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Oracle WebCenter emancipates users and processes at Faribault Foods

After comparing Oracle WebCenter with OpenText, Faribault Foods chose Oracle document management because of its feature set and ecosystem.

LAS VEGAS -- For Cheryl Slane, getting her company onto a document management system helped to transform the business -- one process and one user at a time.

Cheryl SlaneCheryl Slane

Faribault Foods in Faribault, Minn. produces canned beans, pasta and soups, and had numerous documents and processes that it needed to rein in with a document management system. From engineering drawings to safe-quality standards to shop-floor policies and procedures, the company generates a huge volume of documents that need to be regularly accessed, reviewed and used for training. In some cases, staff also needed documentation on hand as they travel between different facilities, said Slane, the application manager at Faribault Foods.

The company's various processes generated tens of thousands of documents that needed to be managed, tracked, retained and, ultimately, destroyed. These documents needed tighter version control, audit trails and tracking to provide visibility into who had a document during various points in the process and what needed to be done next. They also needed automated workflows that could route documents through a process and prompt users for action. In short: Faribault Foods needed document management to corral its content and processes into manageable chaos and to comply with safe-quality food standards.

While enterprise content management -- or document management -- systems range in functionality, they often include features such as a centralized repository to save documents and enable document-sharing and editing, audit trails and tracking, check-in and check-out functionality and version control, automated workflows, and alerts and reporting regarding workflow and bottlenecks.

We have a power user, from the Q&A side of the group, and she rarely calls on IT.

Cheryl Slane,
application manager, Faribault Foods

"We had just a huge amount of documents -- that was our main driver [for introducing document management] and we needed something that could work for the whole company," said Slane during the Oracle Collaborate 2014 session "Solving Enterprise Content Management for Small Business: Faribault Foods" in Las Vegas.

WebCenter vs. OpenText

After an evaluation process in which the company compared Oracle WebCenter with OpenText software, Slane and a cross-departmental team that included business units and IT chose WebCenter. Oracle's document management scored 42 points on a scale of 17 criteria, compared with OpenText, which scored 36 points. Criteria included factors such as audit trail, customizable workflows and ease of use for its 200-plus users who would need to be trained on the system, as well as the consulting ecosystem to implement the system.

According to Slane, in addition to ease of use, part of WebCenter's appeal was the ability to customize it so that a business user could become the "owner" of the system, enabling her to program workflows herself rather than calling on IT.

"We have a power user, from the Q&A side of the group, and she rarely calls on IT," Slane said. "It's her system to customize and create new silos and help end users. So it really isn't an IT project; it's more of a business project."

But that doesn't mean WebCenter is turnkey. Andrew Bennett, an account manager at Team Informatics, the consultancy that helped Faribault Foods implement WebCenter, said that "WebCenter is intimidating for small business. Actually, everything from Oracle is intimidating for small business."

According to Bennett, WebCenter isn't turnkey for non-IT users."WebCenter is straightforward if you want to build A to B to C and nothing much in between," he said. "For much beyond that, you need to bring in a consultant that understands the nuances of WebCenter content."

Next moves with WebCenter

It took two months to get WebCenter live and since its go-live date in October 2010 until September 2013, the company has brought more than 30,000 documents into the system, with 114,000 records residing there since that time.

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Still, there are departments, documents and processes that need to be integrated with WebCenter. The company doesn't have financial or HR documents on the system yet, for example, but it plans to integrate its JD Edwards enterprise resource planning system and to bring HR into the fold as well.

And features like automated workflow have allowed Faribault Foods to dig into process lags and address them proactively. With WebCenter, the company has created reports that indicate how long documents sit on an employee's desk, for example, so that managers can address that person and find out whether it's a matter of training or if they need more help, Slane said.

Sometimes a document "sits and sits and sits" on someone's desk awaiting approval, Slane said, so Faribault created a report to help identify the bottlenecks, which is emailed weekly.

An employee in packaging, for example, took 33 days to approve a document. His supervisor talked to him "very quickly, saying, 'It should not take 33 days to approve documents. What is going on?'" But the report also indicated that it was not the first time that this employee caused a holdup. Slane said supervisors can dig into employees' work processes and find out whether they need help and are overloaded or whether processes can be changed. "It has been an eye-opener for everyone," she said.

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