The enterprise challenge of process management in share point


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Since its inconspicuous and almost timid appearance in 2001, as a simple add-on in the Office CD called "SharePoint Team Services", up the recently released 2013 draft, the current business collaboration platform –true flagship of Microsoft in the corporate-level–, has come a long way, both technologically and commercially.
As Gustavo Velez pointed out in the editorial of the latest issue of the journal CompartiMOSS: "Sharepoint 2013 is new developments regarding SharePoint 2010, but is far from a revolution" ... and perhaps just as well, because in my humble opinion as a biologist, "the SharePoint ecosystem" is not yet ripe for revolution, and also because evolution is fundamentally adaptation and –after 12 years of the platform in the market– many "business species" have failed to fully adapt to even use...

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The enterprise challenge of process management in share point

  1. 1. The enterprise challenge of process management in SharePoint By Alexis Lopez Tapia * A Brief IntroductionSince its inconspicuous and almost timid appearance in 2001, as a simple add-on in the Office CDcalled "SharePoint Team Services", up the recently released 2013 draft, the current businesscollaboration platform –true flagship of Microsoft in the corporate-level–, has come a long way,both technologically and commercially.As Gustavo Velez pointed out in the editorial of the latest issue of the journal CompartiMOSS:"Sharepoint 2013 is new developments regarding SharePoint 2010, but is far from a revolution" ...and perhaps just as well, because in my humble opinion as a biologist, "the SharePoint ecosystem"is not yet ripe for revolution, and also because evolution is fundamentally adaptation and –after12 years of the platform in the market– many "business species" have failed to fully adapt to evenuse.Finally, for many of us who have been working on it since its beginning, plus to constitutes apermanent source of intellectual challenges and employment opportunities –and preciselybecause of this– the use and development of solutions on SharePoint is over becoming a truemodus vivendi: then was more of an constant evolution rather than a temporary revolution.Similarly, for end users, and for most of the thousands of companies that have been implementingSharePoint in any of its versions, the experience may have been similar: the platform becomes a"way of life" within the organization, and hence the "remarkable relevance to note" the culturaland conceptual change required within companies, from the very moment you start thinkingabout using SharePoint, and even before.And is that despite the long existence –in "computer time"– of SharePoint in the market, themillions of daily users perform their work there, and the increasingly importance that Microsofthas been placing between their products, many if not most of the companies that haveimplemented sub use often, or at least, did not take full advantage they could get ... which by nowhas become a fact of the case: most organizations uses less than half of the native capabilities ofthe platform, and some, perhaps even that.Hence, even today, most companies use SharePoint as a simple file server or a contentmanagement –and do not say because document management itself is simply–, others favor ascollaborative space or some level project management, such as search engine, or a mixture of allthe above.And of course, it is also the case that many companies implement only what you determine tomeet ISO, but in reality they never exploit or develop.
  2. 2. While each of these areas separately, or all, SharePoint fully meets the requirements, it oftenhappens that these are smaller than their actual abilities, or that the focus and scope of its use islimited.Therefore, from the appearance in the SharePoint 2007 version of the first native-Workflow, thestrategic challenge, technological and cultural for companies using or planning to use the platformhas become even greater.In this respect, and in a 2009 article, Hector Insua is holding his Blog: "Native Workflows weregood news at launch of SharePoint 2007, but almost two years later, we really realize that fewapplications are for , and is in fact, most business processes are very different and very "custom" oforganizations, for which standard solutions are not recommended. "Thus, alongside the release of that version, several companies started offering powerful WorkflowEngine for SharePoint, among which the Australian Nintex, which is the market leader for bothversions 2007, 2010 and now available also for 2013; Kaldeera only for SharePoint 2007; K2blackpoint to SharePoint 2003, 2007, 2010 and demo for 2013; Datapolis Workbox for SharePoint2010, SharePoint Workflow Essentials for SharePoint 2010, not to mention integrated suites likeHindu Skelta SharePoint Accelerator for SharePoint 2010, and Spanish AuraPortal, usingSharePoint for document management, both in the 2007 and 2010. In general, all these companiesoffer solutions that either use and fully integrated with SharePoint for the design and execution ofworkflows, as Nintex, or use some of their ability to integrate them into robust parallel BPM’ssolutions, as Skelta and AuraPortal.In either case, and regardless of the solution used-which these tools provide a powerful range ofactions that far exceeds the capabilities of SharePoint native –Workflows, also friendly interfaces,which in most cases be avoided to code, and graphically representing and design processes to run.The effect of these new technologies in companies using SharePoint has been noticeable.Already in the 2011 Survey How Companies use Microsoft SharePoint?, of Open Text company, wefound that SharePoint 2010 surpassed the previous version deployments, and that the main causewas the management of business processes and workflows of the current version. In fact, in thatsurvey, 67% of respondents indicated that they were using or planning to use BPM and Workflowswith SharePoint implementation, in addition to engines Workflow –as mentioned above– are themain applications, or add-ons that companies require or use in their SharePoint environments.However, in that same survey warned a "growing concern about the lack of business strategies inSharePoint deployments," which appeared as the second biggest challenge in implementing theplatform in organizations.Our reflection begins at this point.
  3. 3. Why Process Management is a challenge for companies?It may seem a truism: if evolution is adaptation, then all changes are evolution.The biological truth –and for purposes of this article, technologically– is that not the case: in thevast majority of species changes occur that are not adaptive, ie they do not provide reproductiveadvantages, which ultimately are the operate on natural selection, and evolutionary factors endup becoming specific to that species.The most common example of this are mutations –the same which at one time were consideredthe "motor of evolutionary change"–, and yet, in most cases not only are adaptive but by contrast,quickly eliminate individuals and populations that suffer.A contrario sensu –and forgive me this entomological extrapolation an IT article, the result of thelast two sabbaticals years I have spent in another great topic that fascinates me– many speciesalive today, are unchanged in hundreds of millions of years, as the small Chilean MecopteroNothiothauma reedi, a so-called "living fossils", living in the southern forests of my country, andthat has remained unchanged since at least the Permian period, more than 250 million years.This eccentric digression has one purpose: to warn that the "change for change" can bedisastrous, both in terms of species in ecosystems, and companies in information systems.Here is a small sample case.In 2009, my little company participated in the bidding for a large mining company, who invited us,along with four other major IT-consulting firms, to perform a "migration" of obsolete Workflowplatform to SharePoint.Since the initial meeting, I was surprised that the project manager in charge of the mining specifyrequired "that all processes and the user environment, run and operate with the same logic andstructure of the platform that had" migrated " because you were without updates and thecompany that developed it no longer existed. " I mean, was not that the workflows will not work, itwas more that the platform could not be updated.I was also surprised, I must say, that the other consultants immediately began to proposesolutions –mostly of-code–, to make SharePoint look like as possible to the platform in use ofmining.So, after listening to the other bidders, appoint the manager who, in my opinion, the project wasmisguided from the start, because the very idea of making SharePoint work as what was not there–the reason that they speak "migration"– and that the logic of the workflows operate on theparameters of the old platform that would replace, involved a basic problem of concept, strategy,focus and, of course, knowledge of SharePoint.In other words, what the manager was considering was a "change for change", not anadaptation, which really meant an evolution in the management of business processes.
  4. 4. They do not want to comment on the reaction of the other participants, but the truth is that afterthe intervention, we withdrew from the meeting by thanking the invitation, and declining toparticipate.Finally, the tender was won by one of the consultants, that a week later we were invited toparticipate in the project together, specifically in the development of workflows, in this case, withNintex, for the next four months, while the overall project would be delivered in one semester.However, we did not get to impose the central challenge we had discussed at the meeting, theconsultant gave extensively to the implicit logic that had established the mining project and triedto emulate the concept, structure, and even the interface! of the previous application.The result: our involvement ended before the deadline, but the entire project took more than twoyears to be completed ... This does not mean you necessarily have been successful.That said, the process management in enterprises is a challenge that begins long before youdeploy SharePoint or another platform, and not directly related to Workflow engine intended tobe used.The central challenge of course, is the change –the "new"– but it is worth repeating that not allchange is adaptive, and therefore no any new means evolution.In market terms, the study by Dr. Utz Dornberger & Carlos Palacios, "Challenges in theManagement of Innovation", states that innovation, ie the change is considered as the commercialutility of a novelty (in biological terms, the reproductive utility a adaptation), and can be done inthe following dimensions:  In products / services as product innovations,  In internal production processes and process innovations or  The reorganization of a company and organizational innovationsThis general description is summarized in the following chart from the same study:
  5. 5. In this regard, the text says:"New developments in technology have a decisive influence on the development of new productand service concepts (Dimension 1) and simultaneously define the starting point for thedevelopment of new interfaces with the customer (Dimension 2) and a new delivery systemProduct / Services (Dimension 3). Particularly the new information and communicationstechnologies have prompted countless innovations, which have changed the landscape of activitiesin areas such as marketing, distribution and organization of processes. "Note that the center of this diagram are precisely the technological options, including SharePointprecisely, but neither challenge or the response to it are there: both are outside the diagram.The challenge of process management begins with two simple questions: how we do what wedo? and, why we do like it we do?The first is time, to identify what they are and how to run the processes taking place in theCompany –the so call process engineering–, and the first answer is, not necessarily, all processesrunning "manually" today , can, should, or even "want" to be improved, either with SharePointand workflows, or not.As an example of the latter, it should tell you the following story:A customer asked us to develop a Workflow for budget allocation against requirements. Afterrunning the application, review, discussion, preliminary approval and many other steps, theworkflow finished sending an email to the manager of budgets approve or reject the requestedallocation, responding with a "yes" or "no" in the body of the message ("Lazzy approval", inNintex). Of course, the mapping could also passed directly into the SharePoint intranet.However, when the workflow was presented to the manager responsible for the project, told usthat there was no need to send an email to request approval, as the manager of budgets and hadproblems with the huge amount of emails received daily, so did not even want to know what youwere going to get automated emails. And, of course, did not have time to enter the intranet.So, for her, "was much easier to print the assignment, and hit the door for his signature directlywhen required" ...Obviously in this case, not worth even worth trying to explain it precisely, the number of emailsreceived daily by the manager, was probably due to the rest of the tasks that were not executedautomated ... but either way: if the change does not desired, there not Workflow able to do it.Not that the automation of process management is a matter of desire, of course. But the firstchallenge to the management level, we have the will to change.In this sense, one of the common problems of all development process management is whereprojects begin:
  6. 6. It happens that the IT-Department –has implemented SharePoint in the first place–, a good day"discover" that can take your processes and other areas on the site ... and then usually startsgrowing demand as Workflows inorganic, and utterly devoid of strategy.The result, as in the intranets which enables the creation of sites and subsites, lists and libraries ina free and indiscriminate, short term is that the platform is full of workflows and site nearly empty,useless lists and impoverished libraries, which in practice do not resolve or improve theperformance of the Company, although they affect, and very quick!, the performance ofSharePoint Server.In biological terms this is the most similar to a "mutation", which as we saw, quickly ends up killingthe species that suffers: as we said, not all change is adaptive.It is necessary then that the challenge of process management is owned and led to high level,ideally by the General Manager or CEO, that must have the will, resources, perseverance andpatience to make a change that will dramatically affect –for better or for bad–, the way of thecompany does things he does.And indeed directly related to the above, is the resistance to change, which is one of the mostdifficult to resolve, especially in organizations where processes have been implemented in thesame way from "geological ages".If the mere introduction of SharePoint as a simple document repository, to replace the shareddisks, often involves great difficulties for users without knowledge level, imagine you implying thatuntil yesterday the work was done in a particular way, structured under some logic, and with theweight of a seated tradition, be changed in a matter of weeks, even days, for automated processesthat may include business rules, loops, multiple validations, calculations, reviews, documents,approvals, limits, and a countless other actions hitherto not even taking into account: the "shockstate" also occurs in organizations.So in addition to the desire for change, it is essential that this be established with a clear strategythat involves all areas of the organization, both in its development and in its implementation, aswe saw, the best workflow planet is doomed to failure, if those who should lead the change,prefer "doing things the old way" ...The use of the concept strategy to define this challenge is not random: indeed, the term derivesfrom the Greek ΣΤΡΑΤΗΓΙΚΗΣ, stratos= army, and agein= direct, ie "lead armies," and this appliesto all the media consistency, planning, and provision of ones energies to achieve a goal.But, more specifically, refers to the idea that it is driving, a navigator or guide. From someone whodraws a plan of action to address a set of operations, in order to pool resources to achievesomething that-in the case of each element in isolation intervene, uncoordinated or lack ofdirection, it would be simply impossible.
  7. 7. It is worth noting that the terms Government and Cybernetics derived from the Greek kyberne,"navigator", and in that sense the process management by definition is a cybernetic system,circular, like all living organisms.That said, it is clear that every workflow, all workflows, is connected, and it depends –at sametime–cause and effect of all other processes that take place in the organization, or in other words,an organism depends on all its organs, and these in turn depend on everyone else. It is a holistic,total conception. In technical terms, workflows focus mainly on control and communicationfunctions, which are both internal and external factors of the organization.This view –that is the look of the "Systems Theory" originally from biology– is at the core of anyproject management processes, and if not properly understood, or just one underestimates to tryto address each area the company separately, the result is often disastrous.One of the common problems that stems from deploying workflows isolated and without aconductive strategy is that rapidly appear called "bottlenecks". In engineering, a "bottleneck" is a phenomenon where the performance or capacity of an entire system is severely limited by a single component. The component is usually called "the bottleneck point." The term is a metaphorical derivation refers to a bottle neck, where the flow rate of a liquid is limited by the narrow neck.As a paradigm fun of this, it is worth recalling a classic Charlie Chaplin film "Modern Times": Themost famous scene is undoubtedly the sequence of the production chain, where Chaplin fails tokeep pace, and ends swallowed by the conveyor, literally falling "Workflow Engine":
  8. 8. In SharePoint Worflows, there are bottlenecks where they have not been implemented, –andtherefore the tasks and processes that remain "manual"–, or have been implemented, but notdesigned for workload in fact must withstand, and the server is capable of processing, as in theexample of Chaplin.All that said, it is clear that an effective project management processes in SharePoint, necessarilybegins by re-engineering processes, organization-wide, and is primarily focused on automatingthem.This does not mean that a project of this nature must necessarily be implemented at once and at asingle time for the entire organization. A common mistake is to believe or pretend that theorganization will be able to absorb change at all levels, in the same way, and above all, at the sametimes.As we said at the beginning then, to overcome this challenge, what is required is an evolution, nota revolution. When and how to implement and develop Process Management in SharePoint?While there is no single recipe –this article is not a cookbook–, there are certain common factorsthat must necessarily be taken into account before we even think of SharePoint, or to startdesigning workflows him, or Workflow engines previously mentioned.The first, clearly, is to establish the need for change, and the reasons for it. A usual reengineering"list of ingredients", indicates that a project of this nature should be addressed when:  The organization is in crisis  When you are behind the competition  When you want to be the market leader  When youre the leader and you will remain so  When competition is aggressiveAll these examples are what, in evolution, are known as "evolutionary pressures".However, I believe a factor that is not considered in the above is the need to adapt to theecosystem, and here let me return for a moment to the example of insect said at the beginning:The fact that a species has remained unchanged for over 250 million years, means and implies thatthere has needed to adapt to the changing environment, simply because they have not beenproduced. Indeed, the small "living fossil" of Chile, lives in humid forests that have not undergonemajor changes over three hundred million years, so this insect has no evolutionary pressures thathave made it necessary to adapt to new conditions ecosystem.
  9. 9. Put in terms of trade, to the extent that a company is tailored to your market, and that theconditions for this are stable, there is no real need for change and adaptation, because in realitythere are no evolutionary pressures.In practice, this usually occurs when a market is monopolies that prevent competition, and theycontrol the entire cycle of production and marketing –something that is still evident in certainareas of production in Chile–, and therefore, no substantial variations that force changes in thestructure of these business processes.For example, the telecommunications monopoly for decades was concentrated in the formerChilean Telephone Company, which began operations in 1880, with "the exclusive right to importinto the country the elements necessary to establish telephone service in the country." In the longrun however, the monopoly eventually stultifies the development and investment of company,and this became a true "living fossil", especially when technological advancement oftelecommunications entered the digital age.Opening up the market to new entrants, the emergence of mobile telephony, and numberportability, have cleared the way for evolutionary pressures in this industry now be expressed inall its magnitude.The above example serves as a good indicator so you know when its time to implement anddevelop management processes within the organization, simply "look the Woods":If still the same as ever, then maybe you can continue as is ... but if you notice that there are "newtrees, bugs and other animals that did not exist until yesterday," then worry, change is here.In short, one of the main reasons for implementing process management in SharePoint, is simplythat "everyone else is doing it", and that means, in terms of ecosystem and market that hiscompany could soon be a "huge and obsolete dinosaur in the world of small and agile mammals."If you went ashore this example, it is simply that most companies using SharePoint, are alreadyimplemented or are managing their processes on the platform. If you have it and not use it forthis, not adjusting to changing market conditions, and therefore, not evolving. And if you simplydo not, then its like the dinosaur that I mentioned earlier.Now, the above is not an alert for you to pick up the phone and call the IT manager asking if thecompany has installed SharePoint and how Workflow its running. As we have repeatedly statedthroughout this article, it is an evolution, not a revolution: must be strategically plan theimplementation, development and life cycle of this initiative, and in particular, should besensitized to the organization at all levels , regarding the profound change that these technologiesinvolve the way of doing things.In this regard, it is worth remembering that SharePoint is a platform that has many levels deep,and a broad horizon of services: without Workflows, all of them are just better ways to do whatwe do, as we have always been doing, but now is on the Intranet.
  10. 10. With workflows, and to the extent that it is a fact reengineering project overall, will be theproduction processes which are going to change, and thus specifically will change the way we dowhat we have been doing so now: the organization will be the same, but it’s not only automateprocesses in large degree, but still, acquire a new level of complexity, depth and richness, the pairbecome more simple and less routine for users.If we add to this challenge a higher level, we come to the Strategic Management Project-in ProjectServer 2010 on SharePoint, but for now, we just want to get here.We know this is an article too conceptual, perhaps very biological, and clearly very little technical,but we hope that at least serve for you to ponder a bit about "the forest in which he lives hiscompany" ...Never is too late to evolve ... unless you have the misfortune of a dinosaur, and that tomorrowmorning a giant meteor crashing into the Yucatan Peninsula.* Consultant in SharePoint and Nintex - (56-9) 9 596 34 12