Fishbowl Solutions wrapped up a successful Collaborate conference on April 26th. Here are my 12 takeaways from the event – in no particular order.
- A lot of user group crossover. Badges denoting the various user groups – IOUG, OAUG, Quest – were marked by different colors, and I saw quite a mix of these colors within WebCenter sessions. I think the organizers and user groups that comprise Collaborate have always wanted to see this user group crossover, and it appears that it is finally happening. This has evolved pretty much in parallel with WebCenter releases. As WebCenter added more integrations with Oracle applications (E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft) and leveraged more products in the Middleware layer (Identity Management, Business Intelligence), organizations using those applications and middleware components have had almost 5 years now to hear the WebCenter story. It appears organization with a heavy Oracle footprint are finally understanding the value of including WebCenter as a core piece of their organization’s infrastructure, which includes being able to surface high-value content to business applications. The story is resonating.
- SharePoint. “We have SharePoint. Help!” Ok, I didn’t actually hear anyone say that, but that is how I would summarize the overall angst by customers that have both WebCenter and SharePoint, or are Oracle shops that have seen Microsoft encroachment. It isn’t surprising that we talked to a lot of attendees that have SharePoint because most organizations are using SharePoint – in one form or another. However, organizations are still trying to figure out and separate their use cases for SharePoint and Oracle WebCenter. One discussion we had was with a gentleman from an organization who had just recently been exposed to SharePoint, and they were planning to roll it out and use it for content management. They were a smaller organization – about 150 employees – and they decided on SharePoint because it was going to be so much cheaper than other content management systems. As we discussed their use case, the other Oracle products they were using (Oracle Database and JD Edwards), as well as the technical staff they had on hand (mostly JAVA developers), the conversation shifted to the ongoing costs of SharePoint. We helped make them aware that their 3-5 year costs to manage, maintain and integrate SharePoint with their other Oracle systems were probably going to be higher when compared to WebCenter. The long-term and ongoing costs of SharePoint are typically not considered when it first gets rolled out, and Oracle and Fishbowl have some great material available that proves this out – all backed by industry findings. Check out these white papers:
SharePoint 2010 Cost of Ownership: Expect the Unexpected
SharePoint is NOT an ECM System – Reasons Why
- Document Imaging. This 25-year plus technology is still relevant, and the reason should be obvious. ROI. Imaging systems enable organizations to reduce the costs associated with handling and processing paper, especially paper tied to a financial process – such as accounts payable. All organizations have to pay invoices, and organizations with hundreds and thousands of invoices struggle with getting them paid on time and efficiently as possible. Oracle WebCenter Imaging provides robust imaging capabilities and has been integrated with Oracle Applications to provide end-to-end imaging within business processes. With this system, organizations using E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, and JD Edwards are able to quickly automate invoice processing and achieve a clear and measurable ROI.
- Sites. Lots of excitement and uncertainty around WebCenter Sites. Organizations using Oracle’s web content management (WCM) system commonly known as SiteStudio, have been anxiously awaiting the next generation off WCM. However, WebCenter Sites is listed as a Web Experience Management platform that includes such features as segmentation and analytics. For organizations looking to increase web site retention and conversion, have access to real-time data on web content effectiveness, and create online catalogs, WebCenter Sites really packs a punch. However, the questions we received from attendees were regarding what was going to happen to SiteStudio, what if they didn’t need all the features that WebCenter Sites offers, and was there a Migration path from SiteStudio to WebCenter Sites? I do know that there are some integrations/migrations available between SiteStudio and WebCenter Sites, but I think Oracle WCM customers simply want to know if WebCenter Sites will ultimately be the system they use to manage their website.
- Mobility. By far and away, mobile content management was the most popular topic at Fishbowl’s booth. We had a few iPads showing off our application for WebCenter Content, and attendees were initially just excited to see that it was indeed possible to surface WebCenter Content images, documents and videos to iPads. There were also many questions around the technologies used to surface this content. My colleague John Sim did a great job explaining these technologies during this session “Exposing WebCenter Data on Mobile & Desktop Devices through the REST API”. Check out the Slides and White Paper for more details.
- User Experience & Interaction. Social applications like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have helped put more focus on the user interface design of enterprise business systems. Users of these social media applications enjoy how easy it is to interactively share information with others. If systems used in the workplace don’t at least offer some level of this intuitiveness and interaction they may not get used as much as the organization would like if at all. Technologies like HTML5, Adobe Air, and touch gestures make it possible to enhance the end-user experience and make the process of contributing and interacting with content not only easy but also fun. I would again like to give a plug to my colleague John Sim by pointing you to his presentation and white paper on the topic.
- Lack of Customer Lead Sessions. Collaborate is a user group conference. Unfortunately however, of the 70+ WebCenter sessions, I think there were around 10 sessions given by actual WebCenter customers. That doesn’t mean that customers don’t have great stories and use cases to share, as I and my Fishbowl colleagues talked to many of them throughout the week that would have made for great presentations. This lack of customer presentations is also probably the most popular negative feedback regarding Collaborate. I think the way to change this is for WebCenter partners to step up and encourage their customers to speak at Collaborate. Partners can help out by doing some of the heavy lifting – help draft the white paper and presentation and coordinate attendee logistics. Fishbowl Solutions partnered with three of our customers to deliver presentations at Collaborate. These sessions all had higher attendance than sessions given solely by Fishbowl representatives.
- Social. I heard great things about the Oracle Social preview given at the Oracle WebCenter Customer Advisory Board meeting. I wasn’t able to attend, but I heard the presenters actually collected attendee feedback through the Social interface. Cool stuff. Other social/collaborative tools from Oracle have underwhelmed, but Oracle Social looks and sounds very promising.
- Enterprise Portals. Still a lot of interest in Portals. My Fishbowl colleagues and I heard from many customers that were still on older portal offerings from Oracle and wanted to discuss getting to WebCenter Portal 11g. Additionally, I think organizations in general are still looking to have in place an enterprise portal that delivers that true, personalized, one-stop shop for all relevant enterprise information – newsfeeds, financial dashboards, links to content, blogs, chat, etc. Pulling all this content together using JSR-286 or ADF-based portlets is possible and there have been successes, but it seems organizations want their portals to have more features and functionality (bells and whistles) and haven’t quite got there yet.
- Toga Party!? The “Back to the 80s Party” on Wednesday night was totally rad. Sorry, couldn’t resist. I did see 3 dudes wearing togas, and I had to stop and make sure I was at the right party.
- Customer attendance is growing. It seemed attendance overall was up from past Collaborate events. Lots and lots of buzz around Exadata, Cloud, Social, Fusion Applications, and WebCenter Sites and Social. There are a lot of exciting things happening at Oracle.
- WebCenter interest is growing. This was my 4th Collaborate event, and I had become accustomed to seeing the same faces year after year. It is always good to see and talk to those same people, but I was very happy to see and meet many new Oracle WebCenter customers this year. The word is getting out that Collaborate is the user group conference for WebCenter customers, and no other event offers the breadth and depth of presentations, demonstrations, and peer-to-peer engagement.