3 min read

Tips For Setting Up Effective Kanban Boards In Jira | Praecipio Consulting

By Michael Lyons on Sep 8, 2021 3:01:34 PM

Blogpost-DisplayImage-September-2021_Tips For Setting Up Effective Kanban Boards In JiraJira's Kanban boards are great tools for tracking the progress of work being done by teams and for gaining insights into opportunities. Boards are highly customizable and can accommodate numerous types of processes. This flexibility is very helpful for teams that need to track a continuous flow of work in high volumes. If you are new to using Jira's Kanban board or are looking to get maximum results out of using the boards, we have a few tips that can help.

 These tips are meant to help make your Kanban board be as insightful as possible.

Reflect the Work Being Done

Boards are most effective when they are set up in a way that is easy to use, and match a team's work processes. You can add any number of columns to your board depending on how your team works. Statuses from your workflows can be mapped to the columns in any way. The option to customize is very helpful for teams, but it is important to align columns and statuses in a way that the user can efficiently move the work through the board. Designing a board that is inefficient can make the board frustrating to use. 

An effective way to map statuses for a Kanban board is to ensure that each status is mapped to a column, especially those statuses that are along the critical path. This helps the user navigate within the board seamlessly to provide updates on their work and track progress. This also prevents the user from having to take the extra steps to update issue statuses. Mapping each column to a status is by no means a requirement, but it helps to make these statuses available in the board so the user can quickly drag and drop the issue into a new column as work is being completed. 

Filter, Filter, Filter!

Work can add up when your team is very busy! All of this work can show up on the board and make it difficult to use if filters are not used appropriately. Luckily Jira provides a few options for filtering out issues. We recommend leveraging sub-filters and quick filters to help clear up yourboard. Sub-filters can be added to boards to help filter out issues that are older than a specific time frame or that have been moved to a certain status. We like to use sub-filters that filter out any issues that have been resolved or closed for more than two weeks, for example. Quick filters can be built to help filter down to issues that have certain field values or components. End users can interact directly with these filters and can toggle between them depending on the information they would like to see.

Leverage the Backlog

When issues are being created, it's important to discern which items are ready for work and which items are still being vetted by the project team. Boards that do not make priorities clear can cause confusion. For example, if a column has both an "Open" and "To-Do" status mapped, all work items within those statuses will appear in the column. Having so many of these items in a column can make it challenging to quickly determine the items that the team should work on.

Implementing a Kanban board with a backlog can help declutter the board and help users better identify work in the "To-Do" status. This is a feature that can be enabled within the board. All work items in an "Open" status form the backlog and do not appear on the board, while work in the "To-Do" status will appear in the first column. Your team will now know the items that take priority and are ready to be completed. 

Implement WIP Limits

Jira allows teams to set limits on the amount of issues that can be placed in columns. These limits should be based on what the team's work-in-process limits (WIP) are for processes. If the number of items in a column exceeds the maximum, the column will be highlighted. This gives teams insight into where they need to focus their efforts and shows them where opportunities are within the process. 

We are process obsessed: our custom-made workflows are designed by our teams of accredited and experienced professionals. If you have any questions about Jira or Kanban boards, please reach out to us! We would love to help.

Topics: jira blog kanban process process-consulting tips
4 min read

What Exactly is Agile Methodology?

By Courtney Pool on Aug 17, 2021 12:22:47 PM

Blogpost-DisplayImage-August_ What is Agile Methodology-

Any person who's worked in or around software for any length of time has likely heard of Agile. Since the release of the Agile Manifesto in 2001, Agile has quickly spread through the industry, and even companies who aren't fully Agile sometimes claim to be, if only to check the box. Still, despite this popularity, we regularly receive confessions from people who admit that they don't fully "get" what Agile is, often from teams outside of software developers who want to know if Agile can help them too.

The Elevator Pitch

"Getting" Agile is a multi-step process, but knowing the elevator pitch is a great place to start. Agile is an iterative approach to software development and project management, with iterative being the keyword. Its primary focus is on delivering value incrementally, with those increments being faster, more frequent, and with fewer strings attached than some traditional approaches. Agile also acknowledges, accepts, and even encourages that risk and change are likely to pop up and need mole-whacking along the way, allowing for real-time course-correcting as needed.

This short description can help people navigate through many of the superficial conversations around Agile. If you want to impress though, knowing the details is the next step.

The Details

To really understand what Agile is, it helps to first understand why Agile is. Agile's origin is in software development, and its inception was a direct response to the rigidity of existing development methods like Waterfall. Despite this, its existence is not at all meant to be a critique of Waterfall, which is a valid methodology that still has uses in several scenarios; rather it's an answer to the "But what if...?" questions that plague so many projects, such as: 

  • What if I discover more requirements after development has started?
  • What if we don't catch a big problem because we waited too long to test?
  • What if we need to ship to market faster or more frequently?

Answering these questions is difficult in a Waterfall environment, and failure to answer them can be costly. This can be especially true in software, where conditions and criteria frequently change, and rapidity and innovation are critical factors in winning over users. Enter Agile, whose principles allow teams the flexibility needed to answer these questions as they arise while still meeting product and stakeholder needs.

While some interpret this flexibility as Agile having no rules, this could not be further from the truth! The Agile Manifesto itself includes both key pillars and guiding principles, which every organization purporting to be Agile should follow. Amongst the guiding principles are those that are arguably more nebulous, like "Working software is the primary measure of progress." Still, many are undeniably rules and not suggestions, such as the principle requiring the increments mentioned above: "Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale. "

Beyond that, there are also rules associated with each particular Agile framework to adhere to as well.

You see, while "Agile" is the overarching methodology (or philosophy, some argue, an ongoing debate), the actual "doing" is often guided by the numerous frameworks within Agile, with more popular frameworks like Scrum, Kanban, eXtreme Programming, and the Crystal Method leading the charge. Of course, that's not to say that one can't simply follow the principles of Agile without needing a specific framework -- you absolutely can! -- but development teams may find it easier to work within a framework. Aiding this ease is that each framework has taken the Agile principles and hammered them into specific actions, ceremonies, and practices for teams to follow, reducing the need for teams to develop their own.

Knowing the pitch and the details is essential to understanding Agile, but "getting" Agile requires that you take it one step further and apply it outside the business.

The Real World Example

As mentioned, Agile is an iterative process that seeks to frequently deliver value while still allowing for the winds of change. One of the reasons Agile can work so well is, if you think about it in the simplest of terms, because most people do Agile every day.

No, seriously!

I recently moved and learned again how ever-present Agile is. I prepared for the move with a soft plan and a general goal in mind: get everything packed and ready by X date. I even took an incremental approach to it, regularly moving smaller and more manageable items over to the new house in the weeks leading up to the move. As is frequently the case, though, life had different plans, and I found myself scrambling to finish hours before the movers' arrival (see: winds of change). I could have chosen to stubbornly stick to my original plan, risking either an incomplete project or a financial blow from having to delay, but I instead chose the Agile approach. I reprioritized and adjusted my goal, focusing on readying the most vital components and shifting lower priority items to my next increment. 

And just like that, you're Agile!

So now you can quickly explain Agile to someone any time it comes up, dazzle them with a few specific details, and even deliver an analogy or two to help set it in. The final step? Contact us to find out how Praecipio Consulting can help you make it work for your teams.

Topics: kanban process tips agile software-development waterfall
10 min read

ITSM and ITIL: Not So Different After All

By Yogi Kanakamedala on Jun 9, 2021 4:01:01 PM

Blogpost-DisplayImage-June_ITSM-ITILThe change to remote work has forced Information Technology (IT) teams to quickly and efficiently serve their customers. Due to this, many people talk about using ITSM processes or ITIL strategies to help their teams. But what does this mean? Are they the same? Or completely different? What does an IT team implementing these practices look like? To understand this, we first have to understand ITSM and ITIL. 

What is ITSM?

Atlassian defines Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) as a way IT teams manage the end-to-end delivery of IT services to customers. This includes a defined set of processes to design, create, deliver, and support IT services. 

The core concept of ITSM is the belief that IT should be delivered as a service

I think of ITSM simply as a set of tools you can use to improve your IT team. Just like you would use a handsaw to cut a piece of wood or a screwdriver and a screw to connect two pieces of wood together, you have to think about what you would like to accomplish with your IT team and which tool would be best for the job. 

ITSM processes focus on your customer's needs and services rather than the IT systems behind the scenes. These processes, when implemented properly, can help cross-department collaboration, increase control and governance, deliver and maximize asset efficiency, provide better and quicker customer support, and reduce costs across the organization. What are some of these magical processes? Glad you asked! 

  1. Service Request Management
    Any incoming inquires asking for access to applications, software licenses, password resets, or new hardware is classified as Service Requests. These requests are often recurring and can be made into simple, duplicable procedures. These repeatable procedures will help IT teams provide quick service for the recurring requests. Applying well-designed practices to your Jira Service Management application can streamline the process for an organizations' customer to create Service Requests and for internal IT teams to act on the Service Requests.  

  2. Knowledge Management
    The process of making, sharing, utilizing, and managing data of an organization to attain its business objectives can all be a part of Knowledge Management. Creating a Knowledge Base (KB) for IT teams to create content is crucial for teams to learn from the past and maximize productivity. Having a collaborative workspace, such as Confluence, for all teams to work within can help create one source of truth of information. KB articles can also be shared with your customers through the Jira Service Management portal to help resolve common or simple Service Request without having to contact the IT Team. 

  3. IT Asset Management (ITAM)
    IT Asset Management (also known as ITAM) can help ensure valuable company resources are accounted for, deployed, maintained, upgrades, or properly disposed of. Because assets have a relatively short life-cycle, it is important to make the best use of all assets. Integrating tools such as Insight with your Jira instance can help track all valuable assets throughout your organization conveniently within Jira issues in real-time. 

  4. Incident Management
    Any process that is responding to an unplanned event or downtime will fall under the Incident Management bucket. The only goal of Incident Management is to make sure that problematic services are brought back to their original operational status in the shortest time possible. For any incident to be quickly resolved, the original reporter has to be able to quickly communicate with the proper IT team asking for help and the IT team must be able to easily communicate back with the reporter to gather any relevant information needed to solve the problem. Jira Service Management can help make this crucial communication effortless.

  5. Problem Management
    Taking lessons learned from an incident and determining the root cause of the problem so that future incidents can be prevented or, at minimum, limiting downtime is the basis of Problem Management. Once a root cause analysis is performed on an incident and documented within your Confluence instance, the impact of future incidents can be reduced. 

  6. Change Management
    Change Management can be used to control and understand the impact of changes being made to all IT Infrastructure. The Change Advisory Board (CAB), a group of individuals tasked with evaluating, scheduling, and validating a change, can be leveraged to better maintain and ensure the stability of your IT Infrastructure. By taking advantage of Jira, employees can easily suggest changes and the CAB will be able to review the proposed changes, approving and scheduling the change as they see fit. 

To see these processes in action, let's consider a tangible example that will help bring it all together:

"Austin Snow" is a new employee at your company. As part of the onboarding process, they will need a brand new laptop. As their manager, you submit a Service Request to your IT team through the Jira Service Management Help Center. An agent in your accounting department is then assigned to this task. Using information from a KB article that has been built out in a Confluence page, the agent can see that they are supposed to put in a purchase order for the new device. From the Confluence page, the agent also knows to add this new asset in Insight and assign ownership to Austin.

Once the laptop is delivered and Austin tries to access an application and finds that they get a 404 error message. Austin reaches out to the IT team through the Help Center to create an incident with them. The IT team then proceeds to investigate this issue. They can find the root cause of the problem and fix it. Using the lessons learned from this incident, the IT team performs a root cause analysis (RCA) for the problem. As a result of the RCA, it is found that a change to the organizations' infrastructure can help prevent this problem in the future. The IT proposed the change to the Change Advisor Board (CAB) who then investigates the impact of this change, weighs pros and cons and schedules an outage window to perform this change. 

As can be seen in this example, ITSM processes can help quickly fulfill requests, transfer knowledge, keep track of assets, respond to problems, identify the cause of a problem, and implement any changes needed to prevent problems in the future. 

What is ITIL?

Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a set of best practices designed to support a company's IT operations. ITIL was introduced in the late 20th century as a series of books by a government agency in Great Britain in an attempt to help the British Government provide a better quality of IT service at a lower cost. ITIL v2 condensed all of the content in the early 2000s into nine publications. These two older versions are seldom used, most organizations currently implement ITIL v3 or ITIL 4.

ITIL v3

In 2007, ITIL v3 introduced the service lifecycle, a set of five core publications, to help organizations focus on continual improvement. The ITIL Service Lifecycle consists of five stages; Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continuous Service Improvement.

ITIL3-service-lifecycleSource: AXELOS, “ITIL Foundation: ITIL 3 Edition” (2007 - Updated 2011)

The Service Strategy stage helps level set the expectations of an organization so that a service provider can meet the organization's business outcomes. The Service Design stage helps the service provider gather all the requirements and create a plan to turn an idea into reality. The Service Transition stage is when the design from the previous stage is implemented and made ready to go live as smoothly as possible. The Service Operation stage focuses on making sure the services being provided are being fulfilled as agreed upon. Finally, the Continuous Service Improvement stage focuses on service provided staying agile and keeping up with the ever-changing needs of the organization. 

ITIL 4

Most recently, ITIL 4 took into consideration the latest trends in technologies and service management to help organizations as they undergo digital transformation. ITIL 4 consists of two main components; the four dimensions model and the service value system (SVS).

ITIL4-service-value-system-1

Source: AXELOS, “ITIL Foundation: ITIL 4 Edition” (2019)

The four dimensions model lays out four key areas to consider to ensure a holistic approach to service management. These four dimensions are Organizations and People, Information and Technology, Partners and Suppliers, and Value Streams and Processes. The four dimensions have to work together to help ensure that any Product or Service provided to the customer is able to provide value in an effective and efficient manner.

For example, in the above Austin Snow use case, the Organizations & People would be the HR Team performing the onboarding, the IT team helping deliver the laptop, the Support team handling the outage, and Austin Snow themself. The Information & Technology would be all the tools, Jira Service Management, Insight, etc. that were used to help Austin. The Partners & Suppliers would consist of the internal IT team in charge of the service request and incident management or any other external team that as leveraged to deliver the request or fix the incident. finally, the Value Streams & Processes would consist of any well-defined procedures that were used to help deliver the service to Austin.

ITIL4-service-value-chain

Source: AXELOS, “ITIL Foundation: ITIL 4 Edition” (2019)

The service value system lays out how all the components of an organization have to work together to provide maximum value. To accomplish this, 5 main elements are used produce Value from an Opportunity or Demand; Guiding Principles, Governance, Service Value Chain, Practices, Continual Improvement. 

Guiding Principles help define how an organization will respond in all circumstances. These principles should be considered when making any decisions. Governance defines how an organization is directed and controlled and always stem from Guiding Principles. The Service Value Chain is a set of inter-united processes used to deliver a product or service to a customer. Practices are resources to help perform work. Continual Improvement is how the process can be improved to help provide the most amount of Value to an organization. When all of the elements of the SVS are implemented and used properly, an organization will be able to capitalize on every Opportunity. The four dimensions must be considered with all elements of the SVS to ensure a great quality of service is provided to your customers. 

ITIL v3 and ITIL 4 are essentially guiding the same fundamental ideas of service management. ITIL 4 takes a new approach to provide this guidance. It is important to consider the inner workings of your organization to understand a set of principles that will best mesh with your organization. 

How are they related?

Now that we have laid down a foundation for ITSM and ITIL concepts, let's explore the relationship between ITSM and ITIL.

Unlike the title of this blog may suggest, these two concepts are not opposing ideas. ITIL is a framework of ITSM, meaning ITIL takes the concepts and values of ITSM and lays out a set of defined best practices that organizations can easily apply to their business to help improve IT services. In other words, ITSM processes describe the "what" while ITIL best practices describe the "how". 

ITIL is not the only ITSM framework; frameworks or processes such as DevOps, Kaizen, Lean, and Six Sigma are also implemented by organizations. ITIL is the most popular ITSM framework to help improve IT service delivery.

In summary, ITSM is a defined set of processes to design, create, deliver, and support IT services. ITIL, a framework of ITSM best practices, can be used as a set of guidelines to quickly adopt ITSM principles into your organization. These guidelines can then be continuously improved to be a perfect fit for your unique IT team. 

As The Digital Transformation(ists), Praecipio Consulting can help you integrate digital technology into all areas of your business. For more information, please check out these case studies: FORTUNE 20 ELECTRONICS COMPANY OPTIMIZES JIRA AND CONFLUENCE FOR ITSM BEST PRACTICES and WORLD'S LARGEST BEVERAGE AND BREWING COMPANY MIGRATES TO ATLASSIAN ITSM PLATFORM and blogs Three Weeks to an ITIL-based Service Desk—No, Really

If you have questions on ITSM or ITIL, and wonder if your organization can benefit from these powerful methodologies, contact us, and one of our experts will be glad to help.

Topics: jira blog confluence process insight itil itsm digital-transformation jira-service-management remote-work frameworks
2 min read

Agile Tips - The Purpose of a Sprint Retrospective

By Michael Knight on Jun 1, 2021 10:15:00 AM

Blogpost-Display image-May_Purpose of a Sprint RetrospectiveA sprint retrospective is, in practice, a meeting scheduled after every 1-2 sprints in which the team comes together to discuss how to improve the way they work. The meeting can follow several formats, with the most common consisting of each team member sharing what is working well, what isn’t working, and any new ideas they have to improve. Some examples of takeaways from the meeting might be “Our daily standup is helping to keep everyone on track,” “We need a better process for reviewing tickets after QA is finished with them,” or “Let’s try estimating with story points instead of time values.”

Retrospectives were introduced to make sure the team is constantly in communication about how to improve. This process is commonly known as a feedback loop, and is one of the hallmarks of any good Agile process. Feedback loops have been discussed as one of the most important parts to becoming successful, either as a team or as an individual, a claim backed up by copious amounts of business literature full of research and examples on the topic. A prime example of this can be found in Talent is Overrated by Geoff Collins. While not a perfect book by any means, Collins does a wonderful job of explaining the importance of feedback loops. The argument posits that the way humans improve at anything is to do the thing, look back on the thing and analyze it, figure out how to improve performance of the thing, then do the thing again. The retrospective helps teams to do the middle two parts of that process.

Here are some tips for running a successful sprint retrospective:

Get on a consistent cadence

Doing retrospectives too often will lead the team to resent them. Doing them not often enough will greatly reduce efficacy and result in an inability to put into action the ideas brought up in the meeting.

Prepare ahead of time

Before the meeting, encourage team members to spend a half hour thinking of what is working well, what isn’t working so well, and ways to improve. That way the team can most efficiently use everyone’s time when they come together for the retrospective.

Bite off what you can chew

Instead of trying to implement all the new ideas after every retrospective, focus on determining which ideas are the quick hitters: those that have a big impact, but are easy and quick to implement. By adding the one or two best quick hitters each week, the process will evolve at a sustainable pace. Over time, the team will likely run out of quick hitters, giving you a chance to implement the more intricate ideas. 

Are you making the most out of your teams? If you need assistance with Agile, get in touch, we'd love to help.

Topics: blog optimization process process-improvement sprint agile
3 min read

Can a Product Owner also be a ScrumMaster?

By Morgan Folsom on Apr 12, 2021 10:21:00 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Can a Product Owner also be a Scrum Master-TL;DR: No!

Can one person hold both the Product Owner (PO) and ScrumMaster(SM) role in an Agile team? It's a question that a lot of companies starting their way through their Agile transformation will ask themselves (and us!). The Scrum team has three specific roles: Product Owner, ScrumMaster, and (most importantly) the Development team. It's clear why the question of combining SM and PO comes up so often - trying to figure out where current roles fit into the new dynamic can be a challenge for an organization, especially if your teams are now smaller and you don't have enough resources to fill the role of an SM and PO for each team. 

However, combining these roles is the biggest disservice you can do for your Agile teams. It may seem like a small tweak to the model, but given the functions of the two roles, you are setting up your teams for failure. Let's start with the definitions of these two roles so we can see why that is. 

Product Owner

The focus of the Product Owner is on the Product, as you might have guessed by now.  According to ScrumAlliance.org, "The Product Owner defines the what--as in what the product will look like and what features it should contain." The PO is responsible for maintaining the product backlog, and are responsible for communicating with stakeholders internally and externally to identify what the development team is working on. In their day-to-day, they are responsible for creating and prioritizing backlog items and communicating with the team expectations and acceptance of complete work items. 

ScrumMaster

The focus of the ScrumMaster is the team. "The ScrumMaster helps the Scrum Team perform at their highest level. They also protect the team from both internal and external distractions. ScrumMasters hold the Scrum Team accountable to their working agreements, Scrum values, and to the Scrum framework itself", as defined by ScrumAlliance.org. Where the PO is focused on What, the SM is focused on Who and How.  Arguably, the most important part of this definition is the emphasis on protecting the team. Internal distractions often come in the form of scope creep – new scope being introduced once work has already been committed to. In Scrum this often looks like new stories or bugs being introduced in the middle of a Sprint, and the job of the SM is to prevent this from happening as much as possible.

While I'm sure that we all know that some scope creep is inevitable (unless perhaps you're inhabiting the perfect utopia of business environments, in which case, I'll keep an eye out for my invite), but it can get out of hand quickly if there is no one on the team who is able to push back against the business. 

Okay, so why can't they be the same person?

By definition, the role of the ScrumMaster is to protect the team from the Product Owner (and the stakeholders that they are representing). Blurring the lines between these two roles mean that there is no one to push back when scope is added last minute, or ensure that the team is sticking to Scrum best practices, despite heavy workloads.

The most common outcomes that we see when these two roles are combined are:

  1. Tons of scope creep. Just, loads of it. All over the place.
  2. Sprint commitments are consistently not met because the team is being asked to do more work than they've agreed they are able to. 
  3. Product Owners assign out work to the team , as they are now "Managing" the team. 
  4. Buggier products –  after all, if I'm a developer trying to get through more work than I've acknowledged I can do, quality is inevitably going to suffer

Overall, not great!!

So what should I do then?

In a perfect world, you should have a single ScrumMaster per team, and Product Owner per product. This means that Product Owners can span multiple teams, if the teams are working from the same product backlog, but ScrumMasters are dedicated to a single team. If you don't have enough resources to commit to this model, in the short term, a ScrumMaster could potentially span more than one agile team - but I would say no more than 2 - after all, one person can only attend so many Scrum ceremonies while also being available to unblock their teams. 

However, the long term success of your Agile transformation means that it's time to start planning to fill those roles. Combining these roles will almost certainly decrease the effectiveness of your move to agile, as your teams are left unprotected and (likely) overworked. 

Looking for more information on Scrum best practices? Check out Sprint Planning - How long should sprints be? or Agile Batch Size: An Ode to Laundry

Topics: blog process scrum workflows project-management agile
3 min read

Should scrum teams track their time?

By Amanda Babb on Feb 5, 2021 8:03:49 AM

Blogpost-display-image_Should scrum teams track their time-"How many hours are in a Story Point? Pink. Because penguins don't like ice cream." -Amanda Babb in every conversation about hours and story points. 

While I use this example as a cheeky way to say the two methods of estimation (hours and story points) don't coincide, the reality, of course, is much more complex. Business and product teams typically think in terms of dates and schedules. Development and operations teams typically think in terms of level of effort. That's not to say story points and dates do not nor will ever coincide, it's a matter of how to speak each other's language. 

What is a Story Point?

Our Dragon of the West, Christopher Pepe, explained it well in a previous post. Humans are terrible at numbers. That's why we have so many ways to express things without using numbers. For example, I have Big Dog (Leonard) and Tiny Dog (Howard). Tiny is small in comparison to Big Dog. However, at 50 pounds, he's not small compared to, say, a Chihuahua. This is what we call relative estimation in the agile world. This thing is larger or more complex than the other thing over there: it will take a larger level of effort to complete. 

Computers, on the other hand, are wonderful at numbers. It's part of the reason we invented them. In Jira Software, a story point is simply the numerical expression of a relative estimate. When we need to understand the level of effort of more than one thing, we aggregate the relative estimate into a total level of effort. This is known as the commit in a velocity chart. As we complete work, we burn down the level of effort until we understand what's left. At the end of a sprint, we determine whether we met our commit or not. The completion of the work over several sprints determines our velocity. From there, we can reasonably predict the level of effort we can complete during a sprint. 

Why can't a team estimate in hours? 

It's not a matter of can't. At Praecipio Consulting, we've seen many teams succeed well in estimating their level of effort in hours. However, this involved a significant effort to run time studies on routine tasks for the team. In a time study, an outside party will watch a person do a task and time it. Then watch them do it again...and again...and again. Then, the outside party watches another person perform the same task several times. The outside observer will continue with this until they feel they have sufficient data to make a reasonable assumption (read: average) of the time it takes to complete said task. Rinse and repeat for all tasks all personnel complete in a day and through out the week. 

Estimating in hours works well in repetitive work environments. The same tasks must be completed the same (or similarly enough) throughout the day and week. However, when we're thinking about software development, we all know this is rarely the case. What may seem like a simple feature request can become a significant effort when looking at how the new feature interacts with the rest of the services, modules, or products. Yes, we've done something similar before and it took four hours. But what has changed since the last time we implemented something similar? What else have we deployed? Did we change our methods? Are we integrating this with another system? Have the APIs been updated or changed? How many releases have been performed since the last time we did this? 

The shoulds and shouldn'ts of tracking time in Scrum

Why are teams being asked to track time when they estimate and understand level of effort in story points? In a word, Money. Under complex financial and regulatory practices, most businesses report quarterly earnings to regulatory bodies and markets. The best way a business has to gather and report this information is through complex financial systems that aggregate data from inputs across the organization. One of the more critical inputs? Time tracking. So how should we and shouldn't we track time in a scrum team? 

  • You should establish the minimum time guideline such as 15-minute or 30-minute increments
  • You should not expect accuracy down to the minute for a given task
  • You should expect the team(s) to continue to estimate their level of effort in story points
  • You should not make the team switch to hours to estimate their level of effort
  • You should centralize where the team should track time
  • You should not expect the user to log in to multiple tools to track time
  • You should download our Lean Budgets White Paper which details different ways of managing the data and provides a solution in Jira Align
  • You should not expect to implement a fundamental change in financial tracking and reporting across your organization without help

At Praecipio Consulting, we have implemented several solutions to this problem across industries and with all sizes of organizations. For help regarding how your teams can balance time tracking, scrum, and financial reporting, feel free to reach out to us! 

Topics: blog plan process scrum lean-budgets agile
2 min read

How Jira and Quickbooks Work Together To Streamline Financial Processes

By Ashley Halleck on Jul 15, 2020 12:49:41 PM

2020 Blogposts_Pros & Cons of WFH copy

Before I joined Praecipio Consulting, my background was in financial services, so I had never heard of the Atlassian suite of software before. My work-life consisted of strictly Excel, email, and a Bloomberg terminal. Needless to say, I was a bit confused during my first week as to how Atlassian’s software (in particular, Jira) would work with my new role in accounting. The more I learned about Atlassian’s software, the more I asked myself, “How does process management software geared towards developers apply to a financial controller?”

It’s safe to say that my early assumptions about Jira couldn’t have been more incorrect. I can seamlessly link every transaction to ongoing projects, open accounting issues, and everything under the sun that exists in Quickbooks (our system of record). I can’t tell you how much easier it is to simply reference a Jira ticket in a Quickbooks transaction instead of having to go through the arduous process of saving everything to Quickbooks. As a result, I am now as dependent on Jira as I am on Quickbooks!

How it works

Here at Praecipio Consulting, we created an Accounting project in Jira Service Management, which is where we prioritize all invoicing and client correspondence. Once we create the ticket, it is assigned to the appropriate resource, and then all correspondence with the client or internal employees is attached to that issue, either through comments or cc'ing the ticket when sending an email. We use issue types like Accounting Submission, Generate Invoice, Billing Question, or Task. Each of these issues has unique fields and unique workflows that ensure it ties directly to an entry in Quickbooks and follows the necessary steps for entry.

In addition to using Jira Service Desk for invoicing and client correspondence, we integrated Salesforce and Jira to automatically create leads for licensing and projects alike. The workflows are specific to the opportunity type and auto-create the appropriate subtasks for accounting and sales. These issues are automatically assigned to the appropriate resource as you move each lead through its workflow. We reference each issue in Jira to the appropriate bill or invoice in Quickbooks, creating traceability for each opportunity. This integration ensures that we don't overlook any step in the process, from the closing of a sale to sending the final invoice.

Lastly, we use Tempo Budgets to perform billing closures on all of our projects. Budgets provides a perfect snapshot of the management of our planned vs. actual profit margin, revenue, and costs. This allows us to see which projects were over or under budget and ensures everything was billed accurately per each statement of work. 

To say the least, I do not know how I would do my job without Jira, Jira Service Management, the Tempo suite of products. These tools aren't just solutions for developers; team members within any business unit can use them to improve their processes.

As we start the second half of the year, there is no better time than now to evaluate how you can automate tasks and streamline your accounting processes. Connecting Quickbooks to Jira could just be the solution that you never knew you needed!

Topics: jira blog accounting automation finance process tips tempo quickbooks
3 min read

Agile Coach vs Agile Consultant: The Difference

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 9, 2019 12:17:00 PM

Agile has become quite the buzz word within the software development community. Some of the most successful software companies are known for how Agile they are and how often they can release code in production. However, before becoming Agile in software development, these companies first embraced and implemented the Agile framework across the entire organization–not just with the technology team, but with HR, Finance, Biz Dev, Legal, etc. And this isn't something that they accomplished overnight. 

Becoming an Agile organization, which can take a minimum of six months to achieve, involves undergoing a massive organizational transformation – redesigning everything, from strategy, processes, teams, governance, and work culture. This is why many companies decide to hire experts when they are implementing this methodology. Not only is it an enormous undertaking, but being Agile is instrumental for the future success, sustainable growth, and continuous improvement of an organization in an increasingly complex marketplace. 

So, when you are ready to bring in the right help for successfully achieving and sustaining Agile within your organization, you may be wondering if you should hire an Agile Coach or Agile Consultant. Before understanding the differences between Agile Coaching vs. Agile Consulting, you should ask yourself:

  1. Is our organization already Agile or are we trying to be?

  2. How mature is our team?

  3. What are our pain points?

  4. At the end of this engagement, what does success look like?

Now, let's shed some light on the differences between an Agile Coach and an Agile Consultant:

Agile Coach - A Subject Matter Expert

An Agile Coach plays a similar role to the one a teacher plays in school. They studied Agile methodologies and have been trained on how to teach those methodologies to others. Agile Coaches help train all teams within an organization and manages the implementation process in order to carry out a solid transformation. The coach works closely with each team and walks them through the steps of fully embracing and adopting the Agile framework. Instead of actually doing the work for the team, Agile Coaches equip their students with proper training, education, guidance, and resources so that they can successfully implement and sustain the Agile methodology. Working with Agile Coaches is typically a longer engagement. 

Some of the most common reasons for hiring an Agile Coach are:

  1. Organization is new to Agile methodologies and needs guidance (i.e. companies undergoing Agile transformations)

  2. Scaling Agile, working across all teams or at the enterprise level

  3. Improving performance, visibility, and predictability (portfolio planning)

Agile Consultant - A Business Consultant 

An Agile Consultant, on the other hand, is a practitioner. As the word practitioner suggests, he or she puts the Agile framework into practice by using their extensive experience with Agile to navigate roadblocks and quickly resolve any problems that are preventing the organization from achieving their desired results. Unlike the Agile Coach who provides guidance, the Consultant actually does the necessary analysis and problem-solving to put your organization back on track for success before handing the reigns back over to your teams. Essentially, an Agile Consultant provides a more short-term solution.

The most common reasons for hiring an Agile Consultant are:

  1. Problem-solving: You realize the problem is beyond your teams' capabilities and you need a specialist.

  2. Your organization is not seeing the effective outcomes associated with the Agile methodology. 

  3. You want advice on what issues need to be resolved and how to quickly tackle them.

Difference Between Coach and Consultant

Now that you understand the key differences between an Agile Coach compared to an Agile Consultant, you are one step closer to hiring the right expert for your organization and even that much closer to accomplishing a sustainable Agile framework. Even though a Coach and a Consultant play different roles, they are both equally essential in promoting cultural change and overcoming the obstacles that come with successfully embracing, implementing, and practicing the Agile methodology. 

Is your organization undergoing an Agile Transformation? Learn how our approach empowers organizations to achieve a successful Agile transformation in a sustainable and scalable manner, which drives business performance and propels our clients to be disruptive, innovative leaders in their industries.

Topics: blog scaled-agile process digital-transformation agile
4 min read

DevOps ROI: Streamline Processes, Improve Outcomes

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

Investing in technology should be exactly that: an investment. Technology should accelerate your business and allow you to deliver products and services to your customers more quickly. In a word, DevOps. At Praecipio Consulting, not only do we help organizations adopt DevOps best practices, but we work in it every day with our products and even within our services organization. Investing in the right technology to drive your DevOps initiatives should net you a significant ROI, but why?

At Praecipio Consulting, here's why we believe in DevOps:

  • Deliver value faster and more efficiently
  • Deploy more frequently, fail less, and recover faster
  • Unleash the power of high performing employees

But how do you measure the ROI of that investment? Start by measuring the bottom line of your employee's impact.

You can measure the potential impact of savings and value by calculating the Cost of Downtime and Cost of Excess Rework happening in your organization. DevOps helps companies reduce waste by eliminating costly hand-offs and rework. The best way to measure this impact is to calculate these costs and establish a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that focuses on reducing these costs. First, let's look at how these two are calculated:

Cost of Excess Rework

Cost of Excess Rework = Technical staff size × Average salary × Benefits multiplier × Percentage of technical staff time spent on excess rework

At a moderately performing small- to medium-sized business with 250 engineering staff, times $105,000 average salary, times an average benefits multiplier of 1.5, times 22% of technical staff time spent on excess work equals $8.66M (cost of excess rework) *

250 * 105,000 * 1.5 * 22% = $8,662,500

Rework can come in many forms: Defects, missed requirements, unused or poorly written tests or test cases, repetitive manual actions, etc.. While there is no way to completely eliminate rework, there are ways to reduce it through the automation of processes in key points of your DevOps lifecycle. Assuming the Technical Staff size, average salary, and benefits multiplier are fixed, the reduction in the Percentage of technical staff time spent on excess rework will have the greatest impact in moving the KPI to reduce this cost. Review your current manual or repetitive processes and automate them. Even small changes can make a big impact. If we reduce the rework percentage by five percent: 

250 * 105,000 * 1.5 * 17% = $6,693,750

That's a reduction in cost of $1,968,750! 

Cost of Downtime

Cost of Downtime = Deployment frequency × Change failure rate × Mean time to recover × Hourly cost of outage

At a moderately performing organization that features 32 deploys per year, times 38% in change failure rate, times 2 hours mean time to recover, times $500,000/hr cost of the outage, equals $12.16M. (cost of downtime) *

32 * 38% * 2 * $500,000 = $12,160,000

While you instinctively know that downtime is expensive, you also know that downtime is inevitable. Instead of implementing complicated or burdensome change control processes to eliminate this risk, focus on the change failure rate. While there are other ways to reduce costs by reducing the mean-time-to-recovery, which we address here, allowing teams to continuously deploy to production-like environments automatically means a reduction in the change failure rate. As we saw above, even a small change can make a big impact. If we reduce the change failure rate by five percent: 

32 * 33% * 2 * $500,000 = $10,560.000

That's a reduction of $1,600,000!

Keep in mind, the examples above are based on a moderately performing organization. These are ‘on average’ numbers, and it is important to take the costs of your organization and apply them to these formulas. The costs will only go down as performance increases when you streamline processes and adopt DevOps.  Also, remember that every organization is different, and every organization has its own business model, but you get the idea.

Knowing these formulas will help you establish a greater cost savings and a higher value proposition to your organization and customers. You need to start looking for the right tools and training to make your technology transformation a reality.

What could your organization do by recovering this lost time and resources?

  • Allow additional brainpower to be dedicated to innovation? DevOps training, with proper implementation, will increase your organization’s productivity and create a culture of high-performing, innovative teams.
  • Purchase tools that allow for tighter integration and automation? DevOps tools, when using agile methodology, work best to track planning, building, continuous integration, deployments, operations, continuous feedback and team collaboration. Giving a better view of the Big Picture. 
  • Deploy quality products and/or services quicker, with fewer bugs? High performing DevOps teams deploy 200 times more frequently with 2,555x faster lead times.
  • And the list goes on…

Knowing how to determine the cost of downtime and excess rework are two key factors in calculating your DevOps ROI. Add this to the right tools and training and you have a formula to streamline processes and improve outcomes while saving on cost.

The Praecipio Consulting formulas:

Tools + training = process improvement

Process improvement = cost savings and increased value (goal)

Our knowledge and expertise of DevOps processes and the Atlassian Suite can help our clients operate more efficiently, at a lower cost, and with greater results. Our time-tested delivery model ensures you see measurable ROI from your Atlassian tools.

Looking to make a DevOps transformation? Contact us today.

* = 2016 DevOps Data Report

Topics: blog devops optimization process process-consulting roi consulting-services
3 min read

Three Reasons Why Developers Love Docker

By Praecipio Consulting on May 6, 2016 11:00:00 AM

A smooth running production environment is a beautiful thing. But how do we get there? And how do we ensure that all of our production, staging/test, and development environments stay in sync in order to get there? Today, it seems like everyone in software development is talking about Docker and containers. In fact, according to the 2016 State of the Cloud Survey by RightScale, Docker adoption doubled from 13% to 27% in just one year. Furthermore, 35% of the organizations surveyed reported that they have plans to adopt it soon. 

Why has Docker adoption skyrocketed and how can those using Bamboo for continuous deployment reap the benefits? Check out three reasons why developers love Docker, and how it can provide value for your dev team. 

But first... 

What are Containers?

A Docker container packages software in a complete filesystem with everything it needs to run – such as code, runtime, system tools, system libraries – guaranteeing that it'll always run the same on any environment. Docker is all about creating consistency and encouraging collaboration. It revolutionizes how we share our environments the same way Git has changed code collaboration. At its core, Docker is about utilizing the least amount of operating system resources and dependencies needed to run an application. This focus on maximizing efficiency leads to a painless, more collaborative, and seamlessly integrated environment to test and deploy applications. 

Sourcewww.docker.com

1. Test without surprises

A crucial part of the development process is testing, whether on a local machine or in a virtual dev environment. With containers, every environment is exactly the same so changes and unexpected dependencies won't interfere with testing – saving developers time and energy from tweaking problematic environments and instances. 

Running containers on your local machine using Docker Quickstart Terminal lets you test in a consistent environment.  

2. Collaborate with consistency

Unexpected dependencies are already a hassle for one developer and becomes an even bigger headache when other devs enter the picture. Unknowns in an environment are amplified with each new team member – who knows what's on their machine or which version of Java they're running? With Docker, consistency facilitates collaboration. By starting with a known configuration in a common container, devs are always on the same page about which version to use; it's right there in the container.

Share your Docker Images with a registry like Docker Hub.

Source: https://hub.docker.com/_/hello-world/

3. Integrate with Atlassian 

Atlassian, the leader in enterprise software for collaboration and issue tracking, is the perfect complement to Docker. By pairing Docker's consistency with Atlassian's integration and automation, collaboration between development and IT ops becomes seamless. Using the new Docker Hub 2.0 with Atlassian's Bamboo, source code can be automatically built and deployed to an identical development, test, or even production environment. No more requesting environments from the IT ops teams; triggers will automatically fire from your approved pull request in Bitbucket to spin up a lightweight container in your QA environment almost instantly. Without the excess back and forth, you can go from source code to a running application in minutes. 

The Docker Task in Atlassian's Bamboo let's you run, build and deploy images and containers with ease.

Docker is picking up a lot of traction today and rightly so. Docker containers provide consistency in the turbulent world of software development environments. They allow dev and operations teams to get customers the applications they need now – all while providing a consistent environment that makes working together a whole lot easier. 

To learn more about how Docker and Atlassian can help your dev team work faster and smarter, contact Praecipio Consulting.

About Brendan Kelly

Brendan is a Consultant & Solutions Specialist at Praecipio Consulting where he enables the sales team through technical discovery, training and product demos. When Brendan isn't delivering best-in-class business technology solutions, he can be found in the Austin Green Belt hiking and bouldering. 

Topics: atlassian blog automation continuous-delivery bamboo docker optimization process standardize testing continuous-integration deployment development environment integration cicd
7 min read

Seen It, Solved It: Jira Service Desk for ITIL

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

Growth Through Change 

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

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

Automation

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

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

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

Visibility

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

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

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

Knowledge Base

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

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

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

Change Management and Evaluation

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

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

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

Continuous Improvement

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

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

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

ITIL for One, and ITIL for All 

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

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

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

All-Star Incident Management: How to Be Like Mike

By Praecipio Consulting on Mar 21, 2016 11:00:00 AM

The best teams sync with each other. Think of the intangible magic conjured by the Championship-sweeping Chicago Bulls of the 90's, helmed by Michael Jordan. They ran their offense to perfection, playing to the strengths of each team member and executing each step in perfect rhythm to put points on the board. Any member of those teams will tell you their success came not only from having high-performing people but from working together within an established offense, or process. Because they bought in and trusted the process, each team member knew his responsibility at all times. The team ran time-tested methodologies for getting the win, adjusting as needed after analyzing the other team's strategy. Basketball is all about strategy, process, and teamwork.


Now think of that team that loses to the Bulls- that loses to everyone. The team that's always scrambling after a broken play, unsure of how to set up their offense or what to do after a missed basket. They spend the entire game – and all their focus and energy – trying to just keep up. These are the teams that don't trust in their process, usually because it hasn't worked in the past or they haven't learned how to work with each other. It's hard for each player to handle his responsibilities because he feels like he has to win the game by himself instead of together with his teammates. It's not a good way to win games, and it's certainly not a good way to structure your IT team.

As Atlassian Platinum Enterprise partners and experts in all things process, we've got your playbook for all-star incident management:

Top 3 Tips for Championship ITSM

      1. Track your failures for greater success.

Basketball teams use stats to identify strengths and root out weaknesses. Tracking areas for improvement is key. When agents solve issues in silos they can't tell when an issue reoccurs or causes other issues, indicating a root cause that should be investigated. Ability to link issues is paramount to give your problem-solvers visibility into what keeps going wrong and, ultimately, what should be changed to keep it from happening again. 

2. Success loves preparation.

The 90's Bulls probably lost count of how many times they ran the same plays during practice. The better we prepare, the more successful we are. In the IT world, reporting, documentation, analytics, and other functionalities of our ITSM tool of choice make it easier to prepare well. When we're able to forecast issues based on prior knowledge, we're prepared for what's ahead. Data like a team's sprint velocity or average resource allocation per type of project inform planning for all foreseeable project outcomes.

3. Establish repeatable processes.

Michael Jordan is one of the most successful athletes in history because he was the first one in the gym and the last one out. He was always running drills and perfecting his shot, establishing repeatable processes that became muscle memory. Applying this concept to your organization allows your team to handle day to day operations with relative ease - each agent knows what to do, and they trust in the established process. This is a key to effective incident management and it allows you to focus on improving and advancing solutions rather than fighting fires.

Seen It, Solved It: Major U.S. Insurance Provider

Ready to see these plays in action? Here's how these 3 tips helped our client do better work, faster.

THE PROBLEM

Issues are like potato chips: you never have just one. In a business, any single issue that arises is usually experienced by multiple end-users and often starts a domino effect that causes more related issues. Without the ability to see across all these related issues, each agent responding to an individual issue only sees just that, failing to see the forest for the trees and moving on with an issue fix that doesn't address the root cause.

A major U.S. insurance provider came to us with concerns about their incident management. They already knew that their processes were poorly designed and not well adhered to, but they needed help figuring out how to improve them. In particular, incidents were not well documented or properly managed, putting them at risk for violating regulatory compliances. The client's struggles included:

  • ITSM Processes with No Buy-In (Too complex, too outdated, or too redundant)
  • Lack of Integration Across Tools (Lots of time wasted in context switching, Inability to analyze across platforms)
  • No SLAs or Metrics to Gauge Effectiveness

In short: They were focusing all their time and resources trying to just keep up, but could never get ahead in the game.

THE GAME CHANGER

Enter Coach Praecipio Consulting and Jira Service Desk to deliver a slam dunk incident management solution.

 
New Process Playbook

Because our client had different tools for managing incidents, their lack of visibility across platforms led to slow speed to market with fixes. Jira Service Desk not only solves this issue, but also supports best practices for incident management. By standardizing automated workflows and establishing lean processes, our client is no longer burdened by redundancies and can gather meaningful metrics across incidents.

 
Pass to other Players, er... Tools

In order to deflect the amount of incoming tickets, Jira Service Desk integrates with Confluence to provide a self-serve knowledge base. By leveraging this integration, our client gets back time and resources, no longer tied up on tickets to which an answer already exists. Leveraging machine-learning, the Confluence knowledge base identifies frequently searched topics and strengthens its query language to provide the best answers to questions around incidents. 

 
Set the Shot Clock

As an insurance provider, our client needed to ensure that they stayed within regulatory compliance with vendors and customers alike. Configuring SLAs in Jira Service Desk allows for the client to start the timer the minute a ticket is assigned, tracking time to resolution and producing reports to identify SLAs in danger of being breached. By doing this, the client gains visibility into incident management and can use metrics against goals for continuous improvement. 

Be Like Mike

Like the Bulls' 1-2 punch of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the tandem of Jira Service Desk and experience-driven process expertise gives our clients a heightened ability to execute ITSM best practices and keep their teams in a cycle of continual improvement. Maximizing your processes makes your day-to-day work simpler, allows you to focus on higher level objectives for better business, and helps you get numbers on the board (with dollar signs in front!). 

Practice makes perfect- it also makes money. Michael Jordan and his teammates knew it, and the best IT teams in the world know it. Take your team's performance to championship levels with the right processes and the right tools- and, if you need help, think of Praecipio Consulting as your coach with a lot of championship experience. 

 

About Sam Besozzi

Sam is a Consultant at Praecipio Consulting where he delivers expert solutions to our top clients. He has an extensive background in process improvement and design and draws heavily from Six Sigma, Lean, and other efficiency-focused models. As a new Austin, TX transplant (originally from Ohio), Sam enjoys exploring his new hometown, hiking, and searching for the perfect taco.

Topics: atlassian case-studies blog analysis best-practices business experts implementation process process-consulting technology workflows support configuration consulting-services itil itsm jira-service-desk request
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
5 min read

Collaboration Best Practices - 3 Reasons Why Email Hurts Your Productivity

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

The following content was taken from Atlassian.com:

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

Email is great for communication, but not collaboration…

 

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

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

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

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

1. Your email inbox is a lot like quicksand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pro-Tip: Practice Timeboxing to increase personal productivity

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

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

Is there a solution?

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

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

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

Praecipio Consulting - Atlassian Enterprise Expert

By Praecipio Consulting on Nov 15, 2012 11:00:00 AM

Along with Atlassian’s new offering of Enterprise level Jira and Confluence comes the Atlassian Enterprise Expert Certification. It’s designed to help Enterprise level clients find Atlassian Experts best suited to provide solutions to enterprise level problems. It’s hard to believe that it has been 6 years since our first enterprise deployment, and we are honored to announce that we are officially, Atlassian Enterprise Expert Certified!  

As an Atlassian Enterprise Expert, we have expert-level knowledge and success in the following:

  • Configuration,  analysis, development, and integration of large scale Atlassian installations
  • Diverse product experience with the entire Atlassian product suite
  • Hybrid tool chain experience with both Atlassian and non-Atlassian tools and their integration
  • Git, Mercurial and Subversion

Over the last 6 years, Praecipio Consulting has provided Expert Services to small, 5 person companies to large fortune 100 and 500 companies across several industries including the automotive, pharmaceutical, aerospace engineering, retail, gaming, and financial sectors. 

Topics: jira atlassian blog austin central business confluence efficiency management process technology texas value continuous-improvement information operations

Jira 5.2 Sneak Peek

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

The Atlassian team has been working hard, and to prove it here is a sneak peek of Jira 5.2, soon to debut. With Jira 5.2, it’s easy to add, remove and swap workflows to find the perfect set for your project. Check it out:

 

 

Learn more and let Atlassian know what you think at here.

Topics: jira atlassian blog business process product-services technology information it
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

Jira: Not Just for Software Development

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

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

Use Cases

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

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

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

General and Non-Software Uses

Agile Software Development

Project Management

HelpDesk / Support / Trouble Ticketing

Test Case Management

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

Requirements Management

Change Management

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

7 Ways Social Enterprise Apps Are More Than Just Talk

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

by Ashley Furness

CRM Market Analyst, Software Advice
June 27, 2012

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

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

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

1. Streamline Project Management

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

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

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

2. Augment Transparency and Accountability

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

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

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

3. Increase Communications Efficiency

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

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

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

4. Find Experts Faster

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

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

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

5. Better Leverage Information and Insights

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

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

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

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

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

6. Generate More, Better Ideas

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

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

7. Boost Employee Recognition and Engagement

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SSH Support

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

 

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

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

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


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

Standard Git error message when a repository does not exist

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

Stash Git error message when a repository does not exist

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

Fast-er Browsing

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

Diff Power

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

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

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

Recent Repositories

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

 

Mouse-less Productivity

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

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

 

Simple-r Permissions

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

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

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

Meet Stash 1.1 – 25% off for 12 more days

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

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

 
                

Questions & Feedback

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

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

The Democratization of Process: BPM + Cloud

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 3, 2011 11:00:00 AM

We were reminded of Phil Gilbert’s 2010 keynote, “The Democratization of Process,” earlier today while fine-tuning an integration of business process management (BPM) methodology and cloud technology. If you’re pondering the clash of governance vs crowd-sourced content, Gilbert’s keynote (below) offers some helpful perspective.

 

 

 

BPM 2010 Keynote: Phil Gilbert – The Next Decade of BPM from Michael zur Muehlenon Vimeo.

Topics: blog bpm business management process technology cloud methodology
4 min read

Easy Release Management | Bamboo 3.2

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 28, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Bamboo 3.2 Now Available

Automate your complete release process down to one-click, add manual Stages to your deployment process, and re-run failed Stages with the newest version of Atlassian’s continuous integration server, Bamboo 3.2.

What’s New in Bamboo 3.2

1. Release Management
The dream scenario with any release process is to automate all of your release activities down to the click of a single button. Bamboo 3.2 and the new Release Management plugin for the Jira bug tracker aims to do just that – one-click release management.

  • Prevent mistakes from being made as part of a long, manual release process
  • Remove the barrier to release
  • Speed up the release – the more often you do it, the faster you will make it
  • Manage all your releases from a centralized and controlled location
  • Use the same streamlined, automated process every time you release

Release in Jira, build in Bamboo! Create a release pipeline in Bamboo to automate your release process: use Stages, Jobs and Tasks to build, run tests, generate release artifacts, publish and deploy your release. Then initiate your release activity or event with one-click directly from Jira when you’re ready.

Run a release build in Bamboo from the Jira Versions tab without leaving Jira. 

When releasing a version in Jira you will have the option to run Bamboo builds.

If the build is successful the version will be released in Jira.

Automate the steps that traditionally are performed to release an application:

  • Building and testing
  • Tag the releases, assign a version
  • Create and populate the release branch
  • Deploy the release to a a deployment server or production environment
  • Release the new version in Jira, move the unresolved issues to the next release
  • Release or activate the new version in Production

Bamboo ships with a number of Tasks to build and deploy including Tasks to tag or branch a repository.

For Jira-Bamboo users the latest release of the Bamboo-Jira plugin is now compatible with Jira 4.3 and provides this release management functionality.

2. Manual Stages
Manual Stages allow you to interrupt/halt/suspend automatic build execution at a specific Stage in the build plan. For Plan execution to continue a user must manually trigger the Stage.

  • The default behavior of any Build Plan in Bamboo is to go to the next Stage upon successful completion of the current stage. Depending on your needs you may need to introduce a manual checkpoint into your build plan before going on to the next Stage:
  • Use a manual stage for deployment to give your QA team a chance to perform a few manual tests before your software goes into production
  • In a release pipeline, you may want to separate your ‘publish’ step from your ‘install’ step and install only after backups or clean shutdowns have been confirmed
  • Introduce a ‘quality’ gate, between build and deploy stages, to allow members of your team to approve and promote a particular build
  • Any other step that’s difficult to automate or that requires special attention

 

 

3. Re-run Failed Stages
It’s not always the code that is broken. Infrastructure problems and other issues can cause a Job, and therefore the Plan, to fail. In these scenarios Bamboo can re-run failed Jobs without having to re-run the entire Plan once you’ve resolved the problems. This can save heaps of time and build resources.

 

4. Filter Bamboo Dashboard by Labels
Bamboo now allows you to label your build Plans. The Bamboo Dashboard can be filtered to only show plans with labels that you are interested in. Filter out the noise on your Bamboo Dashboard.

Hint: When viewing a Plan use the keyboard shortcut “l” to bring up the label dialog for the Plan. When viewing the Bamboo Dashboard press “l” to filter the dashboard by label.

And More…

  • Improved Jira integration – delegate user management to Jira, easier application linking
  • EC2 improvements

This release has over 50 new features and improvements implemented. Check out the full release notes for more details.

Also make sure to check out the new agile testing tool for Jira, Atlassian Bonfire.

Ready to download?

Download Bamboo 3.2 now to get started with a 30-day FREE trial or upgrade your current instance.

Topics: jira atlassian blog automation bamboo confluence dashboard management plan process release software deployment environment integration marketplace-apps
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

Less Waste, Less Frustration

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 2, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Another “what we do in a nutshell.” We love this stuff.

 

Topics: praecipio-consulting blog bpm business efficiency management process reduce waste
1 min read

The "Business Stuff" Behind the Innovation

By Praecipio Consulting on May 3, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Great ideas sell, even without the fortification of brand or tangibility. If an idea’s well-built, well-defined, and in-demand, sales are almost guaranteed with a little marketing.

At SXSW in March we saw lots of great ideas – ideas that practically sold themselves. We spoke with some start-up app companies that had over 100,000 downloads in their first month. Another was growing so fast they were figuring out how to hire 50 people in their third month of operations. In these dream scenarios, it’s hard to imagine what more you need to succeed. With a 1500% growth rate, what’s to worry about?

But even lottery winners must face reality at some point. In this case, every business is still a business. No matter what you’re selling, you’ve got books. Records. Processes. If you’re going to succeed, you’ve got to have that stuff organized. The more dynamic and exciting your product is, the more sales you’ll make short-term. The more efficient and consistent you are, the more money you’ll make long-term. While developing efficiency and consistency is generally not as fun as product development and demos, it’s what fortifies the innovation you’re selling.

That’s the bigger picture of what we do. On the surface it looks like IT development strategy integration reliability blah blah blah, but really, it's enabling great ideas to stick around long-term. And that's not to strip those words of their meanings. Strategy, for example, determines the direction and scope of every business process that goes in and out the door. Integration determines if two of the systems you work with daily will actually talk to one another. And if things aren't reliable then you might as well go home and make toast, because your operations are metaphorical toast. We make great ideas into outstanding businesses. That’s what counts!

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency process reliability sxsw development integration it

Day Two, SXSWi Trade Show: Free Water Bottles!

By Praecipio Consulting on Mar 15, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Day two’s off to a great start. Our Jira toaster‘s been hot all morning. We’ve enjoyed talking to the innovative companies attending SXSWi. There are a lot of great ideas here, all of which need to be fortified by good business processes and solid technology.

Topics: jira atlassian news blog process sxsw
1 min read

10 Hotspots for Process-Generated Waste: (02) Over/Under-Communicating

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

This is the second installment of a 10-week series. Each Thursday we (a) pinpoint a hotspot, (b) offer context and possible solutions, and (c) ask for answers from the crowd. So, enjoy – and contribute!

There are indeed many ways to miscommunicate. Today’s hotspot is centered around over and under-communication within organizations, located in the business’ main information artery: email.

Over-communication. You all know that person: the one who compulsively “replies all” for the sake of nerve-twitching clarity. Or the companies who send five or 10 or 20 mass emails per day to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Truth is, over-communication puts everyone on too many pages, and can generate a remarkable amount of waste.

It takes time to look at an email. It takes a little more time to measure its relevance to you and determine a course of action in response (reply, archive, delete, etc). A flooded inbox bogs down productivity by generating time waste – so if a message is even marginally irrelevant to someone, it’s probably worth considering whether they should receive it.

Perhaps the biggest problem with over-communication, though, is that it can involve more people in an issue than necessary. Problems are solved most easily when only a few people are working together to fix them – so if a bunch of folks are roped in, the solving process can become complicated. Only pull necessary people into a conversation. A key part of this is having clearly-defined roles within your organization, as well as exact pathsproblems should take as they escalate – or a well-designed, automated issue tracking system.

Under-communication. Here’s the flip-side: an organization that lacks communication paths and therefore communication in general. If employees don’t have clearly-defined roles, methodical issue escalation, or a general perspective of how communication should occur within their organization, problems pop up.

These problems stem from missed details and a lack of clarity, and often generate problems in work production that have to be fixed later (waste). While it’s important not to over-communicate, under-communicating can provoke just as many problems.

YOUR STORIES: When have you seen over- or under-communication in your organization? What problems did it cause, and how were they fixed? Comment below or tweet @praecipio.

Topics: blog bpm business management problem process tips tricks
1 min read

10 Hotspots for Process-Generated Waste: (01) Not Confronting Problems

By Praecipio Consulting on Feb 17, 2011 11:00:00 AM

This is the first installment of a 10-week series. Each Thursday we’ll (a) pinpoint a hotspot, (b) offer context and possible solutions, and (c) ask for answers from the crowd. So, enjoy – and contribute!

This one’s easy. Problems that aren’t confronted aren’t fixed. But you’d be surprised how often problems actually go unfixed.

Why? In general, it takes time to fix things. In many instances where this is the case, people recognize there’s a problem but are too busy to devote time to fixing it and prioritize other tasks.

The problem festers. Problems that are noticed have impacted productivity and well-being negatively to some extent, or else they wouldn’t be problems – i.e. employee time (and therefore money) is being wasted. On a small scale – say, in a group of five people – this could cost the company a hundred bucks a month. On a large scale, the loss could fly off the chart. In the larger scenario, we’re talking about a problem that could just be a minor inconvenience for a handful of folks becoming a budget boon for Finance, which will presumably have no knowledge of a problem.

It’s cheaper to fix problems when they come up – even if they take hours to get right.

YOUR STORIES: When have you seen this in your organization? How (and when) did you end up fixing it? Comment below or tweet @praecipio.

Topics: praecipio-consulting blog bpm business finance management problem process tips tricks waste
1 min read

We [Also] Offer SharePoint, Custom Development Services

By Praecipio Consulting on Feb 8, 2011 11:00:00 AM

We do SharePoint. So do other companies. We develop custom software and web parts. So do other companies. If you walk outside, you may hear to the cacophony emitting from the rooftops: “Need SharePoint? Custom this? Custom that? Talk to us. Talk to US. TALK TO US!”

We participate in this because we have to. That’s how messages get heard. And now for a cliché marketing statement: we’re different from our competitors. But get past the cliché and consider our competitive advantage:

As a small firm, we’re able to execute our projects with more care and intentionality than most large firms. You’ll be acquainted with most of our team, including our Founder, throughout the course of the project effort – which creates a better sense of commitment and accountability in our relationship with you. Our small team has broad capabilities: whether you need SharePoint hosting, ITIL consulting, custom development, process improvement, …you’ll be working with the same group of people.

As social entrepreneurs, we leverage a unique type of capital in business. Market capitalism is built on such tangibles as land, labor, and financial capital, while social capitalism is built on creative, intellectual, and social capital – and a strong sense of community and involvement in the surrounding community. We strive to be engaged in what’s going on around us, using our resources to respond to the needs of our customers, community, and industry. As both businesses and individuals, we’re responsible for the collective well-being of our communities.

Praecipio Consulting is improving the community by enabling businesses to reduce their process-generated waste – making our environment more sustainable while reducing our clients’ costs. With competitive pricing, diverse capabilities, and a commitment to our services that isn’t based on numbers alone, we offer an experience that’s literally different than what you’ll find out there.

So, need SharePoint? Need custom development? Talk to us. We [also] want to help you.

Topics: praecipio-consulting blog bpm business management process sharepoint waste consulting-services continuous-improvement development itil bespoke
1 min read

The Key to Profitability: Reduce Process-Generated Waste

By Praecipio Consulting on Jan 18, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Businesses run off process. They succeed with good process; they flop with bad process. Process is everything. Process is what renders a company efficient, maintainable, or a huge godawful mess.

We’ve said before that the profit’s in the process. It’s true. As a company you may sell the coolest product in the world, with sales topping 1 million per day, and flop due to poorly-built internal processes.

The fact is, processes can generate expensive waste within an organization – waste more costly than what most of us consider our greatest expenses (hardware, space, etc). Take this for example – and note that this is stripped down intentionally and doesn’t account for much of what’s taken into account when improving process. If one process isn’t well-defined, and causes 50 employees to spend 1 hour completing a processes that could take 1 minute, that’s 50 employees x 59 min x (average employee salary ÷ 2080 hrs/yr). Assuming the salary divides to $20/hr, that’s nearly $1,000.00 of waste every time the process is performed. If the process happens daily, that’s 246 days x $1,000.00 ($246,000.00) of waste annually from just one business process. You get the idea.

The key to profitability isn’t just sales or reputation. It’s sustainability inside your business doors – the ability to provide long-term economic well-being to your company. That’s why a part of our mission is to “leverage technology to help businesses do more with less – promoting sustainability by reducing process-generated waste.” It’s the same idea as reduce, reuse, recycle – instead of reducing physical waste to promote a more sustainable environment, reducing process-generated waste (time, money, misc business resources) promotes a more lean, efficient, sustainable business environment.

To summarize: Businesses are made up of thousands of processes. Each process is intimately linked with other processes. If one process is completely inefficient, it impacts other processes negatively – and the costs of inefficiency add up in a sort of domino effect that can be invisible to the business. Ideally, every process should be predictable and repeatable, doing the most with as little resources (time, money, people) as possible. Technology is often how that’s executed successfully – and the more business processes a technology supports, the more valuable it is.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency management process reduce sustainability waste company
3 min read

Don't Let Your Software Dictate Its Own Life

By Praecipio Consulting on Jan 11, 2011 11:00:00 AM

It’s natural for us to neglect maintenance. It works like this:

  • You have a problem that needs to be fixed.
  • You neglect the need for awhile because it’s not “bad enough” for you to spend money on it.
  • The problem worsens; the need intensifies. Extra work is done to keep things running.
  • The need is prioritized. But the solution is too expensive.
  • The problem worsens even more. Tons of extra work is done to keep things running.
  • The money spent on temporary solutions nears the total cost of a solution.
  • You purchase a solution to the problem.

Now, after all that trouble, money, and wasted time, the last thing we want to do when we procure a solution is devote work to maintaining it. It’s true with any solution. When you buy a new car, you don’t want to deal with changing brake pads during your first month of ownership. When you fix a problem, you are physically and emotionally pre-disposed to exalt the solution as ultimate redemption and not think about the problem. The problem is fixed. There are no more problems.

But you can’t do this with software, even though every ounce of yourself inclines you to. Even if your business spends $1 million implementing a new do-it-all software solution. No matter how much you paid, the cost doesn’t mean your maintenance / future planning responsibilities don’t have to exist. If you don’t actively ensure your software is:

  • integrating effectively with your business processes,
  • integrating effectively with other software / systems,
  • adapting to future needs,
  • responsibly maintained,
  • used properly by employees,
  • compliant with industry trends and best practices,
  • and kept cost-effective,

…you effectively (and unintentionally) make your software fail. Indeed, in most cases, new software that becomes obsolete to the business within a year of its implementation is often the result of:

  • Misuse / lack of proper training. Employees who lack a knowledge of what the software can do, how it works, and how it improves their work, they won’t be able to see the advantage of using it – and more importantly, they won’t be able to use it right. Document management software, for example, can quickly become messy and disorganized if employees don’t understand how it’s supposed to be used. That’s a major setback to progress – and could create a problem worse than the original one.
  • Poor adoption rates / internal advocacy. Closely relating to misuse, if the solution isn’t “marketed” internally, employee buy-in could flounder. Preparing employees for a solution is a key part of the implementation process. Few people love change, and businesses can’t expect employees to react well if change is spontaneously legislated from their point of view.
  • Lack of integration with business processes. If a software solution doesn’t integrate with business processes, it doesn’t improve an organization. Period. And the more business processes it integrates with, the more valuable it becomes. Great software improves process, and improved process makes the business more profitable by trimming costs.
  • Lack of integration with other software / systems. A single software rarely solves every business problem. Multiple softwares are usually leveraged for different purposes. Since business processes throughout an organization impact one another much like those of a living organism, processes are interdependent. They interact with one another across departmental lines. Process management software will therefore interact with other systems – making integration a must for success.
  • Lack of compliance with industry trends and best practices. Keeping up with software trends is crucial in this day and age. While it’s costly, it keeps your company marketable and ensures access to support services. Adopting a software that was last updated in 2002, for example, will render you irrelevant to the times, which speaks about your organization. Best practices such as ITIL are derived from industry-leading successes. They pave paths of success for others to follow. Staying on the cutting edge and doing it right are required to remain healthy and progressive. Not doing so can leave you in the dust.

Don’t let your software dictate its own life. Planning is as important the day after “go live” as it is the day before. A software that’s prepared for, well-maintained, well-integrated, and supported with forward-thinking will yield the highest long-term ROI to the business.

Topics: blog bpm business management practices process software tips tricks company compliance cost-effective itil organization
1 min read

We're Social Capitalists

By Praecipio Consulting on Oct 19, 2010 11:00:00 AM

At Praecipio Consulting, we’re proud to call ourselves social capitalists. We’re a group of socially-minded people who want to help our local and global community while making a profit – proving that businesses can accomplish their business plans and philanthropic goals from under one roof.

As social entrepreneurs, we leverage a unique type of capital in business. Market capitalism is built on such tangibles as land, labor, and financial capital, while social capitalism is built on creative, intellectual, and social capital – and a strong sense of community and involvement in the surrounding community. We strive to be engaged in what’s going on around us, using our resources to respond to the needs of our customers, community, and industry. Throughout our time in the IT and business process consulting business, we’ve been able to spend time helping others.

We believe that as both businesses and individuals, we’re responsible for the collective well-being of our communities. The choices we make impact those around us. Creating a better environment to enjoy as a community takes effort from everyone – and together, we can change the way we live for the better.

Praecipio Consulting is improving the community by enabling businesses to reduce their process-generated waste – making our environment more sustainable while reducing our clients’ costs.

Again, an important part of social capitalism is staying engaged with the community. A part of that is staying in touch with you. Follow us on FacebookTwitter, or here on our blog – or drop by our website for more. What we do today affects our tomorrow, so let’s work together to ensure a better future.

Topics: blog business process consulting-services it
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

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
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
1 min read

Introduction to SharePoint for End-Users

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

There are many browser-based business productivity apps to choose from. Some help you manage projects. Some are accounting tools. Others enable you to share and edit documents. Few applications, however, allow you to do all of the above.

Microsoft SharePoint is one of those tools. And SharePoint doesn’t only do “all of the above” – it handles anything from serving as an address book to automatically finding, logging, and articulating key performance measurements from every area of an enterprise. It’s fully customizable, and lets users build in unique operations that fit their business needs. You can make SharePoint fit you.

Think of SharePoint as a concrete foundation. While other web tools that serve one business need are like pre-built homes, SharePoint is an empty lot upon which you can build whatever is best for you. Why buy seven houses you have to adjust your needs to fit when you could buy one that’s designed to fit you? In this scenario, you can start out with the basic bedroom, bathroom, living room, and kitchen, and build out as your business grows. As your business starts offering more services and acquiring more employees, you can add on metaphorical bedrooms and garages as the needs arise. You can even build a storage shed in the backyard.

SharePoint is a foundation for business that consolidates the things that make your business run – data, documents, processes, collaboration – into one software. It puts every part of your organization on common ground. While an employee in a company’s legal department may use SharePoint to store documents, a developer in IT may use it to create workflow that automatically documents sales transactions in a custom database. The software benefits BPM, CRM, ITSM, and every other kind of “M” by saving employees time.

The take-away here is that SharePoint is a highly-scalable tool that all employees can benefit from by using it for every-day business operations. The more you invest in the software, the more you get out of it – likewise, the more a business invests in SharePoint, the more money it saves over time from using SharePoint to promote efficiency. 

Topics: blog automation bpm business how-to management process project sharepoint
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
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 Centralized Process Repository: Promoting Enterprise Efficiency

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

If you’re a large enterprise, you may be using different applications and processes to support local, national, and global initiatives. On those different levels, separate applications may be needed to manage unique sales, marketing, or IT processes.

The difference in processes, methodologies, and application tools may lead to inefficiencies in management, such as:

  1. Higher cost of managing multiple applications
  2. Lack of consistent governing structure
  3. Inconsistent or incomplete performance measurements

A typical enterprise cannot usually leverage one application for sales, marketing, and IT purposes. Using multiple applications to manage different internal and customer-related processes is in most cases necessary to ensure efficiency and quality customer service. The problem, therefore, is not that the enterprise has too many applications to manage – but that the enterprise cannot effectively manage all of them without some sort of centralized documentation of each application’s attributes and processes.

Without a central location for application-based data, data gets stored at seemingly random locations throughout the enterprise’s storage and resource structure. While process and metric information about an enterprise’s European sales resides on one server, information about their European customer support system may reside somewhere else. This stratification and distance between processes can cause a number of problems in terms of efficiency:

  • Difficult to apply Change Management to all enterprise applications
  • Difficult to access application information at any given point
  • Difficult to measure the efficiency of each application to ensure quality performance
  • Difficult to identify and diagnose problems in a timely manner
  • Difficult to understand how different business processes affect one another

This explains the need for a Centralized Process Repository. As we noted in our previous post, a Centralized Process Repository (CPR) is critical to the success of the enterprise’s process strategy. It stores the following information about each of the enterprise’s applications at the process level:

  1. Resources required (software, equipment, personnel)
  2. Cost (direct and indirect)
  3. Owners and stakeholders
  4. Applications enabled by the process
  5. Separate processes effected or supported by the process
  6. Data points that measure the process’ value to the organization
  7. Frequency of execution
  8. Details regarding how the processes is carried out

The enterprise may not be able to consolidate their applications into one larger application. They may also be unable to devote time to improving each one individually. Adopting a CPR, however, establishes a consistent framework for governing each application by consolidating all process data into one accessible location – requiring any change to a process to be documented by a governing entity. This ensures the accurate measurement of process performance, since performance data points and change updates are stored in one reliable location.

The CPR improves an enterprise’s process performance by maintaining the information needed to measure, improve, and control business processes. We emphasize this to our clients to ensure their success as an efficient enterprise. In addition, the CPR promotes an understanding of the cross-functional nature of the enterprise’s processes – encouraging cross-departmental collaboration by focusing on the relationships between internal processes, end-to-end.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency management process services tips tricks value change continuous-improvement operations
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
2 min read

4 Misconceptions of Process Automation

By Praecipio Consulting on Apr 8, 2010 11:00:00 AM

By nature, process automation involves taking away human tasks and executing them with technology. Naturally, people can be sensitive to automated processes. They may become insecure about their job if they think tasks will be taken away from them.

These sensitivities and insecurities, however, aren’t always legitimate. They can be lessened if everyone involved in adopting process automation understood its purpose and benefit to the business.

Here are 4 misconceptions of process automation:

1. Process automation will replace me with a machine.
In truth, very rarely do workflows replace an entire human position within an organization. As we also say in Workflows 101, workflows execute non-value-adding steps that don’t involve highly-complex decisions, which require human effort.

Non-value-adding steps usually include tasks like organizing, filing, labeling, etc. Value-adding steps include content generation, customer interaction, and service development.

Ideally, each person within an organization will use their skills to add value to company services, or deliver value to customers. The business needs to be productive and efficient to maintain profit, and wants to ensure that employee time is being used efficiently – toward value-adding steps.

2. Process automation will increase mistakes.
Surely a computer can’t make better decisions than a human, right?

Actually, the decisions a computer makes are determined by humans. Workflow decision criteria is developed by folks who’ve studied how the organization operates in detail and determined which business processes could be automated – in part or in whole. Any mistake a workflow makes results from a flaw in decision logic – or something the logic couldn’t account for.

To make sure workflows remain useful over time, they should be observed regularly to ensure their logic and performance are effective. Workflows usually require tweaking as processes change to maintain success.

3. Process automation can’t do this as well as I can.
Again, that’s not the point. Workflows don’t perform tasks that you could do “well” as opposed to others. They weed out tasks that can be executed electronically to make employee productivity more efficient – saving the business money.

4. The implementation of a process automation system is too expensive to consider.
Yes, the implementation may be expensive – and may require you to purchase a software platform that can facilitate workflow technology.

But the worry here isn’t about the up-front cost. It’s about the ROI. The goal of process automation is to save a business time and money as months go by. A successful workflow implementation can make profit soar over time due to the time and energy saved by workflows.

We hope this gives you a clear take on what process automation means for business. Take a look at Workflows 101 more information.

Topics: blog automation bpm business management process process-consulting tips tricks value continuous-improvement operations
2 min read

5 ITIL Change Management Tips

By Praecipio Consulting on Mar 19, 2010 11:00:00 AM

In order to remain competitive, a firm’s IT environment must be aligned with the firm’s business strategy – meaning IT should share responsibility in delivering value to the customer.

This is why Change Management is so important: changes to the IT environment must not disrupt the value delivered to the customer. IT must maintain stability even during change. ITIL’s Change Management methodology provides a clear framework (with defined roles, responsibilities, and processes) that can facilitate success.

Change Management should be considered a major undertaking. Determining where your firm stands in terms of ITIL maturity and developing a realistic project plan will improve your ITIL effectiveness.

Here are 5 Change Management tips to consider:

1. What’s a change, exactly?
Reality check: changes happen all the time. Nearly everything in IT involves some sort of frequent change. That being said, it’s important to figure out just what you consider to be a change. You can then determine when to apply ITIL Change Management principles.

Every change (even small installations and deletions) should be handled in terms of Change Management. The smallest of changes could cause major disruptions if no one knows about them.

2. What, specifically, will Change Management accomplish for my organization?
It’s no surprise that some firms have trouble defining ITIL in general. Since ITIL methodology isn’t something you can learn on a coffee break, most IT and non-IT folks alike don’t have the time to study ITIL for days.

Even if someone understands ITIL, they may not understand how it applies to efficiency. Someone might think implementing Change Management will fix issues related to Release or Incident Management. Pinpointing what Change Management will accomplish for your organization is therefore vital to understanding what it’s actually doing – managing the oversight and approval aspects of the change process in a unique organization-specific environment.

3. Articulate the benefits of Change Management to each level of the organization.
This goes right along with our last tip. Once you pinpoint the applicative benefits Change Management will have for your organization, advertise them. Getting buy-in at every level of the organization is critical to the success of your ITIL implementation.

There are multiple stakeholder groups within every organization – that is, folks personally and organizationally affected by the change. They’ll want to know “what’s in it for me?” in order to judge whether they’re on board with the change. Presenting accurate change information tailored for each stakeholder fosters better accountability from stakeholder groups – and improves buy-in.

4. Don’t Buy a Tool Until You’ve Determined What You Need.
While it may make sense to buy software to guide your Change Management implementation, doing so before laying out your process framework is counter-productive.

A more productive approach includes determining your needs before adopting a tool, so you can better evaluate which tools fit your needs instead of adjusting your needs to your tool.

5. Use Change Management Success to Promote Other ITIL Initiatives.
Folks are usually familiar with the Change Management component of ITIL – and oblivious of its other processes. If you track your Change Management successes and gather supportive data from Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), you can use success stories to promote the benefits of other ITIL processes like Release Management, Incident Management, etc.

One final tip: It’s worth noting the incredible value and need for leadership/executive support in the Change Management process. It’s important for company leadership to sell and support the change despite resistance in the company to organizational and cultural change. Often times, Change Management implementations are resisted since they uncover underlying issues that some within the company don’t want to uncover. Ultimately, though, Change Management helps make everyone proactive and out of the reactive, fire-fighting mode.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog implementation library management process release technology tips tricks change continuous-improvement incident-management information infrastructure it itil operations
1 min read

The Origins of our Name, Praecipio Consulting: It's What We Do 

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

At Praecipio Consulting, we love our name. Its meaning explains what we do. Most people, of course, have trouble orienting themselves with the name “Praecipio,” asking questions like:

  • “wait, how do you say it?”
  • “so, I’m curious – how do you spell that?”
  • “is it…Spanish?”

For starters, Praecipio is pronounced “Prey-sip-io.” The letters a and e are special in Praecipio. Together, the letters make up æ, a fundamental unit of the Latin and Old English alphabets. This integration of letters is significant, since the solutions we offer are an integration of knowledge and technology.

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.

We build and implement custom technology for our clients. With time, our solutions make processes run well, and capture valuable data points that explain the health of the business in terms of efficiency and profit.

These data points help clients anticipate and identify business processes with issues – execution issues or training gaps – enabling them to pinpoint spots for proactive improvement.

Our solutions, therefore, advise our clients on how to become efficient and sustainable – a long-term ROI from our services.

We instruct our clients by helping them develop, implement, and monitor their business processes. While some consulting firms implement a solution and quickly get out the door, stay committed to our clients by monitoring the performance of our solution and making tweaks to ensure the highest rate of success. We believe our clients should get the most out of their investment. Additionally, our solutions facilitate continuous improvement – and can be changed easily in the long-term as the business and economy fluctuate.

Our goal is to make our clients’ businesses run like well-oiled machines, whose productivity can be turned up and down without adversly affecting the firm’s budget. We develop our clients into consistent, sustainable businesses.

Praecipio’s meaning – both as a word and as a firm – is to help others…even if we’re just helping others spell our name.

Topics: blog business management process consulting-services
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

EPB.net: Our Project Management Skills at Work

By Praecipio Consulting on Feb 25, 2010 11:00:00 AM

With the help of our project management, Microsoft SharePoint, and Business Process Management services, the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga (EPB) debuts its new site: EPB.net. EPB is actively building a 100 percent fiber-optic Smart Grid. Their new site will serve as an innovative communication platform for their 160,000+ customers.

EPB.net, designed and developed by Chattanooga-based Medium, follows the August 2009 release of EPBFI.com– designed to engage EPB customers with the company’s upcoming fiber optic service packages. EPB.net features a handful of new customer-focused tools, including a real-time power outage map developed by Medium—an outstanding partner in the project.

We helped because we understand Enterprise-level environments and the way they operate as well as the critical nature of their services.  We helped vendors and the client because we know how to navigate the corporate setting.

We were able exercise our flexibility by marrying our project management methodologies with the Medium Information Architecture methodology. That flexibility, in addition to our leverage of SharePoint as a project management tool, ensured accurate communication and scheduling between Medium and EPB during the EPB.net project. We understand how enterprise-level environments operate and the critical nature of their services. Our team’s knowledge of how to effectively navigate the corporate setting guided Medium and EPB toward organized progress, and made sure EPB’s goals were accomplished on the new site.

“The Praecipio Consulting team served as an advocate to vendors for what I saw this project being,” EPB Vice President of Corporate Communications Danna Bailey said. “They greatly improved the efficiency of the project; we couldn’t have done it without them.”

We facilitated EPB’s success by ensuring all parties involved in the project had what they needed to succeed. We’re happy to announce the launch of another Praecipio Consulting project management success: EPB.net.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm assessments business management optimization process process-consulting project value consulting-services
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
3 min read

The Consulting Relationship: How the Client and Consultant Achieve Success

By Praecipio Consulting on Jan 12, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Who ultimately determines the success of a technology consulting project? The consultant? The client’s primary contact? The client’s employees? One might say the consultant is ultimately responsible for their improvement’s success or failure, since he or she designed it. Another could contest this, saying the primary contact is equally responsible since they usually approve or disapprove of the design and ensures the adoption of the technology in their firm. But what about the employees? They’re usually the ones using the technology, so don’t they determine whether the consulting venture bears fruit for the client?

This illustration proves that all three parties determine the success or failure of a consulting project.

  • The consultant provides a successful set of solutions, best practices, and frameworks to the firm
  • The primary contact acts as a liaison between the consultant and the firm
  • The employees, after training, apply and execute the solution and make it successful

Consulting should involve a positive, collaborative relationship between these three parties. Within this relationship, success is won or lost by how effective and organized the three parties communicate with each other. We believe communication in this context should be clear, concise, and supportive. Since the client’s employees are the ones who make our solutions worthwhile to our client, their engagement and well-being are important to us.

Here are some ways we promote effective communication in our service:

Marketing our service or product to our client’s employees early
As soon as the consultant and primary contact agree to begin working together, employees should know. Let them know change is coming early so they won’t be surprised when it does come—without making any promises you can’t keep. Telling employees when and why the change is needed, and how the change will happen early will ideally squash any false rumors and make employees valuable.

It may be useful in this early phase to gather feedback from employees on the desired change, to better engage employees in the consulting process and make them feel like they had a hand in deciding what the solution would look like, since they’re the ones who will use it. As consultants, we’re pleased when our client’s employees are engaged in our process.

We engage our client’s employees in our 5-step integrated delivery methodology, guiding our client through the Discovery, Design, Development, Activation, and Transfer of their solution. For example, during the Discovery step, we work with employees to map out our client’s business processes. Employees often help us pinpoint process problem areas like bottlenecks, capacity issues, delays, or waste. We then work with employees to create a solid base for developing process solutions. In the Design and Development steps, we work with employees to identify a process’ input and output sources (data points), allowing us to tailor our solution to fit our client’s processes.

Let employees get their hands on it
This too helps employees engage in the consulting process. Playing with the technology a firm is preparing to implement will help them learn to use it ahead of time, and will theoretically speed up their performance once they officially start using the solution in their business processes.

Spend time educating employees
While the employees can play with the technology ahead of time, they probably won’t have the time or ambition to “read the manual.” A training session(s) not only teaches employees how to use the technology, but helps reinforce the purpose of the change and answer any questions employees may have about the technology. Ensuring employees know how and why to use new solution to improve business process is essential to its success, no matter the cost of company time.

Celebrate and communicate success before, during, and after the project
A consultancy is a major business venture. A firm hires a consultant to give them a solution that will improve their performance and financial efficiency so much that it will not only offset the cost of the consultancy, but will yield a significant return long-term. Client management and employees each understand the risks and returns involved in such a venture; success is the only outcome that ensures the client’s are met by the consultant.

Project ROI’s aren’t always visible right away. Even if they are, not all employees involved in the consulting process will encounter them. There’s usually a lot of sensitivity around consulting projects, since the firm is paying a third party to implement an important solution for them. During and after the project, everyone involved will be carrying around binoculars looking for a sign that validates the money they’re spending.

With this in mind, communicating success to everyone involved in the project is essential. The client rightfully wants to know they’re getting what they’re paying for—something that will make them more efficient and profitable. Success not only boosts morale. It qualifies and legitimizes the project, and solidifies the client’s expectation of success.

Pay attention to how employees use the service or product
Remember, a client’s employees ultimately determine the success of a consultant’s solution. The amount of energy they put into adopting a solution, learning how it works, and integrating it into their daily operations determines whether the solution will improve a client’s business processes—and in turn their profitability.

We value our relationships with our clients. Practicing these values ensures our clients’ success and ability to accomplish their business goals on the shoulders of their employees.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

Topics: blog automation bpm assessments business efficiency management optimization practices process process-consulting value consulting-services
1 min read

Jira as a Collaborative Software?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

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

Collaborative Software in Simple English

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

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

Wave as a Customer Support Platform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

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

Jira and Confluence: Hand-in-Hand Collaboration

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

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

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

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

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

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

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

All About Release Management...Version 1.0

By Praecipio Consulting on Sep 7, 2009 11:00:00 AM

ITIL’s Release Management process bears a striking resemblance to ITIL Change Management—in fact, one could fairly consider Release Management to be a directly supportive process to Change Management. Release Management focuses on the practical need for organized coordination in the change process. It’s meant to ensure that changes are implemented in accordance to business needs and concurrent IT Service Management processes.

Release Management more specifically applies to changes to a “live” environment—that is, a working software or hardware environment (a word processor, email interface, software application, etc) that’s active, being used internally or externally. Release management protects these live environments by regulating the release of new configuration items; it uses the ITIL framework to control and monitor the flow of upgrades into live environments, where each upgrade is considered a “release.”

To more clearly illustrate this concept, consider these three levels of releases to a live environment—using the fictional email service “Mockingbird Version 1.0″ as an example:

  • Major Releases introduce completely new functions to a service, drastically improving the service’s capabilities. Major Releases advance the version number by a full numerical increment—for example, Mockingbird Version 1.0 advances to Mockingbird Version 2.0.
  • Minor Releases introduce fixes for known problems into the baseline technology of a service. Such changes would reflect themselves numerically by advancing the version number of a service by the first decimal place—for example, Mockingbird Version 2.0 advances to Mockingbird Version 2.1.
  • Emergency Releases introduce quick (and at least temporary) fixes to repair unexpected problems that interrupt critical services. These changes advance a version number by the second decimal place—for example, Mockingbird Version 2.1 advances to Mockingbird Version 2.1.1.

It’s best to consider each release as a separately-deployed part of the service, the progression of which should look like this:

  • Planning
  • Building
  • Testing
  • Deploying

ITIL clearly describes two “levels” of Release Management in its book:

  • Service Design (higher level)
  • Release and Deployment Management (lower level)

The Service Design level should handle the framing and building of the release solution, while ITIL suggests the release project stages listed above should be handled by the lower level and should involve a project team, scope, design, and plan of its own. The Release and Deployment Management level literally drives the solution’s release, but only because of the sound development and planning by the higher level—meaning it is almost impossible to achieve lower level success without a solid understanding of the higher level.

We hope this blog provides you with a basic overview of Release Management. It’s sometimes difficult to explain ITIL concepts without using laymen’s terms– from our experience consulting companies on their use of ITIL, a basic overview is an essential foundation for understanding the application of ITIL principles into your business.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm library management process release services technology change information infrastructure it itil
3 min read

The Cost of Quality

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 24, 2009 11:00:00 AM

The Cost of Quality (COQ) business model describes a method of increasing profits without increasing revenues.

Here’s how it works: COQ increases profit by shrinking business costs. If your business has a 5% profit margin, for example – and you decrease costs by 5% – you’ve doubled your profits. That’s simple enough, but how do you decrease costs?

COQ identifies the importance of shrinking costs without taking the usual cost-cutting measures like not buying everyone’s favorite pens or not stocking refreshments in the break room — the “let’s avoid morale buzz-kills to save a few bucks” approach to increasing profit. Instead, COQ promotes lessening mistakes and increasing business process efficiency.

Companies adopt and tweak COQ to reflect their business goals and in turn their profitability. The model applies to not-for-profit businesses too: budgets are tight; grants, revenues, or contributions may not increase, but the same valuable services need to be delivered with less and less money, right?

COQ is made up of three elements: conformance costs, non-conformance costs, and opportunity costs. We’ll explain these before we explain the rest of what the graphic illustrates:

Conformance Costs

  • Communicate
  • Review
  • Report
  • Status-Check
  • Inspect
  • Train
  • Validate
  • Benchmark
  • Test
  • Prevent
  • Plan
  • Preinstall
  • Check
  • Audit
  • Appraise
  • Survey
  • Evaluate
  • Proofread

Non-Conformance Costs

  • Fix
  • Repair
  • Rework
  • Retrofit
  • Revisit
  • Overstock
  • Re-do
  • Refer
  • Reorganize
  • Scrap
  • Error
  • Constraint
  • Incorrect
  • Excessive
  • Late

Opportunity Costs

  • Under-utilize
  • Cancel
  • Downgrade

Notice these three cost categories are not associated with the cost of producing the output. Materials needed to assemble a product (labor, supplies, etc) are not included. The three elements merely reflect the costs associated with the business process. As we always say, “the profit’s in the process.” The efficiency of your business processes determines your efficiency as a business. If you’re going to maximize your efficiency and profitability, you need a sound understanding of the cost of quality.

Think about it: process is where value is added and where profit is made. Consumers don’t squeeze oranges to make juice anymore. Okay, maybe on rare occasion, but who cuts down trees and processes timber as a raw material to make paper?

The cost of quality is associated with the cost incurred to ensure process outputs (products and services) meet customer requirements. For example, let’s say Company A manufactures pens, a process that takes ten steps to complete. About half of the time, the process works effectively, and high-quality pens are made. The other half of the time, however, is plagued by faulty manufacturing— lackluster execution in the assembly process. As a result, Company A has to keep half of its pens in its shop for a bit longer for fixing/repairing, incurring non-conformance costs. This leads to a lack of consistency. Ultimately, this waste is passed onto the customer with an increased price per unit and/or inferior product— making it more and more difficult to compete.

That’s why COQ’s biggest cost adjustment occurs in reducing non-conformance costs— tightening the process and ensuring customer requirements are met. This may require spending extra money to do some work over again.

Now, to run through the graphic:

  • Conformance costs are important and help ensure a business’ success and stability. when optimizing your business, conformance costs should stay the same or in many cases increase.
  • Non-conformance costs, as we’ve mentioned, need to drop significantly— though you can never expect to be without them, strive to get rid of them.
  • Opportunity cost is the value of the next best choice. It’s the “what could have been.” If a business is suffering from non-conformance costs, the “what could have been,” is higher in the left portion of the graphic, where non-conformance costs are much higher. If a business is succeeding financially, there is little “what could have been,” therefore reducing the opportunity cost.
  • Operating costs are constant. They’re the costs of a business’ building, utilities, licenses, etc— which fluctuate, but not enough to factor into this model.
  • Profit looks like this: $$$. Reducing non-conformance generates more $$$.

So, how do you reduce non-conformance? Remember: the $$$’s are in the process.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency library management practices predicatability process services technology value continuous-improvement information infrastructure it itil itsm operations
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
2 min read

Predictability and Repeatability

By Praecipio Consulting on May 18, 2009 11:00:00 AM

Business process management (BPM) promotes effectiveness and efficiency within a business. BPM applies to any practical process within a business.

An important BPM principle: good processes bring efficient workflow and increased revenue; bad processes bring inefficient and decreased revenue. 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, however…you get the idea. So, how do you ensure your processes are successful? Predictability and repeatability are great qualities to shoot for. We’ll explain them in a bit.

Monitoring the effectiveness of your business processes regularly is important. It improves your business value and reduces costs. Identifying potential or actual bottlenecks in a process’ human-to-human, human-to-system, or system-to-system workflows can save your business money by keeping costs down!

A huge contributing factor to good BPM is a process’ integration with technology—a tactic the team at Praecipio Consulting is well-versed in developing and implementing. We are capable and experienced in adopting appropriate software as well as developing new, custom software that enables our clients’ business processes to be directly executed in an efficient, organized manner.

Software can improve business process. That’s not a new fact to anyone. We develop intuitive software that uses services in connected applications to consolidate and perform business operations including issue tracking (e.g. tracking orders/deliveries, pending invoices, service requests, etc.) with ease—streamlining our clients’ BPM and improving their connections with their customers.

When working with our clients, Praecipio Consulting takes into strong consideration two important factors in BPM technology:  repeatability and predictability.

  • Predictability. The business environment is rarely predictable, so it is important to make sure the processes your business does have control over are as predictable and reliable as possible. Now, market conditions can vary widely, so it is also important to ensure these processes are flexible enough to adjust to inevitable market variables.
  • Repeatability. Business processes generally include tasks in production, collaboration, administration, and miscellaneous activities. Production and administration are very valuable to a business, and also very repeatable. Collaboration is also very valuable, but is not always repeatable. Miscellaneous activities are usually not valuable to a business, and are rarely consistent enough to be repeatable.

We consider ourselves successful only when we develop a BPM system capable of managing both repeatable and non-repeatable processes—an organized, financially feasible system to manage both high-value and low-value processes. Such innovation puts us and our clients on the cutting-edge of success in business process.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

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

SharePoint and Process Management: A Match Made in Software Heaven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

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

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