Friday Mar 21, 2014

Portal Technologies for Self-Service

What makes self-service Websites so complex to build?  Compelling self-service sites surface multiple backend applications and deliver them as a composite/aggregated view to present it as a unified experience to the user, which makes the Website dependent on not only the availability, but also the connections to those backend applications.  Connection in this context refers to the self-service Websites’ ability to both interact with the backend application, as well as securing (authenticate and authorize) those interactions for a given users session.  

Technology and Tools for Building Self-Service Websites
The surest way to mitigate the overall project complexity and risk is to first understand the entire scope of the project – not only the capabilities of the site, but also any dependencies that those capabilities may have.  For example, if you have a requirement to allow a customer to view and update their account information, then you will not only need to build the visual component which will be seen by the user, but you also need to identify where the customers data resides (e.g. Customer Relationship Management application, Mainframe, etc.) and how that data can be integrated.  

Security and Identity Management play a big part in delivering information. They do so by delivering information that is relevant, creating a secure connection to backend applications that are being surfaced within the self-service site.  At a minimum, directory services (LDAP) and access management (Single Sign On and Federation Management) integration are required, but more sophisticated access control policies are becoming commonplace and require integration of specialized tools for security auditing, compliance, role management, and policy administration.  

Application Integration is critical to exposing useful transactional functionality into the experience.  The challenge here is that a typical self-service application will require data from multiple application sources, which means the organization will need to determine which application sources are accessible from existing Application Programming Interfaces (API), and which will require integration layers/adapters.  Additionally, self-service Websites will often increase the demands on backend applications because it extends application functions directly to a large user base, which was previously only available to a small number of key individuals (e.g. internal support group, human resources, accounts receivable, etc.)  Organizations will often utilize Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) technologies to help with orchestration, scaling, and data integration of backend applications and/or Mainframe.  

Development Frameworks are key to building a rich consistent experience across the Website.  They provide developers with core libraries that are used for accessing data, building visualizations, and session management.  Given the amount of investment and effort that goes into them, self-service Websites tend to live for many years once they are established; much longer than many development frameworks.  The lack of support and new features makes it very difficult for an organization to evolve or maintain their site.  It can also become extremely cost prohibitive to maintain resources that are familiar with older frameworks.  

Content is the core unifying technology.  Most self-service scenario's have demanding requirements for editorial control of Web content that is being added or modified on the site.  Additionally, large volume of documents will be linked off of the site which will typically require Enterprise Content Management (ECM) capabilities for creating, maintaining, and publishing those documents.  

Why Portals?
There are a number of technology considerations for reducing the amount of custom development involved in the core platform that the current Web site is running on.  Custom coding at the platform level of a self-service project can seem like a simple approach to quickly implement a site with the resources that are available at the time.  However, these customizations can become extremely cumbersome and costly to maintain because the organization effectively becomes the owner of that code.

Virtually all self-service Websites require extensive customization, but to reduce the overall risk and long-term cost of the project, organizations need to be certain that the core technology requirements are being met by the platform they choose.  This ensures the organization can focus their development efforts on the core value add of the site versus maintaining and taking responsibility of the underlying platform, to allow them to instead focus on the core business function of the site, which will drive the most business value for their organization.  

Portal server products have long been the tool of choice for self-service projects because they deliver the core technology platform capabilities that are needed for personalization, user access control, application user experience management, component development, and site administration.  Portal technology allows organizations to move away from providing traditional purpose-built transactional Web applications to a more rich, dynamic, and streamlined user experience. 

Is your organization considering portal technologies for self-service? We invite you to view these customer webcasts and self-service solution center to help in your evaluation and learn more!

Thursday Mar 20, 2014

John Lewis Partnership Transforms HR with Self-Service Capabilities

Retailer John Lewis Partnership has revealed how it has transformed its shared service function, enabling self-service through a web portal and paved the way for its Oracle E-Business Suite to coexist with Fusion modules. Read more in this ComputerworldUK article!

Wednesday Mar 19, 2014

How Fierce Weather Validated the Potential of Great River Energy’s WebCenter-based Employee Intranet

Author: Steven Sommer, Director of WebCenter Sales, Aurionpro Sena

Soon after the launch of Great River Energy’s fully redesigned WebCenter-based corporate intranet, an unfortunate weather event put the new solution to the test.

A large storm blew through the Midwest just weeks after the new Connect the Dots intranet was rolled out. The storm wreaked havoc on the region and was the cause of several power outages. Turning to the new intranet as a channel of communication to the organization’s almost 900 employees, the corporate communications team published a news story that described the events that had taken place. And that’s when an amazing sequence of events unfolded…

Almost immediately, employees across various divisions started sharing information and interacting through the new WebCenter-based platform. The first feature that individuals took advantage of was the ability to comment on the news story. Field crews provided real-time outage updates. Questions were posted…and actually answered by the “right” employees – subject matter experts. YouTube videos were linked to, delivering visual context to what was happening in the field. And executives not only observed the collaboration that was happening in real time, they also contributed to the conversation. 

By the time power was restored to Great River Energy’s customers, the corporate communications team was able to digest the remarkable turn of events. Although the storm was an unfortunate incident, it turned out to be a catalyst that rapidly accelerated employee adoption of the new intranet. The vision and hard work that was invested in the solution enabled the company to achieve a level of collaboration never before realized. The tool clearly accomplished what the project team had set out to do: connect employees to the business, their members (customers) and each other.

As the implementation lead on Great River Energy’s Connect the Dots intranet project, it was a very satisfying experience to watch the use of the platform expand so rapidly, validating the WebCenter technologies and the set of features that were deployed. For more information on this success story, feel free to get in touch with Steven Sommer at steven.sommer@aurionpro.com.

Great River Energy is a Minnesota-based electric generation and transmission cooperative, one of the largest in the United States. With almost 900 employees, Great River Energy is a not-for-profit that generates close to $1 billion in revenue. Great River Energy -- Powering what’s possible!

Monday Mar 17, 2014

Modernizing the Self-Service Experience

Oracle WebCenter Portal: A Comprehensive and Pre-Integrated Portal Platform 

Self-Service Websites have become an integral element of a Web user's interface with organizations they conduct business with.  Whether they are customers, partners, or employees - these users expect to interact with the organization from the Web anytime, anywhere, and from any device.  

Oracle WebCenter Portal provides IT with a comprehensive and flexible platform which can be used to quickly build portals and composite applications. This common user experience architecture is based on ADF and combines run-time and design time customization of applications in one unified platform.

Oracle WebCenter Portal can help your organization:

  • Reduce Operational Costs: Limit high-cost / low-value interactions by delivering a high-value experience through a fully integrated self-service portal which directly presents users with content, data, and interactions that they need/want.  
  • Improve User Experience: Engage employees, partners, and customers through self service web interactions to maximize their value and loyalty.  Create additional value for existing customers and connect on the items most important to them.  
  • Speed Development: Expose key data and processes from back-end applications securely and effectively by providing developers with a comprehensive and flexible user experience platform that includes an extensive library of reusable components
  • Increase Business Agility: Standardizing on a proven platform which is certified with on the most comprehensive Middleware technology stack in the world.  
Are you looking to modernize the self-service experience for your customers, partners or employees? We invite you to visit our resource center or listen to these Oracle WebCenter customers in action, as they share how they are increasing productivity and improving the self-service experience for their end users.

Friday Mar 07, 2014

Oracle WebCenter + BPM = High Value Web Experiences

As we wrap up this week talking about High Value Web Experiences, today we have WebCenter expert Mitchell Palski sharing his thoughts on High Value Web Experiences, and specifically how Oracle WebCenter and Oracle Business Process Management provide a unique and integrated solution that will improve your employees’ efficiency.

By Mitchell Palski, Oracle WebCenter Sales Consultant

When we talk about High Value Web Experience, we should first start off by describing a web experience with low value. When users are navigating your web application and they become lost and frustrated, they are less likely to:
  1. Successfully accomplish their tasks
  2. Return to that web site as frequently
Web design shouldn’t be a puzzle; it shouldn’t be a challenge. A good web design doesn’t force users to think about where to go or what to do. When users are forced to focus their energy on figuring out what they need to do and where they need to do it, we are diminishing their web experience.

Ok so now let’s talk about a High Value Web Experience. When we can provide users with a web application that is intuitive and easy to navigate, they  are more likely to:
  1. Successfully complete their tasks
  2. Accurately complete their tasks
  3. Return to that web site to complete other tasks
The idea behind this concept of a “High Value Web Experience” is to present users with a presentation layer that does the heavy lifting for them. 

WebCenter Portal leads High Value Web Experiences by:
  • Empowering business users to build and manage their portal environment.
  • Delivering the right information to the right people through role-based access control.
  • Presenting relevant applications, data, and process interactions in the same context.
  • Providing interface designs that are optimized for any mobile device.

Surfacing Oracle Business Process Management Suite through WebCenter Portal adds value by:

  • Automating processes to minimize end user confusion and reduce human error.
  • Providing visibility into business processes that leads to user satisfaction and more accurate process improvement.
  • Making it easy to integrate legacy applications with processes using web services and other integration mechanisms.

These products create a web experience that is defined by user roles and driven by holistic enterprise business processes.  A WebCenter + BPM solution can provide high value web experiences to your citizens, employees and partners.

Here’s how the Oracle solution benefits Citizens:
  • Prioritizes content and applications based on real user-traits or navigational metrics rather than qualitative data
  • Provide automated self-services for faster end results
  • Gives citizens visibility into processes
The Oracle solution allows you to give your Employees the benefits of:
  • Building contextual workspaces that remove complexity from user interfaces
  • Consolidating systems to avoid confusion and create a “single source of truth”
  • Creating an environment of accountability that leads to improved productivity
Here’s how this solution can help your organization strengthen Partner-relationships:
  • Improve relationships by building engaging interfaces
  • Enable self-service for informed decision making
  • Quickly stand-up effective workspaces for collaboration with new partners
If organizations are looking to get started creating High Value Web Experiences, the first step to any project is always to identify your pain points and gather requirements. Identify:
  • Roles
  • Processes
  • Other functional requirements
The next step is to match those processes and functions to each role. Before you even begin to design pages and workspaces, it is critical to understand what your users are trying to accomplish. Leverage surveys, interviews, and usage statistics to gather requirements and fully understand what you want to accomplish.

Finally, begin implementing your solution using your collaborative development tools.
  • WebCenter offers a Portal builder that is designed to allow web designers and business users to easily build pages and workspaces
  • The BPM Suite offers a collaborative modeling workspace similar to MS Visio

Both tools:

  • Are browser-based for ease of access and to provide collaboration
  • Allow IT resources to provide business users with functional components like web services
  • Leverage visual and intuitive development tools that include drag-and-drop functionality and visual representations of end products
Last but not least:
  • Follow rapid and iterative software development techniques using WebCenter’s preview functionality and BPM’s process simulator tool
Oracle WebCenter Portal and Oracle Business Process Management provide a unique and integrated solution for High Value Web Experiences that will improve your employees’ efficiency and increase productivity. Learn how Oracle WebCenter customers are delivering these unique experiences for their citizens, employees and partners.

Wednesday Mar 05, 2014

The High Value Web Experience

Historically, Websites can be best defined as a content publishing channel.  Even today, the large majority of internal and external Websites are static content used for pushing information to their users.  However, while self-service is a small percentage of the overall Web properties, it provides the highest value to the users by providing a personalized experience which can not only be tailored to the users organizational role, but also allows the user to directly access, modify and manage key elements of their business relationship without the need for interacting with anyone else from the organization.  Depending on the purpose of the self-service Website, it can help organizations increase their revenue while reducing costs.  


Figure 1. Common Use Cases for Self-Service.

Target Audience
The use cases in Figure 1 are broken into 3 top-level categories: External, Partner, and Employee, since the scope of most self-service Websites will target one of these audiences per deployment.  The key with any successful self-service Website is to meet the specific needs of the target audience by providing the most relevant and valuable capabilities.  The broader the audience, the more difficult it is to deliver a compelling experience.  Self-service is the epitome of targeting and personalization, which makes definition of the audience critical to the usefulness and overall success of the site.  

Figure 2. Key Business Drivers for Self-Service Portals.

External-Facing
Self-service Websites for external audiences such as customers or citizens, typically empower the user by granting access and/or updating information they previously would have needed to contact someone else in the organization directly for.  Growing revenue and reducing processing costs are often attributes of the business case for these scenarios.  

Self-service Websites are a powerful way for an organization to cross-sell other products and/or services to an existing customer.  In a customer self-service scenario such as a customer support portal or a My Utilities site, not only can customers access their accounts, update their addresses, pay bills and monitor their daily/hourly usage, but also marketing teams can deliver highly targeted campaigns based on account information of the users’ currently owned product/services.  For instance, a customer that logs into a customer support portal seeking to find updates for their existing product could be interested in upgrading to the latest generation of that product – a carefully placed personalized ad could result in a significant revenue opportunity to grow profits from the existing customer base.  Similarly, this model can help a Utilities company to promote rebates and other services that may benefit both the customer and the organization.  

In addition to revenue growth, many external scenario's can also be justified by reduction and accuracy of processing times, decrease in call or walk-in traffic, and improvement of overall user satisfaction, which can result in significant cost savings for the organization.  

Customer Story

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP)
LADWP is the largest public utility company in the United States with over 1.6 million residential and commercial customers in Southern California.  Searching for opportunities to improve customer service and automate paper based processes, LADWP realized their existing legacy technologies provided very little agility and created a lot of challenges.  During customer focus groups, they discovered their customers wanted a Web experience that delivered more direct access to the things they need most, such as billing and service requests.  LADWP implemented a self-service portal using Oracle WebCenter Portal to surface various back-end systems such as Oracle Siebel CRM, Legacy Mainframe, and billing applications.  Their customers now have access to MyAccount (billing and usage analysis), Financial Assistance Programs, Rebate Programs, service requests, outage reporting, eNotifications and much more.  The site has received extremely positive feedback from their customers, has helped to drastically improve LADWP's customer experience ranking vs comparable utilities companies, and driven the usage of online billing.  

Partner-Facing
Business partners are often seen as an extension of an organization, which means the self-service interfaces tend to be extremely rich for access to backend application data.  In some cases, the interface may be identical to what an employee within the organization may have access to.  It's also common for a partner to use the organization’s hosted site as a co-selling tool for their own customers and simply rebrand the site with their own logo. Partner-facing self-service can be a powerful way for an organization to extend the reach and capability of their organization by enabling partners to do business on their behalf.  The key value for this scenario is business reach/growth, process efficiency, and process consistency.  The types of self-service tools for partners can be a key differentiator in attracting and maintaining a partner network. Partner Portals enable companies to share information and collaborate between partners, brand owners, and joint customers. Its broad range of data, marketing materials, and selling tools facilitates the collaborative sales process, while its superior service and problem-resolution capabilities help partners deliver timely and consistent customer service. 

Customer Story

Land O’Lakes, Inc.
Land O’Lakes is one of America’s premier member-owned cooperatives, offering local cooperatives and agricultural producers across the nation an extensive line of agricultural supplies, as well as state-of-the-art production and business services. Land O’Lakes is using Oracle WebCenter Portal to improve online experiences for partners to handle all aspects of account management and order entry through a consolidated, personalized, and secure user interface. By creating a self-service portal for placing orders for seed, Land O'Lakes ended up with a new engagement platform that drives more efficient processes, and has actually resulted in net new business.

Employee-Facing
Internal self-service sites offer employees access to their human resource details such as personal records and payroll information; allowing employees to change their own address, contact details, education records, job profile, vacation and sick leave, and many more.  Some scenarios allow for employees to change payroll details such as their direct deposit information and provide access to current and historical payslips. These sites have also been known to be used for career planning, skills profiles, learning, objective settings, and annual appraisals.  This can be a valuable asset to an organization to retain their talent, while also helping to improve employee satisfaction. Human resource departments see employee portals as a means of empowering employees and reducing process errors and cost.  Organizations also view employee self-service as a means of eliminating manual processes and in turn reducing costs associated with support and physical paper processing.

Customer Story

Schneider National, Inc. 

Schneider National is a premier provider of truckload, logistics and intermodal services. Serving more than two-thirds of the FORTUNE 500® companies and conducting business in more than 28 countries worldwide, Schneider National offers the broadest portfolio of services in the industry. The company’s transportation and logistics solutions include Van Truckload, Dedicated, Regional, Bulk, Intermodal, Transportation Management, Supply Chain Management, Warehousing and International Logistics services. Schneider National’s previous solution for their Drivers was very static, fairly expensive to maintain, and needed IT involvement to update most content.  The business wanted a more dynamic and less IT-centric solution that would allow employees to modify their solutions quickly and easily, allow for significantly improved collaboration with the users, and an integrated solution across various types of content, applications, and collaboration services. Schneider National turned to Oracle WebCenter Portal for their employee self-service portal, allowing drivers to view employee information such as benefits, online training and pay statements, all in a single user interface – whether they are in the office or on the road.

Self-Service Websites have become an integral element of a Web user’s interaction with organizations they do business with.  Oracle has proven to be a trusted partner for organizations that are looking to build new or replace existing self-service Websites.  Oracle's approach to delivering a comprehensive and pre-integrated collection of enterprise products and tools reduces the overall risk and total cost of the self-service project. We invite you to learn how Oracle WebCenter customers are leveraging Oracle WebCenter Portal to use, build and manage self-service Websites and deliver intuitive digital experiences for their users. 

Monday Mar 03, 2014

High Value Web Experiences

Self-Service Websites have become an integral element of a Web user's interaction with organizations they do business with.  Whether they are customers, partners, or employees - these users expect to interact with the organization from the Web anytime, anywhere, and from any device.  

And while the expectations are high, building and maintaining this type of rich experience for the business user has not always been without complexity.  IT groups are finding it difficult and expensive to build new or even maintain their current self-service sites.  In many cases, their existing self-service sites are built on old and outdated technologies, which can make it challenging and costly for an organization to add new capabilities, as well as increase their risk by trying to adapt older environments to the needs of the modern day user.  

Oracle has proven to be a trusted partner for organizations that are looking to build new or replace existing self-service Websites.  Oracle's approach to delivering a comprehensive and pre-integrated collection of enterprise products and tools reduces the overall risk and total cost of the project.


We invite you to learn how Oracle WebCenter customers are leveraging Oracle WebCenter Portal to use, build and manage self-service Websites and deliver intuitive digital experiences for their users. 

Tuesday Dec 03, 2013

How Well Does Your Organization Do Self-Service?

Assessment Tool Measures
Your Self-Service Portal Strategy

The adoption of self-service portals is accelerating, but too often portals are implemented without a comprehensive strategy that ensures key functionality, such as cohesive user experiences and integration with back-end applications. Now a new assessment tool lets organizations quickly measure the effectiveness of their current self-service portal approach. 

Recent studies indicate that self-service portals are now more of a business imperative than ever. One study shows that 55 percent of consumers prefer automated self-service—twice as many as five years ago. The potential benefits are enormous: self-service reduces costs by US$9.00 per employee per month by eliminating manual, paper-intensive processes. 
View a new infographic to learn about other interesting facets of self-service. 

Are You a Self-Service Leader?
Despite the potential to use portals to reduce costs and increase satisfaction, many organizations install packaged applications that focus only on one aspect of a relationship with a customer, employee, or partner. For example, a customer relationship management system may present sales projection information but fail to integrate with the enterprise resource planning system to provide current account status. 

"Too often, such an approach doesn't address every aspect of taking action," explains Ashish Agrawal, senior director of product management for Oracle WebCenter Portal. 

The Oracle Self-Service Portal User Experience Assessment quickly helps you benchmark your organization's approach, including

  • Portal strategy
  • Portal agility
  • Integration and personalization
  • Social interactivity
  • Cross-channel integration

Why Oracle WebCenter? 
Oracle is the only enterprise software vendor with the complete, open, and integrated approach to support a truly comprehensive self-service portal strategy. With Oracle WebCenter Portal, you can

  • Integrate content, information, and business processes
  • Easily create and manage mobile portal experiences for desktop browsers, smartphones, tablets, and kiosks
  • Build and deploy custom-built components using rich development tools

View the new self-service portal destination page and take the Oracle Self-Service Portal User Experience Assessment

Access in-depth information about Oracle WebCenter Portal

Download a white paper about self-service portals, “Oracle WebCenter Portal: High Value Web Experiences Through Self-Service Portals.”

There's more of this great content in this November's WebCenter Newsletter

Subscribe for more content every other month.


Friday Nov 15, 2013

WebCenter Portal 11.1.1.8 – Customize your Profile page

Guest post today by: Mitchell Palski, WebCenter Sales Consultant

The Oracle WebCenter Portal People Connections service provides social networking tools for creating, interacting with, and tracking the activities of a user’s connections. WebCenter enables users to manage their personal profiles, access the profiles of other users, provide ad hoc feedback, post messages, track activities, and connect with others.

A Profile provides users with a variety of views into their own profile, as well as other users' profile information. Such information can include a user's email address, phone number, office location, department, manager, direct reports, and more. Profile takes the bulk of its information from the back-end identity store that provides a WebCenter Portal application with its list of users. Additionally, a Profile may offer opportunities for altering some of this information and for providing additional data that is not included in the identity store.
Here is an example of my profile page in one of our Oracle demonstration environments:
Profile Page

By default, not all sections of the user profile are editable by a user and viewable by other users. It is the administrator's job to specify the information to show in each section of the profile and determine whether users are allowed to edit their profile data and their application password within the WebCenter Portal.

To configure the Profile:

1. Open WebCenter Portal Administration.
2. Click Tools and Services, and then select People Connections. Tabs with the names of People Connections features appear to the right.
3. Click the Profile tab to bring it forward.
People Connection Settings
In the Profile Access section of this page, an administrator can control view settings around the sections of the profile. There are two sections under “View settings” that need to be considered when an administrator wants to hide a section of the profile:
• Who can view this section
• Allow Owner Override
For example, a number of my customers have asked about hiding the “Personal Information” section for their users because their users are employees and they don’t want them to share information such as their personal address. In this case, if the administrator logs in as an administrator change “Who can view this section” to “None” a user can still change that setting in their personal Preferences.
**Note: the columns in the Profile Access table can be reordered.
Profile Access
By default, not all of the attributes in a user’s profile are editable. Use the Profile Attributes – Edit Settings section of this page to enable and disable which attributes can be edited by a user through their web browser. For example, you may want to allow a user to edit their Business Contact Attributesinformation from their profile page.


Conclusion

It is important to consider how a user’s information is being used in your Portal environment before making changes to this page. Some questions to ask are:
• Is this information being managed elsewhere?
• Is user information being used to network?
• Are there any security concerns around allowing users to enter user information?
For more information on configuring your People Connections Service and User Profile, please refer to these Oracle WebCenter Portal documentation links:

Thanks for your time! Please comment on this post and let us know if this article is helpful for you and your organization!


 Learn how Oracle WebCenter Portal delivers secure, role-based, and personalized portal solutions that optimize the connections between people, information, and applications.

Empower End Users with Integrated Self-Service Portals
->LEARN MORE TODAY!<-

Friday Oct 25, 2013

The Connected Company: WebCenter Portal - Feedback - Analytics and Polls

Evernote Export Guest Post by: Mitchell Palski, Staff Sales Consultant

The importance of connecting peers has been widely recognized and socialized as a critical component of employee intranets. Organizations are striving to provide mediums for sharing knowledge and improving awareness across their enterprise. Indirectly, the socialization of your enterprise should lead to cost savings and improved product/service quality. However, many times the direct effects of connecting an organization’s leadership with its employees are overlooked. Oracle WebCenter Portal can help you bridge that gap by gathering implicit and explicit feedback.

Implicit Feedback Through Usage Analytics

Analytics allows administrators to track and analyze WebCenter Portal traffic and usage. Analytics provides the following basic functionality:

  • Usage Tracking Metrics: Analytics collects and reports metrics of common WebCenter Portal functions, including community and portlet traffic.
  • Behavior Tracking: Analytics can be used to analyze WebCenter Portal metrics to determine usage patterns, such as page visit duration and usage over time.
  • User Profile Correlation: Analytics can be used to correlate metric information with user profile information. Usage tracking reports can be viewed and filtered by user profile data such as country, company or title.

Usage analytics help measure how users interact with website content – allowing your IT staff and business analysts to make informed decisions when planning development for your next intranet enhancement. For example:

  • If users are not accessing your Announcements page and missing critical information that they need to be aware of, you may elect to use graphical links on the home page to direct more users to that page. As a result, the number of employee help-requests to HR decreases.
  • If users are not accessing your News page to read recent articles, you may elect to stop spending as much time updating the page with new stories and cut costs in your communications department.
  • You notice that there is a high volume of users accessing the Employee Dashboard page so your organization decides to continue making personalization enhancements to the page and investing in the Portal tool that most users are accessing.

Usage analytics aren’t necessarily a new concept in the IT industry. What sets WebCenter Portal Analytics apart is:

  • Reports are tailored for WebCenter specific tools
  • Report can be easily added to a page as simple as a drag-and-drop


WebCenter Portal Analytics

Explicit Feedback Through Polls

WebCenter Portal users can create, edit, take, and analyze online polls. With polls, you can survey your audience (such as their opinions and their experience level), check whether they can recall important information, and gather feedback and metrics.

How many times have you been involved in a requirements discussion and someone has asked a question similar to “Well how do you know that no one likes our home page?” and the response is “Everyone says they hate it! That’s all anyone complains about.” No one has any measurable, quantifiable metric to gauge user satisfaction. Analytics measure usage, but your organization also needs to measure the quality of your portal as defined by the actual people that use it. With that information, your leadership can make informed decisions that will not only match usage patterns but also relate to employees on a personal level. The end result is a connection between employees and leadership that gives everyone in the organization a sense of ownership of their Portal rather than the feeling of development decisions being segregated to leadership only.

Polls can be created and edited through the Poll Manager:

Oracle WebCenter Poll Manager

Polls and View Poll Results can easily be added to a page through drag-and-drop.

WebCenter Portal Poll Results

What did we learn?

Being a “connected” company doesn’t just mean helping employees connect with each other horizontally across your enterprise. It also means connecting those employees to the decisions that affect their everyday activities. Through WebCenter Portal Usage Analytics and Polls, any decision that is made to remove a Portal page, update a Portal page, or develop new Portal functionality, can be justified by quantifiable metrics. Instead of fielding complaints and hearing that your employees don’t have a voice, give those employees a voice and listen!


Monday Sep 30, 2013

5 Coolest Features of the new WebCenter Portal (11.1.1.8)

 By Mitchell Palski, Sales Consultant, Oracle WebCenter

Coming off the heels of Oracle OpenWorld last week, I'm sure many of you saw and heard about the latest release of Oracle WebCenter (released in August of 2013). As you are probably aware, there were a number of changes that were made to the Oracle WebCenter Portal feature set that focus on two major themes:

  1. Knowledge Worker Tooling – ease-of-use for Portal development
  2. Mobility – create Portals that are targeted for mobile devices
The goals of targeting these themes include:
  1. Decreasing a dependency for developers to know ADF knowledge
  2. Improving access to Portals by supporting mobile web and native phone application user interfaces
Here is the complete list of New and Updated Features (from the Oracle Fusion Middleware Document Library) for the new release of Oracle WebCenter Portal:

End-User Experience
  • Rich user profile that consolidates information from multiple profiles (OSN, HCM, LDAP, and so on).
  • Improved search experience (supported with Oracle SES 11.2.2.2) that includes faceted search and document thumbnails.
Portal Builder
  • Simplified portal creation that includes in-place page creation.
  • Redesigned portal edit and administration user interface (Portal Builder) that consolidates tasks into fewer steps.
  • Simplified page creation and editing: 
    • Inline resource catalog (with support for component drag-and-drop onto a page)
    • Design, Select, Structure, and Preview views
  • Automatic update of portal navigation as new pages are created.
  • "Lazy provisioning" of tools—Oracle WebCenter Portal configures the back-end server at first use of a tool rather than at portal creation to speed the successful creation of a new portal.
  • Hierarchical page support (subpages).
  • Device Settings that control how your portal pages render on different devices, such smart phones, tablets, and desktop browsers. Page variants can be created to target and optimally render a portal on specific groups of devices like iOS phones, iOS tablets, and others.
  • Responsive Content Presenter templates that provide an example of how you can use Content Presenter and CSS3 media queries to produce a responsive layout that adjusts to the width of the browser (for example, on smart phones, tablets, and desktop browsers).
Administration
  • Simplified Oracle WebCenter Portal administration that includes a power user oriented experience with familiar concepts for legacy Oracle WebCenter Portal customers.
  • Impersonation, which allows a privileged user to impersonate another user for the purposes of verifying the other user's experience in Oracle WebCenter Portal and troubleshooting unexpected results.
  • Improved portal lifecycle tools that enable export/import and backup/recovery of one or more portals with minimal downtime.
  • Integrated Oracle WebCenter Portal's Pagelet Producer user interface within Oracle WebCenter Portal's administrative user interface to make system administrators aware of the existence of Pagelet Producer pagelets and to allow them to make these pagelets available to end users. Integrating the UIs also provides Pagelet Producer developers to easily navigate from Oracle WebCenter Portal where they see the pagelets to the Pagelet Producer Admin UI so they can create new or edit existing pagelets.
  • New page performance analyzer that shows you how long individual components take to display on a portal page, as well as the overall time taken to display a page. This new tool is useful to developers who are performing first level performance analysis, customers who build their own pages, and any user who customizes pages in Oracle WebCenter Portal.
Development Environment
  • Developers can use Expression Language (EL) to retrieve information about Device Settings. Device Settings control how your portal pages render on different devices including smart phones, tablets, and desktop browsers.
  • Simplified custom shared library development and deployment. Oracle WebCenter Portal provides a new JDeveloper template that enables you to build custom components, such as task flows, data controls, and managed beans and deploy them in shared libraries directly to the Oracle WebCenter Portal server.
From this new feature set, I want to share my five favorite features of the new Oracle WebCenter Portal release. My opinions are solely based on my own opinions. Click here to read more about me.

5. Easy Page and Site structure creation

In previous releases, creating Pages was a step that had to be done after creating a Portal. The Portal admin would pick a template that had pre-configured services, create the Portal, and then go to the Pages tab and add the pages that their Portal requires. In the new release this process is streamlined to include setting up your site structure at the time a Portal is initially created.

Here are the benefits:
  • Less steps (clicks) for page creation
  • Only add the system pages that you need
  • New easy-to-use syntax gives you a visual representation of Portal navigation
The new syntax for page creation when building a Portal works like this:
  • List the names of pages and separate them with commas
  • To indicate that a page should be in the second level of navigation, prefix it with a plus sign
  • To indicate that a page should be a system page, suffix it with ->[name of system page]
4. Mobile UI per-device previews

In previous releases, an Oracle WebCenter business user could preview Portal pages to see how they will appear to end users when they view the Portal through their desktop browsers. I won’t waste space by telling you how mobile devices are the new interfaces into web portals because I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading this article you already know that. Now the challenge becomes developing and testing renditions of desktop interfaces that actually work on your end-users’ mobile devices.

Every family of mobile devices renders web interfaces a little differently than the next. It’s frequently the case that individual devices within those families surface web interfaces differently than others. That’s where the new Mobile Device preview feature really comes in handy for Oracle WebCenter developers.

Here are the benefits:
  • Mobile device preview fits into your rapid development SDLC methodology – make a change, preview the page immediately through a web interface
  • Group mobile devices together for best-fit user interfaces
  • Easy to plan-ahead when considering mobile devices for your Enterprise

Mobile device settings work like this:

  • Create device groups and assign specific devices to that group
  • Create a page template each device or device-group
  • Create page variants for those pages that do not render well in specific devices or device-groups
  • Configure the Portal to leverage mobile templates and variants
I do agree with Oracle Product management that this entire feature set is powerful, flexible, and ground-breaking for web Portal development. However, the coolest part of the Oracle WebCenter Portal’s mobility features is undoubtedly the preview feature.

3. Drag-and-drop Page Composer

Fleshing out a Portal page used to be a very tedious process. First you have to get into edit mode, then open the Resource Catalog, then select the taskflow to add to a page, then position that taskflow, then save, then close the page. You couldn’t switch pages from Edit view, you couldn’t clearly see what taskflows were already on the page, and the resource catalog was difficult to navigate. NO MORE!

This feature of the new Oracle WebCenter Portal release epitomizes the theme of “Knowledge Worker Tooling”. Oracle Product Management has created a page building experience that non-software developers will actually enjoy using, and be able to use through a web browser.

Here are the benefits:
  • Easily create pages so that they automatically display correctly in the site navigation
  • Navigate between pages without leaving Edit mode
  • Add taskflows from an in-context resource catalog to pages using drag-and-drop
  • Quickly build pages while and speed up your development schedule
Accessing Edit Mode is Easy!

If you have the proper rights and privileges, a user can either leverage the out-of-the-box “Actions” menu or they can simply use a simple key-stroke combination of Ctrl+Shift+E. Legacy custmers should be familiar with the similar use of Ctrl+Shift+C to enter in-context editing mode for content presenter taskflows.


Once you’re in edit mode, put on your UX Designer hat for a minute and think about how much easier Oracle Composer is to use now. The various design views are more intuitive to access, the page development is easier to use, pages can be added to a Portal directly from this screen, and the preview tools are within reach. Product Management really closed the navigational loops for Portal developers and removed all the dead-ends that used to exist in these interfaces.

Did I mention Page Editor faster to use now?? Smile and rejoice!

2. Impersonation

If you’re a Facebook user and you have any friends who are ex-girlfriends/ex-boyfriends, family members, co-workers, or members of your church group, you should have some experience with the “View as…” privacy feature. In customer use cases, security won’t be based on hiding relationship statuses from disgruntled exes and censoring spring break photos from Pastor Bob (I hope). Instead, user experiences will be based on department groups, project teams, and/or hierarchical roles. When your organization grows and your security policies grow more complex, it’s important to be responsive and accurate to additions and changes. The impersonation tool for WebCenter is great because it allows an admin to assume the profile of another user and view their user experience in a Portal.

Have you ever called into a help desk because you experienced something you’ve never seen before on a web site? Did you have a hard time explaining what the issue was? Or where the support guy/girl should click to re-create the issue? I know I’ve wasted a lot of time on the phone trying to explain myself to customer service representatives, which is why I love the idea of impersonation for troubleshooting help desk tickets. Rather than explaining things over the phone, or taking screen shots, or sharing your screen, now you can grant temporary impersonation access to your support resource. Let him/her log into your profile and try to accomplish the same task you are having an issue with and see if they experience the same problem. Take out the middle steps, close the virtual space between two talking heads, and simplify the process of correcting your issues.

Here are the benefits:
  • Provide a user with the ability to impersonate other users
  • Full traceability in system logs (ex: username will show up as “john.smith impersonating jane.doe”)
  • Control over which users/roles/groups are allowed to grant impersonation right and receive impersonation rights
1. Page performance analyzer

I’ve experienced customers with many different types of use cases, each with their own specific set of performance requirements. With mobility moving to the forefront of the modern organization’s mind, so must page performance. In order to improve your page-load times, you need to be aware of how much overhead each component of a page is costing you. Oracle WebCenter’s page-performance analyzer is a really neat tool that allows a development team to easily inspect how long each section of a page is taking to load.

Here are the benefits:
  • Quickly see how long individual components take to display on a portal page, as well as the overall time taken to display a page
  • This tool is useful to developers who are performing first level performance analysis, customers who build their own pages, and any user who customizes pages in Oracle WebCenter Portal.
Learn more:
I won’t re-write what’s already there, so please follow these links for more details information on the Oracle WebCenter Page Performance Analyzer:
Conclusion
So there you have it folks – the 5 coolest features of the new Oracle WebCenter Portal 11.1.1.8 release according to your favorite Oracle WebCenter blogger. This is my first article but will be one of many, so please provide your feedback in the comments section and let me know how I can improve!

Friday Aug 02, 2013

Delivering the Integrated Portal Experience!

Guest post by Richard Maldonado, Principal Product Manager, Oracle WebCenter Portal

Organizations are still struggling to standardize on a user interaction platform which can meet the needs of all their target audiences.  This has not only resulted in inefficient and inconsistent experiences for their users, but it also creates inefficiencies (productivity and costs) for the departments that manage the applications and information systems.  Portals have historically been the unifying platform that provide IT with a common interface which can securely surface the most relevant interactions for a given user and/or group of users.  However, organizations have found that the technologies available have either not provided the flexibility necessary to address all of their use cases, or they rely too much on IT resources to manage, maintain, and evolve. 

Empowering  the Business Groups

LOB guy gets some powerThe core issue that IT departments face with delivering portal experiences is having enough resources to respond and address the influx of requirements which come in from the business.  Commonly, when a business group wants a new portal site established for their group, they will submit a request to the IT dept, the IT dept then assigns a resource to an administrator and/or developer to build.  Unfortunately, this approach is not scalable, it can be a time consuming activity which requires significant interaction between the business owner and the IT resource.  A modern user interaction platforms should empower the business groups by providing them tools which they can use to build and manage the portal experiences without the need for IT's involvement.  And because business groups rarely have technical resources (developers) on staff, the tools must be easy enough that virtually any business user could use.  In addition, the tool must be powerful enough to allow them to build the experience that they need, things such as creating a whole new portal, add/manage page and page hierarchy, manage user/group access, add/modify components within the page, etc.  This balance between ease-of-use and flexibility is key to the successful adoption of tools which will ultimately reduce the burden on IT, respond to the needs of the business, and deliver high-value experiences for the users. 

Ready or Not, Here They Come: Smartphones and Tablets

Gal with a Tablet

Recently, several studies have highlighted that smartphone and tablet-style devices have overtaken PC's in both sales and usage.  This shift is further driving organizations to revaluate how they're delivering data, information, and applications to their users.  Users are expecting to get the same level of access and interaction, but in a ways which are optimized for the capabilities of the device that they are using. 

Expect More

With the ever growing number of new IT projects and flat/shrinking budgets, organizations are looking for comprehensive solutions which can deliver integrated web experiences that are tailored for the users and optimized for mobile devices.  Piecing together a number of point solutions is no longer an option.  A modern portal technology should not only address the traditional needs of integrating and surfacing back-end applications/information, but it should enable the business through easy-to-use tools and accelerate the delivery of mobile optimized experiences.  


WebCenter in Action Series:
Qualcomm Provides a Seamless Experience for Customers with Oracle WebCenter

QUALCOMM

Keste

Featuring Qualcomm & Keste

Watch an On-Demand Webcast to Learn More!



Thursday Jan 31, 2013

Learn How Oracle WebCenter Portal Can Empower Your Customers

Oracle Corporation
Engage Customers with a Consistent and Connected Online Experience

Learn How Oracle WebCenter Portal Can Empower Your Customers

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is the largest public utility company in the United States. It provides water and power for more than 1.6 million residential and commercial customers in Southern California. LADWP was looking for an enterprise-class portal to increase customer self-service Web transactions.

Join us for this Webcast and hear about Oracle’s portal- and composite-applications solution, Oracle WebCenter Portal, which is now used to power the Los Angeles utility’s ladwp.com, a multilingual, customer self-service site.

Oracle WebCenter Portal provides LADWP customers a portal that includes:

  • Account information such as bills, payments, and rebate processing
  • Application and content management integration
  • Multichannel access, including mobile devices

Attend this Webcast, the first in a three-part series, and learn how a self-service portal can empower your customers, provide real-time access to data, reduce costs, and increase customer loyalty.

Register now for the Webcast.

Oracle Fusino Middleware Webcenter
REGISTER NOW

Register now for the Webcast.

Thursday, January 31, 2013
10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET

Presented by:

Matt Lampe
CIO, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

Oracle WebCenter Series
Self-Service Portals: Increasing Satisfaction for Employees, Customers, and Partners

Webcast

City of Los Angeles Improves Customer Satisfaction with
Self-Service Portal

Whitepaper

Oracle WebCenter Portal:
High-Value Web Experiences Through Self-Service Portals
(Coming Soon)

Webcast

Los Angeles Department of Building & Safety Lowers Customer Service Costs with Oracle WebCenter
(Coming Soon)

Hardware and Software, Engineered to Work Together

Tuesday Jan 29, 2013

Five Best Practices for Self-Service Portals

Oracle

John Brunswick: Five Best Practices for Self-Service Portals

Self-service portals afford organizations an excellent way to reduce costs, increase the quality of customer service, and act as an ongoing touchpoint with customers. Delivering a compelling experience takes effort, but it supplies a powerful opportunity to turn your brand's customers into fans. Here are five best practices for self-service portals.

  • Catalog personas and processes. Self-service behavior is purposeful. Catalog types of customers and their objectives. Review current touchpoints via all channels and interview customer service and sales departments to better understand what works and what does not. This catalog can act as your design compass.
  • Architect user profiles. Personalized self-service requires an understanding of a user’s relationship with your organization, their demographic, and other profile information. Access to purchase history, social networking activities, and past self-service history can enable you to increase the relevancy of their experience based on their needs. Prioritize user attributes and plan to leverage this data.
  • Understand the lifecycle of relationships. Users’ views of information can shift based on their products, services, and the duration for which they have had or are using them. Take the opportunity to correlate value-added offerings given the lifecycle of those items.
  • Conduct behavioral analysis and testing. Authenticated users enable richer behavioral analysis than anonymous users. Review analytics on the basis of user segments and profile attributes. Enrich and refine the experience by leveraging A/B design testing strategies to allow personas to more easily meet their objectives.
  • Utilize social and community. Self-service portals supply an excellent way to offer value-added services related to your brand. Brainstorm about additional interactions within their experience, such as providing an online community or avenues for social interaction with your brand to drive affinity.

Check out this podcast in John's Best Practices series and learn more about self-service portals.

Monday Jan 28, 2013

The Business Value of Self-Service Portals

Unlock the Hidden Business Value of Self-Service Portals 

For a long time, self-service portals were seen as a cost-cutting tool, but a new generation of technologies is turning them into key productivity tools—and even revenue generators. This week, we want to focus on self-service portals, and the business value your organization can realize with the. Here are some frequently asked questions about the growing business value of self-service portals. 

What is the definition of a self-service portal?
A self-service portal is a Website that enables users—whether they are customers, employees, suppliers, or partners—to perform high-value transactions, from simple account updates to paying bills, managing support tickets, and more. 

What is the value proposition of a customer self- service portal? 
Besides the value of driving down service costs, self-service portals are a progressively vital element of the customer experience. Customers increasingly prefer to complete transactions themselves via the internet—whenever and wherever they want—rather than having to make a call or travel in person to a business location. And since customer experiences are crucial to achieving competitive advantage, so are self-service customer portals.  

In addition, next-generation technologies are also enabling the delivery of highly personalized content, such as compelling cross-sell/up-sell offers based on customers’ profile, activity, purchase history, etc. As a result, self-service portals are evolving from cost-cutting measures to true profit centers. 

Do you have a favorite example of a customer self-service portal?
We have so many great examples of our customers that are using Oracle WebCenter Portal for self-service portals for their customers. Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is a great story about true customer self-service. LADWP is the largest public utility company in the United States with over 1.6 million customers and provides water and power for millions of residential and commercial customers in Southern California. LADWP was looking for an enterprise class portal to surface mission critical applications to increase customer self-service Web transactions. In order to do so, LADWP turned to Oracle WebCenter Portal, and LADWP customers now have a customer self-service portal which includes: account information such as bills, payments and rebate processing, application and content management integration, and multi-channel access, including mobile devices. You can hear from LADWP CIO Matt Lampe in this video, or catch him on this webcast "City of Los Angeles Improves Customer Satisfaction with Self-Service Portal" at 10:00am PST on Thursday!

What about the value proposition of building employee self-service portals?
An effective self-service portal helps keep employees engaged and happy by putting key information and business processes at their fingertips—from managing their own benefits to completing mission-critical tasks. 

To achieve this, a portal needs to raise to the surface back-office applications along with relevant content in an extremely simplified user experience—plus enable employees to easily add applications to create composite applications. Done right, composite applications combine functionality from multiple applications into a single, integrated, intuitive business dashboard. 

Finally, next-generation employee self-service portals also integrate social and collaboration technologies that drive increased productivity.  

What are the latest trends and technologies that are driving the next generation of self-service portals? 
Increasingly, users want to access self-service portals via mobile devices. That makes it vital to be able to reuse existing site builds as much as possible across all platforms. Also, more and more, people want Websites to know who they are and present only content and transactions that are relevant to them, so personalization is essential.  

It’s also important to empower business users. Traditionally, portals have required IT intervention. Now, a new generation of technologies is enabling business users to implement changes themselves, speeding business transformation while driving down IT costs.  

Finally, social computing, including wikis and other user-generated content, is transforming self-service sites and enabling people to complete more sophisticated transactions more quickly and efficiently through effective collaboration.

How does Oracle WebCenter Portal help drive business value? 
With Oracle WebCenter Portal, you can quickly create dynamic self-service portals, with tools to quickly build composite applications and mashups, out-of-the-box social and collaboration tools, complete enterprise content management capabilities, and a comprehensive and flexible user experience platform for faster development.

Find out more about building self-service portals with Oracle WebCenter Portal and don't miss the webcast with LADWP on Thursday!

About

Oracle WebCenter is the center of engagement for business—powering exceptional experiences for customers, partners, and employees. It connects people, process, and information with the most complete portfolio of portal, Web experience management, content, imaging and collaboration technologies.

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