For years now, there has been a strong end-user appeal for the “ease of use” of Microsoft’s SharePoint. It’s all about perception and appearances; SharePoint seems to have it all (the actuality of that is for another topic). Integration into Microsoft Office, web-enabled, workflows, tagging, revisions…..okay maybe Microsoft isn’t the only company out there with a product that provides all the core functionality for content management, but they make it look so easy. FileNet, Documentum, Oracle WCC—the list goes on, all meet the core functionality of strong document and content management applications. However, most technologists recognize that different applications have their strengths and weaknesses, and SharePoint, from an enterprise level, has its fair share of issues. “But it looks so easy!!” There has always been a race to be the best, grab the most customers, and be first in everyone’s minds; many will contend that SharePoint had been leading that race based on their pretty face and Oracle was neck-and-neck with them based on WebCenter’s pure muscle. The ultimate winner will have the strength for the long haul and the looks to keep the consumer’s interest. Oracle’s new User Interface for WebCenter Content has moved it from being the Sir Charles Branson of the content management world (strong and characteristic, but with a face only a mother can love) to Hugh Jackman (strong, butt-kicking superhero, with looks that drive my wife crazy).
As a predominately Oracle-focused consultant, I’ve always had to make excuses about Oracle’s primary user interface. I would say things like “it was created by developers not artists, but it’s solid and works” or “Granted it’s not the prettiest thing in the world, but neither is my car and it’s never had a problem and gets the job done.” The downside to these statements is that users have increased their levels of expectations over the last few years of increasing functionality and eye-catching UIs for all things web-based. Oracle finally caught on to the fact after years of competing with Microsoft for the small-to-midsize company market and for enterprise intranets and corporate information stores and as part of the new Service Pack 7 (also known as dot 8) release of WebCenter Content, a new streamlined and intuitive interface has been released.
Clean and uncluttered interface, drag and drop to the UI, Favorites, intuitive searching, Libraries, and user-controlled security put Oracle at the head of the pack again. Oracle is kicking in the afterburners with the new iOS (iPhones and iPads) and Android app. Finally, something that Microsoft doesn’t offer out-of-the-box. Oracle will be providing WebCenter Content apps directly for iOS and Android, while SharePoint users have to use third-party vendor apps to interact with their repositories (most often requiring companies to move to Office 365).
Oracle is learning and adapting to their customers wants and needs, and I think it will pay off in a big way. The new dot 8 release promises to deliver a user experience that compares and even beats Microsoft’s, and added features like the mobile apps, drag and drop UI, and overall product functionality enhancements ensure that they will keep their lead.
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