Collaborate brought Fishbowl Solutions to Denver, Colorado this year. Overall, it was another well-coordinated and well-attended event. Special kudos go to Al Hoof and Dave Chaffee of the WebCenter SIG for IOUG (Independent Oracle Users Group). They spend a lot of time scheduling the WebCenter sessions, scanning the attendees who go to those sessions, and providing a friendly face each morning. Thanks again guys.
Here are some themes and hot topics that I picked up on this year. Some of these were discussed last year as well, but based on session attendance and booth traffic this year, these topics seemed to stand out even more and attendees dug deeper into benefits and ROI.
User Experience – Portals and Intranets
Some customers that deployed the initial versions of WebCenter Portal 11g struggled to roll it out on a large scale. Additionally, user feedback was pretty negative. Overall performance was poor and usability was marginal. Since those initial versions or patch sets, specifically PS2 and PS3, WebCenter Portal has become much more stable and usable. Customers have seen this as well, and they are now looking to evolve their initial deployments and create that next-generation intranet or portal.
One of the key considerations moving forward though is user experience. They want their portals and intranets to provide the flash or sizzle that make them inviting, but they also want the navigation to be intuitive and the contribution capabilities to be open yet governed. They are also looking for the overall user experience to be personalized, so that users have similar yet different experiences that help them to keep coming back. Lastly, they want their portals and intranets to be that true, one-stop shot that has always been the goal but has been hard to achieve. This means that they want to integrate data from other business applications, such as customer purchase history from PeopleSoft or JDEdwards, or employee expenses from E-Business Suite. The customers we talked to really stressed not only getting internal or external users to visit the intranet or portal, but also stay to consume or share information, and keep coming back. Again, the goal that customers are trying to achieve is to provide one view into the business processes or information that users need daily from one site – instead of having to jump between or open multiple applications to complete tasks or connect with others.
It was good timing for Fishbowl Solutions to be able to talk about portal and intranet use cases, and how those use cases could be further enabled or extended using our Intranet In A Box solution. WebCenter Customers are no different than other enterprise application customers – they all would like a starting point and “accelerator” to begin using the system. Fishbowl’s Intranet In A Box, as detailed in American Axle’s Collaborate presentation and white paper, helps them do just that. It also incorporates and enables user experience capabilities and application integrations, providing that portal or intranet jumpstart to build an enterprise system.
Mobile Content Management
No surprise that, once again, mobility and mobile content management were popular topics at Collaborate. In fact, they have been popular topics for many years now. I remember back to Collaborate 2010, which took place around the same time that the Apple iPad was released. Fishbowl Solutions announced its mobile strategy – extending WebCenter Content to smartphones – at this event as well, and it seems the excitement for mobile ECM has been building ever since.
2013 finds Oracle, and more specifically WebCenter, customers thinking about or planning their mobile strategy as it applies to content management. This seems to be the next evolutionary step for most organizations, which is being driven in party by the rise of the tablet and other mobile devices in the workplace. See our recent Mobile Tablet Application webinar for more details on tablet usage in the workplace. What used to be more of a pull from employees – I have a tablet, where are my business-enabled mobile applications and content? – is turning into a push from the business with governance and use case policies being put into place for mobile technologies. The reality is the mobile-enabled employee is the more productive employee, so organizations are providing this enablement but doing so with proper control and oversight.
This applies to extending high-value sales and marketing collateral, stored in Oracle WebCenter Content, to mobile devices as well. Customers that we talked to at Collaborate were aware of Oracle’s Application Developer Framework (ADF) Mobile, which Oracle announced in October of last year. We received questions on what the differences are between that solution and our Mobile ECM offerings, including our tablet and phone apps. The easy answer is that while Oracle ADF Mobile can be used to create feature-rich, powerful mobile applications, if WebCenter customers want to consume, share and interact with WebCenter assets from their mobile devices, they would have to build such an application themselves – pretty much fro scratch. Fishbowl offers packaged mobile offerings for iOS and Android, and we have customers in production with Applie iPads and Android tablets – including Banner Engineering (Collaborate preso and white paper).
Document Imaging – ROI
The last topic I would like to mention is document imaging. I’m not sure how many document imaging sessions there were at Collaborate, but I know the two I attended were packed. Document imaging and capture technologies continue to represent sure-fire ways to reduce business process costs. The most popular process where these technologies have been applied is invoice processing. Fishbowl Solutions was fortunate to partner with Land O’ Lakes for a presentation – here is their white paper as well – on their document imaging use case, and what really resonated in their presentation was the amount of manual invoice steps they were able to eliminate with document capture and imaging.
What stood out to me most from conversations at Collaborate was how hungry WebCenter customers were to realize ROI. Having made significant investments in the WebCenter stack over the years, they were looking for projects that would produce hard-dollar, measurable ROI. That isn’t to discredit how WebCenter is being used for websites, portals, or records management, but many times these use cases represent overhead that are much harder to measure. Document Imaging, and specifically Oracle’s end-to-end invoice processing system, helps organizations reduce invoice processing costs by reducing labor costs and late fees, while also making it possible for organizations to realize early pay discounts. For these reasons, I expect to see more WebCenter customers ramp up imaging projects over the next few years.
Collaborate returns to Las Vegas next year and will be held at the Venetian. Until then, good luck with your WebCenter projects, and feel free to contact Fishbowl if you need any assistance.