Tag Archives: oracle

2010 BT Intranet user research update

I recently posted about the latest user satisfaction with BT’s intranet but forgot to mention one key area which really troubles me.  Self service applications.

You will know my concerns on their usability and the problems trying to improve it.  Well, the research confirmed all of these and showed me how much users are prepared to put up with because they have no choice.

But it is the huge loss of productivity because of the time taken completing tasks, asking helpdesks, colleagues or searching for online guidance or having to be trained to do these tasks which is my aim too.

I am working with my IT partners in BT and with our suppliers of self service applications like Oracle to improve the ‘out of the box’ usability.

This will take time but it is tackling the problem at the root source so should ultimately bring many benefits to BT and other customers of these applications.

Improving usability with Oracle

Oracle is holding their first Usability Board Europe meeting on May 5th.  I’ve been to a previous Oracle meeting and am keen to improve the usability of all applications BT uses.

At this meeting Oracle and founding members will:

The usability issues I will be raising are:

  1. Out of the box usability must be high
  2. Better usability does not mean more features.  It means features must be more usable.
  3. Think of users when offering help.
  4. Don’t focus on making error messages better, aim to prevent users making errors.

I’m sharing some slides I plan to use at the meeting.  Anyone want to add anything?

Mark Morrell meets Oracle: update

I met with Oracle and other Oracle customers earlier this week.  This was the first of what Oracle hope will be regular meetings with their major customers in Europe.  The main focus was on content and document management product features and roadmaps.

I left with the impression that Oracle seriously wants to continue improving the usability of Universal Content Management by engaging with their customers through webcasts and meetings.  The next release of 11G using Fusion promises to move towards what I would like – a simple publishing experience which needs minimal IT involvement.

I would like the following to happen next:

  1. Oracle should hold frequent webcasts with customers to cover future direction of UCM and other products like E-Business Suite.
  2. Customer representatives should have more business users attending with their IT partners.  I was in a small minority at this week’s meeting.
  3. Intranet managers who are Oracle customers should make sure they attend these meetings.
  4. Intranet managers should improve their relationship with their IT partners so they are more involved in decision criteria on products so it covers usability and productivity costs during its lifetime.
  5. Meetings should focus more on how Oracle products can be used by customers than on the components that make up the technology.
  6. An agreed set of usability standards underpin the direction of product roadmaps.

We should never forget the goal is to make it easier for people to do their work by using technology that is giving best overall value to the business not to have the latest whizzy feature which doesn’t.

And that applies to any software from any vendor our organisations buys.

Mark Morrell meets Oracle

Next week I will go to Oracle’s Customer Advisory Council.  This is a meeting between Oracle and as many of their top 10 customers who can attend.  BT comes into that category so I’ll meet Oracle.

The aim of the council is to cover the user experience and how future versions of software being released will improve it.  It should also cover concerns like I have about the usability of their applications and making things easier to use.

So, this meeting won’t just be about the current or next release of Oracle UCM and how it meets BT’s needs but cover other applications.

I believe I will be shown the next releases to comment upon  and suggest how their future plans could improve the user experience.  I really would like Oracle to seriously consider working to some agreed usability standards.

So, this is your chance to help me by leaving a comment on this post or email me by next Tuesday 17:00 GMT (meeting is Wednesday and Thursday) on any usability issue you have that I can raise on your behalf.

I expect it to be a valuable and constructive meeting.  I hope to update you afterwards with the progress made.  I try to be optimistic!

Meeting mobile intranet users’ needs

Last Friday I was interviewed by the Intranet Benchmarking Forum about how BT was meeting our intranet users’ needs who use a mobile device.  I also came across a great blog post and an internet report on mobility (over 40mb!).

So, I thought I would share what BT has done and what I would like to do in this post as it is becoming a hotter topic.

I posted about BT Intranet mobile users in June 2009 which links to examples.  I feel progress in 2010 will move in different ways for content than for applications.

Content

Now: BT’s intranet standards make sure a PDA heading is on the templates used by our content management system for publishing information.  It means mobile users can click on this to see a text version of the same content.  Changes made to the main version automatically update the PDA version so people can rely on the content being the same.

Future: With the increased capability of mobile devices used by people in BT I want to make sure the coding (CSS) used for the content is capable of sizing up or down for any device and enable images to also adjust their size.  This means we only need one version that is usable and accessible to any device (mobile, laptop, desktop PC, etc) saving on costs and giving users a better experience.

Applications

Many of my regular readers will know my views about the poor usability of applications for intranet users and my concerns with Oracle’s applications on BT’s intranet.

For applications two versions are needed.  The full, standard, functionality is available for people to use but for mobile devices only the cut down, key functionality is available.

For example with BT’s Directory I can check a person’s contact details, manager, organisation chart, whereabouts, team members and their whereabouts.  For mobile devices only the contact details for the person found are available as that is the main reason why people use it.

The difficulty for me is persuading software vendors used by BT for intranet applications to understand why this is important and what is needed.  It should keep me busy during 2010!

The future for BT’s intranet?

At the end of 2009 I posted about BT’s intranet being 15 years old and the progress made in that time.

BT’s intranet has constantly evolved to meet the changing needs of the business and how it best helps people to be able to do their work as effectively as possible.

BT’s intranet has always aimed to be simple and easy to use.  People use it to complete an activity such as a room booking, check the latest news and more recently, publish and use opinions and views with people that have the same interests across BT.

So what’s my view on its future for 2010?  It’s likely to see BT’s intranet:

  • become even easier to use, wherever you are – at home, coffee shop or BT building – whenever you want to and with any device – your PC, BT’s computing kit or mobile – and the real difference will be the experience will be the same.
  • ease of use will also mean you won’t need to keep authenticating to use applications and content protected behind passwords.  Just login once and then loading up your browser will give you faster access to what you need.
  • people will find it as easy to publish content they want to share or own as sending an email and be able to search for all the different types of information on BT’s intranet from one search page that gives you what you need.

Maybe these are not earth shattering aims?  But I know if I can help achieve any of these people in BT will benefit more from using our intranet. 

And that’s what my role as BT Intranet manager is. :-)

Oracle UCM or WordPress or Confluence for BT?

Over the last few months I’ve been involved with testing different publishing tools to replace what we currently use for intranet content.  This is for what we call formal, verified, content rather than collaborative, user generated content.

Using a set of user stories to explain business and users needs I could consistently assess each tool and compare with more confidence.

Now I’ve completed the testing I think:

For larger sites Oracle UCM could be a better choice than Confluence.  It may be more complex but it has powerful site-wide control features.  For smaller sites Oracle has said the set up and publisher training overheads require too much effort for the benefit to be gained.

For smaller sites WordPress could be a better choice than Confluence for its ease of use and rapid deployment advantages.  WordPress has limited site-wide control features but these are less likely to be required on smaller sites.  I feel WordPress’ more straightforward template control ability can overcome these. 

I think Confluence is a good collaborative tool but maybe not the ideal choice for publishing formal content.

I’ve used some criteria for the size of a site.  If any site meets the 5 points below then I believe it is more suited for WordPress.  If it doesn’t then I think it is more suited for Oracle UCM:

  1. One site owner and ten or less publishers.
  2. Usage below 1 million views per month
  3. Would benefit from the use of RSS (incoming and outgoing)
  4. Initially below 200 pages until I see how the templates cope, then and I might increase this.
  5. Does not have complex requirements for third party access

I need to agree this with my colleagues in BT.  It may be the recommendations are not affordable with the current economic climate.  There are technical or security reasons for choosing a different solution.

Whatever happens, I’m sure BT will continue to use Confluence for collaborative content.

Oracle responds to my UCM wish list

I had another call with Oracle to build on their initial response to my first call and my recent meeting with Oracle about my UCM improvements wish list.  This focused on the usability issues BT has with Oracle  UCM version 10GR3.

They have attempted to address the issues we have raised.  There are changes with 10GR4 and 11GR which Oracle claim will improve the usability of UCM.  However I’m not sure whether BT can justify the resources required to use UCM ‘well enough’ to gain these benefits.

I really want UCM to have simpler, fewer, features that mean user with little or no technical skills can easily use it for publishing content.  Oracle’s focus is also on improving usability but for the highly skilled technical minded people not the majority of users.

I’m not the only one with issues.  Look at the SWOT analysis on UCM the University of Minnesota carried out.

So, Oracle are making improvements.  Oracle have offered to pick up the outstanding issues not fixed by releases already completed with BT later in October.

So, continue to let me know of the issues you have that I can raise on your behalf by commenting, tweeting or emailing me.

Is Oracle up to its old tricks?

My first meeting with Oracle last week went well.  Oracle agreed with my usability issues and promised to improve their usability.  My call on Friday with Oracle to cover my UCM issues started off well.  Oracle agreed I did have good points about UCM’s usability.  Oracle agreed to email me with actions, owners and timescales. 

However that didn’t happened.  Instead of a commitment to say what version would solve which problem and involving me in any unsolved issues all I have been offered is another call this Friday to cover what Oracle can do.

Maybe I’m being impatient but since it was 3 months ago that I originally raised these same issues it is disappointing the answers are not ready to hand on what Oracle can do.

So while I am making progress on wider usability issues with Oracle products through the Customer Advisory Council, the news isn’t so good for UCM…………….so far.

I’ll update you on any news after Friday’s call.

Oracle usability update

Yesterday I had the first of two meetings this week with Oracle to discuss the usability issues raised about Oracle UCM on my blog.  Oracle accepted the usability issues I raised.  Oracle wanted to address them in several ways.

1. The next version of UCM (10GR4) will address some of the issues raised.  11GR1 will address others.  My 2nd meeting will identify which ones in more detail.

2. As BT is a major customer of Oracle I will be invited to their Customer Advisory Council meetings in future.  There biggest customers have the opportunity to raise usability issues across the whole product range.

3. BT’s usability standards I posted about will be reviewed by Oracle to consider as a benchmark for usability of their products in future.

While there are no guarantees that any of this will happen or improve usability it is refreshing to see the attitude taken by Oracle at the first meeting.  Time will tell if discussions are turned into actions and usability improves though.

I will keep you posted on how the 2nd meeting goes.