Installing Oracle Fusion Applications an integration challenge

Mark Fontecchio

Industry: Business consulting

Company: MarketSphere Consulting, based in Kansas City, Mo., is a national business consulting firm focused on helping clients with enterprise resource planning (ERP), business intelligence and enterprise performance management projects. It was founded in 2002, has about 250 employees, and had revenues of almost $40 million in 2010. It is also an Oracle Platinum Partner.

Problem: When the company launched in 2002, it used QuickBooks for its financial system and spreadsheets and ADP payroll for its HR system. By 2010, the company had grown significantly and was using Oracle E-Business Suite for financials. The company used Oracle CRM on Demand, Ultimate Software, spreadsheets and ADP for its HR and payroll systems.

While Ultimate Software's UltiPro HR platform served the company well when MarketSphere adopted it in 2007, the subscription was nearing its renewal period and there was limited employee involvement with UltiPro's performance management system. The company wanted to improve its recruiting process and create a standard, repeatable on-boarding process, as well as having a better user interface so employees would use the software more.

Evaluation: MarketSphere began evaluations in the spring of 2011, looking at several vendors: Ultimate Software, SilkRoad, Workday, Taleo, SuccessFactors, SumTotal and Oracle. Functions they were seeking included on-boarding, recruiting, performance management, compensation and benefits and core human resources. Eventually, they decided on installing Oracle Fusion Applications Human Capital Management (HCM), to go with their other existing Oracle and non-Oracle HR apps.

"Believe it or not, Fusion Applications wasn't even in the mix on the initial cut," said Devon Snyder, a partner focusing on ERP at MarketSphere. "The product was brand new and not priced competitively. But, after a discussion with Oracle, they were able to make it more affordable."

Implementation: MarketSphere ended up being the first customer to install Oracle Fusion Applications HCM's core HR module, going live in January 2012. It also chose Fusion HCM's benefits, goal management, performance management and talent review modules. In those early days, Oracle's Software as a Service (SaaS) model for Fusion HCM was just a server at Oracle headquarters -- not exactly an ideal SaaS location. But that has since changed.

"On initial implementation, SaaS was Redwood Shores," Snyder said. "It was a server that said 'MarketSphere' on it. Now we are in their Texas data center."

But the company didn't move all HR onto Fusion. It still has EBS for compensation and financials, ADP for payroll, and SilkRoad for recruiting and onboarding.

Hurdles: Snyder said that MarketSphere and its clients often struggle with the correct process for SaaS implementations. In typical ERP implementations, you may have a handful of database instances. But, with SaaS, you have two: stage and production. When installing Oracle Fusion Applications in a SaaS environment, you must do the implementation and testing in the stage environment; then, when you're satisfied, you have to replicate it in production.

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"There is no push button to migrate from stage to production," he said. "You have to replicate it manually when you build out your production instance. So we do document exactly what you're typing in the system, so we can replicate that when you move to production."

The same happens when Oracle has a new release of Fusion -- customers must build it out in the stage environment and then replicate it in production when ready.

Snyder said that integration in a co-existence strategy has been a challenge. Data cleanup and transformation was a struggle, though Snyder said "that is not a Fusion thing, that is a standard implementation thing."

But sometimes, changes to EBS might be required if you want EBS to be able to talk to Fusion when installing Oracle Fusion Applications.

"There are release levels on EBS that you need for HR-to-HR to work," Snyder said. "You may require a mini-upgrade to the EBS application to do HR-to-HR co-existence."

View the next item in this Essential Guide: Oracle partner struggles with Fusion, but gives thumbs-up or view the full guide: Making the switch to Oracle Fusion Apps

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