Accelerate Your BusinessBy David Baum
Compete and win with Oracle applications technology.
Abound Solar, a startup in the clean technology industry, produces photovoltaic panels that are the result of more than 20 years of research. The company founders wanted world-class IT processes to help bring these unique solar modules to market. Abound Solar decided to invest some of its limited capital in establishing industry-leading product lifecycle management (PLM) processes.
Abound Solar needed a PLM solution because its third-party enterprise resource planning (ERP) system wasn’t set up for an engineering environment, says Tom Nelson, quality management systems manager for Abound Solar. One problem was that engineers struggled to use it.
“We have a fairly complex bill of materials—it has several thousand pieces in it,” says Nelson. “If you’ve got thousands of parts and there are many, many subassemblies and subassemblies within subassemblies, finding all the parts that are involved when you have to make a change can be difficult. The ERP system can’t really handle that.” Moreover, the inability to keep track of parts across systems led accounting to generate inaccurate purchase orders and general ledger statements. “We could do it, but it was a struggle,” Nelson says.
The company needed its PLM system to integrate and manage its business processes—including quality, configuration, and change management, as well as document control and corrective actions—with its other systems, in addition to interfacing with all the groups in the company. “Without document control, there was no single point of reference for documents,” Nelson says.
Abound Solar chose Oracle’s Agile PLM solution in part because Nelson, who’d previously worked for Oracle partner and PLM systems provider GoEngineer, was familiar with it. Implementation went quickly.
“The first thing we did was use the Oracle Business Accelerators package from GoEngineer,” says Nelson, who had developed the first Agile accelerator program for Oracle while at GoEngineer. “Then from the time we installed the Agile PLM software on the network to the time we had the first bill of materials loaded was about five days.”
Oracle Business Accelerators “give you a framework for things as simple as parts,” says Nelson. “You might use a flat washer a thousand times in a large assembly. Finding all of those and keeping track of them is a major deal. Oracle Business Accelerators automatically set up types of parts as well as their attributes, such as the inside diameter thickness, or material.”
Abound Solar’s implementation team started in November 2008. By January 2009 the company had a fully functional PLM system, and by the beginning of April the team had completed its first internal ISO-9000 audit—a project they were working on in tandem. “Going from square one to ISO audits in three months would not have been possible without a tool like Oracle PLM,” says Nelson. “If everything were paper-based, we’d still be developing processes.”
Moreover, the services worked as advertised. “Today the Agile PLM system is our golden master for all design information,” Nelson says. “Everything else refers to that single point of truth. We’ve simplified the interface so the manufacturing folks can press a single button to view a document.”
The bill of materials for Abound Solar’s photovoltaic panels contains only 15 to 30 line items, but the manufacturing line has 10,000 to 15,000 items. Eventually the entire factory will have an even larger bill of materials. Oracle Business Accelerators provided the underlying data model for all of the types of parts and their attributes. “It’s just a matter of tying your usage into those particular parts,” Nelson says. “You don’t have to create everything from scratch.”
Oracle Business Accelerators enabled Abound Solar to jump-start the business. “Oracle Business Accelerators take you 80 percent of the way there very quickly by leveraging best practices for your particular industry,” Nelson says.
Solving Integration Challenges
Amway wants to double the size of its business. To do so—and to better serve its distributors and consumers—the company decided to replace its legacy back-end systems around the world with Oracle E-Business Suite. Amway is also in the midst of refreshing and standardizing its Web presence and e-commerce sites around the world. The new ERP application, integrated with e-commerce architecture solutions and business intelligence strategies, will provide wide-ranging and up-to-the-minute insight into customers, sales, and operations. The company is on an aggressive schedule to accomplish this globally within several years.
According to Tina Abdoo, manager of enterprise development at Amway, the company selected Oracle E-Business Suite 12 not only for its integrated set of ERP capabilities but also for the associated technology infrastructure and deployment capabilities embodied in Oracle Application Integration Architecture.
“We needed an ERP application and technology infrastructure that offers the scalability and flexibility to support our business needs as we grow,” says Abdoo. “Oracle Application Integration Architecture and Oracle E-Business Suite 12 provide the out-of-the-box functionality and integration capabilities that can give us that solid foundation.”
Amway implemented Oracle E-Business Suite 12 in Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand in July 2009 as part of a worldwide IT initiative called Project ATLAS. The project entailed consolidating legacy systems that were decades in the making and creating a SOA to standardize the interchange of information. Amway also wanted to streamline business processes into a cohesive application architecture, enabling global reusable processes.
To help structure this ambitious project, Amway used Oracle Application Integration Architecture and its associated foundation packs, which provide a common-object and shared-services library with a supporting SOA programming model. This implementation framework allowed Amway to take advantage of packaged, integrated business functionality. The foundation packs include enterprise business objects and enterprise business services that standardize data schemas between applications, helping to resolve inconsistent business semantics.
“Oracle Application Integration Architecture streamlined the deployment for [our] Global Web [e-commerce system],” says Abdoo, “and we think [it] will simplify upgrades and reduce the cost of rolling out new releases as well.” Already, Amway has “a more solid and unitary design across different projects and implementation teams,” she says. “In a large enterprise with multiple platforms, decoupling applications in this way has given us better scalability, governance, and visibility into the data structure. We expect the major benefits to come from reusability in future projects.”
According to Hasan Rizvi, senior vice president of Oracle Fusion Middleware products, enterprise business objects include common business entities such as purchase order, sales order, and invoice. “They bring together disparate applications using a common language, eliminating the burden of having to create business objects from scratch,” he says. By using these standard entities and services, Amway can be confident that its processes won’t change as developers deploy new applications or upgrade to newer versions of Oracle E-Business Suite.
“The use of enterprise business objects greatly streamlined the design and development time line,” Abdoo confirms. “In addition, using a best-practice industry standard is a significant advantage for all future deployments.”
Amway developers also used the Oracle Application Integration Architecture Foundation Pack error handling framework, a prebuilt solution that reduces the time and effort associated with building homegrown error-monitoring solutions. The framework will help Amway monitor its application grid by routing errors to the correct application and user; thus, any exceptions can be resolved quickly and with minimal downtime.
Prebuilt configurations such as Oracle Application Integration Architecture give customers a decisive head start in structuring large implementation projects and bringing content and workflows together through a consistent user interface, Rizvi says. “The Oracle Application Integration Architecture configurations include data models for certain verticals, along with popular services and specific integrations between, for example, CRM [customer relationship management] and finance or HR and finance,” he adds. “But there are many other business-process enablers within the Oracle Fusion Middleware family.”
Amway is using Oracle SOA Suite to integrate its global e-commerce system with the Oracle E-Business Suite 12 applications and third-party systems. “Oracle SOA Suite helps Amway to devise common methodologies and processes that will make it easier to roll out technology changes in 60 countries,” Abdoo says.
All companies want to deploy applications quickly, but sometimes external forces dictate the timeline. So it was for OpenTV, one of the world’s leading providers of advanced digital television solutions. OpenTV’s software enables advanced and interactive services including video on demand, personal video recording, and interactive advertising.
Previously, OpenTV used a Lawson ERP system to automate its order-management and financial processes, but as the company grew, managers ran up against limitations around revenue recognition from multiple sources and countries. The company also needed to integrate its professional services activities and streamline Sarbanes-Oxley compliance processes.
“We didn’t want to go through the Sarbanes-Oxley certification in two different financial systems, so we had a tight production deadline for going live with our Oracle implementation,” says S.K. Mohanty, OpenTV’s senior director of information systems.
Mohanty says that OpenTV also needed financial applications that could support project management modules, service contract models, global GAAP and non-GAAP accounting, and multientity consolidations. The new ERP system had to manage data for five operating units, 11 sets of ledgers, and seven currencies.
“We had customized our old system to the point where any upgrade would have been like a brand-new implementation,” he says. “We wanted to deploy a more standard configuration in the future, and we especially wanted to avoid a complex, drawn-out implementation. We also wanted to adapt standard business practices to simplify upgrades down the road.”
OpenTV chose Oracle E-Business Suite 12 as the package with the best functionality. “Once we looked closely at the Oracle Business Accelerators solution, we became more confident that we could implement these software applications within a very short amount of time, without having to expend significant resources,” Mohanty says.
OpenTV retained DAZ Systems, an Oracle Certified Advantage Partner, to implement the Oracle solution. The prebuilt configurations and integrations of Oracle Business Accelerators helped OpenTV to move forward quickly while reducing risk.
“With Oracle Business Accelerators, Oracle has basically industrialized the implementation process, using templates that represent best practices for various types of businesses,” Mohanty says. “The entire analysis, design, and requirements gathering cycle—which normally takes several months—is compressed into two or three weeks.”
As a result, in just 12 weeks, the team deployed 12 modules, five sets of books, six order types, and 48 entities. “We did not have to customize anything,” says Mohanty. “Except for a few interfaces, we got most of what we needed right out of the box—and we met our production timeline for Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.”
OpenTV’s Oracle E-Business Suite system, which has been in production since August 2008, has already had a decisive impact. The unified financial system has reduced the manual processing previously required to unify 11 sets of ledgers, thus accelerating financial closing and reporting. The system has also made it easier to support statutory and regulatory requirements, enabling the company to fulfill requirements for Sarbanes-Oxley without manually gathering data from multiple systems and sources. And eliminating customizations to key business processes, such as revenue recognition, makes it much easier to maintain and upgrade OpenTV’s information systems. Through Oracle On Demand, OpenTV has one point of contact for applications and hosting services.
“We don’t have to spend time, energy, and resources to juggle issues among multiple vendors,” Mohanty says. “Is it the infrastructure? The database? The applications? Oracle handles it all.”
As part of Oracle Application Integration Architecture, Oracle has created process integration packs (PIPs) that enable cross-application business processes, allowing companies to get up and running in heterogeneous environments more quickly. Pella Corporation took advantage of these capabilities when it implemented Oracle CRM On Demand and integrated the new CRM software with the surrounding e-business environment.
“We have stayed true to our vision of standardization, and it is really starting to pay off,” says Rick Hassman, director of corporate applications for Pella. “As we have grown, we have extended our functionality with many applications, yet we have continually leveraged Oracle technology to integrate data with more than just Oracle E-Business Suite.”
Pella is a leader in designing, manufacturing, and installing quality windows and doors for businesses and homes. A long-time Oracle customer, the company was drawn to Oracle CRM On Demand to coordinate sales activities, track performance, and refine its customer outreach strategies.
Pella had already gone to great lengths to enhance its customer service capabilities. For example, the company used to store customer information in multiple databases across its organization, which made it challenging to quickly track business interactions with each customer. As Pella implemented Oracle E-Business Suite, Hassman and his team were determined to improve the process. They deployed one centralized “customer master” that maintains unique identifiers shared by applications, enforcing consistency and supporting enhanced customer service.
Pella leveraged this same customer master when it deployed Oracle CRM On Demand in 2008. According to Hassman, the PIP made it easy to leverage the unified customer definitions and automate connections between Oracle CRM On Demand and Oracle E-Business Suite. “Oracle’s prebuilt integrations made it easier and faster to build an opportunity-to-quote process without having to design, build, and test the end-to-end system from scratch,” he says. “By predefining the key data elements, the PIP provided 90 to 95 percent of what we needed.”
That’s no surprise to Michael Fauscette, group vice president for software business solutions at IDC. He believes that implementation frameworks such as Oracle Application Integration Architecture are invaluable at the outset of an enterprise software implementation.
“In my experience, the perceived risk and the actual risk are exactly opposite from what many people think,” he says. “Many people think that the risk comes at the end, when you go live, but the real risk comes when you are trying to figure out your business goals and objectives. If you have the right tools and frameworks to do that correctly up front, then you’ll end up with an enterprise software environment that meets the needs of the business. Prebuilt integrations and PIPs help you make the correct decisions up front.”
Pella used Oracle SOA technology to enhance the integrations and leverage them within other applications. Today, Oracle CRM On Demand is fully integrated with Pella’s business applications, reducing data entry and giving sales reps a dashboard view of recent customer contacts.
“Oracle has progressed in its innovation and its working partnership with Pella,” says Hassman. “It’s a strategic relationship in which we leverage continuous improvement and continually help make each other better.”
David Baum ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) is a freelance business writer based in Santa Barbara, California.