How we keep Skore at the cutting edge

We’ve never wanted to sit still and we’re always looking for ways to improve our company, our services and our products. Earlier this year we released the latest version of our Skore web application. This included an almost complete rebuild of the whole app from ground up.

It’s no small undertaking to start from scratch but we felt the time was right. As you develop a product there’s lots of trial and error, some things work well others, not so much. Feedback from users is essential but so is our own experience using the product. And this is something we pride ourselves on, we use our product on a daily basis.

But it’s not just user experience and usability changes that are important. As we develop the software we learn what works and what doesn’t. We realise that some choices, that seemed right at the time, have challenged us later on. This is why it’s important to take the opportunities to rebuild when they arise. To apply, from the beginning, all the lessons we’ve learnt since the last time.

For those that have followed us since 2014 they’ll know that this isn’t the first time we’ve rebuilt the product, or redesigned the user interface. Here are some of our previous user interfaces that some users will remember, some more fondly than others!

Skore Prototype

While not the very first prototype you can see one of the first uses of the what and why boxes. The product was then called Score with a C. All the main controls are there which allowed us to start testing with real users before we officially released.

Skore Version 1

Our first official release of Skore was for the desktop only. The interface was simple, there was no way to apply styles to the content. The editor tool bar was along the top of the application rather than the left bar we use now. By this time we had added the sticky note feature that allowed the user to annotate process models.

All the key features were here by this point, rapid modelling, shortcuts, multi-layers and attachments on each box. Although in version 1.0 you could only share processes by PDF or with other users of Skore desktop.

Skore Version 2

Following a business review with the Happy Startup School we underwent a rebrand, new logo and website. Then we decided to follow up with a redesign of the Skore user interface.

We worked with Mike C from Think.gg to design a new interface with darker colours contrasted with the green we had adopted in our logo and website.

We implemented a bright fun backdrop to the app which proved controversial. Some users loved the playful background and others immediately asked us to remove it. We quickly implemented a configuration item for those that weren’t fans.

By this time the app had implemented stylesheets that let users change the look and feel of the visualisations, add images or choose from the library of icons.

It was shortly after the release of this version that we started working on our first web app. To get up to speed as quickly as possible we build a separate backend web application and graphted the new Skore editor on top of it.

One of the biggest challenges for us is that we used different teams, and different designs, for the main web interface and the editor interface. These were completely different apps that had been integrated. It soon became clear that we’d need a complete rebuild to resolve the increasing technical debt that had built up.

Skore Version 3

Back in late January we released our Unity interface, or Skore version 3, which brings all parts of the application into a single design. This version of the interface has undergone the most extensive user testing to date. This led to a standardisation of common functions such as Search, New, Edit and Save across each type of content in the workspace.

The interface also came in time for our new branding which was easily implemented into the system.

This is a great step forward for us, it demonstrates our commitment to continually improving the product. It’s not just the interface but the rebuild ensures we also constantly update and improve the architecture, security and performance of the application.

If you would like to learn more about Skore why not request a demo.

2017 Review – Management Changes and Growth at Skore

Once again I am glad to say that we are at the end of the year and looking back with a very positive view. 2017 has seen more changes, activity and growth at Skore.

Here is an overview of the key highlights for 2017 at Skore.

Our Partners and Community

We started shifting our focus to partners in 2017 which has been challenging and exciting. It became clear in 2016 that we needed a larger team to support our growing customer base. This meant growing our team internally or working more closely with partners to provide these resources.

As we decided to focus internally on the product, and supporting tools, we were relying on our fantastic network of partners to provide additional services to our clients. This has worked well and we are looking to extend this further into 2018.

To support our network we setup our Skrum events running the first in July. These have proved very popular with both partners and customers and we will be increasing the frequency and availability of locations in 2018.

The Company

Early 2017 brought a lot of changes for us internally as we made some structural changes to the company in order to support our growth. The previous make up of the company makes it hard to do an exact comparison for year on year revenue although all calculations show revenue has more than doubled in 2017.

In February we expanded the management team with the appointment of Chris Green as our Director of Partnerships. Chris brought a wealth of experience in delivering value added solutions to customers. His position supports our approach to developing deeper and more collaborative relationships with our partner network.

During the year we also increased our development resources adding another full time software developer to the team. This is a front-end role for the software and supported the development of our new release due in January 2018.

Finally, at the end of 2017, we welcomed Antony Bream as an advisor to the management team. Antony has experience in managing technology companies through growth providing strategic guidance, marketing insights and an extensive industry network.

The Product

Following the launch of Skore web app at the end of 2016, early 2017 saw the addition of a number of improvements to the product. These included features such as commenting, approvals change history.

The rapid growth in users meant we had to review and improve the infrastructure early in the year. In August 2017 we implemented a completely new architecture for the product that will allow much more secure and scalable growth into the future.

The final major project of 2017 was a complete redesign of the software. Sneak previews have been available through a series of webinars. The first customer trial workspaces were available in December 2017 and a formal launch is due in early 2018.

So once again 2017 has been another exciting year us and we look forward to welcoming 2018 along with our partners and customers. Wishing you all the best for 2018!

The team at Skore.

Skore leadership team grows – Chris Green

We’re excited to announce a new addition to the management team at Skore with the appointment of Chris Green as Head of Partnerships.

Our partner relations have been key to our success over the past 12 months and this appointment further strengthens our commitment to support both existing and new partners.

Chris brings a wealth of experience in process improvement, transformation and automation. He has delivered solutions to some of the world’s largest organizations and has worked extensively with partners in his previous roles.

Chris is a thought leader and innovator in methodology and approach and will be working with partners to develop our Skore on Target methodology for business performance assessment and improvement.

Chris says, “The Skore team have an exciting and different way of looking at, and solving, business problems in their customers. I am looking forward to developing this further and bringing together tools such as Skore app and our methodology into a holistic approach that will benefit partners and their end customers.”

The Skore on Target approach has been developing alongside Skore app over the past year and will be made more widely available to partners this year.

Co-founder and Head of Operations Craig Willis says, “Having worked with Chris on several projects, and in different companies, I know he has a lot of experience to bring to this role. This is a strategic investment for us and demonstrates our commitment to developing mutually beneficial relationships with our partners.”

If you would like to learn more about becoming a partner, or to learn more about what’s on offer, please contact chris.green@getskore.com.

2016 Review – a great year at Skore

2016 has been quite a year for us and now we’re reflecting on the last 12 months and thinking about how we can continue our success into 2017.

2016 is the year we turned a profit, not only are we in profit but it’s also the year we invested the most in the business.

Our financial year doesn’t end for a few months yet but we are well on target with a number of exciting projects already committed for the New Year.

Among the key changes to the business is the consolidation of all our businesses into one. We originally setup Skore Labs as a separate business alongside our existing services company. As the aims of these businesses have aligned bringing them together under one unit will make it much easier to operate and grow.

Highlights of 2016

Product development

This was a big year for the product. The desktop app really matured at the end of 2015 so we went into 2016 with the tool as a core part of our service offering. This made a real difference to both sides of what we do and meant a lot more hands on with the product allowed us to really refine how it supports consultants and analysts.

We have received a lot of great feedback on the new interface and the increasing stability of the rapid process discovery interface.

We also released our first cloud offering, starting in beta back in June. Although we didn’t officially announce an end to the beta until December we had a number of customers already using the platform day-to-day.

The web version is fully compatible with the desktop meaning content can be easily exchanged between the two allowing for online and offline editing.

On top of the desktop capability, the web app supports version history, contains an audit trail and usage stats. And of course you can set up users and share content securely.

New Customers

This year our new customers have really come from every corner of industry, from healthcare to horticulture. We have projects running at one of the UK’s largest NHS trusts as well as a major healthcare provider in the USA.

Software companies continue to be a key customer for us and this year we can include Learnsmarter and Highlight as well as a number of other UK based tech companies.

In the USA we have partnered with one of the country’s largest banks as a new and growing user with particular interest in our ability to support internal audits. Audits have also been a theme in fast moving consumer goods.

We have been involved in a number of projects in engineering and construction working closely with a national home builder and a major infrastructure project, both in the UK. Our design methodology and tools have also been used to support an engineering organisation in the USA.

Finally we have been working with two companies in the horticultural industry on both sides of the Atlantic. We hope both of those will continue strongly into the New Year!

We’d like to thanks to all the customers and partners that have supported us in 2016, we hope we didn’t miss too many from here, especially all the hard working consultants and analysts using Skore app everyday. We really couldn’t continue to develop without your feedback and support!

Key Partnerships

This year we established a number of key partnerships that have supported our success in different ways.

Dorset Creative – A massive thank you to Nathan and his team for supporting our product development and providing valuable guidance, design and development resources.

Springboard IT – Supported us understanding Sharepoint and how to integrate Skore app into the Sharepoint ecosystem.

A2ZCloud – This exciting company work with customers to deliver cloud solutions on the Zoho platform. They have been very supportive throughout 2016 and we really look forward to working with them even more in 2017.

Roc Technologies – One of the fastest growing tech companies in 2016. The award winning team at Roc deliver process transformation, project management and technology expertise to major change programmes.

We are currently in discussion with a number of new partners and hope to announce and develop those over 2017. Please do get in contact if you would like to become a partner info@getskore.com.

Looking to 2017

Over the past few weeks we’ve been trying to find time to start planning for next year.

The team

It’s amazing we’ve managed to achieve what we have with the team we have and we’re very proud. While we have money in the bank and a strong pipeline it’s the ideal time to start growing.

We are currently in discussions to recruit some key new team members and will be on the lookout for talent throughout the year. If you think you could be a valuable addition, get in touch info@getskore.com.

The product

Development continues and we have a few exciting new features in test at the moment and due for release early in the New Year. These include; commenting on processes, approval and publishing.

Beyond this we’re continuing to work on the interface and existing users will notice a number of improvements starting to appear toward the second quarter. We have a lot of exciting ideas but as usual we are not investing too much in those until proven in existing projects.

If you have any ideas, and a project to try them on, do get in contact. info@getskore.com

New offerings

Perhaps the most exciting thing for us is something we’ve been working on throughout 2016. We have been formalising many of the tools we use in our consulting and building these into a tool kit.

We plan to make this available to customers and partners sometime next year. We will be inviting people to review, comment and try these tools out for themselves. We’re not sure exactly where this will take us so we’re looking to you for guidance.

If you’d like access to a set of consulting, analysis and project tools to support your existing work then get in touch to register your interest. info@getskore.com

And on that note we wish you all the very best and a prosperous 2017!

When is a process not a process?

When it’s a system!

Modern processes are complicated. Since the transition from manufacturing and Adam Smith’s pin factory the processes we are involved in at work are very rarely ridged, fixed and perfectly repeatable. More often than not they require skill and judgement to execute properly.

What makes them so complicated? We no longer work on a fixed production line where a known quantity of raw materials come in, each actor plays a specific part in the transformation and widgets are produced.

Today we have to take a multitude of inputs, we interact with our environment taking numerous signals and having to make decisions based on the information we have.

And yet most approaches to understanding and visualising process is based on this fixed view of the factory with very clear and detailed responsibilities, inputs and outputs.

Open System Theory

Open System theory describes systems as units that transform inputs into outputs but also recognise that the system has a boundary that is permeable. That is the system interacts with, and is influenced by, it’s environment in many more ways than just the input and output.

What’s key to understanding a system, and why it delivers the results it does, is understanding the relationship it has with it’s environment.

Notice how more traditional approaches to process are focused on the activities that happen. Relationships between activities are normally established based on the order they happen in or the role, or function, that performs them.

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-11-09-05

System Based Processes

It’s clear that modern processes are more likely to resemble systems rather than the traditional manufacturing process. So how do we model this type of process?

We based our approach on the IDEF0 functional modelling approach. It still describes flows of activities, and who does them, but there is more of a focus on the individual inputs and outputs of each activity. That is we focus more on the relationships between activities.

During process discovery it is these inputs and outputs that drive the most informative discussions. The inputs and outputs of each activity are like contracts between activities. Especially when those activities are done by different people. We are not just identifying a handover, as swimlanes help you to, but we also specify what is handed over. And this needs to be agreed between the parties.

activity_boundary

What’s more, we can capture roles against each step and tag those according level of responsibility (e.g. RACI). This helps to better understand the boundary. We can use the attachments to gather further relations to other types of information such as business rules, policies, systems and so on.

A reference model for the business

The advantage of this approach is that it builds on the traditional visual approach to process. It takes those important aspects, showing the flow of activities, who does them and in what order, and builds on them by allowing us to understand better how they relate to each other.

This helps us get better agreement among diverse team members. It provides a reference point for discussions and changes and helps to focus in on where improvements can be made.

To learn more about using Skore app modelling try our Process Improvement Course or contact us for a free demonstration. info@getskore.com

Further success drives partnership and Sharepoint integration

SPRINGBOARD-IT-logo-header-x2We’re pleased to announce a new partnership with Springboard IT. We will be working with Springboard IT to develop our Sharepoint integration. This will bring together the content management capabilities of Sharepoint, and Office 365, with the rapid process capture and analytical capabilities of Skore app.

We see a growing need in our customer projects to make better use of existing infrastructure rather than introducing even more tools. Many companies have years invested in the Sharepoint platform which has really come of age since the release of Sharepoint 2013.

The integration will make it much easier to manage, control, share and collaborate on interactive process content. It extends our current capabilities in process capture and analysis into process knowledge management.

Who are Springboard IT?

Springboard IT are a leading consulting and development agency that specialize in maximizing the value from your existing Sharepoint infrastructure. They provide advice, configuration and development of customer apps and workflows.
“Working with Skore app is an ideal partnership. It makes it much easier for companies to identify, develop and improve existing processes. Skore app processes form the requirements for custom forms and workflows allowing any Sharepoint owner to maximize their investment in the platform.” – Steve Bloomer, founder of Springboard IT.

How do I get the integration?

We already have a number of early adopter customers but we’re always looking for more. Early adopters will get the chance to influence the direction and capability of future developments.

If you think adding Sharepoint integration is something that will make a significant difference to your organization then please do get in touch. info@getskore.com

New Investment in Skore app

It has now been 2 years since we first launched Skore app as a rapid process mapping and analytics tool. In that time we have been steadily growing a fan base and developing the application based on keeping things simple and fast.

In most cases we have tried to deliver what you have asked us for but our team and resources are limited. We know that a number of key requirements have been most obvious by their absence.

Well we hope to change that with this announcement. Thanks to your stunning support so far we are now in a position to start investing more in the application and really take it to the next level.

gray_whithout_-we-do-digitalThis week we signed an agreement to work with Dorset Creative, a UK based digital agency with years of development experience. We’re proud to invest in this UK team and we’re more than happy to spend time with them onsite in the stunning seaside town of Bournemouth.

The team at Dorset Creative are very experienced and have delivered a number innovative software products around productivity and project management. Their customers include universities, hospitals and local councils which shows they can build products that scale.

“The whole team are really excited to be working with Skore app. We think it’s such an interesting product and one that we’ve seen makes a real difference to all their customers. We’re very motivated by the fact we’ll be making such an impact on some very important companies.” Dorset Creative’s Director, Nathan Revill.

Over the coming months we’ll be bringing you more updates on our progress. We hope you’ll soon start seeing the benefits of this partnership. Please keep the feedback coming.

Signup on our website now to make sure you’re notified when important updates are released.

 

Getting Better at Business Requirements

The approach to process, that forms the basis of skore app, has been used widely in many organizations. It has been particularly successful in implementing large scale ERP and CRM systems. In one example a team, that we have worked with extensively in the past, helped implement an ERP in 6 weeks when the leading Systems Integrators had quoted 6 months!

In project after project we see high levels of success using this approach. A single process model is defined up front and used throughout the project to capture business requirements and communicate those effectively. The documentation is used by the technical team to configure the solution. It is used by the change team to manage the transition. It is used by the business to express their needs.

Yet research, such as this by IAG Consulting, tells us too many projects fail due to poor requirements. Here we explore one reason this happens and introduce our approach to mitigating these issues.

Asking users what they want

A major problem any analyst will find in a requirements gathering project is that the business owners, or users, don’t often know what they want. Of course no one would ever say that outright. You may get the odd “I’m not sure but I’ll know it when I see it.”

Business users are normally full of ideas and thoughts about how a new process or system ‘should’ work. And yet so often, when delivered the product is deemed not fit for purpose. Whose fault was it? The analyst who didn’t interpret what the user asked for correctly?

In any project we must make a number of assumptions and test these as we go. But we still need a start point, and the further down that road we can start the better.

The problem with asking users what they want is that’s actually a very difficult question to answer. These users tend to be immersed in their day jobs. Busy fighting the very fires you’re there to help put out with your new project.

They’ll have lots of ideas, they’ll see lots of things that can be improved all the time. They are probably overwhelmed by things that could be fixed. They won’t have had time to think through which would add more value. What they’d do first and what would have the most impact.

Answering a different question

You approach them when they have little time to spare and other important things that need to be completed. They will not have the time, or energy, to start making sense of what they know. As Daniel Kahneman describes in Thinking Fast and Slow, when asked a question that’s too difficult to answer with an immediate response we default to answering an easier question.

And so your best intention, to gather requirements, through the use of interviews, surveys and workshops can result in a lot of answers to the wrong questions.

Ask users what they do

And here is where a process approach can help. For those already familiar using a Business Process Management System (BPMS) to automate processes this will not come as a surprise. Rather than asking users what they need we ask them what they do. A far easier question to answer and one a lot less likely to be substituted for something else.

As you discuss what happens, and visualize this in a process flow, the users move this information from their minds and out on to the page where they can move on to the next thought. They start to see connections and are reminded of ideas and thoughts they’ve previously had.

The process flow provides context for these ideas and reminds the user of the purpose. While talking about what they do they will find it easier to accurately describe what is wrong. And more importantly provide ideas on how to do it better.

A good process visualization tool will provide a quick and simple way for the analyst to capture these thoughts and ideas against the process. The tool will provide easy reporting so that these important requirements can be reviewed and analysed later.

A further requirement, for an approach like this to work, is the ease with which the user can understand the visualization you are building with them. They will not see and make these connections if the diagram they are looking at is made up of hieroglyphics only an expert will understand.

The process must be simple and easy to understand, providing enough information to accurately describe how things work but not overwhelm or confuse the audience.

Requirements are part of a process

The typical analyst will be familiar with modelling business process flows. However, the use of business process flowcharts tends to be tactical. In the development of a new digital product it may be used to define the flow of data or a user journey.

In the projects where we see the greatest success, process flows are used strategically to guide the project. Hence why they make a good business requirements tool. They are used to describe the work that the organization does and then act as a framework in which we position the requirements for the digital change.

A process diagram is not a deliverable as part of a requirement. Requirements are attributes of the business process.

As such, the process model becomes a point of reference for all stakeholders in the project. It is the model through which the business expresses its needs. The same model the design and development team use to build the solution. And the same model the training team use to manage and support the users once the solution is implemented.

Again this can only be achieved with a process approach that is easy to read and easy to understand for as many people as possible.

A better approach to business requirements

To help others take advantage of this approach we have started to create a general approach to business requirements gathering and definition.

This includes a Business Requirements Canvas, an early stage tool to help understand the purpose of the project, the key processes and any key technical and user requirements. The Canvas informs the project vision and objective, captured in the Strategy Template. And finally the process approach, or IDEFlite, a simple yet powerful approach to process that can be used as the single common framework for the project requirements.

Learn more and download the tools here.

eBook: Organization Design

build_better_teamsOver the past 10 years we have worked in organizations of all shapes and sizes helping teams make effective and sustainable change. From large scale transformations to focused improvement projects, simple fast process design and analytics have underpinned every successful project. In this ebook we describe our approach to aligning people, process and strategy.

Download the eBook

 

In this book you will get:

A 5 step approach to organization design

Our simple 5 step approach to organization design can be used for designing future state process, building business cases and identifying new roles.

Guidance on running design workshops

A key component to running any successful change program is collaboration. Through process driven design workshops bring together business owners and subject matter experts to collaboratively design the new future.

Examples of simple process analytics

Once the direction has been set and the work defined we recommend the use of role analysis, such as RACI, to identify who is responsible for what. This ensures you have the right skills in the right place to deliver your vision.

Case studies, tips, tricks and tools

The ebook includes case studies based on real projects as well as tips and tricks for running workshops. Although we recommend Skore app we have also included alternative tools that you can use throughout the project.

A 7 year old is your best critic

Discovery

When I gave my son my old laptop it had a copy of our Skore app software installed on it. It never occurred to me that he’d ever look at it. Why would a 7 year old be interested in a boring business app when he has Youtube and Minecraft? Of course he deconstructed Mac OS, I mean he went through every screen, every setting in System Preferences, he changed everything until the machine became unresponsive.

An admin login later and we’d got it working again. Then came weeks of questions; what is the App Store? What is Dropbox? What is Filezilla? And so on, alphabetically through the Applications folder until we hit S. “Daddy, what is Skore app?” “It’s an application for drawing flows of things that happen so you can describe how things work to other people with a picture.” I answered. Satisfied, he went off clicking away.

User Experience

Then the questions started coming. “Daddy, why doesn’t this work?” I looked at what he was doing and couldn’t see anything wrong. But it soon occurred to me, he’s not been tainted with years of bad software. He doesn’t know the frustration and the often apparent illogical decisions by software designers. He hasn’t had his hopes and dreams dashed by nameless corporations churning out substandard tools. He doesn’t find something, that doesn’t work the way he expects, and just shrug his shoulders and start looking for a workaround. A 7 year just sees it as broken, like climbing a ladder only to find a series of rungs missing.

We’ve become accustomed to climbing ladders with various rungs missing. We’ve found elaborate ways to workaround them. But these workarounds are constantly slowing us down, preventing us from getting to the top. Like the ladder designer doesn’t want you to ever reach your goal.

So it turns out that a 7 year old has become one of our best user experience testers. Quick to point out the obvious gaps in just getting the most simple tasks done. Now I just have to find the most appropriate reward for all his hard work.