Maximizing success with Oracle WebCenter portal requires a strategic understanding of Oracle WebCenter capabilities. The following best practices enable the creation of portal solutions with minimal resource overhead, while offering the greatest flexibility for progressive elaboration.
They are inherently project agnostic, enabling a strong foundation for future growth and an expedient return on your investment in the platform. If you are able to embrace even only a few of these practices, you will materially improve your deployment capability with WebCenter.
1. Segment Duties Around 3Cs - Content, Collaboration and Contextual Data
"Agility" is one of the most common business benefits touted by modern web platforms. It sounds good - who doesn't want to be Agile, right? How exactly IT organizations go about supplying agility to their business counterparts often lacks definition - hamstrung by ambiguity.
Ultimately, businesses want to benefit from reduced development time to deliver a solution to a particular constituent, which is augmented by as much self-service as possible to develop and manage the solution directly. All done in the absence of direct IT involvement.
With Oracle WebCenter's depth in the areas of content management, pallet of native collaborative services, enterprise mashup capability and delegated administration, it is very possible to execute on this business vision at a technical level.
To realize the benefits of the platform depth we can think of Oracle WebCenter's segmentation of duties along the lines of the 3 Cs - Content, Collaboration and Contextual Data. All three of which can have their foundations developed by IT, then provisioned to the business on a per role basis.
Content – Oracle WebCenter benefits from an extremely mature content repository. Work flow, audit, notification, office integration and conversion capabilities for documents (HTML & PDF) make this a haven for business users to take control of content within external and internal portals, custom applications and web sites. When deploying WebCenter portal take time to think of areas in which IT can provide the "harness" for content to reside, then allow the business to manage any content items within the site, using the content foundation to ensure compliance with business rules and process. This frees IT to work on more mission critical challenges and allows the business to respond in short order to emerging market needs.
Collaboration – Native collaborative services and WebCenter spaces are a perfect match for business users who are looking to enable document sharing, discussions and social networking. The ability to deploy the services is granular and on the basis of roles scoped to given areas of the system - much like the first C “content”. This enables business analysts to design the roles required and IT to provision with peace of mind that users leveraging the collaborative services are only able to do so in explicitly designated areas of a site. Bottom line - business will not need to wait for IT, but cannot go outside of the scope that has been defined based on their roles.
Contextual Data – Collaborative capabilities are most powerful when included within the context of business data. The ability to supply business users with decision shaping data that they can include in various parts of a portal or portals, just as they would with content items, is one of the most powerful aspects of Oracle WebCenter. Imagine a discussion about new store selection for a retail chain that re-purposes existing information from business intelligence services about various potential locations and or custom backend systems - presenting it directly in the context of the discussion. If there are some data sources that are preexisting in your enterprise take a look at how they can be made into discrete offerings within the portal, then scoped to given business user roles for inclusion within collaborative activities.
2. Think Generically, Execute Specifically
Constructs. Anyone who has spent much time around me knows that I am obsessed with this word. Why? Because Constructs offer immense power - more than APIs, Web Services or other technical capability.
Constructs offer organizations the ability to leverage a platform's native characteristics to offer substantial business functionality - without writing code. This concept becomes more powerful with the additional understanding of the concepts from the platform that an organization learns over time. Let's take a look at an example of where an Oracle WebCenter construct can substantially reduce the time to get a subscription-based site out the door and into the hands of the end consumer.
Imagine a site that allows members to subscribe to specific disciplines to access information and application data around that various discipline. A space is a collection of secured pages within Oracle WebCenter. Spaces are not only secured, but also default content stored within it to be scoped automatically to that space.
Taking this a step further, Oracle WebCenter’s Activity Stream surfaces events, discussions and other activities that are scoped to the given user on the basis of their space affiliations. In order to have a portal that would allow users to "subscribe" to information around various disciplines - spaces could be used out of the box to achieve this capability and without using any APIs or low level technical work to achieve this.
3. Make Governance Work for You
Imagine driving down the street without the painted lines on the road. The rules of the road are so ingrained in our minds, we often do not think about the process, but seemingly mundane lane markers are critical enablers.
Lane markers allow us to travel at speeds that would be impossible if not for the agreed upon direction of flow. Additionally and more importantly, it allows people to act autonomously - going where they please at any given time. The return on the investment for mobility is high enough for people to buy into globally agreed up governance processes.
In Oracle WebCenter we can use similar enablers to lane markers. Our goal should be to enable the flow of information and provide end users with the ability to arrive at business solutions as needed, not on the basis of cumbersome processes that cannot meet the business needs in a timely fashion.
How do we do this?
Just as with "Segmentation of Duties" Oracle WebCenter technologies offer the opportunity to compartmentalize various business initiatives from each other within the system due to constructs and security that are available to use within the platform.
For instance, when a WebCenter space is created, any content added within that space by default will be secured to that particular space and inherits meta data that is associated with a folder created for the space.
Oracle WebCenter content uses meta data to support a broad range of rich ECM functionality and can automatically impart retention, workflow and other policies automatically on the basis of what has been defaulted for that space. Depending on your business needs, this paradigm will also extend to sub sections of a space, offering some interesting possibilities to enable automated management around content.
An example may be press releases within a particular area of an extranet that require a five year retention period and need to the reviewed by marketing and legal before release. The underlying content system will transparently take care of this process on the basis of the above rules, enabling peace of mind over unstructured data - which could otherwise become overwhelming.
4. Make Your First Project Your Second
Imagine if Michael Phelps was competing in a swimming championship, but told right before his race that he had to use a brand new stroke. There is no doubt that Michael is an outstanding swimmer, but chances are that he would like to have some time to get acquainted with the new stroke.
New technologies should not be treated any differently. Before jumping into the deep end it helps to take time to get to know the new approach - even though you may have been swimming thousands of times before.
To quickly get a handle on Oracle WebCenter capabilities it can be helpful to deploy a sandbox for the team to use to share project documents, discussions and announcements in an effort to help the actual deployment get under way, while increasing everyone’s knowledge of the platform and its functionality that may be helpful down the road.
Oracle Technology Network has made a pre-configured virtual machine available for download that can be a great starting point for this exercise.
5. Get to Know the Community
If you are reading this blog post you have most certainly faced a software decision or challenge that was solved on the basis of a small piece of missing critical information - which took substantial research to discover. Chances were also good that somewhere, someone had already come across this information and would have been excited to share it.
There is no denying the power of passionate, connected users, sharing key tips around technology. The Oracle WebCenter brand has a rich heritage that includes industry-leading technology and practitioners. With the new Oracle WebCenter brand, opportunities to connect with these experts has become easier.
Additionally, there are various Oracle WebCenter related blogs by an excellent grouping of services partners.
If you are attending Oracle Open World, it would be a pleasure to say hello and discuss this post in further detail. Be sure to attend my session “6 Counterintuitive Best Practices for Enterprise 2.0 Adoption.”