After Fishbowl employees return from OpenWorld, we all get together and discuss what went right, what went wrong, and how we can improve. We also summarize the WebCenter-related discussions we had at the event, and what the next steps for each of us will be to take those conversations and turn them into opportunities. What surprised me this year was the number of OpenWorld discussions we had around document imaging, and specifically image enabling business processes like accounts payable and employee expenses.
I was surprised because while there were Oracle WebCenter Imaging presentations at OpenWorld, there weren’t any big announcements regarding the product. The big announcements were Oracle WebCenter’s offerings around Cloud and Mobile. Furthermore, while some of us did have document imaging discussions with attendees at past OpenWorlds, they seemed to be few and far between. So, why all the document imaging interest and discussion this year?
Well, let me take a step back and provide a little historical context. About 5 years ago, the Oracle WebCenter product management team was working on a WebCenter Imaging integration with Oracle E-Business Suite, starting with Oracle Financials for accounts payable processing. What they released was sort of a jump-start component called the Application Extender Framework (AXF). This component provided the various WebCenter Imaging hooks into E-Business Suite (workflows, metadata mappings, image viewer) that would enable E-Business Suite users to process invoices in the context of their payables workbench. The first few releases of this component did work but also had some issues. However, the biggest issue facing Oracle WebCenter Imaging and its AXF component at the time was that a 3rd-party document imaging upstart had already become the preferred imaging solution for invoice processing in E-Business Suite. Oracle E-Business Suite users that were also using this product, found that it worked well and most did not want to be first to market with a relatively new imaging solution.
Fast forward 5 years later and Oracle WebCenter Imaging has become the de-facto choice for document imaging to support Oracle E-Business Suite processes. The imaging upstart that was eating WebCenter Imaging’s lunch some 5 years ago has gone the way of acquisition and really isn’t heard from much anymore. Effectively, if there is an imaging deal to be had within Oracle E-Business Suite, it goes to Oracle WebCenter Imaging. This has been strengthened by an integration with Oracle Forms Recognition (OFR), which can intelligently process invoices and extract the necessary data from them. Furthermore, there are a lot of Oracle E-Business Suite customers using WebCenter Imaging to process thousands of invoices daily, and those successes continue to build upon one another with strong references and ROI data to support the invoice processing use case.
Anyway, back to the question as to why WebCenter Imaging was a popular topic at OpenWorld this year – at least for Fishbowl Solutions. I think the main reason for this is what I highlighted at the end of the paragraph above – it has successfully been implemented at many organizations with more coming on board all the time. Its value proposition, and the value prop of imaging in general, is it helps organizations streamline the manual processes involved to process invoices, removing keystrokes, steps and the overall lag (cycle time) involved. This immediately translates into ROI, and it is this ROI story that has other Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards customers excited.
All that being said, implementing Oracle WebCenter Imaging and the other products that support it for end-to-end invoice processing (SOA, Business Process Management or BPM, Oracle Document Capture, OFR, and AXF), and integrating it with the respective Oracle ERP application is still fairly complex. Depending on such things as invoice volumes and workflow complexities, Implementations typically take months. Nonetheless, once implemented, the ROI is there and can be realized quickly.
I would also like to think that the heavy traffic of attendees interested in WebCenter Imaging that visited the Fishbowl booth at OpenWorld had to do with the successes we have had implementing the product and its complementary components for invoice processing. With each of the implementations being different in one aspect or another, we have been able to build up our knowledgebase and best practices for WebCenter Imaging, helping to reduce complexities and decrease time to value. If you and your organization have implemented Oracle WebCenter Imaging or are considering it, and you would like to image enable your accounts payable process in Oracle E-Business Suite or PeopleSoft, please contact us at 952-465-3400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading!
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.