SharePoint Slump

SharePoint SlumpCheck out the graph from Indeed trends.  Sharepoint job openings / needs are at their lowest point since 2008.  There are several ways to interpret the chart.  It could mean that:

1) we’ve reached sharepoint saturation and business are happily using it with loyal and skillful administrators/developers to keep it running  OR

2) SharepPoint is cratering due to 2013/365/Azure missteps and an inability to tap into the actual working model for enterprise collaboration (as opposed to the volume sales/give-away model that got it installed).

What do you think?  Does the precipitous drop in demand for sharepoint skills mean that everyone is happily collaborating or that it is gathering dust?

Send me a note to schedule a conversation about your enterprise collaboration and social business strategy!

Social Strategy Services for Oracle WebCenter

bloomthink social strategy for oracle webcenter The BloomThink social strategy services for Oracle customers help to bridge the gap between internal collaboration managed by Oracle WebCenter and external engagement manged by 3rd party social software like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and others.  Click on the image to download the brochure or just get it here (PDF). Contact BloomThink for a quote.

WCM Can Learn From Google+

WCM Can Learn From Google+ The editing experience of Google Plus is fantastic.  They have achieved a degree of ease and granularity that WCM systems have been struggling and failing to achieve for years.

First, at its core, Google+ is WCM – web content management.  It is the place for you to build your personal brand and promote content and interaction (aka “engagement”) with the public and those in your circles.

Keeping your profile and other pages up to date and highlighting the best happenings, photos and events must be frictionless.  Our job isn’t to maintain our Google+ page, our Google+ page’s job is to showcase us in the best light.  So editing you pages should be, and is, quick and easy.  There are no popups, there is no confusing “edit mode” that shifts the entire look and feel of your page layout.  You simply click on what you wish to edit and start typing.  Click done and that’s it.

This approach to maintaining your online presence is far and away the best one I’ve experienced.  Google+ does not over complicate the experience with widgets, plugins or other “effects” that clutter most other WCM systems.  They have correctly identified their place in the flow of information from the user (me) to the world (folks in my circles).  They do not try to make me into a web admin or programmer.  They figure, if I want deep programming capabilities and effects I’ll be using a different system.

And it is precisely this targeted approach that is both driving adoption of apps like Instagram and sites like Pinterest while driving people away from all-in-one platforms like those provided by Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, OpenText and EMC.  The level of effort to create and display (and “like”, “re-use” and comment on) images in a Pinterest style board in an enterprise portal is huge compared to the level of effort it takes to set up a Pinterest account and start sharing images (that link back to primary web properties).

So WCM systems can stand to learn a thing or two from Google+  1) keep it simple for users 2) don’t over reach.  Other, better suited, systems will take up the feature gap.

Oracle WebCenter 11g Cookbook Review

Packt Publishing's WebCenter 11g Cookbook

I was pleased to have been invited by Packt to review the new Oracle WebCenter 11g PS3 Administration Cookbook By Yannick Ongena.  You can see my initial book review here.  Now, Oracle Open World 2011 is finished.  There were plenty of new WebCenter announcements and tutorials.  Author Yannick Ongena was present to lead a practical session on WebCenter.

The biggest take away from the conference as well as for anyone who has spent any length of time reviewing the capabilities of the WebCenter platform is this: WebCenter is a huge and highly sophisticated system. It is not simply a “tool chest” with which you can build whatever you want.  It is an entire fabrication factory, ore mining operation, supply chain and lumber yard.  It is a highly capable system.  But with that level of capability comes a high level of complexity and sophistication.  If you have experience creating sleeping bags, it is unrealistic to think you can jump right into building hotels.  Sure people sleep in both sleeping bags and hotels but there is a difference in scope that is simply massive.

The commercial Oracle WebCenter ecosystem is waking up to this realization.  WebCenter developers are in extremely high demand.  This is both good and bad.  It is good because it means customers and partners are waking up to the potential value that the WebCenter platform has to offer.  It means that the Oracle field is doing a decent job of articulating to the market all the things that the WebCenter platform can do.  Customers, especially big ones, are realizing that they don’t really want to keep adding more sleeping bags to their space, they want to build a hotel.  It is more efficient, more comfortable for their customers and a competitive differentiator over others.  But they face a huge dearth of skilled WebCenter developers – the hotel builders of our metaphor.  Do a quick Twitter search for WebCenter Developer and you will see what I mean.

And this is precisely where Yannick Ongena’s book comes in.  The Oracle WebCenter 11g PS3 Administration Cookbook is the blueprint and assembly instructions for creating that huge collaborative, content aware, business integrated portal system.  Because it is written as a recipe book it contains the step-by-step instructions for creating the kinds of applications described.  But it goes beyond traditional cook book style code manuals.  Yannick also provides a vital breakdown of each step in the recipe.  In each section of the book he includes a “How it works…” section.  This explains why you do what you do.  It is the equivalent of explaining why you need to use a wood screw rather than a nail in a construction project.  For developers who take the time to work their way through the book they emerge with a complete understanding of why they are doing what they did.  This is far superior to coming out of the book with a single working sample application that you would never use “in real life”.

Yannick covers tough subjects like security, analytics integration and content integration, unsexy but vital-to-get-right subjects like managing the resource catalog and design-time vs run-time configuration.

The book does not cover SSXA, the newer members of the WebCenter family like Oracle Sites (aka FatWire) or Oracle Social Network (aka WebCenter Connect).  Neither does it tell you when to use one Oracle WebCenter system vs another (e.g. there is substantial overlap between the activity stream, content store, tagging and web site production capability sets).

There are several key ways in which this book should be used.

Reshaping Your Business With Web 2.0
Reshaping Your Business With Web 2.0

First, it should be used as the How-To companion to design centric books like Reshaping Your Business With Web 2.0.  This book explains what you should do, Yannick’s book tells you how to do it.

Second, it should be used as an intensive 2 week boot-camp training course.  Some enterprising partner will figure this out and use the book as the core instructional manual for the course.  Given the overwhelming need for developers who understand this material, this should happen sooner than later.

Third, companies already onboard with the WebCenter stack or considering it should have a copy of this book for each of their development staff.  Each of the project / program managers should have a copy of Reshaping Your Business With Web 2.0 and their development teams should have this book ready to go.

Finally, independent consultants who want to get smart with WebCenter should work through each of the activities in this book and built out the sample applications.  This provides them with a self-taught learning capability that will allow them to not just be smart on WebCenter PS3, but it will also lay the foundation for scaling and extending their ability to build those mega-hotels we call enterprise systems.

Oracle Social Network

Oracle Social Network Architecture
Oracle Social Network Architecture - From the Whitepaper. Click for Larger Image

You can see Larry Ellison’s announcement of the Oracle Social Network on YouTube – [jump to 32:48 for the announcement].

These are the first impressions of Oracle’s newly announced Oracle Social Network – also known as Oracle WebCenter Social.  I do not work for Oracle and have no inside information on these products.  However, I did have confirmation from Product Management that WebCenter Social is the same product that was previously called WebCenter Connect. WebCenter Connect was the product previously known as Oracle OnTrack (Youtube video).  Much of the analysis in this post comes from experience with and reading of On Track documentation (linked for you at the bottom of this post).

Oracle OnTrack is/was an incredibly innovative collaboration product which focused on real-time collaboration through the paradigm of “conversations”.  These often display as activity streams.  Activity Streams are an always-updated list of comments and actions:  think “Facebook Wall”.  The OnTrack team is/was some of the best people combined from the Oracle Beehive initiative and BEA teams.  Earlier this year they joined the WebCenter team and their product was pulled under the WebCenter banner as “Oracle Connect”.

Except now they are also powering the Social capabilities in Oracle’s new Cloud offerings.  So Oracle saw fit to change the name to Oracle Social. According to Oracle Product Management, its the same product just a better name.

So far, so good.  Oracle WebCenter Social really is an innovative real-time collaboration system.  In its previous incarnations (all less than 6 months old) I have seen it favorably compared to Google Wave, SalesForce’s Chatter and a host of other collaboration suites (think Jive, Yammer, etc).

One area of caution for customers is around architecture and infrastructure.  It shares the WebCenter name but that does not mean is shares a common information architecture.

~~DISCLAIMER~~ the following is based on On Track documentation (linked below) and it is possible that it has changed ~~

For instance, WebCenter Social’s activity streams ARE NOT the same as WebCenter Space’s (or Framework’s) activity streams.  Social’s Content Store IS NOT WebCenter Content (aka UCM).  Social IS NOT a WebCenter framework application.

To be sure, Social CAN surface content from WebCenter Content (aka UCM).   It does this via OpenSocial gadgets (more on this below) and the rumor is that Oracle is working on even deeper integrations with UCM.  A WebCenter Portal CAN pull Social’s activity streams into a custom ADF taskflow or application.  But Social has its own internal architecture, file store and activity stream paradigm.

On Track application Architecture - click for larger

WebCenter Social uses “gadgets” to provide integration and injection of features into other applications.  These gadgets are Google Open Social gadgets.  A more specific application architecture from this documentation from March 2011, is depicted to the left.  It remains to be seen if anything in here has changed with the announcement of the newly named WebCenter Social.

The WebCenter Social Whitepaper has only a very little bit of information on how Social plays with with rest of the WebCenter stack.  Unfortunately, it is not written very clearly.  Nevertheless, here it is (pp 15)

The individual pillars [Sites, Portal, Content & Social] share capabilities across Oracle WebCenter and Oracle Social Network is a component of the Oracle WebCenter family. For example the ability to embed a social channel (e.g. to have Conversations) with customers through the Oracle WebCenter Sites delivered web experience. Or the ability to inject gadgets into Oracle Social Network Business Objects though Oracle WebCenter Portal capabilities. Or the ability to surface content within Oracle WebCenter Sites or Oracle Social Network from the core Oracle WebCenter Content infrastructure. Oracle WebCenter is built onOracle’s Fusion Middleware and is optimized for application integration further extending Oracle Social Network’s unique capabilities.

So it appears that UI focused HTTP-based OpenSocial gadgets are the preferred integration model.  The OnTrack SDK has other integration specifications but it remains to be seen if any additional ADF based TaskFlows have been bundled in with this new release of WebCenter Social.

Useful Links:

WebCenter Social HomePage

Oracle On Track Video Series on YouTube

Original Oracle On Track Documentation from March 2011

Original On Track Developer’s Guide from March 2011 (PDF)

Original On Track Admin Guide from April 2011 (PDF)

Oracle WebCenter Changes Product Names Again

WebCenter Social Network

UPDATE: Oracle’s Director of Product Management, Michelle Huff confirmed via Twitter that WebCenter Social Network IS WebCenter Social WAS WebCenter Connect.  New look.  Same innovative product.  Right Now there is very little documentation on how Social’s architecture marries up with the rest of the WebCenter stack.  There is this whitepaper that suggests it uses a separate activity stream and content architecture than the rest of the WebCenter stack but it can still integrate (PDF).  We’ll dig into it and find out.

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Check out Oracle’s new WebCenter Social product.  Wait.  That’s the old WebCenter Connect (see the image in this Sept 19 blog post or read this entire July Article from Oracle)   Wait.  *That* was the Oracle OnTrack (Youtube videowhich took some of the best people (and code???) from the Oracle Beehive initiative and BEA teams to create a cool real time collaboration system.  Looks like they found a home with the webcenter team.

All this has happened in 2011.

Add to that the acquisition of Fatwire, the restructuring of the ECM and WebCenter teams and products and you have a highly dynamic environment.  Oracle is in a bind every time they make one of these moves.  Either the name-change moves are significant due to strategy or important code changes (e.g. the move from WCM to WebCenter Sites signaling a shift away from Site Studio and to Fatwire) or they are insignificant (e.g. the move from separate ecm / webcenter products to a single WebCenter platform signaling an internal combination of teams and product management).  The problem is that outside observers  – aka “clients” – have no way of knowing what kind of a change it is.

So is “WebCenter Social” a marketing or organizational shift attempting to capture better market and mindshare or is it something more – indicating new pricing, deployment complexity and engineering?

Each time Oracle does this, people wonder what kind of a pivot it is. 

The silver lining here is that Oracle certainly is giving the lie to the myth that large companies cannot zig and zag in a highly agile manner.