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Overcome these six challenges to an Oracle EBS implementation

Vitamix had Oracle E-Business Suite up and running in 18 months. The blender maker's director of IT details ways to address six challenges you may face when implementing Oracle EBS.

LAS VEGAS -- Why not Oracle?

That was the guiding principle for Vitamix, a Cleveland-based manufacturer of high-performance blenders, when it decided in February 2014 to move ahead with an Oracle EBS implementation.

In the span of 18 months, not only was Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) up and running, but Vitamix also replatformed all web properties, such as Oracle ATG Web Commerce, and implemented a global data center.

"The view was unless there is something custom we have to do for compliance reasons, we're going to try to be as out of the box as possible," Brian Swab, director of IT at Vitamix, said here at Collaborate 17.

Here are the six challenges to Vitamix's Oracle EBS implementation, and what the company did to overcome them throughout its implementation process.

1. Don't downplay the difficulties

IT pros must remind their steering committee and sponsors how difficult an Oracle EBS implementation can be -- and then remind them again, Swab said.

"We did a great job of coaching our sponsors of how hard this was going to be," he said. "And then, at some point before we went live, we lost that message. We started thinking about life after the implementation and the strategic things we were going to do with the business too soon."

No matter how much you test, you are going to stumble upon an occurrence you haven't seen before, so a cross-functional command center is key. Swab suggested you plant key resources in the field.

2. Understand the job schedule

Understanding the symphony of scheduled jobs is vital, and admins must know them inside and out.

This includes knowing which jobs are scheduled, when and in what sequence, which user ID was used to schedule the job, and which preconditions and post-conditions must exist to thrive.

An example Swab cited was invoicing, which can be good if IT pros know which jobs triggered an invoice, but also difficult if IT doesn't understand which jobs were prerequisites to successfully invoice.

3. Allow for accounting validation

Ultimately, every Oracle transaction has a financial impact.

Despite multiple test scenarios focused on taking transactions all the way through a successful month-end close, more testing was needed for Vitamix.

"You must allow for accounting validation as a final step before any test case is passed," Swab said.

4. Don't leave incorrect transactions undone

Bad data or incorrect transactions need to be fixed -- and at the source.

"Accountability must be driven down to the business-user or end-user level," Swab said. Some examples he cited included not all serial numbers on a shipment being scanned, an incorrect bar code scanned, or even an improper purchasing category or tax rate selected.

"That's why we selected EBS, because we wanted that rigor and that transactional integrity," Swab said. "It was interesting to see the same people who say they need that structure now bemoan the fact that they can't pick up the phone and call IT to make the bad transaction undone."

5. Train -- and then train again

Prior to the go-live date, Vitamix instituted a thorough training process that allowed as much time as possible for employees to get up to speed.

Swab suggested you select an appropriate training delivery vehicle, conduct follow-up sessions in advance of the go-live date and on an as-needed basis afterward, and stage even more training data than you think you will need.

"We trained from a textbook point of view," Swab said. "We benchmarked folks learning before and after, so we had process retention the way we wanted."

6. Determine the metrics for success

IT must develop a dashboard of key metrics that includes business and IT that will define stability after the go-live date.

Establish targets, and keep track of them monthly -- or even daily -- to stay on track. Bring all lines of business in and emphasize how important it is for them to communicate throughout the process.

"These are things that have to be happening for us to know our business is healthy," Swab said. "Prior to go-live, we prepared for change through a readiness assessment. We interviewed key stakeholders in all departments."

Finally, he said, for a successful Oracle EBS implementation, you need to assess areas such as communication, vision of success and the impact of competing priorities. You should then compare that with your original baseline and identify areas where additional focus is needed.

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