Thursday, October 25, 2007

Augmenting your SharePoint system with TeamTrack

Many organisations have a Microsoft SharePoint system in place which they use primarily as a document library. Often it can grow to become a monster that is full of redundant documents and is impossible to navigate and maintain. TeamTrack, a business process management tool, can be used with SharePoint to enforce a more controlled solution.
To understand how this can be done consider the following core strengths of both SharePoint and TeamTrack.

SharePoint is mostly used as a browser-based document management system. Individuals within the organisation create site collections, sites and personal sites in which libraries can be hosted. SharePoint can tightly integrate with Microsoft Office (2003 and later versions only) so that documents can be added to SharePoint libraries directly from within the Microsoft Office application itself.

Users can also ‘check out’ a document from within the Microsoft Office application itself which effectively locks it down so that other users cannot edit it until it is ‘checked in’ again.
Some basic process management can also be implemented in SharePoint such as a predefined approval process though it is limited and difficult to change.

TeamTrack is a full business process management tool that enables an organisation to quickly define and automate its own internal processes. It can enforce agreed standards so that control is put on the routing and authorisation of items such as documents or issues. Versioning can also be enforced and any changes to the process can be rapidly implemented.

Processes that have been enforced can be viewed graphically so that users can easily see what the document has gone through in order to be in its current state and where it will be routed next.

Combining SharePoint and TeamTrack
A solution that combines both SharePoint and TeamTrack would be the ideal as it would effectively wrap the SharePoint library with the control provided by TeamTrack as shown in the graphic below.

TeamTrack Process Wrapping your SharePoint Libraries

Taking advantage of TeamTrack’s open APIs; integrations to established third party change management tools can be easily implemented. This level of version control is not present in SharePoint alone and is important from an auditing perspective.

Rather than forcing your employees to provide required documents as a method of controlling how they work, this solution will allow your existing processes to drive the business and where documents are required along the way they can be attached. This is a subtle difference but it results in a solution that is more in tune with how you do business. Any collaborative business process can be represented in TeamTrack quickly and easily. Where you rely on SharePoint alone to manage your documentation you can miss out on this.

Finally it is worth pointing out that this combined solution will also be Mashup-Ready as the next version of TeamTrack (due out in the next couple of months) will allow quick integration with any Web 2.0 application that exposes web services such as SalesForce, PeopleSoft or Google Maps. More about that in other blog articles.

Integrating SharePoint and TeamTrack provides a stable, extensible, enterprise-wide solution. It will allow you to easily manage your documentation ensuring any approval or change processes are well managed and audited. If you would like to discuss augmenting your SharePoint system with TeamTrack please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Business Process Lego

Most of us will remember building things with Lego as a child. Lego, the company, sold bricks of various sizes and shapes and left it up to the imagination of children to use them to build whatever they wanted. The results were often very complex models that the Lego designers had never even considered would be built when they sold the bricks.

Over the years, Lego has brought out new components. These components can fit into a Lego model because they comply with the standard interlocking brick bumps, but each component offers additional functionality of its own. These components have included doors, trees and drawbridges and even more recently components that are programmable by a computer. By making these advanced components available along with the original standard Lego bricks, much more complex models can be created and innovation is fostered.

Here’s where we get a bit abstract. Imagine if in business, companies provided components that complied with a common standard so that they could be linked together and built into an overall solution., for example, might provide a component that gives you an employee’s details if you gave it the employee number. Google might provide a component that gives you a map if you gave it an address. Quickbooks might give you an account balance if you gave it an account number. If you wanted to create an application that updates an employee’s details, you might put these components together and very quickly you would have a working Internet based application.

A solution built with business process Lego

Some companies already provide these components in a format called a WebService. (Click here for an example of Dunn and Bradstreet’s credit rating check WebServices.)

Serena is about to launch a new product called Mashup Composer which will allow you to effectively use business process Lego to create exciting new applications much more quickly than if you developed them from scratch. This can empower those who are not software developers to be innovative and build simple web applications of their own. Now no one is suggesting that they will build the next national healthcare management system, but they can build simple web applications for getting things approved, recording complaints, or managing leave requests for example.

I will be discussing these exciting developments in the world of business mashups in the coming months in this blog.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Getting the most out of your TeamTrack System

Serena estimates that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of TeamTrack applications in existence. This means that although you may have installed TeamTrack in your organisation to manage a particular process, chances are, you could be getting more value out of it.
In this brief article I want to give you some examples of ways that organisations are using TeamTrack.

1. NDA approval
In the US, over 4,000 employees at Lockheed Martin use TeamTrack to manage a number of processes including their Non Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). Details of each NDA are entered into TeamTrack and can be tracked as they are approved. Through powerful reports, users can quickly see what NDAs are in place and what their statuses are.

2. Leave Requests
In this workflow, an employee submits a request for leave. The system routes it to the employee’s supervisor who will receive an email with the request details. The supervisor can approve or reject the request and this response is sent back to the employee. If the leave request is approved, the number of days requested is subtracted from the employee’s entitlement. Reports can show all outstanding holidays for employees.

3. Project Governance
While Serena Mariner can be considered the tool of choice for managing a portfolio of projects, some organisations do not want that level of control. For simply guiding a project through a series of authorisation gates and phases, TeamTrack can be the perfect tool.
TeamTrack can be configured to require that certain documents are attached at specific phases of the project and that sign-off is obtained from management at various points along the project lifecycle.

4. Expenses Approval
Many large organisations use TeamTrack to manage their expenses approval process. Employees can enter their expenses directly into TeamTrack or attach their expense forms as spreadsheets or documents. They are then routed to appropriate supervisors who can reject or approve them. If they are rejected, they will be sent back to the employee with a note and if they are approved they will be automatically sent on to the finance department to be dealt with. This simple process can really speed up expenses approval and reports can show how expense claims are distributed across your organisation.

5. Managing Customer Enhancement Requests
Over 3,000 employees at Thomson Financial use TeamTrack to streamline various processes including the routing of enhancement requests. Using the process that they implemented, when a customer logs a suggestion or request with a customer service agent, it is routed based on its importance, to the product manager or development manager for consideration.

Thomson Financial has also overhauled its sales proposal process with TeamTrack. “It used to take about five days to pull together a sales proposal. Now it takes three minutes,” says Hastings-Kimball. “Our sales teams now spend more time with their customers and prospects to increase revenue.”

I hope this short article has stirred your creative juices and you can start seeing new ways that TeamTrack can be used in your organisation. If you would like to get in touch with us to discuss those new ideas, please do not hesitate to do so.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Reducing Project Failure

Most organisations have war stories of projects that were never completed or failed to deliver on what they promised. It is far too common an occurrence. A report from The Standish Group in 2004 entitled “CHAOS Chronicles”, which studied over 40,000 projects, showed that project success rates had more than doubled to 34% from their previous study a decade earlier! 34% is still a success rate that most organisations would consider to be unacceptable.

Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) has been generating a lot of hype recently because it addresses this high failure rate. It looks not just at how individual projects are being managed but at how those projects fit in the wider context of the organisation’s strategic goals. PPM asks the question, “Are the projects being pursued the ones that should be done in the first place?”

Forrester Benchmarks
When considering if PPM is right for your organisation, consider the following key benchmarks on PPM success from Forrester, the independent technology and market research company.

· Visibility of the total project portfolio
Elimination of redundant, underperforming, low-value and poorly aligned projects
Benchmark #1: Reduced Project Cost: 1% - 5%, Forrester, 9/05

· Better utilization of resources
Efficient allocation, reduced bottlenecks and balanced workloads
Benchmark #2: Reduced Resource FTEs: 1% - 5%, Forrester, 9/05

· Improved project success
More projects delivered on-time and within budget
Benchmark #3: Improved Project Success Rate: 15% - 30%, Forrester, 9/05

· Improved operational efficiency
Reduction in manual effort required for PPM processes.
Benchmark #4: Reduction in manual effort 20 - 30%, Forrester 9/05

· Better investment decisions
Minimize the full lifecycle costs while maximizing benefits of technology investments.
Benchmark #5: Savings in total IT costs of 5% - 8%, Forrester 9/05

· Alignment of the application portfolio
Consolidate the application portfolio, replace high cost applications, and enforce standards.
Benchmark #6: Savings in application maintenance cost: 10 – 20%, Forrester 9/05

If you would like to discuss how Mariner from Serena can help your organisation achieve these kinds of results, please contact us.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Business Process Modelling third in top 10 technologies for 2008 (Gartner)

According to Gartner, Business Process Modelling is one of the top technologies to focus on in 2008. While BPM is not technically a ‘technology’ (it is more a field of knowledge), it must be in place before really useful SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) applications can be developed.

This supports comments in an earlier blog article where I suggested that more formal automation of business processes must occur in organisations to accommodate recent changes in the general business environment. In that article I argued that organisations cannot enforce their processes without some process automation tool like Serena’s TeamTrack.

Gartner’s full top-ten list can be found here.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Your Maturity Matters

It has been said that Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) is largely a discussion about maturity. The more mature your key processes, the better your IT governance. As an organisation’s IT governance processes mature, it becomes more successful at doing the right projects right.

As discussed in a previous article, where project management focuses on the execution of projects, PPM looks at ensuring that the right projects are selected in the first place and that there is a balance in the portfolio of projects that is congruent with the pursuit of the strategic goals of the organisation.

Now, an organisation cannot become mature over night. Maturity takes time and effort and must be done in a progressive manner. Obviously the organisation needs to know where it currently is and what direction it should head in to make this change.

The Quick Maturity Assessment (QMA) is intended to help in this regard. It takes the form of a two hour telephone survey where key people from the organisation, with the help of an expert, answer set questions about the way it operates in seven key areas.

The output of the QMA is a report that shows, amongst other things, how the organisation scores in these seven areas. This gives the organisation a sense of what its current maturity level is. The report also details which are the areas that would bring about the most advancement in maturity for the least cost. Obviously by tackling these first, the organisation gets the most benefit for the least effort.

The screenshot below shows the Future State Maturity graph from a sample QMA which maps the organisation’s current maturity and shows where it could expect to be if it was to implement the next level of the plan from the QMA report.

The QMA is a free service that Client Solutions is now offering. Please contact us if you want to talk about your maturity and getting a free QMA.