Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The End of Oracle Content Server

Howdy…

It's almost every day lately that I'm hearing from reputable sources and clients alike that Content Server looks dated, it's hard to use, the users are complaining, it's UI sucks and on and on. And they provide examples. UI hasn’t changed much in years, simple things take many clicks and page loads to complete, it doesn't look good on iPhone...

So is it the time we start looking for another ECM tool? Is the Content Server approaching it's end of life?

Well, SQL Server UI hasn’t changed much in years also and it's not going away any time soon. The same is true for the majority of databases, ERP, CRM and ECM tools out there. And they're not going away any time soon either.

Yes, Content Server gives you the tools to put together a quick custom check-in or search form, and many times, these forms work reasonably well, but don't expect it to produce a fancy responsive user experience with business logic, that looks great on all devices. It's an admin tool, not a UI framework!

And the good thing about all this is - simplicity. Content Server is awesome for tracking revisions, conversions, access control and retention management. And if you need to alter user experience, you have a number of other options. Here're a few of the popular ones:
  • New Content Server WebUI application
  • SOAP and JSON web services and RIDC API
  • The tried and true iDoc Script

Let's look at each in more detail:

Content Server WebUI

New Content Server WebUI is a standalone ADF application that uses Content Server as it's 'database' and provides its own cool new interface. And it's also teaches you a lesson.

You may or may not end up using the WebUI, but do notice the new approach it takes. It lets the Content Server do what it's doing best, without creating un-needed complexity. We at ECM Solutions have been calling this App Refacing and so far it produces results just short of a miracle. (This free whitepaper lays out all the steps)

Do let me know what you think about App Refacing approach in the comments section,

And let me promise you one thing - if you do it right and you don't hear your business users screaming with joy a week into implementation - I owe you a case of beer.

SOAP, JSON and RIDC

Here's my older post that tells you how to integrate Oracle Content Server with almost anything ... in 30 min or less. This keeps things clean and simple and lets you use the tools and the UI frameworks you choose to produce the results you want.
iDoc Script

Some developers are starting to look down at iDoc script and there is no good reason to do so. If you need to put together a custom search or check-in screen without spending a lot of time - I can't think of a faster way of doing it.

Here's the simple basic check-in screen that took less than ten minutes to put together and test.





And here's the code. Just copy the lines below and save it as Sample Check-In.hcst, then click on the Web Location link on its Content Info page for the form to come up:


<html><head>
    <$include std_checkin_html_head_declarations$>
</head>

<body>
<h1>Sample Check-in Form</h1>

<form method="post" enctype="multipart/form-data" action="<$HttpCgiPath$>">
    <input type=hidden name="IdcService" value="CHECKIN_NEW">
    <input type=hidden name="dDocAuthor" value="<$UserName$>">
    <input type=hidden name="dRevLabel" value="1">

    Type: <select name="dDocType">
        <$loop DocTypes$>
            <option value="<$dDocType$>"><$dDescription$>
        <$endloop$>
    </select><br />

    Title: <input type="text" name="dDocTitle"><br />
   
    Security Group:
        <$c=rsMakeFromList("SecurityGroupSet", "securityGroups")$>
        <select name="dSecurityGroup">
        <$loop SecurityGroupSet$>
        <option><$row$>
        <$endloop$>
    </select><br />

    File: <input type="file" name="primaryFile"><br />

    <input type=submit>
    <input type=reset >
</form>

</body></html>

iDoc gives you all the controls you need on the form with just a few lines of server side script. You're now free to use Bootstrap, Angular, Node.js or whatever the UI framework or library you prefer to use, and Bex's book is still a good resource to pick up iDoc.

So is the Content Server Dead?

Naw.

Is it going away any time soon?

I don't think so.

Will your organization be using it in new different ways?

You bet. It's only the question of time.

The biggest challenges in poor Content Server user experience are not technical. The tools and technologies you need to create just the experience your users been longing for are there and they have been around for years. The challenge is for you, the designer, is to un-learn the old 'traditional' ways of doing things and start imagining the new possibilities of how your users' problems can be solved with today's mobile technologies and improved user experience.

It's going to be fun.

Now what would YOU do to give your users the tools and experience they expect from Oracle WebCenter? Lay it out in the comments, below…

All the best
D

8 comments:

  1. Dmitri,

    Looks like the link to your white paper in the refacing section isn't working.

    David Channell
    Liggett Group

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  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  3. You may be right but I doubt it. WCC as you know it will probably not last another 2-3 years. The 'Cloud' WCC solution (Docs) will be it's forward replacement assuming the interface is developed out to support all current WCC features. If not, then it will just be a 'new', less feature-rich, offering for Cloud ECM.

    Already Oracle OCS has laid off most of its WCC consultants and reorged the rest. It is probably destined to follow SES (sunseting in 2017) as a component added to other offerings. And then there is the ADF stuff...heavy, clumsy, and often overkill, that will be the 'enterprise' solution recommended for all Oracle products in all stacks regardless of how well it fits.

    WCC is not a bad solution for some things but after working with it and comparing it to other ECM solutions, there are fundamental gaps that make it not as useful for the more intensive ECM work. Multi-version searching, branched versioning, bidirectional replication, etc are OOTB features of other ECMs but would require customization, maybe a lot, to work in WCC. It may be best suited as an addon to offer good but not great ECM to other Oracle products. I don't think that Oracle is planning on much more reinvestment so its utilization in other product stacks might be the only reason to keep it around.

    Or I could be totally wrong.

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  4. Great article,but the link to the white paper goes nowhere.

    ReplyDelete
  5. While I agree that WCC is still serving a good purpose, I think the point others are making is that it is not receiving much love from Oracle. The UX is how customers will judge a product, whether that be in the form of a GUI, API, command line, etc. Is it cumbersome to use? Is it slow? Is it unreliable? Is it relatively hard to set up? Etc. so if Oracle does not think it is worth investing into improving the UX then they are effectively saying, "We don't care about attracting new customers to this product or impressing existing ones." If customers have to invest in extensive customizations in order to use the product they way they want that will be a big drawback for them and competitors will capitalize on it.

    When I have seen this happen to products from other companies the product often is decommissioned in the next few years. Sure, this product is big enough it won't just go away, but it will fall behind in the market and users will feel incentives to migrate to other solutions.

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  6. Thanks guys and I apologize for delay in publishing comments...

    Something to think about for sure. Yes, I've heard the rumors.

    That said, products like WebCenter don't just disapper... and for existing clients, it could make all kinds of sense to continue using the product for a number of years.

    Now Content Server makes it easy to integrate to - with it's web services. I agree, ADF may not be the best option in many cases, so you could use the tools and the frameworks you love.

    It's a perfect platform for App Refacing approach.

    Let me know what you think...


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  7. To anyone interested: here is a video demo of our CARA user interface and configuration toolsuite for Oracle Webcenter! https://vimeo.com/113117002

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