psuedo-productized this for our Cim Pros.  The application gives you a comprehensive front-end process for managing the onramp of new projects.  For the business value of NPI see my post Driving Business Value with the New Project Initiation social business process  This release is designed for enterprise-wide implementations, but, it may also be implemented at more local levels (say for just IT Project Onramp).

The release contains three customized Cim modules (Portal, Community, and Management Hub).  These are complemented by other out-of-the-box Cim modules to deliver the complete solution.  The release contains an Implementation Guide that provides an overview of the application scenario, the deltas of the modules from the OOTB modules, the implementation tasks, customization options, and, appendixes covering technical items and extended deployment scenarios.

BTW, for those of you with both Cim and PPM, this application is a no-brainer bolt on to the front end of PPM.  The documentation covers the core integration scenarios for pushing approved projects into PPM.




Use Challenges to Drive Results with Enterprise Innovation

There are a lot of organizations that are new to Idea & Innovation Management solutions such as CorasWorks Cim for SharePoint 2010.  One of the most significant best practices we emphasize for those new to innovation is the use of event-based Challenges to drive innovation vs. general idea communities.  In this article, I’ll drill down into Challenges as a key ingredient in the standard enterprise recipe for innovation.


Specific Challenges vs. General Idea Management

First off most organizations use both approaches, general idea management and specific challenges. A mix is the best recipe. Let’s look at each.

Most organizations initially come to the idea and innovation game with the thought of having a general idea community to capture ideas and sort through them and find the great ones. It is typically implemented as an open, ongoing community with a team or teams for evaluation.  What they are looking for is breakthrough ideas?  This does work.  People will randomly come up with novel ideas and you are providing a channel and a mechanism to work them when they pop up.

A Challenge-based approach to drive innovation is different.  A Challenge is a targeted, time-limited, request to your community for ideas that address a specific objective.  With this approach, we first decide what business objective we are after.  And, ideally, upfront we allocate resources to invest in ideas we approve.  We then set up the challenge community (like questions asked, information to be submitted) and evaluation process (how, who, when, etc.) in a way that specifically relates to the challenge.  Then, we launch the Challenge, gather the ideas, collaborate, review, evaluate, make decisions, invest, and drive results.


Specific Benefits of a Challenge Approach

A Challenge approach delivers specific benefits as follows:

It Focuses Management on Defining the Challenge – Management must get clear on the challenge and how to present it to the organization.  This insures that the challenge is a real one.

It Focuses Your Innovators and Collaborators Thoughts on the Challenge – Imagine saying to your employees “When you get around to it, submit ideas to make us better” vs. saying “You have 2 weeks to submit your idea for how we can grow the SMB market by 50% in 2012. We have $2m to invest.”  It is simply easier for most people to focus their thinking on something specific.  And, you therefore get specific ideas that are relevant to the challenge.

You Have the Resources to Act – If you get general ideas, they can come from anywhere.  Thus, you can’t know in advance if you have the will and resources to act.  But with a challenge you know what you are asking for.  Thus, you have the will.  You also can align the resources in advance to insure that you can and will act. You are telling your community that you intend to drive change that drives results.

You Uncover Options to Narrow Challenges – We typically address challenges and opportunities with a small group of people.  When you take a narrowed challenge to your organization you will almost always be surprised by three things: a) how many options you really have, b) how much information and experience you have already, and c) who are the people that have something to contribute.

You Drive A Result – With a Challenge, you are taping into the broad potential of your organization and channeling their thought and experience towards your objective.  With the breadth of ideas and the resources to back them up, you have your best shot at innovating around that targeted business objective.


CorasWorks Cim for Challenge Management

I’ll touch on five key features of Cim that make it particularly effective for managing challenges as part of a SharePoint 2010 work environment.

Separate, Customized Challenge Communities – With Cim, each challenge is a discrete entity.  You can customize the contribute form, the questions, the experience and even look and feel, the categorization within each challenge, the user options, the visibility, etc.  Further, the data is separated as with any Cim community it is technically a separate SharePoint site.

Multiple Challenges into Central Process – In a Challenge Management initiative you will have many challenges.  They are easy to set up. They can all feed into a central management process, your Challenge Management hub, where they are evaluated and processed.

Separate Challenge Workstreams – At the same time, you can also have challenges where the front-end community and the evaluation process are part of a separately managed workstream.  This provides you with the ability to have separate workstreams for say different types of challenges (Corporate vs. Technical vs. Market Development) or challenges driven by different business groups.

A Single, Easy and Convenient User Experience – With Cim, users have a single, consistent, easy and convenient user experience across multiple challenges, separate challenge workstreams, mixed with general innovation communities, and, with their other collaborative communities.  When you launch a Challenge it just lights up at the fingertips of the user in their Cim Business Activity Stream. Thus, they can see new challenges, contribute and collaborate from wherever they normally work vs. having to go somewhere.  In addition, all of the collaboration activity and process activity flows to them across all of the challenges and other communities. This drives visibility, engagement, and collaboration.

Drive Downstream Results – With Cim, after you have evaluated and approved the ideas in the Challenge you can push them into downstream activities to make them come alive.  You can push them into Team sites for teams to implement.  You can push them into a PMO to kick off and drive projects.  You can push them into Program sites to implement an idea as part of their program.  You can even push them into external systems, such as separate Project Management systems.


Wrap Up

In sum, challenges are designed to let you tap into the broad potential of your people across the organization to address targeted business objectives. They are a key ingredient of the standard enterprise recipe to drive innovation. Armed with Cim running within your SharePoint environment, you have the means to just light up your organization and channel their thoughts and experience to help you drive results when and where you need it.


Cim v2.1: Our approach to adding value with Social Business Apps

Since the launch of Cim v2.1 last month, I’ve had a lot of meetings with customers.  The conversation quickly turns to a discussion of what are the most valuable applications of this social business software across their SharePoint 2010 environment.  With Cim v2.1, we make it easy to frame this conversation because we ship with 3 core solutions that are ready to implement out-of-the box.  Each of these is really a framework for a category of applications.  Armed with this, customers get focused on the business value much more quickly.  In this article, I’ll go over our solution oriented approach and how it delivers business value to you.


The 3 Core Solution “Buckets”

Cim v2.1 is a flexible, integrated system, with many applications.  Yet, to accelerate business value, we have framed the product within the following three core solution “buckets”:

- Cim Collaboration – for Social Collaboration

- Cim Process – for Social Business Processes

- Cim Innovation – for Idea & Innovation Management

Below is a standard slide I use to introduce the three core solution “buckets”.  Each represents a category of applications.  In most situations, the business groups initially come to us looking for an application within just one of these buckets.  So, we’ve made it easy for them to succeed in that one area first and then expand their application scope.

3 solutions

To make it really straight forward to get to the initial business value, the product ships with three pre-configured “base reference implementations” (BRI’s) – one for each solution.  These documented implementations deliver an application within the solution bucket and set a standard for learning and training.  They are as follows:

Cim Collaboration – a Department Portal for collaboration across multiple communities and integration with a native SharePoint team site to show how users can have a great collaborative experience when working anywhere across SharePoint.

Cim Process – a process for capturing and managing Process Improvement Ideas.  This leverages the collaborative community to capture ideas and collaborate on them.  It then introduces how you can set up and configure the process side where you review, evaluate, and decide on the improvement ideas.

Cim Innovation – this solution uses a Product Innovation scenario.  It shows how you can have many different idea communities and challenges that feed into a central management hub where you do your processing of the ideas to transform them into approved innovations.

Having the three separate BRI applications allows IT and the business groups to focus their efforts and deliver that first piece of business value.  It also serves to train them up on how to implement Cim. The key is that we are not just selling and installing a set of capabilities, but, starting with ready-to-go solutions.  This approach makes it far more effective for customers to then envision the next application and the next. 


Sample Applications within the Solution Buckets

The 3 solution buckets and the BRI apps are the beginning.  For each bucket, we have standard applications that are commonly desired by customers.  For many of these, we have a stable of designs, best practices and “flavorized” modules to be applied.  Below is a slide showing examples within each solution bucket.

solution apps

How is this range possible?  In essence, Cim is unusually flexible.  In fact, I’d say that it delivers three qualities that allow users to meet varied application needs.  They are flexibility, adaptability, and extensibility.  This translates to the ability for you to implement applications that fully meet your needs.  Let’s look at each of the three qualities and what it means to you.

Flexibility – Cim is a modular system.  It is designed so that modules can be dropped into a SharePoint environment and “loosely” connected, but, work as a system.  This allows for great variation, particularly as the applications become bigger and broader, such as multi-phase processes that span a SharePoint environment.  Imagine you have an Innovation Process.  As you spin up new challenge communities, they light up at the fingertips of end-users wherever they work, and, they automatically start feeding into the existing management process site.  It just works, even though users are working in very distributed places across SharePoint and working in different contexts.

Adaptability – CorasWorks is known for its adaptable software.  This means that organizations can easily modify the software using Wizards and configuration instead of having to crack compiled code.  Four key areas of adaptability of Cim are 1) a flexible web 2.0 style interface supporting CSS/XSLT branding and UI changes, 2) configurable community options to make them fit for purpose, 3) very adaptable business processes to modify the process and the individual activities within it, and 4) the ability to create custom user actions to automate work, connect to external SharePoint sites for supporting and downstream activities and to feed the Cim Activity Stream.  This adaptability is absolutely critical to empower business groups to continuously modify and refine their communities and their processes as they learn and their needs change.

Extensibility – Cim is powered by the CorasWorks Solution Platform running on SharePoint.  This industry leading platform is 8 years old, very mature and now in v11.    The platform enables you to extend Cim in many key ways.  You can tie into SharePoint and external systems in read-write modes, create highly unique presentation widgets (charts, mashups, etc.), add custom mobile extensions, and even, open Cim up to be consumed by external systems.  All of this is done purely through configuration – no need to crack code, deploy code, and support custom code.


Bringing It All Together – One Experience for the End-User

With Cim you can address a number of different solution areas and have a wide variety of applications.  It could appear that you would end up with separate siloed applications, with separate UI’s, training, maintenance, etc. – like the old days.  With Cim v2.1, this is not the case.  The breakthrough in Cim v2.1 is the Cim Activity Stream.  It provides end-users with a single place to go that enables them to collaborate across all of the information resources, communities, challenges, services, and, processes that you’ve deployed with Cim.  This makes it remarkably easy and convenient for the user, and thus, engages the user to participate in driving your business value. 

Below we show a screenshot of the Cim My Activity Stream deployed within a Department Portal.  Note that from here they are engaging in activities across the environment.

Activity Stream

Imagine that you want to deploy an application across your entire enterprise that will capture Cost Reduction Ideas, allow broad user collaboration on them, and, put them through a process for evaluation, approval, and, implementation.  You’d drop in your new community, configure your process to evaluate ideas, and click to Go Live – instantly, all users across the enterprise will now have your app at their fingertips and can start contributing and collaborating.  There is no need for users to go any where, no need to deploy new things in sites for users, no need for them to learn a new app UI or be trained, and, no need for you to built-out a branded portal for end-users.  Yet, you now have an enterprise app, in production, with mass scale, delivering value. 

So, in sum Cim delivers business value by delivering on both sides of the coin.  On one side you have support for a broad range of applications that are fit to purpose and serve as the mechanisms for business value.  On the other, you have a single, consistent user experience across all of the apps that engages users to actually drive the value home. 


Social vs. Social Business on SharePoint 2010

Over the last few weeks, as we’ve taken Cim v2.1 to market, we are increasingly compared with pure social technology players in the market.  Certainly, Cim v2.1 has gotten more social and this question is reasonable.  There is some overlap; we are both starting in the same place.  In this article, I’ll provide a simple approach I use to draw the key distinction and how this difference drives us as vendors in different investment directions and value propositions.

The really short answer is that in most pure Social offerings, the focus is on the conversation and the network.  Whereas in Social Business offerings like Cim, the focus is on the application and the business result supported by the collaborative conversation.

Let’s look at these graphically…



Here is a graphic that shows the essence of a social approach.  It is about the conversation between people and the people network.  Social is really providing a communication mechanism. It is an alternative to email or phone.  Vendors of social typically talk in terms of the medium, eg., the type of capability such as wikis, blogs, and micro-blogging.  The real value comes through the forming of the social networks and linkages and using this new medium for conversation.  These conversations usually have context, but, the context is secondary.





Social Businessimage

Here is a graphic that shows the key distinction of Social Business Software from pure Social.  In essence, there is a structured context in the middle – basically it is your “social app”.  People engage in the context of that app (the stronger blue lines).  In Cim, we generically call it a “community”.  However, it serves the business purpose, has structure, maybe even a time limit, and often, involves process.  It might be an information resource, an idea community, a channel between sales and marketing, a department community, a corporate challenge, a business process, or a project.  But, the “app” in the middle has a purpose that gives the collaboration a context and channels the collaboration towards this purpose. 


With Cim we also enable the direct people-to-people conversations to occur through our integration and extension of SharePoint 2010 social networking capabilities.  We are even talking to many of the other social players about also integrating with their social network.  However, at the core is the “app”.  With Cim we have invested considerably to make sure that these “apps” can range from simple collaborative communities to deep business processes.  Thus, the app, ie., the business purpose is primary with us.


Experience the Difference

The above distinction can be experienced when you work with the various vendors.  When you engage with most social vendors they will usually talk in terms of capabilities and often make reference to why their offering is not Facebook or Twitter for the enterprise.  Whereas when you engage with CorasWorks, we will always be talking about the applications you want and the business objective.  We will talk about Product Change Requests, Sales Collateral that gets better, Innovation Management, managing Technical Solution challenges, Enterprise Best Practices, Customer Feature Requests feeding into Product Development, your New Project Initiation process and how it ties into your Project Management system.  In fact, in all of our Cim business, there are always very specific applications that are the initial drivers for adoption and which are usually driven by business groups.


My Perspective

In sum, with Cim as a Social Business offering, we see social technology as a very important new capability to be leveraged in business applications.  When we evangelize it is usually to explain, for instance, how you can make a Change Request process much more effective and powerful by re-designing it to be front-ended with a collaborative community and incorporating collaborative review processes to drive decision making.  But, in the end it is a process with a business objective.  We are held accountable to deliver the business solution; not just a capability.

I believe that over the next couple of years organizations will have solid platforms on both fronts – core Social Business platforms such as Cim on SharePoint with lots of “apps” along with one or more Social/Social Networking systems.  Both will get stronger within their own areas as the competition continues to heat up.  In addition, you will be seeing more classic business applications with their own embedded social capabilities.  The hope (and my hope) is that these vendors will each support the federation of these systems to make sure that customers end up with a truly better collaborative user experience instead of it becoming just one more wave of siloed systems. 



Enabling the Collaborative Snowball Effect to Drive Results

I just returned from a wonderful vacation week on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.  I was there for my wife’s reunion.  It was a reunion of people that had been part of Na Kani Pela.  This was a choir that sang liturgical music and Hawaiian songs at masses and then in public concerts around the world between 1974-1978.  It was a wonderful event, with more than 50 people coming together, after 30+ years – most of whom hadn’t spoken in 30 years.  The reunion was not the original catalyst.  It was a result of a snowball effect due to social collaboration over the last 2 years.  I think that it provides us with a good example of how social tools can be used in business to enable a collaborative snowball that drives results.  I’ll tell the story of the Na Kani Pela reunion and then give you a business scenario that is similar yet different.

The Na Kani Pela Reunion Snowball

  • About 2 years ago a few people found each other on Facebook – after 30+ years.  They then sought out others and found them on Classmates.com and other places.  This small group decided to connect principally via Facebook and just starting social conversations.


  • After some time, someone had the idea of having a Na Kani Pela reunion.  The idea of the reunion event was the catalyst for the snowball.  They started to organize the search to find others across the world and connect them into the group via Facebook.


  • It started to shape up and the planning began –primarily done via social collaboration.  A few stalwarts took it upon themselves to lead the effort and organized the details.  The word spread and more people came to join the group and sign up for the event.  With each new person, other lurkers started to come on board.


  • The collaboration continued with random activity, but, the event (the purpose) kept it snowballing.  As the event neared, the activity increased.  Excitement and anticipation was rampant.  


  • Then, last week, 50 people, many with families, spent more than a quarter of a million dollars to travel to Hawaii and participate.  During and after the event, the pictures and videos flowed.  It seems that this group of people, that shared an experience 35 years ago, now, have a new experience, and a tool to continue the conversations into the future.


In sum, for me it was an amazing experience.  First, because of the people and the purpose and how meaningful it was for them and even those of us that were new to Na Kani Pela.  Second, because I was able to watch this snowball happen over the past 2 years and witness the power of social collaboration tools on a personal level.


Enabling Your Snowballs to Occur that Drive Business Results 

So, how does this apply to social business software on SharePoint?  There are differences in purpose, tools, and activity, but, let’s look at how the collaborative snowball effect could work for you leveraging CorasWorks Cim on SharePoint.  I’ll walk through a scenario…

  • A couple of engineers have come up with some cool technology.  They really like it, but, don’t know what the application is and what markets it could serve.  They start posting about it and collaborating within their Engineering community, alongside all of the other activities.


  • This small group then comes up with a couple of application ideas.  They get excited and ask a couple product marketing folks to check it out and see if they like it.  Of course, the pm folks think they can do better and put their ideas and enhancements forward.  They also tap into some “ringers”, those clever/creative idea people they know, to also take a look.  A few pretty good applications ideas now emerge.  At this point the group decides to spin up their own community, lets call it the New Widget community, to take it further.


  • They invite others that are interested.  More and better practical/feasible ideas and applications emerge.  They can now see the possibility of a real new product.  They use the community to flesh out the ideas and keep track.  All of the participants “watch” the community and receive their updates in their Cim Activity Stream.  The snowball effect is happening.


  • They build a prototype and collaborate on which customers to test.  They do the tests and it looks very promising.  They then collaborate to formalize a proposal to get approval and funding.  This proposal is submitted to another New Project Review community.  it goes through the process, involving collaborative management reviews, and gets funding.  During the process it gets even broader visibility, touching the people focused on finance, sales, manufacturing and marketing.


  • The general group continues to collaborate in the Widget community.  They use the community to drive it through engineering, to manufacturing and launch, now including folks from marketing and sales. 


  • The product launches and the initial customers are tracked closely.  This activity is visible.  It drives some tweaks and finishing touches on marketing.  They decide to launch a Customer community for the new customers to contribute their ideas to drive the new product forward.  They take these ideas along with their own to now drive sustaining engineering.  All of the ideas are feed into their Product Change Request process.


Now, it is rolled out and doing just fine.  The activity in the Widget community now starts to tail off.  The other communities just keep doing their thing.  On to the next snowball…



In the business scenario above, five primary Cim communities are used to drive the process forward.  The Engineering Community is a localized departmental community where the conversation begins.  The New Widget Community is community of purpose where the idea was nurtured to create the snowball effect and refine it.  The New Project Review community and Product Change Request process community are social business processes that are continuing and play a role in getting decisions made. The Customer Community opens the conversation up to the outside and feeds ongoing internal work.

Just like Na Kani Pela, it didn’t start out as a planned outcome.  There was a spark.  This spark was flamed and nurtured and enabled to emerge and become a product that worked in the market.

The key here is the enabling environment.  There are different communities, like pockets, that play their role.  Over time, based upon events, the activity ebbs and flows amongst the different communities.  With Cim v2.1, all of the relevant activity would be feed into the users Activity Stream so that they effectively see all of the updates from the different communities across the environment as the idea moves through its phases.  People are able to “watch” what is relevant to them.

With Cim in the new world of social business, you are adding a layer of software that enables this kind of process to occur.  Parts are structured and other parts are meant to allow emergence and improvement.  The good part is that this natural emerging process is something that we as people are actually very used to.  But now, we have tools in our business lives and our personal lives that are much better enablers to support the way we work.




Social Business Software: Give yourself an unfair advantage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Cim v2.1 Overview: Social Business Software on SharePoint 2010

It’s that time again.  We’ve been heads down on CorasWorks Cim v2.1, the next release of our Social Business Software solution on SharePoint 2010.  In this article, I’ll cover some of the key aspects of this release…

Release Date: The target release is the week of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) – July 11-14. 

Social Business Software Layered on SharePoint: There is a growing group of social software players primarily with SAAS offerings on proprietary platforms transitioning into social business offeringsCim has taken a different path. We layer our social business solution on top of SharePoint, taking advantage of the broad adoption of this enterprise collaboration platform already owned by many organizations, while also, serving to bring it all together as an integrated system.  In addition, by leveraging the CorasWorks platform and native SharePoint capabilities, Cim is able to offer the flexibility and customization depth for organizations to create robust business processes and apps that leverage social business collaboration.  This combination of breadth and depth, provides organizations with a very compelling approach to driving business value through social business software while leveraging the platform, existing build outs, knowledge, skills, and adoption that they have already invested in.

New Base Solution – Cim Collaboration: The purpose of our base solutions in the product is to make it faster and easier to get productive with robust social business scenarios with Cim.  We started out with Cim Innovation for Idea and Innovation Management with the v1.2 release in September 2010.  With the v2.0 release in February 2011, we added Cim Process for Social Business Processes.  Now, with v2.1 we are addressing the broad collaboration needs of users on SharePoint 2010 with Cim Collaboration.  This new core solution makes it a snap to enhance collaboration across your SharePoint 2010 environment. 

Cim Activity Stream: The key new sub-system of Cim v2.1 is the Cim Activity Stream.  It is the ultimate in collaborative convenience.  Users now have one place to go, to interact across all of the social business scenarios – general collaboration, collaborative business processes, and innovation scenarios.  The collaborative activity, the management activity, and the downstream process activities all feed into a single activity stream.  From there the user can see their personal activity across all of SharePoint, see the activity of others on the items they have created or watched, and manage their stream.  It is designed to reduce navigation, lower the “social noise” and the “email noise”, and, allow people to easily collaborate with others on relevant work.

SharePoint 2010 Social Network Integration: For the pure social side of activity, we’ve opened up Cim v2.1 to integrate with SharePoint 2010 social features.  This includes integration with user profiles to see who co-collaborators are, drill down into My Sites so that you can directly interact with people, and, social tagging (likes and notes) to push individual items into the SharePoint social network via users My Sites.  For those with SharePoint 2010 Standard or Enterprise, this gives you a convenient channel into your social network and activity without pulling the potential “social noise” directly into your business focused Cim Activity Stream.

Getting More Native with SharePoint 2010: With previous releases of Cim, we’ve often emphasized, custom branded portals.  We still support that and we make it easy.  However, most customers have lots of existing SharePoint sites.  With Cim v2.1 we have extended our architecture with “Snaplets” to allow you to drop a lot more functionality directly into existing SharePoint sites, be they Enterprise Portals, Department Portals, Team Sites, or My Sites.  We even allow you to deploy “micro-communities”, so that you can support multiple communities, challenges, campaigns, collaborative processes in a single existing SharePoint site.  Thus, there is no requirement to create “yet another place to go”.

Social Business Apps: We believe that purpose-driven, social business apps represent an important next generation of collaborative business applications on SharePoint.  They are simpler to understand, easier to use, more collaborative, and, with Cim v2.1 all natively integrate into a single user experience.  We have started to show off specific Cim-based social business apps in the new CorasWorks App Showcase.  We started with Knowledge Pool (collaboration) and Change Request Management (a nice example of a robust social business process).  Check them out.

Cim Open App Framework:  Cim v2.1 continues to build out the Open App framework.  For those familiar with CorasWorks v11 solution platform on SharePoint, Cim leverages this platform and delivers a whole new open development framework used to customize Cim for your application needs.  The Open App framework relies on “xDeveloper” skills (CSS, XSLT, XML, jXXX) – all non-complied code, but, definitely for developers.  You are able to customize the UI completely, the middle tier, and the back-end connectors.  With social business apps, we believe that the market needs this extensive flexibility.  It is an area of apps that is very rapidly evolving and innovating.  The Open App approach allows us to innovate and you to innovate.

I’ll be fleshing these topics out over the next month as we move to the release.  If you want a preview of Cim v2.1, just ping your CorasWorks account rep or send an email to innovation@corasworks.net.


Details on the Lotus-SharePoint Integration

Lotusphere is going on this week, and there is talk in Florida about the integration of SharePoint and Lotus Connections. We’ve been asked about what it takes to make the CorasWorks Lotus-SharePoint integration happen and the licensing. So, here you go…

The integration is done using the CorasWorks Data Integration Toolset (v1.2 or greater). It is installed ONLY on your SharePoint servers. It is two way integration as follows:

- The Toolset allows you to work with Lotus Connections information from within SharePoint. We tweaked the Toolset code in v1.2 so that you can take advantage of the ATOM API of Lotus Connections, without having to do programming (but, you do have to do XML configuration). It works with all applications: Activities, Blogs, Profiles, Dogear, and Communities.

- The Toolset is also used to output data from SharePoint. You configure CorasWorks Data Providers. We have two types: SharePoint Data Providers and External Data Providers. We also have Data Adapters for Mashup and Data Analysis. The upshot is you can easily configure these items to aggregate, mashup, and manipulate data from SharePoint and/or external data. It comes out as XML. On the Lotus side you then use iWidgets to work with the data stream. Note that our XML API allows you to read/write the data and do passthroughs to make specific requests for data from SharePoint.

The Toolset is licensed per SharePoint front end server, with unlimited users. It includes Premier Annual Support & Maintenance that covers upgrades. This is important because we are innovating rapidly. We also offers special pricing for non-profits, small business, and enterprise licenses. For pricing please contact sales@corasworks.net.

CorasWorks Bridging IBM Lotus and Microsoft SharePoint

I find it ironic that my first real post is about connecting SharePoint and IBM Lotus Connections…, but that’s the real-world nature of customer environments today. Yesterday, Luis Benitez an IBM Sales Engineer and Social Computing consultant extraordinaire, blogged about an integration he did from Lotus Connections using an iWidget to Microsoft SharePoint – with CorasWorks smack dab in the middle. He is showing a site directory structure from Breeze in Lotus Connections. This is what is happening in our enterprise accounts; so, here’s the scoop…

A few months back we worked with IBM Lotus to integrate IBM Lotus Connections into our applications in SharePoint. The requirement was to wrap the robust Social Collaboration capabilities of Connections around the items that are in the business process. We went ahead and did this and included the technology in our v1.2 release of the Data Integration Toolset. The demonstration app is a Vendor Work Order Management process – here is the profile in Applications (via this link you can see it running live in Breeze).

In that case, we were effectively bringing Lotus Connections info into our Breeze environment. The cool part is Connections is running on Lotus Greenhouse and CorasWorks Breeze is our environment – thus it is a real live business mashup. (BTW, no custom coding required.)

After engaging with IBM and customers, we found that customers also wanted to get information out of SharePoint. This is a good sign. So, working with Luis we did just that. First, we opened up Breeze, by adding our SharePoint Data Provider to the Dataspace. It outputs XML of the Breeze site hierarchy (You can see the XML output at http://breeze.corasworks.net/data/HDefault.aspx). Then, Luis created an iWidget in Lotus Connections. The user can now navigate Breeze, our workplace, from within Lotus Connections. (Again, no custom coding)

As Luis states, it is a 3 way mashup consisting of Breeze on our domain, the iWidget on Luis’s server, and Connections on IBM servers.

The goods news is that the CW Data integration Toolset not only brings external data into SharePoint, but, it pumps it out via XML. A key point is that we can support multiple data connections within SharePoint to aggregate data, or mash it up, or mashup SharePoint data with external data. Thus, the developer on the outside just makes one connection to our XML API to read/write to the SharePoint environment.

As more data gets loaded in SharePoint, we are going to see a lot more interest in making SharePoint part of a federated work environment. So, here you have it – IBM and Microsoft all connected up and made rather easy via CorasWorks. Kinda gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling.