2 min read

Praecipio Consulting Webinars

By Praecipio Consulting on Dec 20, 2012 11:00:00 AM

Our monthly webinars are designed to help you become proficient with the entire Atlassian product suite. Wether you want to convince your team to adopt Jira or are in search of some handy tips and tricks for End Users and Administrators, our webinars are designed for any skill level.

 

Praecipio Webinars

Topics: jira atlassian efficiency management practices process tips tricks lifecycle
3 min read

Jira Tip of the Month: Dot and Comma Dialogue Shortcuts

By Praecipio Consulting on Oct 3, 2012 11:00:00 AM

Dot ‘.’ and Comma ‘,’ shortcuts

Take your fingers off that mouse! These keyboard shortcuts will help you become a Jira speedster, and get your co-workers to ask “Whoa, how’d you do that?”

Dot Dialog

When your on the Issue Navigation screen or viewing an issue, pressing ‘.’Will bring up an operations dialog menu.

From here, start typing the first few characters of the operation you wish to use.  For example, if you are viewing an issue and want to close it, simply type ‘.’ then ‘close’.

Here is a list of operations you can access using the dot dialog:

  • Start Progress — Set the issue’s Status to In Progress.
  • Resolve issue — Set the issue’s Status to Resolved and select the appropriate Resolution.
  • Close issue — Set the issue’s Status to Closed and if the issue has not already been Resolved, select the appropriate Resolution.
  • Reopen issue — Set a Resolved or Closed issue’s Status to Reopened.
  • Edit — Edit the issue’s details (Summary, Description, etc).
  • Assign — Select an asignee for the issue.
  • Assign To Me — Assign the issue to yourself.
  • Comment — Add a comment to the issue.
  • Log Work — Record the work done and time spent on the issue. This option is only available if Time Tracking has been activated on your Jira site.
  • Attach Files — Select a file, upload it and attach it to the issue.
  • Attach Screenshot — Select a file, upload it and attach it to the issue.
  • Voters — Opens the Voters list of the issue, where you can manage your vote and see others who have voted on the issue too.
  • Add Vote — Adds your vote to the issue. (This option is only available if you did not create the issue.)
  • Watch Issue — Become a watcher of the issue.
  • Stop Watching — Stop watching the issue. (This option is only available on issues you are currently watching.)
  • Watchers — Opens the Watchers List, where you can manage watchers of the issue.
  • Create Sub-Task — Create a new issue which is a sub-task of the issue.
  • Convert to Issue — If the issue is a sub-task, convert it to a standalone issue.
  • Convert to Sub-Task — If the issue is a standalone issue, convert it to a sub-task.
  • Move — Move the issue to a different project.
  • Link — Create a link between the issue and another issue. This option is only available if Issue Linking has been enabled on your Jira site.
  • Clone — Create a new issue which is an identical copy of the issue.
  • Labels — Edit the issue’s labels.
  • Delete — Permanently remove the issue.

(Note that some options in the menu will only be available if the operation is relevant to the issue, if you have the necessary permissions, and if certain features have been enabled by your Jira administrator.)

Comma Dialog

Similarly, if you are viewing an issue, pressing ‘,’ (available in Jira 5.1 or greater) will bring up the Go To Field popup.

Use the popup to edit issue fields in-line, without leaving the page. The following fields are available for editing:

  • Assignee
  • Summary
  • Issue Type
  • Priority
  • Component/s
  • Affects Version/s
  • Fix Version/s
  • Reporter
  • Description
  • Labels

Tune in next month

We’ll be delivering you tips and tricks every month, so make sure to keep you eyes peeled next month for another handy Jira tip. If you found this helpful, please visit Atlassian University - interactive tutorials and videos with tons of tips just like this one.

Topics: jira atlassian blog business efficiency management process tips tricks lifecycle
2 min read

The Powers of Persuasion - Atlassian and Business Process Management

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 26, 2012 11:00:00 AM

During our last Atlassian User Group meeting a few attendees asked us for pointers on how to convince their managers to implement or expand upon the Atlassian product suite as a Business Process Management Tool. To us the task seemed easy, especially since Process Optimization and Management are some of our founding principles.

After doing a bit of research we were a bit surprised by what we found. According to a study conducted by the Journal of Information & Management71% of executives had negative feelings concerning IT as a source of competitive advantage.

This is especially shocking since exploiting current capabilities while simultaneously developing new ones is a common theme among organizations. This idea serves as a baseline for strategic management and is crucial for adapting to changing environments. It’s through this delicate balance of business activities that the notion of Business Process Management (BPM) was born.

As BPM continues to be considered an important way for organizations to achieve a competitive advantage, senior management should be aware of IT’s ability to facilitate these processes. However, as the study pointed out, this isn’t always the case. In many organizations senior management’s reluctant to promote the strategic role of IT and instead, consider it just an automating tool.

This notion’s not only outdated but it also negates the entire philosophy of BPM, and the idea of developing new organizational capabilities.

So how can you overcome these seemingly insurmountable sentiments, standing in the way of cost-cutting, Business Process Optimization? According to the study, executives were most likely to be convinced of the almighty powers of IT when provided with substantial evidence of the following outcomes:

  • Assurance in the success of process re-engineering
  • Greater simplification in business process
  • Increased efficiency by at least 50%

So whether you are attempting to convince a coworker, boss, or yourself, being well armed with relevant examples of the above will come in handy.

Looking for relevant examples? Try the following case studies:

Topics: atlassian blog automation bpm business management practices process tips tricks continuous-improvement lifecycle 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

Jira 5.1 Released

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

We’re excited to announce the availability of Jira 5.1!

Jira 5.1 introduces a number of new capabilities for new and existing customers:

Inline Edit for Jira Issues

In Jira 5.0 Atlassian took the first step in making Jira easier and easier for end users – with new, fast Create and Edit dialogs.  In Jira 5.1, field edits, transitions, comments, and all your Jira actions can happen faster than ever.  With inline edit, any Jira field can be edited from the View Issue Page. The speed at which users work in Jira is dramatically changing on a daily basis.

Performance enhancements for large Jira instances

We know this is a big one for many of our largest clients. In Jira 5.1 two teams have been dedicated to performance: a Jira performance improvements team and a company wide Atlassian Performance Engineering team, specifically focused on Jira performance for large instances above 200,000 issues. Atlassian’s repealed the 200,000 issue limit as a result of the improvements, including a 40% improvement in throughput.

Issue Collector

The Jira Issue Collector lets you embed pre-configured or custom feedback forms into any web application or web site, so you can collect feedback, and use Jira to assign feedback items, or put them through workflow.  If you’re looking for a great demo for Jira, the Issue Collector is a great one: how to expose the power of Jira in a simple manner to people both inside and outside of an organization.

Lots More

And 5.1 comes with a whole lot of other enhancements: Disabling users, automatic time zone detection, improved search for Jira to Jira Remote Issue Links, and more than 42 new feature requests implemented and over 840 votes fulfilled.

Topics: jira atlassian news blog business efficiency management practices process product-services value lifecycle
1 min read

Lean Thinking- Reducing Process Generated Waste

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 18, 2012 11:00:00 AM

Lean thinking allows organizations to determine value, and organize their value creation processes in a specific sequence. This fundamental understanding of the value stream allows organizations to dived their work processes into:

  • Value-adding activities
  • Required non-value-adding activities
  • Non-value-adding activities

It’s important to note that while organizations can specify an associated value with a process; value’s inherently determined by the consumer – your organization had better have a clear understanding of what that is.

Lean thinking also affects the flow of your production processes by emphasizing a continuous product flow, pulled through by customer demand – ensuring that nothing’s built until it’s needed, and what’s built is in fact needed by its end-user. As Lean thinking’s applied to your specific business model you’ll  inherently perfect your product through the constant process of identifying and removing waste.

Lean + Agile = Better Business Practices

We prefer to look at Agile as more than just a methodology, but also as a way businesses can reduce process – generated waste and non-value-adding activities.

Think of a value system instead of a process. Software development’s too difficult to waste time pouring over things that don’t matter, and it’s extremely inefficient for the organization at hand. From this viewpoint we can apply lean thinking to Agile development.

To effectively understand the meaningful roles these approaches can have, we must first examine their application. From this point of view, Lean represents a set of principles that help guide our ideas and insights about Agile. Lean thinking should be viewed as a set of value-maximizing principles that don’t change over time, and Agile development as an application of principles to a particular situation. Agile principles are specific to each environment and should change to fit the task at hand. Here it’s easy to see how Lean thinking concepts expand upon and improve the framework of Agile methodology.

Topics: blog scaled-agile automation bpm business efficiency management optimization practices process process-consulting value continuous-improvement lifecycle operations
3 min read

The ABC's of Agile

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 7, 2012 11:00:00 AM

The Agile school of software development’s currently one of the most accepted methodologies for improving productivity. Targeted mainly towards IT managers and CIOs, Agile methods promote an interactive approach which have the ability to help flatten your organization’s cost of change curve.

The Manifesto for Agile Software Development was first introduced in 2001, and outlines the foundation of Agile in twelve principles:

  1. Customer satisfaction by rapid delivery of useful software
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development
  3. Working software is delivered frequently (weeks rather than months)
  4. Working software is the principal measure of progress
  5. Sustainable development, able to maintain a constant pace
  6. Close, daily co-operation between business people and developers
  7. Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location)
  8. Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design
  10. Simplicity- the art of maximizing the amount of work not done- is essential
  11. Self-organizing teams
  12. Regular adaptation to changing circumstances

Cost of Change Curve

First introduced by Barry Bohem in 1981, the cost of change curve represents the exponential increase in cost as it relates to making a change during the normal development phase of a product. This means that as your product moves farther down the developmental pipeline it becomes more costly to make changes and remedy errors.

That’s a good argument for Agile since it ensures you leave the current production phase with a product that’s as close to perfect as you can make it – particularly because Agile methodology calls for testing and up-front integration which translates to rapid production and minimal initial design. Since the test code’s written before functional code and automated test suites are built around the evolving code, developers are allowed to make rapid and aggressive changes.

The ability to make these changes is one of Agile’s key features and the result is a reduction in the amount of product errors late in the development phase, reducing the cost of change. Even if your organization enjoys a rather flat cost of change curve, Agile ideals can be applied to reduce the cost of change throughout the software life cycle.

Scrum

Scrum’s another widely accepted approach to implementing the Agile philosophy, which includes both managerial and development processes. This approach relies on a self-organizing, cross-functional team supported by a scrummaster and a product owner. Scrum makes your organization Agile by ensuring quick progress, continuously creating value, and by keeping projects on track. The most important concepts of Scrum are:

  • Product backlog - A complete list of requirements that are not currently in the product release. Typical backlog items include bugs and usability/performance improvements.
  • CI - Also known as continuous integration; allows for scrum teams to continuously integrate their work. This will often happen on a daily basis.
  • User story – Describes problems that should be solved by the system being built.
  • Scrummaster - The manager of the Scrum project.
  • Burndown chart - The amount of work remaining within a sprint, i’s updated daily, and also tracks progress.
  • Sprint backlog - A list of backlog items assigned to a sprint, but not yet completed

Kanban

Kanban means visual board – and that’s just what it is, a development process that revolves around a board to manage works in progress (WIP). A Kanban board includes “lanes,” each denoting different phases a project might take. It moves WIPs across the board and deploys them into production when they reach the done column. Since Kanban development practice revolves around WIP management each state of progress is limited to a set number of projects. Organizations able to leverage this high frequency of delivery typically enjoy a large financial benefit.  The most important concepts of Kanban are:

  • Swim lanes - The horizontal lanes of a Kanban board represent the different states in which a WIP or task can exist.
  • Backlog - A list of backlog items awaiting deployment, but not yet completed.
  • Stories – A particular user need assigned to a development team.

Atlassian and You 
Atlassian specializes in robust, easy-to-use, affordable internet applications that seamlessly integrate Agile and Lean methodology  with your business processes to support your organizational goals.  Simply put, success breeds extraordinary performance – and  extraordinary performance breeds success. Atlassian’s suite of products are designed to boost your organization’s performance by providing tools that are easy to use, allowing your business to build its own solutions.
Topics: jira atlassian blog scaled-agile central business confluence efficiency issues management process process-consulting scrum technology texas value tracking change continuous-improvement greenhopper incident-management information it lifecycle operations
2 min read

Jira + ITIL Working Together

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 24, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Atlassian Jira's a remarkably flexible tool. For most who hear “Jira,” things like issue tracking, project management, and software development come to mind. Very rarely do people think of ITIL in relation to Jira. But then again, many don’t know what ITIL is.

If you’re a developer or in IT and don’t know what ITIL is, you should. It’s a set of processes for managing lifecycles with relationships to one another. It’s the most widely-accepted approach to IT service management in the world – a set of best practices drawn from public and private sectors around the world. ITIL doesn’t just apply to IT service management (ITSM), though – it’s a reliable methodology for managing any type of complex technological process.

Jira’s an Atlassian tool that’s phenomenal at lifecycle management (workflows, custom fields, etc). It’s designed to be issue-centric, built around managing issues or bugs that pop up within a product or service’s lifecycle. This functionality extends far and wide when you expand how you define an “issue.” On the surface, an issue is more like a problem – but considering an issue’s attributes, it can easily qualify as a task or milestone. With that in mind, Jira can facilitate far more than simple issue tracking. It can support complex process lifecycles.

Every process is a web of highly dependent relationships between regular and conditional tasks – including ITIL processes like Incident Management and Problem Management. The huge breakthrough here is making Jira projects and workflows represent (and support) ITIL processes. Let’s take an incident for example. An incident goes through several states:

(1) detection and recording
(2) classification and initial support
(3) investigation and diagnosis
(4) incident closure

A good Incident Management process within a good technology helps reduce meantime to recovery – i.e. recover from an incident. We all know how well Jira facilitates transitions and workflow. Let’s take it a step further…in ITIL-based Incident Management, we are supposed to designate incident ownership, actively monitor, track and communicate. BINGO! This what Jira does.

Let’s take this another step further. Problem Management is a process used to identify root cause to reduce the number of incidents – thereby increasing the meantime between failures. Using Jira, we can manage root cause analysis and associate the individual incidents (manifestations) back to the Problem Management record we’re analyzing. This ability to link records and collaborate makes Jira a great Problem Management solution. Add Confluence to the mix and the effectiveness is improved further.

Going another step further – having ITIL-based ITSM processes running in Jira alongside your organizations SDLC further helps IT align its capabilities to deliver the highest, best quality software and service delivery.

We’ve helped clients implement Jira to manage Incident Management, Change Management, Problem Management, Asset Management, Software Development, Testing… we love the Altassian products and so do our clients.

Topics: jira atlassian blog asset-management confluence issues management problem process reliability sdlc services software workflows tracking change development incident-management it itil itsm lifecycle methodology bespoke
1 min read

Client Spotlight: EPB of Chattanooga

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

Electric Power Board (EPB) is an electric and telecommunications company owned by the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. EPB provides electricity, cable, and as of this month, the fastest internet in the US to greater Chattanooga.

EPB has showed itself as one of the most progressive public utilities in the US by, in addition to providing 1GB internet, actively building a 100 percent fiber-optic Smart Grid. EPB had already begun their Smart Grid program before the Obama administration included billions of dollars in grands for Smart Grid projects in the 2009 economic stimulus program. EPB’s internet offering piggy-backed off the fibers laid in place for their Smart Grid.

EPB’s Smart Grid has created a platform of innovation for the city of Chattanooga as a whole. In addition to offering an array of R&D opportunities, the Smart Grid has essentially invited companies from across the US to use the grid and 1GB internet streaming to work on complex projects and develop next-generation applications – a huge stimulus for the regional economy.

We’ve been proud to be involved with EPB’s innovative efforts since 2007. We share EPB’s passion for innovation, efficiency, and sustainability; sustainable energy practices and technology are critically important for our future. During our time in Chattanooga, we’ve:

  • provided Project Management for the development of EPB’s two new websites, EPB.net and EPBFI.com
  • implemented robust Microsoft SharePoint process frameworks for managing and facilitating legal matters, RFPs, and a host of other business processes
  • developed Process Lifecycle Management methodologies that have improved EPB’s operations
  • implemented ITIL-based methodologies and best practices, making EPB’s IT processes more consistent and repeatable

…and a whole lot more. Good technology supports good processes; good processes make for good profit and reducing expenses. It’s been great to help EPB reduce expenses during a critically important (and exciting) time.

Read more about EPB on their website – and check out the cool 1GB-powered things happening in Chattanooga at ChattanoogaGig.com.

Topics: blog assessments efficiency implementation internet management optimization process process-consulting project sharepoint smart development grid itil lifecycle microsoft bespoke
3 min read

FAQ's

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 31, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Since we’re a consulting firm with a funky (we prefer “unique!”) name, we’re always armed with answers to the questions that follow “we’re Praecipio Consulting.” It would be a little silly to have an FAQ page on our website for such questions – so we’ve set out to answer the popular ones here. Ahem.

What does “Praecipio” mean?

For starters, it’s not a food or spice. Praecipio is Latin for the English words anticipate, advise, and instruct. We chose the name because its meaning matches our meaning. Praecipio, by definition, is what we do. You can read the full scoop on our name in Praecipio: It's What We Do.

So you do process management and bunch of software stuff – doesn’t that mean you’re just IT consultants?

No. Our partners are experienced in consulting in numerous areas – process lifecycle management, project management, custom software development, etc…and, of course, IT. All ends of a company, though, impact one another. One department’s initiative may impact another department just like the motion of a foot can impact the balance of the body.

When we say we work in all of these different areas, we mean to stress that we have to understand how the body works if we’re going to operate on the foot, so to speak.

I heard you host Microsoft Exchange, but couldn’t find much information about that on your website. Is that rumor true?

Yes. We offer Exchange migration, hosting, and support for businesses large and small, available upon request. We don’t advertise this heavily because it’s not our primary offering; we currently host Exchange for a handful of small businesses and have the solution ready and available for our clients’ benefit. Hosting has become a truly affordable and secure way to manage corporate email and content management systems.

We also host Microsoft SharePoint, offer cloud backup solutions, and re-sell / offer migration to Google Apps. If you’re considering any of these hosting solutions, talk to us now. We’d be happy to offer you advice and perspective.

You mention Microsoft technologies extensively. I run a Google Apps-based business – are you relevant to me?

Of course. Again, we re-sell Google Apps – and offer migration and configuration guidance to businesses who choose to “go Google.” Microsoft solutions aren’t best for everyone just like Google solutions aren’t best for everyone. We suggest the solutions that are best for our clients – not those with a particular brand name.

We do, however, have extensive experience with Microsoft SharePoint in particular. We have implemented SharePoint-powered solutions that have greatly lowered our clients’ operations expenses. Due to the success, we want to market that kind of solution to people we may be able to help, offering the proven track record as assurance. It’s rewarding to see our clients reduce their costs and grow using our solutions. Our SharePoint solutions have done just that, and if you think you can reduce your costs with a similar solution, we’d love to talk to you to learn more.

I’m a small business that doesn’t have an IT department or anything like that. Can you help me? Or do you just cater to the enterprise?

Yes, we can help you too! Partnering with smaller businesses (even one-man shops) offers us the chance to help you grow over time – which is essentially what we’re after with any work we do. Small businesses can take advantage of our free two-hour consulting sessions (we offer this to any first-time customer) for guidance and perspective. They can then have us as a point of reference as they grow.

Our hosting opportunities (Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, cloud backups, Google Apps) are most appealing to small businesses, since very few small businesses (and large ones, for that matter) want to own a server of their own. We take care of hosting and support for businesses who want to take advantage of those tools without all the overhead.

You mention “process automation” on your website. Are you taking away people’s jobs?

Certainly not. We’re not deploying robots, either. Read the full scoop in 4 Misconceptions of Process Automation.

I noticed you didn’t cover [this] on your blog. Do you plan to tackle that topic in the future?

Sure. If you have a topic you’d like us to discuss on our blog, just throw us the idea – we’ll have our quills ready. Call us, email us, tweet us…or just post a comment on the blog.

We’d love to meet you. Talk to us here.

Topics: management process project sharepoint tips tricks development hosting lifecycle microsoft bespoke
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
1 min read

Business Process Management Success

By Praecipio Consulting on Mar 3, 2010 11:00:00 AM

At the center of every business are the employees who support a company’s success by performing necessary daily processes. In order to succeed, however, employees need to work together in an organized, effective manner, with a sophisticated understanding of how their processes operate and relate to one another. Without it, business process may be rendered inefficient.

To improve your business from a business process management (BPM) perspective, you must first document how processes are carried out within your company through process mapping. Mapping out your processes creates an organized understanding of how work is carried out in your company—the first step toward business efficiency.

The next step is implementing a software tool to capture and store these processes for you. Process management software—specifically software like Microsoft SharePoint— allows you to capture this process data from key data points and store it in a common database for employee access.

Once your processes are mapped, defined, and digitally documented with process management software, you can then build workflows into those processes that allow selected steps within them to be executed automatically. Process automation, or workflow automation, has an incredible impact on business efficiency by speeding up a process in an organized, methodical way.

For example:

  • Your business receives an order
  • Order is automatically sent to a processing clerk and stored on server
  • Order validation is handled automatically according to predetermined decision criteria (yes, no, pend)
  • Order travels down different paths according to decision criteria

Workflow-based processes also allow process management software to collect real-time information on employee performance. By embedding data collection points in workflows, employers can view dynamic data that makes it possible to gain a high-level perspective on company performance.

This describes our process management consulting capabilities in a nutshell: we help companies transition toward refined processes that can be repeated and monitored, making businesses more efficient and profitable long-term.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog automation bpm business management process tips tricks value lifecycle
2 min read

Process LifeCycle Management

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

It's About Adding Value

If you’re in business, you’ve probably heard the phrase “LifeCycle Management” used to describe different types of process management. There’s Information LifeCycle Management, Product LifeCycle Management, Incident LifeCycle Management, and on and on and on. What makes Process LifeCycle Management so important?

All too often when working with our clients, we’ve identified a lack of management perspective over the organization’s collective set of business processes. In general, we’ve noticed a lack of awareness of the relationship different processes have with one another, and how a change in one process may impact another. As a result, changes that occur from process to process are unorganized, uncoordinated, and mismanaged– causing a handful of issues from employee morale problems to opportunity costs/missed revenues.

Process LifeCycle Management provides a coordinated, controlled method for managing processes– a process, if you will, for managing processes. It encompasses process management from the process’ inception to its design, acceptance, implementation, and retirement.

At a rudimentary level, businesses are in the business of executing process for the purpose of adding value. Take a head of lettuce, for example– one you’d buy in bulk at the grocery store. Let’s say the head of lettuce costs 75 cents (its value). How is this value figured? What attributes of the lettuce make it worth 75 cents to me?

The answers are in its process lifecycle:

  • The lettuce probably began as a seed that was sold to a farmer for 1 cent.
  • The farmer then added water, soil, and other overhead to grow the lettuce– raising its value to, let’s say, 20 cents.
  • The lettuce might then have been sold to a packaging company, which used their resources and energy to package the lettuce, raising its value to 30 cents.
  • The packaged lettuce might then have been sold to a distributor for 40 cents, who might have sold and transported the lettuce to the grocery store for 60 cents.
  • The grocery store then raised the price by another 15 cents to ensure its profit at the point of sale.

Each step of this process lifecycle added value to the service– in this case, the lettuce. Similarly, each step in any business cycle should add value to its final product, whether the product is an internal report, a type of customer service, or a head of lettuce. The more efficient and effective each process step is, the more value is added to the end product and when executed efficiently, the more profit.

Processes are how businesses operate; a business’ efficiency is determined by the efficiency of its processes. The more coordinated process management is, the better the business runs, and the more value is added to the end product. Money is made and lost at the process level. A primary focus of the enterprise, therefore, should be on process management to ensure the efficiency and profitability of the business.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog business efficiency management process services value 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
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
2 min read

Process Value Analysis: Why Each Step Counts

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

Monitoring, analyzing, and planning ahead are key principles of Business Process Management (BPM), and logically so. Businesses are responsible for their success, and every step of every process they conduct should ideally provide value to both the business and its customers. To assess this, a business must be concerned with Process Value Analysis—a qualitative analysis procedure allowing a business to apply questions to specific process steps to measure their success.

It is best to consider the term “value” in this context as referring to the value a customer expects and is willing to pay for. That value originates from the steps and processes a business performs to create the value—what some call a value chain, meaning every step within a process adds some amount of value to the final product or service.

Again, each step of a process should ideally provide value to both the business and its customers—this is what Process Value Analysis is meant to measure. Obviously this is not always clear-cut, since some steps don’t directly add value to a service but rather facilitate the adding of value. Those steps, though, are considered value-enabling steps—and still, though indirectly, give value to the final product. Non-value-adding steps are steps that have been incorporated into a process for some reason or another, but no longer add any value to the final product by any means. It is these non-value-adding (and money-eating) steps that should be eliminated.

Process Value Analysis is all about asking questions—after all, tough questions typically reveal the most accurate answers. These three categories and accompanying questions are useful for describing the types of value a specific process step may have:

Value added to customers: steps that directly impact customer satisfaction

  • Do customers recognize the value of the process step?
  • Does the step specifically impact the service requirements of its customers?
  • Is the step necessary to meet the timelines and expectations of those served?
  • Are customers willing to pay for this step?

Value added to operations: steps that support the ability to deliver services to the people served

  • Does the step meet legal, health, safety, or environmental regulatory criteria?
  • Is this process step being performed efficiently, or can it be refined?
  • Could this process step be eliminated if a preceding step were performed differently?
  • Could a technology application eliminate or automate this step?
  • Does this process step fulfill an external regulatory requirement?
  • Most importantly, would eliminating this step impact the quality of the service positively or negatively?

Non-value-added: steps that could be eliminated or changed without harming service levels or the organization

  • What specific direct or indirect value does this step have for customers or operations?

Praecipio Consulting collaboratively assesses clients’ needs, priorities, and budget to improve clients’ processes and business operations. A huge part of our service is analyzing our clients’ process value and developing consistent, efficient task-flows to monitor the success of specific process steps. We believe Process Value Analysis is essential for maintaining a competitive advantage in business and dedicate our expertise to enabling our clients to get the greatest value out of their operations.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business management process value continuous-improvement lifecycle operations
2 min read

Process Mapping: Sketching Solutions!

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 28, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Business Process Management (BPM) does not merely refer to managing a process, but rather refers to the entire lifecycle (Process LifeCycle Management: discovery, documentation, execution, monitoring, retirement) of business processes. Each aspect of this lifecycle is important in the development of a sound methodology for process management. This blog focuses on the discovery phase of the BPM lifecycle, and will explore and explain how “process mapping” aids in identifying process automation opportunities to save a company time and money.

Since process mapping can sometimes be a tedious, time-consuming task, is it always necessary when making changes in operations? Yes—making system changes without truly understanding how and why the process is operating can lead to costly mistakes, and can also create conditions that make it difficult for employees to work effectively and even damage employee morale. Process mapping also allows people, teams and departments to get down to a common ground and common language when discussing their business and challenges they are working to overcome.

When considering the impacts a process has on the success of your business, it is also important to analyze the impacts the process has within your business and consider the effects of downstream impacts. Processes typically have one or more outputs, and changing a process should logically account for a change in its output. Also, one process’ output are typically another process’ input—which could help or hamper productivity depending on how well each process is defined and managed.

According to a survey of 150 Information Technology (IT) directors conducted by Computer World UK, 15 to 20 percent reported low productivity and customer dissatisfaction as a result of process issues. The survey also reported 45 percent of companies said they had no BPM system in place—though they were planning on implementing one.

Process mapping enables a business to clearly define their current processes in chart form—listing each task within a process in detail and sequential order, creating a well-constructed visual that gives an easy-to-comprehend view of the process from beginning to end (process maps typically feature symbols that represent different types of tasks, and appear in a flowchart-like manner with arrows indicating how the process flows from task to task). Our process mapping methodology at Praecipio Consulting begins with mapping out process steps and details on a whiteboard and proceeding to transfer what is learned and developed on the whiteboard to Microsoft Visio for refining with the team. Basic steps to mapping a business process generally look like these:

  • Gather and review all relevant and existing documentation of current business process
  • Identify boundaries of current process
  • Identify weaknesses of current process
  • Identify inputs and outputs of the process
  • Generate a flowchart of the above information, clearly describing each task and describing feedback loops
  • Identifying measurable data points and the key attributes that direct a process through it’s life cycle

The mapping process prepares a business to:

  • Generate a draft procedure for developing solutions/review
  • Develop an implementation plan/review

Process mapping often reveals problem areas like bottlenecks, capacity issues, delays, or waste. Once identified, this knowledge provides a solid base for developing process solutions.

Praecipio Consulting emphasizes the importance of process mapping in our efforts to help businesses improve their operations. We’ve clearly defined the boundaries of our clients’ unique business operations; since some business processes overlap with others, clearly defining the scope and boundaries of a process is essential to mapping out its steps precisely. Our clients’ end product will facilitate effective management of business processes with the intelligent integration of appropriate technologies.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency management process lifecycle
1 min read

CMDBs: The Secret to High IT ROI

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 9, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Just what is a Configuration Management Database (CMDB)?

For starters, it’s not a database—or, rather, not merely a database. A CMDB is a virtual warehouse holding information from every nook and cranny of an information system. CMDBs show which system components are needed to create efficient business processes. It can be seen as both an encyclopedia of IT services and a DNA map of a business’ IT environment. It’s a decision support tool.

ITIL v2 defined a CMDB as “a database that contains all relevant details of each CI (configuration item) and details of the important relationships between CIs.” ITIL v3 now defines a CMDB as “a database used to store Configuration Records throughout their lifecycle. The Configuration Management System maintains one or more CMDBs, and each CMDB stores attributes of CIs, and relationships with other CIs.”

A product of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), CMDBs are important because they align technology with business process. An example of this? It’s common sense that without timely information, bad decisions can be made by the business unintentionally. ITIL-based CMDBs control workflows, and use a workflow to manage and collect process metrics and present them logically and accurately.

While there are many variations of CMDB workflows, five common high-level steps include:

  • Identification: To put it simply, “identifying” IT components and their inclusion in the CMDB.
  • Status: Recording of the status of all CIs in the CMDB, and keeping them updated.
  • Control: The management of CIs, indicating who is authorized to ‘change’ each one.
  • Status: Recording of the status of all CIs in the CMDB, and keeping them updated.
  • Verification: Reviewing data to make sure the CMDB is accurate and timely.

A properly implemented CMDB system can save an enterprise quite a bit of cash. There are, however, some direct overhead costs associated with the data capture process itself. The CMDB’s ROI will depend on the quality and reusability of the data it monitors, company size, and business strategy.

The CMDB bottom line: the more automated and consistent asset management methodologies become, the higher the ROI will climb. CMDBs allow businesses to become more efficient internally and more effective in their market.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog automation bpm business efficiency library management practices process technology value continuous-improvement information infrastructure it itil lifecycle operations

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