Monday, April 27, 2009

The Value Of Knowing The Plumbing

This past weekend was a very busy one for me. Friday night BBQ, spent some time with my granddaughter, worked with the Oracle SOA Suite to expand my skills, and had a chore list a mile long to work through on Saturday. So when a leak showed up in my bathroom shower Saturday morning, my "To Do" list for the day was already full. Thought I’d save some time and just call a plumber. Said plumber shows up and takes a look at the leak. He informs me that the leak is caused by a worn-out faucet seal. He also informs me that my type of bathroom faucet (a Delta Monitor) can’t really be rebuilt and recommends replacing the Delta with another type of faucet. Says he’ll have to cut a hole in the wall, cut out the piping, install new piping and a new faucet. He then hands me an estimate of $1,700, which does not include repairing the hole in the wall. I experience a brief but powerful thought of all the ways I’d rather spend my $1,700. At this point, I realize my chore list for the day has just changed. I politely, but firmly, thank the plumber for his time and show him the door.

Having fired the plumber, I plunked down in front of my iMac and googled up instructions for replacing a Delta Monitor faucet. 90 minutes later (including a trip to Home Depot) and $37.50 poorer (the cost of a replacement cartridge for the faucet), my leaky shower is fixed.

The lesson here? Sometimes it just pays to get your hands dirty and do things yourself.

In my shop, we’re finding the same idea applies to Oracle software. We work through extending our apps and installing new ones, mostly without outside help. We also diagnose and fix around 60 percent of issues that arise without direct assistance from Oracle Support. In our approach to doing so, we follow the same formula that I followed in fixing my leaky faucet: diagnose the cause, research the issue, dig into the technology, then fix the problem. Yes, there is a learning curve involved and some cost associated with that learning, but the payback comes when those skills are used to address similar issues in the future.

One example is our experience with Java and J2EE. We’ve had a few subject matter experts on our team, but the knowledge wasn’t really wide-spread until recently. A few years ago, we opted to use the Oracle Applications Framework ("OAF") to build some EBS extensions supporting an iProcurement rollout. Doing so compelled more team members to build up their Java skills. There was a learning curve, but we saw a big return as we moved to Oracle’s Application Development Framework ("ADF") for building our custom applications. While OAF and ADF are definitely different frameworks, there is enough in common that our developers picked it up quickly. Now they use those well-developed skills to troubleshoot and resolve issues we encounter in our EBS and custom development applications, as well as issues related to our use of Oracle Fusion Middleware ("OFM") components.

The big benefit to the "do it yourself" approach: the better we know the apps and the underlying technology, the better we are at implementing and operating those apps in a way that maximizes the value for our organization. Understanding the "plumbing" of Oracle software helps us leverage the software to drive value in our enterprise. I’ll say it again...sometimes it just pays to get your hands dirty and do things yourself.

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