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With the highly anticipated release of Oracle’s Fusion Applications, many companies are wondering if they should upgrade their current application release or move forward with Fusion. A U.S.-based quick-service restaurant chain pondered this decision last fall. We spent six months evaluating Oracle Fusion Applications, and in the end decided on Fusion rather than upgrading to Oracle Applications’ release 12.
After nearly 20 years of using Oracle Applications, we have millions of journal entries, invoices and receipts. Our purchasing and order lines date back to the early 1990s. Our system consists of an accounting flexfield with too many segments (because of the implementation of Oracle Projects) and a business model that needs to be re-engineered in anticipation of future growth.
I forgot to mention the more than 2,000 custom objects in our database. We not only want to upgrade and stay current, but we also need to undergo a modernization effort to streamline our business processes and maintain staff head count through standardization. With the goal to standardize 90 percent of our operations, we took the greenfield approach toward evaluating enterprise resource planning options.
During this journey, we met many representatives from Oracle. Through demos, we began to understand functional and technical benefits of Fusion Applications. We also gained an appreciation for what Oracle’s future holds and how we need to start retraining our staff now to embrace the opportunity. We learned that Oracle is mixing and matching features from its various applications; for example, the user interface is highly influenced by PeopleSoft. Also, the ability to make real-time decisions within Fusion General Ledger is done with a combination of Oracle’s Business Intelligence analytics software as well as Hyperion Essbase.
We received an Oracle Fusion Applications demonstration for six of the seven pillars offered as part of Fusion version 1. Key business users and information technology professionals were in attendance in each demo. Our chief information technology officer and the corporate accounting controller also attended some of these sessions. Functionality includes the ability to manage subledger closes from a single dashboard, slice and dice general ledger balances just moments after posting new entries or the social networking integration.
Staff was more excited about Fusion than Oracle Applications Release 12, particularly since we were planning a modernization effort. It was nice to have the business rallying behind Fusion, but the excitement still has to translate into business value to justify the change.
So we decided to take the next step and learn more about the Fusion Early Adopter Program. In this program, we would agree to help Oracle validate Fusion Applications before it became generally available. The benefit to our company would have been the ability to work closely with Oracle Development, start our modernization project earlier and get better deals on software pricing, since we would be willing to adopt Fusion early and solicit feedback on the product.
To participate in the Early Adopter Program, Oracle requires a trial-beta license agreement, a consulting contract with one of Oracle’s approved Fusion System Integrators and the willingness to share feedback regarding the product during the evaluation period.
We ended up passing on the early adopter program, but while learning about it, we also learned more about the technology behind Oracle Fusion Applications. It comes with Oracle Fusion Middleware, Oracle Business Intelligence and Hyperion Essbase (in addition to many other Oracle technology applications.) Prepackaged in Oracle Fusion Middleware are Oracle Image Process Management and Oracle Forms Recognition, WebLogic Server, SOA Suite, Web Center, Identity Management and other related technologies.
For example, with Oracle Image Process Management (I/PM) and Oracle Forms Recognition, a payables clerk can scan, enter and route a vendor invoice for approval. I/PM, which was traditionally a point solution, comes prepackaged and integrated in Fusion Applications. The same is true for Oracle Business Intelligence and Hyperion Essbase.
With this technology, we also came to realize that some of our IT and business staff would need training. Fusion Applications is SOA-based and business processes are orchestrated using Oracle Business Process Management. Traditionally, our custom applications footprint was written using PL/SQL and Oracle Forms. Internet applications were deployed to OC4J and JBOSS application servers. Fusion is also built on WebLogic, so strategically we will need to rewrite any required PL/SQL and Forms-based custom applications so that it will run in a SOA-based environment. We also would like to deploy our custom Java applications to WebLogic in order to share services with the Fusion ERP.
In the end, we decided to skip Oracle Applications Release 12 and implement Oracle Fusion Applications. We plan to implement Fusion Applications in 2012. This decision was made with the Oracle Applications 11i de-support date quickly approaching. The perceived business value and potential of Fusion Applications was just too great to not assume the risk.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Patrick Gresham, enterprise applications manager for a quick-service restaurant chain, is an active member of the Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG).