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Using WebCenter to its full potential

I have to admit, I'm a technical guy so these kinds of post are scares for me. I just felt like writing this because sometimes I have the feeling that people are not using WebCenter to its full potential. Let me elaborate about that. In the past I have done both projects for Oracle Portal and WebCenter. I most cases, the portal software was used as a framework to build applications. In just a few cases they were building composite applications. The only additional features used from the portal were features like creating pages at runtime, security. When WebCenter 11g was released I thought this would be better. Oracle puts quite some effort into explaining the added value of the Enterprise 2.0 services and how to use them properly in your business. It's a shame to see that a product of WebCenter not being used as it should be. It's not always a business problem but we, who know the product should tell the business what WebCenter can do and how it can help their business.

Translate requirements into services

It's very easy to just implement what the people ask but it's harder to point them into the right direction by using enterprise 2.0 features. For example I've seen a few project where one of the requirements was to publish documents with documentation about the new portal. Mostly these documents were PDF's. If a requirements like this comes up, it is our job to talk about the possibilities of a Wiki. The advantage is that people are likely to find the information they want. Wiki's are collaborative meaning that users can help users instead of needing a dedicated person writing the documentation.

Discover the need for enterprise 2.0 features

It's not only translate requirements into enterprise or collaborative services but it's also finding the need to use these services. For example one project the business was telling about the issues with the helpdesk. The response time was way too late and people weren't happy with the service provided by the helpdesk. In such a case, it would be a good decision to have a discussion forum as an addition to the helpdesk. This way the forum can be uses as a resource for information. It can also help the actual desktop because in a forum you always have users that will know the answer. People from the helpdesk don't know everything so if someone asks a question on a forum, the potential people that can help is far larger than when they call the helpdesk.

Personalization

Also one of the features that is very important but often overlooked is personalization. Especially since WebCenter PS3 with the introduction of the Personalization server. Every company want that the visitors come to their portal to discover new products or services. It is also very important that the users find the actual content they want. Let's say you are building a portal for a travel agency. When a visitor looks for a specific location and hotel, you also want to recommend other locations or hotels based upon their query. With returning customers you want to present them with a similar offer based upon their previous choices. Another example that shows the importance of this feature. Suppose you have to develop a portal for a government. One of the key features of a governmental portal is to inform the civilians about specific matters. Based upon some parameters like the location, profession, age, married state, children and so on you have the ability to provide the user with the information they are looking for before they even need to start searching for it. Instead of letting the user to browse to the page of their city or the page where they can find a club for retired people, you can show the information upon logon because you know all these parameters and they are likely to search for such information on the site. This a valuable asset for a good portal. Most people find it difficult to find the correct information and the personalization server can help you a lot in this. You can provide the user with some personalized content but you can also change the navigation model based upon their profile or whatever parameter you like.

Intranet portals

A use of an intranet portal is mostly seen to share information across a department or company. An intranet can be much more than just that. In most companies you will see an intranet with shared information. People who work the same project will have some wiki installed on a web server and use this to share information about the project. Another team will use a tracking software to track issues or a document management system to share documents. What if we could add all these services into the global intranet portal? All the information will be stored in a single repository which is more easy to discover the information you are looking for. With WebCenter Spaces this can be easily done. Each department, project, team,... can have their own space to share information. You can easily follow the changes made to specific documents or pages. No longer do you need to login to different systems to search for your information or to perform all your tasks. This can be centralized in one system. This can lead to a big boost in performance of the employees. By linking the document services and discussion service for example, you can easily discuss about the document without the need to leave the system. All the information is centralized. Image the time you can win. These are just a few benefits of properly using WebCenter Spaces and the collaborative services.

Conclusion

If you go to a customer and want to sell WebCenter or you have discussions with the business about the requirements, it is very important to know the capabilities of WebCenter and what they can represent in the company. It's not enough to just implement what the customer asks, it is far more important to tell them about the advantages about specific features and what added value WebCenter can provide.

Comments

Hi Yannick,

I agree that WebCenter Portal is not being used to its full potential most times.

With regard to your commment on Personalization, is there a WebCenter Portal oriented sample available on the web? I've searched but didn't find anything real-worldish.

You can find some examples on the WebCenter Personalization blog: http://blogs.oracle.com/webcenter_personalization/
I agree that information about the p13n server is hard to find. I have been experimenting a lot with the server and I will come up with some posts and example applications that shows you how to use the p13n server. It's just that i'm very busy at the moment. (moving from Belgium to the UK, preparing for OOW,...).

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