Fishbowl Solutions continued its summer webinar series this week. I had the opportunity to present during this webinar, and I covered two popular content management topics – integrating enterprise content with WebCenter and leveraging workflows for process automation. Realizing that these are both very broad topics, I wanted to focus specifically on ways to automate those processes while introducing more features that may help organizations to further leverage their investments and find more value. The following is a recap of what I shared during the webinar.
Integrating Enterprise Content with WebCenter
Organizations continue to be faced with the problem of ensuring that their high-value content can be easily found and therefore used. With the amount of different and disconnected data sources within an organization – Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Computer Aided Design (CAD), etc. – it is difficult to integrate these systems and link the data and content between them.
Furthermore, because there are so many systems, users spend a lot of time just looking for information. They aren’t always sure which system they should be accessing to find the data they need, and the inability to find the data or content can delay decision-making capabilities. Effectively then, organizations are all left with silos of information that doesn’t get adequately shared and utilized.
Content management systems, like Oracle WebCenter Content, provide a centralized repository to store an organization’s content and make it easy for users to find, access and share information. However, content management systems are most valuable when the information they contain is comprehensive, meaning any and all documents and other content that an organization has identified as high value can be found in the system by those people who need it and have access to it. The problem is getting content and data into the system easily and efficiently. If it can’t be done easily and efficiently, say for example an excessive amount of coding or manual steps are required, then employees may need to access many different systems for information they need to do their jobs. Thus the problems of content silos and inefficiencies continue to proliferate across an organization.
The key then is getting content into one, centralized system, and Oracle WebCenter Content provides many options to do that, including:
- Standard Check In – check in content one item at a time
- WebDav – Windows Explorer-like contribution of content
- Batch Loader – Manually invoked loading tool included with the Content Server
Depending on your use case, one or more of the above options will suffice to load content into Oracle WebCenter. However, if organizations are looking to increase the efficiencies of their content loads, integrate data from other business systems, or check content into a workflow, then Fishbowl’s Enterprise Batch Loader may be a better fit and provide more value. Fishbowl’s Enterprise Batch Loader includes these features:
- Configurable Pre-Processor – reads the contents XML, TXT or other file types output by ERP, CRM and CAD systems and converts them to the file format necessary to perform a check in to WebCenter
- Workflow Injection – ability to ensure that batch-load files enter workflow
- Run as a Service – run the system on an external server for optimal process and standalone capabilities
- Watch Folders – ability to delegate watch folders where the system will just continue to watch the folders and perform check ins
- Metadata Mapping – Enterprise Batch Loader does not have a GUI for this feature, but admins and super users can map system metadata to WebCenter metadata
Enterprise Batch loader includes many other features as well, and I detailed them in the webinar. I also discussed some ways in which current customers are using the product, so please give the recording a listen when you have some time.
Leveraging Workflows for Process Automation
So, you are getting more and more content checked in to WebCenter. Users seem happier because they are finding the content they need without having to access multiple systems. What’ next? Well, for many organizations its workflow. Oracle WebCenter Content features content-based workflows, which are typically only 1, 2 or 3 steps and are for such things as approving web content or publishing a press release. However, they can also be built for such things as capital expenditure requests, using the combination of simple forms and workflows to enter, deliver, review, approve or reject such requests. Sounds pretty simple, right?
Well, many times organizations do not utilize workflow because it is thought to be too complex and therefore they don’t know where to begin. Additionally, companies looking for a complete, comprehensive audit trail for content workflow can’t find one. Such things as saving accept or reject comments can’ be included in the audit.
For those organizations that are using workflows, a lot of them still find it hard to have a real-time view into which step the workflow is currently in, so they turn to email to ask questions about their request or content they may be looking to publish or revise.
All of this leads to the inability to fully leverage a very strong capability of WebCenter Content, which is its content-based workflows. These workflows are included as a feature, so not being able to fully leverage them probably means that organizations aren’t able to fully realize their investment in WebCenter.
Fishbowl’s Workflow Solution Set can help organizations get started with and further leverage the workflow capabilities of Oracle WebCenter Content. Workflow Solution Set fills some of WebCenter’s workflow functionality gaps. It provides a simple user interface for configuring its nine combined components. With Workflow Solution Set, customers have found that they have been able to streamline their workflow implementations while improving the overall user experience. Here are some its features that have enabled them to do that:
- Workflow History – delivers a detailed and permanent history of the workflows, including rejection comments which are otherwise lost
- Workflow Search – provides insight into all content in workflow, along with the number of days it has been at each step
- Workflow in Queue – provides a view and quick access to content in the workflow queue, through a customizable interface
- Approve with Comments – allows workflow users to enter comments on an item upon approval – not just rejection
Those were the four I wanted to share here, and details regarding its other features can also be found in the webinar recording. So, if you haven’t started with WebCenter workflows yet, or if you already have and are looking to do more, Workflow Solution Set can help you realize the full power of WebCenter Content Workflows.
I started off this blog post by discussing some of the problems that organizations have with integrating all the content within their enterprises into one system and automating how they do that. Fishbowl’s Enterprise Batch Loader provides robust batch loading capabilities that include pulling data from other sources and moving them to WebCenter for access. This process can be configured to continue to run automatically, helping to drive process efficiencies while expediting content access.
Once content has been checked in to Oracle WebCenter, Fishbowl’s Workflow Solution Set can help streamline the management of workflows and take a comprehensive approach to do so. It provides intuitive interfaces for configuration that can help organizations easily get started, and multiple value-add features that help to fully leverage WebCenter’s inherent workflow capabilities.
Jason Lamon is a product strategist and technology evangelist who writes about a range of topics regarding content management and enterprise portals. He writes to keep the communication going about such topics, uncover new opinions, and to get responses from people who are smarter than him. If you are one of those people, feel free to respond to his tweets and posts.