3 min read

Old Is New Again – Conversations Over Documentation

By David Stannard on Jun 18, 2021 11:43:00 AM

Blogpost-DisplayImage-June_Old is new again - Conversations over DocumentationImagine a world where businesses can concurrently develop next generation manufacturing processes while designing products based upon the as-yet-non-existent implementation medium. Imagine that they can do this all while reducing time-to-market and allowing the continued benefit of exponential growth in complexity every 18 months. Add a twist of “design-anywhere-build-anywhere” – and serve shaken; not stirred. Perhaps in software, the analogy might be "develop applications on a language being implemented and SDKs that will also be created concurrently – trust us, it will be fine." At the same time, many graduates from engineering colleges were learning that the soft skills of communication and collaboration had higher impact to their success than the hard earned technical skills.

In the early 1990s, an organization is asked by several of its clients to help them address time-to-market pressures. The result: in 1992 Don Carter published a book founded upon a transformational approach called Concurrent Engineering based on consulting experiences. One impact that I remember well was the increase in actual conversations amongst the various constituents - breaking down the barriers between the silos was a key component of this philosophy. Coincidentally, the quality of results increased too, along with client satisfaction.

Back to the future... Literally!

There is even more pressure on businesses to reduce time-to-market, and there are few signs that this will change or needs to change. No time for creating voluminous documentation in semi-isolation that can't capture all aspects and are often subject to interpretation by the reader. The division between hardware and software development has blurred. In fact, hardware designs are created, modeled, emulated, and the proposed implementations are verified using specialized high level languages prior to implementation. The abstracts are subsequently decomposed into manufacturable entities while continuously confirming no unintended loss of the design intent using specialized tools such as formal verification tools. 

Businesses are and must continue becoming Agile – businesses are greater than having Agile development organizations. So the adoption of Agile, Scrum, and other practices continues unabated. There are even early discussions of what’s beyond these Agile practices that are standing the test of time after several decades of adoption. 

Two important aspects of the Agile Manifesto are valuing “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” and “Customer collaboration over contract negotiation”. It was increasingly common pre-COVID that these teams were distributed geographically and even culturally. So while tools are a part of the solution – the need to communicate well and often has never been more important. This practice is standing the test of time.

A closing note to Scrum Masters who help teams live the benefit of the cross-functionality objective: Your Scrum teacher and Agile coaches have provided you with lots of reference material about building teams and communications. Now is a good time to revisit those references; one of my favorites is “Crucial Conversations” by Kerry Patterson et al. The book addresses situations with perceived high stakes, diverse constituents, and possibly highly emotions.

Looking for more Scrum tips? Check out Sprint Planning: How Long Should Sprints Be? or Kanban vs. Scrum: Which One and Why? and contact us, we love to help!

Topics: scrum collaboration documentation agile software-development
17 min read

The Journey to SSO, Part V: Onboarding and Offboarding Contractors automatically with SAML Single Sign On

By resolution on Apr 7, 2021 9:45:00 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Resolution Blog Series, Pt. 5Praecipio Consulting has partnered with our friends at resolutionan Atlassian Gold Marketplace Partner based in Germany that specializes in software development and network security, to bring you a series of blog posts about how to successfully implement single sign-on (SSO) with Atlassian tools. With more than 7 million users from 58 countries, resolution is the market leader for Atlassian Enterprise User Management Apps.

In the last article of these series on the journey to Atlassian SSO, we followed the steps of ACME, a company with large instances of Jira and Confluence on prem, planning a migration from AD FS to Azure AD.  

In particular, we had a detailed look at: 

  • How users from the Atlassian directories can be seamlessly migrated into Azure AD building a no code integration with User Sync 
  • How users can be mapped between Azure AD and the Atlassian applications even if usernames don’t match 
  • How to connect users from different organizations (ACME and CU.com, a consultancy firm) each with its own Identity Providers, both for authentication and provisioning purposes. 

In order to complete the setup, however, ACME needs to add some restrictions to CU.com users to answer the following questions:  

  • Who at CU.com must have accounts in ACME’s Jira and Confluence? 
  • How long should access be retained? 
  • How should access be revoked? 

Let’s look at how to automate the process for onboarding and offboarding consultants so that these are the answers: 

  • Who should have accounts? Only contractors assigned to active projects. 
  • How long should access be retained? Only for as long as the project is active. 
  • How should access be revoked? Automatically, as soon as the project concludes. 

How to provision only contractors assigned to active projects 

Let’s quickly recap what ACME needs to set up: 

Challenges 

  • Access to ACME’s Atlassian tools should only be granted to consultants who have been assigned to specific projects 
  • Consultants have a quick turnaround. It’s important to give them access quickly and deactivate them as soon as their assignments conclude. 
  • It’s also vital to ensure that consultants only occupy licenses of the Atlassian products while they´re on an active assignment. 

Implementation steps 

The approach has four steps 

  1. The group that gives consultants access will be operated from Contractor’s Okta and filtered in ACME’s User Sync connector. 
  2. Specific project permissions and roles in the Atlassian applications will be managed locally.  This has important implications, as the Okta and local group settings must coexist and not overwrite each other. 
  3. The synchronization between Okta and ACME will be scheduled to run every night (but users will also be updated when they login, eliminating waiting times entirely). 
  4. As a result of the synchronization, consultants who no longer are on active assignments will have both their access and their licenses revoked. 

Here’s the walkthrough: 

1. In the Okta User Sync connector configured in the section above, ACME adds a filter so that only consultants in a specific group are passed and enabled in Jira 
  • Go to User Sync > Azure AD Connector > Edit > Advanced Settings 
  • In Groups mandatory to sync a user, create a new entry group filter user sync
  • Add the group active-acme-jira-project Filter by active project
2. Now we need to tell User Sync which local groups may be added locally in Jira to these contractors. These are the groups that define what projects contractors have access to, and which roles they fall under.  

It's extremely important to add this information! Failing to do so results in removing access  to Jira projects:  

  •  every time the contractor logs in 
  •  with each user sync. 

However, we can protect groups in both contexts from the User Sync connector,  

  • To protect the groups in the connector, we go back to the Advanced Settings and add all the groups used to give permission to Contractor Unlimited consultants in the Keep these Groups field. Note that you can either include every group, or regular expressions, if there are any patterns. keep groups 
3. Now, we will schedule the synchronization at regular intervals to happen every morning at 3am using this cron expression: 0 0 2 ? * *schedule user sync with cron 
4. Finally, we will tell the connector to deactivate contractors who have finished their assignments so that they don't consume any licenses.  
  • In the cleanup behavior dropdown, select disable users. cleanup behavior disable users

What does this last step mean? Consultants will be automatically deactivated in Jira and Confluence following this process: 

  • When an assignment concludes, the consultant is removed from the active-acme-jira-project group 
  • At 3am, the user sync connector runs 
  • The user is removed from the active-acme-jira-project group in Jira, together with any other changes. 
  • As a consequence, the user is deactivated in Jira. 

Bonus trick: With the right SAML setting, if the consultant logs into Jira after they have already been removed from the active group, the login will succeed but will also result in the deactivation. 

We reached our destination! 

Congratulations! You have finished the journey to Atlassian Single Sign-On! Hopefully by this time you are on your way to an implementation that will last for many years to come. 

The sample implementation in the last two articles has offered a selection of very popular options among Atlassian on prem customers. As you have seen, User Synchronization is very often a cornerstone of the implementation, since it permits to use the Identity Provider as a single source of truth to automate user on- and offboarding. At the same time, it’s compatible with multi-IdP setups and access provision to partner organizations. 

However, the example is just that – an example. And it might be very different to what you need to solve. 

How can we help you? 

If you have any doubts or need help with advanced technical issues, there are several next steps. 

  • Our friends at Praecipio Consulting will be happy to help you get up and running. We go way back with a long history of shared implementations.  
  • If you need help configuring the resolution SAML SSO application or the User Sync standalone that can be combined with the Data Center SAML, we provide free screenshare sessions every day. 

Excited to see you there, very soon! 

Topics: atlassian blog optimization practices security collaboration human-resource
4 min read

Do testers need to be in sprint planning?

By Marcelo Garza on Mar 3, 2021 11:30:58 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Why do testers need to be in sprint planning-In today’s business environment, high-speed implementation is a must. This applies to all products and services. Suppose you were using an application and got stuck because of a bug: after reporting the bug, you expect the team to fix it as soon as possible. If not, your next move is probably going to be switching to another service.

Software companies want teams working together providing quick and on point solutions to save time and resources, which can only be accomplished by the involvement of all of the teams working on a project. That’s why companies are opting for testing with Agile teams, since it allows for a greater collaboration across teams on a project. 

Agile allows a key collaboration between testing teams and developers which can’t always be accomplished with traditional approaches. It enables testers to share their perspective from the start of the sprint planning; this leads to less bugs during testing and creates a better possibility for sprint delivery dates to be met on time.

Let’s dig a little deeper to understand what this means.

The objective of Agile/sprints/scrum 

Agile methodologies were born as an alternative to traditional software development approaches, like waterfall methodology. 

The following images show the big difference between agile and waterfall methodologies. (Source)

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On one hand we can see that the traditional approach (Waterfall) aims to understand user needs and develop a product. After development, testers test the product and report bugs before deployment. The development team then works on them and fixes any errors using the best possible solution. This is progress through phases, one starts only when the previous one ends; this does not create an opportunity for proper feedback or collaboration between testing, developers and users teams.

On the other hand, Agile is mainly focused on performing constant, small deliveries of the product in order for the customer to be able to see how the product advances through the lifecycle. This gives the opportunity for testing to take on a bigger role and to get involved at an early stage of product development and throughout all the lifecycle of the product.

Agile has four important values:

  1. The focus should be more on individuals and interactions instead of processes and tools

  2. Working software is more important than comprehensive documentation

  3. Customer collaboration is more vital than contract negotiation

  4. The process should respond to change rather than follow a plan

Testing in sprint planning: The goal of sprint planning

During sprint planning, the team discusses which stories they will focus on in the upcoming sprint based on aspects like priorities, time frame, feasibility, etc.

The whole team involved in the development of the product should be involved, and if additional expertise on specific backlog tasks is required, then stakeholders can also be part of it.

Sometimes, during this meeting, the testing team can take a secondary role since the main focus tends to be on the development of the stories; this is understandable since it will set the start of the sprint. However, the testing team's' perspective can lead to some serious benefits for developers.

Why testing should be involved

One flaw of working in traditional testing (i.e. Waterfall methodology) is that during the test case design phase, although testers receive the requirements, most of the time they don't get access to the software they will test until it is time to begin the test execution phase.  It is well known that there is usually a big gap between what a requirement specifies and the actual software developed. 

This leads to a huge time investment on the testing side to reach out to both developers and users to define how the product works and how it should work in order to define the correct test scenarios and test cases.

Agile methodologies give testers the opportunity to be involved in the development of the product from the get-go. Testers can be involved in the design of the software by working closely with developers to assess and advise on testability aspects.

An Agile tester should understand the relevance of technical skills. A tester is always prepared to contribute to the technical discussions of the team. Their contribution may extend up to code reviews, user stories grooming, and understanding requirements. The Agile Software Tester gets to work with the developers when they are performing unit testing and share the perspective of testing from a tester's point of view instead of a developer's. The tester can work collaboratively and productively with the product owner and the customer to form acceptance criteria from the sprint planning itself. 

Before any user story is sent for development, the tester and other team members can discuss the complete user story with the team members to find out what the customer wants. Having testers collaborate with developers from the very beginning of sprint planning helps to achieve more accurate estimations and to ensure that everyone has some testing tasks as part of their responsibilities

Great testing teams know they need to become an extension of the customer and end user. Testers need to understand the customer's needs: an Agile tester should be able to describe the feature as well as the customer.

Drop us a line for expert advice on testing and all things Agile, we'd love to help your teams achieve their true potential.

Topics: blog testing tracking collaboration agile software-development
32 min read

The Journey to Atlassian SSO, Part III: 6 essential questions that will define the scope of your Atlassian SSO implementation

By resolution on Feb 17, 2021 9:07:08 PM

Blogpost-display-image_Blog Series-Pt3Praecipio Consulting has partnered with our friends at resolution, an Atlassian Gold Marketplace Partner based in Germany that specializes in software development and network security, to bring you a series of blog posts about how to successfully implement single sign-on (SSO) with Atlassian tools. With more than 7 million users from 58 countries, resolution is the market leader for Atlassian Enterprise User Management Apps. 

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog post series, we saw the main symptoms of a password disease that can be healed when applications are secured with single sign-on. We have also taken inventory of the core identity assets involved in an SSO implementation -- including web applications, SSO connectivity, user directories, and opportunities to deploy identity providers. 

In other words, we’ve looked at where you are. It’s now time to look at where you want to go 

A part of that journey involves making a final decision about what will be the home for your user accounts once you move away from Active Directory. Will it be Okta? Azure AD? Or some other vendor? 

Another part of that journey relates to extremely specific requirements that you will need to analyze to make sure that the implementation of single sign-on in Atlassian applications makes all stakeholders happy.  

In this article, we'll spell those requirements out. 

Write them down. These are the most important questions that you will need to answer in full detail before evaluating specific SSO solutions for your Atlassian applications. 

Question 1: Do your Atlassian applications support SSO out of the box? 

blog_sso-pt3We saw this already in the last article, but it’s worth revisiting. 

Your options depend entirely on the type of hosting of your Atlassian products, as you can see in the summary table. If you are on Server, you will plan a migration to either cloud or Data Center in the next couple of years, so that's where you should look. We won't consider SSO solutions for Server applications in this article, although the answer is easy: go to the Atlassian Marketplace. 

If you are on the Atlassian Cloud, your options can also be spelled out with 2 words: Atlassian AccessThe good thing is that you need to search no more. The downside is that Access can be quite expensive, and there is no competition. 

In terms of functionality, Access has everything you can ask for. In fact, it does much more than just SSO, making it a high standard against which other solutions can be measured.  

Audit log, directory syncs, and lifecycle management are components that go beyond the basic SAML SSO functionality and towards a comprehensive Identity and Access Management framework on the Atlassian stack. 

If you're already on a Data Center license or planning a migration in the next couple of years and before the Server End of Life in 2024, then you do have (or will have) SAML SSO out of the box. But the Data Center SSO offering is far away from Access. Which takes us to the next question.  

Question 2Will Native Data Center SAML SSO be enough for you? 

Here are some facts:  

  • Atlassian started providing native SSO capabilities with the SAML protocol in 2019. Originally as a free app, it’s now a preinstalled app for any Data Center customer. 
  • While more functionalities are being added to the SAML based authentication, the app is still behind. You can check their roadmap here. 

What this means is that if you have a simple need and a simple infrastructure, Data Center SAML SSO may work for you. Otherwise, you should look for a commercial alternative. In this article we will look at how common additional requirements are covered by resolution’s SAML SSO apps, with over 7 million users in 58 countries. 

Let’s have a quick overview of what the Data Center SAML SSO can do before we look at how additional requirements can be solved with resolution’s SAML SSO. 

A quick overview of Data Center SAML SSO: 

First, we'll cover the main functional requirements that Data Center will solve. 

At a high level, the Data Center SAML SSO app can: 

what-can-data-center-saml-do

  • Authenticate users into Jira, Confluence, and Bitbucket Data Center on behalf of an Identity Provider. Spoiler alert: you will need exact username matches on both sides (see question 3). 
  • Create users into the Atlassian applications during their first login, without the user being prompted to enter their Atlassian password. This is commonly called Just-in-time provisioning and happens with the information that the Identity Provider sends in the SAML response. 
  • Update the information stored in the local Atlassian directory. This also happens during login exclusively and applies to the group memberships that define user permissions and access. 

There’s no question that these three functions alone are powerfulHowever, a more detailed examination is needed to ensure that you can effectively implement Data Center SSO with your current infrastructure. 

The following two questions are aimed at clearing that part of the dilemma, before we embark on additional functional requirements. 

Question 3Do you have different naming conventions on the Identity Provider and in the local Atlassian directories? 

If the answer is no, then Data Center SAML SSO will accommodate you right away. You can skip to the next question. 

For example, if you are implementing Azure AD the UserPrincipalName attribute will be populated with user emails. If you also have email addresses in the Atlassian username, the match will be perfect. naming-convention-saml-1

But if the answer is yesit will not work. When the usernames don’t match immediately on either side, it will be impossible for the Data Center SAML SSO to identify which user in the Atlassian database is trying to log in. 

This will happen, for example, if instead of the example above, there are full names in the Atlassian usernames. naming-convention-saml-2

This will give you two workarounds: 

  • Modifying all the usernames in your Atlassian applications to align them to the naming conventions in the IdP (Identity Provider). 
  • Modifying usernames on the IdP side to align them with Atlassian (but potentially disrupting the rest of your connected applications). 

But if you want a more elegant solution, you can use the user-mapping and transformation features in resolution’s SAML SSO.  naming-convention-saml-3

In our example, there are two different strategies to create a match with resolution's SAML SSO: 

  1. The UserPrincipalName is mapped with the e-mail attribute, which can be then selected as the attribute that is looked up in the Atlassian database for authenticating users. 
  2. The UserPrincipalName is transformed into the username by simply stripping the email domain.  options-for-saml-resolution

Note: No-code transformation options are quite varied. 

Question 4: Do you have to connect Atlassian applications to multiple identity sources? 

Enterprises rarely have a single, monolithic user directory. For historic and legacy reasons, but also because IT governance models give a lot of autonomy to geographic regions, it is most common to have a few user directories, even from different vendors. 

But even in more centralized approaches, large organizations tend to have separate user directories for different types of users, even if those directories are provided by the same cloud vendor. For example, Jira users and Jira Service Management agents could be stored in different instances of Okta. And it's even more common to separate customers and employees. 

If that is your case, then you won’t be able to use the Data Center SAML SSO app. 

On the contrary, in resolution’s apps, you can setup multiple IdPs and decide when each of them is triggered based on multiple methods: 

  • The user’s decision on a selection page 
  • The user’s email domain 
  • Specific information included in the http request headers 
  • Priority scores (by weight) multiple-identities-saml-1

Note: Atlassian has put this feature on their short-term roadmap, but it’s unknown what will be possible with it and whether the setup will support dynamic IdP selections. 

Question 5: Do you want to centralize user management from your Identity Provider? 

In an enterprise setting, there is not a right or wrong answer to this question. It can make sense to manage users in every application locally. This usually happens when the IT team has the right expertise, and the company is small enough that change requests don't swamp the workload. 

But on a larger scale, a decentralized user management framework can become a major issue.  

What happens when user management is centralized? As employees are promoted, change department, or are assigned to a new project, permissions can be changed directly from the Identity Provider alone. Then, they propagate immediately to all connected applications. 

The technology behind this benefit is a one-way synchronization from the IdP to the connected apps via API. Once set up, the sync will update users’ group membership at regular intervals and therefore automatically modify their access rights. 

Data Center SAML doesn’t have the ability to sync with IdPs, which exists both in Atlassian Access for cloud applications and in resolution’s SAML SSO apps. 

As you can see in the image, resolution’s User Sync functionality provides connectors with most commercial IdPs. Connectors can then be configured so that they align to your group management practices and nomenclature. We will show a practical example of this in the next article. multiple-identities-saml-2

Question 6: Do you want to automate user on- and offboarding? 

User syncs are vital if you want to automate user management throughout the entire lifecycle.  

Besides the satisfaction of having the power to control every detail, few administrators enjoy onboarding new users into every application. They understand it’s a job that needs to be done. They also grasp the urgency of removing access to applications when an employee leaves the company. But sometimes they might be too busy to put that task at the top of their list or to double check that every access was effectively disconnected. 

User syncs can automate the three key on- and offboarding jobs: 

  • When a new employee joins the company, they have immediate access to every application without even having to login for the first time. 
  • When an account is deactivated on the IdP, all accesses are immediately blocked. 
  • Deactivate users temporarily when they don’t access an application like Confluence for specific time (for example, 3 months)  

For the third job, it’s even possible to create a specific connector that takes care of the automatic deactivations. deactivate-users

How to evaluate your answers 

Until now we have looked at the main requirements that you must consider for your SSO implementation. It's vital to have a clear answer to all these questions before making a final decision.  

But now that you have your answers, let’s translate them into realistic options. 

 The table below summarizes your options, mapping combinations of answers with the most suitable SSO solution.  

To find which product we recommend for your use case, simply find the row that contains your answersblog_sso-pt3-2

As you can see, there are three main possibilities: 

  • If you don’t have any of the requirements listed in questions 3 thru 6then Data Center SAML SSO might do the job 
  • If you answered yes to question 3, question 4, or both, then it seems like resolution’s SAML SSO will be your best shot. 
  • If you answered no to 3 and 4 and you still want to automate user management, then you have two alternatives  
  • The simple alternative is to go for a complete product like resolution’s SAML SSO. This will simplify your implementation and the number of touchpoints with support experts. 
  • The cheap alternative is to implement the existing functionality in Data Center for the basic SAML, and resolution's Users and Groups Sync to automate user management. This will make you the advanced features you need to manage users and groups, but at half of the prize of the SAML SSO app. 

Now you know what’s your basic fit.  

Make sure to complete your evaluation going over all your additional requirements as instructed in the next paragraph. 

Continuing your evaluation  

We hope that our attempt at boiling down your implementation project to its essentials was successful and your scenario is realistically captured in the options above.  

But beware! These six questions leave out many details. To quickly cross-reference your feature wish list, we have published a full tour of customization options and how they compare to the Data Center defaults.  

Here’s a high-level preview. blog_sso-pt3-3

But if you want to learn how it workshave a look at the in-depth comparison we have prepared for you. 

spot-the-difference-resolution

What’s Next 

In this article we have reviewed the native SSO capabilities of Atlassian products depending on their hosting type and doubled down on what Data Center SAML SSO can do. We have then focused on three major requirements that cannot be solved with it: username mapping and transformations, multi-IdP setups, and user management automations. Finally, we have taken stock of the combined requirements and presented the best solutions for each of them. 

The next article will conclude the journey to your Atlassian SSO, going even deeper into how to address these requirements with resolution’s SAML Single Sign-On. We will go over the implementation project of an imaginary company that has decided to migrate out of their Active Directory into a cloud Identity Provider. We will identify their challenges, understand the value that the implementation will create for the business, and offer reproducible how-to steps to solve their case. 

We've got you covered with more tips on advancing your journey towards a successful single sign-on for your Atlassian tools with the last installment of our blog series. Stay tuned! 

Topics: blog saas security support collaboration data-center resolution
4 min read

How To Run D&D Campaigns With Trello

By Luis Machado on May 29, 2020 12:45:00 PM

2020 Blogposts_How Jira helps your team work remotely copy 3

It’s 2020, and the reality for a lot of folks has seemingly changed overnight. Working from home, remote meetings, a whole slew of new tools to learn and master. It’s a strange new world, and not just for our professional lives but our personal lives as well. So how do we make the change? How can we adapt to this new frontier?

I’ve been playing games with friends on the internet for several years now, way before social distancing practices became the norm. Even though we live hundreds of miles apart, I can still lead a group of close friends through the dark, dangerous lairs and pitting them against frightening creatures, all for glory and the pursuit of the almighty gold coin. There are a plethora of tools available that allow people to play tabletop games without the table, such as Roll 20, D&D Beyond, Discord, Skype, among several others. But there is a distinct lack of tools available for the person running the game, the game master, the dungeon master, the decider of fates, and facilitator of adventure to keep it all organized.  

When running a game there is A LOT to keep track of: monsters, treasure, characters, towns, plot points. If you’re using an old school pen and paper, you’re going to need a mighty large binder. Naturally, the desire to digitize this content has led to some creative methodologies. The one that has stuck with me is using a site that falls right within my wheelhouse: Trello.

At its core, Trello is a tool that helps you manage lists for collaboration. You create a list and then populate it with cards. The title of the card shows up in the list, clicking on the card lets you see an expanded view with more detail. You can also add custom labels to create color codes.

I first came across this idea from a post on Reddit called "DMing with Trello". This method gives you easy access to a board for the DM (as in Dungeon Master!) screen to have frequently referenced rules and definitions handy, a way for tracking combat, and board for managing campaign-specific content.

Campaign Content

dd1

While I'll breakdown how I manage my campaigns, how you organize your lists can vary. I started with making a list for the town Daggerford, where the players interact with each other. Each special location within the town has is its own Trello card. These locations, like a blacksmith, inn, or tavern can be listed for easy reference and the numbers in my list correspond to locations indicated on a map. The use of the built-in labels lets you categorize cards within a list, and the sorting view lets you filter the list with a specific category. So, if I’m looking for just blacksmiths, for example, I can filter the list for just that category.

dd2

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Clicking on one of the cards brings up a larger, more detailed view where you can keep your notes.

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Cards can also be formatted using markup to let you get as fancy as you want.  You can also extend functionality if you’re using Google Chrome by installing a browser extension: Trello Card Optimizer.

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Combat Tracker

dd6

The combat tracker is a series of lists. The first list is where I set the turn order (top to bottom). Each subsequent list is a round of combat, numbered accordingly, and the players and monsters are all cards. You can arrange them all in turn order and then advance them to the next round when it’s their turn by clicking on them and dragging them to the next list. 

Keeping track of combat can be particularly tricky in an online situation. Using Trello gives you an easy, straightforward way to do it.  In this setting, I use the labels for various statuses and ailments. Poisoned by a snake? Petrified by a basilisk? There’s a label for that! Lastly, I keep a card or two at the top of the initiative list for easy access to the music links I use.

DM Screen

dd7

Last, but not least, is the DM screen. Set up in a similar manner to the campaign content, this board offers you the ability to quickly reference game rules that you frequently have to look up. How does grapple work again? What happens when a character is blinded? All these questions and more can be answered here, and you don’t have to worry about accidentally bending or tearing your rule book between sessions.

The DM screen is available as a public board that you can copy to your own account, allowing you to customize it to suit your game. I highly recommend using the Trello Card Optimizer with Chrome because it adds a lot of visual organization to your cards and board. 

Now get out there (and by "out there", I mean exploring the world of Trello from your home), and take a shot at organizing your game. As a final note, when the time comes to reunite with your players for an in-person session, you can travel light with just a laptop and have all your hard work available at your fingertips.

For more information on Trello and the Atlassian suite of products, reach out to your favorite Dungeon Master...er...Platinum Solutions Partner. Happy gaming!

 

 

Topics: collaboration project-management trello atlassian-products
4 min read

How To Host A Virtual-Bring-Together

By Marcelo Garza on May 22, 2020 9:15:00 AM

2020 Blogposts_How Jira helps your team work remotely copy 2

Remote work has its perks (do a load of laundry in between calls, take your dog for a walk during your break), but it certainly comes with its challenges. Feeling lonely and isolated when working from home is very real, and as a company that operates 100% remotely, we know how important it is to make sure our team members stay connected. 

That's why we started hosting Virtual-Bring-Togethers, which provides a space for employees to interact and have fun while engaging in an activity that has nothing to do with work. Every Thursday evening, our team members connect via Zoom to play Pictionary, stream movies together, or even enjoy a cooking class. You name it, we've done it! 

Best Apps for Hosting a Virtual-Bring-Together

There are different apps available with all sorts of features that can turn social distancing into distant socializing. These are just some of them that might help you in organizing your virtual event:

  • Skype (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux, web)
  • Zoom (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows)
  • Facebook Messenger (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows)
  • WhatsApp Messenger (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, web)
  • Google Duo (iOS, Android, web)
  • Marco Polo (iOS, Android)
  • Houseparty (iOS, Android, web)
  • Discord (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux, web)

For a small company, you can easily organize these video calls with all the employees, and if we are talking about a big company, you might want to think of organizing these by teams or departments.

Activity Ideas

As far as the activities you can do, here are some that have been a huge hit with our Praecipio Consulting team members:

Family-friendly 

  • Virtual Pictionary: Divide into teams and use the Whiteboard feature on Zoom to draw pictures. When it’s your turn, you’ll share the screen and draw, and your team will have to guess what you are drawing during the set time limit. 
  • Yoga nights: Let the yogi of the group lead everyone through a restorative yoga flow and some simple sun salutations! Or, if you're feeling adventurous, try some hard moves and bond over the shared silliness.
  • Cooking lessons: If there is a chef in the group, he or she can give cooking lessons for everyone. It's a good way to share dishes, especially if you work with multicultural teams.
  • Playing cards: Organize your regular set of poker, and because you play virtually, it's easier to bluff and you won't have to worry about someone picking an eye on your cards.
  • Book clubs: You can organize book clubs normally would. Just pick a book, have them read a chapter or two to read during the week, and during your Virtual-Bring-Together, discuss different themes and listen to everyone's perspectives. 
  • Cribs: Have team members show off their homes and personality in quick, self-made videos a la the iconic show from the early 2000s. 
  • Costume party: Set themes and have a contest for the best costumes. You don't need to wait for Halloween to dress up and goof around!
  • Origami zoo: Origami nights are easy to organize. Have someone email them instructions before the meeting, and all people need to do is show up with some paper and scissors.
  • Icebreaker questions: Icebreaker questions are simple prompts that allow you to get to know your peers better. For example, you can start a remote meeting by having each attendee share their name, role, and what they like to eat for breakfast. Icebreakers are a simple and effective way to build relationships with remote teams, and to increase the personal connections between your people. You can set different levels for the questions depending on how well you already know each other

Grown-ups only 

  • Bar crawl: If you miss a night on the town, it’s time for a virtual bar crawl. To do this, set up a few spaces in your home to be “bars.” You can try to mimic your favorites or create themed bars! Have a signature drink for each bar! If you're looking for low-cal cocktail options, try some of these!
  • Virtual beer pong: We all know (and love) this classic game, but don't know how to play virtually? Check out this short video with a pretty simple example.
  • Virtual flip cup: Another classic. This one is simpler to play through a video call than virtual beer pong, so I would suggest you try this one first. All you need is your magic red cup, establish an order of turns in between teams, and have a good flick of the wrist.

This last two can also be done with the whole family, just swap your beer out for some water!

Try it yourself!

Socializing amongst team members opens the door to knowledge sharing, builds alliances, encourages teamwork, allows people to get to know others outside of their department, and gives everyone a "big picture" view of the company. When people start socializing, it creates bonds, which translates to caring for others. Having a team that genuinely cares for one another will create a greater sense of belonging and promote collaboration, resulting in improved performance across the board.

A company that provides a space for its employees to relate with one another, to relax, to have fun, and to be humans, shows that it cares for them. So, we encourage you to implement Virtual-Bring-Togethers or something similar with your teams, especially as many of us will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future. 

Topics: blog tips collaboration virtual-bring-together work-from-home work-life-balance remote-work
2 min read

How Jira Can Help Your Teams Work Remotely

By Michael Knight on May 8, 2020 9:15:00 AM

According to a recent article published in the Harvard Business Review, one of the common challenges when working from home is a lack of access to information. At Praecipio Consulting, we often see this challenge with many teams, especially they remotely. Here's how Jira can help:

Visualize current work with Kanban boards

A Kanban board (or a similar variant) can be a remote team’s best friend. Instead of emailing, Slacking, texting, or calling a coworker to find out the status of a particular work item, a team member can simply navigate to the Kanban board and find a wealth of information. A well-configured board is easy to read and quickly conveys a brief description of each item the team is currently working on, as well as the status, assignee, and any other team-specific information. This helps cut down on extraneous communications within your organization and provides remote workers with a quicker and easier way to access information.

Reduce the number of emails by commenting on issues

Not only is commenting on issues quicker than typing up an email, but comments also live in publicly visible space and are saved in the issue. This immediately creates two advantages over email. First, commenting makes it much easier for other coworkers to see the progress on the issue, preventing them from having to send an email to ask questions about the issue, who’s working on it, when was it last worked on, and what progress has been made in the past week. Second, users never have to wonder why somebody made a particular decision or repeatedly ask for information because the entire conversation is stored within the issue. Using @ mentions to tag a coworker or manager helps speed up this process and better organize the information, in addition to drawing specific users to the issue and providing context.

Benefit from linking Jira and Confluence together

When Jira and Confluence are linked together, one can simply enter a Jira issue key into a Confluence page, and it will automatically contain a link to the Jira issue. Similarly, it becomes possible to link a Confluence page to a Jira issue by just referencing the title of the page. A few common use cases include: linking a resolution document in Confluence to the incident issue in Jira, displaying the progress of related Jira issues on a requirements document in Confluence, and linking several helpful articles to a service request in Jira. This helps solve similar problems more quickly, reduces time spent searching for that one Confluence article, and eliminates the need for status emails.

Jira was created to help teammates access information, allowing them to visualize and organize complex and hard-to-see work; and that's why Jira is the perfect tool for a remote team.  

 

Struggling with remote work in this time of uncertainty? Praecipio Consulting provides a turnkey implementation of best practices in Jira with an Accelerator. Whether you're supporting SDLC, ITSM, or PPM, we can rapidly deploy Jira to support your team. Reach out to us to learn more about Jira and how it can facilitate remote work. 

Topics: jira blog teams tips collaboration atlassian-products work-from-home remote-work
3 min read

5 Reasons to add Atlassian Confluence to Your Mix of Business Tools 

By Praecipio Consulting on Dec 11, 2018 2:20:00 PM

Atlassian Confluence is a wiki platform that allows document creation, collaboration, and management. It is a one stop shop for document storage and knowledge sharing. It integrates seamlessly with Jira, has powerful add-ons, and enables knowledge sharing, storing, and managing within teams. Confluence allows teams to create spaces for their area of focus while also giving visibility to content from one team to another in an organized manner.

Remember that really important document your colleague sent you months ago that you thought you didn't need? Or at least you thought you didn't need, until a new team member joins the organization and you're asked to provide that exact document for them to get insight into the work being done. As you navigate through your inbox, it begins to feel a lot like traveling through a vortex of information where that really important document just can't seem to surface. After wasting valuable time searching your inbox, you find that the document is actually stored in another location outside of your email. Confluence can save the day by reducing the wasted time fishing for knowledge based documents.

Here are the most common reasons why Confluence should be added to your mix of Atlassian tools:

Confluence and Jira Software are a meeting of minds

Capturing product requirements is part of a product’s lifecycle. Confluence's product requirements blueprint helps define, scope, and track product or feature requirements. Within the blueprint, teams can collaborate on gathering user stories in a table format specifying the changes needed and any additional notes. Once the table is filled out, the user stories can be highlighted and, with a click of a button, create issues directly in Jira. This allows converting ideas into trackable pieces of work in Jira. Each time the associated Jira issue is updated, teams have a dynamic report into the current state of each user story in their Confluence product requirements page.

A space for your teams to collaborate

As organizations grow, cross-functional teams become more apparent. For example, before development teams make software updates in Atlassian's software development tools, they collaborate on new features with product managers to assess what's feasible from a software development aspect. As these teams work together to meet the same organizational objectives, collaboration becomes the key to ensuring knowledge and ideas are shared.

Add-ons provide extended functionality

Atlassian products are well known for their powerful add-ons that allow for more features and Confluence is no different. Add-ons extend additional features outside of the native functionality of Confluence. If there is a feature you want, there's probably an add-on that provides you with the functionality you need. Add-ons allow you to optimize content inside of Confluence with dynamic reports, diagrams, data forms and much more.

Keep your teams’ process progressing forward

Confluence coordinates and aligns your team as work is being done. Whether you're iterating changes in your code in Bitbucket or deploying code in Bamboo, Confluence gives you a single platform to populate your technical documentation. If a new team member joins your team, they have insight into the work that's being done; reducing friction in knowledge sharing while keeping your team moving forward.

It can make your team smarter

Every team has a unique style of sharing knowledge. Confluence allows you to share knowledge in a variety of formats, helping create a more versatile experience for users consuming the content. Whether you're creating runbooks for technical processes or simply creating a table for a team schedule, Confluence supports the format you wish to create. Additionally, Confluence streamlines knowledge sharing by allowing you to standardize your teams’ documentation process, which reduces the friction in searching and learning for team members.

Confluence gives teams the freedom to store, share and manage knowledge in a single platform. Documents no longer have to live in separate areas, breaking down communication barriers and knowledge sharing among teams. Please contact us to learn more about Atlassian Confluence.

Topics: jira atlassian blog confluence collaboration
4 min read

Five Ways to Make a Team Space in Confluence

By Morgan Folsom on Jul 16, 2018 11:00:00 AM

While creating a space for your team in Confluence may seem like a simple undertaking, creating one that users actually want to interact is far from easy. We know what can happen when you miss the mark: you've got a team space, but it's a mess - nobody knows where to find anything, there's no consistent structure, and nobody actually uses it. It’s not hard for a space to become a documentation black hole - documents enter, never to be seen again.

Confluence is an industry leader due to its revolutionary capabilities. A well implemented Confluence workspace breaks down team silos, is specifically geared for turning conversations between team members into action, centralizes all information in one space, and fosters and encourages a culture of open teamwork.

Here’s the good news: creating a team space doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. With the right structure and out-of-the-box Confluence tools, you can easily create a space for your team that you don't have to bribe them to use.

5 Steps to a Collaborative Confluence Team Space

1. Create a landing page

The first page that you see when you go to your team space needs to be clear and appealing. If the space’s landing page is too cluttered, your user's eyes will glaze over before they get any useful information out of it. On the other hand, if the page is sparse with no useful information, why would they keep going?

For your landing page, you want to include information about the space: this is where you can throw in a bit of basic information about the team and its members, but you ultimately want to focus on what will be useful for your team. Using a Children Display macro on this page can give users a better understanding of where they can find information in the space as a whole. You can determine how many layers to show, and even include excerpts of the pages below. Similarly, you can link to commonly used pages or provide some navigation hints customized to your space. Now that you’ve got users in the space, you want to make the rest of the experience just as clear.

2. Establish a hierarchy

We recommend thinking about setting up the space as people will look at it - what do they see first? The top-level pages - so start there. They could be anything (and everything) from projects or training to team building. You’ll want to make sure you include any information you want your team to know, without flooding them with a ton of first-level pages. 

You can empower users to build this space with you by using the Create from template macro to help enforce your hierarchy. Including the macro on a high-level page allows your team to click a button to create the right page in the right location (if you customize your space templates, these pages can even include the correct macros and labels you need to report on them in other places). Once you've got an idea of how you want the space to be structured, you'll want to address the ever-important content that lives within the space (that's why we're here, isn't it!). 

3. Make it easy to find information

There are several things you can do right off the bat to keep users engaged and ensure they have what they need to do their jobs. Using the space shortcuts on the sidebar can call out commonly used pages - either in Confluence or external pages. Confluence also has some built-in macros that can improve your content with little effort:

Your pages look great, but who do you want to see them?

4. Restrict what you have to

Confluence allows permissions to be set by space and by page. This means you can lock down individual pages that may be more sensitive, and open up the important ones for viewing and/or editing by the team. Be careful not to lock the space down more than you need to - space and page permissions are great for security, but don't let them be a barrier to collaboration.

Once your space is set up, the next step is about keeping it simple.

5. Cut out unnecessary information

Knowing what doesn't belong in your team space is as important as knowing what does. We've all seen the overflowing wikis, filled with personal user notes or docs that have been around longer than you have. Personal spaces in Confluence are there for a reason - users can track information that isn't relevant to the team in their own space, without filling your space with irrelevant information. Archive information that isn't relevant anymore - Confluence pages track when they were last updated, and using the Attachment macro lets you track that for all of your space attachments as well.

Now you're ready to build out an awesome Confluence team space. Say goodbye to documentation black holes and e-mails from your team asking where to find information and hello to easy collaboration!

Still have questions? Let us know.

Topics: blog confluence teams tips collaboration consulting-services
4 min read

Stay Agile with Jira and Confluence

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 12, 2018 11:00:00 AM

As a marketing professional, I had a limited exposure to Jira before I joined Praecipio Consulting. Praecipio Consulting is an Atlassian solutions partner, and now, I eat, sleep, and breathe the Atlassian toolset. But before I really knew what it was, I used Jira Software to collaborate with a distributed team on a project. It was an interesting experience using Jira, because this was a ticketing system for 'IT guys and coders,' not for precious marketing professionals - right? I had been happy - or at least at peace - with using Microsoft Project, Sharepoint, One Note and Excel spreadsheets, along with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and marketing automation software. But when I saw my first kanban board, and how easy it was to create, organize and visualize work in process, I thought this was a great way to begin an agile marketing shift.

While I'm still getting used to an all Atlassian world, I'm excited to share with you how ticketing software, originally designed to track software bugs, along with other Atlassian tools, have shown me a path towards an agile marketing future. So, here's my 101-level guide to using agile methodologies and tools to manage marketing projects.

Marketing Tasks = Jira Issues/Tickets

Think of your marketing activities as Jira Issues. For example, say you're hosting a webinar next month. Login to Jira, create a new epic for the webinar, give it a name, provide some additional details (the sky is the limit, you can customize the kind of information you want to capture) and click save. 

But wait. A webinar has a lot of subtasks within it: you also need to set-up a landing page, attach a form, create thank you emails and internal notifications, schedule the speakers, write a script, create the presentation, setup dial-in info, and a lot more. You can add all of those tasks, too, under the webinar ticket and create a nice, tidy place to track all activities. And, just like marketing automation tools that let you automate repetitive actions, you can create a Webinar Issue template that generates all of these recurring tasks each time you plan a new webinar, saving a lot of time and repetitive work.

There's a lot of work up-front to set up your tasking, but once you've done it you can continuously improve and become increasingly efficient and fast only making small adjustments.

Tracking Assets and Tasks 

Now that you have a task list of marketing activities, you have to create the actual assets. You write email and web page copy. Your designer creates beautiful graphics. Your digital folks create tracking links and create a home for all this precious content to live. Confluence gives you a place to create or simply store these assets in a single repository. And you can link the individual tasks from Jira to these pages in Confluence, giving you immediate, bidirectional access between tasks and the actual work product. This is pretty handy and makes team collaboration a breeze.

Again, you have to do some advance planning and preparation to make this work seamlessly. But it's worth the effort in the long run.

Using a Kanban Board

With marketing activities and their related subtasks entered into Jira, and a place to house your marketing assets, you can start managing a project. What should the team be working on first? Where are we on the case study copy? Is Elaine finished with the banner ad artwork? A Kanban Board lets you see where these tasks are in their lifecycle, from "Backlog" to "In Progress" to "Complete" (you can customize these labels, as well). At a glance, you can see how much work is done, how much is in flight, and what's coming up. Do you think the white paper project is more important than the brand guidelines update? Move the brand guidelines to the backlog and focus on the white paper.

With a Kanban board (and even other boards, like Scrum and Agile), you can adjust your work priorities instantly, making it easy to see who is doing what and when it will be done. Ultimately, agile boards help teams improve communication and collaboration.

Plan Alignment

Kanban boards are super cool, as are scrum boards. Portfolio for Jira, too, can help you create a marketing roadmap to visualize all your projects over time and track resource availability and capacity. Once you've got your marketing ducks in a row, Portfolio will allow you to not only visualize a plan the way you've designed it but also create variations. That's pretty dang neat! Admittedly, there's a lot of work required to make the best use of this tool. But again, once your organization is actually organized, your project management can become amazingly powerful and useful.

Now what?

Now, we've learned that Jira is a powerful tool that welcomes all - not just software and IT teams. And if you didn't know about Confluence or any of these awesome planning tools, you owe it to yourself to consider them for organizing your marketing plan. If you're interested, start by checking in with your IT or software development teams. Chances are, they are using Jira and possibly Confluence right now. There's your starting point. And if you want a demo, or to purchase licenses, or need help getting started, let us know!

Topics: jira blog scaled-agile best-practices confluence marketing collaboration agile
2 min read

How ChatOps Can Connect Your Remote & Traveling Workers

By Praecipio Consulting on May 3, 2018 11:00:00 AM

Have you ever missed a deadline because your team couldn’t get aligned? Maybe a key team member was traveling, or you spent too much time discussing the plan instead of implementing it. Have you ever tried to “rally” through email? It starts out with good intentions; but 43 messages later, someone was left off the thread, and you’re trying to determine action items by sifting through a lengthy email chain.

Connecting the dots in email is one thing, but working with distributed teams adds to the complication. According to The State of the Remote Job Marketplace report, 3.9 million (2.9%) of the US workforce works remotely at least half the time. Historically, employers required workers to be local or work in the office 5 days a week. This requirement has shifted over time, as employers have taken advantage of new communication technologies to connect their workforce. But with a geographically dispersed team, how do you ensure they are working together effectively and efficiently? The answer is ChatOps!

So, what is ChatOps? And how can it help your organization collaborate effectively and efficiently?

ChatOps is a “collaboration model that connects people, tools, process, and automation into a transparent workflow.” Using a chat application like Atlassian’s Stride will centralize and streamline your discussions, planning, and action items; while improving the following areas:  

  1. Swarm on an Issue – Instantly connect with team members in chat rooms to discuss needs and action items. Include your traveling teammates in the discussion by using the Stride mobile app.
  2. Decide on a Clear Path Forward – Real-time decisions can be implemented and assigned in Stride using the Decisions and Actions functionality.
  3. Resolve Issues Faster – Centralizing your discussion in Stride will quickly determine objectives, cutting down on unnecessary cycles.
  4. Ensure transparency – Tasks (Actions) are tracked in Stride and visible to others. Team members can view what tasks are pending or completed, and how it impacts current workflows.

No matter where your teams are located, you can increase your productivity by embracing the ChatOps philosophy and using Stride. If for no other reason, do it for the Giphy App.

Interested in learning more about ChatOps? Contact us today.

Topics: stride blog implementation process-consulting teams collaboration remote-work
7 min read

Seen It, Solved It: Jira Service Desk for ITIL

By Praecipio Consulting on May 4, 2016 11:00:00 AM

Growth Through Change 

"Organizations that do not or cannot evolve will not last." In the business world, change is constant and necessary, especially when it comes to meeting the dynamic needs of customers. ITIL, or Information Technology Infrastructure Library, is a methodology that helps organizations effectively manage change while putting the customer at the center of the process. ITIL prescribes processes to ensure the customer's needs and requests are handled with ease – from acknowledgement of an issue through the application and evaluation of the solution. One of the greatest values of the ITIL methodology is that it embeds continual improvement into the process. The ITIL framework can be leveraged by anyone, including non-technical teams, to better manage change and serve customers. Atlassian's fastest growing product, Jira Service Desk, facilitates ITIL adoption in an organization by encouraging traceability, collaboration, and reporting. 

As business process experts certified in ITIL, we leverage the ITIL methodology in unison with Jira Service Desk to institute best practices for our clients. Here are 5 real-world examples of how Praecipio Consulting helped our clients implement lasting organizational change by embracing key ITIL concepts of automation, visibility, knowledge base, change management and evaluation, and continuous improvement. 

Automation

"Using service automation to streamline both simple and more complex workflows of course impacts the overall efficiency of the organization... it also allows for a much better end-user experience for everyone at the company." - ITIL beyond IT: What is Service Automation & Service Relationship Management?

Problem: A major utility company powering the U.S. Eastern seaboard was manually reporting security equipment issues and coordinating with external vendors to fix the issues. This manual process was prone to errors and didn't allow for tracking of service level agreements (SLAs), which would determine which vendors were breaching their contracts. The company was using spreadsheets to track these crucial assets and their maintenance. The spreadsheet system was inefficient and created duplicate versions – leading to confusion, frustration, and waste. Furthermore, the spreadsheets could not track SLAs for Acknowledgement or Resolution for vendors.

Solution: To reduce redundancy and enforce SLAs, our experts implemented Jira Service Desk for the major utility company. By replacing their spreadsheets with Jira Core and Jira Service Desk, we helped them add a level of automation to their workflow. This reduced waste of time and resources, allowed for better communication with third-party vendors, and created a clear path for escalation. The custom configuration we created for the company maintained their security, while also allowing vendors to be a part of of the conversation. Furthermore, reporting features from both Jira Core and Jira Service Desk allowed for a central point of truth. The utility company could check the status of service tickets and see how well vendors were adhering to their SLAs. Through the process of improving their security equipment reporting and vendor coordination, the company found other areas of improvement and have chosen to continue working with us to maximize those workflows. 

Visibility

"It can be very difficult to know the health of your service desk, run reports, and find way to improve your support if you don’t have the right data." - The ABCs of Jira Service Desk: measuring success

Problem: A major U.S. waste management company wanted to adopt a more structured reporting system, replace an old enterprise software application, and incorporate the ITIL framework into their organization. The company's goal was to standardize tools in order to improve communication and rally around a consistent project management methodology. The waste management company desired a suite of tools with the ability to integrate functions across IT service areas, leading to better service for the end customer.

Solution: In addition to implementing several other Atlassian products, our experts helped the company leverage Jira Service Desk to achieve their business goals. We helped them create a central application with the ability to distinguish request types through a structured workflow. This included a more robust user interface to better triage issues and send them to the appropriate teams. The ability to categorize requests and label them with levels of urgency allowed the company to have better reporting, leading to improved enforcements of SLAs. 

Knowledge Base

"[A knowledge base] gets [customers] the help they need at the speed they’ve become accustomed to – i.e., in the time it takes to swipe around on their phones – and it frees service desk agents from stressing out while anxious customers wait on hold or answering the same question over email for the 10th time this week." - 4 tips for getting started with knowledge management

Problem: A large, private U.S. university wanted to revamp an old software application and replace it with a more robust and dynamic knowledge base. The university's goal was to increase usability for both their students and faculty regarding technical and campus-related questions, deflecting tickets by providing requesters with FAQ's and other resources to help them self-serve to find their answers. 

Solution: Our experts helped the university leverage Jira Service Desk and Confluence to achieve their goal. Combining Jira Service Desk with Questions for Confluence (a Confluence add-on that provides a knowledge base inside the already powerful wiki tool) allowed the university to implement a centralized knowledge database. Jira Service Desk allowed for better help engagement using queues and other helpful functionalities. Questions for Confluence empowered external users to help themselves by accessing a database of pre-answered questions, without tying up service desk agents with redundant problems.

Change Management and Evaluation

"Listening to your customers is the single most important thing you can do for the health of your company." 5 tips to transform your IT team from zero to superhero

Problem: The largest provider of support services to general and multi-specialty dental groups in the United States needed the ability to receive and respond to client feedback in addition to handling client issues. They did not have a clearly defined process for patients to interact with the organization and to raise issues. Their marketing team was searching for a new software tool that would manage feedback in a way that led to issue resolution and change management. The team's ideal tool would be able to enforce and report on multiple SLAs through issues submitted via the company's public website.

Solution: Our experts helped the dental corporation adopt Jira Core and Jira Service Desk to manage issue tracking and change management. With Jira Service Desk, the company was able to cleanly sort through client feedback and create a workflow to address issues that arose. Beyond managing client feedback, the dental corporation also used these tools for clinical tasks, billing, and other activities that needed life cycle tracking. In addition to tracking, the Atlassian tools helped the organization evaluate the effectiveness of their changes and quantified the improvements made – empowering all teams, not just marketing, to better serve their customers. 

Continuous Improvement

"With a single-product approach, configuring an SLA or modifying a workflow is easy, because they share core processes." How Jira Service Desk approaches ITSM 

Problem: A major U.S. insurance company was using three different software applications for code management, issue tracking, and service desk management – leading to inefficiencies and miscommunication. Their use of three separate applications resulted in duplicate tickets and the inability to enforce SLAs across the organization.The insurance company wanted to improve these processes and embrace ITIL's practice of continuous improvement. 

Solution: Our assessment encouraged the company to adopt a single application, Jira Service Desk, to provide a single source of truth. With Jira Service Desk, there was a common point of collaboration for issue management. This reduced duplicate tickets and saved valuable time and resources. Leveraging entities, workflows, and issue linking, we helped the insurance company align their processes to make reporting and enforcing SLAs easier, more efficient, and more effective. By strengthening their ability to track what changes are needed and to act upon those needs, we helped them develop a cycle for continuous improvement.  

ITIL for One, and ITIL for All 

"Just because one service desk streamlines the IT and service departments, it doesn’t mean that other teams can’t also benefit from them." - 5 tips to transform your IT team from zero to superhero

These real-world examples from our clients highlight how ITIL and Jira Service Desk can help organizations evolve and change – without the growing pains. ITIL concepts of automation, visibility, knowledge base, change management and evaluation, and continuous improvement aren't just for IT teams. These powerful ideas also provides immense value to other parts of any organization, technical and business teams alike. At Praecipio Consulting, we excel at leveraging the ITIL methodology and Jira Service Desk to help organizations do what they do better. Want more proof? Contact us to learn how we can help your organization evolve and do your best business. 

Topics: jira atlassian blog scaled-agile automation business confluence process standardize workflows traceability collaboration continuous-improvement integration it itil itsm jira-service-desk operations reporting white-paper
3 min read

HipChat Connect: Your New Mission Control

By Praecipio Consulting on Nov 30, 2015 11:00:00 AM

Imagine you work in an office with a room for every job you do- each project, each team. However, there is no communication between rooms- so you have to walk from one to another if you want to share project information or ask questions. This seems ridiculous in real life, but yet business teams still fail to leverage integration of tools due to disparate legacy systems (“IT uses Product X while Business Teams are on Product Y”), lack of customization options (“I’m in HR. Why should I use the same tools as our dev teams?”), and disappointing functionality (“I have to use Product A for reporting, but it’s not in real-time and it leads to lots of email chains to track the conversation.”).  

That’s where Atlassian comes in.

Making software for teams of all types and sizes, Atlassian enhances collaboration by providing easy to use, dynamic tools that move at the speed of your business. With this ethos in mind, Atlassian has released HipChat Connect to the world in order to encourage teams to “live in” HipChat, integrating with all their other tools and endless add-ons. HipChat is now your control pit for everything your team needs, all in just clicks.

The week of November 9th marked Austin Developer Week, hosted by Atlassian and Capital Factory. During the week, developers (and even some business teams) were challenged to learn the HipChat Connect API and create their own add-on. On Friday, add-ons were demoed, and while most were only in their beta versions, excitement was stirred with the expectation to see many of these fan favorites on the marketplace soon.

Uber for HipChat

Why did we not have this at Summit? When you and your team want to grab a bite, simply order the Uber inside HipChat, Determining location, estimated time of arrival, and cost, your team has the info they need to hitch a ride- and they can! Easily “join the ride” to save your seat and, within minutes, you’re on your way to your destination. Props to Atlassian's Julien Hoarau for this awesome add-on, which he demonstrated live by ordering his Uber to the airport (which arrived speedily as planned).

Graphic Annotation

Presented by a developer for a design team, this add-on has functionality for your marketing department to your IT crowd. With built in annotation options for graphics- including text, circles, arrows (all the must-haves!)- it’s never been easier to point out an issue in a performance report, identify an area of improvement on a presentation slide, or circle your own face so you can be spotted in the latest company photo. 

Props via HipChat

Part of Atlassian’s appealing culture is their open sharing of kudos across the company. Everyone likes to be appreciated and, by integrating a reward notification system like youearnedit.com (based in Austin, TX), you can give public shout outs over HipChat. Give points to team members for work well done and track past kudos given in the side panel. Increase your instant karma and share the love across your organization!

…and Many More!

Austin Developer Week was only the tip of the iceberg for add-ons to come for HipChat Connect and, with the API made public on atlassian.com, it’s only a matter of time before the marketplace explodes with amazing possibilities for HipChat functionality. With ideas already spinning up around customer service, business team use, and culture-building, we can already see HipChat becoming our home base. 

Want a Custom Add-On?

Our innovative, inspired custom dev team loves a challenge. They’ve built add-ons for startups and enterprise organizations alike, working across the Atlassian product suite to enhance functionality, increase adoption, and maximize efficiency. Tell us what we can develop for you to keep your business running on all cylinders!

Topics: atlassian blog best-practices hipchat collaboration culture developers marketplace-apps bespoke
3 min read

Introducing New HipChat Server

By Praecipio Consulting on Feb 9, 2015 11:00:00 AM

Effective communication is critical to the daily operation of your organization. Whether it's alerting your dev teams to the status of their latest release or brainstorming ideas for the next Happy Hour venue, your team needs a way to talk. With more companies operating disparately, the idea of around the watercooler conversations is now defunct and people look to technology to help them connect. It was this exact need that Atlassian sought to address with their chat platform, HipChat. 

During the lifespan of HipChat, 3.7 billion messages have been sent, 25 million files have been shared and 23 million video minutes have been logged, making it one of the most widely used chat tools on the market. Responding to the popularity and demand of HipChat clients, Atlassian has expanded the product offering to now include a host of features and functionality that propel HipChat into an elite, unmatched realm of chat tools that bring simplicity and reliability.

Meet HipChat Server

Behind the Firewall

With the increased capacity for file sharing and features like private rooms for sensitive conversations, the need for security in your chats is paramount. Now with a Server option, you can run HipChat behind the firewall for the utmost security to keep your private conversations truly private. HipChat Server is also ideal for those unable to run cloud applications, allowing HipChat to run on your own server (or outsourced server hosting, as offered by Praecipio Consulting!).

Increased Integration

Link your HipChat Server up with other Atlassian applications like Jira, Stash and Confluence to increase communication between teams and keep everyone up to date on projects. Is your team's latest build ready for release? With a DevTeams room in HipChat, Stash will notify your team! Tag a co-worker to review a document in Confluence? HipChat will let them know. Integrate with the HipChat bot lab (or build your own) to sync your HipChat Server instance to an unlimited number of applications for maximum traceability. 

Enhance Culture & Collaboration

HipChat makes it easy for teams to communicate, boasting features that make the platform your organization's key resource for staying in the loop on work happenings from presentations to co-worker's birthday plans.

  • File Sharing- No more asking "Did you e-mail me that file? Or did you share it with me in the drive?" Just HipChat co-workers your images, presentations and important documents. They'll have it at their fingertips in an instant!
  • Video & Phone Chat- With teams spread out all over the world, sometimes it's nice to hear the voice or see the face of a teammate you don't often encounter in your home office. Use HipChat's video and audio chat to stay in touch and up to date!
  • Team Rooms- Need a space to brainstorm? Get a room! Create rooms for group needs to discuss specialized subjects like Marketing or hold a private conversation for more sensitive information like HR.  
  • @Mentions- Get peoples' attention with the @mention feature in HipChat to let them in on the conversation. Additionally, using @all notifies everyone in a room of a conversation. 
  • Emoticons- Why lie? You know the awesome emoticons are the real reason you use HipChat. With HipChat Server, you get all your favorites: (mindblown), (allthethings) and, of course, (celeryman). 

New HipChat Server brings you all the functionality you know and love, from file sharing and video chat to those ever-entertaining emoticons, but with the added benefits of running behind the firewall. Interested in HipChat Server (or any other Server-versions of Atlassian products) but don't have the bandwidth to host yourself? Let us host for you! At Praecipio Consulting, we provide Atlassian hosting to companies of all sizes to ensure you get the instances you need without the organizational strain that comes from internal hosting. With Atlassian and Praecipio Consulting, you can bring your teams the tools they need to achieve their best collaborative practices (and play with some fun emojis while they're at it). Contact us to learn how we can bring new HipChat Server to your company!

Topics: atlassian blog best-practices hipchat collaboration culture hosting integration
5 min read

Expert Tips to Enhance Collaboration

By Praecipio Consulting on Oct 30, 2014 11:00:00 AM

While I may have seen Lord of the Rings, I've recently become keenly aware of my overall lack of knowledge around the ins and outs of the franchise. After creating a would-be "one does not simply" LOTR meme related to a new Atlassian product release, I HipChatted the idea to a co-worker for review. The following is the actual conversation that ensued:
 

 

Aside from the fact that I apparently need to re-watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy, my big take-away from the conversation was- thank goodness for Atlassian! At Praecipio Consulting, we leverage the collaborative power of the product suite for everything from content review to coming up with new ideas and innovations for our client work. Even with resources located across the country, I still get the input I need from our team with tools like Confluence, Jira and HipChat.

As an international company with offices from Australia to Austin to Amsterdam, Atlassian knows the importance of remote collaboration across disparate teams. With a product suite that facilitates communication and documentation, Atlassian helps organizations worldwide increase productivity with tools like Jira, Confluence and Stash. One could write code in Asia, then have a team member in South America review and merge it. Marketing initiatives begun in England can be aligned with corresponding product releases developed in Iceland with Jira Portfolio. The Atlassian line of products, designed for maximum collaboration, allows remote team members to bring their expertise to projects to achieve best results. Besides using the Atlassian tools to prevent misappropriated movie references, we also collaborate in other ways.

Everybody Needs an Editor.

While spell check has done wonders for catching errors, it is always good practice to have someone review your work before pushing to production. Jira and Confluence track activity by users, alerting page and issue watchers to edits made and keeping the general population abreast of developments via the activity feed. This allows your team to see changes made and weigh in with comments. If you have Confluence 5.7, you get even more editing power with the ability to leave in-line comments on documents and attachments for the most specific, efficient method of feedback. At Praecipio Consulting, our best collaborative practices include color-coded copy edits that delineate areas for re-write, removal of copy or verification of content accuracy. Using our colored copy system, it is easy to provide specific feedback during collaboration that the content owner can efficiently incorporate into the document.

To further standardize our review process, we created a custom Marketing Communications issue type in Jira with its own workflow. We now have the ability to track the progress all our content from In Progress to QA (review) to Publish. By assigning the issue to the user responsible for each step in the process, the reporter (the person who ultimately owns the project) can easily see when to expect the next content release. With reports and customizable dashboards in Jira, we can easily view our communications schedule to ensure that content is on track throughout the In Progress and QA phases for on-time publishing. Not only does this help us thoroughly review content before publishing, but it also streamlines our processes by avoiding multiple individual sub-tasks and instead tracks the workflow within the main communications issue for best collaborative practices. 

The Marketplace of Ideas

In 1859, philosopher John Stuart Mill raised the idea of "the marketplace of ideas" - a community of open, transparent discourse to find truth. Why not create a Marketplace of Ideas for your teams to share information and gain knowledge? 

With Atlassian tools like Confluence Questions, your entire organization has access to a centralized source of standardized information. Allowing users to easily search for answers, team members can add their own responses and up-vote the answers of others to make Confluence Questions even more robust. Identify experts in your organization with leaderboard reporting so you find your best resource for each project.

Jira Portfolio, Atlassian's most exciting new offering, brings disparate teams together through initiative setting to align all projects to your business strategy, from your marketing department to your dev team. The skill field for each resource gives you even more granularity when searching for the right person, allowing users to set competencies from UI to QA. 

We don't think John Stuart Mill was the one who coined the phrase, "two heads are better than one," but Atlassian users agree with it just the same. Introducing tools like Confluence Questions and Jira Portfolio bring best collaborative practices to your organization as your team begins sharing and learning together. 

Members Only

Getting others' feedback can be helpful, but sometimes you only want input from certain users. With permission setting capabilities across the Atlassian product suite administrators can determine the visibility of information to control who can edit and view data. For additional security for your most sensitive information, Praecipio Consulting's Secure Content add-on for Confluence brings you the ultimate encryption with a secure yet simple user interface. 

Need to discuss something with a specific team? Get a room! A HipChat room, that is. Security settings in the real-time chat software gives you the ability to create your own chat room inside your organization's lobby. Add permissions to decide who gets invited to the room and a lock icon will appear next to your HipChat room to let everyone know you're having a private party.

Atlassian's security and permissions settings give you the power to choose your collaborators and keep that secret project - whether a new hire or plans for the boss' birthday party - under wraps until release.

Secure Content provides an easy to use, secure location for your most sensitive information.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Atlassian facilitates best collaborative practices and your best processes with their entire product suite. You gain the full benefit of your team's expertise as they contribute to the CMS, share knowledge and align business strategy. Atlassian gives you the utmost transparency so everyone stays "in the know" and interacts in real-time. Getting efficient and documented feedback, you can seamlessly track user stories to stay involved in the collaborative process from ideation to release. As Atlassian product and process experts, Praecipio Consulting offers services around the innovative suite of tools to help you achieve best collaborative products and practices. We get you what you need - from process optimization to product licensing - to facilitate your best collaborative practices. The greatest ideas come from inspiration through collaboration. Harness the full brain power of your organization with the Atlassian product suite and Praecipio Consulting's best collaborative practices. 

Topics: jira blog best-practices confluence implementation process-consulting questions-for-confluence collaboration consulting-services jira-service-desk marketplace-apps
5 min read

Collaboration Best Practices - 3 Reasons Why Email Hurts Your Productivity

By Praecipio Consulting on Dec 12, 2012 11:00:00 AM

The following content was taken from Atlassian.com:

One of the turning points for communication in the workplace was the invention of email. Historically it’s been the easiest way to make contact in any business relationship – short, pointed conversations with the teammates you work closest with, or quick messages to people you’re communicating with for the very first time. You could say it changed the way we all work. Since its inception, however, the notion that email is also a good channel for team collaboration is what’s holding us all back.

Email is great for communication, but not collaboration…

 

Email is an effective means for communication, but when it comes to collaborating with your team on projects and getting work done, it’s a major hindrance to your team’s productivity.

  • Group conversations grow unwieldy too quickly
  • Keeping track of the most current version of an attached document is the modern-era’s needle in a haystack
  • It’s nearly impossible to maintain clarity about what needs to get done, and by whom

At the end of the day, when it comes to collaborating with your team, email wastes A LOT of your time.

Don’t get us wrong, email is not all bad. It’s really effective at quickly and effortlessly communicating with others, but it just doesn’t scale. When it comes to productively working together with your team, it fails to help you get the job done. Here are three reasons why we feel email is killing your productivity.

1. Your email inbox is a lot like quicksand

You receive a ton of email each day (yeah, like you didn’t already know that!) – some of it’s important, some actionable, some is SPAM, and some is unavoidably pointless. As a result your mornings go wasted in your attempt to reach inbox-zero. It’s a losing battle. Each time you take a step forward, you take two back. You’ve likely tried all the organizational features your email client has to offer to control your inbox – labels, filters, multiple inboxes, smart inboxes – but at the end of the day, your morning consists of at least an hour of unavoidable email ground-and-pound. You also probably manage emails when you get home at night and even first thing in the morning when you wake up just to keep your head above water. I’m preaching to the choir here, right? The fact is that this is the norm these days and hardly leaves you anytime to get real work done.

Pro-Tip: Use the ‘Four D’s of Decision-Making’ model

According to a article published by Microsoft, of the email you receive:

  • 50% can be deleted or filed
  • 30% can be delegated of completed in less than two minutes
  • 20% can be deferred to your Task List or Calendar to complete later

With this in mind it’s good practice to decide what to do with each and every email you receive – you have 4 choices:

  • Delete it
  • Do it
  • Delegate it
  • Defer it

2. Your email inbox silos your team’s tacit knowledge

Email is regularly used to share and discuss work, but that doesn’t mean its supposed to. Attaching files and documents or linking to them via shared network drives makes for a complete mess. Countless versions of shared files and relevant follow-up conversations are trapped in email inboxes everywhere. Your inbox is a graveyard for valuable tacit knowledge, knowledge that gets buried deeper and deeper every minute of every day. It’s truly criminal.

So, what’s the real problem? Email is a tool that best serves simple communication, not discussion, and certainly not collaboration either. When you send an email asking someone to review your work, the most valuable piece of information being transferred is not the file itself, but the ensuing conversation. Regardless of the fact that it’s incredibly difficult to find this email in your own inbox later, no one else outside of the email thread has the opportunity to benefit from this transfer of knowledge, keeping stakeholders in the dark.

3. Switching context between work and email wastes a lot of time

The rate at which most people check their email is astonishing – it’s practically become a nervous twitch. Just like Pavlov’s dog, your email has you trained incredibly well.

The problem with checking your email so much is that you rarely have a solid block of time to get any real work done. Take into consideration that if you’re actually checking your email 36 times an hour, and it takes 16 minutes to refocus after handling an incoming email, your workday is basically non-existent.

Switching contexts is distracting, if not annoying, and your email is the number one culprit – destroying the focus you need to get your job done well.

Pro-Tip: Practice Timeboxing to increase personal productivity

Thanks to email, staying on track at work is nearly impossible. Timeboxing is a time management technique that limits the time during which a task is accomplished. Start with 25 minute intervals. Work on a task for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, then commit to email for 25 minutes, and finally take another 5 minute break. Repeat. Focus. Flourish.

If 25 minutes sounds like a lot of email time, it sure beats checking your email 36 times in a single hour. At least with Timeboxing you can put all of your energy both into your work and email respectively.

Is there a solution?

We’ve outlined the major problems with using email to collaborate with your team, and even provided a few tips to help avoid the daily snags of collaborative emailing, but these are just simple workarounds. They don’t necessarily get at the core of your problems, which is that email is not the best solution for team collaboration.

OK, we are Atlassian Experts so we’re obviously biased, but we encourage ut clients to use Confluence and HipChat, Atlassian’s team collaboration and group chat tools, as means to reach decisions faster with less email and fewer meetings.

Topics: atlassian blog business confluence efficiency enterprise management optimization process project technology value collaboration information
2 min read

Jira: Not Just for Software Development

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 17, 2012 11:00:00 AM

Jira’s an issue tracking application, but its core flexibility and strengths mean it can become much more than a tool limited to a development group. Jira’s incredibly adept at helping teams track and accomplish tasks. Jira also has a masterful ability to manage life cycles - and it’s found great success in numerous use cases.

Use Cases

The following use case guides are meant to explain a bit of the details related to using Jira for a specific use case. The info you’ll find in here highlights much of what we’ve learned from working with clients in a variety of different industries, as well as our internal expertise and use of Jira.

For each of these use cases, we’ll attempt to highlight:

  • Particular Jira functionality specific to the use
  • Related plugins we’re aware of
  • Customization and tweaks
  • …and sometimes a sample file to help get you started

General and Non-Software Uses

Agile Software Development

Project Management

HelpDesk / Support / Trouble Ticketing

Test Case Management

This can be done by using either of the following approaches:

Requirements Management

Change Management

Topics: jira atlassian blog scaled-agile austin automation business efficiency enterprise issues management process services technology value tracking change cloud collaboration computing continuous-improvement incident-management information integration it itil itsm operations
6 min read

7 Ways Social Enterprise Apps Are More Than Just Talk

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 1, 2012 11:00:00 AM

by Ashley Furness

CRM Market Analyst, Software Advice
June 27, 2012

Until recently, I might have called Microsoft crazy to drop $1.2 billion on social enterprise app vendor Yammer. The business case for replicating popular social networking functionality in a corporate environment seemed dubious at best. Would there ever be a return on investment?

“Social is more than a trend, it is a revolution that is changing the way we work and collaborate. Powerful social tools, such as Chatter, help employees work faster and more efficiently—making it a strategic piece of the workforce.” — Dave King, Chatter Product Marketing Director

But then I talked to some corporate AtlassianYammerChatter and Jive users, all of whom claimed measurable gains from these tools in a variety of areas. Here are seven ways they derive value from social enterprise applications.

1. Streamline Project Management

Software developers at PerkStreet Financial use Yammer to facilitate scrum meetings, a key component of the agile software development methodology. Rather than hold their daily morning standup meetings in person, each member of the 37-person team posts “what I did yesterday,” “what I will do today” and “barriers to moving forward” using the hashtag #scrum.

Praecipio Consulting has helped in.gredients, a package free micro-grocer, leverage many of Atlassian’s products into extremely powerful tools for project management. Jira and Confluence for example, are used in conjunction to inform teams or others externally on goals, tasks, progress, and results. Confluence makes it easy for their teams to collaborate and share knowledge of Jira roadmaps, workflow, and tasks, or to document work, allowing users to delegate tasks with the “@”symbol.

The tag in Jira and Confluence allows users to quickly see what everyone is working on and chime in when appropriate. Similarly, Yammer can also delegate tasks to others with the “@” symbol. With Jive, users can also employ shortcuts such as an “!” to pull information into the thread from CRM and other enterprise systems.

2. Augment Transparency and Accountability

Since PerkStreet hosts all conversations on Yammer rather than trapped in someone’s inbox, management has continuous insight into the team’s progress.This also prevents work duplication and redundancies because everyone is literally on the same page.

“If you look at someone’s scrum over time, you can see whether they actually accomplished what they said they were going to,” PerkStreet COO Jason Henrichs notes.

Similarly, Jira and Confluence have allowed for Praecipio Consulting to increase its clients’ transparency and accountability even in the case of telecommuting among employees, who at times live in different states. Christian Lane, Managing Partner of Praecipio Consulting said, “the ability of the Atlassian product suite to increase transparency and establish accountability has allowed our business to grow and operate seamlessly across borders.”

3. Increase Communications Efficiency

HipChat, the newest member of the Atlassian family, is similar to Yammer and Jive. It’s a hosted group chat service that helps teams, or entire companies, collaborate in real-time. HipChat has a powerful API and comes loaded with integrations to Atlassian’s most popular products - JiraConfluenceFishEye and Crucible. These integrations allow you to get targeted notifications from products into the relevant chatrooms for your teams.

Salesforce surveys show enterprise wikis can reduce email by 30 percent and meeting by 27 percent.

FlexJobs founder and CEO Sara Sutton Fell said Yammer drastically cut down on her need to email, call or schedule a meeting to check in.

4. Find Experts Faster

Centerstance Inc. Managing Partner Greg Lueck says Chatter helps sales staff answer deal-specific questions expeditiously. He recalled one situation where a partner needed someone certified in Cast Iron software integration who spoke Mandarin. The resource manager working with the partner posted the query in Centerstance’s news feed.

“They had an answer within 30 seconds… in Mandarin,” Lueck remembers. In this and similar scenarios, the employee would have otherwise “relied on a central repository of all company’s experience that is located in one person’s head, or nowhere at all.”

Jive surveys show sales win rates increase an average of 23 percent, and time to find experts falls 34 percent.

5. Better Leverage Information and Insights

Social enterprise vendors have invested heavily in social and adaptive intelligence. These sophisticated algorithms suggest articles, files and experts based on the user’s position, connections, group memberships and resources they’ve previously accessed.

“Chatter knows what you care about based on your activities, making it’s value immeasurable,” King says of Chatter, the salesforce.com social layer. As a result, employees are better informed and can answer questions before they even know they have them.

“Imagine you have 10,000 people in an enterprise. Sales materials, RFPs are constantly flowing through system… Jive makes the most of this information by channeling it to the right people,” according to Jive Product Marketing Director Tim Zonca.

Additionally, HipChat stores full conversation history, so anyone new that joins a room can catch up and participate in the discussion.

“HipChat is incredible – perfect for product teams but fantastic for any team. Its use absolutely exploded at Atlassian, demonstrating the viral adoption potential of a modern communication system for teams,” says Mike Cannon-Brookes, CEO and co-founder of Atlassian. “Connecting and sharing ideas in real-time helps teams move faster, and HipChat does this better than any other product I’ve used.”

6. Generate More, Better Ideas

Yammer provides several means for employees to contribute ideas–from responding to queries and surveys, to posting ideas in a group discussion threads. Users receive gratification when co-workers and leadership “like” their contribution. Then, they are continually rewarded as they watch project teams bring the idea to fruition.

With one advertising campaign, for example, Deloitte CEO Peter Williams asked employees for their ideas for a tagline. More than 38 groups formed that submitted 1,184 original concepts.

7. Boost Employee Recognition and Engagement

In the four years since Deloitte AU implemented Yammer, the turnover rate for active users has fallen to two percent annually–about 10 times less than for employees who don’t use it. Leadership attribute change to employees feeling more engaged and recognized for their work.

“In a company with 180,000 people, most employees rarely interact with leadership,” says Frank Farrall, national leader for Deloitte Australia’s Online Consulting Practice. “Yammer breaks down those barriers.”

Deloitte leadership uses Yammer to pull reports that identify employees with high engagement and positive feedback. The more a user interacts with groups, downloads articles and responds to queries with the same keywords, the more they are distinguished as thought leaders on a subject.

“This is one key way to rise up in the firm–get recognized as someone who drives connectivity,” Farrall added.

Deloitte layered gamification elements into Yammer to further drive engagement and recognition. Using the behavior platform Badgeville, Deloitte awards “badges” when employees report milestones in Yammer, such as completing segments in Deloitte’s Leadership Academy. Users can monitor their rank on a leaderboard that shows what they need to do to surpass the person immediately ahead, encouraging them to do more.

 

Topics: jira atlassian blog business confluence efficiency enterprise management practices process tips tricks value collaboration continuous-improvement operations
5 min read

Meet the New & Improved Bamboo OnDemand!

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 17, 2012 11:00:00 AM

If you’re a Bamboo OnDemand subscriber, you could be forgiven for feeling a stab of jealousy every time a new batch of awesome features comes out for the on-premises Bamboo offering.  ”When, oh when, will it be my turn?”, you pined.  Well, if you logged into your Bamboo OnDemand instance this morning, you already know that the wait is over.   Bamboo OnDemand is now roughly on par with Bamboo 4.1.  ”Roughly”, because there are still a few differences such as not being able to install plugins or use commercial version control systems.

The collection of features now available in Bamboo OnDemand is large enough to fill a book (regular readers know I’m not one for brevity!).  My strategy here today is to call out the biggest n’ bestest of ‘em, and point you to resources that’ll take you deeper in. So bookmark this page.  Reference it.  Love it. Repeat.

Better AMI Support

You’ll need to update custom any custom AMIs used by your build agents to make them compatible with today’s upgrade, but going forward this won’t be necessary.  In addition, BoD now offers a stock image for building on Windows as well as support for EC2 spot instances.

Read more about AMI & Agent Support here: Atlassian OnDemand Release Notes – July 2012

DVCS & External Repo Support

 

The people have clamoured for it, and so the people shall have it!  BoD can pull code from external Git and Mercurial repos hosted on Bitbucket, GitHub or on your own network.  That goes for SVN repos on your own network, too.  Using Git submodules?  No problem. Want to pull code from a hosted SVN repo and a Bitbucket Mercurial repo into the same build? Done.

Read more about DVCS & multiple repo support here: What’s New in Bamboo 3.3

Tasks

All your builders and post actions are belong to us Tasks.  Tasks are the granular steps that make up your Plan: checkout source code, call MSBuild, execute a script… etc.  Your existing builders were converted to Tasks as part of the BoD upgrade, and we think you’ll find it to be a great usability improvement.

Read more about Tasks here: Configuring Tasks

Manual Stages

Many users’ workflows require a set of requests and approvals for deploying code to an environment.  And many many users would like to compile, test and deploy to a QA env with each commit –but deploy to production much less frequently.  Manual stages let you construct a single pipeline, and add “gates” or “valves” to satisfy those use cases.  You’re welcome. 

Read more about Manual Stages (and other cool features) here: Bamboo 3.2 Release Notes

Plan Branches

For a couple of years, the developer community has been complaining that using short-lived branches to build new features simply doesn’t play nicely with continuous integration.  We’ve taken a big step toward proving them wrong.  As soon as Bamboo knows there’s a new branch in your repo, it will clone any associated Plans and point them at the new branch.  Branches are automatically discovered in Git & Mercurial repos, with auto-discovery for SVN coming soon. Très facile!

 

Automatic Merging

Because automatic branch discovery wasn’t enough.  We wanted more!  With each commit to a branch, BoD can now grab code from a second branch, merge the two, run your Plan against the merged code, and if successful, push the merged code to either branch.  Great for ensuring longer-lived branches don’t drift to far from the main line, or for two developers collaborating on a feature using their own feature branches.

Read more about Automatic Merging here: Using Automatic Merges

Test Quarantine

When I was a test engineer, I would’ve killed for this.  But you don’t have to!  No more commenting out tests or dorking around with your suite.xml file.  Just click a button to neutralize a busted test.  It’ll still get run so you can see when it’s fixed, and you’ll see your count of quarantined tests on each build result summary so you don’t loose track of them.

Read more about test quarantine here: Putting Tests in Quarantine with Bamboo 4 (Yes, the zombie apocalypse has indeed arrived.)

Jira Issues

BoD has issues.  And how!  Forget all that inefficient context switching, and create Jira issues from any build results page in Bamboo.

Read more about Jira Issues here: Top 5 Reasons Creating Jira Issues from Bamboo Makes Your Team Awesome-r

Broken Build Tracking

Team leads and scrum masters have better things to do than hound people to fix the build.  With broken build tracking you can assign one person to be the default owner of broken builds for each Plan, or have responsibility assigned to users who made changes since the last passing build.  Bamboo will nag them on your behalf until the build is green again.

Read more about Broken Build Tracking here: Bamboo 4.1 Announcement Blog

Failed Stage Do-Overs

Everyone needs a do-over sometimes.  Maybe a build config needed tweaking.  Maybe your QA environment down just as you were deploying to it.  Re-running only the Stage that failed can save you a whole lot of time.  And time is money, so… yeah.

Read more about Failed Stage Do-Overs here: Bamboo 3.2 Release Notes

Onward!

Bamboo OnDemand is now resting on a more stable platform than before, so expect fewer stability hiccups going forward.  We’ve also made custom AMIs for your build agents easier (even updated the templates, so you might not need to customize at all!), and made Windows images available by default.  Très facile (redux).

But it’s also the end of an era.  This is the last announcement I intend to write about BoD upgrades.  Why?  Because they simply won’t be a big deal anymore.  We’ve retro-fitted our upgrade process such that BoD will be upgraded with new versions of Bamboo at the same time, possibly even before, those versions are available for installation behind your firewall.  This is one “good bye” I think we’re all happy about!

Topics: atlassian blog bamboo business enterprise management practices process technology collaboration information it lifecycle
1 min read

Information Economics and Confluence: Putting the I Back into IT.

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 27, 2012 11:00:00 AM

When it comes to IT, why do most organizations focus more on the T in technology than the I in information? The purpose of a good IT infrastructure’s to prevent information asymmetry and the implications that come with it. By properly managing your company’s information network you can create value through better decision-making.

Information asymmetry occurs when one party has more or less information than another. This can result in bad decision-making, and at times, unethical decisions. Regardless of the industry you operate in, treating information as an economic resource allows your business to yield higher than expected payoffs, resulting in a competitive edge.

The need for better collaboration both within and across business processes is a problem our clients come across often. Luckily the solution’s one we pride ourselves on offering.

Atlassian’s Confluence serves as an organizational wiki, connecting employees to information and each other. Confluence allows users to create, share, discuss, and discover documents, ideas, Jira issues, specs, mockups, projects – anything. By connecting your entire business in one place, Confluence allows for better integration. We love it and so do our clients!

Topics: atlassian blog bpm business confluence enterprise management practices process technology value collaboration information it
5 min read

Stash 1.1 Released: Simple, Secure Git Repository Management for the Enterprise

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 19, 2012 11:00:00 AM

Seven weeks ago the world met Stash – a centralized solution to manage Git repositories behind the firewall. Stash 1.0 was a huge launch! Atlassian’s been deluged with great feedback and already have small agile teams and large enterprises adopting Stash for their Git development.

Atlassian’s just getting started, and today Stash’s future begins! Stash 1.1 is here with more features focused on making your behind the firewall Git development simple, secure and fast.

SSH Support

Developed from the ground up with enterprise level security as a #1 priority, Stash now supports SSH in addition to HTTPS. Use standard HTTPS authentication or set up your public keys and connect to Stash via SSH, it’s your choice. This resolves Stash’s #1 feature request focused on adding security options to support SSH.

 

For those of you who chose to go the SSH route there can be some benefits for your team (depending on your setup):

  • Increased security
  • Ease of configuring automated systems, such as build and deployment servers (e.g. Bamboo)
  • Restricted access to pushing and pulling from Stash without compromising passwords

Developers are able to manage their own SSH keys. For those using multiple machines to work with their Git repositories or several automated systems pushing and pulling from Stash they can add as many keys as they see fit. And, have no fear Stash admins, you still have full control over SSH keys with the ability to grant or revoke the SSH keys of any user.


Do you understand your Git error messages? No matter what flavor of authentication you choose, Stash makes sure you know what’s going on when things go wrong. Unlike standard Git error messages, which can be confusing and contribute to the steep learning curve, Stash will provide you with user-friendly messages.

Standard Git error message when a repository does not exist

fatal: https://stash.atlassian.com/scm/STASH/nosuchrepo/info/refs not found: did you run git update-server-info on the server?

Stash Git error message when a repository does not exist

fatal: https://stash.atlassian.com/scm/STASH/nosuchrepo.git: Repository does not exist
The requested repository does not exist, or you do not have permission to access it.

Fast-er Browsing

Time = money, and who doesn’t like to save a few bucks? Stash 1.1 vastly improves productivity by providing a faster experience for you and your team to work with Git repositories. Development delivered fast and efficient!

Diff Power

Atlassian’s development teams consist of back-end coders, front-end coders, QA, performance testing, product management and even designers. They’re all part of the development process.

The designers on Atlassian’s team were looking for a way to utilize Stash to compare images. They posed questions like “Have you ever tried to find the subtle difference between two images? That difference may be small like a text change or as large as a page redesign. In many cases it is not obvious.” So, from Atlassian’s designers to yours, we introduce the interactive image diff viewer (careful, it’s hypnotic!).

Maybe not as exciting, but definitely useful is ediffs. When viewing a diff it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish textual changes. Stash solves this with the addition of ediffs to clearly see what textual changes were added or removed when comparing two revisions.

Recent Repositories

There’s a new item in the Stash header, Repositories, that shows you the few repositories you usually work with, even though there may be hundreds set up across your company. For those developers who work with several repositories and want to avoid several clicks to get back to those repositories meet Recent Repositories. Quickly navigate to the repositories you recently visited and save a few seconds in your day.

 

Mouse-less Productivity

Atlassian wanted to make it faster for their development team, and yours, to navigate Stash (Stash was developed with Stash ). When viewing changesets, browsing directories or jumping through your commit list simply press ‘J’ or ‘K’ to move from next to previous. Less mouse, more keyboard!

Check out the other time-saving keyboard shortcuts by clicking the image.

 

Simple-r Permissions

Git’s great, but administering access control to your repositories isn’t! For those organizations with complicated user management (especially in a corporate LDAP), Stash simplifies Git administration. Stash keeps you and your developers productive by providing a way to structure your repositories and manage permissions all in a matter of seconds.

  • Global permissions – delegate administration of projects to developers and provide them the freedom to create and manage repositories; no more requests to IT to create Git repositories.
  • Projects permissions – use the project structure to grant a simple set of project permissions to users and groups to control access to repositories; you can have confidence that the right developers have access permissions to a project.

The new permission screens provide an at-a-glance overview of who has access to your projects and makes managing permissions even faster. Without further ado – the new permissions screen…

Meet Stash 1.1 – 25% off for 12 more days

If you haven’t met Stash yet, now is the time. Be one of the early adopters of Stash and take advantage of the introduction offer of 25% off for new Stash licenses. This long-standing offer will expire in just 12 days (June 30, 2012).

Stash – Git Repository Management for Enterprise Team. Git going!

 
                

Questions & Feedback

Have questions or feedback about Stash? Drop us a line or log feedback on Atlassian’s public Jira issue tracker.

Topics: atlassian blog bitbucket bpm business efficiency enterprise groups management process technology user value collaboration continuous-improvement information operations
4 min read

Jira 5's Social Perks

By Praecipio Consulting on Mar 2, 2012 11:00:00 AM

Jira 5 is a brilliant platform for collaboration, connecting the people, activity and applications you work with every day.

Software development involves your entire organization, and good software becomes great when you bring everyone into your development process. Atlassian Jira 5′s here, connecting the dots between the development process and the rest of your business.

Your Platform for Collaboration

Software’s the center of much of our world today: it’s in your car, on the phone in your pocket, and it shapes how you work with teams, projects, and organizations.

Jira sits at the center of your software development, from initial feature planning and assigning work, to tracking development work and testing, to managing project status and the final release. Jira 5 takes collaboration to new levels by connecting people, activity, and applications around software development.

People & Teams

Jira 5 has two powerful new ways to bring people into the conversation: ‘@mentions’ and sharing.

While Jira’s email notifications are great for keeping everyone up-to-date with the issues they’re working on, sometimes you need to bring others into the conversation who might not be actively participating in an issue already.

With Jira 5, simply @mention any user in a comment or description and they’ll receive an email indicating they have been mentioned. Autocomplete lets you select usernames on the fly and Jira makes it easy to track who is involved in the comment stream.

The Share button lets you quickly send out a broadcast-style ‘FYI’ to people and teams you are working with.

Similar to sharing in Confluence 4, you can now share issues and saved searches by simply adding a user’s name or email address and typing a quick note with some details.

Activity & Applications

With new improvements to activity streams and issue linking, Jira 5 is the central place to stay up-to-date with what’s happening on your projects.

Remote issue links allow you to connect Jira issues to any website URL or application. This is great for connecting Jira issues to pages in Confluence or issues in other instances of Jira. External applications can also link to Jira issues directly to any Jira issue using the new Jira REST API.

Activity streams now show remote activity as well. In addition to real-time updates from Jira, all other Atlassian products connected via Application Links will automatically show up in your feeds. This includes changes to Confluence pages, Bamboo build status, and source activity from FishEye, and more.

Remote applications and plugins can also add events their own to Jira activity streams.

Connecting the Dots

Atlassian tools aren’t the only applications you use alongside Jira… so Atlassian’s excited to share some killer integrations to connect the tools and teams you work with every day. Here are a few examples of how development teams are connecting with the teams around them.

Development to QA

QA teams spend their time writing tests, planning execution cycles, running manual tests, kicking off automation scripts, and providing status updates in a test management tool like Zephyr. Developers spend time in Jira, managing and tracking their own daily work, or planning work with their team.

Jira 5 Activity Streams bridge the gap between tools like these, providing real-time updates between Zephyr and Jira whenever major activity happens, such as:

  • beginning testing on a particular project or version/sprint/iteration
  • a particular test execution cycle starting
  • a brand new bug being filed or modified

Developers and anyone working in Jira get a running feed on testing activities in Zephyr, as they occur, without having to reach out to those team members to chase up status updates.

Development to Product Management

Confluence is a great tool for product managers to work on unstructured content, like requirements or specification docs. These are often directly related to one or more issues in Jira.

With Jira 5, it is easy to create a two-way link between Jira issues and Confluence pages. Simply paste the URL to an issue into any Confluence page and the Jira issue will automatically be updated with a link that page.

Development to Customer Support

It doesn’t stop with Confluence. Remote issue links in Jira 5 connects Jira issues to other items the teams you work with use:

  • a document in Box
  • a customer record from Salesforce
  • a support ticket in Zendesk
  • a discussion topic from Get Satisfaction
  • and more..

Your Platform for Integration

Jira 5 makes it easier for everyone to consume and develop plugins with two huge announcements around APIs: a stable Java API and a brand new REST API.

The stable Java API means every Jira customer can rest assured that all Jira 5.0 compatible plugins will be forwards compatible with Jira 5.x releases. Atlassian wants the best possible experience for all Jira users, so Atlassian is committed to investing in this set of stable APIs to support developers integrating with our tools. You won’t need to wait on a plugin when the next Jira 5.x release comes out – you can upgrade right away, knowing all plugins built using this new stable API will be forwards compatible!

The Jira 5 REST API gives you a new way to work with issues remotely – including the ability to search, create and link issues, and add remote events into the Jira activity stream.

Get Connected with Jira 5

Jira 5 integrates with the tools developers and other teams use to help software development stay connected to the rest of the organization. Sharing and mentions make it easy to bring others into the conversation. Remote issue links keep dynamic, relevant information in a central place. Activity streams keep you updated on what’s happening in and outside of Jira in real-time.

Jira 5 is the center of software development, connecting people, activity and applications you work with every day, helping you make great software.

Topics: jira atlassian blog facebook management software sprint stream twitter zephyr collaboration development organization atlassian-products
4 min read

Atlassian Releases Jira 5

By Praecipio Consulting on Feb 22, 2012 11:00:00 AM

So you’ve probably heard already – Atlassian released Jira 5 today, loaded with tons of new stuff. Here’s Atlassian’s press release, which gives a cumulative primer:

“SAN FRANCISCO & SYDNEY, February 22, 2012—Atlassian, the leading provider of collaboration software for product teams, today launched Jira 5, the latest release of its flagship product. Available through both an OnDemand and on-site offering, Jira 5 offers a social product development platform that connects people, applications and activity to accelerate the software development process. New social features such as mentions, sharing and live activity streams immediately bring users into real-time discussions.

Jira 5′s platform – including an expanded plugin API and improved REST APIs –allows third-party software vendors to easily integrate with Jira and create products that are seamlessly compatible with future Jira releases, saving companies time and money. More than 30 integration partners, including Box, Gliffy, New Relic, Zephyr, Zendesk, Salesforce.com, Tempo and GetSatisfaction are launching Jira 5 compatible third-party products. More than 100 commercial and free plugins are also available with today’s launch.

“Jira 5 continues to push the software development process forward, this time through new social capabilities that improve real-time communication and better connect developers, technical teams, business users and customers – basically everyone building software products together,” said Jay Simons, president of Atlassian. “Jira 5′s enhanced integration platform also helps connect information from other enterprise products – a sales ticket from Salesforce.com, or a customer service request from Zendesk – directly to the Jira issue tracking and workflow engine, putting more information directly into the hands of product teams.”

Jira is used by more than 70 percent of Fortune 100 companies. Jira sits at the center of the software development process, connecting teams with development tasks such as bug tracking, feature development, agile planning, and activity monitoring.

Sharing Features Connect Developers, Teams and Data in Real Time

“Before Jira, our developers lost so much time reproducing the wheel through a tedious process of figuring out what had been done and who’d already been involved,” said Alex Kirmse, head of mobile development for Zappos.

Jira 5’s new sharing and mention features makes it easy to pull team members or co-workers into the conversation. Live activity streams update team members on all related activities and information, much like Facebook and Twitter activity streams.

“The effectiveness of our team’s communications has increased with direct commenting to individuals and live activity streams,” said Max Pool, Founder of Sycorr, a mobile banking company. “The integration platform for Jira 5 is the best yet. REST APIs improve our ability to integrate across platforms, while improvements to Jira’s powerful search engine (JQL) – such as historic change support – allow us to get even more creative in how we use the system and get the data we want from it.”

Building Businesses on the Jira 5 Platform

Jira 5’s new stable plugin API and improved REST APIs make it easy for integration partners and other plugin developers to build integrated software products. More than a quarter of Jira’s 400 plugins and more than 15 remote SaaS integrations are launching with Jira 5 compatibility. Plugins built using the Jira 5 stable plugin API will be compatible with future upgrades to Jira.

“We feel confident in betting our business on Jira’s success,” explains Samir Shah, CEO of Zephyr. “Jira 5′s new API connects development to QA, and gives our test case management tools more adoption because users know they can upgrade to future releases without having to wait on add-on upgrades.”

“Jira 5 is another quantum leap by Atlassian in their mission to creatively enable large scale collaboration at the nexus of engineering and support,” said Adrian McDermott, vice president of engineering and product management at Zendesk. “This integration redefines how support and engineering teams can work together to enrich customer satisfaction.”

Availability

Starting today, Atlassian is offering a free 30-day trial of Jira 5. Jira can be purchased for on-site download for just $10 for 10 users, or OnDemand starting at $10/month for 10 users.

New Jira Enterprise Offering

To ensure the success of large deployments, Atlassian is introducing a new Jira Enterprise offering with additional support, training and engagement. Customers with 500 or more Jira users can now receive 24X7 phone support, end-user training, and administrator certification, among other enhanced services. For more information, go to http://www.atlassian.com/enterprise.

Additional Resources

About Atlassian

Atlassian products help innovators everywhere plan, build and launch great software. More than 18,000 large and small organizations – including Citigroup, eBay, Netflix and Nike – use Atlassian’s issue tracking, collaboration and software-development products to work smarter and deliver quality results on time. Learn more at http://atlassian.com.”

Topics: jira atlassian news blog connect enterprise facebook salesforce software stream twitter zendesk zephyr saas tempo collaboration developers download gliffy integration jql marketplace-apps
2 min read

Atlassian's Confluence 4.0 is HERE!

By Praecipio Consulting on Sep 20, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Introducing a New Standard in Content Collaboration

Confluence 4.0 is here! After more than a year of development, and many more years of listening to your feedback, we’re stoked to deliver you Confluence 4.0 – the fastest, richest, most intuitive collaboration experience ever.

Boost Adoption with a Brilliantly Simple Editor

The new editor in Confluence 4.0 is brilliantly simple, intuitive, and yet still packed with powerful features.

Completely Redesigned

A new streamlined toolbar puts new users at ease with familiar editing operations exactly where they’re expected. A single editor makes for a more reliable experience for your users and saved work that looks exactly like what was crafted in the editor. What you see is really what you get. 

Intelligent and Lightning Fast

While new users will feel at home with the new editor, power users will thrive on innovative new features like Autoformatting. In the blink of an eye, Confluence converts wiki markup to rich text as you type; careful, you might miss it! They’ll love the performance improvements we’ve made to Autocomplete, putting links, images, media, and hundreds of powerful macros a couple of keystrokes away. Not to mention all the new keyboard shortcuts we’ve added to give them a faster editing experience than ever before.

Familiarly Social

Confluence 4.0 takes team collaboration to the next level. Just like Twitter and Facebook, it’s easy to bring others into the conversations taking place in Confluence with @mentions. Whether you’re editing a page, replying to a comment or publishing a blog post, it’s never been easier to foster team collaboration around your content in Confluence.

Hundreds of New Features

This post barely scratches the surface of Confluence 4.0. Take the tour and learn about all the new features today!

Topics: atlassian blog confluence facebook twitter wiki collaboration features macros
2 min read

Atlassian: SharePoint Gets Social With Confluence

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 7, 2011 11:00:00 AM

The latest release of the Atlassian’s Confluence SharePoint Connector is loaded with new features that turn SharePoint into the social collaboration platform you always wished it was. Best of all, it’s available for download today…here’s the scoop:

Unlock Documents and Lists stored in SharePoint
With Atlassian’s redesigned SharePoint list macro, anyone can insert their favorite SharePoint lists into Confluence without needing to know wiki markup.

1. Smarter SharePoint List Macro
New ‘Smart Fields’ for the ‘SharePoint List Macro’ in the Confluence ‘Macro Browser’ make light work of finding your ‘Lists’ from SharePoint and embedding them into a Confluence page for others to see.

2. Custom SharePoint List Views in Confluence
We’ve also made it easy for users to reuse the custom list views they’ve configured in SharePoint. Getting your personalized SharePoint experience in Confluence is now just a couple of keystrokes away.

Bring Social Collaboration into SharePoint
Experience the collaborative advantages of Confluence inside SharePoint like never before with new social features for SharePoint users.
1. Bring Confluence Blogs into SharePoint
A new Blog Post Web Part lets you bring the rich discussions and newsworthy content shared in Confluence, into SharePoint. And, with the power of Web Part Connections, you can connect a Blog Post Web Part to the new Blog Post Tree View Web Part. This lets SharePoint users browse all the blog posts in a Confluence Space directly from SharePoint. Now everyone can stay-up-to-date on the important announcements published in your intranet.

2. Post comments on Confluence content from SharePoint
Users can now make comments on the Confluence pages and blog posts they consume in SharePoint allowing more people to contribute to the conversations taking place inside your Confluence wiki.

For Administrators…
One-step Farm-wide Settings
We’re always striving to make the life of administrators easier. In this release we’ve added a huge time-saving feature – connecting your entire SharePoint farm to Confluence is now single-step process. Now when you add more SharePoint sites to your Farm, they’ll be automatically connected to your Confluence wiki.

Available Today!
There are even more improvements in the SharePoint Connector 1.4. Go get it, try it out, and let us know what you think. Check out the release notes here, or go ahead and download!

Topics: atlassian blog administrator confluence release sharepoint wiki collaboration download integration macros
2 min read

Google Wave. Now In A Box.

By Praecipio Consulting on Sep 7, 2010 11:00:00 AM

A year ago, Google Wave was the talk of Tech Avenue. Conversations about a new kind of communication – one that could “replace email” – popped up in breakrooms and team meetings around the country. Last month, however, Wave was shut down due to low adoption rates, leaving people wondering: “will Wave be lost forever?”

Indeed, wave.google.com will be lost forever as of December 31. Wave code, however, will live on. Most of Wave’s code will be released for open source development; Google has already released the code in order to further develop their “existing example Wave server and web client into a more complete application: Wave in a Box.”

That’s according to Google’s Alex North, who writes that Wave in a Box will include:

  • “an application bundle including a server and web client supporting real-time collaboration using the same structured conversations as the Google Wave system
  • a fast and fully-featured wave panel in the web client with complete support for threaded conversations
  • a persistent wave store and search implementation for the server (building on contributed patches to implement a MongoDB store)
  • refinements to the client-server protocols
  • gadget, robot and data API support
  • support for importing wave data from wave.google.com
  • the ability to federate across other Wave in a Box instances, with some additional configuration.”

Google wants to offer developers the chance to run Wave servers on their own hardware – and integrate Wave capabilities with existing operations, since Wave turned out to be more of a niche product rather than the revolution some expected. While Wave might be a failure inside Google’s doors, it may become more successful in open source land.

So why didn’t Wave catch on in the market? Some say the revolutionary concept came about too soon – in fact, Google CEO Eric Schmidt told CNet’s Ina Fried on the day of Wave’s death that “society is not fundamentally ready” for Google’s thoughts on the future of how we communicate.

Similarly, some say the concept and interface were too hard to understand (for a humorous example, see Easier To Understand Than Wave.com). In fact, Gartner in part predicted this in their 2009 research note, in which analysts wrote that Wave “would be challenged by its large aggregation of features, which can daunt users” and “likely overlap with multiple areas in an enterprise’s IT environment.”

Whatever the case, Wave didn’t fly.

As for Wave’s afterlife, there’s already talk of how Wave capabilities will be woven into existing systems – specifically leveraging Wave to allow for real-time collaborative editing within Google Docs. We believe the options for development extend far and wide, and encourage our peers to echo Google’s policy and “try new things” to continue growing business.

Want more? Contact us here.

Topics: blog enterprise google wave collaboration
2 min read

Good Technology, Good Process, Good Profit

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 24, 2010 11:00:00 AM

We recently heard a traffic analyst from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) speak about traffic analytics. Living in a city with the fourth-worst automobile traffic in the US, the topic was particularly engaging.

The analyst spoke about the need for data management in traffic analytics. Using traffic-counting devices placed strategically along Austin’s freeways, TxDOT collects data at fixed intervals each day. These data points can be programmed to collect relevant data – in this case, average vehicle speed and highway capacity – allowing the business to know more about their problems and facilitating more appropriate solutions. TxDOT’s data points help them analyze Austin traffic patterns and identify consistent problem spots. They can then, with clarity, allocate funding toward the most effective solutions.

On a smaller scale, we spoke with an insurance agent last week who mentioned the wealth of documents he stores online for his firm’s clients. The firm stores every piece of client information in a digital content management suite – which in the insurance practice equals a lot of documents. While the initial process of digitizing client forms and documents might have been tedious, the firm can now intelligently access (or allow their clients to securely access) client information almost instantly. Moreover, the digitization process was designed and tested at the beginning, making the regular digitization tasks repeatable, predictable, and fast – thereby making the business more intelligent.

Businesses have always found ways to make their processes more efficient to improve their bottom line. These examples show us how businesses are doing so with technology – and how footing the bill for it now can earn a healthy ROI later. Whether you’re a large enterprise (like TxDOT) or a small one-shop business (like the insurance agency), technology can help you save cash by saving you work. In the same way organizing your desk may help you be more productive, saving your employer money, organizing your business information may help your business be more productive, saving the business money. And in the same way TxDOT uses data points to identify problem spots, you can use data points to analyze problem spots in your own business.

Process management applies to the business at all ends. And the profit’s in the process. Good technology can improve process; good process can improve profit; good profit is just plain great. For the transportation firm, custom technology prevents them from having to mine through data every time a particular piece of traffic data is needed. For the insurance agency, a well-built content management system (CMS), or a software that holds and manages your business information, saves employees a wealth of time and money by merely making their information easier to find on the fly – in addition to making it available anywhere and reducing overhead.

Good technology, good process. Good process, good profit. We love improving business process – and since it’s relevant anywhere, it’s a little hard to keep our minds off it sometimes…

Want more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency enterprise management process collaboration continuous-improvement data intelligence
2 min read

How SharePoint Quick Launch Works

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 23, 2010 11:00:00 AM

 

 

 

One of the most important things to consider when designing a SharePoint site – or designing any site – is creating easy and intuitive access to data with logical organization. In SharePoint, it’s useful to store frequently-viewed pages, lists, and libraries in the Quick Launch bar on the left side of the page.

The Quick Launch bar allows you to quickly navigate to pages you commonly need. Here we have landing pages that aggregate related data and furthermore may limit data to those things that are important to the specific user logged inYour SharePoint developer determines which pages, lists, and libraries appear in the Quick Launch bar. It’s important to not consider the Quick Launch bar as a site index – remember, not all pages, lists, and libraries of your SharePoint site…unless your site is very, very small…should appear in the Quick Launch bar. Only those needed frequently should be stored there.

The Quick Launch bar can be specific for every site or sub-site in SharePoint. A quick etymology lesson: we’re working inside a sub-site right now. This Demo sub-site is a sub-site of our main SharePoint site, titled Brothers Lane Collaboration Site – as you see in the top left. Sites may divide into sub-sites, and sub-sites may divide into pages. There is only a Home page on our Demo sub-site. If there were another page, titled Sales or Legal Matters, etc, you’d see it here. So the Quick Launch menu can vary from site to site or sub-site to sub-site, but not from page to page. All pages on a site or subsite will have the same Quick Launch menu.

You can add a library or list to the Quick Launch bar by using the Settings tab, as you see here in Test Library B, and clicking on Title, Description and Navigation. Here you see the option to “display in Quick Launch.” I’ll select yes…and here you see Test Library B in the Quick Launch.

Find other SharePoint how-to’s and learn more on our blog.

Topics: efficiency enterprise how-to sharepoint tips tricks videos collaboration
1 min read

Rule.fm: A Preliminary Assessment

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 17, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Rule.fm is one of the latest start-up business productivity suites to appear on the map. “Making productivity accessible, affordable, reliable, and fun,” Rule.fm’s capabilities include people, project, document, and time management. More are on the way.

Before we assess Rule.fm, let’s look at business productivity suites in the bigger picture. Every business – or at least every business that’s reading this – probably has a software platform upon which they run their business. Every business is looking for the easiest, simplest, cheapest software to manage it. The key here is integration. While older, more established IT environments may require costly integration between existing systems (Sales vs. HR), companies small enough to use Rule.fm could benefit greatly since it integrates high-level business processes and information. The more a business becomes technologically segmented, the harder it is to manage business information collectively.

A winning software is therefore one that can benefit every part of an organization – putting everyone on the same playing field, but also catering to unique departmental needs. Rule.fm seems to have this in mind. The folks who started Rule.fm emigrated from 37 Signals, which powers Basecamp, Highrise, Campfire, and Backpack – so it’s no surprise they’re developing an application that covers each of the 37 Signals niches…and more.

Rule.fm recently began accepting requests for invites. Their full product launch should occur in the next few months. The capabilities set will be small at first – but Rule.fm will eventually offer a complete sales cycle management tool, ticket requests, Google Docs integration, Google Calendar/iCal integration, a mobile browser, wikis, and more – as seen in their tour.

Rule.fm’s capabilities reflect business productivity software’s need for integration and scalability. When someone says “scalable software” in business, they usually end up discussing Microsoft SharePoint in some capacity – and while Rule.fm doesn’t appear to be scalable or flexible in terms of custom framework development, as SharePoint is, its intuitive interface and capabilities could be valuable to the business looking for a subscription-based solution. It seems like Rule.fm will offer businesses an out-of-the-box solution that doesn’t require additional out-of-the-box solutions.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency enterprise management process project software collaboration
3 min read

Microsoft Office 2010 vs. Google Docs - Can They Compete?

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 30, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Microsoft Office 2010 vs. Google Docs conversations aren’t just happening in the break room. Microsoft and Google themselves have taken some careful shots at one another over the last few months – the most explicit of which include Google’s claim that Google Docs makes Office 2003 and 2007 better (don’t adopt Office 2010) and Microsoft’s counter blog claiming “that’s not true.”

If Google Docs and Microsoft Office 2010 were as similar as tom-ay-toe and tom-ah-toe, we could simply lean back in our chairs and laugh at this whole thing. Problem is, they’re not. There are still differences between the two’s capabilities. Here’s the skinny:

Google Docs. An innovative, free way to create, edit, and share documents online. The browser-based office suite includes slimmed-down comparisons to Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint – which allow you to do almost every basic operation you need.

The advantages:

  • Collaborative editing in real-time (though SharePoint 2010 now has real-time editing also)
  • Easy document sharing
  • Gradually maturing security platform and enterprise capabilities
  • Google Docs is free; Google Apps for Business is just $50 annually per user

The disadvantages:

  • Lacks formatting and template abilities compared to Office 2010
  • Lacks ability to open/save a wide variety of file types
  • Lacks integration with most enterprise IT platforms
  • Still depends heavily on an internet connection

Office 2010. Microsoft’s freshest batch of office tools – Office’s power set (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) plus OneNote, Publisher, Visio, etc. – accompanied by the debut of the online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Similar to Google Docs, these browser-based versions offer higher quality tools with lower quality collaboration. Their web apps marketing video indicates they’re meant for on-the-fly editing.

The advantages:

  • Scalability of the software – i.e. the ability to perform high-level operations
  • Broad formatting and template ability
  • Integration with Microsoft SharePoint; online 2010 version a la Google Docs
  • Established enterprise reputation

The disadvantages:

  • Software and licensing costs, plain and simple
  • Alleged “forced integration” with other Microsoft products – a claim Microsoft has reversed and applied to Google

Who Wins? That depends. As you can see, Google and Microsoft’s business suites have pros and cons over one another – the most notable of which is Google’s outright victory from a cost perspective. Businesses who don’t need extensive document formatting options may benefit from Google Docs while businesses who use their office suite for high-level operations may not.

One of the more “on the fence” issues here is security. The security of Google’s business suite has been questioned consistently in recent months. Those questions, however, are beginning to taper off as more large public agencies adopt Google Apps for Business as their office platform. Notable recent adoptions include Boise State University, the District of Columbia, the City of Orlando (FL), Kansas, and New Mexico.

The biggest news here occurred this Tuesday, when Google announced Google Apps for Government – an Apps Premier edition that meets the US’ federal security requirements. The new edition received an FISMA-Moderate rating from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – meaning it’s authorized to host sensitive (but unclassified) data if stored on servers within the United States.

While Google Docs doesn’t yet have an excellent reputation in terms of security, these recent adoptions indicate they’re gaining ground. The fact that most federal and public agencies are strapped for cash and looking to cheapen technology costs, however, doesn’t allow us to let go of our questions just yet.

That being said, the gap between Google Docs and Microsoft Office still remains – though it’s narrowing by the day.

Topics: blog business efficiency enterprise google management process sharepoint value collaboration microsoft marketplace-apps
4 min read

Cloud Computing Risks and Rewards

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 29, 2010 11:00:00 AM

The relationship between ITSM and cloud computing is still a hot topic. Companies are still asking questions regarding what the cloud is, IT versus business roles in adopting cloud infrastructure, and whether the shift toward cloud computing is optional or inevitable. Ambiguity abounds.

We all know the business wants results, and requires IT to offer swift responses to business demands. The business ultimately wants to remain agile and flexible – able to adjust quickly to changing needs. IT can’t always deliver solutions as quickly as the business wants. The cloud can.

It’s easy and logical, then, for the business to leap toward cloud providers to meet their needs. In the cloud, the business can be in control of their relationship with providers – though if one doesn’t suit their fancy, switching isn’t always easy or possible.

There are hundreds of questions that pop up here – most about the risks and rewards of leveraging cloud platforming. Before we delve any further, consider this list:

Risks

  1. Security. Where’s your data – with your provider, or with a third, fourth, or fifth party? Is it safe? Does your cloud provider explicitly state rights to outsource your data? You should clearly understand your provider’s security-related responsibilities and guarantees described in its service level agreement.
  2. Re: Security – SAS70 and PCI compliance. SAS70 (a set of auditing standards designed to measure handling of sensitive data) and PCI (a worldwide information security standard) assure companies that their storage vendors are handling their data properly – so they don’t have to audit vendors themselves. SAS70 and PCI compliance policies may uncover details that aren’t specified in service agreements. Since server outsourcing can put your data anywhere in the world without the end user noticing a change, SAS70 and PCI are standards for cloud peace of mind. Google realized this early when they announced their SAS70 Type II certification in 2008.
  3. Re: Security Data Protection. If your data isn’t stored within your in-house network, it’s stored in someone else’s. It’s therefore subject to someone else’s protection framework. Be sure to ask for specifics from your cloud provider regarding the intrusion detection system (IDS), intrusion prevention system (IPS), firewall, and other security technologies they’ve deployed to clarify their integrity. These security appliances are required by PCI.
  4. Integration with existing systems. Will cloud-based applications integrate well with your internal network configuration, security infrastructure, and software?
  5. Governance. Who’s in charge of your data – you or your provider? Who’s in charge of application adoption and making decisions based on performance – the business or IT?
  6. Internet connectivity. Since the cloud operates through the internet, it’s completely bound to connectivity. No internet, no work.

Rewards

  1. Lower IT infrastructure costs. IT can supplement or replace internal computing resources; no need to purchase equipment to handle peak needs.
  2. Lower software costs. IT won’t be burdened with the costs of installing and maintaining programs on every desktop in the business.
  3. Unlimited, pay-as-you-need-to storage capacity. As much as you need, whenever you need it. Most providers allow you to pay for more space as you need it so you don’t have to commit to a large sum of space.
  4. Operating system compatibility. The cloud is built on browser-based applications, meaning OS’s just don’t matter.
  5. Easy group collaboration. Sharing documents? Anyone anywhere can collaborate in real-time.
  6. You’re no longer bound to specific devices. Change computers and your applications and documents follow you wherever you go.
  7. Low systems cost. You don’t need a high-powered system to run cloud applications, so the computer doesn’t need the processing power or hard disk space demanded by traditional software.

It’s clear why the momentum toward the cloud is so strong – the rewards appear to outweigh the risks. Notice, though, that the risks are coming from IT while the rewards make up most of what the business side is drooling over. It’s no wonder we’re concerned with IT and business alignment in this context. That alignment may determine the success or nightmare of cloud migration.

recent CIO survey reported that among companies not leveraging the cloud, many aren’t confident the cloud will reduce their IT costs. Half of IT decision makers, the report said, expect little reduction in IT spending after cloud adoption. Another 42 percent weren’t sure they’d save any money.

Among companies who had adopted cloud applications, however, cost savings topped scalability and flexibility as the top reason for adopting cloud computing. 83 percent of those respondents were using SaaS models.

CIO’s results indicate a lingering apprehension about cloud services, but also a prevailing wind toward the cost savings the cloud offers. Pew Research’s study on the future of cloud computing blew in the same direction: 71 percent of respondents said most people won’t be working with conventional PC software by 2020, leveraging internet-based applications instead; 27 percent said most people would still use superior PC-based applications.

We’re going to see more companies begin implementing cloud services in the next few years. This is clear. The IT-business strategy alliance is critical to the success of cloud implementations. Since more pressure lies on IT to adjust their infrastructure and methodology to accommodate cloud services, IT faces a greater challenge: grow toward an intimate partnership with the business, or grow in irrelevance to the business.

The question has one right answer – and with that answer come a host of more questions for another post.

For a more thorough look at cloud security, check out our upcoming security post.

Want to get in touch? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog business enterprise library management process-consulting services technology tips tricks value cloud collaboration computing information infrastructure it itil itsm
2 min read

SharePoint ROI: It's Up to You

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 6, 2010 11:00:00 AM

ROIs matter most in high-effort, high-impact business decisions. Today, we put SharePoint ROI to the test.

Typically, the ROI from SharePoint depends on how it’s used. As Robert McDowell said in his book In Search of Business Value: “Technology provides no benefits of its own; it is the application of technology to business opportunities that produces ROI.”

There’s always buzz in the BPM world about how great information architecture/content management can drive organizational efficiency. Google’s “Return on Information” (ROI) Whitepaper explains why. Vendors have cited Google’s study to justify out-of-the-box document storage systems, relaying Google’s claim that an average employee spends 16 percent of their week searching for information (compared to Microsoft’s 30% estimate) – and that only one in five searches yields desired results. Companies have flocked to content management solutions to increase efficiency and provide for better project management with version-controlled documents and more organized collaboration. PM solutions like Basecamp have sprouted from this.

SharePoint has shown up as a project management and content management solution. Companies have leveraged SharePoint’s ability to:

  • Manage projects individually using customizable project pages
  • Develop project-specific document libraries with version control
  • Manage tasks/consolidate team collaboration
  • Improve employee productivity
  • Aggregate critical enterprise information
  • Provide fast, easy access to content

While these are legitimate SharePoint benefits, they account for only a fraction of what SharePoint was designed to offer. SharePoint is an enterprise platform. While it can be leveraged as a PM platform, using SharePoint solely for PM isn’t likely to yield the satisfying, long-term ROIs the business is looking for.

The highest SharePoint ROI occurs when the organization realizes SharePoint’s purpose and gradually adopts it as a platform that supports:

  • Content management
  • Process automation
  • Systems integration
  • Custom application development
  • Specific solutions (ex: RFP/Lead Management system for Sales, employee time log system for Accounting)

SharePoint’s options are limitless. The organization can integrate a SharePoint workflow, library, or collaboration portal for just about anything they want.

Today, however, the SharePoint ROI question may not center around how much/how little it will be used. The question is whether to adopt SharePoint or a combination of web-based applications for specific needs – something addressed in Forrester’s assessment of SharePoint 2010 adoption. Quick-fix 2.0 apps are the make-or-break factor here. While SharePoint has evolved over the last decade, it failed to keep up with the enterprise’s leveraging of social computing.

This issue, however, comes back to the original question: why are you using SharePoint? If you’re in the market for an out-of-the-box, quick-fix project management system, then a web-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) that integrates well with collaborative software is a great solution. If you’re looking for something that integrates well with existing systems and provides for better performance measurement over time, you’re clearly batting in a different ballpark. The ways you measure ROI for these two options are different.

We usually expect out-of-the-box, SaaS solutions to have better adoption rates (they look pretty), and therefore a faster ROI. We can measure its success by how much it improves productivity. SharePoint, however, is not a quick fix. In this way, adopting SaaS is like renting an apartment – you get what you need on a monthly basis, but you can’t knock down any walls or add that new patio you’ve been wanting. Adopting SharePoint is like building a custom home – you start off with an empty lot, and design and build the house to fit your wants and needs. And if you get tired of the linoleum floors you put in the kitchen, no problem. It’s your house. Rip ‘em up!

The ROI of SharePoint is up to you.

Topics: blog bpm enterprise management process project sharepoint saas collaboration
2 min read

The ROI of BPM: A Realistic Approach

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 22, 2010 11:00:00 AM

If you search for “ROI of BPM” in Google, you’ll find a host of ROI calculators and links that will “MAXIMIZE” your BPM ROI. The query results are no surprise. ROI matters most in BPM – it’s the bottom line.

There’s little doubt that most BPM initiatives generate a positive ROI. A recent Gartner study found that 80 percent of enterprises conducting BPM projects will experience an internal rate of return (IRR) better than 15 percent. The study took responses from 20 companies that had completed 154 BPM projects, and 95 percent of the companies experienced more than a 90 percent success rate among their BPM projects.

Successful BPM projects use process automation to make the business more efficient – allowing it to quickly respond to changing market conditions. That efficiency yields savings. The more savings there are, the higher the ROI – and the higher the ROI, the happier the stakeholders.

The problem with ROI, however, is that it doesn’t benefit the entire enterprise at once. Most successful BPM projects involve multiple tangents of the enterprise: IT, Sales, Legal Matters, Marketing. Each department has their own processes, and therefore their own BPM solutions. While the BPM automation software being leveraged by Legal Matters may improve efficiency by 30 percent in its first week, Sales may not see improvement until the beginning of the next sales cycle. BPM success occurs on a case-by-case basis.

The truth is, large-scale investments are sensitive projects. If you’re putting a large sum of cash into a solution, you expect success – and may feel anxious or sensitive until you have tangible results to ease your nerves. If another department experiences immediate results after deployment, it will be difficult to maintain your confidence in your own solution. The discomfort is only natural.

That discomfort, however, shouldn’t distract anyone from the facts of the matter. The facts remain that BPM impacts individual processes differently. The variables are these:

  • Complexity of the process. Some processes have two steps, some have 20.
  • Complexity of the solution. Tailoring a solution to fit perfectly takes time.
  • Employee buy-in. A solution only works if people use it…
  • Training/understanding and adoption rates. Most people are creatures of habit, and naturally opposed to change. Teaching people how to use new software eases nerves and builds confidence, increasing adoption rates.
  • Technological integration. Ensuring that multiple systems agree with one another can be a tedious process.
  • Sales climate. The less business, the less active processes. Success rates and savings figures may correlate with overall revenue in a fast-changing market.
  • The process itself. Some processes are done hourly, some monthly. You can guess which one will produce results and savings more quickly.

Additionally, it’s sometimes difficult to see ROI in the shadows of the BPM project’s cost. The business will be searching for financial fruit as soon as solutions have been planted, but the savings may not offset the cost for a year or more in some cases. A $200,000 project that yields $100,000 in savings annually won’t hit the black for two years – but will yield $300,000 in five years’ time.

The ROI of BPM, therefore, is very subjective. In the end, a successful BPM implementation will yield savings to the entire organization, department by department, year by year – offering more agile solutions than simply maximizing productivity.

Patience, perseverance, and perspective ensure success…

Topics: blog automation bpm business efficiency enterprise management process roi value collaboration it
2 min read

Leveraging Technology to Drive Intelligence

By Praecipio Consulting on May 10, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Richard Veryard’s thought-provoking powerpoint “Technologies for Organizational Intelligence” claims that intelligent organizations:

  • recognize that business opportunities are complex
  • respond to them coherently
  • pay attention to weak and strong signs of inefficiencies for the purpose of collective learning and innovation

Veryard stresses later that intelligence is vital to a business’ survival. That idea should not sound revolutionary, but provokes one to question if businesses frequently consider how well they’re working to understand themselves and improve their knowledge and efficiency in order to grow.

This is highly relevant in the context of IT Service Management (ITSM) – an introspective, process-focused approach to managing IT systems. IT professionals who care about ITSM try to stay informed about technology advances, ways to improve customer experience, and align IT with business needs. It’s the duty of those in ITSM to maintain and promote a healthy, innovative IT environment that fuels the innovative capabilities of the business as a whole.

Those ambitions correlate closely with the actions Veryard attributes to intelligent organizations. He exalts a sort of “collective learning and innovation,” in which those in the business continually collaborate in order to learn more about how they do things. Fixing problems and developing innovative ideas are both natural products of this introspection. Each, in turn, impact the end product offered to customers.

While it may be difficult at times to devote attention to efficiency, it’s vital to the continued growth of a business. After all, those who fail to fix their problems and innovate aren’t the ones we talk about ten years down the road.

So, how does a business make sure they’re “intelligent”? Veryard lists quite a few ways, including:

  • Understanding that business environments are complex
  • Approaching problems with rational, collective solutions
  • Employing people and technology that works well together

The third remedy is the primary concern of ITSM. IT can build a foundation for organizational intelligence by implementing an enterprise-level platforming technology that can facilitate collaboration within the organization – especially if the platform is adopted across the entire enterprise.

Without an effective, efficient technology that integrates well with a business’ existing software, the collective effort toward ITSM growth is kept on the ground. Frequently gathering information that paints an accurate picture of performance requires predictable, repeatable processes that can be technologically executed. Such a technology drives consistent progress toward efficiency and innovation – and serves as part of the backbone of an intelligent organization.

As Veryard said in his presentation, intelligence is vital to survival. As introspective folks with technological literacy, those in ITSM can have a profound impact on the progress of their organization by leveraging technology to build an intelligent business.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business enterprise library management process technology value collaboration continuous-improvement information infrastructure intelligence itil itsm operations
2 min read

The Difference Between Cloud Computing and SaaS

By Praecipio Consulting on Apr 21, 2010 11:00:00 AM

In a business world clouded with buzzwords, it’s easy to lose track of the actual meanings of terms relevant to the IT industry.

Take cloud computing, for example – one of the tech industry’s biggest buzzwords at present. A number of software vendors have been using the phrase “cloud computing” to market their Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products. Are the two terms different from one another, or the same? Or is cloud computing truly a meaningless buzzword?

In truth, the two terms are different. SaaS refers to software that’s owned, delivered, and managed remotely by a one or more providers. The provider handles all the “heavy-lifting” associated with the service: server maintenance, support, etc. SaaS products are usually out-of-the-box tools that don’t require extensive setup. They’re accessible by web, and usually paid for on a subscription or pay-per-use basis.

Cloud computing refers to the broader concept of allowing people to access scalable, technology-enabled services via the internet. The term has become virally fashionable in the tech industry – much like the word “organic” in the food industry. Cloud computing – more commonly referred to as “the cloud” – is an on-demand way of providing services. It’s usually touted as an intelligent approach to computing in today’s fragile economy.

SaaS is essentially a subservice of cloud computing. Not all cloud applications are SaaS applications, but nearly all SaaS applications are in the cloud, which provides the computing power to run those applications. SaaS applications, therefore, are offered on the cloud platform. The folks at Common Craft do a good job explaining these differences in their video “Cloud Computing Plain and Simple.”

Cloud computing and SaaS refer to different things. While SaaS refers to out-of-the-box applications offered on the cloud platform, cloud computing refers to the bigger picture of how software can be provided more efficiently through the internet.

That bigger picture includes the transition of the software industry toward a Software-as-a-Service model, where customers make decisions based on the value of the service. Daryl Plummer – Chief Fellow at Gartner, a US-based IT research and advisory firm – said in a 2008 podcast that this economical change in the software market is the power of cloud computing: “The way we actually charge for cloud-based SaaS services won’t be based on how many servers we’re running, how much maintenance costs we’re taking on, or which software products we bought,” Plummer said. “It’s going to be based on the value of the service to the customer, and when you start getting into that consumer-provider relationship, the customer ends up setting the value.”

Two years later, Plummer was right.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: atlassian blog enterprise library management services technology tips tricks saas cloud collaboration computing information infrastructure it itil
2 min read

SharePoint Enterprise-Level BPM Tool

By Praecipio Consulting on Apr 13, 2010 11:00:00 AM

As we’ve noted in previous posts, BPM enables businesses to map, analyze, and test business processes in order to make them more predictable, repeatable, and efficient. An enterprise can assume they’ll accomplish those goals by leveraging BPM software from EMC, Lombardi, or Savvion…but with Microsoft SharePoint? Isn’t that for enterprise collaboration and document management?

A recent Forrester report found that 47 percent of 220 IT decision-makers said SharePoint serves as their organization’s “business process management platform” – ahead of competitive products from EMC, Lombardi, Savvion, IBM, and Oracle. That number comes as a surprise to BPM vendors, since Microsoft touts SharePoint as a collaboration tool, not a BPM product.

SharePoint has proven itself as a successful Microsoft product, bringing in $1.3 billion in revenue in 2008 alone. Forrester’s report said that number has grown 25 percent annually. Though their poll indicated that SharePoint is faring decently as a BPM suite, Forrester said SharePoint is better fitted for BPM if augmented with other BPM tools.

That’s not to say SharePoint can’t be leveraged as a BPM tool. Though SharePoint isn’t an out-of-the-box BPM suite, customers may take advantage of SharePoint’s robust, flexible platform by building in a custom BPM suite of their own.

However, most companies don’t have the time or capability to carry out such a project. In this case, they opt for a solution from BPM leaders that’s ready to roll.

The fact that 47 percent of IT leaders are confident in SharePoint as a BPM platform validates the speculation that some have built upon SharePoint’s foundation to make a powerful BPM tool. To be sure, SharePoint can streamline business processes by facilitating process automation with decision-based workflows – and can capture and monitor process metrics from data points placed intentionally throughout business processes. Those capabilities ensure long-term process efficiency, if properly nurtured over time.

We’ve leveraged SharePoint for ourselves and for our clients as both a collaboration tool and BPM suite. Using SharePoint for both is entirely possible – and remarkably powerful. Pulling such a feat off in-house, however, is challenging and sometimes impossible.

Nevertheless, leveraging SharePoint for collaboration and BPM can lead to more consistent decision making across the entire business long-term. It can also promote more accurate and organized data in each department of the enterprise that buys in to the tool.

When it comes to out-of-the-box software vs. foundation software, the software that serves as a concrete slab for a custom home usually wins out long-term due to its flexibility and customizable nature. That makes SharePoint a legitimate contender in the BPM market.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog automation bpm business efficiency enterprise management predicatability process sharepoint value collaboration lifecycle
3 min read

SharePoint vs. Google Wave vs. Basecamp

By Praecipio Consulting on Feb 1, 2010 11:00:00 AM

[important note, as of 4 Sept 2010: Google Wave will not be available as an end-user application after 31 December 2010.]

People have the tendency to judge a software by its user interface (UI).

Think about it. Most users probably don’t care about your network protocols or what your server topology is. Those users will, however, think it’s awesome to drag and drop documents and pictures from location to location. Most folks are used to this since most of them interact with Facebook, Twitter, and all the like. They’ll probably think it’s cool.

Since we use SharePoint to execute most of our services, it has been brought to our attention many times that the current version of SharePoint lags heavily in UI from this perspective, unless you do a load of custom development work for the sole purpose of aesthetic improvement. SharePoint 2010 is promising a well-crafted UI improvement, in addition to a handful of Outlook revisions– but for now, SharePoint users may still gripe about the lack of 2.0 usability. They may venture to ask “how will SharePoint fare once Google Wave is released?”

Google Wave is not a competitor of SharePoint. It is not comparable to enterprise collaboration software. Wave will, as an open source development platform, bring great innovations that may be integrated into the SharePoint– but doesn’t have the scope of capabilities (process automation, workflow execution, data repository) SharePoint has to improve enterprise collaboration. Perhaps the employees griping about SharePoint’s “Windows 98-like interface” need to learn a bit more about what their software actually does.

If Wave should be compared to anything, it should be compared to Microsoft Outlook. It’s a collaborative space to exchange messages and files, and functions chiefly as an evolution of what we know as email.

Some of Wave’s key promises:

  • Open source: Wave code will be open source, to, in Google’s words, “foster innovation and adoption amongst developers.”
  • Wiki functionality: Anything written in a wave can be edited by an authorized person. You can correct information or add your own commentary within a developing conversation.
  • “Embeddability:” Waves can be embedded into any blog or website.
  • Applications and Extensions: Just like a Facebook application, developers can build their own apps within “waves.”
  • “On-the-fly” translation: Google Wave can translate sentences into other languages as you type them. It can also correct your spelling as you write.
  • Drag-and-drop file sharing: No attachments; just drag your file and drop it inside Google Wave and everyone will have access.

Wave’s integration of feeds and UI capabilities are without a doubt impressive. Their innovative HTML 5 capabilities may very well be integrated into software like SharePoint down the road. But the purpose of Wave is not to compete in the enterprise collaboration market. Their purpose is to revolutionize the way people collaborate online through real-time, open-source technology.

But what about Basecamp? It’s an undeniably effective project management tool that we endorse for pure project management purposes. But how does it fare against Wave and SharePoint?

It doesn’t. At least not in the way most think it does. All three of these tools can facilitate project management. All three, however, are ultimately very different.

  • Basecamp is a superb project management tool if you’re looking for an easy-to-use tool that integrates well with social networking and mobile phones, offers online storage of documents for collaboration, and connects those working on a project in an organized way. These capabilities are remarkably value for project efficiency; Basecamp’s built a great tool. If you’re looking for anything outside of these capabilities, though, you’re looking in the wrong place.
  • Wave, as we’ve said, is an evolution of email. It’s open-source nature and real-time abilities offer superb capabilities that can be used inside Wave or dropped into other sites. Wave isn’t as project management-focused as Basecamp, however, and doesn’t compare to SharePoint either.
  • SharePoint, borrowing Microsoft’s words, “helps improve organizational effectiveness by providing comprehensive content management and enterprise search, accelerating shared business processes, and facilitating information-sharing across boundaries for better business insight.” SharePoint is a content management server that allows for the custom development of workflows for process automation. It’s an enterprise collaboration and IT platform. It’s not Basecamp or Google Wave.

So: Wave, Basecamp, or SharePoint? Our answer is… yes.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Photo by Brian Nunnery, Praecipio Consulting.

Topics: blog automation bpm business enterprise google management process project sharepoint value wave collaboration continuous-improvement it lifecycle operations
1 min read

CPR Keeps Your Efficiency Alive

By Praecipio Consulting on Jan 22, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Documenting performance tactics, improvements, and process methodology is considered a standard practice in business. The information documents ways a firm has improved its business processes over time, and how those processes can be applied to the daily execution of tasks. Spreadsheets, docs, and presentations should populate the collection. If updated regularly, the information serves as a reference when it’s needed—but is only successful if the information is timely and easily accessible.

The information described above should be considered a core asset to the firm. As a core asset, the information should be used daily to explain how and why the processes we use today work. If a firm’s operations are remarkably efficient, that efficiency should be explained with conceptual and metric information. The information should be an instant reference for employees.

Since instant access is the only way to achieve efficiency in the digital age, bookshelf-binder documentation won’t ensure success. A centralized process repository (CPR) will.

A CPR stores this information electronically, and should be active in reporting, monitoring, and managing business processes. They should constantly collect knowledge from employees, creating a reference system by merely holding the documents employees use daily to execute their projects. Ideally, the CPR provides information about:

  • The definition of each process
  • How the process is applied
  • Who is responsible for executing it
  • Inputs and outputs

…and information about how to measure their success and improve their steps.

Making the repository accessible at any time, with only a few clicks ensures efficiency. We believe centralizing information can lead to less complication and clearer information flow. It’s instantly profitable. Process-driven workspaces with document storage and automation abilities give firms the ability to centralize their data and use a central location to collaborate on projects and daily tasks. The CPR accomplishes this in any industry.

We emphasize to clients that well-defined processes identify conceptual or metric information worth capturing. When captured, this information can yield valuable decision-making information—a lifeline for success. Not to be cheesy, but this is where the acronym CPR gets its meaning. The centralized information repository literally keeps a business’ efficiency alive, without the mouth-to-mouth.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog automation bpm business efficiency enterprise management process sharepoint value collaboration lifecycle
1 min read

Jira as a Collaborative Software?

By Praecipio Consulting on Jan 11, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Atlassian’s Jira has proven itself a leader in the issue tracking market in the last five years.

With 12,000 customers in over 100 countries, Jira allows enterprises to record and monitor every issue a user identifies until the issue is resolved from an innovative, customizable interface. It allows users to track issues through a wide variety of contextual filters. It makes issue tracking easy and efficient.

But considering Jira a collaborative software? Surely you can’t be serious.

Consider Jira’s project management capabilities. The Jira user can browse projects and measure progress by viewing:

  • Recent changes to issue status
  • Charts and reports articulating recently changed statuses, recently viewed issues, etc
  • Planning/task boards for project management via GreenHopper.

GreenHopper allows the Jira user to keep up with tasks (issues, requirements, user stories, and virtually anything you want) by representing each task as a color-coded on-screen index card. Each card estimates and describes the effort required to complete each task, and can be dragged around the screen for customized organization.

Jira’s GreenHopper also offers users the Sprint Planning Board and Charting Progress to keep employees on the same page.

Employees using Jira can constantly update the progress of a variety of tasks. That kind of clarity– always having a go-to, updated project status– is worth its weight in gold in the scope of Business Process Management (BPM) due to its efficiency. It’s accomplished with collaboration through Jira software.

Jira’s collaborative abilities only raise the appeal it’s built on its issue tracking capabilities. While it’s not a SharePoint/document sharing-type tool, we consider it a valuable tool for enterprise collaboration in issue tracking.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: jira blog bpm business efficiency enterprise management process project value collaboration continuous-improvement operations
1 min read

Collaborative Software in Simple English

By Praecipio Consulting on Jan 11, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Processes are what make or break businesses. Process management is therefore a very big deal. In this blog, we’ll explain the very basic nature of collaborative software and how it can aid in process management—specifically task management.

Each process, of course, is made up of tasks that add value to inputs and ultimately impact the output (the product). As we’ve always said: if you put garbage into a process, you can expect to get garbage out of it. Garbage in, garbage out. If you put quality in up front…you get the point.

Keeping track of tasks is very much important. Whose task is this? Which tasks should I be working on? Too often process breakdowns occur when these questions come up and there’s not a one-stop-shop for clarity. That’s why collaboration software is so important.

Skipping irrelevant attributes, collaboration software can help employees communicate about a project or process almost instantly. The key advantage? Employees can collaborate without having to be in the same place. Using an integrated interface of email, chat, and file sharing, collaboration software consolidates communication into a single location for clarity and efficiency—accessible online. That’s an increase to business value.

Without using collaboration software, information gets scattered into different locations: a chat thread, an email conversation, a Post-It note. Process status updates are also scattered among these mediums, and truly knowing what the status is on an iteration of a process is significantly more time-consuming.

Collaborative software provides an instantly accessible home for project to-do lists. A key detail: customization. You can assign tasks to specific people, and easily rig the software up to notify an employee if they’re selected for a task. You can also group tasks according to projects and processes, and give selective access to employees. If you’re assigned a task, you can update the progress of your task so anyone checking the task list will be able to know where you are—keeping everyone on the same page. That is the basic idea of collaborative software.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency enterprise google management process software value wave collaboration
2 min read

Wave as a Customer Support Platform

By Praecipio Consulting on Dec 4, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Businesses are already taking advantage of Google Wave’s wide-open door of innovative opportunities. This blog highlights Wave’s ability to support client needs and solve real customer service issues.

Wave is capable of allowing customers to interact with automated support robots produced by their service providers to help guide customers to answers to their issues. Billed as the next generation of collaborative software, Wave is—in this instance—allowing customers with problems to collaborate with support teams instantly.

When a customer contacts their provider’s support tool via Wave, an instance may be automatically generated in the provider’s issue tracking system. Human-to-human interaction is not necessary at first, since an automated support robot may be designed to reply to the customer’s Wave with relevant support articles based on the customer’s input. If the customer is not led to information needed to solve the issue, they may (at any time) choose to engage in a dialogue with a company representative. These operations are executed behind the scenes by the robot, thanks to appropriate coding.

When an issue is solved, a company may easily extract Wave’s support dialogue and embed it into the issue’s archive in their issue tracking software. It’s almost to good to be true. For example, Issue 92A is listed in a company’s issue tracking server—complete with its submission time, status reports, etc. In addition to this key data, the entire dialogue with the customer can be embedded into the records.

Mashable recently featured a post highlighting Salesforce’s use of Wave to save clients money on customer service support while actively tracking issues.

The technology and coding methods necessary to execute something like this are being shared more publicly. After all, Google wanted Wave to run off user-generated content. They’ve already generated a Wave developer’s guide to walk you through what it takes to use Wave for…well, whatever you want to. There may even be a way for Wave to make you coffee.

The team at Praecipio Consulting is ready to tailor Wave to fit any process, project management, issue tracking, or collaborative model you need to make your business more efficient and innovative. Wave’s just emerging into enterprise collaboration. Now is the perfect time to gain an innovative edge over competitors with Wave technology.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business enterprise google issues management process project services tracking wave collaboration incident-management
1 min read

Jira and Confluence: Hand-in-Hand Collaboration

By Praecipio Consulting on Dec 3, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Atlassian claims Jira and Confluence were “designed to complement each other.” What some don’t realize, however, is how easy and convenient this integration really is.

Confluence has proven itself as an effective project management tool, flexing its muscles as an innovative wiki allowing users to create and share rich content. Jira manages workflows and tracks issues in a well-designed, coherent user interface (UI).

For IT professionals using Jira to track issues, Confluence provides a fertile ground to collect a team’s knowledge. In Confluence, the team may collaborate by embedding Jira content (including graphics) into a collaboration space—and easily link Confluence and Jira pages. They may also embed Confluence pages into Jira. The 3-minute explanation shows you everything you need to know.

The embedding process is remarkably easy. We believe teams using Jira and Confluence can bank on this integration, from a project management perspective.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: jira blog bpm business confluence efficiency enterprise issues library management process services technology tracking collaboration incident-management information infrastructure itil
2 min read

Wave's Consolidation of Shared Information is a Major Time-Saver

By Praecipio Consulting on Oct 29, 2009 11:00:00 AM

The conceptually adventurous software Google Wave has been a hot topic lately. Talk of its arrival is almost as popular as talk of health care reform. Seems that Google Wave– which has only granted 100,000 invitations to its beta version– is being touted as a solution not only for enterprise collaboration, but also for project management. Unofficial Wave rumors also claim the software could cure the common cold.

There are still many folks asking “what is Wave?”

Google claims to have “re-thought” the concept of email when creating Wave. This is significant to our understanding of what Wave actually is. To unpack that a bit, imagine you send an email to your boss about a new project you’re working on—say, a marketing campaign for the new vehicle you’re manufacturing. You propose ideas for the campaign, and your boss replies with his ideas. You then reply with an attached PDF, but later realize a co-worker should be in on the conversation too. You forward her the thread and CC your boss, but your boss replies to your original reply, and you have to forward this message to your co-worker and CC your video-maker too.

This is exactly why Google wanted to re-think the concept of email—this hypothetical email conversation mutated into an unorganized, haphazard muck of messages. Wave centralizes each conversation into one “wave,” allowing you to rope in whoever needs to be involved in the wave by a drag-and-drop of the mouse. If a new person is invited to the wave later on, they can use Google’s “playback” tool to walk them through the conversation that’s already taken place and get up to speed. Documents may also be attached at any time by dragging and dropping.

Clearly, Google Wave is an evolution of standard email. It’s a more advanced model for collaboration.
Wave is also open-sourced. Google was pleased to announce this at their Wave demo a few months back. A number of Wave widgets are already in the works, including a widget allowing you to click on a Wave and immediately initiate a conference call with everyone in the Wave.

Now, all of this leads us to ask: “what can Wave do for my business?”

First, we don’t know yet. Nobody does. Like many other innovations (Twitter, for example), we won’t truly know how Wave may best be used until we actually try using it. With this said, we do have some great applications in mind to extend the functionality of the products and processes we work with.

Second, we’ve preliminarily concluded that Wave could have a profound impact on time efficiency within an organization—specifically in regard to internal collaboration and project management. Wave is presenting a solution to the seconds we waste getting lost in email messes like the one we mentioned earlier. You can probably think of a few similar examples yourself. Wave’s consolidation of shared information is worthy of praise, but is Wave’s solution advantageous enough for a company to implement it? That’s debatable.

Thankfully, Wave offers additional time-saving solutions, and has potential to change the face of business process management (BPM). Most current BPM tools have been known to lack easy-to-use features, centralized collaboration (intimately rooted in email clients), and real-time collaboration. Wave will make internal (employee to employee) and external (business to customer/client) collaboration a breeze, consolidating shared information inside an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand UI.

Will Wave benefit your business? Praecipio Consulting’s stance: we’re going to invest in Google Wave. We think it will revolutionize collaboration and communications. With Google’s embracing of federation and open source we can use it to extend the capabilities of current BPM and collaborative systems/software like SharePoint, JIRA, etc.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency enterprise management process technology wave collaboration information lifecycle
1 min read

Jira 4's 2.0 UI Makes Issue Tracking Simpler, More Nimble

By Praecipio Consulting on Sep 26, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Australian-based Atlassian debuts Jira 4 today, October 6.

Atlassian first debuted Jira in 2003 as an innovative issue tracking and project management software. As we mentioned in our previous blog Jira - Complexity Made Simple, Jira is a huge asset in enterprise collaboration. It’s completely permission/Java/web-based, highly customizable, and amazingly simple to use.

The key news about Jira 4? Atlassian has worked hard on integrating Web 2.0 capabilities into its latest version– and appears to be most proud of its new, “dynamic” user interface (UI).

  • Jira 4′s home page will feature “click-and-drag” windows showing content the user chooses. It also includes widgets from other websites like Google. For example, a Jira home page may feature five boxes in three adjustable columns: current issues, priority issues, resolved issues, project folders, and local weather (via Google). These five boxes may now be dragged around to any location on the home screen, and color-coded for organization.
  • Jira 4′s search function has been  ”2.0-ified,” so to speak. Now search results pop up below the search bar after each character you type, much like in the “to” box in most email interfaces. This will likely make the search for a particular issue simpler and more efficient.
  • Jira 4′s Greenhopper plugin adds a broad collection of project management capabilities to Jira– great for development teams. GreenHopper represents issues as color-coded “cards,” sorted with what Atlassian calls “drag-and-drop simplicity”– which we consider a powerful organizational capability.

    We highly recommend Jira for your business’ issue tracking and project management processes. Our team is experienced in implementing and using Jira to its maximum potential. Jira 4′s 2.0 capabilities should make using the software more simpler and efficient than it’s ever been before.

    Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: jira blog bugs enterprise issues library management services technology tracking collaboration help-desk incident-management information infrastructure it itil
2 min read

SharePoint is as Expensive as You Let It Be

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 19, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Critics of SharePoint often cite the collaborative software’s cost as its biggest deterrent. But is SharePoint really that expensive?

Only if you let it be. WSS SharePoint can be leveraged affordably from a variety of hosting providers. These providers acquire rights to become a SharePoint reseller and provide accessible SharePoint management at a low cost.

Typically, for example, hosted WSS SharePoint services cost $50/month for about 2GB of storage, a relatively low cost that reflects the hosting provider’s markup. Even with the markup, it’s considerably cheaper than purchasing SharePoint directly from Microsoft. Hosting providers offer various bandwidth and server options to fit their clients’ business needs.

We know this because (spoiler alert) we are a SharePoint hosting provider. From our experience implementing SharePoint, we know that how much you choose to benefit from SharePoint is entirely up to you. You control your own destiny, to put it plainly.

When you compare the cost of SharePoint to that of other collaborative software, you’ll probably find SharePoint’s most affordable options to still be expensive in relation to its competitors. Popular startup companies like Basecamp, which charges between $25 and $50/month for portions of SharePoint services, look a lot better on paper than SharePoint itself.

But it’s important to remember what SharePoint provides. It’s practically a kitchen sink for enterprise collaboration! The truth is, non-Microsoft portals can’t provide the same out-of-the-box integration with Microsoft Office. The majority of established businesses run off Microsoft Office anyway, and were built upon it. You just don’t see many businesses other than start-ups using Google Docs and Open Office.

Additionally, employees and executives from these companies communicate through Windows-based software. Chances are many of their business customers/clients still do do. Most employees have spent years in a Windows mindset. Outlook, Excel, Word, Windows Messenger, and Norton Antivirus have been rooted into their thinking. Additionally, business processes have been developed around Microsoft software. Converting to new software would not only require a complete structural adaption, but a thorough adaption of the minds of employees.

SharePoint is not the perfect collaborative software for anyone. There are a number of “under-the-hood” issues to consider. For companies with a large hardware budget, a high-performance Wide Area Network (WAN), and a budget for consulting, SharePoint would be an excellent way to go. For companies with only a modest hardware budget, decent WAN, but other priorities for bandwidth and no consulting budget, other software may be better. It’s necessary to implement a software that’s most efficient for your financial and practical needs.

To conclude, SharePoint is not as expensive as most think. It’s pricey if you let it be. Typically, the companies who complain most about SharePoint’s costs have not used SharePoint to its full capacity. If you explore the idea of purchasing SharePoint from a hosting provider and have the budget to invest in a SharePoint consultant, you can develop a successful long-term foundation for enterprise collaboration.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog business efficiency enterprise sharepoint technology value collaboration information it
1 min read

Why SharePoint? - Considering Your Options

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 6, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Collaborative software has hugely expanded business’ abilities to communicate, share knowledge, and organize intellectual property. But which collaborative software is the best for your business?

It depends. Has your business been built on Microsoft Windows, and has it run on Office-based applications for years? In this case, SharePoint is likely best. Do the majority of your clients communicate with you using Basecamp? Adopting Basecamp may be best. Is your business Linux-based? MindQuarry would make the most sense here.

After you’ve studied the different kinds of software available, you can apply these questions:

  • Which software is more efficient for my business’ practical/process needs?
  • Which software is more efficient for my business’ financial needs?
  • Which software is most intuitive to the needs and understanding of my employees (or those who will be using the software)?

These questions make up the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what to consider when choosing which collaborative software to adopt. The complexity of the decision, however, illustrates a great point: you need a collaborative software that’s highly customizable to your unique business needs.

Implementing a collaborative software that requires you to adjust your business operations too much is just not a good idea. Example? Implementing software with an interface/organization that’s considerably different than your current interface will require lots of time to get used to. Employee training sessions will take away from productivity, and frustration over the software’s usability will be inevitable. The adjustment in this scenario takes a long time. It also results in a prolonged loss of productivity.

We’re confident that Microsoft SharePoint, accompanied by our expert implementation tactics, is an excellent solution for your business’ unique needs. From our collective experience interacting with clients who use SharePoint, Basecamp, and a number of other collaboration choices, we’ve discovered SharePoint’s seemingly endless ability to be customized.

Managing enterprise information and processes certainly isn’t a trivial exercise. SharePoint configuration work needs to be well-planned and intricately-designed—it certainly can’t be implemented successfully in an ad-hoc fashion. This is why SharePoint consulting, one of our key services, is such a useful tool for implementation.

At Praecipio Consulting, we recognize the magnitude of implementing collaboration software. It’s a huge decision! We want to use our expertise to help your business do it successfully.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog business efficiency enterprise sharepoint technology value collaboration information it
1 min read

Business Software Complexity Made Simple With Jira

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 30, 2009 11:00:00 AM

It is awe-inspiring to consider the vast number of software applications that attempt to make business organization simple and efficient. In issue tracking and business process management, organizational, process-driven technology is crucial to successfully processing information and facilitating progress. Atlassian, an Australian-headquartered software company specializing in collaboration software, has produced a widely-used software that makes the issue tracking process work more simply than ever before.

The software, Jira, currently serves over 12,000 customers in over 100 countries. An issue-tracking system (ITS), Jira allows enterprises to record and monitor every issue a user identifies until the issue is resolved—issues ranging from simple customer questions to detailed technical reports of errors or bugs.

We have acquired sound and valuable knowledge of Jira’s user and process benefits from our own experience amassed through client implementations of the product—highlighted here:

  • Highly customizable to unique business processes
  • Amazingly simple to use and easy to train employees
  • Completely permission-based (people may view statuses of issues without the capability to change them)
  • Completely web-based
  • Java-based (runs in Tomcat, and is compatible with most Operating Systems)
  • Flexible database (supports Oracle, Postgres, etc)
  • Task change email notifications

These perks boil down to a centralized view of a business’ entire team. Jira makes it easy to view and track all tasks assigned to a person, group, or project with very few clicks—allowing non-technical users to benefit from it. Businesses can tailor Jira to make it useful for nearly every imaginable business process, from marketing tasks to help desk requests.

Adopting appropriate software for our clients’ business processes is what we do at Praecipio Consulting. Atlassian, our business partner, has developed and produced a magnificent product in Jira that we recommend highly for streamlining our clients’ BPM and ITIL implementations. Our implementations of Jira have a lasting, positive impact because of our focus on business processes.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: jira blog bugs enterprise issues library management services technology tracking change collaboration information infrastructure itil
2 min read

SharePoint and Process Management: A Match Made in Software Heaven

By Praecipio Consulting on May 11, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Microsoft SharePoint is debatably the best business information and document management platform on the market—that is, if it is used correctly.

Microsoft’s goal for SharePoint was to provide a simple, familiar, consistent user experience, integrating a variety of applications (email, document storage, data sheets, etc).  Supporting embedded process management modules and the ability to host web sites that access shared workspaces, SharePoint’s management platform can potentially save businesses money by:

  • reducing man hours, increasing the use of electronic forms and allowing faster locating of information
  • reducing printing, paper and associated costs by increasing the use of electronic forms
  • reducing response times and problems associated with lags by allowing employees to have instant access to shared, well-organized data
  • reducing IT support and training costs by offering such a versatile and inclusive platform.

Praecipio Consulting has taken full advantage of SharePoint’s capabilities; for this reason, it has proved remarkably valuable to our business operations. We have deliverable reference, technical, and white paper documents stored for easy, simple open-source access. We also boost our employee productivity by simplifying everyday tasks like reporting common business activities and issue tracking. We even base our accounting operations in SharePoint by allowing our employees to log hourly time and company expenses, governing these operations by making use of SharePoint’s ability to specifically restrict the privileges of individual employees. These restrictions can also be imposed on the editing of important business documents—SharePoint allows authors to create and submit content for approval and scheduled deployment to the Internet. We can therefore effectively manage and re-purpose our content to gain increased business value. Our mindful leverage of SharePoint’s abilities and applications has helped us benefit practically and financially as a business. We value our learned expertise and best practices, and hope to assist other businesses in benefiting from SharePoint in the ways appropriate for them. However, again, SharePoint will likely prove useful to a business if they use it to its full capacity.

SharePoint can be an expensive investment when purchased through Microsoft. Server license prices increase incrementally depending on the size of your business; pricing can steep dramatically with larger companies. In addition to setup and purchase costs, of course, one must consider the cost of training employees to use it and the cost of support from Microsoft (given its clout, Microsoft is able to demand a high price for its support services, which is otherwise unheard of).

In order to save our clients money, however, Praecipio Consulting offers SharePoint hosting servcies. In the past we have driven our clients’ Microsoft Exchange costs down to an affordable monthly price and now offer our clients affordable SharePoint/Microsoft Exchange services. Finding an intelligent, affordable, professional SharePoint hosting provider can be difficult and nerve-wracking, but Praecipio Consulting’s new service provides our clients with a convenient, cost-efficient hosting of their SharePoint instances.

Now, another concern businesses considering SharePoint may have:  SharePoint works best with the Microsoft family; it was meant to integrate the Windows OS, MS Office, Internet Explorer, etc. If a business is looking to collaborate with traveling teams, clients, and partners, they must keep their fingers crossed in hope that such cross-platform interaction will work smoothly. Microsoft obviously desires and nearly induces a full commitment from its customers, and logically has no reason to design its services to run quickly and smoothly in non-Microsoft environments. Fortunately for our clients, we have the ability to implement other frameworks into our SharePoint platform in the event a client operates in a non-Microsoft environment—a huge asset that sets us apart from other SharePoint hosting providers.

If your business plans to take full advantage of SharePoint’s advanced abilities—SharePoint can become a valuable asset to your business and its ability to collaborate with open-source technology.

If your business plans to take full advantage of SharePoint’s advanced abilities—SharePoint can become a valuable asset to your business and its ability to collaborate with open-source technology.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business enterprise management practices process sharepoint value collaboration continuous-improvement operations

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