Tag Archive for social collaboration

Social Collaboration at Work– 4 business scenarios to drive value

Today, I did a presentation for the internal SharePoint Community of Practice (COP) for a large (Top 50) Federal Systems Integrator.  This COP is 700 people.  They have a current topical focus on Social Collaboration.  Microsoft gave a presentation a few weeks back on the Social Collaboration features of SP2013.  In my presentation, I introduced and demoed 4 different business solutions where social collaboration is being used in a business process/application.  These were all based upon the CorasWorks Cim™ solution framework.  For those of you interested in the potential of Social Collaboration on SharePoint, and, looking for hard-hitting business scenarios that demonstrate the value – this article is for you….

My presentation abstract was as follows:

Social Collaboration at Work (www.corasworks.net)

Social collaboration within SharePoint makes it easier for people to engage.  So how do you leverage this approach to drive organizational results?  In this presentation, we’ll look at four practical business scenarios where social collaboration is used to drive business results.  The scenarios are:

· Idea Challenge Management – purposeful, event based challenges to drive ideas and manage them through a review and approval process

· R&D Working Groups – designated working groups that then output results as proposals for new projects

· New Project Initiation – collaborative, stage-gate based process to review and approve new project proposals (partials feed from working groups)

· Collaborative Channels for Capture & Proposal Management – communities used for collaboration across a distributed capture and proposal management system

Let’s look at each of the business scenarios above…

Idea Challenge Management

The area of Idea & Innovation Management is pretty hot and ripe for social collaboration.  Organizations know that Innovation is necessary to succeed (and survive).  But, how to move the ball forward is a challenge.

We have found the most effective approach is for organizations to use Idea Challenges vs. creating a general idea “inbox”.  Challenges are typically event-based (time limited), purposeful, and, sponsored by a team who is responsible AND interested in reviewing and using the results.

The solution I showed provides organizations with the ability to spawn new Challenges.  These are sites and they are created and configured by the sponsor in a self-service way to meet the needs of the Challenge.  The Challenges are then exposed across the SharePoint environment.  People respond, contribute ideas, and collaborate using Star Ratings, Commenting, Document Upload and management, Peer Reviews, Sharing.  The Challenge managers have a robust stage-gate process to screen, review, and decide on the ideas. Of course, being CorasWorks-based the structured work management part is also greatly and easily customized to meet the needs of the specific team that sponsored the challenge.

R&D Working Groups

This solution addresses a scenario where you have multiple/many working groups where each is expected to have an output – a document, a project proposal for funding, a discovery, a new policy.  A Working Group differs from say a collaborative team site because an output is expected.  Each group is a community where the members collaborate.  Then, when they have something to output, from within their working group they have one or more channels to kick off the output process.

In the solution that I showed, the output of the R&D Working Groups is a project proposal for funding.  From within the Working Group site, they access a New Proposal “community” and post a form for the project proposal that goes to a central management team.  The central team reviews and works the proposals through a funding process.  The output side is also highly collaborative and visible with members of the Working Group able to interact with the central management team and with all others that are watching and collaborating across the system.  (Note that all Working Groups are feeding the central Project Proposal process – see NPI below).

New Project Initiation

This solution is for the “demand management” part of project management – the front end part where you determine which projects you will invest in.  It is a challenge to do this part well.  A good process means less duplication, more visibility, and more commitment to the projects that are funded.  To accomplish this, we showed how this process could be made more transparent and collaborative.

Actually, the demo I showed had the New Project Initiation process receiving the project proposals from the R&D Working Groups above.  Thus, when the various R&D Working Groups submitted a proposal, they all feed this process.  In addition, individuals can also directly submit proposals.

All of the proposals are seen by the entire R&D working community so you get the transparency and visibility.  Each proposal is then centrally managed through a stage-gate process.  Along the way the managers are able to collaborate with the proposals submitters and “watchers”.  In addition, the managers collaborate amongst themselves such as doing collaborative reviews.  Here they can Rate, Comment, and Score proposals separate from the general community.  This solution has all of formal features you’d expect such as portfolio management, downstream project/portfolio integration and extensive reporting.

Collaborative Channels

This is the simplest of the 4 solutions.  The scenario was a Capture & Proposal Management system for a Federal Contractor.  These are large systems with people working in many sites (100’s – Program Management, Proposal Sites, IDIQ Management, Task Order sites).  The challenge is how do you communicate and collaborate amongst this distributed “working community”.  For instance, if there are new forms, new policies, challenges, needs for a resource – how does the community know of this and how can they engage and collaborate.

The answer is Collaborative Channels.  What I showed was the Business Development Channel.  It is a community of sorts except it IS NOT a place you go to collaborate.  Rather within each of the hundreds of sites, users have access to the Channel.  There they can post, share information, and, collaborate.  Thus, no matter where someone is working across this “work community”, they have access to the Channel.  This Channel approach is a great way to get people working together across the distributed environment of SharePoint.  Think departments, business functions (sales, engineering, bd, global branch offices, plants, et al).

Wrap Up

The objective of this presentation was to get people thinking about the business value that social collaboration can bring.  In general, we start with the business application/process (often existing) and ask how can this process be improved by opening it up to greater engagement and collaboration.  Accordingly, we see social collaboration as a set of features that can be applied to business as opposed to something that adds value on its own.

In addition, if you review the above scenarios you will see my use of the term “working community”.  In most social collaboration feature-products (social-social) a community is a place you go.  In the above, there is a business context to each.  Thus, the idea of the “working community” is everyone that is interested in or should be a part of outputting the best work results.  Accordingly, you see that all of the business solutions span multiple sites and an entire SharePoint environment.  All part of bringing a broad set of people together and putting them to work.

So, that is a wrap on Social Collaboration at Work for now.  If you would like a private demonstration of these scenarios ping me or CorasWorks.

william

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

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

Here is how it works…

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

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

image

 

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

image

 

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

activity stream

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Wrap Up

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

 

william

User Centric Focus Empowers Social Collaboration on SharePoint 2010

Service Pack 1 of SharePoint 2010 was recently released.  The “mainstream” of SharePoint users are now on their way to migrating to SP2010.  Where are the new quick wins and big wins for organizations on their new platform?  We believe that social collaboration on SP2010 offers great potential.  Can collaboration really be enhanced in a significant way?  The answer is yes.

With Cim v2.1, we have added a new solution, Cim Collaboration, for social business collaboration on SharePoint 2010, that enhances SharePoint to provide organizations a much more powerful way to drive business value.  In this article, I’ll provide an overview of the core elements of the solution.  As you’ll see, the key “big change” is a shift to a user centric focus that is the new driver for effective social business collaboration.

Let’s start by taking a look at the typical collaborative experience of SharePoint 2010.  Most organizations are following the same approach they did before – team sites and department sites as part of their Intranet.  How do we collaborate?  We navigate to a site, assuming we have access.  We find data typed content in lists and libraries with little relationship.  We review, edit, or add new items.  In effect, we have collaboration by proximity.  It works, but, couldn’t we do a whole lot better…

With Cim v2.1, we’ve add our new Cim Collaboration solution.  It brings together three core elements that work to provide an easier, more robust, and more effective collaborative experience on SharePoint 2010.  I’ll go over the 3 elements and describe the mechanics of how it delivers the result.

 

Collaborative “Communities” with Purpose

At the core of Cim is the “community”.  It is a new kind of site designed for a better social collaboration experience.  We use communities for many purposes from department collaboration, to idea communities, challenges, professional communities, and collaborative business processes.

-  At a very simple level, you could spin up a community for Marketing Collateral.  Marketing would be the primary contributor.  They would post new collateral.  Sales and others would “watch” the community.  They would rate, comment, and offer up their take on better collateral or needs for new collateral.

- A little more advanced community would be a community for departmental collaboration.  Here members of the department collaborate with each other.  It would segment types of topics, use managed tagging, and perhaps allow for peer reviews.

- Going further, you may have communities that specifically drive processes like Change Request Management.  People contribute and collaborate, and then, change requests are put through a structured, yet collaborative, process to review, approve, and implement them.

A “community” has a purpose, context and engages people to work better together to advance that purpose. However, it is not necessarily “Yet Another Place To Go” (YAPTG).  With Cim, a community owner can spin up a community quickly which is then available broadly.  They don’t necessarily have a separate “destination” site for which they have to worry about branding, other features, etc., or, that users have to navigate to in order to engage.  For instance, a departmental portal may actually expose many different communities from across a SharePoint environment.  Or, an Innovation Portal may have many idea communities and challenges.  The community is the context for collaboration.

 

Cim Community – Fit to Purpose

Now, this doesn’t mean that Cim communities are therefore simple.  In fact, with Cim each community can be easily and extensively customized to fit its purpose.

The Marketing Collateral community mentioned above may have a simple contribute form and a couple collaborative features.  Whereas a process community like Change Request above may have a contribute form with special fields, grouping and managed tags, custom listings and filtering, peer reviews, private management reviews with scoring, and, structured downstream review, approval, and reporting processes.  Below is a screenshot of an item from the Change Request community.

Collaborative Activities

Cim provides the community owner with the options to control the experience and the purpose.  This differs from other social business offerings that see social collaboration as a relatively flat, pure conversation approach.  We see the need to have communities that are different, and, more robust as necessary to meet their purpose.  When fit to purpose, communities are much more effective at channeling collaborative activity towards the business purpose.

With that said, the trick is that while the Cim communities may be distinctly different, the user experience is simple, convenient, and consistent across communities.  We do this by shifting to a user centric focus for collaboration.

 

User Centric Focus of Collaboration

Okay, so with Cim, we can have many communities of different types.  The big change in Cim v2.1 comes with a shift to a user centric focus for collaboration.  This is done by providing users with a separate user interface that they control to enable them to collaborate across communities and across the entire SharePoint environment.  This UI is the Cim Activity Stream.

The Activity Stream is a feature that can be snapped into any site in SharePoint.  It is where people go to collaborate – all of the relevant activity comes to them.  They can see new communities that have been launched (Community Listings).  As they contribute or collaborate this activity shows up in their My Activity.  They can watch a community or individual contributions (Watchlist).  Any activity by others on items they’ve watched or contributed will appear in their My Stream.  Below is a screenshot of an Activity Stream UI snapped into a department portal showing the core features.

Activity Stream

The relevant community collaborative activity (contributions, rating, comments, uploads, peer reviews) flows to them.  In addition, the downstream process activity for process-centric communities also appears in their activity stream.  This can include activities such as Management Reviews and Votes, Stage changes, Decisions, Task assignments, completion of documents, etc.

From the My Activity Stream UI the user can see what is happening, click to contribute, click to collaborate on an item or within a community – all without going anywhere.  In addition, they can see the user profiles of their collaborators and click into their My Sites and engage directly with that individual and with their social network.  Thus, from their Activity Stream they can now collaborate within any communities across the entire SharePoint environment and directly with other users.

With the Cim Activity Stream, we’ve made collaboration user centric vs. content and location centric as most of us experience in native SharePoint.  This is a big shift.  They have a single place to go and control over their collaboration experience.  The visibility is greater, the work is easier, the activity is relevant, there is less navigation, and less email and UI distraction.  It is fast, easy, relevant and convenient.

Summing Up Cim Social Collaboration on SharePoint 2010

The user centric Activity Stream is the big change.  But, it is this change combined with the ability to support many types of communities for different purposes that can be fit to purpose that gives our approach the breadth and depth to make significant impact.

Most of us invested in SharePoint originally to share information and have a better collaborative experience.  We’ve made progress.  Now, with Cim v2.1, you can leverage your investment in SharePoint 2010 and unleash the potential of social business collaboration to drive your business forward.

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

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

Business communities, social application portals, mobile, business apps – all on SharePoint?

Yup.  Yesterday, was a big release for us of our mobile adapter and initial mobile-enabled apps by CorasWorks and partners.  Tonight, I’ve blogged about a business-oriented Idea Community and a socially-oriented IT Project management application portal. You may wonder what is going on…

What you are seeing with CorasWorks is the Enterprise 2.0/3.0 convergence.  Yes, its taken a few years to get it right on SharePoint.  That is because basic collaboration with SharePoint, structured business applications, and cool social collaboration all started in different places across the industry.  The analysts still have them all in separate categories – go check out Gartner’s listing.

In fact, a month ago I was at the Gartner Portals, Collaboration and Content conference in Baltimore.  I’ve been there for years.  This year social collab, mobile, cloud et al was the talk of the analysts.  But, when you sat at the tables for lunch with your fellow enterprise customers – they would say straight out that that social stuff would never be in their enterprise.

I then went to a presentation by IBM of their new Websphere Application Portal – filled with widgets and nice social things.  And, the room was filled with all of the people that said that they were looking for serious application portals.  Yet, the IBM demo looked alot like the demos we do for our solutions on SharePoint.

My take is that we are starting to see the properly balanced convergence between structured business applications and unstructured, socially termed collaboration.  Mobile is a great glue for this.  The cloud is a solid option for infrastructure.  Private clouds are fine also.  And, the platform players are all getting it…

It has taken the industry and the customers years to start sorting through this battle between “real” business apps and this “social” consumer thing. I first blogged about this convergence last April of 2009, one year ago, specifically calling on Gartner to look at adjusting their categories over the next year.

Yes, there are pitch battle lines drawn.  But, over the years, we’ve started to sort out the proper way to balance the benefits.  There is emerging a set of standards, best practices and technologies that are indeed “bringing it all together”.  And, this convergence is going to be strongest on top of the super-power platforms.

SharePoint 2010 is simply going to move things forward.  You’ll start to see that all of the things that we have been doing over the last year are steps towards this proper convergence.  They’ll get greater exposure and adoption along with the adoption of SharePoint 2010.  It has been exciting to watch the software industry’s development over the last 3-4 years and the steps of the SharePoint community.

With the economy starting to move forward, productivity at a high in the US and a reluctance to hire, there is pressure to continue productivity enhancing investments.  I believe that this convergence can give organizations just the booster in 2010 they need to keep the profits rolling in in the short term and gain a new foothold with higher productivity levels for the longer term.

 

william

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.