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EA plays the standardization game: Benefits of an Oracle environment

Lena J. Weiner

SAN FRANCISCO -- Udesh Naicker remembers the breaking point, when Electronic Arts decided it needed one throat to choke in its IT infrastructure.

Naicker, senior director of enterprise applications at the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based multinational gaming company, said the realization happened one Monday morning. Electronic Art's (EA) office in the United Kingdom decided to suddenly change its reporting software without telling anyone in the U.S. office.

If you have a single vendor IT shop, you are at that vendor's mercy … basically, you'll be Oracle's bitch.

Rob Enderle,
consultant, Enderle Group

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Having a single platform has also eased the adoption of the system. Everyone can communicate on the same wavelength. We're now having a much more aligned conversation.

Udesh Naicker,
senior director of enterprise applications, EA

"When a downstream system breaks on a Friday and you catch it when running your reports on a Monday morning, it's a very unpleasant discovery and becomes a ripple effect," Naicker said with a grimace.

Naicker and his co-workers knew the situation couldn't continue. Having watched the company grow and knowing it was time to move to the next level, he decided in May of 2010 that the business process needed standardizing so each office was interconnected and ran the same tools.

In the end, EA overcame many of its organizational challenges by establishing an all-Oracle environment, including hardware and software.

If you spend time playing games online, you are probably familiar with EA, the organization responsible for games like Need for Speed, Madden NFL and the popular FIFA series. With offices across the world -- including Geneva, Orlando and Singapore -- the corporation faced the standardization issues many large, multinational corporations face.

When Naicker joined EA four years ago, his office in Redwood Shores was running Oracle ERP 11i, but EA's other offices were not.

"Each region had their own version of data, their own software," remembered Naicker. This made it impossible for them to all be on the same page and resulted in a disorganized business process, inaccurate reporting and lots of scrambling to get the right facts and figures to make business decisions. It was becoming evident that standardization was necessary.

The opposing view: Sometimes, you want more than one throat to choke

Who wouldn't want a standardized IT shop? You, said consultant Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group.

"If you have a single vendor IT shop, you are at that vendor's mercy," asserted Enderle. "I'm trying to think of an appropriate way to say this … but basically, you'll be Oracle's bitch [if you have an all-Oracle shop]," he said.

"If you were to insist on going with a single vendor, you would want a vendor that has a focus on customer satisfaction and, in particular, customer loyalty." He recalled the situation many of IBM's customers found themselves in during the late 1980's when, according to him, "IBM stopped earning money from innovation and began relying on billed revenues -- IBM found new ways to bill you for regular maintenance and correcting their own mistakes." Enderle's final words of wisdom: "Oracle is sales focused, not customer focused. They are in the cash mining business; they're the most likely to milk you for cash."

Then the reporting fiasco occurred. In addition to this incident, the gaming industry was changing, and the organization needed the right tools to keep its business model up-to-date.

"The gaming industry is moving away from packaged goods and moving toward more of a services-based model, with gamers playing the game online. Thirty percent of our revenue is now digital. We had to pull out certain capabilities, like digital to cash, which is revenue recognition for digital games," Naicker said. So, the search for a system that would allow EA's capabilities to grow this way was on.

Naicker remembers the internal attitude at the time by saying, "The company was going through a lot of transformation, and there was a need to consolidate business technologies. This drove a decision to move forward with a single global system."

An 'integration factory'

EA Games already ran some Oracle software, so it simply decided to use more and move toward a standardized Oracle environment. Naicker said that Oracle consultants were particularly helpful in the deployment of an integration platform known as HiHub, which is essentially a framework that provides integration services across EA. Any application integration that needs to take place happens through HiHub, which is enabled by the Oracle SOA Suite.

"This would not be possible without Oracle's SOA Suite," Naicker said, adding that EA "did this because normal integration platforms could not scale to what we needed. We were using older technologies [that] had supportability and scalability issues, and a combination of automated and manual processes."

Naicker described HiHub as an "integration factory" and said the chief benefit is rapid deployment. Since then, EA has been able to continue expanding.

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"Now that foundation was established, we're good to go," he said.

EA started using and upgrading other Oracle software as well, including Oracle Database, E-Business Suite, Demantra for demand planning, Hyperion for financial consolidation and Fusion Middleware.

Naicker said the benefits of moving to a single, standardized platform have been huge.

"Having a single platform has also eased the adoption of the system. Everyone can communicate on the same wavelength. There's lots of operational efficiency [in a standardized platform]," Naicker said. "We're now having a much more aligned conversation."


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