Since January, the tech world has been atwitter (literally) about Oracle (newssite). With their official acquisition of SUN this last winter, their launch of Fusion Middleware 11g this summer, the departure of Charles Phillips and addition of Mark Hurd to the executive suite, there has been plenty of fuel for speculation and rumor. Next week at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco I’ll bet that there will be as many answers to those questions as there are booths with candy. 

I’m betting we’ll see Hurd on stage. I’m betting there is a new E2.0 or ECM-in-a-box offering based on OracleSUN hardware. I’m betting we will hear a lot about plumbing and platform from Oracle. I’m betting customers and decision makers will be yearning for real-world solutions. I’m betting the one question that will be in the back of every customer’s mind is, “yeah, I see it’s cool, but how can I use that to solve my business problem?” In all, I’m betting on a good show where Oracle offerings take a more explicit infrastructure tack and partner solutions step up to the fore with ready to go solutions.

With that in mind, here are 4 things you should know about Oracle Open World:

1. Content, Collaboration, Portal

The first thing you need to know is that there are 97 sessions currently listed in the Oracle Open World Schedule Builder in the Content, Collaboration and Portals track. This does not count general sessions and keynotes. With 4 days of sessions and 5 time slots for conference sessions per day, that means there are on average of 4 content, collaboration and portal related sessions to choose from at any one time.

Advice: Take the time to use the schedule builder or the content catalog to get a gauge on where you want to go. If you’ve registered already use the schedule builder. If you have not registered or cannot go, check out the content catalog.

2. Tips, Tricks, Features

The second thing you need to know is that 11g tips, tricks and feature sessions are key this year. WebCenter 11g is available. Oracle ECM 11g is available. Other key Fusion Middleware 11g products are available. But these releases are still so new that few customers have had a chance to really kick any one of the tires, much less all together.

Take a look at these sessions that focus on what you can do in 11g Portal, ECM and FMW:

  • Sunday: S318459 - So You Discovered You Own Oracle ECM, Now What?
  • Monday: S317768 – What’s New In Oracle Content Management 11g?
  • Monday: S317773 - Oracle Enterprise Content Management 11g Early Adopters: Lessons Learned
  • Tuesday: S319079 - Information Mobility with Oracle's ECM for the iPhone, Android, and iPad

Beware of the customer success story sessions. These are great sessions and contain real life scenarios of how actual business problems were solved with Oracle technology. I’m a fan of them. But pipe up and press the presenter on what version of the software they actually have deployed in production. Ask them if their success story is based in beta technology. Ask them how much free consulting they received from Oracle. Ask them how much of their solution is integrated. This is in no way to detract from what they’re doing or from what they’ve achieved. Just make sure you’re not assuming they’re talking about some version of the software they’re not.

3. Pay Attention to Product Positioning

The third thing you should do is stick around to hear how the Oracle teams are positioning their products. Get an idea of what they’re talking about and you’ll have a good idea of where R&D time and effort is going (at least for this year). Anywhere your needs are aligned with what Oracle product teams are building, you stand a better chance of getting a little something extra in the way of help, advice, input and responsiveness. Your mileage may vary but still, these sessions are worth a consideration:

  • Tuesday: S317791 - Oracle WebCenter Suite: Content Management in Oracle WebCenter Applications
  • Wednesday: S317783 - Extreme Performance and Scalability with Oracle Universal Content Management 11g
  • Wednesday: S317772 - SOA and Enterprise Content Management

If you need your dose of disclaimer laden crystal ball gazing then be sure to catch the VPs of E20 Product Management in their Monday roadmap session:

  • Monday S317769 - Beyond Oracle Content Management 11g, Where Are We Headed?

4. Don't Forget the Exhibition Halls

The fourth thing you need to know is that the exhibition halls are the place to be. This is the place where you are most likely to get some free consulting from ECM and E20 experts, get an idea of how other partners are pushing the envelope and see more real life examples of integrated solutions than you have business cards to drop into raffle baskets.

But come with a starter set of questions. Pick one workflow, workplace governance policy, website or document store you’d like to see managed better. Use that as a running scenario in your discussions with the booth staff you visit. This puts them into your world instead of the other way around. It helps you consider the impact of the technology you see on the business to which you will return.

But remember to have fun. Want to see a JD Edwards integration with Oracle ECM via BPM and surfaced in WebCenter? It will either be there or there will be a partner who is more than happy to spend some time with you to sketch out how it would work for you. Want to see a Flex-based social user experience for managing digital photographs stored in Oracle UCM and using DAM features? It will be there. Want to see an iPad with actual integrated apps connecting it to Oracle E20 rather than sitting in a box waiting to be raffled? Stop by.

One Parting Thought

Remember that if you ask “Can the system do X?” the answer will always be “yes”. Seriously. There is so much collective propeller-head brain power at Oracle Open World that such an answer isn’t even really wrong. It’s just not helpful.

Instead ask open ended questions: “How can we do X while only using Oracle UCM and a single staff developer?” or “Which licenses do I need to own and how many consulting hours do I need to integrate my ERP, CMS and Portal systems like you are showing here?”

I will see you at the show. Booth 3630. Stop by, we’ve got candy