Monday Oct 15, 2012

Content in Context: The right medicine for your business applications

For many of you, your companies have already invested in a number of applications that are critical to the way your business is run. HR, Payroll, Legal, Accounts Payable and others are all there and handling the lifeblood of your business. But are they really running as efficiently as they could be? For many companies, the answer is no.

The problem has to do with the important information caught up within documents and paper. It’s everywhere except where it truly needs to be – readily available right within the context of the application itself. When the right information cannot be easily found, business processes suffer significantly.

The importance of this recently struck me when I recently went to meet my new doctor and get a routine physical. Walking into the office lobby, I couldn't help but notice rows and rows of manila folders in racks from floor to ceiling, filled with documents and sensitive, personal information about various patients like myself.  As I looked at all that paper and all that history, two things immediately popped into my head.  “How do they find anything?” and then the even more alarming, “So much for information security!” It sure looked to me like all those documents could be accessed by anyone with a key to the building.

Now the truth is that the offices of many general practitioners look like this all over the United States and the world.  But it had me thinking, is the same thing going on in just about any company around the world, involving a wide variety of important business processes? Probably so.

Think about all the various processes going on in your company right now. Invoice payments are being processed through Accounts Payable, contracts are being reviewed by Procurement, and Human Resources is reviewing job candidate submissions and doing background checks. All of these processes and many more like them rely on access to forms and documents, whether they are paper or digital. Now consider that it is estimated that employee’s spend nearly 9 hours a week searching for information and not finding it. That is a lot of very well paid employees, spending more than one day per week not doing their regular job while they search for or re-create what already exists.

Back in the doctor’s office, I saw this trend exemplified as well. First, I had to fill out a new patient form, even though my previous doctor had transferred my records over months previously. After filling out the form, I was later introduced to my new doctor who then interviewed me and asked me the exact same questions that I had answered on the form. I understand that there is value in the interview process and it was great to meet my new doctor, but this simple process could have been so much more efficient if the information already on file could have been brought directly together with the new patient information I had provided. Instead of having a highly paid medical professional re-enter the same information into the records database, the form I filled out could have been immediately scanned into the system, associated with my previous information, discrepancies identified, and the entire process streamlined significantly.

We won’t solve the health records management issues that exist in the United States in this blog post, but this example illustrates how the automation of information capture and classification can eliminate a lot of repetitive and costly human entry and re-creation, even in a simple process like new patient on-boarding. In a similar fashion, by taking a fresh look at the various processes in place today in your organization, you can likely spot points along the way where automating the capture and access to the right information could be significantly improved.

As you evaluate how content-process flows through your organization, take a look at how departments and regions share information between the applications they are using. Business applications are often implemented on an individual department basis to solve specific problems but a holistic approach to overall information management is not taken at the same time. The end result over the years is disparate applications with separate information repositories and in many cases these contain duplicate information, or worse, slightly different versions of the same information.

This is where Oracle WebCenter Content comes into the story. More and more companies are realizing that they can significantly improve their existing application processes by automating the capture of paper, forms and other content. This makes the right information immediately accessible in the context of the business process and making the same information accessible across departmental systems which has helped many organizations realize significant cost savings.

Here on the Oracle WebCenter team, one of our primary goals is to help customers find new ways to be more effective, more cost-efficient and manage information as effectively as possible. We have a series of three webcasts occurring over the next few weeks that are focused on the integration of enterprise content management within the context of business applications. We hope you will join us for one or all three and that you will find them informative. Click here to learn more about these sessions and to register for them.

There are many aspects of information management to consider as you look at integrating content management within your business applications. We've barely scratched the surface here but look for upcoming blog posts where we will discuss more specifics on the value of delivering documents, forms and images directly within applications like Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft Enterprise, JD Edwards Enterprise One, Siebel CRM and many others.

What do you think?  Are your important business processes as healthy as they can be?  Do you have any insights to share on the value of delivering content directly within critical business processes? Please post a comment and let us know the value you have realized, the lessons learned and what specific areas you are interested in.

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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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