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OpenWorld 2012 Recap – Fishbowl Solutions Aligned with Oracle’s WebCenter Strategy

October 18, 2012

Another year; another OpenWorld. It seems that Oracle’s big event comes faster and faster each year and then goes by in a flash. Amidst the glitz and glamor and the sheer spectacle that is OpenWorld, the event has much to offer customers, vendors, partners and general technology enthusiasts. This is the event where attendees get to hear directly from Oracle’s top brass on what’s new, what’s coming, and what’s faster/better. For WebCenter customers, here are a few takeaways from me and my Fishbowl colleagues on what we felt were some of the major stories from OpenWorld 2012.

New WebCenter Content User Interface

The WebCenter community has been abuzz for many months now regarding a new user interface for Oracle WebCenter Content. This new interface was shown at a few sessions and within the WebCenter demo areas at OpenWorld. The responses from people I chatted with were all positive and how could it not have been. After all, WebCenter customers have been waiting for years for a new user interface, and it looks like in 12c they will finally get one.

Can’t wait until then? Fishbowl has been providing user interface enhancements to the Content Server for many years. These enhancements have specifically aided business users in contributing content to WebCenter. One such product is Fishbowl’s Policies and Procedures Solution Suite, which provides an intuitive, visually-rich interface to specifically manage quality documents, governance manuals, and standard operating procedures. Through a combination of search, browsing, workflow and alerts, Policies and Procedures Solution Suite can help improve access to quality control documents while enforcing their follow through.

Stance on SharePoint

We have mentioned in many other blog posts (here & here) some reasons why Oracle WebCenter customers who may also be using SharePoint should reconsider their decision to use more SharePoint or go to SharePoint altogether for content management, or when building an intranet, portal or any other content-backed business system. Fishbowl Solutions was front and center with our stance on SharePoint at OpenWorld. We featured our SharePoint Connector Version 2.0 for Oracle WebCenter, which provides an integration that enables content resulting from collaboration in SharePoint to be transparently and seamlessly stored in Oracle WebCenter Content. The main value proposition with this connector is that enables organizations to continue to use both SharePoint and WebCenter and leverage the benefits of each.

The key point that we want to have resonate with customers is that WebCenter should be the final system of record for content. This includes content not only existing in SharePoint, but also in other ECM systems, file shares, and even desktops. My colleague George Sokol participated in a session at OpenWorld titled “Living with SharePoint”. This session provided attendees some data and examples on what living with SharePoint would represent, namely high services cost, 3rd-party license costs for additional functionality, and potential governance dilemmas (I documented more of these issues in this white paper). All these things can be reduced with WebCenter, but the reality is most organizations want to continue to use SharePoint for work-in-progress collaboration and pair that with robust enterprise content management. Fishbowl’s SharePoint Connector for WebCenter enables organizations to do just that.

Integrations in the WebCenter Stack

Oracle has done a great job providing integrations between products across their various product/technology stacks. One popular example is the WebCenter integrations provided for E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Siebel applications. Basically, these integrations enable content management to be invoked in context of business processes, so, for example, when users are processing invoices they can quickly reference the image of that invoice which was processed with Oracle WebCenter Imaging.

At OpenWorld 2012, Oracle also spoke about integrating components of WebCenter with each other. One popular topic was the integration of WebCenter Sites (Fatwire) with Oracle WebCenter Content. Another popular topic was integrating WebCenter Portal with WebCenter Content. Oracle has made this integration possible with the Content Presenter task flow. Although this integration does provide the ability to surface content from WebCenter Content to WebCenter Portal, Fishbowl has found that most organizations are looking for integrations that provide greater scalability while leveraging standards-based technologies (JAVA, JSP) over proprietary (iDoc).

Fishbowl provides an integration framework called Intranet In A Box (IIAB) that integrates WebCenter Content with WebCenter Portal by leveraging WebCenter Spaces as the container to which content will be surfaced to. This framework eases contribution through profiles defined in WebCenter Content, including categories, sub-categories, topic pages, articles, contacts, images and landing page assets. IIAB also includes JSR-286 portlets for interfacing with WebCenter Content. The value of IIAB is it removes some of the complexity around integrating Content with Portal while easing content contribution. Organizations using IIAB have been able to build WebCenter Content and Portal-based corporate intranets in less than 60 days, including the University of Pretoria. Fishbowl’s best demos at OpenWorld were of Intranet In A Box, and organizations that have made the investments in WebCenter Content and Portal but have struggled to build out next-generation intranets and portals were very interested.

Another Go at Social

There was a lot of buzz at OpenWorld regarding the Oracle Social Network (OSN). Oracle announced OSN at OpenWorld 2011, and we are starting to see more and more examples of how OSN can be applied. I had the privilege of participating in the OSN team’s Developer Challenge as I got to present John Sim’s “Avengers Assemble” application. The OSN Developer Challenge was open to any Oracle or Java technologist (hack) that wanted to build an application that leveraged OSN’s REST API and another service or application. The entries must help solve a business problem, and John focused his efforts on helping to keep teams on the go in touch. John specifically used Google Maps and PhoneGap to build an application he described as a Mobile GeoTagging Solution. John provides much more detail on this solution in this C4 blog post.

Mobile ECM  

Oracle provided further details at OpenWorld 2012 on their mobile application – Oracle ADF Mobile. According to this blog post, Oracle ADF Mobile uses a metadata-based development framework enabling developers to develop one application for multiple platforms (iOS and Android, for starters). It can also easily incorporate HTML5, Java, and the devices native container. As business processes become more and more mobilized, Oracle will be in great position to help facilitate the various business process steps that occur between the user and back-end systems like Oracle E-Business Suite. Oracle has the enabling technologies like SOA and BPM to provide a tightly integrated system for mobile processes.

Fishbowl Solutions has been developing Oracle WebCenter-based mobile applications for over two years now, and we were fortunate once again to be joined at OpenWorld with a customer that has succeeded deploying the mobile applications we have available for the iPad and Android devices. Banner Engineering was kind enough to speak during the WebCenter Content Strategy and Vision session at OpenWorld and also during a social business panel. Banner has rolled out a Mobile Library application that has enabled their sales force and distributors to reference sales collateral stored in Oracle WebCenter from their iPad and Android devices. This application has improved the overall sales process, making customer meetings much more interactive and engaging, and also provided a competitive advantage for Banner – their competitors are still bound to paper catalogs and the like to share product information.  Banner created a lot of excitement with their story, and this excitement carried over to the Fishbowl booth. Fortunately, we had enough iPads to circulate to show off the application and its features.

As a WebCenter partner, it was definitely reassuring to see that alignment existed between Fishbowl’s current software and services offerings and Oracle’s stated direction and positioning with the product that was discussed at OpenWorld . We are excited to see where the next year takes us.

jQuery Customizations for WebCenter

September 24, 2012

jQuery has become a staple for a lot of the customizations in WebCenter Content. In fact, I can’t think of a customization over the past couple years that I haven’t used jQuery in some form. I’ve outlined below a few of the basics to get jQuery running on your content server and a couple examples on how we use it. For those of you mumbling “jQuery is just javascript”, well you’re right, but who in the world would pick an axe to cut down a tree when you’ve got a perfectly good chainsaw to do the work for you? Javascript is still great for the little stuff, but jQuery is a much better toolbox.

First things first, you need a place to include your jQuery and you customizations. We generally create a brand new component, which I won’t cover here, but you’ll find all the  information you need at oracle.com. You’ll also need to download the latest and greatest jQuery here:

http://www.jquery.com/download

After downloading the jQuery source you’ll need to put it on the server so the client can access it. We usually store these files with the component we create to allow easy access.
Once you’ve created your new jQuery customizations component you’ll simply need to overwrite the std_html_head_declarations like so:

<@dynamichtml std_html_head_declarations@>
<$include super.std_html_head_declarations$>
<script type=”text/javascript” src=”js/jquery-min.js“></script>
<@end@>

You will need to make a few small changes to setup the source highlighted in red, but this is pretty straight forward. (it’s the location of those jQuery files you’ve just downloaded)

Now that all the pieces are in place to use jQuery, let’s move on to some quick and easy customizations.  Say you have a pretty basic UCM check-in screen: Content ID, Title, Author and any other information you need for a standard check-in. This is great, but your users don’t follow the standard you’d really like them to follow for Titles. This can be difficult to regulate and the default profiles and rules just don’t cut it. With jQuery, we could simply add the following code and it would pop-up a message when the user clicks on the title field:

$(document).on("click", "input[name='dDocTitle']", function(){
     alert("Please make sure to add ‘FB_’ to the beginning of 
     your titles.");
});


While this may look confusing the code is very straight forward. It basically states that when the document is ready for check in, add a click event to the dDocTitle input, and when this click event occurs send an alert to the user. With such a minimal amount of code we were able to let our users know they need to structure their titles to start with ‘FB_’.

This is great and almost everyone is following the process, but they are getting really frustrated with all the alerts. Here is some code to check if they have added the ‘FB_’ and alert them if they haven’t:

$(document).on("focusout", "input[name='dDocTitle']", function(){
     if(jQuery(this).val().substr(0,3) !== "FB_"){
          alert("Please make sure to add 'FB_' to the beginning of 
          your titles.");
     }
});


With just a simple if statement to check the beginning of all our clients values when they focus off the item we can alert them of their mistake. To take this one last step further, we can add the ability to check for the correct value. If it’s not there, it would be added instead of warning our users by simply adding this section inside of the ‘if statement’ above:

$(document).on("focusout", "input[name='dDocTitle']", function(){
     jQuery(this).val("FB_" + jQuery(this).val());
});


While regulating what our users enter can be very difficult in most situations, jQuery makes regulating this easy. On top of that it removes any server side work which can take a lot of expensive resource time for even the simplest validation. I encourage you to give jQuery a try and see what other solutions you can come up with.

Facilitating Multi-Site Management with Oracle WebCenter

July 30, 2012

Multi-site management, simply defined, is the creation and management of multiple websites within a single toolset. The distinguished advantage of using a content management system is the ability to reuse both assets and content while managing sites, saving businesses time and proving to be very cost effective as well.  By choosing Oracle WebCenter Content and the Site Studio web content management component businesses can take advantage of several key features of WebCenter Content including workflows, security, and content history while having the mature, enterprise level Oracle Content Server as the system’s backend.

While multi-site management is not a new concept, users struggle to effectively implement and maintain a multi-site infrastructure.  Asset separation, that is, splitting up a web page into pieces so that they can be best reused throughout the website and future websites, is of paramount importance with multi-site management. Fishbowl Solutions has many years experience implementing WebCenter Content websites with SiteStudio, and here are some tips and tricks we have vetted out to make reuse within your environment easier and clearer:

  1. Make separations logical
  2. Create reusable building blocks
  3. Follow standard HTML best practices
  4. Avoid hard coding
  5. Avoid duplicates
  6. Use consistent naming conventions
  7. Incorporate reusable element definitions
  8. Utilize secondary pages

By following these principles, businesses are empowered to enhance their website implementation process and easily facilitate multi-site management within their infrastructure. To find out more information on how to make the most of Oracle Web Content Management or SiteStudio, read this white paper written by Fishbowl software consultant Karla Schommer.

 

WebCenter Content Search Options: How Do I find my #?*! Content?

July 20, 2012

With the increasing amount of information organizations have, the value of content management goes beyond having relevant content in the system-users need to be able to find it.  Not only does content reside in a single content management system but on external websites, network file systems, and databases as well.  While providing access to content from these various sources is important, so too is meeting the search expectations of knowledge workers.

Enterprise search allows users to easily find and share content, web pages, and other enterprise resources that are relevant to each user.

Providing users with a method to perform full-text and metadata searching of content was one of the main drivers for the acceptance of content management systems within organizations.  Enterprise search allows users to search a single location, whether it is found on a website, in a content management system, database, or file system. The search also limits items a user can see based on their permissions to content stored in each location and provides relevant results to that user.

There are various questions to ask when considering enterprise search:

  1. Will the search engine be used as a reporting tool?
  2. What type of content is being indexed?
  3. What languages does the index need to support?
  4. What kind of security is required on the content that is indexed?

The key to a successful enterprise search implementation is to fully understand your content, your users, and your security. To dive deeper into considerations with enterprise search implementation read this white paper written by Fishbowl’s Product Development Director Greg Bollom.

Developing an Intranet in a Box with Oracle WebCenter Content and WebCenter Portal

July 11, 2012

In case you missed Collaborate back in April, we are starting a series of posts with links to white papers written by some of Fishbowl’s best.  Stay tuned for weekly updates!

We’re starting with an overview of Fishbowl Solution’s Oracle WebCenter based Intranet in a Box framework with a link to a white paper for more information.

Organizations look for a fast and hassle-free way to provide greater value to their business after purchasing WebCenter Suite.  This can be accomplished with a well designed, personalized and frequently updated intranet site that creates desire in employees to contribute content and to keep coming back.  Fishbowl Solution’s personalized WebCenter-based intranet framework is moving organizations from “what now?” to “what’s next?”  with quick startup time, easy user contribution, and a user-controlled site structure that does not involve IT.  It is a combination of WebCenter Portal and WebCenter Content that lay the perfect foundation for this framework we have named Intranet in a Box (IIAB).  IIAB incorporates proven software and services to create portal-based and content-driven intranet sites that enable personalization, improve navigation and enhance search.

An overview of IIAB Benefits:

Quick Time to Value

  • 60 days or less for standard intranet jumpstart

Quick Uptime:

  • Familiar design, contribution and deployment patterns

Lowers Total Investment Costs:

  • Reusable/repeatable framework leverages existing Oracle technology investments

Empowered Users:

  • Contributing non-IT users can easily create and change both the navigation and the content

Sticking to core concepts like user-driven site structure, reusability, and ease of contribution allow IIAB to be redeployed across many environments.  By using our pre-built framework to kick start a portal-based and content-centric intranet, businesses have the answer to provide greater value to their organization.

For more information on Intranet in a Box, read this white paper written by Fishbowl’s senior WebCenter consultant, Andy Weaver.