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Oracle WebCenter is the user engagement platform for social business—connecting people and information.
Updated: 15 hours 53 min ago

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.

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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.