Tag Archives: oracle

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.

My Oracle UCM improvement wish list

Oracle is aware of Janus Boye and my blog posts and tweets on Twitter about Oracle usability issues.  Oracle want to help resolve these.  I’m starting with Oracle UCM.

Am I missing any of your issues?

1. Publisher control

Oracle UCM has poor ‘granularity’ of permissions and no obvious back end to see who has access.

The permissions only allow two (publisher) levels, a limited ‘only edit what’s already there’ and a far too powerful ‘does lots of complicated stuff with a very complex interface’. This suits organisations with a few powerful people in a central group, but not BT’s intranet governance model which has decentralised publishers.

A hard coded menu item called ‘switch region context’ has no place on an interface I expect a large number of users to use, and that’s only one part of a convoluted process to add a new page.

The user ids do not integrate with other user ID systems and it is difficult to integrate this with other processes (e.g. make sure that only people who have done training have access).

2. Quality of web pages

Oracle UCM should never be able to generate invalid code.

The conversion from MS Word is very poor ‘out of the box’, producing inaccessible and invalid code. With a lot of work – BT was able to improve this but never approached an acceptable level. Oracle UCM needs only to allow ‘well written’ MS Word documents (i.e. only accept well formed documents) and to reject (with explanations) documents it cannot convert to valid, accessible pages.

The site studio interface is poor and difficult to apply standards to. The browser version support is difficult and you have to rely on using admin permissions to install a clunky java applet. I don’t know if the applet is usable to people with disabilities. If it must use ‘rich’ interface elements then accessibility must be considered.

The pages themselves seem to insert a pile of javascript (is this out of the box?) and it’s difficult to enforce things like good metadata.

3. Template creation and management

There seem to be few well written components to use in the templates. Additional features (e.g. embedded video, RSS) need to be custom written and template specific. That’s a maintenance headache waiting to happen.

Management of templates appears to be awful. This encourages poor re-use of template development resource. It’s hard to quantify the effort required creating a template, but it seems to be excessive compared to other competitors. BT’s aim is to reduce, not increase, costs.

Please help me to help you with Oracle applications’ usability by commenting.

How you can help improve Oracle’s poor usability

When I asked Oracle, can you improve your poor usability please? I was really pleased to see how widely my views were shared.  I’m not alone!  It has led to Oracle re-engaging with Janus Boye (read his blog post on Oracle) and me.  There is no guarantee this will lead to anything so how can we improve the usability of Oracle and other software applications?

Well, I can think of the following ways we can try:

Helping make the decisions

We need to make sure we are as closely involved as possible when our organisations decide on buying or developing a business application.  It’s much harder to get a decision changed after it has been made.  We also need to make sure the full costs are understood.  By this I mean the productivity costs of training, helpdesk support and extra time taken using the application.

Usability standards being implemented

Embed usability standards into any procurement or development process for technology.  This means any technology your organisation buys or develops has to meet these standards as well as any other technical, security or other criteria.  You can be the contact point for any queries about your standards and get involved.

BT uses these usability standards for this purpose.

Proof of concept

Test out if possible the technology before it is fully developed or bought based on user needs to see what our the usability issues and how easy and costly they will be to solve.  I do this with user stories which explain the business need, activity to be tested and outcome needed for it to have been met successfully.

Commitment

Get your vendor to commit to what you need them to do with timescales you both agree to.  Make sure it is binding in any contract and a review does take place to check every improvement agreed has been done to the usability standard expected. (My thanks to Christophen McCann)

I will keep you updated on progress with Oracle on my blog or Twitter.

A big day out on BT’s intranet

Last Thursday (2nd July) I hosted a visit to BT Centre in London for 30 intranet representatives who are members of the Intranet Benchmarking Forum to demonstrate our intranet and give them time to surf our intranet and test it out for themselves.

I was very pleased (and a little relieved) they were really impressed by what they saw and tested out on BT’s intranet.

The areas covered include BT’s Homepage; Blog Central; BTpedia; Podcast Central; BT Today and RSS.  I also covered the full value of BT’s intranet.

It wasn’t all good news.  BT’s continuing problems with poor usability of our applications bought from vendors like Oracle was highlighted with one quote “You don’t need training to use Amazon” summing things up.

It was rewarding to see our efforts to make our intranet (one of ?) the best in the world be confirmed by 30 peers.  Thank you! :-)

Why do Oracle say ‘per diem’?

I was prompted to write this post after a comment to my posting ‘why are intranet applications so difficult to use?‘ by Calluna55 which picked up that big software vendors must sooner or later start to improve the usability of their intranet applications.

Oracle are a successful, global, software vendor.  BT uses their products like their ebusiness suite.  However this product has a strange phrase ‘per diem’ for claiming expenses.

Now, I know this phrase is well known in the US but Oracle are a global company with many customers outside the US.  Surely an option to simply change it to the equivalent phrase in another language exists?

NO!  is the answer.  To change a simple phrase ‘per diem’ to one that is more meaningful either means a very expensive and difficult re-coding of the heading by an Oracle code expert or changing every phrase to another language.

I’m sure for other countries like Germany, France, Japan, etc, that is the obvious option but many people either speak English as their first or second language.  ‘Per diem’ is not easily understood.

It’s another example where software sold by vendors like Oracle could be more usable by enabling small changes to be made easier.

The more usable the software is, the cheaper it is to make changes, the easier it is to upgrade to new versions = more business for the software vendors.

With a global recession in 2009 isn’t this a simple thing software vendors could do to help themselves as well as us?