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Accelerate your Transformation to Digital

Tue, 2014-08-26 09:07
by Dave Gray, Entrepreneur, Author & Consultant

Digital Transformation – The re-alignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage consumers or employees, digitally

We are in the process of building a global digital infrastructure that quantifies, connects, analyzes and maps the physical and social world we live in. This has already had massive impact on the way we live and work, and it will continue to do so, in ways which are impossible to predict or imagine.

If you work in a company that was imagined, designed and created before this digital infrastructure was developed, there is no question that your business will be impacted. If it hasn’t happened yet, it is simply a matter of time.

This digital transformation is a global phenomenon that is affecting every individual, and every business, on the planet. Everything that can be digital, will be digital. That means every bit of information your company owns, processes or touches. There is no product or service you provide that won’t be affected. The question is, what does it mean to you, and what should you be doing about it?

When technology advances, strategies and business models shift. It’s not simply a matter of taking what you do today and “making it digital.” That’s the difference between translation and transformation. Your products and services don’t need to be “translated” into the digital world. They must be transformed.

Take Kodak, for example. As long as there have been photographs, people have used them to store and share memories of people and events. That hasn’t changed since Eastman Kodak was founded by George Eastman in 1888.

But when technology advances, strategies and business models shift. Kodak was at the leading edge of the research that doomed its own business model. In 1975, Kodak invented the digital camera (although it was kept secret at the time). Kodak engineers even predicted, with startling accuracy, when the digital camera would become a ubiquitous consumer technology. So Kodak had a major advantage over every other company in the world. They were able to predict the death of film and they had about a 15-year head start over everyone else.

Unfortunately, the business of film was so profitable, and the reluctance (or fear) of disrupting its own business was so great, that Kodak had difficulty focusing on anything else.

In 2010, two software engineers, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, founded a company called Instagram, which they sold to Facebook two years later for approximately $1 billion.

When technology advances, strategies and business models shift.

Let’s take another example, Nokia, who commanded 40 percent of the mobile phone market as recently as 2007. Nokia was the clear and unequivocal market leader at that time. People were talking on phones in 2007 and they are still doing that today. But what happened? The phone became a mobile computer, a platform for digital services. And in a digital world, a phone is only as good as the digital services you can get on that phone. So Nokia, who used to compete only with other phone manufacturers, suddenly found itself in competition with computer manufacturers, who already had a strongly-developed ecosystem, strong relationships with application developers, and a compelling business model to offer them. Nokia was unable to make the leap from phone maker to computer maker.

When technology advances, strategies and business models shift.

It doesn’t matter what you make or what service you provide. If it’s a product, it will more and more come to resemble a computer. If it’s a service, it will increasingly become a digital service.

The shift doesn’t happen everywhere all at once. It’s happened with music and books, it’s happening with phones, TV and film, the hospitality and transportation industry, it is just starting to happen with cars, it will soon be happening in health care and other systems that tend to resist change because of bureaucracy and legal regulation.

So what can you do? How can you avoid being the next Kodak or the next Nokia? 

You need to take a different approach to innovation.

How do you manage your innovation initiatives?

Many companies use something called an innovation funnel. 

The idea of the funnel is that you solicit ideas from all over the company, and sometimes even from outside the company. Ideas come in at the top of the funnel and you have several gates that they have to go through, and they get funded at varying levels as they pass the criteria at each gate. If you do it right, the theory is that the best ideas come out and these are the ones that we implement.

The problem with the funnel approach is that nobody puts ideas in at the top. Nothing comes in. Why? Because people look at that funnel and what they see is a sophisticated machine for killing their ideas. The design of the funnel does not encourage people to generate ideas, because basically it’s a suggestion box with a shredder inside. It’s an idea killer. It doesn’t excite people. It doesn’t encourage creativity.

People think: I'm going to have to write a business plan. I'm going to have to do a bunch of market research. I'm going to have to make a lot of spreadsheets and projections. And this is on top of my regular job. Only to have my idea most probably killed in the end. You are saying to people “We welcome your ideas” but what people are thinking is “You don't really welcome my ideas. You welcome my ideas so you can kill them.”

So what happens? Nothing comes into the top of the funnel, and the funnel manager goes, “Why? Why is nobody giving me their ideas?” This is why it's a problem. Because if anyone really has an idea, what are they going to do? They are going to leave, because in most cases, it’s actually easier to do your innovation out in the world today, even with no funding, than it is to do it inside a modern industrial company.

So what's an alternative to the funnel? Connected companies, like Amazon and Google, do it differently. They create a level playing field where anyone in the company can generate ideas and they actually are allowed to spend time working on them, without having to prove anything. They are trusted to innovate.

At Google they call it 20 percent time. For one day a week, or the equivalent, you get the opportunity  to play with your ideas. This kind of approach has to be supported by a culture where people actually really do have passion, energy and things they want to do. And it has to be recognized and supported throughout the organization as something that’s important. 

If you want to do this, efficiency has to take a hit. You can't optimize everything for efficiency and also do experiments. You just can't. Experiments by their very nature are inefficient, because you don’t really know what you’re doing. If you know in advance what the outcome will be, by definition it’s not an experiment.

This approach is less like a funnel and more like a terraced garden. It’s actually similar to a funnel, in a way, but it’s flipped.

Think of it this way. You've got to make space for these ideas to start.

There's no learning in the funnel approach. You don't learn much from making a business plan. You learn when you do experiments, when you put things into the world and start interacting with customers. You learn when you do things. What do you learn from making a business plan? Business plans are science fiction.

As a leader you have to make space for these experiments to happen. 

And some of these experiments – maybe even a lot of them – will yield interesting results.

And you want to have a way to distribute budget and resources to the most promising experiments.

So you set a certain percentage of the budgets throughout the organization, and you say, this money is for funding promising experiments. You can't spend it on operations or improving efficiency. You have to spend it on new ideas that you think are promising. That’s the second level in the terraced garden.

Layer one gives everybody a little bit of elbow room to innovate and experiment. Layer two offers a way for management to pick the plants that look the most interesting and give them a little bit of care and feeding. It might be that you just give someone some extra time. 

Then third and fourth layers are where the most promising ideas, the ones that might be worth making big bets on, emerge. You might have a few of these that you think might actually generate the next major stage of growth for the company. 

The good thing is that these big bets are all based on things that are already working. This is how venture capitalists invest. They usually don't invest in a really good business plan, because people who make good business plans often don't make good entrepreneurs. People who make good entrepreneurs are people who are out there doing things already.

Amazon's recommendation engine started out as a little weed at the bottom of the garden. Gmail at Google started out as a small 20-percent-time project, somebody was doing it in their spare time.

Venture capitalists invest in companies that already working. They may not be profitable yet, but they have customers, they have promise, they have figured something out, they have learned something. This is also how companies like Google and Amazon do it.

They don't invest in business plans. They don't say it's got to be a billion dollar opportunity or it's not worth or time. They say, let’s try it. Get out there and try things with customers because the billion dollar opportunity may start as a $10,000 opportunity. It may start small. 

What are Google’s big bets right now? Google Glass. The self-driving car.

What are the big bets for Amazon? Kindle. Kindle's a big bet. There are lots of dollars going into that one. Amazon web services: the project that says, we're going to take our own infrastructure and we're going to sell it. Even to competitors. We'll sell to anybody.

What are some of the experiments that failed? Amazon tried auctions. And it seems to make sense. “eBay does it. We've got a big audience. We can try it.” They tried it. They tried and they failed.

But what really happened with Amazon auctions? They learned. They realized something about their customers. Amazon is very customer focused. They realized that their customers don't want to wait. They don't want to wait a week to see if they bought something. Amazon customers want it now.

One of the interesting experiments is something called “unique phrases inside this book.” Someone had a hypothesis: “I think some books have not just unique words but unique phrases. If a phrase shows up in one book, you might want to know other books that have that phrase in it. It might be interesting.” Someone's working on that as a little experiment.

What happens if that experiment fails? Those people don't get fired. They are extremely valuable because of what they have learned. They find other teams. They get recruited. Think of a swarm of startups where people are recruiting each other all the time. It's like Silicon Valley inside of Amazon.

This kind of change is not simple or easy. But it’s clear that the future will not be simply more of the past. It will require bold thinking, creativity, and a new approach to innovation. Innovation can’t be the job of an R&D department. It has to be everyone’s job. And if you’re in senior management, it’s your job to create the conditions that will make innovation possible.

You can hear more from Dave on how to transform your business to digital in our Digital Business Thought Leaders webcast "The Digital Experience: A Connected Company’s Sixth Sense".

Panduit Delivers on the Digital Business Promise

Thu, 2014-08-21 11:53
Oracle Corporation  Oracle Customer Panduit Delivers on the Digital Business Promis
How a 60-Year-Old Company Transformed into a Modern Digital Business

Connecting with audiences through a robust online experience across multiple channels and devices is a nonnegotiable requirement in today’s digital world. Companies need a digital platform that helps them create, manage, and integrate processes, content, analytics, and more.

Panduit, a company founded nearly 60 years ago, needed to simplify and modernize its enterprise application and infrastructure to position itself for long-term growth. Learn how it transformed into a digital business using Oracle WebCenter and Oracle Business Process Management.

Join this webcast for an in-depth look at how these Oracle technologies helped Panduit:
  • Increase self-service activity on their portal by 75%
  • Improve number and quality of sales leads through increased customer interactions and registration over the web and mobile
  • Create multichannel self-service interactions and content-enabled business processes
Register now for this webcast.

Red Button Top Register Now Red Button Bottom Presented by:

Andy Kershaw
Senior Director, Oracle WebCenter, Oracle BPM and Oracle Social Network Product Management, Oracle

Vidya Iyer
IT Delivery Manager, Panduit

Patrick Garcia
IT Solutions Architect, Panduit Hardware and Software Engineered to Work Together Copyright © 2014, Oracle Corporation and/or its affiliates.
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Using Content Analytics for More Effective Engagement

Tue, 2014-08-19 08:28
Using Content Analytics for More Effective Engagement: Turning High-Volume Content into Templates for Success By Mitchell Palski, Oracle WebCenter Sales Consultant

Many organizations use Oracle WebCenter Portal to develop these basic types of portals:

  • Intranet portals used for collaboration, employee self-service, and company communication
  • Extranet portals used by customers and partners for self-service and support
  • Team collaboration portals that allow users to share documents and content, track activity, and engage in discussions
Portals are intended to provide a personalized, single point of interaction with web-based applications and information. The user experiences that a Portal is capable of displaying should be relevant to an individual user or class of users (a group or role). The components of a Portal that would vary based on a user’s identity include:
  • Web content such as images, news articles, and on-screen instruction
  • Social tools such as threaded discussions, polls/surveys, and blogs
  • Document management tools to upload, download, and edit files
  • Web applications that present data visualizations and data entry modules

These collections of content, tools, and applications make up valuable workspaces. The challenge that a development team may have is defining which combinations are the most effective for its users. No one wants to create and manage a workspace that goes un-used or (even worse) that is used but is ineffective. Oracle WebCenter Portal provides you with the capabilities to not only rapidly develop variations of portals, but also identify which portals are the most effective and should be re-used throughout an enterprise.

Capturing Portal Analytics
Oracle WebCenter Portal provides an analytics service that allows administrators and business users to track and analyze portal usage. These analytics are captured in the form of:

  1. Usage tracking metrics
  2. Behavior tracking
  3. User Profile Correlation
The out-of-the-box task reports that come with Oracle WebCenter Portal include:
  • WebCenter Portal Traffic
  • Page Traffic
  • Login Metrics
  • Portlet Traffic
  • Portlet Response Time
  • Portlet Instance Traffic
  • Portlet Instance Response Time
  • Search Metrics
  • Document Metrics
  • Wiki Metrics
  • Blog Metrics
  • Discussion Metrics
  • Portal Traffic
  • Portal Response Time
By determining the usage and behavior tracking metrics that are associated with specific user profiles (including groups and roles), your administrators will be able to identify the components of your solution that are the most valuable. 
  1. Your first step as an administrator should be to identify the specific pages and/or components are used the most frequently.
  2. Next, determine the user(s) or user-group(s) that are accessing those high-use elements of a portal.
  3. It is also important to determine patterns in high-usage and see if they correlate to a specific schedule.

One of the goals of any development team (especially those that are following Agile methodologies) should be to develop reusable web components to minimize redundant development. Oracle WebCenter Portal provides you the tools to capture the successful workspaces that have already been developed and identified so that they can be reused for similar user demographics.

Re-using Successful Portals
When creating a new Portal in Oracle WebCenter, developers have the option to base that portal on a template that includes:

  • Pre-seeded data such as pages, tools, user roles, and look-and-feel assets
  • Specific sub-sets of page-layouts, tools, and other resources to standardize what is added to a Portal’s pages
  • Any custom components that your team creates during development cycles

Once you have identified a successful workspace and its most valuable components, leverage Oracle WebCenter’s ability to turn that custom portal into a portal template. By creating a template from your already successful portal, you are empowering your enterprise by providing a starting point for future initiatives. Your new projects, new teams, and new web pages can benefit from lessons learned and adjustments that have already been made to optimize user experiences instead of starting from scratch.

***For a complete explanation of how to work with Portal Templates, be sure to read the Fusion Middleware documentation available online.

Developing and Deploying Self-Service Solutions

Thu, 2014-08-14 06:00

Guest blog by Geoffrey Bock

How Oracle WebCenter Customers Build Digital Businesses: Developing and Deploying Self-Service Solutions Geoffrey Bock, Principal, Bock & Company
Beyond the First Generation As I described in my last blog post, "Designing for the Experience-Driven Enterprise", many of the WebCenter customers I spoke to are focusing their design efforts on the experience-driven enterprise. They are contending with digital disruption by not only replacing their legacy systems but also by restructuring and extending their enterprise applications. In fact, there is a renewed emphasis on self-service solutions.
Of course self-service is a long-standing goal for doing business over the web. But first generation solutions simply augment existing enterprise activities. For instance, many companies introduced self-service HR portals over a decade ago, enabling employees to update their profile and benefits information on their own,  rather than completing printed forms or calling HR staffers. While the tasks did not change, the people doing the work did.
Now it’s time to develop truly digital self-service solutions that do more than simply digitize these analog activities. A Catalyst for Digital Business Transformation As they become digital businesses, companies are engaged in new efforts that leverage the capabilities of a next-generation enterprise platform. Companies expect to transform how they do business, and deliver self-service solutions that are impossible to achieve without a truly digital application infrastructure. When in search of a starting point, begin with an enterprise portal and make it more relevant for solving business tasks.
Many of the business and IT leaders I interviewed are focusing on three interrelated goals.
  • Continuing to empower end users and operational business units by reducing the necessity of IT support for maintaining enterprise applications.
  • Collecting and organizing disparate strands of information into digital hubs that support business tasks.
  • Restructuring business processes to take advantage of end-to-end digital activities.
With a renewed emphasis on self-service, these leaders can consolidate disparate web sites and applications into a series of task-oriented solutions. For instance, one firm restructures its marketing activities through a customer-experience portal where marketers easily access all resources and assets for managing campaigns and measuring results. Another firm aggregates information from machines in a laboratory that are equipped with an array of sensors, and proactively manages maintenance based on the results. Investing in the Underlying Resources From my perspective, the mobile journey leads to these next-generation solutions. As they rebuild the underlying platforms powering their enterprise applications, IT leaders are defining the essential services within a services-oriented architecture (SOA). It’s important to invest the time and resources to get them right. It’s also essential to define the underlying information architecture, including the metadata definitions and tag-sets essential for dynamic content delivery. Line-of-business leaders should support these IT and content management efforts.

Mobile apps are the catalyst for the digital business transformation. Both business and IT leaders need to rethink how they want to do business, enhance, extend, and replace their first-generation self-service initiatives, and become truly digital businesses.


WebCenter SIG - All Things WebCenter Conference Survey

Wed, 2014-08-13 06:00
WebCenter SIG

Are you a WebCenter customer? Are you interested in learning more about the WebCenter product suite? Are you interested in attending a conference focused on the WebCenter product suite to get information, training and networking with your peers?

The WebCenter Special Interest Group (SIG) is considering creating a conference solely for WebCenter product suite. However, we need to know what your (the WebCenter Community) interest in attending this conference would be. So we are sending out this message and asking all customers to take this short 5 minute or less survey. Your participation will help us to decide whether or not developing this conference will benefit the WebCenter community.

You are not obligated to disclose any contact information unless you choose. We simply want your opinion about the conference. Thanks for taking 5 minutes to fill out this survey.
 CLICK HERE TO RESPOND TO SURVEY TODAY!

NOTE: This WebCenter SIG is not run or managed by Oracle. This posting is a courtesy to the community.

Designing for the Experience-Driven Enterprise

Tue, 2014-08-12 06:00

Guest blog post series this week by Geoffrey Bock

How Oracle WebCenter Customers Build Digital Businesses: Designing for the Experience-Driven Enterprise

Geoffrey Bock, Principal, Bock & Company

Making the Transition from Analog to Digital

In my last blog post on contending with digital disruption, I described how several Oracle customers decided to refresh, modernize, and mobilize their enterprise application infrastructure. Web-enabling an existing application, once necessary, is no longer sufficient.

But what does it take to mobilize key business tasks and drive digital capabilities deeply into an application infrastructure? Many of the WebCenter customers I spoke to emphasize both the business value of their applications and the quality of end user experiences. They are now rebuilding their core applications, making the transition from analog to digital business practices, by designing for an experience-driven enterprise. 

The Flow of Design Activities

As I see it, customers are focusing on a sequence of five interrelated activities, summarized in Illustration 1. There is an inherent flow to application evolution.

Customers leverage their current platforms to innovate

Illustration 1. As they design their digital businesses, customers leverage their current platforms in order to deliver innovative experiences.

Here’s a description of how customers are building their digital businesses, and embracing the necessity of change along the way.

  • To begin with, there are baseline functions based on existing activities. While modernizing their core applications and the underlying back-end infrastructure, IT and business leaders emphasize that they “cannot loose anything” from their current platform. What needs to change is still up for redesign.

  • At the same time, leaders need to enhance the value of ad hoc communications. They are turning to social and mobile channels to improve overall employee productivity as well as strengthen relationships with customers and partners. New ways to communicate information become a lever for innovation.

  • There is also a business purpose for investing in social and mobile channels. Leaders expect to substantially improve service and support, when customers, partners, and employees have easy access to relevant information. There is added power through easy sharing.

  • To ensure quality service and support, it is essential to manage reusable content for a consistent experience. Organizations expect to create content once, organize it around business tasks, and distribute it across multiple channels. It helps to structure content for consistent distribution.

  • As a result, there are opportunities to launch innovative (and potentially breakthrough) digital business activities, by exploiting on the capabilities of the redesigned application environment. It’s not so much a matter of “loosing” baseline functions as embedding the flexibility to ensure that they can evolve.

From my perspective, this new application environment supports digital business initiatives by mobilizing the moments of engagement. These moments encompass the end user experiences where work gets done and value is created.

Optimizing for Agility

Companies are introducing various customer-, partner-, and employee-facing applications that run on the rebuilt enterprise platform. Leaders in these firms are designing applications from the “outside-in” by optimizing the ways in which end users access information and perform tasks. Significantly, leaders are relying on the agility and flexibility of the new platform to support an innovative collaborative environment.

As I spoke to WebCenter customers, I was struck by how their target users value the convenience of simple experiences. Designing for the experience-driven enterprise entails aggregating information from multiple sources, organizing it by business tasks, and then presenting it through intuitive applications that are seamlessly integrated with back-end services.

Download the free White Paper Today


Oracle WebCenter Case Study: Improving Invoice to Cash Process

Thu, 2014-08-07 08:51

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 Kevin is the IT Director for a top-quality Less-than-Truckload carrier servicing eight Midwestern states. 

A recent industry survey showed the company’s website was falling short of customer expectations in the following three areas: 

  • Ease of use 
  • Providing useful information, and 
  • Utilizing effective technology and tracking systems

Kevin looked to Redstone Content Solutions to improve the website’s functionality utilizing award-winning Oracle WebCenter technologies. 

Oracle WebCenter Imaging: Avoid the Accounts Payable Zombie Apocalypse

Tue, 2014-08-05 06:43

Author: Jane Shirley, Senior Business Analyst for Aurionpro

A World without Oracle WebCenter Imaging
The Client’s Situation: Living an AP Nightmare

“I’m going to have nightmares about this for the rest of my life.” That’s what our client said as she described the company’s paper and spreadsheet-based Accounts Payable (AP) process. Her department processed about 10,000 invoices a month and employees were beginning to resemble the cast from a horror movie – complete with zombie-like AP processors shuffling through cubicle aisles in search of active invoices.

The Issues:

1) Zombification does not support ROI goals or process improvement…
Thankfully, the Aurionpro WebCenter team got to her in time!  We met our client during her company’s financial transformation planning process and spent time with her and the team analyzing requirements and prioritizing processing needs, providing insight on additional ROI realization, and identifying areas for process improvement.  While we found some opportunities for modifications, we kept the client’s Oracle WebCenter Imaging implementation timeline to a bare minimum in order to accelerate the transformation process and reduce development time.

“All implementations require at least some level of configuration and modification,” we explained.  “The trick is to identify the areas where customization is truly required that support a faster time to ROI and make the most sense for the client’s business. As for other aspects, while still important, we recommend putting them into a “Phase II Brain Fungus Antidote” that inhibits the zombification of the project and driving processes. This proven approach helps organizations get the biggest bang for their buck. 

2) Zombies have no requirements (and are usually missing a limb or two…)
We’d advised our client that all of us needed to understand the company’s existing AP System before getting started.  The Aurionpro team’s first step is always requirements gathering. This part of the process has three key objectives:
  • Train the Financial Transformation team in the details of WebCenter Imaging both through system demonstration and generic workflow presentations.
  • Understand the client’s business requirements and document those verbally and visually with reconfirmation
  • Confirm our understanding of the client’s goals.  We’ve learned the most important part of requirements gathering is ensuring that we heard our client’s concerns and expressed them accurately.
3) People who live in zombie societies hide at night and barricade themselves in…
Aurionpro understood that team leads like to do things their own way. For our client, she wanted to be left alone to contemplate things and assess whether the plan was going to get the job done on time and on budget.

“I just like taking the documentation home and studying it,” our client said. “The matrix format that Aurionpro provides allowed me to sort and re-sort the individual requirements so I could understand how each one fits with our goals and also our budget. I could even send the functional flows included in the requirements to my change management team so they could start their part of the process.”

4) Zombies can only be killed with proven methods… All of our clients have given high praise to the matrix format that Aurionpro services teams use to ensure that requirements are clear and that focus is maintained consistently throughout the lifecycle of the project.  Our deployment methodology allows our clients to literally check-off each item on their original requirements list so that they have a visualization of how they’ve come full circle from idea to reality!  Our post-UAT development then covers the team by ensuring that any post-development adjustments are made possible. Lastly, the Aurionpro implementation process for WebCenter Imaging supports companies through the “go-live” period and works to ensure that any zombification of their process are completely resolved.
5) Shufflers have no clear roadmap … “You made it so much easier to support my progress reports to my senior management,” the client told us after the project was complete.  “The weekly status reports that Aurionpro provided gave a crystal-clear snapshot of our project status against the overall timeline.  I always knew where I stood and what was going to happen next. What was a very scary process for me became quite manageable, or at least less terrifying,” she concluded.

The really good news was that once she had her Oracle WebCenter Imaging solution in place, our client’s nightmare world receded and the zombies morphed back into accessible, productive, and engaged colleagues.

About the Author:
Jane Shirley is a Senior Business Analyst for Aurionpro. She has worked in the Oracle WebCenter space on both the customer and the consulting side for large corporate enterprise-wide implementations. After serving time as a Marketing Manager, she spent several years managing invoice processing for a Fortune 50 company. She can be reached at jane.shirley@aurionpro.com.

Redstone’s John Klein Named Iowa Entrepreneur of the Year

Thu, 2014-07-31 07:42

Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Iowa named member John Klein as “Entrepreneur of the Year” during their annual meeting on Tuesday, July 15, 2014 in Des Moines. Klein and partner, Jason Stortz, started their computer consulting business five years ago in Klein’s basement. Since its humble beginnings, Redstone Content Solutions has grown to become a nationally recognized leader among information technology service businesses. (source)

“John is recognized by his fellow EOers as a leader who lives the EO Vision of business growth, personal development and community engagement,” stated Rowena Crosbie, President, Tero International, Inc. “He exemplifies the EO core values each day.” 

Redstone also recently celebrated it's 5 year anniversary!

“Five years ago we set a standard to place our clients at the center of all that we do.  The company we have built and the successes we’ve enjoyed are the direct result of customer confidence in our mission and loyalty to our partnership”, comments John Klein, co-founder of Redstone.  “Without this support, our accomplishments would be far fewer and much less meaningful.”

Redstone delivers a full complement of strategic Oracle WebCenter consulting services – software development, implementation, training and support for customers across a wide range of industries. Redstone has achieved industry recognition as an innovative IT services organization that delivers global Oracle WebCenter solutions. The firm's solid track record for delivering results is a by-product of its investment in people, processes and technology. Read more about John Klein's EO Entrepreneur of the Year award and Redstone's recent accomplishments.

Congratulations John from all of us on the WebCenter team! 

The Nature of Digital Disruption

Tue, 2014-07-29 08:10
by Dave Gray, Entrepreneur, Author & Consultant

Digital Disruption – The change that occurs when new digital technologies and business models affect the value proposition of existing goods and services or bring to market an entirely new innovation.

Why is the shift to digital so disruptive?

As a global society, we are currently in the process of digitizing everything. We are wrapping our physical world with a digital counterpart, a world of information, which parallels and reflects our own. We want to know everything we can think of about everything we can think of.

This whirl of digital information changes the playing field for businesses, because digital information does not abide by any of the rules that we are used to in business. 

In a digital world, products and services have no physical substance. There are no distribution costs. A single prototype can generate an infinite number of copies at no cost. And since the products and services are so different, the environment around them becomes unstable; as the digital layer interacts with the physical layer, everything in the ecosystem is up for grabs. Suddenly new products become possible and established ones become obsolete overnight.

Science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once said that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

In the business world today, you are competing with sorcerers. You need to learn magic.

Let’s take the music industry as an example of how technology changes the playing field. Music used to be very expensive to record and distribute. Every time a new technology comes along, the music industry has had to adjust.

The graph on the left shows units sold in the music industry, by media, since 1973. See the overlapping curves? Each technology has a lifecycle – early in the lifecycle sales are low, but they rise as more people adopt the technology. When a new technology comes along the older technologies suffer. But not to worry, people still need their music, right? Typically the lifecycle curve for “units sold” closely echoes the revenue curve.

But when the product becomes purely digital – when it enters the realm of magic – the cost of making and distributing the product plummets to nearly zero. This means more people can produce and distribute music, more cheaply and easily. More music becomes available to the public and purchases skyrocket – but the price per unit drops precipitously.

Take a look at the two graphs below. The left chart is units sold and the right one is revenue. Note how digital downloads (units sold) have skyrocketed, while the revenue curve is the smallest in years. 

The core issue is that even though unit sales rise rapidly, the price per unit drops so much faster that the revenue from sales fails to make up the difference. The industrial-age company, which has built its business model on the high costs of producing and distributing physical products, now has a high-cost infrastructure which is suddenly obsolete. What was once an asset is now a critical liability. This opens the entire industry to new players who can offer services to this new world at a dramatically lower cost.

The product is now digital. So the album, which you once charged $15 for, now retails for about $10. Ouch. You just lost a third of your revenue. But it gets worse. In the old days you sold music by the album, because the cost to make and distribute single songs on CD kept the cost of singles relatively high. So people would buy albums which contained a lot of songs, it now appears, that they didn’t really want. The chart below compares the typical mix between album and single sales on CD vs. downloads. The product mix has flipped completely, from most people buying albums for $15, to most people buying songs for $1.

So the revenue per unit drops once again. Even with some people buying albums, the average revenue per unit is about $1.50. That means your entire industry has lost about 90% of your revenue, almost overnight. 

In the world of manufacturing we talk about efficiency and productivity. You look to efficiency to decrease your costs and productivity to increase your revenue. In between you seek to make a profit. But you can’t streamline yourself to profits when the world is changing around you so profoundly. You need different strategies, different tactics.

The digital revolution is the biggest shift in the music industry since the 1920’s, when phonograph records replaced sheet music as the industry’s profit center.

What’s going on here? First, the means of making and distributing the product change. Suddenly the costs are so low that thousands of new competitors enter the market. Every artist can now compete with you from his or her garage, bringing new meaning to the word “garage band.”

But as if that weren’t bad enough, this also changes the things that people buy and the way they buy them. It’s a cascading effect.

So who wins and how do they win? Let’s look at Apple’s iTunes strategy. Apple looked at the entire industry as an ecosystem – people buy music and they play it on a device. If they like the experience they buy more music. In time they might buy another device, and so on, and so on. This is not a business process, it’s a business cycle.

Sony had everything that Apple had – in fact, much more. They had a powerful music-player brand, the Walkman, the established industry leader for portable music players. They had more engineers. They had a music division with 21 record labels. 

Sony’s divisions, which worked in their favor for efficiency and productivity, worked against them when it came to collaboration and innovation. The company was divided into separate operating units which competed with each other internally, making it difficult to collaborate on projects that spanned across multiple units. Sony was a classic industrial-age company, focused on productivity and efficiency.

What did Apple do that Sony didn’t? They focused on the system, not the product.

If you want to record your own music, Apple makes the software for that. If you want to sell your music, you can sell it on iTunes. If you want to play it, Apple makes the device. In case you hadn’t noticed, Apple had to look at the entire ecosystem of the record industry through a new, digital lens, including:

  1. Understand the digital infrastructure and how it changed the playing field.
  2. Relentless focus on user experience – simplicity, “just works” design, delight customers.
  3. Smart partnerships: Apple began by giving away the money: Record companies made 70 cents on every 99 cent purchase, with the rest split between artists and merchandising costs.
  4. Interoperability: Apple chose to support an open format that would work with any player, while Sony chose a proprietary format for their first digital media player.

In short: 

Think creatively. Understand, provide for, and support the entire ecosystem. Fill in the gaps when you can. Eliminate middlemen if you can – partner with them if you must. Partner with value providers (like artists and record companies that own large repositories of music). Be fearless about cannibalizing your own core business – if you’re not doing, it somebody else is.

The core difference is between an industrial, manufacturing-based model which focuses on efficiency and productivity – making more widgets more efficiently, and an information-based model which focuses on creativity and innovation. The industrial model thrives on successful planning and logistics, while the information model thrives on systems thinking, rapid learning and adaptation to a changing environment.

What can you do? As a company, you will need to innovate differently. That’s the subject of my next post, which we will discuss next week.  

In the meantime, you can hear more from Dave on Digital Disruption in our Digital Business Thought Leaders webcast "The Digital Experience: A Connected Company’s Sixth Sense". 

Oracle BPM & Adaptive Case Management

Thu, 2014-07-24 07:00
Oracle's Prasen Palvankar speaks on Adaptive Case Management

Oracle BPM Suite offers in-built adaptive case management capabilities to manage unstructured processes and empower the knowledge workers to improve customer experience


Avio Discusses Oracle's Business Driven Process Management

Dan Atwood of Avio discusses how Oracle BPM Suite empowers businesses users to design and improve processes and achieve higher visibility and efficiency.

Building Dynamic Branded Digital Experiences with Oracle WebCenter

Mon, 2014-07-21 00:00

This post originally appeared on the Oracle consulting blog, Future State - The Official Blog of Oracle Consulting Services
on Thursday Jul 17, 2014

Building Dynamic Branded Digital Experiences with Oracle WebCenter

By Ty Duval, Consulting Senior Practice Director, WebCenter, Oracle Consulting Services

A Cost Effective Solution to Securing Retail Data

At the Crossroads

I frequently encounter companies at the crossroads in their efforts to become digital businesses. Their journeys proceed along familiar paths and I can readily anticipate what their next steps should be. To begin with, these firms launched their initial web sites more than 15 years ago, and have steadily added multiple web-based applications (running on disparate systems) to support targeted initiatives. IT and business leaders are certainly web-aware, if not already web-savvy.

Yet a lot has changed over the past decade. Web-powered solutions are no longer nice-to-have additions to enterprise architectures and applications. Rather, these solutions are core capabilities for achieving strategic business objectives.

The Business Value for WebCenter

IT leaders must now provide both internal and external customers with the branded experiences for managing and using online content, while sharply reducing costs and accelerating time to market. It’s necessary -- but no longer sufficient -- to simply consolidate web sites by introducing standardized platforms and services that reduce technical footprints.

Instead, IT groups need to refresh, modernize, and mobilize their enterprise application infrastructures. There is also an evolution of responsibilities. Individual business units, not the IT groups, should create and manage all of the content required for engaging customers and driving the branded experiences across their organizations.

Of course, Oracle WebCenter provides the tooling for delivering effective enterprise-scale applications. Yet implementation makes a big difference. At OCS, we focus on three factors for deploying digital business solutions – consultative engagement, content inventory, and content reuse. Let me explain why these factors make a difference.

Consultative Engagement

First, the OCS engagement model is a consultative process. We work along side business stakeholders and creative teams to define the requirements for building branded experiences. With our deep technical knowledge and product expertise, we can help define how to use the right tool for the right job in the right way.

There is often a gap between what the business envisions and what the tools deliver. By being part of the conversation from the start, OCS consultants can bridge the gap, and make timely recommendations that leverage the key capabilities of the enabling tools and technologies. Then, when it comes to implementation, consultants can rapidly prototype and produce frequent enhancements on an ongoing basis. Utilizing an agile development methodology, they can work closely with business users and designers to mold the digital environment.

Content Inventory

Second, branded experiences depend on content. In any engagement, it’s essential to determine what information already exists and can be readily incorporated into the new solution, as well as what content is entirely missing and needs to be created. A content inventory maps the “to be” state about what information customers require, against the “as is” condition describing and categorizing all the content items that are currently available.

OCS consultants work with business stakeholders and creative teams to identify the kinds of content needed to support particular experiences. It is also important to identify the content owners who are responsible for producing the needed information, both currently and in the future. Often the content already exists in one repository or another. The design challenge then is to compile and organize the information from disparate sources.

The content inventory can also uncover the missing text, images, and rich media assets that customers expect as part of their experiences. OCS consultants can then work with line-of-business organizations to define new content management processes – the people, tasks, and activities required for creating and maintaining these needed information sources. Once deployed, the line organizations should be responsible for managing the content without IT support.

Content Reuse

Third, a successful digital business initiative depends on content reuse – the ability to create content items once, manage them systematically, and distribute them as needed across the enterprise. As an example, there should be a single source of content that describes the capabilities of a new product on a company’s web site, and the corresponding promotions contained in personalized email messages sent to prospective customers.

When it comes to building branded experiences, more is at stake then storing content within a shared repository or relying on a predefined set of editorial workflows for review and approvals. Reuse requires an appreciation for the power of content and an understanding about how to manage it for competitive advantage.

This is where WebCenter deployment expertise pays off. OCS consultants have the technical skill sets and business insights for defining the content models and metadata essential to ensure content reuse. They can utilize the appropriate capabilities of various WebCenter products for business results.

Knowhow and Experience

In short, there’s an art and a science to building branded experiences for digital businesses. Successful companies are going to transform – and digitize – key aspects of their ongoing operations, and create new business processes along the way. Different firms and even entire industries are going to pursue their own particular paths.

But there are common threads to weaving together the applications for next-generation, digitally empowered environments. It takes knowhow and experience. When implementing WebCenter, OCS consultants have the insights, methodologies, and tools to help companies make the journeys and become digital businesses.


Oracle WebCenter Mobile Development Skillsets

Tue, 2014-07-08 09:32

By Mitchell Palski, Oracle WebCenter Sales Consultant

The Important of Enterprise Mobility
Enterprise mobility is a growing area of interest for all organizations – public sector and commercial – mainly because of the widespread use of mobile devices. A majority of users have mobile access to the web and an ever-growing percentage of those users depend on that capability to successfully perform their day-to-day responsibilities. Rather than combat this trend, the burden is on IT development teams to develop user interfaces that enhance the productivity of their workforce and encourage user participation through mobile devices. I wrote a blog in April 2014 called “The Evolution of Enterprise Content in the Mobile Era” in which I talked about the enterprise benefits of mobile access to content. Aside from the benefits to end users, I also noted that organizations can analyze usage analytics from personal devices to gather information about their mobile workforce. The point is this; enterprise mobility isn’t just important to end users’ satisfaction, it’s also important to an organization’s operational awareness.

Developing a Mobile Interface with Oracle WebCenter Portal
Oracle WebCenter Portal is a Web platform that allows organizations to quickly and easily create intranets, extranets, composite applications, and self-service portals. Oracle WebCenter Portal provides users a more secure and efficient way of consuming information and interacting with applications, processes, and other users. Oracle WebCenter Portal provides IT with a comprehensive and flexible enterprise portal and composite applications solution to quickly build portals, websites and composite applications. This common user experience architecture is based on ADF and combines run-time and design time customization of applications in one. 

Oracle WebCenter Portal supports enterprise mobility through several development techniques:
  • Responsive Design – develop an interface that adapts the layout of a website automatically based on the dimensions of the device viewing that site.
  • Device Settings and Page Variants – control how a Portal renders on specific devices or groups of devices.
  • Mobile Applications – provide users with native applications for their iOS and Android devices.
The rest of this blog will be dedicated to explaining the differences between these three techniques, as well as the skillsets that your staff will require to use them.
Responsive Design
1 Responsive design is a client-side strategy that depends on CSS Media Query to carry out the client-side responsiveness. Oracle WebCenter Portal is based on the Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF), whose user interface components (rich client components) are based on JavaServer Faces (JSF). When developing a responsive Oracle WebCenter Portal user interface, your development team will have to leverage those ADF components to quickly and easily build interactive user interfaces. When building a responsive user interface layout, developers are not limited to using ADF components – they can also leverage the traditional HTML5+CSS3 technique. Here’s how it breaks down:

Interactive Components  Page Layout  ADF  Yes  Yes  HTML5+CSS3  No  Yes

What it comes down to is this:

  • Oracle WebCenter Portal comes out-of-the-box with a plethora of UI components that can be dragged and dropped onto a page. No ADF knowledge is needed to accomplish this.
  • ADF is used for any UI component that interacts with Oracle WebCenter services. This includes anything from an Event Calendar to an Administration link.
  • ADF, HTML5, or a hybrid of the two, can all be used to design the layout of your Portal.
The only other note I would like to make here is that many Oracle WebCenter Portal customers prefer to change the out-of-the-box look and feel of ADF components. Those components generate HTML on the client side that assigns unique CSS classes that HTML. The styles associated with those classes can be altered by using ADF skin selectors2 in the Portal skin.
Oracle recommends the use of JDeveloper to develop page templates and skins for Oracle WebCenter Portal. In JDeveloper, you can build new templates and skins from scratch or refine and further develop existing ones that come with Oracle WebCenter Portal.

Page Variants
Oracle WebCenter Portal includes the capability to recognize which type of device a given request comes from, and to render the portal properly on that device. Portal administrators can use device settings to specify which page templates and skins to associate with specific devices or classes of devices. In addition, administrators can create and edit page variants – alternative pages designed to display on specific groups of devices.

When it comes to developing the actual page templates and skins, the same skillsets described above apply. However, there are two categories of additional skills that Portal developers and administrators should learn; both are specific to Oracle WebCenter Portal: Managing device groups allows an administrator to assign specific page templates and skins to device types. The value of this feature is realized by standardizing the look-and-feel of a portal across devices within the same group. For example, it may be beneficial to replace flashy image-filled backgrounds with CSS3 gradients to improve page load times. 
The advantage of using page variants is that you aren’t just altering the layout of the page based on a device’s dimensions – you are actually providing an alternate user experience. You are also controlling what content is actually being displayed on that page. You may want to completely re-structure the way that your navigation renders, or which Business Intelligence reports show up on the home page, or provide links that are more useful to mobile workers rather than those in the office. Responsive design can be incorporated into this technique, but the real value in using page variants comes from defining mobile user’s goals and tailoring the interface to optimize their experience.
Mobile Applications for Oracle WebCenter Oracle ADF Mobile enables developers to build and extend enterprise applications for iOS and Android from a single code base. Based on a hybrid mobile architecture, ADF Mobile supports access to native device services, enables offline applications and protects enterprise investments from future technology shifts.
The Java language is used for developing the business logic in Oracle ADF Mobile applications – a fairly commonplace skillset. This makes mobile app development easy for most organizations because it doesn’t require their Java developers to learn any new programming languages. The Oracle Fusion Middleware stack has a set of APIs for all products, including Oracle WebCenter. These APIs can be used to access Oracle WebCenter security, to display Oracle WebCenter services (i.e. People connections, announcements, events, etc.), to render content from the Content Repository, and perform many other Oracle WebCenter-related actions. Local device services such as camera, phone, SMS, and GPS, can also be accessed through the Apache Cordova platform. ADF mobiles can authenticate against a remote login server and then make the appropriate tokens accessible for further web service calls to data sources.
For developers that already familiar with developing with Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF), the transition to using ADF mobile will be even easier. Developers can still expose Java classes and web services as “data controls”. JDeveloper uses a declarative binding layer and drag-and-drop technology to create forms, lists, charts, and other data visualizations from an application’s data controls. Developers that are already accustomed to building interfaces using these declarative technologies will find ADF mobile easy to use, especially considering that the ADF Mobile components are already designed for mobile devices, allow for additional customization through CSS3, and support touch gestures.
Conclusion Why is Enterprise Mobility Important?
  • More and more users depend on web capabilities to successfully perform their day-to-day responsibilities 
  • Encouraging user engagement through mobile devices can enhance the productivity of your mobile workforce 
  • Organizations can analyze usage analytics from personal devices to gather information about their mobile workforce
What options does Oracle WebCenter Portal provide for Delivering Mobile Engagement?
  • Responsive design in page templates and skins
  • Apply layouts and skins to the UX for specific devices and device-groups
  • Develop a mobile application using ADF Mobile
What skillsets will are needed by the development staff to build this mobile experience? Features  Features  Features  Skill-sets  Skill-sets  Mobile Methodology  Adaptive Layouts  Device-specific User Experiences  Works Offline  ADF Skill-Level  HTML5+CSS3 Skill-Level  Responsive Design  Yes  No  No Minimal Expert  Device Settings  Yes  Yes  No Minimal Proficient   Mobile App  Yes No  Yes  Expert Proficient 
At the end of the day, there is no substitute for hands-on training and reading the Oracle Documentation. For more guidance on this subject, reach out to your local Oracle representative and open a discussion!

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

1Building a Responsive WebCenter Portal Application, April 2014, By JayJay Zheng
2ADF-WebCenter Responsive-Adaptive Design Beyond, By Martin Deh

How Oracle WebCenter Customers Build Digital Businesses: Contending with Digital Disruption

Wed, 2014-07-02 07:00
Evernote Export body, td { font-family: Tahoma; font-size: 10pt; }
Guest Blog Post by: Geoffrey Bock, Principal, Bock & Company
Customer Conversations What are Oracle WebCenter customers doing to exploit innovative digital technologies and develop new sources of value? How are they mobilizing their enterprise applications and leveraging opportunities of the digital business revolution?
To better understand the landscape for digitally powered businesses, I talked to several Oracle WebCenter customers and systems integrators across a range of industries -- including hospitality, manufacturing, life sciences, and the public sector. Through in depth conversations with IT and business leaders, I collected a set of stories about their mobile journeys -- how they are developing next-generation enterprise applications that weave digital technologies into their ongoing operations.
In this and two subsequent blogs, I will highlight several important points from my overall roadmap for developing digital businesses.
Beyond an Aging Infrastructure As a first step, successful customers are contending with digital disruption, and leveraging their inherent strengths to transform operations. Today they are web-aware, if not already web-savvy. Most organizations launched their initial sites more than fifteen years ago. They have steadily added web-based applications to support targeted initiatives.
Yet the customers I interviewed are now at a crossroads. They realize that they need to refresh, modernize, and mobilize their enterprise application infrastructure to build successful digital businesses.
  • One IT leader describes how her firm implemented a cutting-edge enterprise portal ten years ago. Designed for order processing and resources management, the portal now runs outdated technologies and is unable to support needed employee-facing applications.
  • Another business leader has a similar story. The company still relies on a custom designed web-based application. The technology is obsolete and the people knowledgeable about maintaining the application are difficult to find.
  • A third IT leader describes how her organization collects information through several Cold Fusion sites, and needs to replace them in order to deliver more flexible self-service applications.
From my perspective, these leaders are recognizing the power of digital disruption. To create new value, they must deliver seamless customer-, partner-, and employee-facing experiences. They are confronting the limitations of their current application infrastructure and are turning to Oracle for long-term solutions.
Rather than simply enhance what they have, leaders are opting for modernization. They need to develop and deploy native digital experiences. Web-based applications that are bolted onto an aging infrastructure are no longer sufficient.
Change and Continuity Yet there is also continuity around integrating the end-to-end experiences. Let’s take the case of a large manufacturing firm now mobilizing its digital business around Oracle WebCenter. The business leaders identified the multiple steps in the buying process – the information customers and partners need to have to assess alternatives and make purchasing decisions.
The firm had developed multiple web sites to publish product information, offer design advice, and schedule follow-up meetings. But the end result was a fragmented and disconnected set of activities, relying first on information from one system, then from another, and lacking an end-to-end view for measuring results.
The leaders realized that they needed to connect the dots and deliver a seamless experience. In the case of this manufacturing firm, a key step blends online with real-time – helping customers schedule appointments with designers who advise them about design alternatives and product options. (From the manufacturer’s perspective, designers are channel partners who sell the finished goods and deliver support services.)
The breakthrough that accelerates the buying process focuses on these customer/designer interactions -- assembling all of the necessary information into a seamless experience, and making it easy for customers to engage with designers to finalize designs and place orders. As a result, this manufacturing firm mitigates the threat of digital disruption by mobilizing resources to complete a high-value task.

The firm empowers its partner channel by reinventing a key business process for the digital age. This becomes a win-win opportunity that increases customer satisfaction while also improving sales opportunities.

 Delivering Moments of Engagement Across the Enterprise

The Connected Digital Experience

Wed, 2014-06-25 12:30
by Dave Gray, Entrepreneur, Author & Consultant
Think back ten or twenty years. Do you remember the days when you would go into work because you needed access to technology that you didn’t have at home? Maybe you went in to work to use the computers and software to make a flyer for the family picnic, or you went in to use the copy machine or the laser printer to print the flyers.
It used to be that our technology at home was so primitive that we would need to go into work in order to access the more advanced tools. But today, that dynamic has flipped.
What's happened is that regular people like you and me have adopted the cutting edge technologies faster than our companies have. We are using Facebook and Twitter to keep up with friends, to organize our social lives, to share information. Devices like the iPad, the iPhone, and other mobile and digital devices have gotten cheap and good enough that regular, ordinary people can afford them, and we the people have adopted them way faster than organizations have been able to keep up. 
Today, we go in to work and say things like, "I can do this at home. Why can't I do this at work? I have Google Docs. I can fire all this stuff up. I can send a message to my whole social network on Facebook and it’s really easy. Why can't I do that at work?"
Thanks to all these social and mobile technologies, customers are now able to organize and share information in new ways. For example, before you go into a restaurant you can read a bunch of reviews. You can sort through and find the best restaurant within five miles, and so on.
We have even seen revolutionary movements like the Arab Spring, where people are using these new tools to connect in networks and self organize in ways that are completely disruptive, not only to companies but even the nation-states that used to be able to control their populations.
This is a real shift in the balance of power, and it’s creating a new kind of marketplace that is very volatile, uncertain, and complex. 
This is the marketplace today. We see a lot of startups these days, coming seemingly out of nowhere, and they are rapidly disrupting traditional forms of business.
Imagine being Barnes & Noble or any traditional booksellers today. Imagine what it feels like to TV networks like NBC or CBS. There used to be only three choices for which channel to watch. Four if you count public television. Now there are thousands. Imagine you were a record company selling albums. Look what has happened to that market.
Yesterday it was bookstores and media companies. Today it’s taxi drivers whose business model is being completely disrupted by companies like Uber and Lyft, who use digital technologies and peer-to-peer networks to get you better car service, faster and cheaper than taxis can.
It’s happening to airlines, to hotels, to insurance companies, to financial services, to government. There is no industry that will not be touched in this new world. Think about what things like Skype and Google Hangouts are doing to the telecommunications industry.
The tools of organizing and producing and making things are more getting cheaper, and cheaper, and cheaper, so more and more people can use them. This means more startups, more innovation, more disruption, and more volatility in the marketplace.
This creates a challenge for organizations: How can you respond when the market and the world is changing as fast as it's changing today? When things are as complex, uncertain and ambiguous as they are today, how do you adapt? How do you continue to evolve and adapt the way that you offer your products and services so you can stay relevant? 
There's no way to organize in this connected world without becoming a connected company. And the most forward-thinking companies are moving in this direction. 
So what must you do to become a more connected organization? That’s a very big question, and not so easy to answer. But there are some clues. We can learn from what some companies are doing, companies that have grown up and demonstrated success in this environment, that have been able to learn quickly and adapt to rapidly-changing market situations, and have been able to scale successfully while continually adapting.
Different companies have done this in different ways.  But, really, what it comes down to in the largest sense is that a connected company is organized so that the smaller parts of the organization can operate and evolve and experiment and actually adapt to their environment.
Let’s take just one example of a leading-edge organization that’s designed to adapt.
Whole Foods Markets is kind of a nice example because it’s pretty easy to understand. It’s a grocery store. But it's not like most grocery stores where you are going to get the same stuff everywhere you go in the world or everywhere you go in the country. Whole Foods Markets has basically made each store relatively autonomous. In fact each region is relatively autonomous, each store is relatively autonomous, and even each team within the store has autonomy and a degree of freedom with regard to how they run their operation. At each level there is the opportunity to run a business within the larger business.
Whole Foods does this because they want to be able to adapt very specifically to every market they enter.
So if you go into a Whole Foods in Silicon Valley, or New York, or wherever you live, you are going to see a very different set of stuff than I'm going to see here where I live, in St. Louis. I'm going to see stuff that's locally sourced from local farmers and suppliers, and you are going to get stuff that's locally sourced from your community.
Teams at Whole Foods have the ability to self organize and work with customers and adapt to their local environment in a way that you can't really do in many companies.
How do they do this?
Each store is an autonomous profit center made up of about ten self-managed teams, who manage various aspects of the store, like produce, deli and so on.
Each team has control over its own fate. Performance data is available to all the teams, so they can compare their performance against other teams in their store, similar teams in other stores, or against their own team’s historical performance.
Teams also have access to detailed financial data, like product costs, profits per store, and even each other’s compensation and bonus information. They can look up the best-selling items at other stores and compare them to their own. Employees at Whole Foods are so well-informed that the SEC has designated all employees “insiders” for stock trading purposes.
This data transparency both builds trust and fuels a spirit of intense competition between teams and stores, since every team can compare itself with every other team and try to raise in the ranks. Whole Foods has created a platform that makes it possible for the company’s stores and teams to compete with each other so they can tune and improve their performance over time.
At the same time, each team has the autonomy to make local decisions as they see fit to improve their performance. So every Whole Foods store carries a unique mix that is tailored by self-managed teams for that particular location. This strategy allows them to target extremely small locations with highly customized stores. They are starting to open small stores in suburbs and college towns where rents are lower and competition less fierce.
The industry average sales per square foot is about $350, and Whole Foods is one of the top ten retailers in the US, with sales of about $900 per square foot, higher than Best Buy and Zale jewelers1.  Not bad for a grocery store.
Employees like it too. Whole Foods has made Fortune’s “100 best places to work” list every year since the list was started in 1998.

Whole Foods is just one company, but there are many others like it that are transforming the business landscape. In the words of science-fiction author William Gibson, “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.”

If you haven’t started connecting your company yet, now would be a good time to start.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
1Ranking U.S. Chains by Retail Sales per Square Foot, RetailSails, 2011. 

You can hear more from Dave on the Connected Digital Experience in our Digital Business Thought Leaders webcast tomorrow, June 26 at 10:00am PT - "The Digital Experience: A Connected Company’s Sixth Sense".

Who is Dave Gray and What is a Connected Company?

Mon, 2014-06-23 09:28

by Dave Gray, Entrepreneur, Author & Consultant

Who is Dave Gray?


I’m an entrepreneur and designer who has worked on change and innovation initiatives for the last thirty years. I’ve worked with startups and Fortune 100 companies. I’ve worked with companies in finance, energy, defense, technology, media, education, health care, automotive and more. I’ve seen a lot of things in that time, including some amazing successes as well as some catastrophic failures.

In my work with organizations, including growing my own company, I came to see that there are two factors which have the greatest impact on how well an organization can innovate and change. The first is organizational structure, by which I mean how the work is organized, and the way it distributes information and control. The second is organizational culture, by which I mean the habits, behaviors, and informal rules that add up to “the way we do things around here.”

The structure is the organization’s shape and form, while the culture is the life force that animates it. Culture and structure mutually reinforce each other, and the relationship between them is complex.

I have come to believe that both culture and structure can be designed in such a way that an organization can be much more agile and adaptable, so change and innovation come much more easily than they do in a typical organization. Which brings me to the next question: what is a connected company?

What is a Connected Company?
Historically, we have thought of companies as machines, and we have designed them like we design machines. Most companies are conceived and designed this way.

A car is a perfect example of machine design. It’s designed to do one thing and does that thing pretty well. It’s controlled by a driver. Mechanics perform routine maintenance and fix it when it breaks down. Eventually the car wears out, or your needs change, so you sell the car and buy a new one.

If one day you need a truck, or a motorcycle for some reason, the car is not going to adapt to your needs. The car is going to stay a car.

And we tend to design companies the way we design machines: We need the company to perform a certain function, so we design and build it to perform that function. 

The machine view is very successful in a stable environment. If there is a steady, predictable demand for a standard, uniform product, then machines are very efficient and productive. In such conditions, a machine-like company can profit by producing uniform items in large lots.

But over time, things change. The company grows beyond a certain point. New systems are needed. Customers want different products and services. So we redesign and rebuild the machine to serve the new functions. 

This kind of rebuilding goes by many names, including re-organization, reengineering, right-sizing, flattening and so on. The problem with this kind of thinking is that the nature of a machine is to remain static, while the nature of a company is to grow. This conflict causes all kinds of problems because you have to constantly redesign and rebuild the company while at the same time you are trying to operate it. Ironically, the process of improving efficiency is often very inefficient. And the faster things change the more of a problem this becomes.

Companies are not really machines, so much as complex, dynamic, growing systems. After all, companies are really just groups of people who have banded together to achieve some kind of purpose. 

A machine’s purpose is designed into its structure. Once a machine’s purpose has been set, it does what it has been designed to do. But if the environment changes, a machine does not have a way to become aware of the change and adjust to the new situation. It just becomes obsolete.

Organisms, on the other hand, control themselves. An organism’s purpose does not come from an outside designer or controller but from within. An organism strives over time to realize its intentions in the world. As conditions in the environment change, an organism responds by adjusting its behavior and improving its performance over time. In other words, it learns.

Now before we had cars we got around using horses. And a horse is a very adaptable kind of transportation. If you were going into a place where you didn’t know if you were going to have roads, or gasoline, well then a horse might very well be a better choice than a car.

And the business world these days is being continually disrupted by new technologies, new ways of communicating and sharing information. It’s a lot more uncertain and unpredictable, which is why a more adaptable, organic approach gives you more flexibility to adapt as things change.

A connected company is one whose culture and structure are designed to continually learn and adapt to a changing marketplace. It is designed more like an organism and less like a machine. Connected companies distribute information and control differently. They organize work differently.

Instead of a hierarchy like you might see in a typical organization chart, a connected company is organized in what I call a podular way. It operates as a network of small, self-directed teams that are supported by platforms and connected by some kind of common purpose. Amazon and Google are organized in this way, as are many others. 

Teams that are independent and self-directed can learn and adapt more rapidly than their counterparts in divided organizations, because they don’t have to worry about complicated processes and procedures. They don’t have to get permission from a boss before they act. They interface with other teams through a simple network. This makes it possible to move much faster, make faster decisions and learn faster. This kind of organization is more entrepreneurial.

Think of a shopping mall or a commercial district in a city. The city doesn’t tell people which businesses to operate, they create a space and provide infrastructure which gets filled in with entrepreneurs. This is the core of how connected companies operate. They provide a space and a supporting platform that attracts a more entrepreneurial kind of person.

It’s Time to Connect
Adaptation requires learning. Learning requires the freedom to experiment. Today’s business environment is uncertain and variable. It’s impossible to know in advance what kinds of actions will constitute good performance. By giving their employees the freedom to make decisions, connected companies learn and move faster. While others analyze risk, connected companies seize opportunities. While others work in isolation, they link into rich networks of possibility and expand their influence. While others plan, they act.

Connected customers are already demanding more than divided, industrial-age companies can deliver. I’m convinced that as we move toward a more complex, connected, customer-centric world, the businesses that will win will be the connected companies.

Learn more about The Connected Company and Dave in this podcast, and hear more from Dave in our upcoming Digital Business Thought Leadership Series webcast "The Digital Experience: A Connected Company’s Sixth Sense".

Transform your Finance and HR Processes with Oracle WebCenter Content and Oracle WebCenter Imaging

Thu, 2014-06-19 07:54

THE INSIGHT-DRIVEN ENTERPRISE

Contact John Wilkin:

1.661.644.4272

john.wilkin@oracle.com

to register for this event

Transform your Finance and HR processes with Oracle WebCenter Content and Oracle WebCenter Imaging, and learn how to implement the solution faster with Aurionpro’s accelerator

Join us for a Technology-Focused Introduction to Oracle WebCenter Content and Oracle WebCenter Imaging

Oracle and Aurionpro invite you to join an Oracle WebCenter Content and Oracle WebCenter Imaging Webcast on Friday, June 27th at 10 a.m. PST. Many corporations, universities and government agencies are taking advantage of this one-hour online presentation to learn about industry leading content-enabling their Oracle and other applications to provide targeted functionality and operational visibility while delivering tremendous ROI and reducing risks. With Oracle WebCenter Content & Oracle WebCenter Imaging and Aurionpro’s accelerator, your organization can:


Friday, June 27th 2014
10:00 a.m. Pacific Time / 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time

Please circulate this invitation to any of your team members who might be interested in participating.

To access this Oracle Web Conference – please send an email to john.wilkin@oracle.com with your name, title, & email address, and we’ll send the webcast URL and audio conferencing dial-in #.

Who Should Attend:

This Oracle WebCenter Content and Oracle WebCenter Imaging webcast is designed for Finance (AP, AR), HR, Admissions and IT decision makers who wish to learn more about how Oracle WebCenter can be used to enhance Oracle and other applications for their business processes. This webcast will also provide a high level overview of how Oracle WebCenter fits into the overall Oracle Fusion Middleware (FMW) suite, a fully integrated stack of products.

Oracle Fusion Middleware technology-related topics that will be covered include:

  • Intro to Oracle WebCenter Suite, including Oracle WebCenter Sites, Oracle WebCenter Portal, Oracle WebCenter Content and Oracle WebCenter Imaging

 

To register for the webcast, please send your name, title, institution and email address to: john.wilkin@oracle.com

Upon registration, you will receive in advance the web conferring link and audio conferencing number to access the live webcast.

Aurionpro is an award winning Platinum Oracle Partner specializing in Oracle WebCenter and Security products. www.aurionpro.com

Oracle WebCenter Content & Oracle WebCenter Imaging Webcast

Please contact John Wilkin at john.wilkin@oracle.com with any questions about this disclosure.

Building Advanced Self-Service Portals

Tue, 2014-06-17 08:15

By Mitchell Palski, Oracle WebCenter Sales Consultant

Must-Have Features for Self-Service Portals

Whether intended for employees, customers, partners or citizens, a Portal is most often intended to be a web site that is developed to aggregate information and services to users. Effective web portals present information to users based on their roles and interests so as to avoid users depending on the web site’s search bar to find information. At Oracle, we often times refer to developing that presentation layer as “delivering high-value user experiences” because of the efficiency and effectiveness it brings to users. Ultimately, these are our goals as a software development team:

  • Enhance the user’s satisfaction with using the web portal
  • Enable users to accomplish more in less time spent on the portal
  • Improves the efficacy of users through new capabilities
Although the design of a web portal’s presentation layer is critical to providing a satisfying and efficient user experience, the services that the portal provides are what will drive its success. Much like cooking a meal, the best dishes are made from the best ingredients. The services that your web portal provides are the basis for creating high-value user experiences – ultimately giving your product a higher return on investment. As an organization, you are looking for ways to cut costs, to get your users the information they need when they need it, to improve user awareness, and to reduce overhead. This can best be accomplished by developing a self-service web portal. In this blog post, I want to describe a few features that a self-service web portal must have to be successful.

User Authentication, Role-Based Access A self-service Portal must incorporate some form of Identity Management. Users must be able to register a profile with your web application so that users’ attributes can be captured and roles can be associated to them. Role-based access is critical to implementing a successful self-service Portal:
  • Users can inherit immediate access to key tools and applications based on their role(s) rather than having to submit manual requests
  • Mass updates can be made to all users that have been granted a role, reducing maintenance effort and costs
  • Provide the foundation for other self-service portal features (see below!)
Automated Access Requests How do users currently gain access to new applications in your organization? Do they call the help desk? Do they email an IT administrator and explain what their roles are? How does the IT administrator know what rights to grant them? Without self-service access requests, your users and your organization are subject to the weaknesses and risks of manual access request processes.
  • Lack of visibility and awareness for requestors
  • Lost or deleted request that never get fulfilled
  • Incorrect access provisioning that can lead to security breaches

You can solve these issues for your organization by implementing automated access requests. An automated access request is a user-initiated automated process that includes at least one (system or human) validation step. The benefits to your enterprise include:

  • Allowing users to gain access to sensitive applications in a timely manner
  • Reducing IT costs through efficient, business friendly self-service and platform-based architecture
  • Minimizing risk by granting access based on standard sets of rules and policies rather than human discretion
  • Providing complete audit trails
Web-Based Form Service Requests Your web portal is the perfect platform to provide your users with fast, efficient, and accurate services. Automated service requests transform complex manual procedures into streamlined simplified processes. Rather than having employees indirectly initiate service requests via fax, email, phone, or snail-mail, allow users to complete web-based forms. The advantages of web-based forms include:
  • Ensuring that users provide all required information prior to submission
  • Provide a layer of data validation prior to submission
  • Immediate digital transmission of information and case creation


Leverage these web-based forms to kick-off automated processes. These processes remove the human elements from key decision points in your organization’s procedures. Instead they make key determinations based off of business rules and policies. Human intervention only becomes necessary for validation steps and exception handling.

  • Removes process gaps between applications that are prone to errors
  • Simplifies architecture and streamlines processes to lower costs
  • Improves your organization’s throughput and efficiency
  • Allows your workforce to stop performing administrative work and focus on innovative tasks!
Advanced Self-Service Portals
Self-Service portals are an essential element of an organization’s ability to successfully conduct business with customers, partners, employees and citizens. Modern users expect to interact with an organization through a web-based interface that can be delivered through any type of computing device – mobile or otherwise.

Oracle WebCenter Portal provides IT with a comprehensive and flexible platform which can be used to quickly build self-service portals and composite applications. Furthermore, Oracle WebCenter’s ease of integration with other Oracle Fusion Middleware products (i.e. Identity Management, Business Process Management, and Business Intelligence) strengthens its capability to provide am enterprise-ready self-service portal that can meet all of your organization’s business needs.

Imaging: Paper Paper Everywhere, but None Should be in Sight

Tue, 2014-06-03 11:13

Author: Vikrant Korde, Technical Architect, Aurionpro's Oracle Implementation Services team

My wedding photos are stored in several empty shoeboxes. Yes...I got married before digital photography was mainstream...which means I'm old. But my parents are really old. They have shoeboxes filled with vacation photos on slides (I doubt many of you have even seen a home slide projector...and I hope you never do!). Neither me nor my parents should have shoeboxes filled with any form of photographs whatsoever. They should obviously live in the digital world...with no physical versions in sight (other than a few framed on our walls).

Businesses grapple with similar challenges. But instead of shoeboxes, they have file cabinets and warehouses jam packed with paper invoices, legal documents, human resource files, material safety data sheets, incident reports, and the list goes on and on. In fact, regulatory and compliance rules govern many industries, requiring that this paperwork is available for any number of years. It's a real challenge...especially trying to find archived documents quickly and many times with no backup. Which brings us to a set of technologies called Image Process Management (or simply Imaging or Image Processing) that are transforming these antiquated, paper-based processes.

Oracle's WebCenter Content Imaging solution is a combination of their WebCenter suite, which offers a robust set of content and document management features, and their Business Process Management (BPM) suite, which helps to automate business processes through the definition of workflows and business rules. Overall, the solution provides an enterprise-class platform for end-to-end management of document images within transactional business processes. It's a solution that provides all of the capabilities needed - from document capture and recognition, to imaging and workflow - to effectively transform your ‘shoeboxes’ of files into digitally managed assets that comply with strict industry regulations. The terminology can be quite overwhelming if you're new to the space, so we've provided a summary of the primary components of the solution below, along with a short description of the two paths that can be executed to load images of scanned documents into Oracle's WebCenter suite.

WebCenter Imaging (WCI): the electronic document repository that provides security, annotations, and search capabilities, and is the primary user interface for managing work items in the imaging solution

SOA & BPM Suites (workflow): provide business process management capabilities, including human tasks, workflow management, service integration, and all other standard SOA features. It's interesting to note that there a number of 'jumpstart' processes available to help accelerate the integration of business applications, such as the accounts payable invoice processing solution for E-Business Suite that facilitates the processing of large volumes of invoices

WebCenter Enterprise Capture (WEC): expedites the capture process of paper documents to digital images, offering high volume scanning and importing from email, and allows for flexible indexing options

WebCenter Forms Recognition (WFR): automatically recognizes, categorizes, and extracts information from paper documents with greatly reduced human intervention

WebCenter Content: the backend content server that provides versioning, security, and content storage

There are two paths that can be executed to send data from WebCenter Capture to WebCenter Imaging, both of which are described below:

1. Direct Flow - This is the simplest and quickest way to push an image scanned from WebCenter Enterprise Capture (WEC) to WebCenter Imaging (WCI), using the bare minimum metadata. The WEC activities are defined below:

  • The paper document is scanned (or imported from email).
  • The scanned image is indexed using a predefined indexing profile.
  • The image is committed directly into the process flow
2. WFR (WebCenter Forms Recognition) Flow - This is the more complex process, during which data is extracted from the image using a series of operations including Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Classification, Extraction, and Export. This process creates three files (Tiff, XML, and TXT), which are fed to the WCI Input Agent (the high speed import/filing module). The WCI Input Agent directory is a standard ingestion method for adding content to WebCenter Imaging, the process for doing so is described below:
  • WEC commits the batch using the respective commit profile. A TIFF file is created, passing data through the file name by including values separated by "_" (underscores).
  • WFR completes OCR, classification, extraction, export, and pulls the data from the image. In addition to the TIFF file, which contains the document image, an XML file containing the extracted data, and a TXT file containing the metadata that will be filled in WCI, are also created. All three files are exported to WCI's Input agent directory.
  • Based on previously defined "input masks", the WCI Input Agent will pick up the seeding file (often the TXT file).
  • Finally, the TIFF file is pushed in UCM and a unique web-viewable URL is created. Based on the mapping data read from the TXT file, a new record is created in the WCI application. 
Although these processes may seem complex, each Oracle component works seamlessly together to achieve a high performing and scalable platform. The solution has been field tested at some of the largest enterprises in the world and has transformed millions and millions of paper-based documents to more easily manageable digital assets. For more information on how an Imaging solution can help your business, please contact steven.sommer@aurionpro.com (for U.S. West inquiries) or mark.tepsic@aurionpro.com (for U.S. East inquiries).
About the Author: Vikrant is a Technical Architect in Aurionpro's Oracle Implementation Services team, where he delivers WebCenter-based Content and Imaging solutions to Fortune 1000 clients. With more than twelve years of experience designing, developing, and implementing Java-based software solutions, Vikrant was one of the founding members of Aurionpro's WebCenter-based offshore delivery team. He can be reached at vikrant.korde@aurionpro.com.