It's a question Oracle executives hear frequently and one Nadia Bendjedou, director of product strategy, applications development, hoped to answer at the Collaborate conference being held here this week. In a session entitled "10 Things You Can Do Today to Prepare for Fusion Applications," Bendjedou laid out the best approach for companies moving to Oracle's platform of products, the spoils of two years' worth of acquisitions.
Apparently, the key step, in short, is buying or upgrading to the newest Oracle technology. That includes E-Business Suite (EBS) 12, PeopleSoft 9, Siebel 8, JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 8.12, JD Edwards World A9.1, and CRM OnDemand 13.
Step 1: Upgrade to current Oracle applications
"What they all have in common is the uptake of the next generation of technology today," Bendjedou said. "For example, EBS 12 is the latest release that runs on Applications Server 10g. This is part of project middleware and part of the next-generation of technology we are using."
At the very least, she said, customers should move to EBS 11.5.1, PeopleSoft 8.8, JD Edwards Enterprise 8.11, or JD Edwards World 7.3.
She acknowledged, however, that moving to the latest release, or even recent ones, requires careful planning, and that's a critical step in a move toward Fusion.
Step 2: Prepare a roadmap to evolve to Oracle's next release
"It's easy for me to say, 'Keep up with all of the latest releases,' " Bendjedou said. "It's a very tough question to respond to, though, without thinking about your drivers, your criteria. You really want to prepare a five-year roadmap."
Oracle advises initiating upgrades in pilot areas -- a geographical region, business unit, or functional silo -- as a way of getting started.
"We probably won't move until the product is out and they've gotten all the bugs out," Larrea said. "Fusion is definitely something we'll get to and take the steps [Bendjedou is] talking about."
Step 3: Inventory your enterprise assets
A sound strategy in moving toward Fusion also requires conducting an inventory of your organization's systems, according to Bendjedou.
"That inventory needs to be updated all the time," she cautioned. "There is no point in having an inventory that doesn't get updated."
Step 4: Rethink your "customization" strategy
Customizations generally fall under changes to configurations, security or profiles -- all of which should be reconsidered, according to Oracle. Personalization changes will be easier with the new releases. Things that once required going into the development environment and touching the core code will increasingly be taken care of at the administrator or user level with each new release, Bendjedou said.
"The customization you built 10 years ago -- and I understand it's your baby, you're protective of it -- but you really need to start looking at making that customization obsolete," she said.
There are certainly areas where customizations will need to remain, but those created under older technology, like PeopleTools and Oracle Forms, are good candidates to move to the next release. Composite applications with some Web services built-in are also good candidates to move to Fusion.
Step 5: Consolidate your master data
Given Oracle's rash of acquisitions, along with the heterogeneous applications environment that already exists at many companies, organizations are often running multiple Oracle and non-Oracle applications -- like PeopleSoft for HR, Siebel for CRM and SAP for order management.
"If you have more than one, I guarantee your customer data is fragmented," Bendjedou said. "If you have dirty data in the current system, guess what, you will have dirty data when you move to [a future system]. You really want to clean it up not just for order processes but for BI [business intelligence]. Before you really think about moving to the next big thing -- consolidate. I know it's not easy to do, but it's really fundamental."
Step 6: Embrace SOA-based integration
"What an easy sentence to say," Bendjedou said. "Much harder to do."
Oracle customers essentially have two options when it comes to service-oriented architectures (SOAs): buying pre-built SOA-based systems or building them. Oracle's Application Integration Architecture (AIA), which was born out of Oracle's need to integrate its many acquisitions, offers that pre-build answer, she said. Oracle's Fusion Middleware will help customers building it out themselves.
"Point-to-point integration -- it's a nightmare to maintain," Bendjedou said. "AIA is really about cleaning that and making it a common object. It's Fusion ready, which means when Fusion is out, if you want to move to Fusion Oracle order management, you can keep your Siebel system through AIA. AIA is the pipe between [them], the link from wherever you are today."
The final steps revolve around extending an organization's Oracle environment on technologies that are Fusion-certified.
Step 7: Extend your BI application portfolio
Step 8: Adopt enterprise reporting and publishing
Step 9: Secure your global enterprise
Step 10: Centralize your applications lifecycle management
No one will get through all those steps -- or do so in that order, Bendjedou said. The important thing is to begin.
"In the short term, get your feet wet," she said. "Get successes with small things, and get brownie points with your users and the IT department, and get budget for the long term."