Zen Of Oracle Erp

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This is a paper I wrote 11 years ago based on my experience of implementing Oracle Apps. Some useful pointers here.

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Zen Of Oracle Erp

  1. 1. The Zen of Oracle ERP Introduction: Oracle Applications is an enterprise wide business process enabling software. This software comprises more than 30 modules which when deployed provides the information technology infrastructure necessary to run an enterprise. A typical Oracle Applications software has some enterprise specific customization when deployed. The application software system is expected to fulfill the multi-dimensional requirement of functionality, customizability, reliability and performance. Installation, customization and deployment of Oracle applications is by no means a trivial task. This paper will provide a generic framework to accomplish the deployment of Oracle Applications. Objectives of an Oracle Applications Implementation: At a very high level, the objectives of an Oracle Applications implementation can be stated as follows: 1. Install the Oracle Applications suite with all the desired modules to be implemented. 2. Maximize the use of available functionality within the application by modifying business process whenever efficient. 3. Customize the Oracle Application suite for business processes that cannot be modified keeping in mind that customizations impact the ability to upgrade and support by the vendor. 4. Deploy the applications and be able to meet business, performance and operational requirements. The following steps suggested should reduce the risk of implementing Oracle Applications to a great extent.
  2. 2. ERP Implementations and Consulting Firms: ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) Implementations have tremendous impact on the way companies do business and compete. So it is a standard practice to bring in consulting/accounting firms to advise on implementing ERP. Almost every major IT Consulting firm has an ERP Implementation division. These firms provide a high level of functional and technical expertise needed to deploy ERP solutions. Oracle Consulting is a premier provider of such services and so are some major accounting firms. ERP Implementations are treated as projects and implemented as such. Typically a Program Office is setup which is comprised of management from accounting, IT and the consulting firm and this office is responsible for the success of the ERP system. Identifying the Oracle Applications Manager: The Oracle suite of Applications needs to be administered and managed by a highly competent person who has experience implementing ERP solutions. This person would have extensive knowledge of Operating Systems, Oracle RDBMS’s and Oracle Application Administration expertise. This person would be a hybrid of a Operating System Administrator, Oracle DBA and Applications System Operation expert. This is a very important role and could be done by a team which works in close cooperation. Most often this person would be required to be proficient in General Ledger(GL) because the GL is the core of the Oracle Applications suite and a correct setup of this application is critical for success of the applications. Setup of other applications like Accounts Receivables (AR) and Accounts Payables (AP) depend on this application too. Note that this role is totally different from the Project manager. This team should be involved in the decision making process of the implementation. A representative from this group should be a part of the Program office which manages the ERP Implementation effort.
  3. 3. Methodology Implementation: The Oracle Applications Implementation Methodology referred to as AIM is a sophisticated Applications Implementation tool with a lot of guidelines. AIM provides a framework for efficiently planning, conducting and managing an Applications Implementation project. Oracle’s Application Implementation Method is a proven approach for implementing packaged applications. Since Application implementation projects are mission critical, it becomes imperative that a methodology be chosen. Ad-hoc development will only lead to failures and disappointments. AIM provides templates, guidelines, definitions, processes and their associated tasks, resource needs to conduct an Application implementation project. The fundamental issues is one has to select a methodology and stick to it for conducting a mission critical effort such as an application implementation. Business Processes and Mapping to Application Modules: We had already mentioned before that ERP applications enable and improve business processes. So one of the first tasks is to identify business processes and application modules and see whether the modules implement these processes. Historically organizations have been reluctant to change business processes and they are stuck with applications that have outlived their usefulness. Business Process re-engineering works two ways. One is the actual improvement of the business process itself and the other is the modification of the process to fit the application process flow. Organizations embrace the former for obvious reasons, but there is a reluctance to do the latter. Actually doing the latter might reap more benefits because of enhanced automation with just the cost of the applications rather than expensive customizations which have disadvantages listed in this document.
  4. 4. Big Bang Approach Versus Phased Approach: Big bang implementations offer many benefits such as enhanced automation and features. Oracle Applications is a big bang product with all its modules and its tight integration. It may seem intuitive that big bang products could be implemented in a big bang fashion. The issue is that the complexity becomes a product of the complexity of all the customization of the modules in the application. It should be observed that the Oracle Applications assumes a hypothetical enterprise with a generic business model. Most often, enterprises fit in the model. Whenever, there is a discrepancy customization is done. Some Application vendors suggest that the specific enterprise model be modified to fit the generic model. By doing this, few customizations need to be done and implementation of the applications reduces to an install of the applications. In fact, some enterprises have taken this approach due to the geometric costs of implementation of all the modules of the application. Another widely used model is to implement modules in phases. The first modules to go live are typically General Ledger, Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable, because fundamentally all companies unlike individuals are required to keep track of paying, receiving and keeping books of transactions. A major disadvantage of this approach is that one has to write data interfaces from other applications which have yet to be implemented. The big bang obviates this requirement. Big Bang application implementation efforts should flow from the top management and should just not be an IT initiative. There must be unconditional support from the business process owners of the various processes and a commitment made to improve business processes by implementing the applications module. It might be even worthwhile to conduct BPR studies on business processes and establish the business and cost benefits of such application efforts. For example, a payables department could
  5. 5. lower its operating costs by making payable schedules for vendors accessible by Internet and hence reduce manpower used for taking calls and accessing the information. Selection of the Oracle Applications Release: The first step in the Oracle Applications process is to select a version of the applications. There are four major components to this. 1. Hardware Platform. 2. Supported Operating System for the Hardware Platform. 3. Supported Oracle RDBMS release for the Operating System. 4. Supported Oracle Applications release for the Oracle RDBMS. This is referred to as the certified combination release of the Oracle applications. It is very important that a certified combination be chosen at the earliest. This in turn leads to the first problem of choosing a hardware platform. It is a major risk to run an uncertified combination due to obvious reasons like lack of support for such implementations. This is by far the simplest and most important step in the application implementation process. The importance of the DEMO database in the selection of the applications release is documented in another section. It is very important that a release of the applications be picked at the earliest and stick with it for the duration of the implementation. Choosing a Hardware Platform: Typically, Organizations have preferred vendors. The first step is to verify whether these vendors have the latest release of Oracle and its Applications (i.e. a certified combination) ported to their Operating System. The next step is to identify whether such a hardware resource will be able to meet the demands of the applications and its usage. This is where a initial capacity planning study will be very valuable. At this point, it is hoped that a decision has been made on the modules to be implemented.
  6. 6. Since these modules are already around in various forms like Mainframe applications, custom applications a lot of useful information can be gained from these system like volumetrics, number of users and expected response time. This will be the input for the initial capacity study. By far the most critical factor in selecting the hardware platform is the scalability of the CPU’s in the hardware. Oracle Applications can be characterized into two types of usage - batch and OLTP. The batch usage is CPU bound in that it uses a lot of CPU time. The OLTP is less CPU intensive. The number of CPU’s determine scalability. But merely adding CPU’s to a hardware configuration doesn’t necessarily buy scalability. The sophistication of the Operating System is another factor for determining that. It can be observed that in a typical hardware platform, after a certain number of CPU’s the performance does not improve at all. A good way to do this is to characterize the expected workload and volumes and ask vendors to furnish reference sites which support it. Major hardware vendor sales are centered around such application servers and this will be a good starting point. Oracle Consulting Services provides performance planning services and it is strongly recommended that these services be used in the initial phase of the project to do capacity and architecture planning Installation of the Oracle Applications: The Oracle Applications suite is a massive piece of software. It is strongly recommended that Oracle’s consulting services be requested to install this software the first time. Installation of the Applications requires versatile expertise in UNIX or the Underlying O/S, Oracle and DBA activities. The installation of the software is an intellectual exercise and should be learnt by one of the site personnel for future installs. The typical installation takes a couple of days depending on the Operating System, Oracle
  7. 7. RDBMS and the Applications release. The installation process consists of installing the software and applying the patches to complete the installation. Availability of Oracle Applications Demo Database: The Oracle Applications bundle consists of a Global demo database and a couple of other demo databases. The demo database is basically an Applications database representing a small sample set of data for a hypothetical enterprise. This database is very important for set-up activities, and doing basic proof of concepts. In fact, one of the first step in Applications implementation is setting up two copies of the database along with the applications. One copy of the demo database and the applications is for the applications lookup, setup work and for base functionality reference. The other copy of the applications and the demo database could be used as a starting point for application development. In fact, one of the factors for choosing a version of the Applications is the availability of the demo database. The demo database is typically available with all versions of the applications, but in new versions and releases might lag the availability of a release or a version by a couple of months. It is strongly recommended that the demo database be used as a starting point for all application efforts. Data Conversion: Since Oracle Applications enable better business processes, these processes already exist in some form around the enterprise, typically a mainframe application, custom application or even another application vendor software. Most often than not, these systems become the data source for the new application software. Sometime the source for the existing applications should be identified as well so that those original data sources could be directly fed into Oracle Applications.
  8. 8. By far one of the most intensive efforts in Applications implementation is data conversion and its associated tasks. This process is the most important process in the applications implementation process. A variety of templates exist in the AIM methodology which will enable better data conversion procedures. A significant amount of effort should be involved in automating the data conversion procedures as these conversion processes might be a critical path for enabling various business processes. Strap-on, Strap off Customization concept: As mentioned before, the Oracle Applications suite is typically customized for enterprises. These customizations should be done in such a way that a script applies the customization and there is also a script which undoes the customization. The reason for this is that the upgrades are designed for the base release of the Applications and not for the enterprise specific customizations. This concept has the advantage that a well documented strap-off, strap-on code will give the enterprise an idea of the effort and the steps which were taken to do the customizations. Most often than not, customizations are done in an ad-hoc fashion and at the end of the implementation, the upgrade path for the applications is pretty much out of the question. This creates a lot of problems because Application versions typically run out of support agreements after a period of time and the customer is left with an unsupported combination. New Versions of the applications enable new technologies and functionality’s and this advantage is lost by not having such a script. However, this is easier said than done. This is because sometimes user requirements may require significant customizations that it might not be possible to do this task. At this point, the user should be made aware of the risk of significant customization which comes with a cost.
  9. 9. About the Author: Mahesh Vallampati is a senior consultant with the Oracle National Telecom Practice. He has 4 years experience implementing Oracle Databases and 2 years implementing Oracle Applications. He holds a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University.

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