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Why We Chose Mindbreeze for Enterprise Search: Fishbowl’s Competitive Analysis Across Search Platforms

Tue, 2017-11-07 08:56

Comparing Mindbreeze to Google Cloud Search, Coveo, Lucidworks, Yippy, Elasticsearch, and Solr

Last month we discussed replacing the Google Search Appliance (GSA) and the Top 5 Reasons We Chose Mindbreeze. In this follow-up, we’ll explore the other vendors who made our shortlist and how they all stack up. In case you missed the last post, here’s a recap of the key requirements against which we were evaluating each solution:

  • Options for searching on-premise content
  • Connectors and connector frameworks for indexing non-web data sources
  • Support for public and secure use cases
  • Tools and APIs for search interface integration
  • Minimal development efforts and ongoing administration required
Mindbreeze vs. Google Cloud Search

As a Google Premier Partner and GSA implementer, we naturally looked to Google for GSA replacement options. At the time of our evaluation, Google Cloud Search did not have any features available to address indexing on-premise content or serving that content through websites or web applications other than their own cloud search interface. In addition, the status of their security integration options and administration experience remained widely unknown. While it was always clear that Google’s new enterprise search index would be cloud-based, the options for pushing enterprise content from on-premise repositories into that index remain unclear. The initial product direction for Google Cloud Search (previously referred to as Springboard) focused on indexing Google’s G Suite data sources such as Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive. Google has since changed their directional statements to reemphasize their intention to implement indexing mechanisms for on-premise content, but even at the time of this writing, that technology is yet to be released.

Our decision to pursue solutions other than Google, and ultimately partner with Mindbreeze, largely came down to the fact that we couldn’t confidently assure our customers that Google would have a replacement ready (and able to meet the aforementioned requirements) in time for the GSA’s end of life. While I continue to be impressed with Google’s cloud innovations and hope those eventually materialize into enterprise search options, Google Cloud Search remains in its infancy.

Mindbreeze vs. Coveo

As a leader in the enterprise search and knowledge management space, Coveo has ranked well for the past several years among the analyst reports for this market. They have a mature product which made our short list of possible solutions. Two primary concerns surrounded Coveo when compared to Mindbreeze and other vendors. First, their product direction is heavily cloud-focused, available only on Amazon Web Services, with a decreasing investment in on-premise search. Our customer base has a strong need to index on-premise content along with a reasonable amount of customers who prefer the search engine itself be available on premise for governance reasons.

The other concern surrounding Coveo was price. By their own admittance, it is one of the most expensive solutions on the market. Mindbreeze was able to meet our requirements as well or better than Coveo, while providing a stronger commitment to on-premise indexing at a more attractive price point.

Mindbreeze vs. Lucidworks

Lucidworks offers enterprise support for the open source search platform Apache Solr. Their flagship product, Lucidworks Fusion, builds on Solr to add enterprise search features, including connectors and administration interfaces. Our primary reasons for preferring Mindbreeze over Lucidworks concern the ease and speed of both deployment and ongoing administration. While the Fusion platform goes a long way in creating a productized layer on top of Solr, the solution still requires comparatively more work to size, provision, configure, and maintain than Mindbreeze.

Another concern during evaluation was the less-flexible security model available with Lucidworks when compared to Mindbreeze. Mindbreeze supports ACL inheritance from container objects which means if a new user is granted access to a folder containing 50,000 items, only one item (the folder container) must be reindexed to apply the new permissions. Lucidworks applies permissions to each document, so all 50,000 documents would need to be reindexed. While Lucidworks was able to meet our indexing requirements, we felt Mindbreeze offered a shorter time to value, easier ongoing administration, and more flexible security options.

Mindbreeze vs. Yippy

The Yippy Search Appliance attempts to offer close feature parity to the GSA and is available as a cloud solution or an on-premise appliance. Our biggest concern with Yippy, when compared to Mindbreeze, was its immaturity as an enterprise search product. Born out of the Yippy metasearch engine, the Yippy Search Appliance was introduced in 2016 specifically in response to the GSA’s end of life.

The solution is notably absent from consideration by both Forrester and Gartner in their respective 2017 market reports which base inclusion criteria on factors such as referenceable enterprise customer base and proven market presence. The solution also lacks interfaces for customers and partners to create custom connectors to proprietary data sources, an important requirement for many of our customers. As a search appliance, we felt Mindbreeze offered a lower risk solution with a longer history, large reference customer base, and mature feature set.

What about open source options?

Open source options were considered during our evaluation but quickly eliminated due to the vastly greater amount of development time and steeper customer learning curve associated with their implementation. For these reasons, we felt open source search solutions were not a good fit for our customers. Due to the high volume of questions we get regarding these options, I felt it worthwhile to include a few comments on the most popular open sources search tools.

Elasticsearch

Elasticsearch is a popular open source search and analytics project created by Elastic.co. Elastic itself doesn’t claim to be an enterprise search solution, but they do offer enterprise analytics solutions, and the Elasticsearch technology is often embedded into enterprise applications to provide search functionality. It’s easy to see the confusion this can create. Gartner did not include Elastic in their 2017 Magic Quadrant for Insight Engines. Elastic was included in the Forrester Wave on Cognitive Search and Knowledge Discovery as a nonparticipating vendor where Forrester stated, “Elastic says that it is not in the enterprise search market, but many enterprise customers ask Forrester about Elasticsearch, so we have included Elastic…” As a search tool, we found Elastic was better suited to log analytics than enterprise search as it lacks many enterprise search features including security, connectors, and pre-built search apps.

Solr

Apache Solr is a widely used open source search project. Many contributions to the project are made by Lucidworks (mentioned above) whose Fusion platform extends this core technology. Standalone Solr is a framework for creating a custom search engine implementation. While powerful and often used to build highly specialized search tools, it is missing out-of-the-box enterprise features including connectors, administration interfaces, and mechanisms to support secure search.

Lucene

Apache Lucene is a popular open source search engine framework. It’s a low-level library which implements indexing and search functionality and must be integrated into another application for use. Lucene provides the base search engine behind both Solr and Elasticsearch.

Finding Success with Mindbreeze

After undergoing our evaluation last winter and joining the Mindbreeze partner network, we continue to find Mindbreeze offers an excellent combination of built-in features with tools for extending capabilities when necessary. In the past year we’ve released our Oracle WebCenter Content Connector for Mindbreeze, had ten employees complete the Mindbreeze Expert Certification and helped a long-time customer migrate from GSA to Mindbreeze. If you have any questions about our experience with Mindbreeze or would like to know more, please contact us or leave a comment below.

Time running out on your GSA?

Our expert team knows both GSA and Mindbreeze. We’ll help you understand your options and design a migration plan to fit your needs.

Contact Us

The post Why We Chose Mindbreeze for Enterprise Search: Fishbowl’s Competitive Analysis Across Search Platforms appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

How to Configure the Top 4 GSA Features in Mindbreeze – Plus 6 New Favorites

Mon, 2017-10-30 04:12

In the past few weeks, we’ve looked at why fishbowl chose Mindbreeze as a GSA replacement and how one of our GSA customers transitioned to Mindbreeze. Today I’ll share how to set up the most-used GSA functionality within the Mindbreeze InSpire enterprise search appliance.

Dynamic Navigation

The GSA’s Dynamic navigation enables users to refine a search using metadata attributes as filters. Within Mindbreeze this functionality is called Filter Facets. A default set of filters can be defined for each Mindbreeze client service based on the metadata available from the various indexed content sources. The client service is roughly equivalent to the GSA’s client frontend parameter (as opposed to the proxystylesheet which also references a frontend but is more comparable to a search app in Mindbreeze). In addition to the filters defined for a client service, you can also define filters within custom search apps by explicitly adding the desired filters. This is true for both the GUI-based Mindbreeze Search App Designer, and for search apps built using the Mindbreeze API.

What’s New: Mindbreeze offers a multi-select interface for search facets. This was a much-requested GSA enhancement and allows you to refine your search by selecting among several facet options rather than a single option as available with GSA. Mindbreeze also allows configuration of whether multiple selections should apply AND or OR constraints across the multiple selected values.

Configuring Mindbreeze Search Filters

From the Client Services tab in the Mindbreeze Management Center expand the desired client service and navigate to the Filters heading. Check the box next to each metadata field you want to include as a filter. Any searches performed against this client service will return these filters unless overridden in an individual search app.

Document Previews

The GSA’s document preview engine creates image renditions of Word, PowerPoint, and PDF files for up to 30 pages of a document; previews or thumbnails are not available for other file types out of the box. The Mindbreeze preview engine supports preview settings for 91 different file types. For many files, the preview engine can be configured to create both a document thumbnail, for use on results pages, and a content preview which is typically displayed as a modal popup. For example, Mindbreeze can display a thumbnail of a Word document next to the result title, and a preview link which displays a full-context PDF rendition as the document preview.

What’s New: In addition supporting more files types and creating thumbnails, the Mindbreeze previews highlight all instances of your query terms in the preview rendition making it easy to see where in the document the relevant keywords occur. Mindbreeze previews are controlled by the Mindbreeze filter service which controls many aspects of how document contents are processed and extracted for indexing. The Mindbreeze SDK provides an interface for creating custom filter plugins which can alter or add to the standard preview generation capabilities.

Configuring Mindbreeze Previews

From the Filters tab in the Mindbreeze Management Center, expand the desired Filter Service. For each applicable file type, select the desired filter plugin. For example, to create PDF previews of Excel files, navigate to xlsx and select FilterPlugin.OfficeDocumentToPDFContentFilter. Like GSA, Mindbreeze previews are generated during indexing. Any existing documents will need to be reindexed for preview configuration changes to appear in search results.

Mindbreeze Preview Config

Custom Synonyms

The GSA and Mindbreeze search appliances both provide query transformation services for automatic modification of search queries. Synonym transformation allows you to find search results by looking for different synonyms of a word, therefore the query is transformed to search for every term listed in the synonyms list. For example, if a user searches for “FAQ,” the appliance could also look for documents containing “frequently asked questions”.

What’s New: Although a shared synonyms file is included with Mindbreeze out of the box, unique synonyms may optionally be defined for individual content sources. This means if you use different terms in your ERP system than on your customer extranet, you can define synonymous terms for their respective sources. Mindbreeze also offers two additional query transformation engines that address specific use cases often handled with synonyms in the GSA. The first is Replacements, which completely replace a defined term with an alternative term or terms. The second is Vocabulary, which specifies preferred and alternative versions of defined search terms. Vocabulary entries are treated as synonyms; however, the preferred label is given more weight than the alternate label when determining relevancy.

Configuring Mindbreeze Synonyms

Select Synonyms from the Search Experience menu in the Mindbreeze Management Center. In the table displayed, enter synonymous terms with one term per column and one term group per row as shown.

Mindbreeze query transformation can be applied globally or to a specific data source. To apply the Synonyms to all content, navigate to the Indices tab and locate Query Transformation Services at the bottom of the page. Add the SynonymTransformer from the picklist. Expand the configuration and add the following configuration: Property: SYNONYM_CSV_FILE_PATH and Value: /data/resources/synonyms.csv. To configure synonyms for an individual index perform these same steps within the Query Transformation Services section of an individual index. You can optionally specify a path to a different synonyms file than the default show here.

Suggestions

Both GSA and Mindbreeze can provide query suggestions within the search box that complete a user’s query as they type. The GSA used popular search queries from the past 90 days to determine the top suggestions. Mindbreeze offers a similar option called Similar Queries along with four other possible data sources from which to generate suggestions. Like Filter Facets, suggestions can be defined for each Mindbreeze client service.  Suggestion data is also available using the Mindbreeze Suggest API (api.v2.suggest). This API is useful when adding Mindbreeze suggestions to an existing search box on a website or application. The Mindbreeze Suggest API is similar to the GSA’s Query Suggestion Service /suggest Protocol.

What’s New: Unlike the GSA, Mindbreeze suggestions can be provided from a number of different data sources. Suggestions can even be displayed when a user places their cursor in the search box before entering any characters; this is called Initial Suggest. The following suggestion options are available in Mindbreeze:

  • Similar queries (this is comparable to the GSA’s suggestions feature)
  • Suggestions from a CSV file
  • Mindbreeze tabs to search for the current search term
  • Document properties from indexed metadata (e.g. Document Titles)
  • Recent queries from the last searches performed by a user

The ability to load suggestions from a CSV file provides an easy way to pre-populate suggestions and ensures they remain in the suggestion pool even if they are not frequently used. This was a common enhancement request from GSA customers.

Configuring Mindbreeze Suggestions

From the Client Services tab in the Mindbreeze Management Center expand the desired client service and navigate to the Suggest Settings and Initial Suggest Settings headings, respectively. Check the box next to each suggestion source you want to enable for this client service. Any searches performed against this client service will return these suggestions unless overridden in a direct API request. If suggestions from a CSV file are desired, the path to the CSV file must be defined under the heading Suggest Settings (Concept CSV) also located on the client service configuration page.

Beyond GSA – 6 New Things We Love About Mindbreeze

While Mindbreeze offers GSA parity in many ways, there are plenty of upgrades to be found. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Mindbreeze lets you boost (i.e. bias) the overall weight of a metadata field enabling you to increase (or decrease) the general importance of fields like title, subject, or keywords.
  • Mindbreeze provides built-in search analytics and application performance monitoring via the integrated App Telemetry platform.
  • Mindbreeze offers a native user feedback mechanism including screenshots from the users’ search results.
  • Mindbreeze provides access to the appliance OS and filesystem. You can upload your own files to support advanced configurations or create custom interfaces. This also allows the use of standard backup techniques on the index and configuration files.
  • Mindbreeze does not require secondary servers for connectors (e.g. Tomcat); even custom connectors run directly on the appliance.
  • Mindbreeze includes a search app builder which provides drag and drop tools for creating use-case specific search apps without coding.

If you have a GSA approaching expiration, we believe Mindbreeze offers the quickest and most reliable search replacement path. As a Mindbreeze partner, we offer both resale and implementation services, and as a long-time GSA partner, we’re familiar with the functionality of both platforms. If you have questions or would like to know more, please contact us or leave a comment below.

Time running out on your GSA?

Our expert team knows both GSA and Mindbreeze. We’ll help you understand your options and design a migration plan to fit your needs.

Contact Us

The post How to Configure the Top 4 GSA Features in Mindbreeze – Plus 6 New Favorites appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

Still Stuck on SiteStudio? Move Your Intranet and Modernize with WebCenter Portal

Fri, 2017-10-27 18:36

Fishbowl’s Director of Solutions, Jerry Aber, contributed to this blog post.

Surprisingly, there are still many SiteStudio (Oracle WCM) customers out there using the product for their employee intranet. We just chatted with another one this week, in fact. I say surprisingly because even though the product is technically under support (extended lifetime) until 2019, there are so many advantages and benefits of upgrading a SiteStudio intranet to Oracle WebCenter Portal. Oracle themselves outlined a few in their statement of direction document released back in 2012.

Fishbowl has done numerous WebCenter Portal projects over the last 5 years, and some of those have been SiteStudio to Oracle WebCenter Portal upgrades. We have found for employee intranets specifically that WebCenter Portal is the obvious choice due to its flexibility and how it aggregates content, applications, and data onto a single pane of glass. No more link farms, poorly branded sub-pages, and confusing navigation. If your organization is still  using SiteStudio for its intranet, perhaps this blog post will persuade you to upgrade and modernize today.

SiteStudio Revisited

SiteStudio sites are built on the premise of Templates, Regions, Fragments and Lists with a site design overlaying the top of the structure outlined by its architecture. It did include inline contribution and editing model that helps contributors manage the site with less IT intervention. However, the contribution model wasn’t very streamlined as essentially Word documents were used to structure page content and then converted to HTML. This caused numerous page formatting issues.

Compare this to ability with WebCenter Portal – and enhanced with Fishbowl’s Portal Solution Accelerator – to edit text inline of portal pages, and you have a contribution model that is truly optimized for business user contribution. The impact of this is more frequent updates to page content, which keeps employees coming back for new information leading to better engagement.

SiteStudio to WebCenter Portal: Making the Move

As customers consider their employee intranet/portal roadmap and SiteStudio upgrade path, a big concern that comes up frequently is regarding the overall “migration” from a web page-based SiteStudio intranet site to a Portal-based site. There is no natural migration/upgrade roadmap for making this happen as the underlying technologies are considerably different. Additionally, there are two large issues to consider: The SiteStudio code used to render the content, and that the web content is stored in SiteStudio data files.

However, what we’ve found is that WebCenter Portal sites can be created to consume the SiteStudio assets and use the SiteStudio development model by the leveraging what’s called the Content Presenter task flow. This is one way to ensure a tight and clean integration with the Oracle Content Server. This model works nicely when SiteStudio designs and tools are used, but does not translate well to any portal development paradigms. Such paradigms are way more flexible, modular and use current web technology patterns, such as Oracle JET, that not only make the site look nice but keeps it performing at a high-level.

Also, keep in mind this relegates you to sticking with the SiteStudio Data File storage model for your web content which can be a challenge when it comes to managing content and sharing content around the organization.

So, given that, what are some other questions you and your organization can ask to determine if upgrading from SiteStudio to Oracle WebCenter Portal makes sense and would be beneficial to your organization. Consider:

  • Is sticking with a SiteStudio design and development model future-proofing your platform? Does that help you deliver agile-like project and quickly respond to changing needs?
  • Does your development team want to use new web technology frameworks like Oracle JET?
  • Does your content need to be shared easily and seamlessly without conversion? Do  you want to continue to use Oracle WebCenter Content as your enterprise repository?
  • Do you want to provide easier contribution tools for your end users to manage the site better?
  • Does your organization have an initiatives around enhancing employee engagement, increasing employee retention, or attracting top talent – with your employee intranet viewed as the vehicle to help drive these initiatives?

If you answered yes to any of the above, the time is right to move from SiteStudio to WebCenter Portal. Only WebCenter Portal can deliver a modern and engaging experience for employee intranets, with mobile first design capabilities and the technology foundation for future portal creation at scale – on premise or in the cloud. It also provides the tightest integration with Oracle WebCenter Content, enabling your organization to centralize its high value content assets into an industry leading enterprise content management system.

Oracle WebCenter Portal 12c Value Proposition

WebCenter Portal provides all of this and more. It is a true portal platform that satisfies requests for a better user experience with better performing page loads, and page to page navigation. Furthermore it enables:

  • The ability to store content in a manner so that it can be managed and shared easily.
  • The use of inline contribution of content features using WYSIWYG capabilities.
  • Leveraging newer web technologies such as Oracle Jet, Angular, and others.
  • Integrations with Oracle applications such as E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, and Taleo – surfacing up content from these systems directly within the portal.

SiteStudio was a great tool for building websites, but one could argue that it was never intended to be used for building employee portals or intranets. If your organization is looking to do just that, and take its employee intranet to the next level, Oracle WebCenter Portal is the clear choice.

 

The post Still Stuck on SiteStudio? Move Your Intranet and Modernize with WebCenter Portal appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

Manufacturer Replaces the Google Search Appliance with Mindbreeze for Intranet and Website Search: From Racking to Go-Live in 37 Days

Tue, 2017-10-24 16:37

In today’s post I’m excited to share the story of a recent Mindbreeze deployment. One of our long-time customers, a global leader in the field of industrial automation, needed a replacement for their expiring Google Search Appliances (GSAs). They had used the GSA to power the search on their public-facing website as well as their employee intranet. When Google announced the GSA’s end of life, they were left in a need of a replacement. Due to its similar feature set and architecture, Mindbreeze offered an easy migration from GSA and allowed existing customizations to be reused.
Working with Fishbowl to implement Mindbreeze went very well. The expertise they brought enabled us to meet our aggressive timeline to remove the Google Search Appliances. Fishbowl’s knowledge allowed them to be flexible to our needs during implementation while still covering all the necessary material. We appreciated that.

Application Development and Support Manager

Google Search Appliance (GSA) Replacement, Alternatives, and Migration
GSA Migration Requirements

Google Search ApplianceIn order to provide comprehensive website search, this organization needed to index content from three different sources. First, they needed to crawl the HTML pages on the site itself. Second, they needed to index records in their parts and products database. And third, they needed to index PDFs and other supporting product documentation stored in Oracle WebCenter Content (their document management system). In order to serve their sales and distribution partners, they needed the option to restrict a subset of this content to only logged-in partners. This organization had previously integrated GSA search results into their website using a custom-built search interface which consumed the GSA’s XML response. They planned to reuse the front-end components of that integration while replacing the backend with Mindbreeze.

For the intranet search, they needed to index secure documents from Oracle WebCenter Content. WebCenter Content was also the platform through which the secure results would be served to employees. The search results on the intranet needed to include both the access-controlled internet documents, as well as the customer and partner-facing documents that would also be accessible from the website.

Mindbreeze Implementation

We began the implementation by configuring Mindbreeze to index the necessary data sources. Each of their three content sources required different indexing tools. The approach was similar to how the same data had been previously indexed using the GSA. First the Mindbreeze web crawler was configured to crawl the site. We were able to reuse the crawl patterns already defined when configuring the GSA. Next, content from their parts and products database was indexed using the Mindbreeze Data Integration connector. This connector uses the Talend ETL platform to create jobs that extract, transform, and load structured data into Mindbreeze without a custom connector. In this case the data integration job was configured to connect to the same tables they had previously indexed with the GSA Connector for Databases. Finally, indexing was configured for the documents stored in Oracle WebCenter Content. In order to index WebCenter Content, the customer purchased Fishbowl’s Oracle WebCenter Content Connector for Mindbreeze. Unlike GSA, Mindbreeze connectors can run directly on the appliance and do not require any off-board connector servers. The connector is deployed via a Mindbreeze plugin and corresponding WebCenter Content component and leverages the Mindbreeze connector framework. The indexing criteria had already been determined during the GSA integration and was able to be copied directly into Mindbreeze. Items from Oracle WebCenter Content were separated into three groups—public content, partner-only content, and secure intranet content. These content groups could then be restricted based on the various serving configurations.

The Mindbreeze application was a step up from our previous search application. We had no problems crawling multiple data sources (website, database, WebCenter) and serving that content to multiple front ends. Although there was an initial learning curve, it is easy to edit configurations and rebuild indexes with very little or no downtime. And the onboard analytics make troubleshooting issues a breeze.

Web Developer

Once indexing was configured, the results needed to be integrated into the website and intranet. Mindbreeze provides a REST API which returns results in JSON format. This integration is comparably easier than working with the GSAs XML or XSLT responses. Because this customer had already written an integration to facilitate communication between the GSA and their website, built using Adobe Experience Manager, they were able reuse their existing site’s search interface. Search requests to the GSA were replaced with calls to the Mindbreeze search API. This integration also controlled the scope of the search based whether or not a user was allowed to access partner-only content.

For the intranet, the results were embedded directly into the Oracle WebCenter Content web application. The customer leveraged the default Mindbreeze search interface, but customized the look and feel using their own style sheet. This gave them the look of a tightly integrated search page but required less than an hour of development to implement. In order to provide secure search, the Mindbreeze authentication mechanism included with the connector was configured. This mechanism passes the identity of a WebCenter user to the Mindbreeze appliance at serve time in much the same way as security search was previously configured with GSA. The Mindbreeze appliance then uses this identity to resolve the access control lists (ACLs) placed on the documents during indexing. This approach is similar to the early-binding options available with the GSA and allows granular access controls to perform well at scale.

Results

The entire project from racking the Mindbreeze appliance to releasing the solution in production took 37 days—although the total days of work effort was considerably less. This project focused on one-to-one replacement of GSA functionality to ensure completion in time for the customer’s upcoming Google Search Appliance expiration. Initial user feedback indicates improved relevancy compared to the previous GSA integration. Future enhancements include implementing rich search suggestions and document previews to further enrich search capabilities.

If you have a GSA approaching expiration, we believe Mindbreeze offers the quickest and most reliable search replacement path. As a Mindbreeze partner, we offer both resale and implementation services, and as a long-time GSA partner, we’re familiar with the functionality of both platforms. If you have questions or would like to know more, please contact us or leave a comment below.

Time running out on your GSA? Our expert team knows both GSA and Mindbreeze. We’ll help you understand your options and design a migration plan to fit your needs.
Contact Us

The post Manufacturer Replaces the Google Search Appliance with Mindbreeze for Intranet and Website Search: From Racking to Go-Live in 37 Days appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

Replacing the Google Search Appliance: 5 Reasons Fishbowl Chose Mindbreeze

Tue, 2017-10-17 10:42

Google Search Appliance (GSA) Replacement, Alternatives, and Migration
When Google said so long to the Google Search Appliance, we went to the market to find a replacement. We chose Mindbreeze. Here’s why.
If you’re reading this, you’ve likely heard the news that Google has discontinued the Google Search Appliance (GSA). As a long-time Google partner and search appliance implementer, this news left Fishbowl and all of our customers in need of a new search solution. We first looked to Google but determined Google Cloud search wouldn’t be a viable replacement in time for the GSA cut-off. We then went to the market to select the product we felt was best suited to meeting the ongoing search needs of our customers. The following key requirements ultimately drove the selection criteria that led us to Mindbreeze:
  • Options for searching on-premise content
  • Connectors and connector frameworks for indexing non-web data sources
  • Support for public and secure use cases
  • Tools and APIs for search interface integration
  • Minimal development efforts or ongoing administration required
Options for searching on-premise content

While it’s true that more content moves to the cloud each year, the majority of our GSA customers still keep most of their enterprise content on premise. Several of the search vendors in the market, including Google, have set a very cloud-heavy product direction. While there’s nothing wrong with that, the reality is that most almost all of our GSA customers need to index on-premise content. Some customers, although a smaller portion, also have requirements that the search solution itself must be on premise. Even those who are open to putting their search index in the cloud must still overcome the bandwidth challenges of indexing large volumes of content across the internet. Mindbreeze, like the GSA, is a search appliance installed on premise and is well suited to indexing both on-premise and cloud content. While Mindbreeze does offer a hosted version of their Mindbreeze InSpire search product, we typically recommend customers with mostly on-premise content run Mindbreeze on premise. A hybrid architecture is also available where customers can index on-premise content on-premise and cloud content in the cloud, then federate the results at serve time. Reason #1: Even as Mindbreeze expands to index and serve more content in the cloud, they are committed to long-term support for their on-premise search appliance.

Connectors and indexing frameworks

mindbreeze connectorsAn essential requirement for all but a few of our customers is the ability to connect to non-web-crawlable data sources using connectors. This includes SharePoint, file shares, databases, and many others. This also includes Oracle WebCenter Content and PTC Windchill, both specialized content management systems around which Fishbowl has dedicated implementation practices and which are used by many of our customers. To index these systems, Fishbowl developed highly specialized connectors tailored to these sources. We’ve also written GSA connectors for YouTube, Oracle Documents Cloud Service, and Liferay portal. As we evaluated possible GSA replacements, two things were very clear. First, we needed a solution with a strong suite of off-the-shelf connectors, and second, we needed a solid framework for building custom connectors. Mindbreeze has one of the best collections of pre-built connectors on the market, something they have been commended for by both Forrester and Gartner in their respective search vendor reports. Off-the-shelf connectors for Mindbreeze include SharePoint, file shares, LDAP, databases, Salesforce, Confluence, and dozens more. The Mindbreeze Data Integration connector leverages the Talend ETL platform to create integration jobs that extract, transform, and load data from proprietary sources into Mindbreeze without requiring a source-specific connector. Mindbreeze also has a mature SDK available for developing custom connectors to any data source. Fishbowl has already released a connector for Oracle WebCenter Content built on this framework. Last but not least, Mindbreeze supports existing GSA version 4.0 adapters and GSA feeds allowing customers to reuse existing integrations leveraging these frameworks. Reason #2: Mindbreeze has one of the best collections of pre-built connectors on the market plus a mature SDK for custom connector development and support for ingesting GSA feeds.

Strong support for public and secure use cases

Some of our customers use GSA for only public content, but for most customers, at least some of the content is secured. In certain cases, specifically when dealing with SharePoint, Oracle WebCenter, or PTC Windchill, complex security models with layers of inheritance must be enforced. Mindbreeze offers multiple options for implementing secure search. Their internal principal cache and authorization mechanisms allow for fast, document-level authorization checks at serve time using access control lists (ACLs). Mindbreeze also supports ACL inheritance from container objects to further improve performance. For example, if permissions change on a Windchill folder containing 50,000 items, only one item, the folder container, must be reindexed for the new permissions to be reflected within Mindbreeze. This was also possible with GSA, but is not possible with many of the search products on the market because permissions can only be assigned to individual content items. Mindbreeze also supports multiple user authentication mechanisms including Kerberos, Trusted Peer, SAML, and cookie cracking. Existing cookie-based GSA authentication mechanisms can be re-used with Mindbreeze making that transition even easier. Several of our customers use a single GSA to serve both internal (secure) and external (public) use cases. This is also common with Mindbreeze due to their client service architecture which allows configuration of both authentication requirements and data sources for each client service. Reason #3: The Mindbreeze architecture provides one of the most flexible, well-performing secure search implementations we’ve seen, while also allowing segmentation to serve public and secure results on a single deployment.

Tools and APIs for search interface integration

Once data is indexed, it is also necessary that the search technology offer both a built-in search interface and options for integrating search functionality into other websites and applications. Mindbreeze provides a nice combination of pre-built search apps and APIs for creating your own. Customers looking for the easiest path to value can leverage the default Mindbreeze search client which offers a feature rich, mobile friendly, search interface out of the box. You can add your own CSS file for a customized feel with very little development required. Mindbreeze also includes a Search App Designer which provides drag and drop tools for creating use-case specific search apps without coding. The Designer library includes widgets for adding filters, charts, grids, and galleries to various search apps. Mindbreeze also includes an export option which provides all the code needed to embed a search app into a website or application. For customers seeking a more customized integration, the Mindbreeze REST API allows search results to be returned as JSON giving you full control over their presentation. In many cases, customers with custom-built GSA results pages can keep the look of their existing frontend and swap out GSA for Mindbreeze on the backend. In fact, we recently had a customer do exactly this. They went from racking to go-live in less than a month.  Reason #4: Mindbreeze offers a solid combination of UI tools including a no-coding-required UI builder and a REST API for fully customized search applications.

Minimal development efforts or ongoing administration required

Coming from the easy deployment world of GSA, it was important we select a replacement that didn’t require complicated server farms, lengthy IT projects, or significant resource allocation. While we don’t encourage customers to completely forget about their search appliance, the set-it-and-forget-it mindset was prevalent among GSA customers for good reason. Once configured, it just worked. We needed a solution that offered comparably easy setup and maintenance. We didn’t set to out with a requirement to find another physical appliance, but the nature of our requirements made the Mindbreeze search appliance a natural choice. As a productized hardware-software package Mindbreeze setup is comparable to GSA and is considerably quicker than most other search solutions on the market. Even connectors can be run directly on the search appliance eliminating the need for additional application servers. High-availability and disaster-recovery architectures which automatically synchronize data between multiple appliances are also available similar to the mirroring options available with the GSA. And while we have found Mindbreeze to be more configurable than GSA in many ways, customers don’t need to understand indexing pipelines, relevancy algorithms, or machine learning to see great results. Adding connectors, configuring search apps, mapping synonyms, and viewing search analytics can all be done from the web-based Mindbreeze Management Center. Reason #5: The self-contained nature of Mindbreeze allows customers to get search up and running quickly and minimizes ongoing administration activities.

What about relevancy?

You might have noticed a few things conspicuously missing from our list of key requirements. These included strong relevancy, custom synonym dictionaries, search filters, and type-ahead suggestions. Mindbreeze offers all of these features. And so does everyone else. While these features can be critically important to a good search experience, they didn’t end up being important selection criteria because all the leading search tools have them. In many cases, Mindbreeze makes it quicker or easier to implement these features (see Reason #5) but the features themselves are not unique. I should also mention that these capabilities can be huge differentiators when comparing Mindbreeze to search options that come “built in” to content management systems or line of business applications, but those products are not the search tools we were comparing in this evaluation.

Conclusion

In the past seven years we’ve helped numerous customers buy, implement, and maintain their GSAs. Despite the disruption caused by the GSA’s end of life, we’re excited about the possibilities Mindbreeze has to offer. If your requirements are similar to ours, we believe that Mindbreeze offers the quickest, most mature, and smoothest migration path from GSA. As a Mindbreeze partner, we offer both resale and implementation services. If you have questions or would like to know more, please contact us or leave a comment below.

Time running out on your GSA?

Our expert team knows both GSA and Mindbreeze. We’ll help you understand your options and design a migration plan to fit your needs.

Contact Us

The post Replacing the Google Search Appliance: 5 Reasons Fishbowl Chose Mindbreeze appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

Using Adobe InDesign with Oracle Content Experience Cloud

Tue, 2017-10-10 06:45

5 Things I learned about Using Adobe Design Products with Oracle Content Experience Cloud

As a designer I am always a little leery when someone tells me they are going to ask me to change my process.  To my great relief moving from my desktop and WebCenter to Content Experience Cloud is not only easy but will make me faster.  Here are the first 5 things I have learned since making the switch.

From the Desktop to the Cloud
Working within the Cloud
Commenting in the Cloud

  1. Drag and Drop!  – Content Experience Cloud makes it easy to drag your exported package folder or image source files from your desktop into the cloud.   You can also save yourself a step and save directly to the cloud.
  2. Generating Content – If you work in an environment where one department generates the images and another might do the writing and a third does the final review and publish CEC will make it easy to collaborate.  Simply place the content from the different departments in the shared folder and BAM instant collaboration.  No more broken links and big file drops using a third party.
  3. Open your Adobe file directly – You don’t need to download the file before opening it up each time and relinking your image files.  Open directly from the cloud and immediately start working.
  4. Security – As previously mentioned you don’t need to use one of those third party’s to transfer your files.  You also can control who has access to the shared content at each step.  For example you don’t need to include all departments in the design phase.  Once it is ready for sharing the exported document can be saved into a production folder for publication. This eliminates the risk that a partially finished product would be published by mistake.
  5.  Shorten the Review Cycle – Shorten the review cycle by directing all stakeholders to the correct folder.  This will reduced the need to email each version to everyone each time.  Comments can be made directly within the folder.

Having the ability to work collaboratively within a cloud application is a big advantage for graphic designers.  The files we tend to use are usually large and sending them back and forth is a consistent challenge.  Without a cloud application teams are forced to export and package the project at each step and send to each other using a dropbox or similar application.  The next team member has to download the content to their computer make any edits, and then send it on to the next step.  Watch as I demonstrate how your team can use Oracles Content Experience Cloud with your Adobe software to cut out steps and make collaboration a breeze.

The post Using Adobe InDesign with Oracle Content Experience Cloud appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

The Fishbowl Team Wins the 2017 Modern CX Hackathon at Oracle Openworld

Tue, 2017-10-03 12:15

The Fishbowl hackathon team headed out to San Francisco on Friday September 29th with Chatbots on the brain.  Their goal was to develop a solution that would improve sales productivity and margin as well as to improve executive insights and information access by allowing 24/7 conversational access to a sales pipeline.  And so the sales assistant chatbot was born.

The team spent the following 2 days writing code, utilizing Oracle’s cloud based services, and preparing their presentation for the judges.

The solution was dubbed SalesBot – The Intelligent Chatbot that adds optimization and Machine Learning to data access.  SalesBot would enable staff to:

Prepare for Sales Calls

 

  • View Customer Order history
  • List Past Work engagements
  • See Purchased Products
Manage Day to Day workloads
  • Create service Requests
  • Update and query contacts
  • View support tickets
Query Pricing Datasets
  • Quote estimates based on historical pricing data
  • Optimize margins
  • Estimate time to failure of parts

Congratulations to our team of Andy Weaver, Danny LeSage, John Sim, Matt Hornung,  and Tom Johnson.  We will be applying what we learned by expanding our already existing chatbot Atlas.  For more information or to see a demo contact info@fishbowlsolutions.com 

 

The post The Fishbowl Team Wins the 2017 Modern CX Hackathon at Oracle Openworld appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

PTC Windchill Success Story: Measuring so they can Manage

Tue, 2017-09-26 05:45

AN EQUIPMENT MANUFACTURER LEVERAGES FISHBOWL’S LINKTUNER TO MEASURE WINDCHILL PERFORMANCE BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER A GLOBAL IMPLEMENTATION

A large global customer planned to consolidate their many PTC data management systems into one global Windchill system. End user adoption was going to be a critical factor in a successful deployment and the Creo+Windchill system performance would be a key factor to facilitate end user adoption.  The Windchill team wanted a simple straightforward repeatable method to measure the Creo+Windchill performance that would allow them to:

  • Know what the incumbent system performance was at the time.
  • Measure and performance tune the new system during pre-production activity
  • Monitor the performance on “Day 1”
  • Systematically benchmark and report system performance into the future

As each division was going through migration and Go Live, the customer would run benchmarks on their existing Creo+Windchill environment, run benchmarks on the future systems in the test/QA environments, and then they would run benchmarks during production Go Live.  They also run ongoing scheduled benchmark monitoring to insure system performance does not degrade.  Fishbowl’s LinkTuner gave them a simple process to repeat the exact same benchmark test again and again without loading cache and diminishing the test results.  It also performed the benchmarks on local Creo workstations so it perfectly emulated what the end user does every day (it doesn’t “fake” transactions at the server level).

As each division migrated and went live on the new global Windchill system, the team was confident the users would have a good experience on “Day 1”, and after all you only have one chance at making a good first impression.

Are you looking to go global or maybe go into the cloud?  Are you curious about what the end user performance experience will be like… and I mean really be like?

Get ahead of potential performance issues by testing and benchmarking performance with actual user processes and data with Fishbowl’s LinkTuner for PTC Windchill. Read below for a customer example of how leveraging LinkTuner enabled them to confidently roll out PTC Windchill to their worldwide locations.

RESULTS
  • The customer successfully deployed a global system that outperformed their expectations and high user acceptance scores
  • They consolidated systems for better efficiencies at many levels and processes.
  • LinkTuner regularly benchmarks and measures the Creo – Windchill performance standard from each global location, allowing the client to be proactive with their system administration

 

Contact  Rick Passolt for more information on LinkTuner

The post PTC Windchill Success Story: Measuring so they can Manage appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

Drive down WebCenter Content Storage Costs with Oracle Hierarchical Storage Manager (Oracle HSM) and Oracle Cloud Archive

Mon, 2017-09-25 13:33

Fishbowl’s worked with Oracle WebCenter Content customers that have stored as low as 7,000 documents in their content server and as high as 20 million. We are currently working with the customer that has the 20 million documents in their repository to discuss their options of upgrading to Oracle WebCenter Content 12c. The options being discussed include maintaining their on premise instances, or moving their instances to the Oracle Cloud leveraging Oracle Bare Metal.

As part of these cloud consulting engagements, we seek to understand their content management use cases and the content they are currently storing and managing. This customer is a large manufacturer. They store a variety of documents related to their industry including CAD drawings, but they also store business documents like invoices. The invoices are only accessed, on average, once per year but need to be retained for 7 years. They are stored on the same SAN disk array as the CAD drawings and other content, which are accessed more frequently and need to be presented to users quickly. This means they are paying the same per item storage cost to store invoices, CAD drawings, and other content.

A more efficient and economical storage strategy could be utilized with Oracle’s HSM solution. Oracle HSM software manages data between storage tiers to enable organizations to utilize the acquisition and operational cost differences between flash, disk, tape, devices, and the cloud. With Oracle HSM, large WCC environments like our 20 million item customer could store various content types automatically and transparently on the most cost effective storage medium based on retention policies, retrieval frequency and speed necessary. Such capabilities would better align the storage costs with organizational priorities as well as ease management overhead.

HSM could also alleviate any file storage cost concern of getting content off employee hard drives, file shares or other repositories into Oracle WebCenter Content. Content such as photographs used in a company branding or marketing campaign could be checked into WebCenter for long-term archival and directed to an economical storage medium via HSM. Not only does this ensure that high-value, expensive assets like professional photographs can be searched and found easily, it also enables them to be repurposed at a later time – alleviating the overall storage cost concern.

I’ve included below some more resources on Oracle HSM. The Oracle HSM team has even put together a storage cost calculator. Oracle HSM can also be used for video storage. How much storage costs could HSM save your organization?

http://www.oracle.com/us/media/calculator/tieredstorage/index.html

 

The post Drive down WebCenter Content Storage Costs with Oracle Hierarchical Storage Manager (Oracle HSM) and Oracle Cloud Archive appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

Oracle WebCenter Enterprise Capture Overview

Thu, 2017-09-21 11:02

Oracle WebCenter Enterprise Capture can help resolve many frustrations companies experience. Questionable data integrity, lengthy check-in processes, wasting of resources (time, paper, etc.) are common day-to-day frustrations in many companies.  Oracle WebCenter Enterprise Capture strives to remove some of this headache and much more, all packaged in a user-friendly, web-based interface. I’ve helped several customers work through the process from design to go-live, and hope to share my experience on document capturing solutions.

WebCenter Enterprise Capture is a document capturing tool that includes an initial review for the documents captured by the system. Images can be captured in four different ways: manual upload, scanner, shared directory, or email. All documents can then be automatically released to a commit process or enter a review state. When a document enters the review state, the user can go into the system and view the item and/or define metadata. Also, multiple metadata profiles can be configured so multiple document types can be scanned or uploaded.

Once a document has been reviewed and released this will move to a defined commit processor. There are four different commit profiles. These four commit profiles are WebCenter Content, WebCenter Content Imaging, Oracle Document Cloud Service, or Text File. The defined commit profiles allow content to be easily linked to Oracle products. This helps alleviate issues associated with creating a custom commit driver that will have to be maintained for custom solutions.

Government Use Case

A scenario that a government company may run into is that they are drowning in paper. They will have file rooms filled floor to ceiling with paper documents because of retention policy. Storing large amount of paper documents introduces issues for space as well as time-to-access. Many companies will agree that rooms that are storing documents could have a better use, and that those who spend time digging through those rooms to find those document would likely prefer to be anywhere else.

WebCenter Enterprise Capture can be a great solution for this issue. This allows incoming documents to be stored electronically, removing the necessity of storing a physical copy. In this scenario, WebCenter Enterprise Capture is used to capture all incoming documents. Documents can then be automatically checked into Oracle WebCenter Content, or another content management system. WebCenter Content server can be configured to meet retention policy standards. Also, this solution provides an easy search experience, so users can quickly search for and locate documents.  What once was a frustrating, time-consuming, and potentially sweat-inducing process is now done in the click of a button. 

Now with this solution comes another major benefit. When documents are stored as paper, companies run the risk of disaster recovery. Paper documents are vulnerable to damage in many ways. When documents are stored electronically they can be recovered or restored from backups to minimize total loss.

Construction Company Use Case

Companies may also find frustration with a complicated process to check-in documents. Every company is always looking for the easiest way to get data into a content server. Along with the complexity to get content into the server comes an issue of associating the metadata to the document. WebCenter Enterprise Capture can help resolve this frustration by taking advantage of database lookups and an automated check-in process.

In this scenario, all documents are associated to a unique reference number. This unique reference number is stored in a database that has all associated metadata values for that document. In this solution, an email profile is configured for WebCenter Enterprise Capture to watch for documents entering the system. The subject line will always contain the unique reference number. Once a document is pulled into WebCenter Enterprise Capture the database lookup is triggered to populate all metadata. If there are no errors, this document is released to the content server and checked-in.

This provides two major benefits. The first is that metadata will remain consistent because users do not have to manually type in all the metadata. The other is that by simply sending an email the document is checked in. This reduces the amount of time spent on checking in documents.  Moral of the story: the metadata is now in alignment with the database, the document will be easier to find because of increased data integrity, and the users spent less time getting the document stored correctly. Win-win-win.

Advantages Over Third Party Applications

The first major benefit to using WebCenter Enterprise Capture is that the system is in an upgrade-able state. When using Third Party scanning applications, there is always a high risk of not being able to patch or upgrade other Oracle software because these applications have not been certified or integrated with the new application version. This can also increase the complexity of your solutions and make upgrades grueling or–potentially–fail completely.

The second major benefit is being able to take advantage of Enterprise Capture commit profiles. These profiles are designed in a way to map all data within an interface. In a third-party application, this will need to be developed to be able to map all data. This will lead to customizations which take more effort/time to develop and maintain.

Overall, the time, effort, development, and customization for a third-party application is not as effective as WebCenter Enterprise Capture. WebCenter Enterprise Capture provides more reliability than third party applications.

Tips

When configuring WebCenter Enterprise Capture, it is best practice to think about using database lookups and choice lists. This will provide two benefits. The first being that users will be able to reduce the time to populate metadata fields. The second being that metadata will have greater consistency.

The email upload option in WebCenter Enterprise Capture is an option commonly used when data is being sent to a company externally. This currently only supports IMAP email configuration. If POP3 email configuration is being used, WebCenter Enterprise Capture will not be able to be configured with the email upload. This is an issue that Fishbowl Solutions has run into in the past. If it is not possible to change the email protocol, one option that can be configured is the directory upload. This will allow users to manually drop files off in a filesystem location, or if this was from a multifunctional scanner, a profile can be configured to drop off to the shared watch directory. These files are then ready for Capture.

Conclusion

Overall, WebCenter Enterprise Capture is a document capturing tool that can resolve business problems or help alleviate struggles with current configurations. This tool is very flexible on how documents can be captured and committed. By using an Oracle product, there is not a fear with patching or upgrading software compared to using third-party applications. When trying to resolve problems with document capture, metadata consistency, and easier check-in processes, this product should be considered as a viable solution.

WebCenter Enterprise Capture Overview

Oracle WebCenter Enterprise Capture can help resolve many frustrations companies are experiencing such as, removing unwanted paper, easier check-in process, data integrity, and many more. In my experience, I have found that WebCenter Enterprise Captures interface to be user friendly.

WebCenter Enterprise Capture is a document capturing tool that includes an initial review for the documents being captured. Images can be captured in four different ways manual upload, scanner, shared directory, or email. All documents then can be automatically released to a commit process or enter a review state. When a user is in the review state the document can be viewed and metadata can be defined. Also, Multiple metadata profiles can be configured so multiple document types can be scanned or uploaded.

Once a document has been reviewed and released this will move to a defined commit processor. There are four different commit profiles. These four commit profiles are WebCenter Content, WebCenter Content Imaging, Oracle Document Cloud Service, or Text File. The defined commit profiles allow content to be easily linked to Oracle Products. This helps alleviate issues associated with creating a custom commit driver that will have to be maintained in custom solutions.

Government Use Case

A scenario that a Government company may run into is that they are drowning in paper. They will have file rooms filled floor to ceiling with paper documents because of retention policy. Storing large amount of paper documents introduces issues for space. Many companies will agree that rooms that are storing documents could have a better use.

WebCenter Enterprise Capture can be a great solution for this issue. This allows incoming documents to be stored electronically. This prevents the issue of having to store documents as paper. In this scenario WebCenter Enterprise Capture is used to capture all incoming documents. This then will check items directly into the Content server for storage. WebCenter Content server can be configured to meet retention policy standards. Also, this solution will provide a benefit that will allows users to use search capabilities to locate documents. This will help alleviate time searching in a file rooms for documents and allow the users to just click a button to search.

Now with this solution comes another major benefit. When documents are stored as paper companies run the risk of disaster recovery. Paper documents are vulnerable to damage in many ways. When documents are stored electronically they can be recovered or restored from backups to minimize total loss.

Construction Company Use Case

Companies can run into a frustration with a complicated process to check in documents to the content server. Every company is always looking for the easiest way to get data into a content server. Along with the complexity to get content into the server comes an issue of associating the metadata to the document. WebCenter Enterprise Capture can help resolve this frustration by taking advantage of database lookups and an automated check-in process.

In this scenario, all documents are associated to a unique reference number. This unique reference number is stored in a database that has all associated metadata values for that document. In this solution, an email profile was configured for WebCenter Enterprise Capture to watch for documents entering the system. The subject line will always contain the unique reference number. Once a document is pulled into WebCenter Enterprise Capture the database lookup is triggered to populate all data. If there are no errors this document is released to the content server and check-in.

This provides two major benefits. The first is that data will remain very consistent because users do not have to manually type in all the metadata. The other is that simply by sending an email the document will be checked in. This reduces the amount of time spent on checking documents in. So, users reduce the time to check an item in and increases the ease-ability to find documents in the content server.

Advantages Over Third Party Applications

The first major benefit to using WebCenter Enterprise Capture is being in an upgradable state. When using Third Party scanning applications there is always a high risk of not being able to patch or upgrade other Oracle software because these applications have not been certified or integrated with the new application version. This can also increase the complexity of your solutions and make upgrades grueling and ultimately not work at all.

The second major benefit is being able to take advantage of Enterprise Capture commit profiles. These profiles are designed in a way to map all data in an interface. In a third-party application, this will need to be developed to be able to map all data. This will lead to customizations and more effort/time to develop.

Overall the time effort, development, and customization for a third-party application is not as effective as WebCenter Enterprise Capture. WebCenter Enterprise Capture provides more reliability than third party applications.

Tips

When configuring WebCenter Enterprise Capture it is always best practices to think about using Database Lookups and Choice Lists. This will provide two benefits. The first being the users will be able to reduce the time to populate metadata fields and the second being that metadata in a stored state will have improved consistency of data.

The email upload option in WebCenter Enterprise Capture is an option commonly used when data is being sent to a company externally. This currently only supports IMAP email configuration. If POP3 email configuration is being used WebCenter Enterprise Capture will not be able to be configured with the email upload. This is an issue the Fishbowl Solutions has ran into in the past. If it is not possible to change the Email protocol one option that can be configured to be used is the directory upload. This will allow users to manually drop those files off or if this was from a multifunctional scanner a profile can be configured to drop off to the shared watch directory for upload.

Conclusion

Overall, WebCenter Enterprise Capture is a document capturing tool that can resolve business problems or help alleviate struggles with current configurations. This tool is very flexible on how documents can be captured and committed. By using an Oracle product there is not a fear with patching or upgrading software compared to using third-party applications. When trying to resolve problems with document capture, metadata consistency, and easier check-in processes this product should be considered as a possible solution.

The post Oracle WebCenter Enterprise Capture Overview appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

Accelerated Mobile App Development with Oracle Mobile Cloud Service – Part 2

Fri, 2017-09-15 16:15

Part 2: Mobile App Development with MCS

In Part 1, we explored using Oracle’s Mobile Cloud Service as tool to provide the backend services needed to retrieve data from an Oracle EBS Pricing and Availability form. With our mobile backend and custom API’s created, the actual app development can now begin!

 

Creating a Native App

For the next step of my POC, I’ll be creating a simple iOS application that allows me to lookup a Pricing and Availability item and view its properties and warehouse locations. Before firing up Xcode, I need to click the “SDK Downloads” from the MCS Applications page and download the iOS SDK.

 

As I mentioned earlier, the SDK will allow me to make MCS API calls with one or two lines of code. In order to take advantage of it I need to add the static libraries and header files from the downloaded SDK to my project in Xcode and properly link them.

 

The SDK download also includes an “OMC.plist” file that will need to be added to my project. The OMC.plist will hold the settings that are needed to connect to our Pricing and Availability mobile backend. The Settings tab of the Pricing and Availability backend in MCS has several of the items we need. Since we’re using basic authentication, we need to get the Mobile Backend ID, Anonymous Key, and the Base URL of our MCS environment.

 

We’ll also need the application key we were provided earlier after creating our mobile client. After adding these items to the OCM.plist, the initial MCS setup of our project is complete.

 

When a user runs my app, the first thing they will need to do is login. I put together a basic login screen with username and password fields.

 

When a user taps the Login button I simply need to authenticate against my mobile backend with these three lines of code:

 

If no error is returned then the authentication is successful and I can dismiss my login screen. My user will then be presented with my search screen which simply contains a table view with a search bar at the top.

This is the point where we utilize the Pricing and Availability custom API that we previously configured. When a user enters a Pricing and Availability Item’s ID and taps the search button I’ll need to make a GET call to the /pricingandavailabilityitem/{id} endpoint in order to return the matching item. Once again, this can be handled with a few lines of code:

 

The response is then parsed and a result row is added to my table view.

 

Tapping on the result row will bring the user to my item details screen where the Pricing and Availability item’s properties are displayed. I also want to display the warehouse locations for my item on the details screen so I make a similar second call to the pricingandavailabilityitem/{id}/pricingandavailabilityitemlocation endpoint and populate the results in another table view.

 

At this point I have successfully achieved the goal of displaying EBS form information on a mobile device! As you can see, the amount of effort required to authenticate and retrieve the data was minimal, whereas without MCS those tasks would have consumed a large percentage of my time.

 

Creating a MAX App

While the iOS SDK may have made my app development seem fairly effortless, MCS actually provides an easier way for me to achieve my goal. On the MCS Applications page, there is a Mobile Apps section that takes you to the Mobile Application Accelerator (MAX) application.

 

With the MAX application, it is possible to quickly put together a mobile app with absolutely no coding involved. With its drag-and-drop web interface, non-technical business users can easily login and build their own mobile apps in minutes.

Let’s take a look at building the same POC as a MAX application. Clicking the “New Application” button will take you through a simple app creation wizard.

 

After providing your app name and choosing your screen layout you will be presented with a blank home screen where you can drag and drop UI elements onto various content areas. Just like the native app, my MAX app will first present the user with a search screen that will display Pricing and Availability Item search results. To handle this, I’ll be adding a list element onto my home screen and enabling its search option which will automatically add a search field to the top of it.

 

Next we’ll need to indicate what data will be populated in our list element. Clicking “Add Data” will allow you to map any UI element to a data source. Choosing a data source is as simple as selecting the Pricing and Availability Item resource from our custom API. Our MAX app will automatically use the appropriate API calls to retrieve our data. We can then drag and drop properties from our Pricing and Availability resource onto each of the four available search result row labels to be displayed. I chose to use the Item Description, Item Type, Unit Pricing, and Pricing currency fields.

 

Since our Pricing and Availability Item API call requires an ID parameter we indicate that the list element’s search field will be the source.

 

Our search page now has what it needs to lookup a Pricing and Availability Item.

 

In order to see the details of a Pricing and Availability item, we will need to provide an action on the list element’s action tab. After clicking the Actions tab, another drag and drop interface allows us to indicate that when a list item is tapped, we will be taken to a new Pricing and Availability item detail screen.

 

In addition to displaying the Pricing and Availability item properties, I also want the new Pricing Item Detail page to display the warehouse locations. To handle this, when creating my details screen I choose the “Screen with Top Tabs and Summary” page template and specify three separate tabs: Overview, Quantities, and Warehouses. For each of the tabs, I follow the same process of dragging UI elements onto the content areas and mapping a data source to them. My Overview tab gets a form UI element that displays my Pricing and Availability Item’s properties. The Warehouses tab gets a list element that displays a list of all warehouse locations for the pricing item.

For the Quantities tab, I wanted to demonstrate a nice feature of MCS with the use of a bar chart to easily view the item quantities at each warehouse. I simply drag a bar chart UI element onto the tab and map the data source to my Pricing and Availability Item Locations resource with the warehouses along the X-Axis and the quantities along the Y-axis.

 

With our app complete, testing it out is as easy as hitting the test button. An iOS or Android simulator will run right in your browser.

 

Testing on or publishing to a mobile device isn’t that much more complicated. Once you install Oracle’s Mobile Application Accelerator client app on your device, you can easily add your MAX apps as “apps within an app” via a QR code. Avoiding time consuming app publishing processes means business users can get the tools they need with a few clicks.

 

Compared to native app development, the MAX app was created in a fraction of the time, and as you can see, no coding was involved. As easy as it was to build my POC, MAX has its limitations. Screens can be easily setup to search, view, add, edit, and delete business objects, but beyond that, you might need to get creative. Developing the right custom API for my Pricing and Availability app could make it possible to submit an item purchase, but the overall user experience will be limited. For more flexibility, native and hybrid apps will still have their place.

 

Conclusion

Overall, my POC just scratches the surface of what MCS can do. With the platform API’s providing database & content storage capabilities, push notifications, offline syncing, and built-in analytics, most of the things mobile apps require are readily available without having to worry about backend hardware and software. Having the ability quickly to assemble these platform API calls into custom API’s that can be reused across many mobile backends means that MCS has the potential to easily bring many aspects of a business to mobile devices.

By utilizing the MCS SDK’s, many of the common tasks of mobile app development that had previously been significant technical hurdles now become minor steps handled with a few lines of code. Considering the amount of effort that some of these common tasks required in my previous mobile projects, I believe MCS could have cut my development time in half. Realistically, organizations could have a mobile app in production use within a matter of hours. Being able to realize such quick time to value with a mobile app is definitely a key value proposition of MCS, so if that is important to your organization I recommend you give MCS a try.

The post Accelerated Mobile App Development with Oracle Mobile Cloud Service – Part 2 appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

Accelerated Mobile App Development with Oracle Mobile Cloud Service – Part 1

Fri, 2017-09-15 13:45

Part 1: MCS Mobile Backends

The past decade has seen a steady rise in the use of mobile applications across nearly all industries. At Fishbowl Solutions, we have played a part in this trend by developing a series of Android and iOS apps that allow users to easily access their Oracle WebCenter content from their phones and tablets.

In my experience with mobile app development, I have found that a vast majority of development effort is spent on the same common tasks:

  • Writing code involving interaction with the backend server such as authentication & authorization
  • Retrieving & storing data
  • Synching content locally to devices for offline use
  • Sending push notifications across multiple device platforms.

These tasks always take a lot more effort than expected and tend to feel like I am reinventing the wheel. Even after the initial development, periodic changes to the backend server often require updated versions of the apps to be pushed through time-consuming publishing processes.

Time spent on these basic tasks is time that could be better spent adding additional features and creating a better user experience. Because of this, I was excited to learn that Oracle’s Mobile Cloud Service could be the solution to these problems.

What is Oracle Mobile Cloud Service?

Oracle Mobile Cloud Service (MCS) is a cloud service that provides a set of tools to support enterprise-wide mobile development. It allows quick creation and deployment of the back-end services your apps require without the initial hardware and software setup. With a small amount of configuration, any of these back-end services can be made available to your apps via REST API calls.

To handle features required by most apps, MCS includes the following built-in “Platform API’s”:

  • Authentication & Authorization
  • Database Storage
  • Content Storage
  • Push Notifications
  • Analytics
  • Offline Data & Synching
  • Mobile User Management

Having to configure all of these features on your own server would be a daunting task and likely set you back days or even weeks, but MCS provides the capabilities out of the box within minutes.

In addition to these platform API’s, MCS allows custom API’s to be quickly developed in NodeJS to create additional back-end services. With a few lines of JavaScript, additional calls to any of the Platform API’s or external services can be made allowing you to provide the exact functionality required by your mobile apps.

After your API’s are configured, MCS provides downloadable SDK’s for Android, iOS, Cordova (JavaScript), and Windows. Embedding these SDK’s in your code allows MCS API’s to be called with one or two lines of code compared to the many lines of code that would be required to make the API call manually.

MCS Mobile Backend Setup

I decided to try out MCS by creating a small proof-of-concept or POC. One of the problems Fishbowl customers face is accessing forms from Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) on mobile devices, so I decided that the end goal for my POC would be to view the Pricing and Availability form in EBS on a mobile device.

 

Here is a simplistic view of this business challenge:

 

As a legacy application, EBS has no API of its own. To get around this we decided to enlist the help of a tool called AuraPlayer. AuraPlayer has the ability provide web services that allow us to externally interact with EBS forms. I’m not going to cover the AuraPlayer details in this blog, but the important thing to know is that after setting up the AuraPlayer services, I can now make a request to <AuraPlayerBaseURL>/PricingAndAvailability_queryByLabel?Item=AS18947 and receive a JSON response containing a list of my AS18947 pricing and availability item’s form fields from EBS along with a list of warehouse locations where the item is in stock.

Once the AuraPlayer services to EBS are configured my Pricing and Availability data is one step closer to reaching my mobile app:

 

At this point we’re now ready to setup MCS in order to fill the gap in the process. Our final configuration will look like this:

 

Any mobile application connecting to MCS will first and foremost require a Mobile Backend. Mobile Backends are MCS objects that group together a specific set of API’s along with the client applications and the set of users who will utilize them. In this scenario, I need to create a “Pricing and Availability” mobile backend that exposes a custom “Pricing and Availability” API to my mobile app. Since my Pricing and Availability API needs to make calls to the AuraPlayer services which are outside of MCS, I will also need to create a Connector. Connectors are MCS objects that provide access to external REST and SOAP API’s. Next, in order for my mobile application to access the mobile backend I will need to register my mobile application by setting up a Mobile Application Client. The last item needed is a test user who will have access to the mobile backend and the API. To summarize – labeled above:

  1. Create a mobile backend for “Pricing and Availability”
  2. Create a Pricing and Availability custom API
  3. Create AuraPlayer connector
  4. Register my app by setting up Mobile Application Client
  5. Set up a test user

Let’s now walk through the setup process in MCS.

 

After logging into the MCS interface, we first need to click on “Mobile Backends” and create a new mobile backend called “PricingAndAvailabilityBackend”.

 

With our new mobile backend created, the first thing we need to do is create at least one user who can access the backend. This can be done by clicking on the Users tab. In MCS, all mobile backends are associated with one User Realm. User Realms are sets of users that can either be managed directly in MCS or configured to connect to your company’s SSO. In our case, we will just create a new user called “testuser” under the default realm. Now that we have our test user, we can create our new Pricing and Availability custom API. When clicking on the API’s tab we see the message indicating that we don’t have any API’s selected, but before we create one we first need to create our AuraPlayer connector.

 

A new connector can be created by going to Applications > Connectors and clicking “New Connector”. In the connector setup wizard, I named it “AuraPlayerConnector” and provided the base service URL where the AuraPlayer REST services are accessed.

 

The Rules page of the Connector wizard allows any default parameters to be specified. Since all of my service calls to AuraPlayer have several required parameters I added them here.

 

The last step in the Connector wizard allows the connector to be tested. I provided the /PricingAndAvailability_queryByLabel?Item=AS18947 service URL I mentioned earlier that should return a pricing & availability item from EBS.

 

Since a connector must run under a mobile backend as a specific user, I select my backend and enter my test user’s credentials. I then click “Test Endpoint” and after receiving my expected JSON response I conclude that my AuraPlayer connector is configured correctly!

 

Our next task is to create the custom Pricing and Availability API that will utilize the newly created AuraPlayer connector. Going back to the mobile backend’s API tab we can now click the “New API” button. After providing the name of the API, the first thing to do is specify our available endpoints via the Endpoints tab. Clicking “New Resource” lets you add an Endpoint. I initially add two endpoints. One returns a collection of all pricing and availability items with a resource path of:

/pricingandavailabilityitem

The other returns a specific pricing and availability item with a resource path of:

pricingandavailabilityitem/{id}

where {id} is the item number in EBS.

Since my AuraPlayer services can also return a pricing and availability item’s warehouse locations, I decided to create two more endpoints underneath the pricingandavailabilityitem/{id} endpoint. This is done by clicking that endpoint’s “Add Nested Resource” icon. I create one endpoint that returns all pricing and availability item locations for a given item with a resource path of:

pricingandavailabilityitem/{id}/pricingandavailabilityitemlocation

I then create another endpoint that returns a specific pricing and availability item location for a given item with a resource path of:

pricingandavailabilityitem/{id}/pricingandavailabilityitemlocation /{pricingandavailabilityitemlocation_id}

 

For each endpoint created, I specify display names, descriptions, and available methods. For my initial POC, I’ll really only need GET methods.

 

With our endpoints defined, we now need to implement their behavior. MCS custom API’s are written in NodeJS using the ExpressJS framework. By clicking on the Pricing and Availability API’s Implementation tab, you can see a “JavaScript Scaffold” button which allows you to download a pre-built NodeJS project with each of your API’s endpoints already stubbed out for you.

 

After downloading the scaffold package the main file needing to be edited is the pricingavailabilityapi.js file.

 

In this file, each route will need to be implemented. Since my Pricing and Availability API is simply calling my AuraPlayer connector there won’t be a whole lot of work to be done. For my /pricingandavailabilityitem/{id} route, I basically need to do three things:

  1. Get the Pricing and Availability item’s “{id}” parameter from the request object.
  2. Use my connector to make a GET call to AuraPlayer specifying the “PricingAndAvailability_queryByLabel” resource and the id parameter.
  3. Extract the required elements from the AuraPlayerConnector results and return them in the API response.

 

Aside from building out each of my routes, the other important change is to add my API and connector dependencies in the package.json file.

 

Once that is taken care of, simply package up the files and upload them on the API’s Implementation tab.

 

With our Pricing and Availability API finished, our mobile backend is almost complete. As I mentioned earlier, in order for our mobile application to access the mobile backend we will need to register it on the PricingAndAvailabilityBackend Clients tab by clicking “New Client”.

 

A client is easily created by specifying the client name, platform, app version, and the bundle ID. Once the client is created you will be presented with an application key that will be needed when we build our app.

 

That’s basically it for our MCS setup. Within a few hours, my mobile app has what it needs to access the Pricing and Availability forms in EBS.

 

While MCS will prove to be valuable at quickly providing your backend services, it also provides the tools to save time on our front-end app development. In part 2, I will continue my POC by creating the mobile app that will access the newly created MCS mobile backend.

 

Next: Accelerated Mobile App Development with Oracle Mobile Cloud Service – Part 2

The post Accelerated Mobile App Development with Oracle Mobile Cloud Service – Part 1 appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

Digital Transformation Instead of Technology Evolution: Cox Enterprises’ Digital Workplace Success with Oracle WebCenter Portal

Fri, 2017-09-08 16:59

WebCenter portal devicesIn 2014, Fishbowl Solutions engaged with Cox Enterprises to build its employee digital workplace. Prior to that engagement, Fishbowl delivered numerous employee, customer, and partner portals/intranets, but this was our first project where the word portal wasn’t being used to describe what Cox Enterprises would be building and delivering to its employees. Instead, the phrase “digital workplace” detailed how Cox envisioned a consumer-like digital experience that promoted collaboration, sparked innovation, and helped employees get their jobs done – regardless of time, space, or device.

Now neither the term nor concept of a digital workplace was new in 2014. Tech vendors and analysts had been discussing such a workplace environment since around 2008, but you may may remember it being called Enterprise 2.0. What stands out to me regarding Enterprise 2.0 was how much collaboration or social capabilities in the workplace became the focus. Such collaboration capabilities as instant messaging, blogs, wikis, and document sharing were thought to be the catalyst for more information sharing, which would lead to more innovation and better employee engagement. However, the place where all this collaboration was supposed to take place – the employee portal or intranet – did not offer the experience or performance that users needed to get work done. Furthermore, the technology and associated features really drove conversations and platform decisions, and not what users needed from the portal or how they wanted to work.

Contrast the above with how Cox Enterprises decided which portal platform they would use for their employee digital workplace. For them, this started with a focus on the workplace they wanted to provide to their employees. A workplace where employees could collaborate and access relevant information from one system – regardless of device. They invested time and money to learn as much about their eventual portal users (personas) before they decided on the technology with the associated features that could support employee work streams and how they would use the portal.

This focus on the user was part of much larger “digital transformation” initiative the company was undertaking. This initiative really centered on making sure Cox’s 50,000 employees, which are scattered across several divisions and geographic locations, were engaged and informed. To enable this, Cox leaders wanted to provide them with a similar experience to access company, department, and personal information. After doing this persona analysis and user flow mapping, they decided that Oracle WebCenter Portal would be the system for their employee digital workplace. They based their decision on WebCenter Portal’s tight integration with WebCenter Content, which was key for their overall digital transformation initiative to consolidate as much content within one system. They also needed a system that could handle 1,500+ concurrent users, and WebCenter’s underlying architecture, including WebLogic Server and Oracle Database, exceeded their performance metrics.

I encourage you to learn more about Cox’s digital transformation initiative by attending the webinar they are partnering with Fishbowl on next Thursday, September 14th. Come hear from Dave Longacre, one of Cox’s project managers for the digital workplace project, detail the vision, steps, and resulting benefits for Cox’s employee digital workplace. Please click on the link below to register. Also, check out our employee digital workplace page on our website for more resources.

Webinar – How Cox Enterprises Built a Digital Workplace for 50,000 Employees using Oracle WebCenter Portal

The post Digital Transformation Instead of Technology Evolution: Cox Enterprises’ Digital Workplace Success with Oracle WebCenter Portal appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

Upcoming Webinar, “WebCenter Search that Works!” highlights Oracle WebCenter integration with Mindbreeze InSpire

Tue, 2017-08-22 09:16

Earlier this month, Fishbowl announced the release of our Oracle WebCenter Content Connector for Mindbreeze InSpire. The Connector enables the Mindbreeze enterprise search appliance to securely index and serve content stored in WebCenter Content. The Connector also allows customers to leverage the Mindbreeze Search App Designer to embed modern search apps directly in WebCenter Content.

As the quantity of unstructured information continues to expand, content management success depends on the ability to find data in a growing information flood. Without search that works, managed content becomes lost content. By integrating Oracle WebCenter with Mindbreeze InSpire you can improve information discovery, increase user adoption, and encourage content reuse through better search.

In our upcoming webinar, we will provide an overview of the Mindbreeze InSpire enterprise search appliance and our integrations with both WebCenter Content and Portal. We’ll cover what a typical implementation looks like and why customers are making the switch. We’ll also discuss the migration path off deprecated Oracle Secure Enterprise Search and Google Search Appliance technologies, and options for adding other sources like SharePoint and network shares.

We hope you’ll join us.

The post Upcoming Webinar, “WebCenter Search that Works!” highlights Oracle WebCenter integration with Mindbreeze InSpire appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

A Fishbowl Success Story: The Benefits of Consolidating Disparate CAD Databases

Wed, 2017-08-09 08:00

A large medical device manufacturer wanted to fully integrate their R&D, engineering, and manufacturing organizations. This would allow a more efficient, capable and robust product development system that would help the flow of new, innovative products and never fall short on quality.

One key obstacle was the amount of data scattered across the globe in various PDM, PLM and network folders.  This data needed to be organized and consolidated into a unified system with quality processes that would achieve FDA certification.  This consolidation would enable individuals to access accurate data from any location at any time.  Just from a CAD data perspective, there were 100’s of thousands of Solidworks files across 7+ locations around the world in 4+ PDM/PLM systems plus random network file folders.

The company partnered with Fishbowl to migrate the Solidworks PDM, PLM, CAD systems into their single global Windchill PDMLink system.  A key criterion for them choosing Fishbowl was Fishbowl’s LinkExport and LinkLoader family of products.  LinkExport automates the data extraction from PDMWorks and Enterprise PDM and LinkLoader automates the bulk loading into Windchill.

THE PLAN

The migration plan was to have separate migrations for each location.  Each production migration would be able to be completed over a weekend to minimize business impact (e.g. users would check files into PDMWorks – or whatever – on Friday and then check them out of Windchill on Monday).  This approach spread out the work and lowered risk since each location also needed to comply with quality audits as part of their test and production migration passes.

RESULTS

Fishbowl successfully executed 7 migrations that consisted of 100,000+ files total.  60,000+ files came from five separate Enterprise PDM and PDMWorks systems and another 40,000+ files from network file folders.  All data was bulk loaded into a single Windchill PDMLink and each migration was completed over a weekend so minimal disruption occurred.  The project ROI was less than 6 months, and the increase efficiencies and innovation have resulted in huge corporate gains.

 

Contact     Rick Passolt for more information on LinkLoader and LinkExport
Webinar: Automate and Expedite PTC Windchill Bulk Loading

 

Date: August 17th, 2017

Time: 1:00-2:00pm CST

Speaker: Rick Passolt – Senior Account Executive

Register

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Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

Global Financial Services Company Leverages Oracle WebCenter Content for Compound Document Management to Support Underwriting Memo Application

Fri, 2017-07-28 15:37

For this week’s case study, our featured customer, a global financial services company, came to Fishbowl looking to replace their current system they had for composing financial underwriting documents. The company’s existing system was 15 years old but had since been sold and left to languish among its customers. Additionally, as the tool had not been updated it was becoming vastly more difficult to use and maintain in a fast-paced environment. Then, our client looked into creating a custom underwriting memo application on Oracle WebCenter Content with Fishbowl.

Working together, our client and the Fishbowl Solutions product development team worked to build, test, and deploy a new solution to create a modern system with Oracle WebCenter Content. The collaboration between Fishbowl and our featured client proved its success as WebCenter’s content management capabilities and user interface elements reduced credit memo application processing time by 25%.

 

BUSINESS DRIVERS
  • Reduce underwriting process time to enable faster transactions
  • Replace inefficient and archaic system for composing financial underwriting documents
  • Integrate and assemble all content needed for underwriting process to users of current credit application software
  • Ensure content needed for underwriting memo application is securely managed yet highly available
SOLUTION SUMMARY
  • Fishbowl configured Oracle WebCenter Content to manage all content needed for underwriting memo application
  • Integrated Fishbowl’s Compound Document Assembly within company’s credit underwriting system
  • Underwriting memo presented as chapters which include risk factors, business description, operating risk, etc.
  • Compound Document Assembly collates documents and includes non-text elements such as spreadsheets
  • Users can check in/check out the documents and their sections directly from underwriting memo application
  • Users can edit a section of the underwriting memo while another user edits a different section
  • Document structures can be viewed as tabs allowing users to quickly and easily navigate from one report to another
  • Users receive notifications related to any work within system
  • All changes tracked within underwriting memo and versions stored in Oracle WebCenter
CUSTOMER BENEFITS
  • Content management capabilities and user interface elements reduced credit memo application processing time by 25%
  • Content publishing time greatly reduced providing quicker reviews and increased collaboration for underwriting team
  • Documents can be collated and printed for reporting purposes

The post Global Financial Services Company Leverages Oracle WebCenter Content for Compound Document Management to Support Underwriting Memo Application appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

Upgrading to Oracle WebCenter Content or Portal 12c: If not now, when?

Thu, 2017-07-27 16:56

Fishbowl Solutions will be kicking off a webinar series starting next Thursday, August 3rd. Our first webinar topic will be “5 Key Reasons to Upgrade to Oracle WebCenter Content or Portal 12c”. Why did we pick this topic, and why is this topic relevant now? Those are both good questions, especially if you are a well-informed WebCenter customer and you know that 12c was released almost 2 years ago.

To answer those questions, please let me start by stating that Fishbowl Solutions has performed many WebCenter upgrades over the years. While each one may have been different in size and scope, we have seen some common reasons/themes emerge from what drove customers to start their upgrade when they did.

Why upgrade to WebCenter 12c Now?
  • Get Current with Support and Maintenance
    • Premier and Extended support for 10g customers has elapsed. Most of the customers we talk to know this, but they might not know that they can do an upgrade directly from 10g to 12c. When you consider that Premier support for WebCenter Content and Portal 11g elapses in December of 2018, it makes sense to go directly to 12c instead of 11g. You can review Oracle’s Support Policies for Fusion Middleware here.
  • Explore Cloud Options for Content Management
    • With the release of 12c, Oracle introduced ways to integrate and share content between Oracle WebCenter on premise and the Oracle Content and Experience Cloud. This provided an easy way for organizations to share and collaborate on documents. If your organization is still deciding on your roadmap for content management – on premise, hybrid, cloud first – 12c provides the capabilities to explore use cases for the cloud while maintaining your content on premise.
  • Content and System Consolidation
    • Some legacy WebCenter customers come to the realization that they have too many instances of the system in place, as well as disparate/duplicate content being managed. Instead of trying to audit each one of their individual systems and fix or change any metadata issues, security groups, etc., they decide that doing an upgrade rectifies a lot of these problems, and enables them to get rid of content no longer needing management or retention.
  • Growing List of Environment & Technology Dependencies
    • Perhaps your organization wants to move the latest version of Oracle Database, but you can’t because your legacy WebCenter system utilizes an older version. Unless you upgrade WebCenter, your organization as a whole may be impacted by not being able to utilize the newest version of associated or dependent technologies.
  • User Expectations – Better User Experience
    • WebCenter Content and Portal 12c provide a better user experience for users and administrators. Since organizations want everyone to experience these better interfaces, they start to consider who the actual users of the system are, and they build an experience designed for each of those user personas. So while the upgrade to 12c would have improved the overall experience, organizations use the upgrade to design the best experience possible to ensure widespread adoption and overall use.

We will discuss each of these in more detail during the webinar next Thursday. You can find more information and register for the webinar here.

We hope you can join us.

 

The post Upgrading to Oracle WebCenter Content or Portal 12c: If not now, when? appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

Protecting Financial Data with Oracle WebCenter and Adobe LiveCycle

Thu, 2017-07-20 14:07

For over 15 years, Oracle WebCenter has been used by organizations to store, manage, and retain their high-value content. During that time, Fishbowl has helped customers leverage the system to solve many common and unique content management problems. We want to share some of those success stories with you, with the hope that they will help you form new ideas on how to further leverage WebCenter in your organization. Starting today, we will be publishing an “Oracle WebCenter case study of the week “. These case studies will highlight the ways customers are using WebCenter to solve their business problems and drive new process efficiencies.

This week’s customer case study details a global manufacturer of aluminum rolled products. This company came to Fishbowl in search of a solution to make access to payroll information much more available to employees and financial officers, as well as secure the information provided. Fishbowl utilized Oracle WebCenter Imaging & Capture and Adobe LiveCycle to satisfy this content management use case, and also help the customer save around $75,000.

Business Drivers
  • Reduce costly distribution processes involving printing and mailing over 30,000 pages of reports per year.
  • Make access to payroll information much more readily available to employees and financial auditors.
  • Ensure payroll data stored in Oracle WebCenter is highly secure.
Solution Summary
  • Fishbowl implemented WebCenter Capture and Imaging to scan and manage over a dozen types payroll-related reports including payroll closing, direct deposits, W-4s, and garnishments.
  • Imaged documents output to directory where security policies are applied using Adobe Live Cycle’s Information Rights module. This further ensures unauthorized document access.
  • Documents with security information uploaded and stored in existing Oracle WebCenter Content instance and available for viewing by authenticated users.
Oracle WebCenter and Adobe LiveCycle

Document flow from capture with WebCenter to securing content with Adobe Information Rights Mangement.

Customer Benefits
  • Reduced estimated yearly cost of $75,000 to print and mail over 30,000 payroll-related documents.
  • Ensured that sensitive employee data cannot be seen by unauthorized users.
  • Created a much more accessible and simple Payroll processing system to manage and retain the company’s 16,000+ documents.

 

The post Protecting Financial Data with Oracle WebCenter and Adobe LiveCycle appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

The Future of Content Management: Oracle Content & Experience Cloud

Thu, 2017-07-20 14:05

What is the Content and Experience Cloud?

Content and Experience Cloud (CEC) is Oracle’s cloud platform solution for content management and delivery. It brings together Oracle’s Documents Cloud Service (Content) and Oracle’s Sites Cloud Service (Experience) to make a centrally managed platform for your business to contribute, collaborate, and share its content. It sets out to solve many of the headaches associated with content management solutions of the past and present, including:

  • Poor user experience
  • Security concerns
  • Limited access to content and collaboration

This can be drawn as a parallel to Oracle’s motto throughout marketing their Documents Cloud Service: “Simple, Secure, Everywhere”.

In this post, I’m going to detail how Content and Experience Cloud meets each of these challenges, describing some of the features available. I’ll also give an overview of some of the custom development efforts I’ve achieved in the past few weeks, and what kind of enterprise applications could be developed using similar approaches.

Solving the Problems with Traditional Content Management Systems – Including Oracle WebCenter.

User Experience – Low user adoption and poor user experience have been major challenges facing legacy content management systems. Oracle Content & Experience Cloud aims to remedy some of these problems in a number of ways.

  • Mobile, tablet, and desktop access:
    • Oracle adopted a mobile-forward design pattern for CEC interfaces to adjust for devices that can be used anywhere.
    • View, edit, and manage files from any of these devices with the applications Oracle has provided. All desktop and mobile application downloads can be found together on the “Download Apps” page of your CEC service interface, while mobile apps can also be found on both major mobile app markets (Android App and iPhone App).
  • Share files or folders simply, with the ability to assign access levels to limit what can be done to the content.
  • Conversations can be started about folders, files, or a separate topic altogether.
    • Annotations can be made on specific parts of a document.
    • Documents can be attached to conversations.
    • Conversations can be accessed from the web, desktop, and mobile apps.
  • Integrations exist out of the box with programs like Microsoft Word and Excel for syncing documents or spreadsheets to the cloud. A UI overlay will appear on the program, visually confirming the document as it syncs to the cloud, and expands to provide users actions like viewing content access history and versions, starting or viewing the document’s conversation, or sharing the document with other members or with anyone by generating public links. Additional actions will also exist in the file menus, allowing users to manage nearly everything about their documents without needing to leave the editor.

Security – A concern of many businesses considering cloud content management is the safety of their files. Oracle secures files through a multi-layered approach.

  • Access to the CEC service requires a username and password managed by a service administrator.
  • Files are encrypted through SSL while in storage and transit to the cloud.
  • Content owners have access control to the content and folders, which can be customized for different tiers of access. Users who are given access to a file in a folder will not have access to the other files that exist within the folder.
  • Service admins have the option to configure virus scans on files upon upload to the cloud. Infected files will be quarantined from the system.
  • Passcodes can be set for mobile devices accessing the cloud. Any files downloaded from the cloud will additionally require authentication to the CEC app in order to be decrypted.
  • Websites can have security applied to control:
    • Individual user/group membership to the published site.
    • Who can see the site when it is (un)published.
    • Who can see or interact with secured content on the site.
  • CEC also include access to analytics, auditing and automatic backups.

Access to Content, and Collaboration – Productivity can suffer when content is difficult to access, or hard to find. Content and Experience Cloud provides availability to content anywhere, with streamlined methods of sharing and collaboration.

  • The CEC interface gives users the ability to rapidly collaborate internally or externally by sharing content with other members, or creating public links to folders or files.
  • Mobile, tablet, and desktop access out of the box allows users to view and manage content on the go.
  • Content can be worked on without internet access, and can be synced to the cloud once you regain connectivity.
  • Workflow and review processes allow content to easily and efficiently get published.
  • Conversations allow users to comment on files, folders, or digital assets (including the ability to highlight and annotate specific areas of text, and attach files to your comments).
Customizing Your Experience

Oracle provides several expanding development resources that can be used to customize sites on CEC. The modular structure of the site components, and use of modern web libraries and frameworks like RequireJS, KnockoutJS, and Mustache templating help streamline the process of site development, and create a more responsive and rich experience for the end user. I’ve developed a couple proof of concept examples which can serve as a stepping stone to custom enterprise components that are either static, or dynamically accessing files housed in the cloud service.

Custom Component #1: Update Static Content without Coding

Using some of Oracle’s development documentation as a base, the first component I created demonstrates the ability to update static page content through custom settings without touching the code. It utilizes the SitesSDK, which provides a set of functions to integrate custom components with the Content and Experience Cloud. These functions are particularly helpful in providing storage and retrieval of custom settings used to configure components on the page.

For example, when the component is first set on the page, it will load the default settings values, and render them to the template. While editing the site, you can access the settings in the dropdown menu located on the top right of the component.

Custom settings were defined for each of the titles and descriptions of the tile elements. By simply updating the input text for each of these fields in the form and pressing enter, the values update immediately on the component within the page. Moreover, when I am happy with the changes I can click “Save” and “Publish”, and those settings will be published to the site and persist for everyone until they need to be changed again. Anyone with permissions to edit the site would be able to update these values in a matter of seconds and publish the changes without any outages. You can see that updating the “Title 1” field to the value “My Title”, and the “Text 1” field to the value “My Description” will update the first tile within the component.

To demonstrate another use of custom settings, I’ve integrated a filepicker that allows the user to navigate files stored in the cloud, and select image to be displayed in the component on the page. Data returned by the SitesSDK can also give us some information on the image, which may be useful depending on the demands of your component. The image, and information about the image will also display immediately on the component so the editor of the site has a preview of the site with the updated component before publishing it to the site for everyone to see.

Custom settings provide a great way to manage elements of a page on your site that occasionally need manual changes, and don’t necessarily need to rely on pulling content dynamically from the cloud or another source. It gives site managers flexibility to make changes on the fly, and keep the site fresh and current for its audience.

Custom Component #2: Browser for Cloud Content

The second component I created utilizes Oracle’s Content Management API to build a content browser which displays previews, information, and actions on content living in the cloud. The API provides multiple endpoints to allow viewing, creating, modifying, and deleting folders and files. It can also retrieve information on users in the system. Oracle is working to extend the number and functionality of these endpoints in future releases.

In the above screenshot, you can see the documents view from the CEC interface, and the files that live in the “images” folder. Below is the screenshot of the custom component which grabs all of this information, and renders it to the site. The data returned in the responses make it possible to call for thumbnails of images and documents, as well as build actions like “View” and “Download” to open the full file on the CEC interface, or download the file respectively. This functionality can be used to create components that grab content dynamically and display it to your site as it is contributed to the cloud.

With an enterprise-level account, content administrators will have the ability to define their own structured content with access to Content Types, Content Items, Content Layouts, and Digital Assets. This allows the design of content specific to your business, and opens the door to develop components like a news feed which filters and displays only news content items in a widget on the page, or a search form which can return content filtered on any number of criteria.

Conclusion & Looking to the Future: Integrating with On-Premise and other Back-Office Applications

Content and Experience Cloud provides an ideal platform for content management in the cloud. It aggregates content, digital assets, conversations, and sites to a single location, where power users can delegate access to the people who need it, anywhere. Surface your content to sites on the cloud using custom components to build an interface that works for your business. Make updates quickly to provide always-current information without modifying site code, or taking the system offline. Oracle continues to improve and expand on the API endpoints and other development materials with future releases.

I will be working to integrate some of Fishbowl Solutions’ SPA taskflows into custom components for display on CEC Sites similar to what I’ve shown in the previous section, except the taskflow code will be hooked into an existing on-premise WebCenter Content instance to serve back content housed in a locally managed database rather than the Document Cloud Service. This will provide options to businesses looking to transition to the cloud service for benefits like site servers being hosted on the cloud, simple site/component management, and near-instant publishing, while still maintaining all the same content on-prem.

Another integration planned for future development is integration with the AuraPlayer service. AuraPlayer provides the ability to wrap existing Oracle Forms/EBS systems as web services which can eventually be surfaced on a Content and Experience Cloud site as a modern, mobile-friendly, responsive UI. With CEC already accessible by tablet and mobile devices, it stands out as a strong platform candidate.

The post The Future of Content Management: Oracle Content & Experience Cloud appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

A Sneak Peek at Oracle’s Chatbot Cloud Service and 5 Key Factors Necessary for Bot ROI

Thu, 2017-05-18 15:40

In early May, I flew out to Oracle HQ in San Francisco for an early look at their yet-to-be released Oracle Intelligent Bots Service.  The training left me ecstatic that the technology to quickly build great chatbots is finally here. However, the question remains, can chatbots provide real value for your business?

What is a chatbot?

A chatbot is a program that simulates a conversation partner over a messaging app. It can integrate with any kind of messaging client, such as Facebook, WeChat, WhatsApp, Slack, Skype, or you could even build your own client. If you’ve been following our blog, you may have already seen the chatbot (Atlas) we built as part of our annual hackathon.

Here is an example conversation I had with Atlas recently:

Chatbot Conversations

Chatbots use Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning algorithms to take what the user said and match it up against pre-defined conversations. Understanding how chatbots recognize phrases can help determine what conversations a user could have with a bot. Here is some chatbot terminology:

  • An intent is something the users wants, and the bot maps this to an action. For example, the user might want to say some form of “Hi” to the bot, and we would want the bot to respond with a random greeting. A chatbot generally has up to 2,000 intents.
  • Utterances are examples of different phrases that represent an intent. An intent might have 10-15 utterances. The bot will be able to match statements similar to those utterances to the intent, but what a user says doesn’t have to exactly match an utterance. This is where the language processing algorithms are used.
  • Entities are key variables the bot can parse from the intent.

Suppose we are building an HR chatbot that can help users reset passwords. The goal is for our bot to understand that the user needs a password reset link, and then send the correct link to the user. Our intent could be called Password Reset. Since the user could have accounts for different services, we would need to create an entity called AccountType for our bot to parse from what the user said. AccountType could map to “Gitlab”, “WebCenter”, or “OpenAir”.

As a rough design, we could start with:

  • Intent: Password Reset
  • Utterances:
    • I’d like to reset my password.
    • How do I change my password for Gitlab?
    • I forgot my WebCenter pw, can you help?
    • Please assist me in receiving a new password.
    • Forgot my passcode for OpenAir.
    • Give me another password.
  • Entity: AccountType (Gitlab, WebCenter, OpenAir)

Intents like this one will need to be set up for a bot to know what to do when a user says something. If a user asks the bot a question it doesn’t have an intent for, it won’t know what to do and the user will get frustrated. Our bot still won’t know how to order a pizza, but it could help with password resets.

Key Factor #1: Chatbots should have a purpose

A chatbot can only answer questions it is designed to answer. If I was building an HR Help chatbot, it probably would not be able to order a pizza, rent a car for you, or check the weather. It could, for example, reset passwords, report harassment, set up a new hire, and search for policies. Once the requirements are set, developers can build, design, and test to ensure the bot has those capabilities.

This makes it important to set expectations with the user on what types of questions they can ask it, without giving the user a list of questions. Introducing a bot along with its purpose will help with this. For example, we could have the HR Help Bot, the Travel Planning bot, or the Sales Rep Info bot. If we introduced the Fishbowl Ask-Me-Anything bot, users will start asking it a lot of questions we didn’t plan for it to be able to answer.

Conversations can be more complicated than a simple back and forth, or question and answer. The capability is there (Oracle’s solution gives developers full control over a Conversational State Machine), but I have yet to explore the full capabilities.

Once a purpose and a set of intents are identified, a chatbot could be a useful tool to engage customers or employees.

Key Factor #2: Design Architecture

Bots are great for interacting with difference services. Oracle Intelligent Bot Service is designed to make it easy for developers to make REST API calls and database lookups in between parsing what the user says, and returning a response.

Here are a few things to think about when designing a bot’s architecture:

  • Integrations: What services will the bot interact with?
  • Security: Are users typing their bank account number over Facebook chat?
  • Human interaction: How will the bot flip users over to a human to help when they get frustrated?
  • Infrastructure: What will be on premise and what will be in the cloud?
  • Performance: How to minimize network requests?
Key Factor #3: Analytics

Analytics can be used to improve the bot’s capability over time and understand the impact on the company. Some companies may already have metrics around help desk call volume or customer conversion rates, and it would be interesting to compare that data from before and after a bot’s release.

Beyond that, bot analytics will be able to show the performance of the bot. Analytics could show the top questions a bot is asked but can’t answer, how many questions it answers successfully each day, and what questions it mistook for something else. Oracle’s chatbot solution will have some capabilities built in, and the platform is so flexible it will be possible to gather any data about a bot.

Key Factor #4: Bot Building Best Practices

There is a lot to do when it comes to building the bot. From setting up the infrastructure, connecting all the services, and filling out all the utterances. There are some best practices to keep in mind as well.

The bot should sound like a human. Personality can play a big role in giving users a better interaction.

As users become more familiar with chatbots, there will also be a set of questions they expect every bot to be able to answer. This list might start with:

  • Hi.
  • What do you do?
  • Are you human?
  • Help!
  • Tell me a joke.
  • How are you?

When the bot is going to run a query or API that may take a while, it is important to warn the user in advance and echo that the bot understood what the user wanted. Some apps will also support “is typing” statuses, which is another great way to show the bot is thinking.

Key Factor #5: Testing

Users have high expectations for the intelligence level of a chatbot. They expect the Machine Learning algorithms to work well, and the bot to seem smart. If the bot doesn’t meet their expectations on the first try, they are unlikely to use the bot in the future.

Testing and tuning utterances can make the difference for making a bot seem smart. The bot should be able to accurately map what a user says to the correct intent. Oracle’s chatbot solution has some nice testing capabilities around utterances and intents, and making sure what the users says maps correctly.

Chatbots are another piece of software, so it is important to do performance and user testing on it as well.

Conclusion

Chatbots are a great way to tie in a single user interface to a large variety of services, or automate repetitive conversations. There are plenty of business use cases that would benefit from a chatbot, but the ROI depends on thorough requirements gathering and using analytics to optimize the bot. That being said, companies that have already started down the path – like this Accounting Firm in Minneapolis – are seeing benefits from bots automating manual processes leading to a reduction in operating costs by 25 to 40%. Savings like this will vary across use case and industry, but overall the automation gains from a bot are there regardless of what the bot is being used for. We would love to discuss your ideas on how a chatbot could help your business. Leave a comment or contact us with any questions.

The post A Sneak Peek at Oracle’s Chatbot Cloud Service and 5 Key Factors Necessary for Bot ROI appeared first on Fishbowl Solutions.

Categories: Fusion Middleware, Other

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