Thursday Aug 14, 2014

Developing and Deploying Self-Service Solutions

Guest blog by Geoffrey Bock

How Oracle WebCenter Customers Build Digital Businesses:

Developing and Deploying Self-Service Solutions

Geoffrey Bock, Principal, Bock & Company

Beyond the First Generation

As I described in my last blog post, "Designing for the Experience-Driven Enterprise", many of the WebCenter customers I spoke to are focusing their design efforts on the experience-driven enterprise. They are contending with digital disruption by not only replacing their legacy systems but also by restructuring and extending their enterprise applications. In fact, there is a renewed emphasis on self-service solutions.

Of course self-service is a long-standing goal for doing business over the web. But first generation solutions simply augment existing enterprise activities. For instance, many companies introduced self-service HR portals over a decade ago, enabling employees to update their profile and benefits information on their own,  rather than completing printed forms or calling HR staffers. While the tasks did not change, the people doing the work did.

Now it’s time to develop truly digital self-service solutions that do more than simply digitize these analog activities.

A Catalyst for Digital Business Transformation

As they become digital businesses, companies are engaged in new efforts that leverage the capabilities of a next-generation enterprise platform. Companies expect to transform how they do business, and deliver self-service solutions that are impossible to achieve without a truly digital application infrastructure. When in search of a starting point, begin with an enterprise portal and make it more relevant for solving business tasks.

Many of the business and IT leaders I interviewed are focusing on three interrelated goals.
  • Continuing to empower end users and operational business units by reducing the necessity of IT support for maintaining enterprise applications.
  • Collecting and organizing disparate strands of information into digital hubs that support business tasks.
  • Restructuring business processes to take advantage of end-to-end digital activities.
With a renewed emphasis on self-service, these leaders can consolidate disparate web sites and applications into a series of task-oriented solutions. For instance, one firm restructures its marketing activities through a customer-experience portal where marketers easily access all resources and assets for managing campaigns and measuring results. Another firm aggregates information from machines in a laboratory that are equipped with an array of sensors, and proactively manages maintenance based on the results.

Investing in the Underlying Resources

From my perspective, the mobile journey leads to these next-generation solutions. As they rebuild the underlying platforms powering their enterprise applications, IT leaders are defining the essential services within a services-oriented architecture (SOA). It’s important to invest the time and resources to get them right. It’s also essential to define the underlying information architecture, including the metadata definitions and tag-sets essential for dynamic content delivery. Line-of-business leaders should support these IT and content management efforts.

Mobile apps are the catalyst for the digital business transformation. Both business and IT leaders need to rethink how they want to do business, enhance, extend, and replace their first-generation self-service initiatives, and become truly digital businesses.



Wednesday Jul 02, 2014

How Oracle WebCenter Customers Build Digital Businesses: Contending with Digital Disruption

Evernote Export

Guest Blog Post by: Geoffrey Bock, Principal, Bock & Company

Customer Conversations
What are Oracle WebCenter customers doing to exploit innovative digital technologies and develop new sources of value? How are they mobilizing their enterprise applications and leveraging opportunities of the digital business revolution?

To better understand the landscape for digitally powered businesses, I talked to several Oracle WebCenter customers and systems integrators across a range of industries -- including hospitality, manufacturing, life sciences, and the public sector. Through in depth conversations with IT and business leaders, I collected a set of stories about their mobile journeys -- how they are developing next-generation enterprise applications that weave digital technologies into their ongoing operations.

In this and two subsequent blogs, I will highlight several important points from my overall roadmap for developing digital businesses.

Beyond an Aging Infrastructure
As a first step, successful customers are contending with digital disruption, and leveraging their inherent strengths to transform operations. Today they are web-aware, if not already web-savvy. Most organizations launched their initial sites more than fifteen years ago. They have steadily added web-based applications to support targeted initiatives.

Yet the customers I interviewed are now at a crossroads. They realize that they need to refresh, modernize, and mobilize their enterprise application infrastructure to build successful digital businesses.
  • One IT leader describes how her firm implemented a cutting-edge enterprise portal ten years ago. Designed for order processing and resources management, the portal now runs outdated technologies and is unable to support needed employee-facing applications.
  • Another business leader has a similar story. The company still relies on a custom designed web-based application. The technology is obsolete and the people knowledgeable about maintaining the application are difficult to find.
  • A third IT leader describes how her organization collects information through several Cold Fusion sites, and needs to replace them in order to deliver more flexible self-service applications.
From my perspective, these leaders are recognizing the power of digital disruption. To create new value, they must deliver seamless customer-, partner-, and employee-facing experiences. They are confronting the limitations of their current application infrastructure and are turning to Oracle for long-term solutions.

Rather than simply enhance what they have, leaders are opting for modernization. They need to develop and deploy native digital experiences. Web-based applications that are bolted onto an aging infrastructure are no longer sufficient.

Change and Continuity
Yet there is also continuity around integrating the end-to-end experiences. Let’s take the case of a large manufacturing firm now mobilizing its digital business around Oracle WebCenter. The business leaders identified the multiple steps in the buying process – the information customers and partners need to have to assess alternatives and make purchasing decisions.

The firm had developed multiple web sites to publish product information, offer design advice, and schedule follow-up meetings. But the end result was a fragmented and disconnected set of activities, relying first on information from one system, then from another, and lacking an end-to-end view for measuring results.

The leaders realized that they needed to connect the dots and deliver a seamless experience. In the case of this manufacturing firm, a key step blends online with real-time – helping customers schedule appointments with designers who advise them about design alternatives and product options. (From the manufacturer’s perspective, designers are channel partners who sell the finished goods and deliver support services.)

The breakthrough that accelerates the buying process focuses on these customer/designer interactions -- assembling all of the necessary information into a seamless experience, and making it easy for customers to engage with designers to finalize designs and place orders. As a result, this manufacturing firm mitigates the threat of digital disruption by mobilizing resources to complete a high-value task.

The firm empowers its partner channel by reinventing a key business process for the digital age. This becomes a win-win opportunity that increases customer satisfaction while also improving sales opportunities.


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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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