Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Oracle Apps In Tough Times

Sorry about not posting over the past week or so, but I’ve had an idea percolating and taking shape in my head to the exclusion of all else. I think that idea has now taken on enough of a definite form that I can write about it…let’s see if that’s true.

Over the past few months, I’ve watched the cold winds of the global economic slowdown blow through the lives of people I care about and organizations with whom I do business. No need to review the gory details here, as most of the media provides better and more spectacular coverage than I could ever hope to achieve.

An important thing to keep in mind is that these economic doldrums will not last forever. Admittedly, I’m becoming a bit of an elderly member of the IT community. Outside of my own shop, most of the folks I come in contact with are much younger than me; too young to have been in the workforce and have memories of the downturns of the early and late 80s, although there is a segment that does remember the dot-com bust that took place earlier in this decade. So, for those of you so young that you’ve never been compelled to survive as a working adult during an economic slump, take it from one old enough to remember – this downturn will eventually come to an end, just like those before it. The trick is holding things together until the upturn develops.

The big question in my mind is, as an Oracle apps end user, how can I best help my own shop hold things together and maybe even prosper during this downturn even as my institution is reducing their investment in IT? I’ve come up with a few answers and thought that sharing those things might be helpful. Keep in mind I’ll be framing things in terms of the E-Business Suite; I’m not currently an end-user of Peoplesoft, JD Edwards, Siebel, or any of the myriad of other apps in the Oracle stable, so I don’t feel qualified to talk specifically in terms of those apps. However, the concepts I’m sharing here can be applied to any or all of those apps as well.

Batten Down The Hatches

When a storm approaches a ship, experienced sailors batten down the hatches. Organizations should consider doing the same with their enterprise applications when times get tough.

First, get to a stable, supported configuration and keep it current. Those of you on EBS 11.5.9 or less should get to 11.5.10.2. Getting there is not an extremely difficult or expensive task in most cases, although the difficulty may vary from organization to organization depending on your current version and the extent of your customizations. Those already on R12 should patch up to the latest version (the RUP for 12.0.6 is out as I write this, but later versions may be available as time passes). Ditto for the underlying techstack and database.

So what should you target for a somewhat stable configuration? From my worm’s-eye view, a stable configuration for the next 18-24 months looks to me like either 11.5.10.2 or the soon to be released 12.1 on the 11.1.0.6 database (and my totally speculative guess for the 12.1 release is sometime in the first quarter of calendar year 2009). Either seems like a good configuration for riding out the current economic storm.

BIG IMPORTANT UPDATE (March 31, 2009): Note that the 11.1.0.6 database will be desupported in October 2009; probably best to think about 11.1.0.7 instead. You can read more here.

Continue To Add Value By Using What You Have

Whether you’re on 11.5.10.2 or R12, you have elements of Fusion Middleware and other tools embedded in your techstack. Use those elements to add value for your organization.

One example is a situation I often see or hear about when working with Oracle apps customers. We often do a great job of leveraging the apps to process transactions. However, we frequently neglect to convert that transactional data into information that can be utilized to make informed business decision. Tools embedded in the E-Business Suite such as Publisher, analytics (whether it’s Daily Business Intelligence, Business Intelligence, Business Analytics, or however else the embedded analytics are branded these days) and Portal are all available to help summarize and share information. Many of us could add value simply by leveraging these tools to provide information to the decision-makers in our various organizations. This is low-hanging fruit – inexpensive, easy to implement, and a big value-add for managers throughout the enterprise.

Another example is the use of the Oracle Applications Framework (“OAF”). OAF is a great means for personalizing and extending the EBS user interface to meet the needs of business users. The big value add here comes from tailoring the user interface to work like the end users work, which in turn increases efficiency and productivity. Even if it’s just a small gain, in tough times every little bit helps. Again, this is low-handing fruit – EBS customers already have OAF, so it only makes sense to start using it.

Know Where You’re Going And Watch For Exceptional Opportunities To Get There

CAVEAT: your organization will need a solid cash position to implement the ideas in this section. If that’s not the case, focus on the ideas in the first two sections and let the ideas here pass until the cash flow improves. Hmmm, maybe you can leverage your apps in some way to help with that as a means of adding value…maybe by providing some info on cash flow through Publisher or some type of dashboard...just a thought.

As I wrote earlier in this post, in my humble opinion, this economic slump won’t last forever. You should know where you want to be headed as the economy turns for the better. So, the first recommendation here: have a roadmap. That roadmap should be based on the values that are important to your organization and a strategy for how Oracle apps and technology will be leveraged to support the achievement of those values.

Once you have that roadmap, you’ll likely discover there are some missing pieces to the puzzle – applications or technology components that you don’t currently have, but that you’ll need to get to where you want to go. Well, one of the silver linings to an economic down cycle is that it’s a buyer’s market. Demand drops because buyers are afraid to buy, worried that they’ll need that cash later on. To encourage those buyers to take the risk and make the purchase, sellers will offer reduced pricing and better terms – opportunities will likely arise to acquire those applications or technology components you need at much better prices and terms than you see today. So know what apps or technology you want to buy or obtain, keep an eye on those components, and bide your time until a great opportunity presents itself.

So, pretty simple ideas that took a long time to form up in my head…guess I’m not the quickest mind on the block (no big surprise there). So, what do you think? Find the comments and share what your organization is doing to leverage Oracle apps as times get tough.

3 comments:

Your OCP Advisor said...

As someone who rejoined an Oracle apps user organization recently from Oracle, I am happy to report that our organization is adopting some of the strategies mentioned in the blog post.
The focus is to improve process efficiencies by leveraging the power of enterprise applications to the fullest. Of course, budgets are very tight and the ROI justification has become the clincher whether a project is prioritized in 2009 or 2010.
Many companies are looking at expanding business beyond traditional markets of North America and EMEA. Hence, one popular initiative in many organization (including ours) in global rollouts to geographies where business has expanded enough to justify their Sets of Books/Ledgers etc.

Vince said...

Floyd,

You mentioned Portals in passing but I think there is a very quick way of understanding business value based on existing deployments. To deliver a feed or a service our of the existing infrastructure can help in a whole set of ways: 1) quick buisness value by including the feed on an existing page or portal, 2) enhancing the impression of IT from the business by delivering these services quickly, and 3) increasing the knowledge and value of the IT professional in delivering these services.

The portal provides a quick way to combine all these services and reports into a dashboard to give business users what they want. After all, giving users what they want drives more business for the company and more resources to fund the teams that deliver in rich as well as lean times.

Bhavesh said...

Very nice and informative blog about oracle apps indeed.

yes its true that oracle clients are looking for more effecient ways to use existing infrastructure and we as oracle consultants owe to them so that they ride this our safely. one of the things that we have been advocating is the use of oracle apex and excellent rapid app devlopment tool which sits on top of db and comes with no extra cost. we have been doing number of projects lately including reports protal and dashboards to make life easier for end user. I would advice apps community to take a look at this fabulous alternative to forms and reports.