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Oracle WebCenter is the user engagement platform for social business—connecting people and information.
Updated: 13 hours 50 min ago

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!

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