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 as an 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

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