Monday Feb 13, 2012

The History of Oracle Connect

Like many of your organizations, Oracle has social tools that we use both internally and externally to foster innovation, share information and bring people together. This week, we want to focus on “Social at Oracle” – how Oracle is using social tools internally and externally to collaborate with one another, find experts and drive business forward. We hope you enjoy getting to learn more about how Oracle uses social tools and the insight and ideas that have occurred as a result of these innovations.

By Jake Kuramoto, Product Strategy Director, WebCenter Evangelism Team

Editor’s note: Peter’s (@peterreiser) tribute to SunSpace has inspired me to tell the story of Oracle Connect, Oracle’s internal social application.

Social enterprise is all rage now, and this trend has grown out of the runaway success of consumer services like Twitter and Facebook. People logically believe that social tools can help them at work–shrinking geographical distances, providing a place to share insight and information, fostering a sense of community–basically all the same benefits consumer networks provide.

People do work, after all, so why not focus on the people, rather than on emails, documents, transactions, and all the other artifacts of work.

Turns out this is true, not without some effort and caveats, but at the core, true.

July 2007: IdeaFactory is born.

Disclosure: This post is written by a member of the Oracle AppsLab, Jake Kuramoto (@jkuramot).

Like many technology-loving companies, Oracle saw the social trend early, and in July 2007, a small team focused on innovation within Oracle development, AppsLab (@theappslab), turned on the IdeaFactory, a Rails application built in less than 24-hours, to capture product ideas and allow user-voting on ideas.

Oracle IdeaFactory, July 2007

The IdeaFactory lived inside the Oracle firewall and was only promoted to a handful of teams within Oracle Applications development. Its stated goal was to collect product ideas, specifically for Oracle Applications products. However, the IdeaFactory went viral, and people from all over Oracle logged in, voted, commented and contributed their own ideas, and not just about Oracle products, but also about internal topics and practices.
From the beginning, one key goal the AppsLab had was to make everything public, and because the IdeaFactory used corporate LDAP, there was no anonymity. Everything was out in the open, which fostered open and honest communication.

August 2007: IdeaFactory becomes Oracle Connect.

The IdeaFactory quickly grew beyond its original goals into something more, and in August 2007, the AppsLab team added a social networking layer, creating Oracle’s first social tool, Oracle Connect. Connect used the corporate LDAP server, so every Oracle employee had an account and a base profile, no account creation required. The networking was bi-directional, i.e. request-approve, and anyone could ask to connect with anyone else, even the CEO, which several people did.

Oracle Connect, August 2007

A request to connect triggered an email, which is what brought most people to Connect, and in addition to basic networking, all the ideas, comments and votes from IdeaFactory were preserved. Aside from that, there wasn’t much else you could “do” with Connect, leading people to ask “What do I do now?”

As with IdeaFactory, very little promotion went into Oracle Connect, and yet after less than a month, more than 14,000 Oracle employees had tried it.
The AppsLab team followed up quickly with a beta release that included many new features, including an activity log, enhanced profile and better search. These features were meant to solve real problems for Oracle employees.

By 2007, Oracle had significantly increased its pace of acquisitions, and as members of acquired companies, several of the AppsLab team were keenly aware of the challenges that people new to Oracle encountered, like finding basic information (e.g. about benefits, corporate policy, mailing list signups, etc.), deciphering what someone actually did beyond a title, discovering who does what and how to reach people, getting answers to basic questions and even thanking people for their help.

Among its innovative features, Oracle Connect included a new take on the org chart, called the management bar, which added a breadcrumb-style listing of a person’s management chain to her/his profile. A simple hover showed all the people at that level. This innovation was picked up by other web applications within Oracle and rolled forward into new product.

Connect also aimed to foster and facilitate internal innovation within Oracle, so in conjunction with Connect, the AppsLab launched OpenLab, an open source-style project that welcomed any internal developers to grab Connect’s code and add features that met their needs or scratched an itch.
This gave enterprising developers a chance to learn the latest web technologies and a sandbox to test and hone their skills; it also provided a way for pent up innovation to bubble up and reach a wider audience.

Oracle Connect was a success internally, and people began to notice.

November 2007: Welcome to Oracle Mix.

The success of Oracle Connect and of social within Oracle caught the attention of Oracle’s CMO, Judith Sim. She wanted to extend the conversation beyond Oracle employees to include anyone interested in Oracle.

So, after a whirlwind design and build, the AppsLab team launched Oracle Mix at Open World in November 2007. Oracle Mix allowed anyone to sign up, create a profile, add ideas, ask questions and join groups. Although the target audience was primarily Oracle users, anyone could register and participate in the community.

Oracle Mix, November 2007

Interesting side note, at the time, Oracle Mix was the largest publicly-deployed application built with JRuby on Rails, a Java implementation of Ruby, and Mix shares the spotlight with many consumer Ruby on Rails applications on the official home for the Rails language.

Oracle Mix continues to serve as the network for the Oracle community at-large to this day, and since its launch, Mix has hosted several initiatives like Suggest-a-Session for OpenWorld, which debuted for OpenWorld 2008 and has been renewed each year since.

2008: Oracle Connect matures.

After launching Mix, the AppsLab team turned its attention back to Oracle Connect.

Oracle Connect had grown virally, serving several thousand users on a daily basis, despite having nothing other than word of mouth to promote it, and the more it was used, the more useful it became, as people added helpful content, answered questions, tweaked ideas and generally reaped the benefits of the weak ties in their corporate networks.

In June 2008, Connect 2.0 released, migrating all existed data to the new JRuby codeline used by Oracle Mix, adding groups and questions, along with a product taxonomy to go along with the tags that Connect already supported. This second version also included REST APIs for Connect’s data, a big plus in a large enterprise environment with many different systems and applications, managed by different teams.

Oracle Connect 2.0, June 2008

These APIs were publicly available inside the firewall, and several developers used them to take advantage of Connect’s growing popularity, helping spawn two other wildly successful side projects.

2009: Full speed ahead

In January 2009, the third version of Oracle Connect launched. Connect 3.0 added new post types and addressed a noise problem that had developed as a side effect of growing popularity by introducing canned filters to help people find the most relevant information.

Connect 3.0 also included lightweight integration with another rapidly growing and popular, homegrown social tool, OraTweet, the side project of Noel Portugal (@noelportugal). Each service used the other’s REST APIs to create and share data; integration like this happens much more easily inside a corporate firewall than out on the consumer web.

Oracle Connect 3.0, January 2009

And speaking of the consumer web, Google had launched OpenSocial in late 2007, and by 2009, the spec was maturing rapidly and many consumer social sites were implementing OpenSocial to create instant networks around their content and integrate with other social properties.

In 2008, the AppsLab team began experimenting with the reference implementation of OpenSocial, Shindig, and by early 2009, they had a working sandbox that internal developers could use to access Connect data via OpenSocial. Realizing that OpenSocial could add huge benefits inside an enterprise, providing a standard and open way to socialize intranet properties and loosely tie data together across many disperate sites, the AppsLab presented its initial findings at OpenWorld 2008 in an unconference session.

Oracle, through the AppsLab, was an early proponent of OpenSocial in the enterprise, and at Google IO 2009, Google’s annual developer conference, Rich Manalang (@rmanalan) was invited to show what Oracle had done with OpenSocial and Oracle Connect.

As social ramped up in 2008 and 2009, so did mobile. After the launch of the iPhone App Store and the iPhone SDK, Clayton Donley (@cdonley) combined several internal services, including Connect, into the Oracle People app for iPhone, another side project, and the first iPhone app Oracle employees could use to access data stored inside the corporate firewall.

In May 2009, Oracle Connect 4.0 was released, including a host of new features targeted at focusing the experience on people, making publishing dead simple, loosely integrating other services and systems, producing standard and open data for consumption and creating an independent group experience.

Oracle Connect 4.0, May 2009

This was a huge update to Connect, which had grown exponentially, serving as many pageviews weekly in 2009, as it had monthly in 2008. Much of the increase in traffic came from a social initiative started in EMEA that was using Connect as its primary social tool.
Social was getting big.

2009: A course change

In September 2009, the AppsLab team joined WebCenter development to apply their social learnings and experience to WebCenter, Oracle’s emerging social tool.

Oracle Connect became a side project, and the AppsLab team put it into maintenance mode, i.e. keep the lights on and only fix critical bugs. However, even though Connect’s codeline would not advance, the team brought all their ideas and product plans to WebCenter, where social was being embraced and spun into real product, to help real customers.

2010-present: Epilogue

Over the years, Oracle Connect has been profiled in a couple books on enterprise social adoption over the years, Niall Cook’s (@niallcook)  Enterprise 2.0: How Social Software Will Change the Future of Work and Social Media at Work: How Networking Tools Propel Organizational Performance by Arthur L. Jue, Jackie Alcalde Marr and Mary Ellen Kassotakis.

Connect continues to run today, still supported by the remaining members of the AppsLab team, who now belong to a new team of WebCenter evangelists. Connect is used extensively by Oracle employees, each day, and despite having no enhancements since May 2009, it still garners favorable feedback from new users.

Traffic to Connect peaked right after the Sun merger in 2010, when it served several hundred thousand pageviews each month; since then, traffic has subsided, but still averages tens of thousands of pageviews to several thousand users each month.

What began as a little experiment with new technology has grown into a mission-critical social tool, used by thousands of people each day to get work done.

We are excited to see the expertise, ideas and innovation that Jake and the WebCenter Evangelist team bring to the development of Oracle WebCenter!

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 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!   

Wednesday Aug 17, 2011

Oracle OpenWorld: WebCenter DEMOgrounds

With hundreds of demo stations staffed by Oracle experts ready to lead you through interactive product demonstrations, Oracle DEMOgrounds is the heart of the exhibition experience for attendees looking for practical, one-on-one experience with the latest Oracle technology. There is no better way to learn how to implement, manage, and innovate with Oracle products than directly from the people who develop them.

Be sure to visit Oracle DEMOgrounds in Moscone South to see demonstrations of Oracle WebCenter in action.



Oracle WebCenter Portal

Oracle WebCenter Portal brings together people and process to deliver intuitive user experiences for internal and external users. Easily create portals and composite applications, or enhance and extend existing applications with a prebuilt library of rich components and flexible application integration tools. Innovative social tools enable contextual access to content and dynamic personalization of solutions.

Moscone South – 7421  

FMW Pavilion

Oracle WebCenter Content

Oracle WebCenter content provides organizations with a unified content repository to manage the entire organization’s documents, images, and rich media through their entire lifecycle--from creation to disposition. It converts and delivers content to business users in the proper format, all within the context of familiar applications. Oracle WebCenter content is a robust, scalable solution that delivers a powerful content management infrastructure that enabling creation of content-enabled applications.

Moscone South – 7400

FMW Pavilion

Oracle WebCenter Connect

Oracle WebCenter connect improves user productivity by providing social collaboration capabilities to help them quickly correspond and make decisions that span multiple processes and applications. Oracle WebCenter connect provides the collaborative tools where and when they are needed, allowing for complete insight into business information and opportunities. By integrating with Oracle Fusion Applications such as CRM and HCM, Oracle WebCenter connect extends purposeful collaboration into applications.

Moscone South – 7422  

FMW Pavilion

Oracle WebCenter Sites

Oracle WebCenter sites enables organizations to rapidly create, deploy, and manage multiple Web experiences while empowering business users to own content and site maintenance. Reduce costs through information delivery and consolidation, grow revenue with marketing-driven sites, and help transform business with flexible Web experience management technologies that serve as a powerful foundation for Web applications.

Moscone South – 7420

FMW Pavilion

Oracle WebCenter Content for Oracle Applications

Do you have documents and images stored with records in Oracle E-Business Suite, JD Edwards, Siebel, or PeopleSoft applications? What if you could streamline your business processes by enabling documents and images to be reused across multiple applications throughout your organization? Oracle WebCenter content is an industry-leading content management system that is preintegrated to Oracle applications to enable content search, access, and updates from within your existing business processes. Improve employee productivity with a unified content management repository while decreasing storage and paper handling costs, improving content security and control and enhancing auditability.

Moscone South – 7401

FMW Pavilion

Oracle Exhibition Hall Hours




Monday, October 3, 2011

9:45 am – 5:30 pm

9:45 am – 11:00 am

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

 9:45 am – 5:30 pm

 9:45 am – 10:15 pm

2:15 pm – 2:45 pm

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

 9:00 am – 10:00 am

Wednesday Jul 27, 2011

Oracle WebCenter Connect and Siebel CRM Service Integration

Social media has changed the game of customer service beyond recognition. We all know about the growing importance of social media and its emergence as another crucial customer contact channel for both sales and service. How organizations incorporate these new channels into their customer experience strategy will determine its success. Are your customers equipped with the right tools that enable them to find knowledge that is not easily searchable or documented? Does your organization have a social media strategy in place that enables you to respond in real-time, have rich agent-agent conversation to drive interactive idea generation and quickly access history of conversations from CRM?

We invite you to view this demonstration as we show how Oracle WebCenter connect Conversations can integrate with Oracle Siebel CRM and together provide exception levels of customer service. Many companies have chosen social media strategies that strive to place the customer at the center of each of their interactions…has yours?

Monday Jul 25, 2011

Oracle WebCenter Connect: Engage the Social Enterprise

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 content pillar of WebCenter, and this week will we focus on the connect pillar.

I had the opportunity to speak with Andy Kershaw, Senior Director of business development for Oracle WebCenter connect. Here is a recap of our conversation.

Q: What is Oracle WebCenter connect?
A: Oracle WebCenter connect is a collaboration solution designed specifically for knowledge workers—including sales and service professionals—to work more effectively together. Oracle WebCenter connect includes stream-based Conversations that consolidate IM, e-mail, applications, content, editing tools, and telephony into a single context, so users can quickly and easily get up-to-speed and collaborate more effectively, as well as speed decision-making. Users can upload, share, and annotate snapshots and documents, all within the context of a Conversation.

Figure 1: Oracle WebCenter connect is based on stream-based Conversations that tie together a range of disparate applications and business activities that enable richer interactive participation with employees and/or external participants.

Q: How is Oracle WebCenter connect different from other collaboration tools out there?
A: Some collaboration tools are built around a team site, which can be limiting in scope and flexibility. Others operate more like a social networking stream to broadcast updates, generating a lot of noise that is difficult to filter and to focus on the right information. It’s very difficult to understand the context of these updates and track the streams for review at a later point in time.

Oracle WebCenter connect, on the other hand, has a much more purposeful approach to the way users collaborate. Interactions are based on Conversations that are context-based and tied to a CRM record, such as an opportunity, account, or service request. 

 Figure 2: Users can collaborate in context of a CRM record to bring more purpose to collaboration.

Rather than broadcasting updates to a wide audience or limiting communications to users on a site, Oracle WebCenter connect can intelligently add users associated with a CRM object, (such as team members engaged in an opportunity,) extend participation to nontypical CRM users (such as the legal team,) or subset user groups, (such as sales representatives and sales consultants.) And because Conversations are tracked in context, users can gain insight into what and how decisions were actually made.

Q: How does Oracle WebCenter connect work?
A: A Conversation may start as an instant message or e-mail. Suddenly you realize that to make a decision, you need to go the next step—escalate—by talking live by phone, or perhaps by reaching out to new participants who have key insights. Oracle WebCenter connect allows you to integrate channels to add new members into a Conversation without leaving the current context—and also without losing a record of this new transaction. It is all there for review in a single place.

We have actually embedded the solution within applications such as Oracle CRM On Demand and Oracle’s Siebel CRM, so you can initiate a Conversation right where you're working. This enables instant action, and also drives adoption of Oracle WebCenter connect Conversations, since participants can access them from whatever context they are working, whether in e-mail or within an application, at their desk, or on their smart phone or iPad.

Figure 3: WebCenter connect mobile clients provide access to enrich purposeful collaboration through form factors specific to each client and device such as the Apple iPad.

Learn more about Oracle WebCenter connect.


Oracle Cloud Content and Process power the next wave of productivity, mobile efficiency, and workgroup innovation. Only Oracle offers an integrated suite of content, process and sites cloud services that enable business users to easily collaborate anywhere, simplify business automation, and communicate more effectively.


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