Tuesday Sep 13, 2011

Social Business: Land O'Lakes

Are you looking for a good use case on social business and wondering how you can utilize the latest technologies to transform your organization? You won't want to miss the webcast tomorrow with Land O'Lakes!

Reduce Bottlenecks, Order Delays, and Customer Frustration

Are you able to provide your customers and partners with an easy-to-use, online self-service experience? Are you processing high-volume transactions and struggling with call-center bottlenecks or back-end systems that won’t integrate, causing order delays and customer frustration?

Join us for this Webcast on September 14, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. PT / 2:00 p.m. ET as Land O’Lakes shares strategies and best practices for transforming your business by providing an intuitive user experience that allows you to:

  • Easily create and capture orders for improved product reservation, price visibility, and up-sell/cross-sell opportunities
  • Allocate products based on business rules and improved tracking
  • Provide an intuitive user interface for ordering, invoice information, bill presentation, and support issue tracking

Register online for Land O'Lakes Improves Online Experiences with Self-Service Portal.

 Presented by:
Sachin Agarwal
Sachin Agarwal
Director, Product Management, Oracle WebCenter Portal, Oracle
 
Mervyn Lally
Mervyn Lally
Architecture, Innovation, and Integration Lead, Winfield Solutions, Land O’Lakes
 
Kristen L. McConnell
Kristen L. McConnell
Systems Applications Manager, Winfield Solutions, Land O’Lakes

Wednesday Aug 31, 2011

Get Social with Oracle WebCenter

As I sit here today and ponder what today’s WebCenter blog post should focus on, I run through the gambit of what we normally discuss.  We could talk more about one of the 4 pillars of WebCenter and maybe drill in deeper on Content, Portal, Connect or Sites.   We could discuss the cross-functionality capabilities that cut across all the pillars, such as social, mobile, and application integration to name a few.   We could share with you some of the great events and marketing programs that are in progress, between the upcoming  AIIM Virtual Social conference, the Land O’Lakes webcast or Oracle OpenWorld -- there are some excellent venues available to learn more about WebCenter.  And if you are like me and just need that immediate gratification fix, then we also have some great on-demand content available as well, the WebCenter launch webcast and the People, Process and Content virtual forumsWe also have updated our WebCenter Oracle.com web presence to a much cleaner and more user friendly format. All of this information is great, but I honestly can’t help but think, maybe, just maybe it’s time to give our readers a voice!  Maybe you want to discuss how your organizations are either using WebCenter today or thinking about using it in the future.   Maybe you want to share some anecdotes on your experiences with WebCenter or maybe, you just want to get engaged in the community and start to interact and learn more from your peers around the globe.  Either way we have some great channels for you.  You can do so here via the comment capabilities on the blog, or you can join in the conversations via our WebCenter Facebook page,  Twitter or via our group on LinkedIn.  All of these channels are just additional venues for you to interact and engage with your peers, Oracle personnel and Oracle partners.  We want to hear your stories, your successes, your challenges and your major wins.  

Let’s start the conversations!   

Friday Aug 26, 2011

The Chicken or the Egg: Aka the Content Management System or the Portal?

As we wrap up the week on composite applications and mashups, we're happy to have Troy Allen guest post for us today. Troy is the Director of Enterprise 2.0 solutions at TekStream, an Oracle WebCenter partner.

 


 

 Originally posted by Troy Allen on CMSWire on April 18, 2011.  The following article has been updated from its posting (to see the original article, click here).

Many software companies who provide both Content Management and Portal applications are merging the two technologies to provide a consolidated approach for presenting information to users. Historically, portal products have had some kind of content store embedded within them, but were never designed as enterprise level content management applications. Content Management applications which provided Web Content Management claimed to provide some Portal-like capabilities, but were never meant to be a true portal replacement.

In years past, there was a clear process for implementing the strategy: approach it from either the CMS first or Portal first position. Because of the strong inter-dependencies between the two technologies, administrators and developers are at odds over where to start. So which is the chicken and which is the egg? Which one comes first?
  
The CMS or the Portal?
The answer is, neither. Today, businesses are able to purchase a suite of technologies that provide the best of both worlds like the Oracle WebCenter suite of products; now the problem is how to deploy them in a meaningful and functional fashion. Typical solutions utilize the portal as the front-end engine with the content management application hidden safely behind the scenes as the repository for all forms of content being presented through the portal.
However, today’s technologies bring added complexity with the need to include security, business intelligence tools, caching solutions and integrations to other application sets. It is more important than ever to understand the function the entire solution will provide and what the overall goals of the implementation will address.

The following example could be any company’s public website. In this case, TechWidgets wants to provide both their customers and partners with a single interface for reviewing products, finding out about all the services that are offered, what is available for potential partners, and providing access to functions such as ordering, quote requests, sales and more. If TechWidgets were an actual company, they would need to determine all the functions and capabilities for their online application and create a roadmap for the final solution.

 
Evaluating the Options for a Portal/CMS App
In evaluating a Portal/Content management application, companies should be able to address the following basic questions (which will help to determine the design and implementation approach):

  • What is the basic function of the solution (the following are examples of common Public facing sites)?
    • Targeted Content — an example of this might be a membership driven portal where data is presented to the user based upon profile information or a product(s) site.
    • Sales and Commerce — these types of applications drive revenue through sales and are application rich environments with shopping carts, sales processing, discounts and rebates, and product information.
    • Knowledge Sharing — This may be a self-service knowledge base for registered and unregistered users which may tie into a trouble ticketing system
  • What are the Security requirements?
    • Some applications may be based on light-weight security that delivers content based on profile information rather than true access controls.
    • Some applications will require Single Sign-On support to other applications being presented through the portal. A knowledge management or support portal may need to log the user into other back-end systems while providing content that is strictly controlled based on specific criteria.
    • Some product and brochure sites may be purely unrestricted repositories for information that all users can search for or navigate to.
  • What applications will be presented through the Portal?
    • Many companies are looking to provide ERP, Sales, Campaign Management and customer/partner support applications through a consolidated interface.
    • Many companies have written custom applications which need to be shared with the public.
    • More often than not, companies are embracing Social Media applications like Face Book, Twitter and Share. It is often desired to have these applications lined directly to content and functional areas of a portal.

Due to the level of dependencies each of these topics has on each other; it is no longer possible to build a web solution in silos. Administrators and developers must map cross-functionality, understand the dependencies and create parallel paths for designing, developing, testing and deploying the final product. With that in mind, it is no wonder that companies have a hard time finding a starting point.

What Comes First?
The following plan can provide a good overall strategy for taking on such a daunting task:

1. Define the Business Requirements

Understanding what you are trying to accomplish should always be the first step. Often, I see companies that have decided to “deploy a portal” without understanding the purpose behind it. By defining requirements around Functions, Content, Applications, Security and Administration, organizations can refine a manageable set of objectives for the web application.
 
2. Create a wire frame walk through

Consider why a movie director creates a storyboard: a progression of simple sketches of key points and actor interactions gives the actors and crew a visual “map,” which organizes actor positions, camera angles, as well as providing a condensed version of the story. In essence, it’s an outline which allows organization of needs in a simple, cost-effective manner. A wireframe or story board of the “day in the life” of the different types of users helps companies organize the requirements of their users, and also discern interrelationships of function, security and application that are needed within their own system. They say a picture paints a thousand words. Being able to describe the aspects of any given page and any given section within that page will also help find logical discrepancies between the Business Requirements that were created and help to solidify what is really necessary.
 
3. Map the Technologies

With the Business Requirements and Wireframes in hand, it is easier to determine what technologies will be needed to support the requirements. Companies will need to build compatibility matrixes between the different technologies that meet the Web Application’s needs while ensuring that integrations are possible and supportable. Look for companies that already provide integrated solutions. It is often better to choose a suite of products that provide 80% of the requirement’s functionality and add the remaining 20% through 3rd party applications, then to assemble the system from scores of products from different companies.
 
4. Define the Infrastructure

With the required technologies outlined, organizations can now start to build out the infrastructure requirements to support the application. They can define and assess what type of servers, operating systems, storage devices, hosting facilities (if going with a Cloud based solution), and networking requirements are needed. It is often best to try to re-use existing infrastructure when possible.
 
5. Create a blueprint

Now that the Requirements have been gathered, wireframes established, technologies decided upon and an infrastructure has been outlined, it is time to do parallel analysis of each section of the overall application. Analysis will help to draw out further requirements, streamline the application flow and provide a solid foundation of information for the actual design of the system.
 
6. Design the application

With the overall application’s vision clearly defined, architects can start to design the integration, infrastructure, and application elements that will bring the overall system to live. It is recommended that proofs of concepts be made between application integration points. Design process should include a method for editing both the requirements and the application walk through or wire frame. Conceptual testing and validation within the design stage will help to eliminate wasted development tasks caused by unrealistic expectations.
 
7. Build the solution

As mentioned, good analysis and thorough design work helps prevent extra time in development. With all the puzzle pieces together and instructions on how they fit into a cohesive image, it is time to build out the security models, metadata models, look and feel, application integration points and code required for the application. While most organizations go through a User Acceptance Testing (UAT) process, it is preferable to test often as you go through the development period. Unit testing should be a required part of any development task. Additionally, don’t skimp on the documentation. It is one thing to build an application as quickly as possible, it’s entirely a different story to keep it running when all the developers are gone and no one understand how it was put together. Taking the extra time to document the development process will save time and headaches when it is rolled out to production and has to be maintained.
 
8. TEST, TEST, TEST

For very complex applications like a company portal, there are so many moving parts that it is easy to miss a problem. Create a well-defined test plan for each aspect of the site and make sure that it is tested in every conceivable way. Remember, the portal is the world’s view into your organization. How well it works can be a huge deciding factor on whether or not someone does business with you. It is common for testing to take as long, and in some cases, longer, as the development cycle.
 
9. Go Live

All the work has been done, the site has been thoroughly tested, and now it is ready for the world to see it. Make a production out of it, externally AND internally. You’ve worked hard to roll out your portal application and you should be proud to show it off. Create a media campaign and press releases to give it exposure. Have a team party for a job well done. And now that the work is done, get ready to maintain it and start gathering information from the users on how to make it even better and more efficient. Portals never stop growing. Well-designed portals lend themselves to continued enhancements in order to better facilitate both internal stake-holders and external users. Make sure that you provide a way to gather feedback so that that you have a good foundation of requirements for the portal’s next phase growth.

Oracle WebCenter and other Oracle Technologies Make it easier.
As mentioned in the original article I posted, many companies are combining Content Management and Portal technologies as a suite of products to provide a complete solution.  Oracle’s continued focus on providing integrated platforms to solve real business requirements is showcased very well in the WebCenter suite of products.  By providing Content Management (WebCenter Content), Web Experience Management (WebCenter Sites), Enterprise Portals (WebCenter Portal), and Enterprise Social and Collaboration services (WebCenter Connect), Oracle is providing a platform that allows business users, administrators, developers, and consultants to orchestrate meaningful online business experiences.  These applications leverage (and are leveraged by) many of the other Oracle products allowing organizations to maximize on their investment while reducing overall cost of ownership. 

Because the WebCenter technologies fit so well together, the tasks of Mapping the Technologies is simplified, Defining the Infrastructure is streamlined, Designing the Application is more intuitive, and Building the Solution is more straightforward.

About the author:
Troy Allen originally starting working with Content Management technologies in 1998. During his career, he was one of the first pre-sales engineers for IntraNet Solutions, which later became Stellent. Troy stayed with Stellent and then with Oracle after the Stellent acquisition. Troy has also worked for Idhasoft, Inc. as the Director of CMS and as the Enterprise 2.0 Chief Architect for Sena Systems, Inc.

Troy Allen is now the Director of Enterprise 2.0 Solutions at TekStream Solutions. His expertise is in Oracle’s Enterprise Content Management Suite, including all of its components -- Document Management, Records Management, Digital Asset Management, Information Rights Management (now part of Oracle’s security offerings), Web Content Management, and Image Process Management -- comes from over a decade of providing successful solutions to real-world problems with managing structured and unstructured content.

Oracle has recently honored Troy recognizing him as one of the few Oracle Deputy CTO’s for Oracle WebCenter.

Tuesday Aug 23, 2011

Webcast: Land O'Lakes Improves Online Experiences with Self-Service Portal

Reduce Bottlenecks, Order Delays, and Customer Frustration

Are you able to provide your customers and partners with an easy-to-use, online self-service experience? Are you processing high-volume transactions and struggling with call-center bottlenecks or back-end systems that won’t integrate, causing order delays and customer frustration?

Join us for this Webcast on September 14, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. PT / 2:00 p.m. ET as Land O’Lakes shares strategies and best practices for transforming your business by providing an intuitive user experience that allows you to:

  • Easily create and capture orders for improved product reservation, price visibility, and up-sell/cross-sell opportunities
  • Allocate products based on business rules and improved tracking
  • Provide an intuitive user interface for ordering, invoice information, bill presentation, and support issue tracking

Register online for Land O'Lakes Improves Online Experiences with Self-Service Portal.

 Presented by:
Sachin Agarwal
Sachin Agarwal
Director, Product Management, Oracle WebCenter Portal, Oracle
 
Mervyn Lally
Mervyn Lally
Architecture, Innovation, and Integration Lead, Winfield Solutions, Land O’Lakes
 
Kristen L. McConnell
Kristen L. McConnell
Systems Applications Manager, Winfield Solutions, Land O’Lakes

Monday Aug 22, 2011

Oracle WebCenter: Composite Applications & Mashups

Today, it’s pretty apparent that IT and the business work in different cycles. IT focuses on long-term stability, predictability, and cost reduction. Businesses tend to respond to short-term opportunities and market shifts even as they plan for long-term growth and profitability. Businesses like to respond; change, therefore, is constant in business and it has often been difficult for IT to change at the speed of business. What is needed is a business-oriented approach for building solutions. One that is flexible enough to change in near real-time as business and IT needs evolve.

One way to approach this is through composite applications and mashups. By adding a flexible mashup layer on top of existing systems and applications, the business is able to drive change. Processes and user interfaces can be mashed-up on the fly by using readily available business services, making it easy to quickly change these composite applications and mashups within hours rather than days or weeks.

As you know a mashup is a combination of information (internal or external) that is brought together to provide a valuable service. Many simple examples include combining mapping information like home locations with list prices and sellers. In this way, I can get a quick view of all the homes for sale in a specific neighborhood in which I want to live. I want the same service as a sales rep when I go to decide how I will plan my week. I want to see all my prospective customers within a certain area so that I can plan accordingly. Or I want to combine my current prospect s with a list of all the product issues they registered over the last year so that I can make sure they are addressed before I arrive. A mashup allows the business user to quickly assemble this view from the different parts or sources supplied from IT.

This week we want to focus on Composite Applications and Mashups and I recently spoke with Sachin Agarwal, Director of Product Management for WebCenter Portal at Oracle around this topic. Here’s a summary of the insight Sachin provided.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Oracle WebCenter provides a rich set of tools and capabilities for pulling in content, applications and collaboration functionality from various different sources and weaving them together into what we call Mashups. Mashups that also consists of transactional applications from multiple sources are specifically called Composite Applications.

With Oracle WebCenter, one can develop highly productive tasked based interfaces that aggregate a related set of applications that are part of a business process and provide in context collaboration tools so that users don’t have to navigate away to different tabs to achieve these tasks. For instance, a call center representative (CSR), not only needs to be able to pull customer information from a CRM application like Siebel, but also related information from Oracle E-Business Suite about whether a specific order has shipped. The CSR will be far more efficient if he or she does not have to open different tabs to login into multiple applications while the customer is waiting, but can access all this information in one mashup.


Oracle WebCenter provides a comprehensive set of tooling that enables a business user to quickly aggregate together a mashup and wire-in different backend applications to create a custom dashboard. Not only does Oracle WebCenter supports a wide set of standards (WSRP 1.0, 2.0, JSR 168, JSR 286) that allow portlets from other applications to be surfaced within WebCenter, but it also provides tools to bring in other web applications such as .Net Applications as well as SharePoint webparts. The new Business Mash-up editor allows business users to take any Oracle Application or 3rd party application and wire the backend data sources or APIs to a rich set of visualizations and reuse them in mashups. Moreover, Business users can customize or personalize any page using Oracle WebCenter Composer’s on-the-fly visual page editing features. Users access and select different resource components available in Oracle WebCenter’s Business Dictionary in order to add new content to the page. The Business Dictionary provides a role-based view of available components or resources, and these components can include information from a variety of enterprise resources such as enterprise applications, managed content, rich media, business processes, or business intelligence systems. Together, Oracle WebCenter’s Composer and Business Dictionary give users access to a powerful, yet easy to use, set of tools to personalize and extend their Oracle WebCenter portals and applications without involving IT.

Looking for more information on Composite Applications and Mashups? Check out these resources:

Monday Aug 01, 2011

Oracle WebCenter: Delivering Intuitive Experiences for Enterprise Applications

We recently announced the new Oracle WebCenter, the user engagement platform for social business, connecting people and information. With this announcement the WebCenter brand covers portal, web experience management, content, and social and collaboration technologies into a single product suite that can be easily integrated with enterprise applications.  You can see the announcement webcast now on-demand. Last week we talked about the connect pillar of WebCenter, and this week will we focus on the portal pillar.

I had the opportunity to speak with Sachin Agarwal, Director of product management for Oracle WebCenter portal. Here is a recap of our conversation. 

Q: What are the portal capabilities within Oracle WebCenter?
A: Oracle WebCenter’s portal capabilities deliver intuitive user experiences for enterprise applications. This complete, open and integrated enterprise portal and composite applications solution enables the development and deployment of internal and external portals and websites, composite applications and mash-ups with integrated social and collaboration services and enterprise content management capabilities.  Oracle WebCenter delivers social and collaborative services to help optimize connections between people, information and applications, provides business activity streams so users can navigate, discover and access content in context, and offers dynamic personalization of applications, portals and sites so users have a customized experience. Oracle WebCenter builds on the best user experience capabilities from a significant portfolio of leading portal products and related technologies and provides the foundation for delivering the next-generation user experience for Oracle Fusion Middleware as well as Oracle Fusion Applications.


Figure 1: WebCenter portal provides a single point of access for both internal and external constituents to support collaborative, analytical and social processes critical to your business.

Q: How is Oracle WebCenter different from other portal offerings out there?
A: Oracle WebCenter allows users to easily create dynamic enterprise portals such as intranets and extranets. With Oracle WebCenter you can create out-of-the-box communities, allowing you to create individual, team and organizational work environments to connect people and content. Personalized dashboards let users monitor performance and minimize the page transitions by integrating information and keeping it in the context of the activity, action, or task that they are attempting to complete.

I think the biggest key here is that you are able to access content and applications from the portal in context of whatever business process or activity you are working on. This is a huge benefit for users, as they don’t have to jump from system to system and are able to work more efficiently.

Figure 2: Seamlessly manage and expose content, images and video from across your enterprise directly in the context of WebCenter portal.

Q: Can you build composite applications with Oracle WebCenter?
A: With Oracle WebCenter, you can easily assemble composite applications and mashups with Oracle’s common user experience architecture. This includes best practices and design patterns for developing next generation user experiences and is based on Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF), the common development framework for all Oracle Fusion Middleware user interfaces and Oracle Fusion Applications. In this way, you can easily extend existing applications and Oracle Fusion Applications with reusable, standards-based components.

Figure 3: Easily mashup information from various internal and external sources without writing code.

Q: Is WebCenter Spaces part of Oracle WebCenter portal or Oracle WebCenter connect?
A: WebCenter Spaces is now a feature offered as part of Oracle WebCenter portal, along with Framework and Services. Oracle WebCenter connect provides contextual social and collaboration capabilities.

Q: If someone is an existing Oracle WebCenter Suite customer, what does the rebrand to Oracle WebCenter mean to them for their short-term (3-9 months) deployment plans?
A: With the rebrand, we are making it easier to maximize the value of your investment by making it clearer how all our products fit together into a larger portfolio. This will also lay the grounds for tighter integrations within the products in the larger portfolio, ie much more integrated Content, and Collaboration services along with the capability to leverage a common architecture for search, mobile, application integration and other shared services across the portfolio.

Q: What does the rebrand to Oracle WebCenter mean for customers who are currently on WebLogic Portal, WebCenter Interaction, Oracle Portal or Sun Portal?
A: The rebranded Oracle WebCenter portal along with the larger portfolio provides a more compelling solution for these customers. As we have mentioned in the past, there are new releases of the existing products and Oracle has committed to extended support through 2017. This will give customers plenty of time to consider the most cost effective and productive path forward. We continue to enhance the existing products with new customer enhancements all the time. While they apply these new releases to their existing deployments, they should take advantage of some of the new Oracle WebCenter features directly. Customers can rest assured that their investment in Oracle solutions is safe.

Learn more about Oracle WebCenter portal.

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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