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
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
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
3 min read

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

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

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

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

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

The advantages:

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

The disadvantages:

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

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

The advantages:

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

The disadvantages:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cloud Computing Risks and Rewards

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

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

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

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

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

Risks

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

Rewards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want to get in touch? Contact us here.

Image courtesy of Patrick Lane Photography.

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

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

ITSM: The Backbone of Cloud Computing

By Praecipio Consulting on Jun 15, 2010 11:00:00 AM

IT Service Management (ITSM) and cloud computing don’t always appear in the same discussion – even though one can’t be done well without the other. Integrating the two is especially important as we move further into (what could be) the fundamental shift toward cloud computing.

First – since the phrase “cloud computing” has taken on ambiguity as a buzzword – a quick clarification is necessary. Cloud computing doesn’t change what’s being delivered to end users. It changes how services are delivered. End users should receive the same services from you whether your data’s stored on a server you manage yourself in-house or on a server that’s managed by a provider in Timbuktu.

That being said, IT needs to understand the services they deliver to end users – whether the end user is the employee or the customer. This is the core of ITSM.

Some primary benefits of the cloud include:

  • Pay-as-you-go server costs; planned capacity
  • Annual savings in hardware and man power
  • Instant “green” IT options without long-term transformation costs
  • Higher rate of connectivity that extends anywhere

Those perks are the driving forces behind the cloud’s popularity – and have already borne fruit in organizations who’ve incorporated the cloud as a platform for daily operations. Some, however, raise concern over the difficulty to align the cloud with ITSM, which regularly involves:

  • A slow rate of delivery of tangible business benefits
  • An inability to relate the consumption of IT resources to customer activities
  • A lack of stakeholder support
  • Trouble integrating facilities management, security, and business continuity
  • Scarce resources

These difficulties won’t surprise anyone in ITSM. They’re simply the nature of the beast. Every ITSM team has to deal with a lack of stakeholder support, pressure to produce tangible benefits in short amounts of time, etc. When news of a new business decision reaches IT’s desk after it’s already been decided on, however, these difficulties become even more difficult – and the alignment of IT investments and business continuity is disrupted. The business has moved along without IT, and IT is left to run after it.

The same is true for the alignment between ITSM and cloud computing. Companies may rightfully lust after cloud services and decide to begin moving toward a cloud platform. While the results for end users (employees and in turn customers) may be clear, how to deliver them may not be. If the ITSM team isn’t intimately involved, the business risks ambiguity on both sides.

Ideally, the business should work to ensure inter-operability between IT assets and cloud applications. That (like everything else) requires the business to understand IT’s responsibilities, and IT to understand cloud concepts. The software market’s shifting toward ease-of-access software/SaaS; ITSM software vendors are having to market their simplicity and cloud-usability to stay competitive. Because of this, inter-operability is becoming more of an issue since businesses may be tempted to consider ease of use and cloud integration more important than ITSM.

The alignment is essential. With business strategy and IT well-aligned, leveraging the cloud can expand your ability to be flexible in doing business and save you overhead costs while preserving what’s delivered to end users.

Thirsty for more? Contact us here.

Topics: blog business library management services technology value saas cloud computing information infrastructure it itil itsm
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
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
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

SharePoint is as Expensive as You Let It Be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

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

Why SharePoint? - Considering Your Options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

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