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Q&A: Industry Veteran Andy MacMillan on Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g

As vice president of product management for Enterprise 2.0 at Oracle, industry veteran Andy MacMillan has, for nearly a decade, lived and breathed Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g, which launched in January 2011.

We asked MacMillan to give us an insider's perspective on the new capabilities in Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g, which converges the best-of-breed capabilities from all of Oracle's portal products onto a single user experience platform.

Enterprise 2.0 Newsletter: What is the primary customer pain point that Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g addresses?

MacMillan: Let's consider the big picture. Our customers need portals to do more and more things. Traditionally, portals tended to focus on a single kind of task. Some were gateways to high-volume transactional systems. Some focused on content sharing. And some were built for social media and community. However, our customers increasingly need to bring all these functions into a single user experience.

You can imagine the challenge of juggling all these functions across multiple technologies and platforms. That's why we've brought the best of all our portal products into a single application with a single architecture—providing the modern user experience platform for the enterprise and the Web.

Enterprise 2.0 Newsletter: Any other more-specific business challenges you were trying to solve with Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g?

MacMillan: One of the biggest challenges of transactional systems has traditionally been exceptions and ad hoc processes, since they often must be completed outside the application itself. In response, we've converged social media tools with transactional systems. Now key information isn't dispersed into complex e-mail trails; it's preserved right in the context of the business transaction.

Second, IT organizations were struggling to meet the growing demand for composite applications—especially as portal needs grew more complex. Now instead of writing apps from scratch, developers can use Oracle WebCenter to create a library of reusable components that can be easily assembled into rich composite applications in a fraction of the time.

Enterprise 2.0 Newsletter: What was the biggest challenge your team faced during the design and development phase of the enhanced Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g?

MacMillan: Oracle had seven distinct portal products. Bringing the best of each into a single converged platform was our biggest challenge—but also our biggest opportunity. We had to rewrite components into one single architecture and design model. We had to make all the features work together and ensure the flow made sense. And we had to preserve the look and feel of heritage components.

Enterprise 2.0 Newsletter: What concrete benefits can customers expect?

MacMillan: First, we're enabling IT to build Web applications far more quickly. Second, we're empowering business users to do much more, including building mini apps without going to IT. Both of these are huge productivity boosters.

Finally, by bringing social computing into composite applications, we're pushing social computing beyond water cooler conversations by connecting them directly to transactional systems. Now such conversations can bear business results far more efficiently.

Enterprise 2.0 Newsletter: What specific new features in Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g are getting rave reviews from users?

MacMillan: We've gotten amazing feedback about the ability to preview PowerPoint slides within an Activity Stream—without opening Microsoft PowerPoint.

Customers are also really excited about in-context editing of Web content. We've gone from basic click-and-edit to much richer content management.

Finally, people really like how easy it is to create mashups from any content on a Web page. If I want to grab a calendar or news feed, I just select it, pull it in my workspace, and then reuse it as I need.

Find out more about Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g.

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