Boost your Productivity – An Interview with CorasWorks PS

Learn about the various “productivity busters” our CorasWorks Professional Services (PS) team encounters in the field.  Then hear about the “productivity boosters” we implement in response.  Below is a video in which I talk with Steve Evangelista, an experienced CorasWorks trainer and member of our PS team.  We talk about:

  • His experience and role in educating and working with our customers, including the types of customers he works with.
  •  His solutions – The common productivity busters our customers encounter, and the productivity boosters he’s put in place to address needs including: reporting, business process, work management, application integration, and more.
  • His blended approach to customer independence and what makes customers successful with a “do-it-yourself” builder strategy in conjunction with CorasWorks PS.
  • His engagement process – How Steve and CorasWorks PS engage with customers to get them started on their path to productivity.

Tips for viewing the video:  Hovering your mouse over the bottom of the player provides controls to pause, increase/decrease volume, or view in full screen mode.  Use the video’s table of contents to navigate to specific topics of interest.  Clicking outside the video area collapses the table of contents.

Email Info@corasworks.net for more information or to arrange a convesation with our PS team.

 

Post to Twitter

CorasWorks Essentials Training

What’s covered in the Distance Learning?


As the training guy at CorasWorks you can imagine I’m often asked “What’s in the training?”  I’m always happy to have a detailed conversation with customers to help align the training topics with what you’re trying to accomplish.  However I created a short video introduction for the CorasWorks Essentials training to help answer the question.

The video is 11 minutes long, however the viewer includes a table of contents so you skip to desired topics.  The table of contents includes:

  • Introduction
  • How we work
  • Reduce Barriers to Productivity
  • SharePoint the Platform
  • CorasWorks Value
  • CorasWorks Value Continuum
  • End User Enablement
  • Configuring Data Displays and Actions
  • CorasWorks Grids
  • CorasWorks Charts
  • CorasWorks Calendars
  • CorasWorks Actions
  • The Application Layer
  • Business Process
  • Distributed Process
  • Do More, Work Less
  • Extending and Enhancing Sites and Applications
  • Exercise Manual
  • Ongoing Support and Education

Tips for viewing the video:  Hovering your mouse over the bottom of the player provides controls to pause, increase/decrease volume, or view in full screen mode.

 

In addition to the Basic Components, the distance learning provides an introduction to the Advanced Components through a series of six self-paced modules:

  • Module 1 – v11 Advanced Components and Training Overview
  • Module 2 – Implementing an External Data Provider (EDP)
  • Module 3 – Implementing an EDP with Web Services
  • Module 4 – Implementing a Workplace Lookup
  • Module 5 – Implementing a Basic CorasWorks Grid Display
  • Module 6 – Implementing an Advanced Grid Display Adapter

A written outline, course schedule, and registration can be accessed from the Training & Education page under the Services tab of the CorasWorks website.  You can always email info@corasworks.net for pricing or general questions.

Post to Twitter

Driving SharePoint User Adoption

If you build it, will they come? Have the freedoms of the SharePoint platform left your users wondering what’s available, why it’s important, and how to get there? Does your SharePoint training focus too much on the “how do I…,”  losing sight of the bigger productivity picture?  These are some of the questions at the heart of user adoption.

Information Overload

When I lived in New York I rode the subway a lot. As I was learning my way around the city I’d get off at unfamiliar stops, surface to the street, and be faced with information overload. There was so much to see, so many options, and no clear direction. Sound familiar?

There isn’t an app for that!

Today “there’s an app for that,” probably 100+ to get you around NYC, but last I checked there isn’t one to guide you through your SharePoint environment. So there isn’t a 99 cent answer to help your users find their way, but based on your SharePoint investment isn’t it worth some thought and action?

A customer’s solution

Fortistar, a long time customer of CorasWorks, has built a robust intranet called Fortistar Connect. It includes numerous collaborative applications, point solutions, and general work management – touching nearly every aspect of their business. David Comora, their CIO, is committed to supporting his users. This means not only “tweaking” the system to meet users needs, and building new solutions to make life easier, but also showing them the way.

While many users are currently active in Fortistar Connect, I recently worked with David to create an introductory video to help drive greater user adoption. He’s also working with us on a learning center in SharePoint with CorasWorks to delivery ongoing training and support through videos and documentation.

Trailer to the feature film

Below is a short “trailer” to the Fortistar video that is one example of how you can engage your user to help drive user adoption (note this is just the trailer and you can’t link to the feature film).

Grab some popcorn…

 

Post to Twitter

You Don’t Need to be a Project Guy…

…to manage projects in SharePoint.

Confessions of a non-project guy

I’m not a project manager, and I’m not in IT, but like most of my readers I have project type work.  I too traditionally managed this work in an ad hoc fashion with spreadsheets, email, static weekly reports, and other manually intensive activities.  And yes, I’ve missed a deadline.  And yes, I’ve produced work that I knew could have been better.

What’s a non-project guy to do? 

When CorasWorks came out with a Project Portfolio Management (PPM) solution a few years ago I saw it as a product for users who had a Project Manager title, or a PMO role.  Not true, or at least only partially true.

The deep functionality and flexibility of the CorasWorks PPM meets the needs for those schooled or skilled in project and portfolio management.  However, what about the rest of us?  Well, we need to face the fact that we manage projects, and look at the flexibility of tools like the CorasWorks PPM to help us meet our goals and objectives and make life easier.

How can you tell if you’re a project manager? 

You’re probably a project manager if two or more of the following apply:

You have goals, and those goals break down into a series of tasks and subtasks that need to be delivered in a certain timeframe.  A goal may translate to one or more projects that are made up of task and sub-task deliverables.  Project guys would consider the sum of those tasks a “schedule.”

You encounter challenges, which in the project world could be considered risks.  If those risks aren’t addressed they become issues.  And if issues are mitigated, they can impact the quality of your work, costs, and/or on time delivery.

You work on teams and cross functionally.  There are people you count on to help you get work done. These folks are essentially Project Members.  They could have task assignments, help address issues, contribute documents, conduct reviews, provide subject matter expertise, and more.

You produce reports and status updates on a regular basis.  This is the common weekly email report, PowerPoint, or Excel spreadsheet that is static and usually out of date the minute after it’s sent.

You collaborate.  Meaning you need input, feedback, and ideas shared among team members to help make decisions, address problems, and in general reach your goals.

You wear several hats, or have responsibility for more than one group and area of your business.  If so, you likely manage multiple projects of different types.

Get out of the box!

You may have started to manage project type work in SharePoint.  If so, congratulations, you have one foot out of the box.  However the CorasWorks PPM may open you up to a new world of organization, access, visibility, communication, and productivity that you didn’t know was possible.

Here’s a short video of how I, the non-project guy, set up a project for training updates using the CorasWorks PPM.

Happy viewing. After watching the videos, if you’d like more information, email us at info@corasworks.net.

Post to Twitter

Just In Time Video Training and Support for SharePoint

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, what’s a video worth?

It could be worth the difference between answering a users question quickly and effectively or having them continue to struggle and escalate their frustration.

Question:  How do I create a CorasWorks Actions Library?
Answer:  View this 3 minute video.

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Now the embedded video in this blog is rendered in a smaller viewing area for the purpose of providing an example, however users would have a larger player to clearly see the content and access controls to pause, fast forward, and replay the video.

CorasWorks uses Jing, a free product from TechSmith

The video was produced using a free product from TechSmith called Jing.  Individuals can set up an account and download Jing to their desktop.   The product allows users to capture all or a portion of their screen and record up to 5 minutes of video.  Saved video content is stored on Screencast.com, where there are a number of options for managing your videos.

After producing a video, users have options such as pasting the link into an email or embedding code into a blog, pdf, or other document for viewing.  CorasWorks uses Jing to create video content that is used by our customer support, training, and product development teams.

Make video lessons accessible to your users

For CorasWorks training and education, we recognize it’s often not enough to have short, standalone video tutorials to demonstrate various “how to’s.”  Therefore we adapted the CorasWorks Cim product to deliver learning centers for our customers on active support and maintenance.

Have a look at how I took this 3 minute video shown above and added it to our Platform Learning Center, along with a job aid, to make it more accessible to our customers.

If you need access to the Learning Center, and you’re active on support and maintenance, email training@corasworks.net.  Use the same email to request more information about creating a learning center for your organization.

Post to Twitter

Be Proactive

Are you proactive or reactive when it comes to SharePoint? 

In the classroom I often have students who are programmers, developers, system administrators, business analysts, or IT managers.  I always ask the question:

“What are you doing, or are you planning to do, on SharePoint?”

Many students don’t have an answer or a clearly defined need.  I ask, because as an instructor I look to emphasize topics during the training, and provide relevant examples based on students’ interests and needs.  Without a specific need, the primary objective of training for many students is to understand the capabilities of CorasWorks software so they can respond to questions and requests that come to them – they’re in a reactionary mode.  Why?  I hear several common reasons:

  • Nothing’s in the queue – no one’s come to us recently with a request.
  • We’re short staffed – we don’t have the resources to look for needs.
  • We don’t know what to ask – what are the right questions and who do we ask?
  • We don’t think of SharePoint as an applications platform, rather it’s an ad hoc collaboration environment that we support and don’t drive.

There’s nothing wrong with first understanding the capabilities of CorasWorks’ software to then see the possibilities for solving productivity challenges.  However when that knowledge is applied through a reactionary mode our customers miss a huge opportunity to get exponential business value from our software.  Let’s flip the common reactionary responses to a proactive mode.

Get things in the queue  Meet with functional teams, generate a SharePoint survey, set up a lunch-and-learn, or leverage the CorasWorks Cim product to capture and define the productivity busters in your business, where:

  •  Users can’t readily access information how they need it, where they need it.  This could mean sifting through spreadsheets on a local hard drive, or information stored in different sites and site collections, external databases like SQL, legacy DBs, etc.  CorasWorks displays and dashboards could be the answer.
  • Users need a visible and manageable process where one doesn’t currently exist or isn’t optimize.  CorasWorks actions can help meet common business process needs.
  • Users have communication breakdowns or delays, trying to manage correspondence and exchanges through email or meetings.  Manage the data in SharePoint and drive communication with email notifications.

Think Big, Start Small – Don’t overload a lean staff by opening the flood gates, rather look for one, or the next, key business challenges that can be solved on SharePoint with your current resource availability. 

  •  The repeatable and reusable component architecture of SharePoint and CorasWorks often means you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to solve “like” challenges. 
  • CorasWorks Solution Consultants can be used as a sounding board, free of charge, for guidance on how to best apply our software against a particular need.
  • CorasWorks Professional Services is also available to help, with short term or long term engagements when you need resources or expertise.  

Start asking questions -  The only dumb question is the one not asked.  This applies in the classroom and in the workplace.  Open the channels of communication.  Usually IT groups start with the areas of revenue generation, customer interaction, or greatest exposure and cost impact.  Key questions include:

  • Where are you lacking visiblity and accountability?  If you’re missing deadlines, or things are taking longer than they should, they could likely be managed better in SharePoint with CorasWorks.
  • Where do you spend time generating reports?  Could those individuals generating and viewing reports benefit from real-time reporting through chart displays and dashboards?
  • Are there common request that you receive, and updates you provide, where you and your requestors could benefit from a structured process versus ad hoc communications?
  • What cross functional activities do you own, or participate in, that would be better served in 24×7 SharePoint environment?

These are just a few of the questions to get the ball rolling.  CorasWorks has successfully delivered lunch-and-learns with our customers’ business users, in support of the IT group, to help ask the key questions and identify needs.  Email training@corasworks.net to schedule one today.  These can be done via the web or in person.

SharePoint is an application platform, but sometime it takes software like CorasWorks to help get you there to realize its value in delivering applications.  Many CorasWorks customers have dozens of applications on SharePoint, and hundreds of point solutions. 

  • We can help you think through the broader architectural questions, and how to leverage various capabilities to both deliver and maintain solutions.  See William Roger’s blog on Applications for SharePoint.  SharePoint also offers tremendous value as a collaborative platform for general use like basic team sites, which CorasWorks can extend and enhance. 
  • Stay tuned with CorasWorks v11.2 release that offers enhanced end user enablement like printing reports, modifying information displays ‘on-the-fly,”  preconfigured Widgets, default data displays and actions, and more to enhance general collaboration and applications.

Feel free to lean on us and our educational resources, support team, solution consultants, and professional services to help get you more proactive to meet individual, team, and organizational goals. 

Post to Twitter

Bringing Lessons from the Classroom

What does CorasWorks training and education mean to our customers? 

… and how does it help them get more value from our software?  These are questions we frequently ask ourselves and our customers at CorasWorks.  

Historically the answers have gravitated toward the bits and bytes of product features and capabilities, or to the broader “how to’s” related to specific applications and solutions.  And the delivery options have expanded over the years to include workshops, instructor-led classroom training, online learning centers, and “blended” distance learning.  However, today we recognize traditional means aren’t enough, especially in the rapidly evolving world of SharePoint.  So welcome to “From the Classroom,” a blog to bring our various lessons learned from the classroom to you.

The stark reality is that CorasWorks, and its customers, are faced with the enormity of the SharePoint platform and the vast array of “things” being done on it today – with nearly endless possibilities for tomorrow.  It takes me back to an old Microsoft ad campaign “Where do you want to go today?”  Now choices are a good thing, but pose the challenge of where to start, or what’s next, and how to get there?.  

Depending on your role in the organization you’ll have different destinations.  If you’re an executive or senior manager, you’re likely looking to classic goals such as increasing productivity, reducing cost, improving responsiveness to customers, avoiding downtime, or other measurable outcomes that increase the bottom line.  All of which are important.  If you’re an information worker, your goals probably include making work easier, more enjoyable, and more manageable so you can get things done.  All of which are important.  Whatever your role, it’s important that you know where you want to go so we can help you get there.

But the direction isn’t always clear.  In the classroom, we’re able to bring some clarity through the structure of course agendas and objectives, lessons, exercises, and reviews.  In the blog posts to follow I’ll surface various training topics, lessons, student questions and comments, and other information with the goal of helping our readers both see what’s possible to help establish some direction, and connect the dots to facilitate getting there.  I look forward to your comments and interactions to make “From the Classroom” a beneficial read and educational experience.

Post to Twitter