Maximizing Mobility

Connecting iPads to Oracle’s WebCenter gives Medtronic employees mobile access to critical enterprise content.

by Alison Weiss, March 2012

When executives at Medtronic, the world’s largest innovator of medical technology solutions, first authorized the use of Apple iPads at a sales conference in April 2010, they weren’t sure whether the devices could be anything more than attention-grabbing novelties. But the increasing popularity of mobile computing led Medtronic management to realize the potential tablet computing has for the enterprise —if it was coupled with the right mobile applications.

“We immediately saw benefits from the iPad’s long battery life and being able to use its large screen real estate to tell our story and talk about our products and therapies,” says Jim Freeland, senior principal IT mobility analyst and Enterprise Mobility team lead at Medtronic. “But we wanted to move beyond productivity and efficiency gains to mobilize sales order fulfillment, inventory management and centralized content management delivery.”

Since 2010, Minneapolis, MN-based Medtronic has purchased nearly 13,000 iPads and created its own app store for internal use mobile applications. Working with Oracle Partner Fishbowl Solutions, also a Minneapolis based company, Medtronic IT staff has extended its Oracle WebCenter Content-based system for managing and distributing documents. This mobile content management system (mCMS) for the iPad links to Medtronic’s Oracle WebCenter-based back-end system and enables field sales staff to provide current and accurate product and therapy information to customers, with content designated by audience or topic.

“The solution not only provides our users with real-time (online or offline) access to marketing and sales materials, but allows our business units to apply controls and monitor the use of content globally,” says Freeland.

In the past, sales personnel had to spend significant time collecting product information materials and preparing for meetings by downloading and printing collateral. In addition, Medtronic is faced with the challenge of meeting government regulations that require up-to-date, accurate, and approved product information being shared with to physicians and other customers.

Since Fishbowl Solutions has over 12 years of experience integrating and supporting Oracle WebCenter Content implementations and has achieved Oracle PartnerNetwork Specialized status in Oracle enterprise content management solutions, it was a logical choice to help Medtronic make its mCMS app for the iPad a reality.

Fishbowl Solutions partnered with an iOS interface development firm (InFuse Medical) to create the mCMS for Medtronic. Fishbowl built the application’s navigational structure and an application programming interface (API) to integrate Oracle WebCenter with Medtronic’s Apple iOS native app. Specifically, the API enabled security authentication, the downloading and synchronization of content and application of content management rules.

According to Tim Gruidl, president and founder of Fishbowl Solutions, creating the security for the mCMS was very challenging because Medtronic has a great deal of proprietary information. “They required high levels of authentication, encryption and authorization, so we implemented Fishbowl’s Advanced User Security Mapping product, which is based on Oracle WebCenter content,” he says. “Users are dynamically authorized to access certain kinds of content, depending on their business unit and regulated region they work in.”

The beauty of the new mCMS is that it can be used whether a sales representative is connected to the web or not. In addition, Medtronic is able to monitor which files are being used and who the files are being shared with so the company can keep track for reporting or metrics purposes. Besides helping the company comply with government regulations, Medtronic’s marketing departments can leverage metrics to see where to focus their energy when producing collateral and discussing use cases with reps.

“Our reps no longer have to carry around a lot of marketing and sales materials, and they’re able to leverage that collateral to operate on the fly,” Freeland says. “While the iPad has not completely replaced laptops, offering our sales representatives tools like the mCMS, is a win because as reps head out to offices and hospitals, it helps them accomplish a lot more.”

Medtronic’s management believes mobile technology will continue to improve to meet the needs of employees and customers. In fact, the mCMS is just one of over 100 mobile applications Medtronic now offers in its internal app store, which is hosted on Oracle WebCenter. For 2012, Medtronic management expects other functions such as engineering teams, IT staff, and internal talent organizations to access and manage content with mCMS. “IT has put a solution in the hands of our business units here at Medtronic to drive how we use mCMS, and people are finding creative ways to use it,” said Freeland.

“With the popularity of mobile devices like the iPad, consumers are used to having information where they want it, and when they want it,” says Freeland. “That is what our app store helps us do, cater to this idea. With mCMS, we are able to extend big internal enterprise-class systems like Oracle WebCenter, to our users on their mobile devices.”

The success of the project has encouraged Medtronic and Fishbowl Solutions to continue with their winning partnership integrating other creative business unit mobile apps with the WebCenter environment. Medtronic’s mCMS solution was also awarded Oracle’s Fusion Innovation Award and Forrester’s groundswell Award in 2011, and is a finalist for yet another award to be announced in March of 2012.