Tag Archive for workstream

Shared Contract Work Order Management System for Federal Agency and Contractor

How can we make the work on contracts more efficient and effective?  One powerful way is to enable people from the Federal Agency and the winning vendor Contractor team to work together in a shared environment to manage the work.  In this article, I’ll review a work management system that we just delivered that does just this.

The story is about how we were able to take our off-the-shelf IDIQ Task Order Management solution and rapidly apply it to meets the custom requirements of an RFP from a Federal Agency for a shared Contract Work Order Management System.  The story is partially about our solution, but, it is also about how a Federal Contractor can leverage CorasWorks (software and people) to outdo the competition, win business, and, stay close to their customer.

Situation

A civilian Federal Agency released an RFP as a small business set aside valued at about $100M over its term.  It is an outsourcing contract for IT-related Services.  The format of the contract is a single-award IDIQ with general Task Orders and specific Work Orders supporting about 30 core work areas.  The Work Orders are the primary method for getting the work done.

The new wrinkle is that the agency required, as part of the proposal, that the vendor provide a shared, collaborative, online work management system enabling the participants from the Agency to work with the participants from the Prime contractor and their team.  The system had to support the release of specific Work Orders that would come in as Agency requests, get released for estimates, get estimates, and drive the approval process.  In addition, the system had to support visibility into the work in progress including planning, tracking the work, ongoing collaboration, issue flagging, and reporting.

The big practical challenge for the Prime contractor and team was that the Agency required the vendor to have the system up and running on the date of submittal of the proposal.  It would be a live system, accessible by the Agencies review team during the proposal review phase and would then be migrated post-award.  This was a major compliance challenge that could have doubled or tripled the cost of submitting the proposal.  And, whatever system they proposed, they were going to have to live with for the duration of the contract.

Approach

A member of the Prime bidder’s team was a Top 10 Federal Contractor that is a CorasWorks customer and was familiar with our IDIQ Task Order Management solution that runs on Microsoft SharePoint.  This solution is designed for use within Federal Contractors, primarily in a multi-award situation, to manage the process of responding to task orders.  Upon review, it was decided that this solution would be the base for the required Work Order Management System.  The primary reasons were:

  • the core off-the-shelf feature set is very close to the needs of this contract work order management system
  • the configurability of CorasWorks would enable the team to deliver the required demonstration environment at a very reasonable cost and on time
  • CorasWorks is an open application environment, ie., not a proprietary code base, and thus, it be custom-configured, enhanced, and extended, by the Contractor team, to meet ongoing needs.

Solution

The solution was implemented by CorasWorks with our bidding team of the Prime Contractor and subcontractors.  We started with our off-the-shelf IDIQ Task Order Management solution running in a CorasWorks provided online environment.  We then applied it to the Agencies requirements.  This work took a couple of weeks of configuration and testing. Some key requirements for the system were:

  • The system was designed to support Federal Agency participants and Contractor participates within a common, online collaborative work environment requiring appropriate control of permissions and work action authority.
  • The system was setup up to support two workstreams (distinct stage-based processes).  One for Work Orders that cover the core contract work areas (the bulk of the work).  The other for new Task Orders that would be released to expand the scope of the contract.  Each workstream was a bit different.
  • Each workstream had to support 2 work Phases.  One was the Approval Process with the key stages of Request, Review, Estimating, and Approval.  The other was for approved work orders, Work In Progress, covering Working Planning, Work in Progress, and Closeout.
  • The system needed robust reporting to show process metrics and exception reporting across the life cycle of work.
  • Each work order or task order has its own Workspace that contains the detailed information for the item across its life-cycle and supports the collaborative activity required to drive the item forward.

Result

The system was delivered within cost and exactly on time which was objective one for compliance and is now in ongoing support mode.  The system met the compliance requirements of the Agency and included an interactive checklist to make it easy for the Agency to validate compliance.  While this system is not the core reason why the Agency will award the contract to a vendor team, it was perceived as a major reason why a team would be knocked out of the competition.

In addition, after working with the system, the Prime Contractor is now in process to procure CorasWorks for internal use and to leverage this Contract Work Order Management system to create a standard way of working on each of its major single-award contracts and for use for its IDIQ task order management.

My Comments

It is not uncommon for CorasWorks to be used to bring up collaborative work environments that bring together participants from Federal Agencies, Prime Contractors, and, contract teaming partners.  In fact, this particular agency has had experience working in similar CorasWorks-based environments for two other major contracts/programs with another Top 10 Federal Contractor (see Large Federal Contractor Drives Customer Intimacy and Value with Dedicated Program Workplaces on SharePoint).

However, this particular application of our IDIQ Task Order Management system was new.  Instead of focusing on winning the work, as in the typical multi-award IDIQ scenarios, it is all about getting the work done with visible participation of all members (Agency and Contractor).  Our existing solution provided 90% of the base system allowing the team to get where it needed to be very quickly.

I can see the use of CorasWorks for Contract Work Order Management in three scenarios.

  • One where a Federal Contractor uses it just within their organization and working with teaming partners to manage work requests on their single-award contracts.
  • Another is for a Federal Agency to manage their request processes within the Agency and the interaction with their vendors.
  • The third is an integrated, shared work environment as in this scenario.

I believe that this last scenario, the integrated work environment, is the top of the food chain in terms of driving efficiency and effectiveness of the work delivered on Federal Government contracts.  We’ve seen it before and it is proven.  However, you need an enlightened agency and a contractor that can handle the transparency to make it work.  Like any collaborative process, it takes the team some time to learn how to work together and how they work will continually evolve as they learn.

William

+++++

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

Visit CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management for product information.

Mastering the Core Federal Government Contractor Work-Stream

Its been almost 3 months since my last post.  No, no vacation.  Instead, I’ve been heads down supporting implementations with our Federal Government Contractors.  I’ve also been working on a suite of solutions being launched over the next few months that focus in on the core activities of Federal Contractors.  Sure, you’ve probably heard about Sequestration and Federal budget cuts.  This is putting even more pressure on our FC customers to get more efficient and effective.  So, we are helping by “productizing” solutions and pre-integrating them to increase the competitiveness of our customers.

In this article, I am going to cover the 3 activities that make up the “core work-stream” for the folks in this industry.  A work-stream is a set of “loosely coupled” activities that build on each other. They are independent activities but necessary elements to deliver the result.  Even if you are not a Federal Contractor you might find it interesting since at the heart of any industry, its participants have a set of solutions/activities that represent their core work-stream for success.  So, as you read this, think about what your core work-stream might look like.

Now, to Federal Government Contractors.  Below is a graphic depicting the core work-stream.  It consists of three activities (the ones in blue).  If you do them well, you’ll succeed; if you don’t, you hurt your chances of success.  They are different.  They are usually managed by different people.  They have different outputs.  They are managed by different metrics.  Yet, effectively, in this industry, they represent the critical path that transforms opportunities into money in the bank.

image

Over the last year, we’ve worked with customers to build out each of these three activities as separate “productized” solutions that can be part of one, integrated work environment. Below I’ll list each solution as it relates to each of the three activities of the core work-stream:

CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management v2.1

This solution is used to manage the process of capturing business including the development of the proposal and the maintenance of all of the Proposal Assets that support the process.  It is a Stage-Phase-Step process that can be managed to be most effective.  This is the key first piece to get you going.

CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management v2.1

About a third of Federal Contractor business now comes through IDIQ/GWAC vehicles.  If you won a single award contract or a multi-award IDIQ, you then will want to process those task orders that come in.  With multi-award IDIQs you have to respond quickly, often with Teaming Partners, in order to really win the business.  You need to master the art of collaborative work that is fast, efficient and effective.

CorasWorks Project, Portfolio and Program Management for Delivery v3.2

So, now you have won the business.  You need to deliver on it.  This is where our PPM solution comes in.  Our solution focuses on helping the users to get the work done in a collaborative manner.  The key is the solutions flexibility which enables users to modify the solution to do very different kinds of “project” work.  Some may have tasks and classic GANTT.  While others may be just about collaboration and reporting or represent Programs of multiple activities by customers, employees, and partners.

The Core and the Supporting Activities

The core activities are the core.  You must do these well.  Surrounding these are a host of other activities that help to make you successful.  A very small list might be:

  • working with HR for recruiting
  • working with Contract Administration to get SOWs with teaming partners
  • managing an overall CMMI or ISO set of policies
  • integrating with CRM that is your database of opportunities and contact tracking
  • working with Legal
  • Partner Engagement
  • Customer Engagement
  • training
  • knowledge management and open collaboration
  • marketing activities
  • solution innovation management
  • executive and management dashboards, reporting, and drilldowns
  • integration with Financial systems/ERP

Using CorasWorks each of the above can also be added to your environment as supporting activities.  Each adds value.  However, to say it again, you need to get the core elements working properly to make money.

What Shape is Your Core In?

Most people can use some help with their core work-stream.  Many can use a lot of help.  Those that have been around for years usually have good practices, but, aging systems.  The possibilities for systems/tools have changed over even just the last 5 years.  With flexible systems such as CorasWorks on SharePoint you are able to extend and enhance existing systems or replace them quite quickly and cost effectively.  If you have the feeling that you are stuck with legacy, fixed, custom coded systems and may be missing the boat to staying competitive – then, there is a good chance that this is the reality.  If you are young and growing but need to put core work-stream systems in place, then, you can step to the front of the technology stack.  However, you will still need to go to work on learning and developing the right processes and practices.  It helps to have systems like CorasWorks’ where you can get started with a simpler approach that is also cost-effective and then change the system to adapt as your people and organization grow and learn.

No matter which situation you are in, with the competitive pressures of today and the foreseeable future, it is critical to continually make sure that your core is in good shape.

william

10 Fundamentals to Know When Delivering Apps in a CorasWorks-powered Environment

I’ve spent a lot of time with customers over the last year working with the internal people who are delivering apps to business users.  You are out there busily building apps, setting standards, listening, supporting and connecting things. Your technical skills range from beginning builders to workplace wizards.  Along the way it has become clear that core fundamentals of CorasWorks have gotten lost or are at least lumpy.  I am not talking about technical items, but, about how to think about what you are doing when delivering collaborative work management apps using CorasWorks.  I guess with the time, new folks coming in and churn it makes sense.  In this article, I’ll go over my list of Top 10 fundamentals of CorasWorks that every app builder and every application service delivery manager should know.

You can templatize an App and Reuse it for another Purpose/Group

A key value proposition of CorasWorks is the reusability.  Yet, a surprising number of people don’t even know that you can templatize and re-use an existing SharePoint site.  So, if you build a CorasWorks app, why not re-use/re-purpose it for another use.  Better yet, how about maintaining a central catalog of cleaned, re-usable application templates, and, giving it visibility across business groups.

Context vs. Content

I often hear business users say that the UI of a CorasWorks PS delivered app is simpler to use, easier to understand and much better than native SharePoint.  The reason is context vs. content.  An average native SharePoint user is used to working in a team site.  By design SharePoint is a content driven experience – really collaboration by proximity.  You go to some place (a site) and hit a page to access content.  CorasWorks changes this.  Effectively, what you do with CorasWorks is overlay a business context.  When our Professional Services does the work we use our in-house standardized application templates that strip away all of the ancillary content baggage like announcements and quick links and provide business users with an experience that is relevant to the business context.  This seems much “easier” to business users.  I recommend that you take a look at our PS standard and do the same.

Three Main Tiers of CorasWorks App Value

When using CorasWorks, you can add value in three main tiers.  Always triage your work into one these tiers as follows:

  • Self-service – this is where you expose native SharePoint and CorasWorks capabilities to a broad group of users that use them to enhance their team collaboration sites.
  • Standardized solution types – CorasWorks has defined, trains on, and supports about 15 types of standardized solutions for collaborative work management.  The idea is for your organization to understand these, buy or build your first one, catalog them, and reuse, reuse, reuse.
  • Custom solutions – These are solutions that are so unique that you need to do requirements and then build them out.  The box for doing this with CorasWorks is very, very big, particularly when leveraging the Advanced Framework of v11 (see next item).

NOTE: Most people are binary; either self-service or custom.  What is really lacking is the middle tier – this is probably the area of greatest opportunity to add value to your organization.

CorasWorks v11 and our Advanced Framework

The Advanced what???  The current shipping version of CorasWorks is v11.2. This is the 11th major release of our core platform since 2003. With CorasWorks all of the software (.dll’s) are in this platform product. Your solutions are created on top by configuration. v11 includes an Advanced Framework. This is a multi-tier app framework that allows you to build very custom extensions or new apps without doing custom compiled code. You can even go as far as to build a custom database app with a separate SQL server database and a CorasWorks front-end surfaced in SharePoint – again without custom compiled code. This means that your IT Governance model can be centrally managed, but, the business groups can get lots of value.  The box of what you can do with CorasWorks is probably a lot bigger than you think.

Basic Apps are Built Up – Like Layering

When you use our basic framework/components we call that a basic app.  A standard, single-site CorasWorks basic app is built up.  It is like an assembly line.  The standard steps are:

  • Create a new site using a standard base solution template
  • Add navigation
  • Modify the data – lists and libraries, custom “workplace” fields, and data relationships
  • Add basic displays (usually grids for apps)
  • Add forms (action forms for new items and in process action forms)
  • Add user task automation actions
  • Add email notification actions, activations and workflow
  • Add reporting
  • Add Advanced Framework extensions (after business user feedback, see last point)

CorasWorks Actions Control What Users Can Do

CorasWorks comes with its Actions Framework.  Using a wizard you can create actions for users to perform.  This is your control point.  It allows you to separate the user from the data (If you think about it with native SharePoint you are pretty much giving users direct access to the data).  So with your apps, think actions for users.  They need not know what magic the action does behind the scenes or what gets kicked off (emails, workflow, other actions, etc.).

CorasWorks Cuts Across Structural Barriers of SharePoint

Native SharePoint has a number of structural “barriers” that constrain your canvas for designing and building apps.  CorasWorks separates the user context from the content meaning that people can basically do anything from anywhere.  We make all of SharePoint your design canvas.  The main barriers we cut across are data types, lists, sites, site collections, web applications, and, even farms.  The impact is that for advanced designers they think in terms of the actual user experience wherever and in whatever context vs. the app user interface.

Apps: Single Sites vs. Distributed Systems

Most people are site bound.  They think of SharePoint site by site – because they have learned to live within the barriers.  In reality, SharePoint is a distributed system or even more correctly a “system of systems”.  Sometimes you will build a single site app, like a Help Desk.  Other times you are really designing and building systems – a collection of sites.  An example is a Portfolio of project sites where you might have a PMO, a couple of Portfolio Management sites, and a mere 50 or 100 project sites spread across departments working in different site collections.  The key is to design at the system level first, thinking about the user role and experience, with the local sites coming next.  Back to the Help Desk and that single site.  Where do the users enter in their Help Desk requests? Where do they see the status and activity?  Can they first search a knowledge base or access a self-service community?  Should it really be designed as just a single Help Desk site for 10 help desk engineers or is it really a system to help users be more productive with a user population of say 3,000?

Think Collaborative Application Design Patterns

Most users think that an IT Help Desk, a Chemical Materials Storage Request system for a Pharmaceutical, and, an IDIQ HR Staffing app are very different applications.  To a CorasWorks builder they are basically the same with a bit of work to customize the “language” of the app.  In effect, they are what we would call a “Request” collaborative application design pattern.  In this world of collaborative work management apps you begin to see that most apps fit into common, re-usable patterns.  This is what drives the repeatability of our Standardized Solution Types mentioned above.  Thus, a catalog of 10 standard base app templates representing each of the solution types can serve your needs to create 100’s of business function specific applications.

Think about the Work-Stream(s)

We are very focused on the app.  In practice, this allows us to focus and meet a need.  However, in reality often work in one activity kicks off work in the next.  Or, in order to get the work done of one app you need to tap into another set of teams/apps/processes. When you step back and see how these activities tie together, you are thinking about what we call the work-stream.  For instance, in the big picture, an Idea Management app, would hand off to a Project Approval App, that hands off to a Development Project app that feeds your Change Management app.  The project approval app may have a process to request a capital expenditure (from finance) or a market study (from marketing).  Each of these apps can live on their own and usually have completely different users and contexts and make up multiple work-streams.  But, they connect.  They are loosely coupled.  And, you can have them all inter-operating within a CorasWorks-SharePoint environment.

william

Why would you want just a Social Intranet?

I recently read an article by Toby Ward posted October 18th, entitled Despite SharePoint’s Success, The Social Intranet is Still Rare. He talks of the massive adoption of SharePoint. He does a good job of describing how Intranets are evolving and the use of social media tools to create a Social Intranet. Then, he provides data showing that users of Intranets with social media tools actually are showing low levels of satisfaction. He also says that enterprise Social Intranets are rare, particularly on SharePoint. Bottom line is that I agree with what he writes. In this article, I’ll give you my take on why this is and talk about the other half of the story which is about where else people are going with SharePoint 2010, and, how fast.

The beginning…

SharePoint 2010 was launched in the spring of 2010. Basically, the features that got in were those that were in the market circa 2008. Things like blogs, wikis, discussion forums, social networking, I Like It tags. So, when you implement SharePoint 2010 out of the box, this is what you get – various social media features that can be used in a Social Intranet.

Recognize there are two perspectives of what SharePoint is (even within Microsoft). About 70% of customers think that SharePoint is “an application”. From this perspective, a Social Intranet is probably the high end of the stack of where they plan to go on 2010. The other half (less than half) see it as a platform. They view SharePoint as an enterprise, distributed work environment. It is a canvas to use to meet their organizational goals. For these folks, they may not even go to the Social Intranet, because it isn’t relevant to their objectives – they just leap frog over it.

What you end up with is a bit of a desert in the middle in the range of the Social Intranet at this point in the life cycle. It is too high for most right now. It is too low and irrelevant for the others.

Now, companies like CorasWorks cater to the platform half. We enable these organizations to go to the next level. In our case, in the context of social collaboration, it is deploying Social Business Applications on top of this platform that deliver a new layer of value and leverage an entirely new set of technologies. This next generation of applications are designed to tap into all those zillion users, engage them, and most importantly, channel their collaborative potential into activities that drive business value.

Below we show two comparative lists of items. The ones on the left are the capabilities that the super majority (largely IT-focused) people talk about in the context of a Social Intranet. The ones on the right are the Social Business Applications that the other half (largely business group driven) talk about putting in place to leverage this collaborative work environment to achieve a business result.

 

When we talk to customers, we are talking about the apps on the right. The conversations are just different. They focus on specific scenarios and how you get there leveraging what we offer along with everything else the customer may have.

It is true that our solutions provide a whole new set of technologies that leverage that collaborative potential and put it to purposeful use -things like Business Activity Streams (that actually filter out social and email noise), Stage-Gate processes, Task Automation, Collaborative Management Reviews, Portfolio management, custom forms, supporting activities etc. But, they are the means to the end, not the end in and of itself.

An interesting change up is that the majority of our customers for these new solutions purchase our products and services BEFORE they deploy SharePoint 2010 in production. This is really new for the SharePoint 2010 cycle (it didn’t happen in SharePoint 2003 and SharePoint 2007). We believe that these customers absolutely get the new breakout potential for SharePoint 2010 and are immediately moving to leverage it to drive business value. In today’s world, it is a luxury to invest the time and effort on something like SharePoint 2010 for a nominal benefit. These organizations are simply looking for leverage to drive significant tangible business value.

Those that breakout

I go back to my original question, “Why would you want just a Social Intranet?”. My guess is primarily because that is what you perceive the high-end of the use case of SharePoint to be within a given view of the cost, time and risk. You are not alone. In fact, as stated above, right now you are in the majority. However, I have a feeling that at this point this position is a risk. These new technologies and the applications they spawn for purposeful collaboration are powerful. Plus, we’ve gotten a lot better at reducing the time, risk and cost to get there. SharePoint 2010 is one of the great platforms to make this happen. Those organizations that figure it out are simply going to outperform those that do not.

william

Innovation on SharePoint 2010 Should be Different, Which Makes it Better

This week we’ll be doing a webcast on the new release of CorasWorks Cim for Idea & Innovation Management on SharePoint 2010.  Our approach to Innovation with this solution is different from the pack of other offerings in the space.  This is because our solution runs natively on SharePoint and we have designed it to really leverage the full potential of SharePoint to drive innovation.  In this article, I’ll give you a heads up of the reasons behind this which we’ll be talking to and demoing in the webcast.

With Cim we compete in the Idea & Innovation Management solution category with about 10 other main software vendors.  Every one of them offers their solution as a SAAS offering.  They have collectively centered on a certain group thinking about innovation systems.  It goes like this:

  • we have a great solution for Idea & Innovation Management
  • we have figured out how to optimize it and offer you the perfected application
  • and it runs SAAS, so you don’t have to maintain servers and software
  • just tell your users to go to this URL and your organization can start to innovate
  • using this application you’ll get breakthrough ideas that will become major growth businesses

Now, this may appear a bit simplistic.  It is.  However, when you distill it down this is the approach.  Innovation is supposed to be an application that you can send users to and all is great.  This may be true in certain limited scenarios.  However, for most organizations, their objectives with innovation initiatives are varied to start with and tend to evolve.  As a note, CorasWorks uses many very specific applications via the SAAS model.  When the application is very specific, for a specific set of users, with a tightly defined use case – SAAS apps are a very cost-effective vehicle.

But, we simply don’t believe that successful innovation meets this criteria.  Further, we think that the core challenge/opportunity for enterprise innovation requires a very different approach.  Enter SharePoint 2010 and the CorasWorks approach with Cim…

The Core Innovation Application

Like the others we start out with a very nice full featured Idea & Innovation Management application.  At first glance, feature by feature we do offer the same core I&IM solution as our competitors.  If we stopped here, the customer would be comparing the I&IM from the 10 SAAS vendors with ours that happens to run on the SharePoint platform.

The SharePoint 2010 Innovation Environment

Let’s say you are seriously thinking about CorasWorks Cim.  Okay, so you buy it and the application gets dropped on top of your SharePoint infrastructure.  Now, it is conceivable that you would treat it as a siloed application just like the SAAS ones.  In truth, this is almost always the first though of OUR customers – “Here is the new innovation application, and, here is the URL you go to to use it and be innovative.”

But, wait.  Your Cim application is running in the middle of a broad, distributed, multi-purpose collaborative workplace called SharePoint.  It is very broadly available across the enterprise.  People go to SharePoint, and, their place within it to do more and more things.  And, where they go to work is not the URL of your new innovation app.

To drive innovation, we want visibility and engagement amongst our users.  So, instead of thinking of your Cim I&IM system as a siloed application, think of it as a solution, that drives innovation across your SharePoint-based work environment.  With this perspective, we now open it up so that the innovation challenges, activity, listings, supporting tasks, downstream activities, reports, etc. are available to everybody no matter where they are working across this environment.  Below we show a schematic of the idea that this app (like other apps) now becomes part of the DNA of your collaborative workplace.  What we are talking about is making innovation part of the daily work of users wherever they work vs. a place to go.

image

 

The Full User Experience

Remember, a key to innovation is visibility and engagement.  Okay, so as above we are seeing innovation as being distributed across a broad collaborative workplace.  There is another step to take and this is to think about the full user experience.  Typically, when we think of the user experience we think of how the user experiences “our app”.  We think of what the user sees and does when they go to that URL to use the app.   But, it is not the full user experience in SharePoint 2010 (or in general).  A user with access to SharePoint may have access and need to engage with 5, 10, 20, or 50 information resources, communities, project sites, teams, and yes, idea management communities, corporate challenges, and, business processes that are part of your innovation initiative.

The full user experience is as depicted below for Kim White.  We have bolded the various “applications” that probably relate to your innovation initiatives.

image

As part of Cim we provide a unique feature called the Cim Business Activity Stream that is designed to provide users with a better collaboration experience across SharePoint.  It puts your innovation apps right at the fingertips of the user.  From wherever they are in SharePoint they can engage.  New innovation communities and challenges light up instantly.  They can watch them.  They can contribute and collaborate with others.  They can see the collaborative activity and the process activity.  They can see user profiles of people they don’t know and check out their My Sites and tap into that persons social network.  They control what activity they see and thus weed out the noise to focus on what is relevant to them.  All without every leaving “home”.

Now, if the innovation initiatives are relevant to Kim white, it is now easy and convenient for her to engage and stay engaged.  Further, innovation work is right there next to HR Policies, Sales Collateral, and Department Community.  As she works, if she has an idea, she just engages.  Kim White has one easy and consistent experience across many “apps” that span the environment.  Your innovation “apps” are now part of her daily work.

 

An Innovation System Designed for Evolution

Now, we have the user in our sights.  We know we can put just what we want at their fingertips.  From this new perspective, the key is now to put the right “apps” at their fingertips to drive innovation.  We believe that the key is that your organization will want to innovate in many different ways.  You’ll want some general innovation initiatives such as General Ideas and specific event-style Challenges.  You’ll also have far more targeted innovation initiatives such as challenges for specific technical solutions or specific processes such as change requests for a product that is being revised.  Some might be managed by a central “innovation team”.  Others will be driven by specific business groups.  Some may be enterprise wide, while others are for specific business groups or communities of users.

The reality is that the average organization will have many different innovation initiatives.  They will evolve.  They will change.  They will have different drivers and owners.  Accordingly, CorasWorks Cim is designed to be unusually flexible.  You can quickly drop in new Challenges that light up at the fingertips of users.  You can dream up specific innovation initiatives or processes and drop in “customized” workstreams that span your work environment.  To the end user, they have a consistent experience.  To the innovation business owner, they get a unique workstream modified to fit the business objective.

 

Bringing It All Together

The fact that your organization has invested to deploy SharePoint 2010 means that you have a unique work environment to leverage.  With Cim on top, you can now drive innovation across this environment and engage your users wherever they work.  You have tremendous potential.  You have little risk.  You have a flexible innovation system.  You can try, and learn, and improve – yes, you can innovate.

william

ENC

Driving Business Value with the New Project Initiation social business process

Last week we added the New Project Initiation (“NPI”) application to our App Showcase.  This CorasWorks Cim-based app running on SharePoint 2010, front-ends your Project Management systems and provides you with a broad funnel for new project idea/proposal capture and collaboration and a process to review, evaluate and approve them. The application addresses an area of Demand Management that is common across all departments and types of organizations. In this article, I’ll look at the business scenario, drivers of business value, and common objections/pushback that you get by adding this front-end app for Demand Management to your project work.

The Business Scenario

All organizations do project work and we typically have many tools to manage the details of execution of a project.  CorasWorks even provides such a tool, the CorasWorks PPM, for Project Portfolio Management on SharePoint.  In working with our PPM customers, we found a major gap and opportunity to better manage the front-end funnel of project work – a gap that we have now filled with this NPI app.

Any standard Project Management methodology will talk about the importance of Project Initiation.  They reference techniques such as the form of a good Project Charter, the review criteria, etc.  However, the big opportunity is to change the game by adding a collaborative front-end for Demand Management.  The idea with the Cim New Project Initiation app is to open the front-end to a much broader group of people.  To make it easy for them to contribute new projects.  To provide a rich collaborative environment for them to enhance proposed projects and vet them.  All of this activity then feeds into a managed process (that can vary) where the proposed projects can be reviewed, further enhanced, evaluated, and then approved or not.  Then, the approved ones get pushed downstream to be worked on as a project. This workstream helps you funnel demand into a structured process – giving you greater visibility and engagement, as well as, control over what gets worked on.

The schematic below depicts the typical way that the end-to-end “workstream” works.  The Cim application handles the Collaboration and Process phases of the workstream.  It then connects to the Projects phase which is where you manage “execution” through your normal Project Management tools.  You have feedback loops across the workstream.

New Project Initiation Workstream

 

The Business Value

The business value that you derive by adding this NPI front-end comes in a number of different ways. It boils down to lower costs, better return on your project investments,  increased chances of making the right investments, and, less friction and greater readiness internally when the projects are delivered. These benefits are all part of doing proper Demand Management.  Let’s look at some key drivers of these outcomes:

- Eliminate Duplication – What projects is your organization doing?  Which are duplicative and even wasted, unmanaged competitive efforts?  By having a visible front-end, you eliminate or lessen duplicate efforts that cost you valuable resources and time to market.

- Encourage managed competition – What projects is your organization doing? Sometimes you actually want managed competitive efforts, such as two projects to vet two different technical approaches.  They are duplicative in terms of the objective by design, yet, by making them visible and managed you can quickly determine the right way to go and reallocate to the winning solution.

- Balance Project Work with Resources – There is a never ending desire for projects.  They always outstrip available resources.  By seeing the full pipeline of proposed projects and the portfolio of active or completed projects, you can throttle the projects that are initiated to match the available resources.  If people are required to put projects into the system to allocate resources (of course over a threshold) then you can manage this balance.

- Do the Right Projects – Which are the right projects to do?  If you could always do the right projects at the right time, you’d be unstoppable.  First, you need to know the Pipeline (future) and Portfolio (active and past).  Then, you can leverage your entire workforce to weigh in and vet projects collaboratively in the Pipeline.  You can then evaluate the Pipeline projects against one another AND against the ones that are already active or that were done.  You are leveraging the front-end for collaboration and then using it in your decision making for your project portfolio.

- Scope Projects Right – The benefit of the visibility and the collaboration on the front end is that the project gets more eyes on it, in a comparative context, and, the “charter” can be enhanced to try and arrive at just the right project scoping that is relevant to the objective, the resources, and the time.  You’d be surprised how a small fact from someone usually outside of the normal, back-room process, such as a new competitive initiative or market change, can alter the scope and thus the ultimate success of the project.

- Visibility Driving Readiness – The app never sleeps.  As a proposed project goes through the cycle the status and supporting information is at the fingertips of the organization.  They get to have their say up front.  They know which projects got funded.  They can track the progress of execution and be ready – to help or benefit by the result.  The system takes care of keeping interested people informed.

 

The Pushback to Adopting the New Process Initiative App

Many of our customers are adopting this use of Cim.  In particular, our customers using CorasWorks PPM are dropping this application onto the front-end to have an integrated project work stream all running on SharePoint.  But, these champions and most others face pushback within their organizations.  Let’s look at some of the common objections:

“Our people aren’t ready for this level of visibility” – Most are not.  But, isn’t that perhaps the problem, the constraint, and the opportunity.

“We don’t know our process to approve projects” – This is very common.  Many organizations don’t have a process or criteria to approve projects even at department and division levels.  A manager just approves it if they have resources.  If they need resources, they go to their manager.  One approach is to use this system to have people ONLY register projects. Then, learn how they go about approving them, getting their resources, and, what the success is.  You’d don’t have to even have a process to approve projects to realize value.  You don’t need the same approval process and criteria for all divisions and project types – in fact, it should vary and the Cim solution supports different work streams.

“We have a very deep process” – We can accommodate that also.  Cim is unusually flexible and deep on Process Management.  But, whether you have no process or deep process the key is the front-end capture and collaboration that feeds into it and supports the decision making.

“We already have a PMO” – Great.  They can manage the process of approval for that threshold of project.  Now, just bolt on that front end that engages the whole organization, department, division, get the collaboration going, and, they will now have some real-world input into their process.  In addition, you can capture and manage projects at a lower threshold, effectively having mini-PMO’s so that the value of good visibility, collaboration, decision making, and management gets pushed deeper in the organization.

“What about our secret projects” – Secret projects like Corporate Acquisitions should not go into a broad, collaborative front end.  This solution is about the super-majority of the projects, not the few.  (NOTE: We could provide you with a secret project solution like we do for our Military and National Security customers.)

“We really need to get our Project Management system going first” – Maybe.  But isn’t this a bit like building your manufacturing plant before you have a handle on demand.  Maybe getting control over the project pipeline, and getting people used to engaging and collaborating on the front-end should be the first thing that you do.  Then, use that to determine which tools will be best to execute on which type of project.

“We use different Project Management systems” – Everybody does.  The truth is that the number 1 tool is the spreadsheet.  The key is that this front-end can be open, collaborative, and consistent, and then, integrate with multiple execution tools.  The Cim solution integrates natively with the CorasWorks PPM.  It also integrates with native SharePoint Project Sites, third party apps on SharePoint, and Microsoft Project Server on SharePoint.  And, it can integrate to external systems such as Sopheon, Siebel, Salesforce, MS CRM, Clarity et al in a read-write manner.

 

Summary

In summary, the shift is to apply a Demand Management methodology on the front end vs. being focused on just the project work itself.  By taking a broad view of project work across your organization, we hope that you can see the value of greater visibility, engagement, and collaboration on the front-end.  And yes, there are internal objections.  It helps that Cim is quite flexible so that you can start in a way that makes adoption more organic.  You may use it for just registering projects or put strong process behind it.  You may just start with a single department.  Or, you may open it to a whole division or the entire enterprise.  And, you may have different work streams for different project types or business groups.  Whether you have one NPI work stream or many, you are able to see across them all and the full life-cycle to help you make the best decisions that you can.

I believe as the research indicates, that for most industry segments the organizations that master the front-end approach of Demand Management will out compete those organizations that master the mechanics of project delivery.  You need both Demand Management and Project Delivery to succeed.  But, right now most organizations are lacking on the front-end, since the types of tools such as Cim are relatively new and just getting adopted.

 

william

3 Core Phases of Activity of an Innovation System

In our web cast on Cim this week we showed our new graphical breakdown of the three core phases of activity of idea and innovation management.  In presentations, our customers have found this approach to be very useful to plan how they are approaching innovation.  It also reflects the overall modular architecture of the Cim solution.  I’ll run through it in this article.

With CorasWorks Idea Management (Cim), we provide a solution that makes an end-to-end process for innovation possible on SharePoint.  We’ve architected our solution to be flexible.  We’ve broken the innovation system into 3 core phases of activity as pictured below.

3phasesofcim

 

The short take on the three phases is as follows:

  • Ideation – this where ideas are contributed and collaborated on by a broad community
  • Management – this is where a smaller group of people work the process of formally approving ideas and managing the overall process
  • Execution – this is where the heavy lifting occurs to transform approved ideas into innovations that drive business results

Below is a drill down of the three phases showing a summary of the types of activities we support and that may occur within each phase of activity.

drilldown3phases

The depth and scope of each of the above phases varies based upon the business scenario.  Most of our implementations have a robust Ideation phase that takes place in a central innovation portal or that is distributed across multiple departments of an organization, my sites, the enterprise portal, etc.  The Management phase depends upon the complexity of our customers’ process.  Usually, it begins rather simply, and, evolves rapidly as the organizations’ approach to decision making matures and their portfolio expands.  Most organizations start with no specific integration plan for the Execution phase.  They have existing ways of delivering results that fall outside of the normal scope.  However, armed with the CorasWorks Project Portfolio Management solution and our out of the box integration with team sites and custom applications – the execution phase tends to rather rapidly become part of their integrated innovation system.

To get a sense of how this looks visually, check out the Screenshot Tour of Cim on our website.

william

Idea Management: Social Workstreams vs. Workflow

I’ve been working with a customer recently that is implementing CorasWorks Idea Management (Cim) for enterprise Best Practices management.  This is a very expansive business process.  Recently, we discussed the design with executives and we got to talking about how the new business process differed from workflow and what the impact on “the way we work” was going to be.  The short answer is that this end-to-end process, like most with Cim, is a “Social Workstream” vs. a workflow.  The impact is big.  In this article, I’ll discuss the differences and the impact.

First of all, when I get to talking with people about implementing Cim for an end-to-end business process the topic of workflow often comes up.  People have a mental model of  workflow that has been burned in over many years.  In addition, since we are on SharePoint they are used to the model of workflow for processing documents and forms.  It is a good place to start to explain the new model of Social Workstreams.

Workflow

While workflow approaches and implementations differ greatly, at a very, very basic level there are typically two attributes to a workflow:

1) The Thing: You are typically processing a single Thing.  This Thing is a document, a form, or a transaction.  It stays the same across the process.

2) Sequence: It is a sequential process that goes from person to person based upon decisions by people and/or business rules of the system. 

workflow 

 

Workstream

Workstreams are bigger animals. A workstream, such as most Cim business processes, has two key attributes:

1) Activities: A workstream is composed of a number of distinctly different activities.  Each has its own people, roles, skills, information, and tools.  Each works independently, but, is integrated into a process that defines the workstream.  The integration is loosely-coupled.

2) Gates: The work progresses forward from one activity to another through Gates.  A person or a group of people control when and if the items move forward.  Decisions are often board style vs. individuals and sequential.

The diagram below represents a typical workstream for Cim.  The main stages are represented by 1, 2, and 3.  At the highest level 1 is Ideation, 2 is Management, and 3 is Execution. There are gates between them. The swirling eddies, A, B, C, and D represent activities, usually Social Eddies, that will be discussed below.

SocialWorkstream

 

The Workstream to Build a House

A good analogy I use for a workstream is the building of a house.  Upfront a team lays out the design and files the plan to get permits to continue.  There is a crew that levels the ground and digs the hole for the basement.  There is a crew that pours the concrete and lays the foundation.  Then, the framers.  Then, the roofers.  Then, the wall guys, followed by carpenters, electricians, plumbing, etc.  Largely, they follow a sequence, but, you can also have different activities going on at the same time.  Decisions are made at various stages (the Gates), often with the help of experts that have to sign off based upon standards (such as getting the local certification for the electricity).

 

Social Eddies of an Idea Management Workstream

A business process taking an idea through to a business outcome maps to a workstream.  There are various gates along the way such as 1) the initial idea contribution and ideation by the general community (A above), 2) screening the idea to bring it into a formal review process with a group of initial reviewers to rate an idea with relative questions/criteria and or vote on it (B above) , 3) moving the innovation into a formal planning exercise where there is objective data and analysis (C above), 4) approving the innovation and pushing it into a project management team, and 5) the team that develops the innovation or implements it (D above).

 

Before each Gate in your process there is usually a group of people that participate in an activity (A, B, C, D above).  It is a collaborative process that may involve 100’s of people or a handful.  We refer to each of these collaborative activities as Social Eddies.  In the diagram above, the spinning circles represent these Social Eddies.  (Note: Eddies are an interesting phenomena of fluid dynamics that get created when water or air flows around an obstacle like a boulder in a stream.   It creates a vacuum with often a backflow that goes against the current or creates a circular current.)

 

Example of Enterprise Best Practices

So, lets look at the Social Workstream for enterprise best practices.

- The idea is contributed (Gate 1).  The general community begins to review it, rate it, comment, and augment it.  Social eddie A has begun.  Popular opinion rules.

- At a point a person or persons screen the idea and decide to bring it into the formal review process.  This is the second gate.  Now, a group of specific reviewers will do an initial review on the proposed best practice using a review form with consistent evaluation criteria (social eddie B).

- At a point a person or group has a meeting and decides based upon the reviews AND based upon the popular rating (eddie A which by the way is still spinning) to move it forward into the Planning stage.

- In the Planning stage (eddie C above) a small group do a deep dive to evaluate the best practice, collect evidence, quantify it, and, present results.

- Based upon this, the Best Practice “board” will then decide on the best practice – fourth gate.  It then may kick off one or more implementation projects, or the drafting of a formal best practice “instructions” document to then drive multiple implementation efforts.  These are represented by the social eddie D.

An important aspect of the CorasWorks solution is that along the way people downstream in the process are able to look upstream.  Thus, a person that is drafting the best practice can look upstream to see a) the formal best practice approved, b) the initial and formal reviews, and c) the original idea and the ideation around it.  An interesting aspect is that since a process like this may span say 90 days, when the person is writing the best practice instruction there may well be many more comments or other information contributed to the original idea or by the various review teams.  Those social eddies may continue to spin depending on the interest level.

 

Impact of Social Workstreams on the Way we Work

Implementing systems with social workstreams impacts the way we work in a number of ways:

-Loosely-coupled work – Workstreams integrate different work activities to produce outcome – these activities can live on their own and be integrated in a number of different workstreams

- Workstream activity happening in “social eddies” – broader participation, visible, social, continuous feedback (even after gate decision), interactive

- People engage in their Social Eddies – people start to see their “eddie” where they will spend most of their effort

- Potentially expedited cycle times – you don’t have to wait for an item in a workflow to get to you before you can see that it may be coming down the road and begin to participate or decide to expedite it

- Board Decision Style – gated decisions often happen in a board-style, based upon both broad input and precise input

- Disciplined rhythm – Can set disciplined rhythm of decision making (bi-weekly “board” meeting) – not dependent on people or system in sequential process

- Your vote may count less – people are used to having specific power to approve or reject.  In social workstreams, there are often “forcing functions”, such as very high popularity combined with visibility, that lessen an individuals ability to say no or yes.

- Increased effectiveness via the “wisdom of crowds” – hopefully leading to “righter” decisions

- Importance of standard criteria – to make this work, you need to start to establish standard evaluation criteria that is consistently applied and enforced, say through the review forms and board decision criteria

- Greater visibility – the design of social workstreams, such as in Cim, is to provide much greater visibility to the end-to-end process, including status updates to initial contributors as their idea moves through the workstream

 

The Upshot

A nice, structured workflow is straight forward.  It seems simpler.  In many ways it is.  There are many tools to create a workflow.  But, the value is largely simple efficiency.

An end-to-end process for idea and innovation management can be an extraordinarily powerful driver of business success.  It drives organizational effectiveness.  But, it could get messy.  This is where the tool comes in.  The role of CorasWorks Idea Management on SharePoint is be the enabler to bring you the power of tapping into your social eddies, but to do so in a more efficient and effective social workstream.  It does the loosely-coupling for you.  It gives you your control points and process automation.  It uses workflow in specific places to be efficient.  It provides the upstream and downstream visibility.  It is flexible enough to accommodate the different workstreams and social eddies to support different business scenarios (new products, process improvement, best practices, change requests, etc.).

It will take some time (years) for social workstreams to get comfortably understood and make their way into Visio stencils.  But, trust me, they will.  Why? Because in the future (during the 2010’s), organizations simply will not be able to compete without effectively tapping into the full power of their workforce.

william

Process Improvement Workstream with Cim v1.1

In previous articles on CorasWorks Idea Management (Cim) I’ve talked about the full solution and the business approaches to using Cim to drive your innovation process.  In this article, I’ll look at how you would use Cim for a specific business scenario.  It is a 3-phase, end-to-end workstream for process improvements that moves ideas from capture through review and approval and into the implementation phase. 

The Scenario

Imagine that an organizational has three main process areas that they are driving forward: Information Worker Productivity, Sales Processes, and Manufacturing. This Process Improvement Workstream implements a 3-phase process that cuts across the SharePoint landscape and drives an end-to-end process supporting all three.   

Below is a graphic of the 3-phase workstream.  It starts with the Process Improvement Community (a Standing Idea Community) in the Idea Portal.  This is where you capture ideas and collaborate.  You then have a Review and Approval Management Site.  This is where you work through the ideas to approval and add to a portfolio.  Then, you have three different implementation teams.  The approved ideas are pushed into these sites for implementation. 

image

From an implementation standpoint in this scenario, you would be using the off-the-shelf modules of Cim for the Community and Management phases along with native SharePoint team sites for the implementation phase.  We also leverage Windows Workflow Foundation to kick off notifications based upon rules at each phase of the process.  In the following sections, I’ll walk you through the deployment for each phase.

Process Improvement Community: Capture and Collaborate

In the Idea Portal you would deploy a Cim Community module that is tailored for Process Improvement ideas.  The tailoring might include a custom tagsonomy and custom fields for contributors.  The general community of users go here, contribute ideas and tag them.  Then, the community rates, comments, attaches documents. Ideas get rated based upon their Star Power.

Below is a screenshot of an idea that has been contributed.

Cimv1.1-processcom

 

Process Management Site: Screen, Review, Approve, Manage Downstream

This site plays a pivotal role in the process – interacting upstream and downstream and doing their work in the middle.  You start with the deployment of the Cim Portfolio Management site.  From here, this smaller team works with ideas from the upstream community.  In the middle they play their role: screening the ideas, selecting them for review, finishing off the ideas to propose them as projects, and voting and approving them.  Then, they are set to push the approved projects to downstream teams for implementation which they then track as part of their portfolio.  

In the screenshot below, a manager has selected an approved idea and is pushing it into downstream team sites.  Note that they are only filling in a few fields in the form.  As part of any CorasWorks workstream, the Action uses information from the existing approved idea along with the few fields they fill out to complete the necessary downstream information.  You’ll see the complete result in the team site below.  They do this work from their Management site, without having to go anywhere else.

cimv1.1-process-push

 

Downsteam Implementation: Work Team Sites

Now, it is time to implement.  In this scenario, we have three implementation teams for process ideas.  We have set up these work sites using standard native SharePoint team sites.  This is where the teams work on incoming approved process improvements.  The approved ideas appear in their team sites as tasks.  They manage their own work team.  Each team is able to organize their content and internal work as they please.

Below is a screenshot of how the incoming items look to users.  They have everything they need to implement the process idea.  In addition, they have track-back URL’s to the approved project in the Management site and further upstream to the original idea in the Process Improvement community.  While working, Windows Workflow Foundation is used to automate notifications based upon the information that has flowed downstream.

implementation task

 

Summary

This Process Improvement Workstream provides you with an end-to-end solution.  You implement it using Cim off-the-shelf, with a bit of WWF for notifications, and some team sites.  It is a great way to start, but, it is just the beginning.  You can beef up the process with more robust downstream modules such as the Project and Program sites from CorasWorks PPM.  You can extend the Management site to incorporate additional supporting processes (eddies if you will in the workstream metaphor) such as supporting sites for specialized Review Teams to flesh out the ideas before approval.  You can also have different communities to segment the ideation phase say by division or purpose.  And, of course you can follow the same workstream approach to implement other workstreams for different business scenarios.

An important aspect when designing workstreams such as this is that they do indeed cut across a SharePoint landscape.  You have different modules in different phases in different departments usually implemented as different Site Collections and even Web Applications.  CorasWorks connects across all of these boundaries to enable you to have a fully integrated, end-to-end process where people can work from wherever they work.  In addition, as described above CorasWorks solutions natively integrate with any other sites in SharePoint and with Windows Workflow Foundation to drive notifications and updates.

This particular workstream is pre-packaged for Cim users and can be provided as part of your Cim Jump Start.  Look for more business scenario snapshots like this in the future…

william