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SharePoint & BPM: Kill The Things That Kill Productivity

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Steve Russell, 25 year technology veteran, shares how to resolve six of the main stumbling blocks to analyzing and managing typical business problems using SharePoint and BPM.

Steve Russell, 25 year technology veteran, shares how to resolve six of the main stumbling blocks to analyzing and managing typical business problems using SharePoint and BPM.

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  • 1. Kill the Things that Kill Productivity? Steve Russell SVP of Research and Development and CTO, Global 360 © Copyright 2010 EndUserSharePoint.com
  • 2. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity About the Author Steve Russell is the SVP of Research and Development and CTO for Global 360 Inc., based in Dallas Texas. He has over 25 years of experience as a technologist developing enterprise process and document management software platforms. Steve has extensive experience with large, mission critical systems development and deployment within Fortune 2000 companies. Global 360 is an independent provider of process and document management solutions. For more than 20 years Global 360 has helped more than 2,000 customers in 70 countries reduce paper, automate processes, and empower individuals to deliver increased productivity, service levels, and business performance while reducing operational costs. About EndUserSharePoint.com EndUserSharePoint.com is a community of SharePoint authors dedicated to providing support and encouragement for the SharePoint End User. The site receives 50,000 unique page views a week, has a Weekly Newsletter subscription base of 13,500 readers and handles hundreds of questions weekly through the Stump the Panel: SharePoint Q&A Forum. 3|Page
  • 3. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity Forward by Mark Miller, Founder and Editor of EndUserSharePoint.com As the SharePoint product has matured, so has the SharePoint End User. We all worked together when SharePoint 2007 came out. We coalesced as a community with the need to share information on how to ride this unwieldy beast. Maturity within the SharePoint market means moving to the next level, working through business problems, not just standing up SharePoint sites to act as document repositories and simple collaboration environments. When Steve Russell approached me about writing a series of business articles for EndUserSharePoint.com, my initial response was “Hell yeah!” What Steve does here is echo the basic business principles, the thought processes needed for improving existing systems. Read these six articles and think about what it means to your own business processes. Most of us will recognize ourselves in just about every one of these. Use the articles as a roadmap, working through each one-by-one to generate in- house conversation about what your team can do to make your work life better. Your business will be better for it. Mark Miller Founder and Editor, EndUserSharePoint.com 4|Page
  • 4. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity Contents About the Author ....................................................................................................3 About EndUserSharePoint.com ..............................................................................3 Forward by Mark Miller, Founder and Editor of EndUserSharePoint.com ...........4 Introduction ................................................................................................................6 Part 1: Doing the Same Thing Over and Over ...........................................................9 Part 2: Playing the Waiting Game ...........................................................................12 Part 3: That’s Not What We Do (Anymore) ............................................................14 Part 4: Did You See That? .......................................................................................16 Part 5: Something Went Wrong ...............................................................................19 Part 6: “A Little Help Here!” ...................................................................................22 Thank You................................................................................................................24 5|Page
  • 5. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity Introduction When the financial markets fell apart, the party ended almost overnight. Companies slashed payrolls and those who remained were left to deal with the balance of the work. Doing more with less (i.e. improving productivity) is the only answer we had. And, in fact, productivity has increased 6.3 percent over the past four quarters, the biggest 12-month increase since 1962. Yet, the productivity increase in the last quarter was the smallest in a year, showing companies are reaching the limits on efficiency. *Is your company reaching its limits on efficiency? Perhaps it seems that way – but what if you are still not efficient enough? I try to answer this question by looking at how to use SharePoint to “Kill the Things the Kill Productivity” in your company. Through a series of postings, I will present a set of “productivity killers” and strategies for leveraging SharePoint to address them. There are two common themes underlying these strategies. The first is adoption of SharePoint as something much more than a platform for collaboration and knowledge sharing with enterprise documents. While collaboration and document sharing has been central to the growth of SharePoint, SharePoint is quickly becoming a platform for core business applications. This isn’t to say that all business applications should be re-implemented on SharePoint. That may make sense in some situations but most of the productivity killers inherent in business applications today can be addressed by integrating existing business applications with SharePoint. The second theme is that when looking at productivity killers, it is important to take a process approach to analyzing and addressing the problem. Adopting a process-centric view of your business is essential for evaluating productivity issues in the right perspective. Through a process lens, you can see redundancies, bottlenecks, gaps, mistakes, and other inefficiencies in business processes. Solutions for these “opportunities” can then be assimilated into the design and implementation of your SharePoint applications. SharePoint 2010 offers improved workflow capabilities for basic, procedural types of activities, and it integrates well with SharePoint-friendly BPM platforms for more complex business process automation. 6|Page
  • 6. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity I will build on these themes in the “productivity killer” posts and explore key productivity challenges and ways to address them. Below are the posts that I am planning. 1. Repetitious Work – Doing the Same Thing Over and Over: From one customer, transaction, or event to another, automating the operational steps in your processes enhances productivity. 2. Missing/Incomplete Information – Playing the Waiting Game: Everyone in an organization is connected through business processes, and the information dependencies between processes link your productivity together. 3. Dated Processes and Procedures – That’s Not What We Do (Anymore): Subtle, continuous change creates extra steps and work-arounds that can only be managed when users have the ability to maintain and enhance their work environments. 4. Low Morale – “Did You See That?”: Outstanding performance needs to be recognized and rewarded in order to motivate everyone to do their best. Low morale and lack of motivation drain productivity. 5. Rework/Poor Quality Work – Something Went Wrong: When mistakes are made, the additional effort to fix things multiplies the work effort by two to three times. Getting the job done right the first time, and avoiding repeated mistakes are essential to improved productivity. 6. Lack of Expertise – “A Little Help Here!”: You can’t know everything all of the time, and when the odd situation comes up, you need to know where to get answers. Collaborating with your peers and knowing who the experts are avoids the productivity pitfall of getting stuck. 7. I will be posting on each of these over the coming days. Let me know your thoughts throughout this series of postings. I’m interested in hearing about your experiences, and other ideas, thoughts, comments as to what impacts productivity in your organizations and how SharePoint can be the platform for business applications. 7|Page
  • 7. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity *Chandra, Shobhana and Homan, Timothy R. (2010). U.S. Economy: Productivity Holds Up, Claims Decrease (Update1). Retrieved 11 May 2010 from Bloomberg Businessweek: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-05-06/u-s- economy-productivity-holds-up-claims-decrease-update1-.html Original Article with Community Comments http://www.endusersharepoint.com/2010/06/10/sharepoint-how-can-companies- kill-the-things-that-kill-productivity/ 8|Page
  • 8. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity Part 1: Doing the Same Thing Over and Over For this first topic in the Kill the Things that Kill Productivity series, I’m going to talk about a trend in how work is performed in a growing number of organizations. For years, business processes were segmented into discrete steps and carried out in a specific sequence with different specialists performing each step. Today leading companies are applying LEAN and Six Sigma methodologies to their processes and eliminating or automating the busy work. More importantly, they are merging multiple job responsibilities into single roles to be performed by generalists rather than specialists*. In order to accomplish this transformation, companies have successfully overcome one of the most pervasive things that can kill productivity – repetitive work. By automating the mundane, reoccurring activities within a process, workers not only have more time to focus on value-added work (i.e., serving customers, analyzing information and making decisions), they also do not need to be trained in all the specialized minutia required to perform those mundane tasks. In other words, they can truly function as generalists. The work required to fulfill one’s responsibilities consists of different activities varying in nature from operational to intellectual work often with a degree of repetition from one customer, transaction, or event to another. Productivity can be greatly enhanced by offloading repetitive work activities to a process management- enabled engine and concentrating users’ efforts on the unique aspects of each transaction. Many operational work activities can be easily automated with standard SharePoint integration tooling such as Business Connectivity Services and workflow, while intellectual work may require more sophisticated technologies such as knowledge sharing, business rules engines and scoring models. The important point is that automation opportunities exist for both types of work. Operational work is typically the type of work that can be easily automated – if not eliminated entirely. For instance, when a life insurance underwriter receives a new application she must first order lab work, request medical records, and setup an applicant file. With a SharePoint case-oriented solution, both the lab order and the medical records can be requested automatically, and a workflow can automatically 9|Page
  • 9. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity match the associated documents with the appropriate electronic applicant folder (the case) in SharePoint – eliminating the need to manually create a paper file. Since the file is now electronic, distributing it, tracking it, and letting multiple people access it simultaneously, all add up to productivity gains. With BCS (or other integration technologies) you can enable legacy systems to publish data and transactions into SharePoint so they can be used within SharePoint-hosted applications. This preserves the transactionality and corporate governance of the legacy system while enabling that same application to be enhanced through the productivity tools provided by SharePoint. By removing legacy systems, and replacing them with a task-based application that gives users access to all of the information and steps needed to complete their work, you have removed most of what makes people specialists. By eliminating the need to navigate legacy systems and delivering the application through SharePoint, users can be provided with a more intuitive interface that includes SharePoint productivity tools such as discussions, tasks, document management, announcements or other SharePoint features that enhance users’ productivity. How to get started? As archaic as it seems, something as simple as time-motion monitoring of people while they work is a great way to understand where to focus. A simple three step process involves: 1. Identifying the processes that people participate in. 2. Map out the task flows they perform in each of those processes. 3. Identify for each activity within the task flows, the activities that are repetitive, don’t require decision making or otherwise add little value. You don’t have to study everyone. A small cross-section of users is sufficient to surface the non-value add work that everyone has to do in order to complete their work. There are other (and certainly more sophisticated) process improvement methodologies out there. But the point here is not to re-engineer your business processes (we’ll cover that in a later article), but rather make the ones you have more productive. By keeping it simple you can identify and incrementally automate the high return activities. It is this repetitive work that once automated can significantly enhance productivity. 10 | P a g e
  • 10. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity What we have found is that by doing this, the task flows that used to have 30 user performed tasks might now have 5 or 10. And simpler task flows enable more people to perform them. This is how organizations transform people from transactional specialists into customer-facing generalists. Using SharePoint to simplify and empower how users get their jobs done is an excellent way to kill one of the biggest productivity killers – - repetitive, low value work. In the next article I plan to explore the productivity costs in missing and incomplete information. Playing the Waiting Game looks at how to link processes, people and information to make sure everyone has what they need and when they need it. *Le Clair, C., Moore, C. (2009). Dynamic Case Management – An Old Idea Catches New Fire. Forrester Research. Original Article with Community Comments http://www.endusersharepoint.com/2010/06/17/sharepoint-how-can-companies- kill-the-things-that-kill-productivity-part-1-doing-the-same-thing-over-and-over/ 11 | P a g e
  • 11. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity Part 2: Playing the Waiting Game For this second topic in the Kill the Things that Kill Productivity series, I’m going to address one of the more subtle productivity inhibitors – waiting around for work. It’s equally pervasive as the issue of repetitive work, yet I think it’s harder to identify at an individual worker level. One of the frustrating things about working in a large organization is that oftentimes the right hand doesn’t know (or really care) what the left hand is doing. Evidence of this is very clear in business processes when workers have no real idea why they do what they do, or what anyone else does for that matter. When workers have only a minimal understanding of the big picture, it’s almost a sure bet that productivity is being affected. SharePoint can help with this by highlighting for workers the importance of their work and where they fit in the big picture. People in an organization perform work in business processes that connect, relate, and overlap with one another. The inputs and outputs of each person’s work represent information dependencies between the activities in these processes. As each step in a process is completed, information flows to the next step until finished. When these information dependencies are interrupted, productivity is negatively affected. In many cases, problems are widespread and systemic due to a lack of visibility and communication. People often do not know or understand the importance of their work, and the relevance they have to other downstream processes. When information is incomplete, not in the expected format, or missing, downstream workers are either forced to wait for the missing input, or do extra work and go without it. For instance, an expense report submitted by an employee and approved by a manager may be forwarded to Accounts Payable for payment. But if the employee does not use the right spreadsheet, AP will not be able to load the information automatically into the financial accounting system, plus if a receipt or two is missing AP will have to notify the employee and hold the expense report until the employee furnishes the missing documentation. In either event, extra work is 12 | P a g e
  • 12. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity created for AP because the employee and manager were not paying attention when the expense report was submitted. Productivity can be improved with SharePoint and process automation by ensuring that work activities are performed on time, as expected, and that inter-process connections are well defined. SharePoint tasks, actions and alerts are handy tools that when fed to users’ can help them see important tasks, follow-up on outstanding work, and monitor its status. Larger business processes may require a more sophisticated process management system which looks at work processing across multiple activities and departments, prioritize work according to service levels or dynamically modify business processes to achieve a system defined business goal. Once a process and the associated tasks are automated, SharePoint’s business intelligence can also enhance monitoring and predictions to make sure work is performed on a timely basis. This includes KPI’s and alerts. Due dates, process rules, and service level expectations for different types of work can be managed, prioritized, escalated and kept in front of users. Forms, documents, and other artifacts produced at each stage of a process can be validated, and notifications can be issued when exceptions occur. All of these capabilities ensure that the information flowing through a business process enables users to receive the inputs they need to perform their work. In the next article we are going to look at the productivity costs incurred when systems no longer reflect the business processes in which they are used. We don’t do that Anymore looks at how SharePoint applications can be more responsive and continually add value to business users when used to automate volatile applications. Original Article with Community Comments http://www.endusersharepoint.com/2010/06/23/sharepoint-how-can-companies- kill-the-things-that-kill-productivity-part-2-playing-the-waiting-game/ 13 | P a g e
  • 13. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity Part 3: That’s Not What We Do (Anymore) In this third posting on how to Kill the Things that Kill Productivity series, I thought it would be helpful to take a look at change and agility – probably one of the most commonly heard marketing drum beats in enterprise software for the last few years. Everyone in enterprise software wants to enable agility in one way or another, and to read some of their literature you would think business was in a constant state of upheaval, but I don’t really think that’s the case. Business processes do change. Occasionally, they change in dramatic ways due to corporate events such as a restructuring or a change in strategy, new product launches, and regulatory changes. More often however, they change in subtle ways due to a new step in a procedure, an extra field to be coded, or another spreadsheet to reference. Individually, each change is hardly noteworthy, yet their cumulative effect is real and eventually very costly. Dealing with the problem requires a move away from big IT support in favor of incremental user updates that are implemented as quickly as possible. Let users have control of the tools they need to keep their applications relevant. This has been a big part of the success of SharePoint. The business has more control over the solution and new applications and changes to existing applications do not require full IT change management cycles. By enabling users to have more control over their applications and the tools used to define them, technology can be more responsive to business needs. I’m not advocating that IT close their doors and that end users (or more accurately, end power-users) should manage and maintain everything having to do with core business applications. IT plays a very important role in ensuring that company policies and governance is implemented, systems continuity is maintained and a host of other extremely important functions. My point is that when all application maintenance is owned by IT, small incremental changes to how business gets done is rarely reflected in the systems that support the business. With each business change, the existing applications and systems satisfy a diminishing percentage of the business’ needs. Productivity slowly degrades as workers accumulate additional manual or “extra” steps they are required to 14 | P a g e
  • 14. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity perform – steps that are not supported by their legacy systems. SharePoint offers the opportunity to immediately assimilate change into the application environment and prevent this extra work from evolving. Once legacy systems are turned into services providing data and transactions to SharePoint-based applications, the strength of SharePoint’s flexibility can be highly leveraged. No longer do you have to wait on IT to add new fields, reorganize screens or include relevant information. Wikis, notes and other SharePoint productivity tools can help address this problem. Procedure manuals and sharing of tribal knowledge is not only facilitated, it can be saved, indexed, reviewed and pushed to everyone. This doesn’t require any computer system changes. All it takes is giving the people doing the work, the tools to let everyone benefit and adapt as business changes. Businesses can further restore productivity by implementing a dynamic case- oriented solution leveraging the inherent agility of a business process management platform to continuously maintain and update a process. Once enabled with a business process solution, organizations have an economically viable platform for maintaining alignment between their current business processes and their supporting applications. Let IT do what they do best; maintaining and delivering the core transaction systems that underlie and support how companies do business. Let the user community have access and control over tools to make those transaction systems more dynamic and responsive to all of the little changes that vibrant organizations face every day. By doing so, the automation that everyone depends on maintains its relevancy and organizational productivity is optimized. In the next article we are going to look at the opportunity (and low cost) of increasing user morale. Low Morale: “Did you see that?” looks at the benefits of using SharePoint to provide feedback and motivation to business users. Original Article with Community Comments http://www.endusersharepoint.com/2010/06/28/sharepoint-how-can-companies- kill-the-things-that-kill-productivity-part-3-that%e2%80%99s-not-what-we-do- anymore/ 15 | P a g e
  • 15. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity Part 4: Did You See That? "Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it." – Lou Holtz For the fourth topic in the Kill the Things that Kill Productivity series, I’m going to discuss how to motivate people and help them maintain a positive attitude about their work because without it, there is no way they will be highly productive. Let’s assume you hire people with the ability to do the jobs you intend for them to do. Now how do you inspire them and make sure they show up with a positive attitude day in and day out? For many companies it starts with the corporate culture and creating a sense of purpose throughout the organization. But beyond that – at an individual level – what gets people out of bed in the morning? For the majority of people, it comes down to financial incentive, recognition for a job well done and the opportunity for advancement. The training, systems, and policies put in place to improve productivity are all concentrated on making participants in a business process more efficient at performing their work and increasing their output. At the same time, companies must also motivate those participants and understand the attitudes they have toward their work. At risk is a low morale work environment that will always result in lagging productivity and under performance. High-performing, high-capacity individuals – the kind that all organizations seek to hire – look for opportunities to demonstrate their capabilities and excel in their careers. When an organization is unable to differentiate and reward the performance of its best workers, their motivation is suppressed. Over time, an individual’s output settles to the organization’s prevailing acceptable level, which is based on the under-performance of an unmotivated team. By focusing on user feedback and goal management, companies can disrupt this cycle and get more productivity out of their people and organizations. In order to do this information needs to be collected from applications and business processes. Simple indicators around how much work is getting done tends to be numbers of transactions a user performs, relative difficulty of these transactions, how much 16 | P a g e
  • 16. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity idle time a user is consuming, etc. While most process management and workflow systems provide some mechanism to capture and report on this data, not all processes are automated with a process management system. And those that do don’t always capture everything that is relevant to a user or a team. We advocate using a separate set of tracking tables that multiple applications can pump data into. For example, by capturing an event when a user starts a business transaction (e.g. open a new account) and another event when the user completes it, you now have a rudimentary set of events that can show work completed, how long it took to get it done, who did it and when they did it. This can quickly grow as more complex reporting and work patterns need to be reflected. But the key is that by having a simple event format and an easy way for applications to create those events, most of the data needed for good reporting and goal management can be captured. Next is where SharePoint (with a little help from SQLServer) starts to shine. With metrics by user and team on work backlogs, processing time, work completed, etc. very simple dashboards can be delivered via standard web parts that keep users informed of how they are doing, how their team is doing, how much work is outstanding and how they are performing against their service level goals. This is hugely motivational and focusing for people. Knowing what’s going on and how you are doing is a simple but valuable way to keep productivity high. SharePoint also provides some very sophisticated capabilities for dashboarding, reporting and analysis via Excel Services and PerformancePoint. Coupled with a rich base of data, and sometimes using SQLServer Analysis Services, everyone can view information that they need to keep them most informed about their business operations. SharePoint 2010 does a lot to advance these capabilities and makes it easier than ever to get this information out to users. In my last posting, I talked about giving users control over the tools necessary to adapt to change on their own without heavy IT involvement. Reporting and information is probably the most common example of this need. Someone with good excel skills can easily create views of data and publish them out to users without a lot of IT assistance or development skills. 17 | P a g e
  • 17. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity This is a pretty big topic and this post only covers one aspect of the opportunity here. Giving users real-time views into their performance is one way to focus and motivate people. This combined with other tools such as just in time training can make for a user and workplace experience that can greatly contribute to productivity. The next article in the series is entitled Rework/Poor Work and discusses the cost and opportunities associated with catching mistakes early and figuring out how to make sure that they don’t happen again. Original Article with Community Comments http://www.endusersharepoint.com/2010/07/02/sharepoint-how-can-companies- kill-the-things-that-kill-productivity-part-4-did-you-see-that/ 18 | P a g e
  • 18. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity Part 5: Something Went Wrong About the only thing worse than doing work slowly is doing it over. When work is done incorrectly the impact can range from embarrassing to damaging, and it inhibits the productivity of other downstream participants. The extra effort to fix mistakes often exceeds the initial work effort by two to three times as the organization has to figure out where a mistake was made, redo it correctly, and then deal with the ramifications (customer service, financial reporting). As organizations deploy business-critical applications onto SharePoint, a natural benefit is to use the collaborative and task management capabilities within SharePoint. The opportunity is not just to automate something that is currently done manually, but to improve how it is done through automation. Too often we focus on automating the current way of doing things without stepping back and asking if automation can open up other ways to get things done. One challenge that we constantly see is that people tend to automate processes based on how they are supposed to work, not necessarily how they do work. In manual environments, mistakes are made, work has to be redone and maybe as a result, a customer situation has to be cleaned up. By adding in some fairly simple work management concepts, SharePoint applications can not only automate the tasks people are expected to perform, but can help manage and avoid the pitfalls that create costly mistakes. The focus is to design applications that ensure that the right person is working on the right task at the right time. Many mistakes and rework are simply a result of not having the best possible person performing the needed task. This sounds easy but in most business applications it is not. There are three key considerations that can be helpful here. The first is to match the requirements of the task to the available people. In a manual environment, this tends to be pretty simplistic. There might be a team to handle a certain type of customer transaction, but it is challenging to make those qualifiers very complex simply because no one has the time to figure it out for each task and then determine who to give the task to. 19 | P a g e
  • 19. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity For example, in a bank a loan underwriting team processes loan applications. That team may have smaller sub-teams that deal with different types of loans. But that is usually about as granular as it gets. But with an automated system, we can now tag work with more helpful pieces of information. For example, the size of the loan, foreign language skills required, expertise in the type of business that is requesting the loan, geographic location, etc. By expanding the amount of information that we capture about each loan request we now have more information to base our task selection on. And once that same set of information is used to describe the people performing the tasks, we now have a simple framework for matching tasks to people. While this is a good start on getting work processed more effectively, we can do more. The second consideration has to do with matching the person to the value of the task. By value we mean value to the organization. Organizations place value on different things. It may be the profitability of the transaction, the value of the customer, or the value to their brand. Prioritizing tasks based on value gives another level of task management that is often overlooked. But by doing so, we can now match task based not just on the skills needed, but also the competency of the people performing the task and maybe even the policies under which the task is going to be performed. So for a highly valuable customer or transaction, it isn’t enough to have the right skills, we want people have the right skills and are highly competent in them. So for each skill, it is nice to have a competency rating for each person who has the skill. Simple rules can then be used to state which skills are needed and how competent the person needs to be in each of the skills. The more valuable the transaction, the higher the competency that the system requests. And the third consideration is around prioritizing tasks. Many problems arise not because a mistake was made but rather an expectation wasn’t met. Knowing what work is most important to process helps avoid falling short of expectations. It is easy enough to place deadlines on tasks, SharePoint makes that available right out of the box; but if the workload is too great then no matter what tasks get performed, expectations will not be met. That is why it is important to differentiate between deadlines and service levels. Deadlines are placed on individual tasks. Service levels manage performance across all tasks. By incorporating service levels into the equation, we can now categorize work and track service level averages across all categories of tasks. By maintaining rolling averages, we can now make decisions about which tasks to give the most priority. If the current 20 | P a g e
  • 20. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity rolling average service level for a given category of work is exceeding the goal, then if other service levels are below goal, the tasks associated with those service levels can be given a higher priority. Simple ways to categorize tasks and people can build a foundation for providing far more productive mechanisms for assigning tasks to people. You can build on that by incorporating competencies and service level monitoring and in turn really super-charge an organization’s productivity. Original Article and Community Comments http://www.endusersharepoint.com/2010/07/15/sharepoint-how-can-companies- kill-the-things-that-kill-productivity-part-5-something-went-wrong/ 21 | P a g e
  • 21. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity Part 6: “A Little Help Here!” In this last posting Kill the Things that Kill Productivity series, I’m going to talk about collaboration, which is a long time sweet spot for SharePoint. Typically, when you hear about collaborative business processes, most people think about creative efforts where something is being designed or developed by a group of people. However, there’s another type of process I’ll call real-time dynamic collaboration. This is where people come together on an ad hoc basis to exchange ideas, recommendations, expertise, and help one another on the spot. Probably the most obvious cause of inefficiency is people not knowing what to do. Policies, procedures, and end-user application training give workers the essential information they need to perform their responsibilities, yet inevitably situations arise where the appropriate course of action is not clear. System errors, odd customer requests, and little known transactions are examples of things that cause workers to get stuck. Have you ever been on the phone with a call center when someone puts you on hold so they can consult with an expert or supervisor? Workers normally rely on their peers and supervisors to provide assistance in working through such issues. However, the quality and accuracy of the feedback they receive can be hit-or-miss. Not all scenarios or outcomes can be documented within a standard operating procedure, and a precedent may not exist. In other cases, people may not feel comfortable raising questions and prefer to work in a vacuum without exposing their uncertainties. Dynamic collaboration is the key to improving productivity in this area and SharePoint 2010 provides a load of features to enable this. The extended personal profiling capabilities within SharePoint enable people to maintain personal profiles with their interests, ratings, and roles allowing others to locate them when they need help. The “Ask Me About” feature allows people to apply expertise tags to themselves making it easy for others to locate people with a needed expertise. Similarly, subject matter experts (SMEs) can post newsfeeds to their sites with updates on new policies, best practices, and other relevant knowledge sharing. As people in an organization connect through My Site social relationships they build 22 | P a g e
  • 22. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity personal networks of SMEs that become invaluable when they need to dynamically collaborate with expert resources. SharePoint is also integrated with Office Communications Server, which displays everyone’s real-time presence. A person needing help can see the availability of all his or her SMEs and reach out to them directly through instant messaging, email, or phone. Lastly, people can use their newsfeeds and presence indicators to broadcast their personal work status and alert team members when they have a problem. Team- leads and designated SMEs can be notified of these situations and immediately engage to help them with their issues. By providing users with a network of easily accessible experts and consultants, and by giving them the tools to interact with them, work is no longer held up while issues are being researched or resolved. SharePoint and Office Communications Server are well integrated and provide all of the building blocks necessary to create a real-time collaborative platform. By integrating these collaborative capabilities into business applications, these collaborations can be contextual in that transaction specific information can be shared and the collaboration itself can be linked or copied into a system of record so audit trails are more complete and reconstructing how decisions were made is easily enabled. Original Article with Community Comments http://www.endusersharepoint.com/2010/07/19/sharepoint-how-can-companies- kill-the-things-that-kill-productivity-part-6-%e2%80%9ca-little-help- here%e2%80%9d/ 23 | P a g e
  • 23. Kill the Things That Kill Productivity Thank You Steve and I hope you found this series enlightening. We look forward to your comments on the site and hope to personally meet you at one of your local SharePoint events. Regards, Mark Miller Founder and Editor, EndUserSharePoint.com 24 | P a g e