Another year; another OpenWorld. It seems that Oracle’s big event comes faster and faster each year and then goes by in a flash. Amidst the glitz and glamor and the sheer spectacle that is OpenWorld, the event has much to offer customers, vendors, partners and general technology enthusiasts. This is the event where attendees get to hear directly from Oracle’s top brass on what’s new, what’s coming, and what’s faster/better. For WebCenter customers, here are a few takeaways from me and my Fishbowl colleagues on what we felt were some of the major stories from OpenWorld 2012.
New WebCenter Content User Interface
The WebCenter community has been abuzz for many months now regarding a new user interface for Oracle WebCenter Content. This new interface was shown at a few sessions and within the WebCenter demo areas at OpenWorld. The responses from people I chatted with were all positive and how could it not have been. After all, WebCenter customers have been waiting for years for a new user interface, and it looks like in 12c they will finally get one.
Can’t wait until then? Fishbowl has been providing user interface enhancements to the Content Server for many years. These enhancements have specifically aided business users in contributing content to WebCenter. One such product is Fishbowl’s Policies and Procedures Solution Suite, which provides an intuitive, visually-rich interface to specifically manage quality documents, governance manuals, and standard operating procedures. Through a combination of search, browsing, workflow and alerts, Policies and Procedures Solution Suite can help improve access to quality control documents while enforcing their follow through.
Stance on SharePoint
We have mentioned in many other blog posts (here & here) some reasons why Oracle WebCenter customers who may also be using SharePoint should reconsider their decision to use more SharePoint or go to SharePoint altogether for content management, or when building an intranet, portal or any other content-backed business system. Fishbowl Solutions was front and center with our stance on SharePoint at OpenWorld. We featured our SharePoint Connector Version 2.0 for Oracle WebCenter, which provides an integration that enables content resulting from collaboration in SharePoint to be transparently and seamlessly stored in Oracle WebCenter Content. The main value proposition with this connector is that enables organizations to continue to use both SharePoint and WebCenter and leverage the benefits of each.
The key point that we want to have resonate with customers is that WebCenter should be the final system of record for content. This includes content not only existing in SharePoint, but also in other ECM systems, file shares, and even desktops. My colleague George Sokol participated in a session at OpenWorld titled “Living with SharePoint”. This session provided attendees some data and examples on what living with SharePoint would represent, namely high services cost, 3rd-party license costs for additional functionality, and potential governance dilemmas (I documented more of these issues in this white paper). All these things can be reduced with WebCenter, but the reality is most organizations want to continue to use SharePoint for work-in-progress collaboration and pair that with robust enterprise content management. Fishbowl’s SharePoint Connector for WebCenter enables organizations to do just that.
Integrations in the WebCenter Stack
Oracle has done a great job providing integrations between products across their various product/technology stacks. One popular example is the WebCenter integrations provided for E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Siebel applications. Basically, these integrations enable content management to be invoked in context of business processes, so, for example, when users are processing invoices they can quickly reference the image of that invoice which was processed with Oracle WebCenter Imaging.
At OpenWorld 2012, Oracle also spoke about integrating components of WebCenter with each other. One popular topic was the integration of WebCenter Sites (Fatwire) with Oracle WebCenter Content. Another popular topic was integrating WebCenter Portal with WebCenter Content. Oracle has made this integration possible with the Content Presenter task flow. Although this integration does provide the ability to surface content from WebCenter Content to WebCenter Portal, Fishbowl has found that most organizations are looking for integrations that provide greater scalability while leveraging standards-based technologies (JAVA, JSP) over proprietary (iDoc).
Fishbowl provides an integration framework called Intranet In A Box (IIAB) that integrates WebCenter Content with WebCenter Portal by leveraging WebCenter Spaces as the container to which content will be surfaced to. This framework eases contribution through profiles defined in WebCenter Content, including categories, sub-categories, topic pages, articles, contacts, images and landing page assets. IIAB also includes JSR-286 portlets for interfacing with WebCenter Content. The value of IIAB is it removes some of the complexity around integrating Content with Portal while easing content contribution. Organizations using IIAB have been able to build WebCenter Content and Portal-based corporate intranets in less than 60 days, including the University of Pretoria. Fishbowl’s best demos at OpenWorld were of Intranet In A Box, and organizations that have made the investments in WebCenter Content and Portal but have struggled to build out next-generation intranets and portals were very interested.
Another Go at Social
There was a lot of buzz at OpenWorld regarding the Oracle Social Network (OSN). Oracle announced OSN at OpenWorld 2011, and we are starting to see more and more examples of how OSN can be applied. I had the privilege of participating in the OSN team’s Developer Challenge as I got to present John Sim’s “Avengers Assemble” application. The OSN Developer Challenge was open to any Oracle or Java technologist (hack) that wanted to build an application that leveraged OSN’s REST API and another service or application. The entries must help solve a business problem, and John focused his efforts on helping to keep teams on the go in touch. John specifically used Google Maps and PhoneGap to build an application he described as a Mobile GeoTagging Solution. John provides much more detail on this solution in this C4 blog post.
Oracle provided further details at OpenWorld 2012 on their mobile application – Oracle ADF Mobile. According to this blog post, Oracle ADF Mobile uses a metadata-based development framework enabling developers to develop one application for multiple platforms (iOS and Android, for starters). It can also easily incorporate HTML5, Java, and the devices native container. As business processes become more and more mobilized, Oracle will be in great position to help facilitate the various business process steps that occur between the user and back-end systems like Oracle E-Business Suite. Oracle has the enabling technologies like SOA and BPM to provide a tightly integrated system for mobile processes.
Fishbowl Solutions has been developing Oracle WebCenter-based mobile applications for over two years now, and we were fortunate once again to be joined at OpenWorld with a customer that has succeeded deploying the mobile applications we have available for the iPad and Android devices. Banner Engineering was kind enough to speak during the WebCenter Content Strategy and Vision session at OpenWorld and also during a social business panel. Banner has rolled out a Mobile Library application that has enabled their sales force and distributors to reference sales collateral stored in Oracle WebCenter from their iPad and Android devices. This application has improved the overall sales process, making customer meetings much more interactive and engaging, and also provided a competitive advantage for Banner – their competitors are still bound to paper catalogs and the like to share product information. Banner created a lot of excitement with their story, and this excitement carried over to the Fishbowl booth. Fortunately, we had enough iPads to circulate to show off the application and its features.
As a WebCenter partner, it was definitely reassuring to see that alignment existed between Fishbowl’s current software and services offerings and Oracle’s stated direction and positioning with the product that was discussed at OpenWorld . We are excited to see where the next year takes us.