Established in 1919, Engineers Australia is the national forum in Australia to advance engineering and the professional development of its members. With more than 100,000 members, spanning all engineering disciplines, Engineers Australia is the largest and most diverse professional body for engineers in Australia. The organization offers its Australian and international members a range of services and seeks to advance the science and practice of engineering, cultivate lifelong learning by its members, promote the contribution of the profession as widely as possible, champion professional and ethical conduct, and take the lead in advocacy of the profession.
Engineers Australia needed to replace its aging legacy IT infrastructure, redefine its business processes, and develop new online and customer relationship management (CRM) functions to improve the services it provides to engineers.
The organization’s system, which it calls eChartered, went live in November 2012. It provides new online self-service capabilities that improves the user experience for Engineers Australia members and replaces many cumbersome manual processes. In 2012, the organization implemented Oracle Business Process Management Suite 11g and Oracle SOA Suite 11g, running on Oracle WebLogic Suite 11g, to support the development of its eChartered system.
Engineers Australia moved from paper-based to online processes, improved monitoring, management, and visibility of its chartered engineer processes, and ensured seamless integration for eChartered, thereby reducing the time and effort required to manage members’ enrollments, assessments, and registrations. It now completes the enrollment processes 90% faster, while staff can generate assessment reports in seconds rather than taking 45 minutes, as was the case previously. The organization also has cut the time to develop new system modules by three to four weeks.
As the country’s largest and most diverse professional body for engineers, it is vital that Engineers Australia monitors and manages its engineers’ enrollment, registration, renewal, and training as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. In 2009, the company began to evaluate its legacy IT platform with an eye toward improving the quality and efficiency of its membership enrollment and chartered status certification program. It also wanted to ensure that the fee for a chartered assessment is cost neutral for the organization.
Engineers Australia was managing an aging application system that a small IT vendor developed specifically for the organization. The system’s functionality was clunky and outdated, and many processes—such as recording engineers’ enrollments and assessing their competency and training submissions—were managed manually. The legacy system was not designed to be an interface that engineers used to complete chartered assessments. Rather, it was designed for administrative staff to track and record key milestones, such as Engineers Australia membership, chartered status, and revenue streams for chartered status.
External consultants reviewed Engineers Australia’s legacy application systems and IT infrastructure. They identified a number of issues, including a lack of support for end-of-life products, insufficient functionality for engineers engaging with the organization through the internet, and the high cost and effort of maintaining and developing new services for the specialized infrastructure. The consultants recommended that Engineers Australia enhance the services it offers to engineers by re-engineering its business processes, moving its membership accounting processes from the legacy system onto Oracle E-Business Suite, and incorporating CRM functionality.
In 2010, Engineers Australia launched a management information system (MIS) renewal program to improve the value of the member experience by re-engineering its main business processes and encapsulating them in new applications.
“We wanted to develop better web-based, self-service processes for our engineers,” said Richard Holmes, MIS renewal program manager, Engineers Australia. “We needed to replace the legacy system with commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) applications and powerful middleware products to cut the cost and effort of IT development and maintenance and ensure seamless system integration.”
Engineers Australia divided its MIS renewal program into several development projects. The organization first addressed its chartered status certification program by creating eChartered, a system that implements the chartered assessment process in accordance with the MIS renewal program architecture.
To become chartered, an engineer must enroll with Engineers Australia and submit up to 18 written documents demonstrating competency in various engineering disciplines. Engineers Australia sends the competency documents to independent assessors, then it confirms with the engineer whether the competency reports have been approved or further work is required.
During the eChartered project, Engineers Australia implemented Oracle BPM Suite, Oracle SOA Suite, and Oracle WebCenter Content. It used Oracle WebLogic Suite’s highly available infrastructure to replace the legacy system with automated and web-based procedures.
Engineers Australia also used Oracle BPM Suite to redesign and standardize processes involved in achieving chartered status. The middleware product removes manual work, improves staff members’ control over and visibility into enrollment, approval, and registration processes, and streamlines processes.
Engineers Australia also used Oracle SOA Suite’s loosely coupled, services-based architecture to integrate with different systems and applications, including Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.1, Oracle WebCenter Content, Oracle Business Intelligence Publisher, and a third-party content management System for the web user interface. In addition, the organization implemented a data feed to Salesforce.com’s cloud-based CRM software.
The Oracle-based solution’s hardware includes Oracle’s Sun ZFS Storage 7120 appliance, six Sun Blade X6270 servers, a Sun Blade 6000 chassis, and Oracle VM.
“By consolidating with a primary vendor for hardware, middleware, and applications, we have a partner we can rely on for strategic advice and technical support,” Holmes said. “It’s good to work with a vendor who understands our business and can help us achieve our goals.”
Engineers Australia has saved staff and engineers a significant amount of time and effort by automating manual tasks, such as processing engineer enrollment forms.
“For example, in the past it took engineers up to 30 minutes to print and complete a paper enrollment form, then mail, e-mail, or even deliver it by hand,” Holmes said. “Once we received the form, it would take up to 20 minutes to manually re-enter the data in the legacy system. Now, an engineer can enter information online in less than five minutes, and it immediately flows from the website into the corporate database via Oracle BPM Suite without manual intervention. It also ensures forms aren’t held up in the post.”
By more efficiently managing and monitoring chartered engineer processes—and integrating to back-end applications such as Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.1—Engineers Australia has significantly improved staff workflow and the services it provides to engineers.
“We’ve completely redefined our processes, based upon the needs of staff and engineers and implemented these on Oracle BPM Suite,” Holmes said. “This ensures processes are carried out correctly and consistently and do not progress to the next step before previous stages are completed.”
The new eChartered system also reduced the time to submit and approve engineers’ competency documents. Previously, engineers had to print and mail or e-mail their completed competency documents to Engineers Australia staff for approval—a process that could take up to 20 minutes. Engineers Australia staff would then mail the submitted document to an assessor. Once finished, the assessor had to mail an approval or a request for additional information from the engineer. Depending on the assessor and the postal system, this process could take weeks.
Now, engineers can submit their competency documents online in just a few minutes. An assessor can log in to the system, immediately see a list of competency documents that need approval, and select and assess a document online. Once they are finished, Oracle BPM Suite registers that this part of the process is complete.
“The process is now so much faster that we can ask two assessors, rather than just one, to check each competency document, minimizing the risk of assessment errors and ensuring that we provide engineers with the best possible service,” Holmes said.
Depending on the engineer’s experience, chartered status can take up to six years. Oracle BPM Suite supports this long assessment time by enabling Engineers Australia to design several different checkpoints and human workflow interactions throughout the qualification process. For example, the organization can determine whether an assessor can review the competency document, or if the engineer needs to send more information.
“We now have visibility into the entire competency assessment process, no matter what stage an engineer is at,” Holmes said. “This ensures that we don’t have to spend time checking engineers’ details and can help them on the next stage of their qualification journey.”
Engineers Australia can now ask an engineer’s employer to approve a sponsorship payment by logging into eChartered for a formal online approval. The engineer also can seek online verification from a senior engineer regarding the competency document by eChartered e-mailing a link to the senior engineer to the website to view and confirm the submitted details. This would not have been possible previously, as it was too time-consuming to send, follow up, and receive documents by e-mail or mail, and then enter the relevant data into the legacy system. Now, verification is received online and the process immediately registers as complete in eChartered.
“Once the assessments and verifications are complete, Oracle BPM Suite automatically requests a report from Oracle Business Intelligence Publisher, confirming competency or providing details about why competency has not been granted,” Holmes said. “Previously, it would have taken staff up to 45 minutes to create a report manually—especially if approval wasn’t granted—and send it to the engineer. Now, the details populate automatically in a standardized report and are e-mailed to the engineer straight away.”
As soon as an engineer is notified that competencies are adequate, they can return to the website and apply for a final professional interview required to be a chartered engineer.
Oracle BPM Suite is also integrated with Oracle WebCenter Content, enabling Engineers Australia to store documents associated with competency assessments, such as engineers’ resumes and statutory declarations, in a central repository. This eliminates manual collation and ensures vital documents are not lost.
“We no longer have to print and file the engineers’ documentation, and can ensure the documents are accurate and up to date,” Holmes said. “Automated online processes also eliminate risking data entry errors and ensure Engineers Australia presents a professional image by using standardized templates for reports and forms. We have also saved approximately US$20,000 per year on paper and postal costs.”
The organization anticipates it will further reduce staff and administration overhead costs as it continues to minimize manual tasks.
Engineers Australia is using Oracle SOA Suite to integrate Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.1 with the eChartered website, saving engineers and accounting staff significant time when processing credit card payments for enrollment, assessment, and professional interview fees and further minimizing the risk of human error.
Previously, an engineer would call, e-mail, or submit card details on paper forms for processing, which staff would manually enter into the legacy system. Now, submit payment approvals through the payment gateway. The invoice and payment receipt feed straight into Oracle Financials without manual intervention. This is faster and more secure than manual processing.
“Oracle SOA Suite’s loosely coupled architecture also ensures we can continue to provide efficient services to our engineers and members by enabling the website credit card payment system to remain active even if there is a problem with the back-end applications,” said Holmes.
Using Oracle BPM Suite and Oracle SOA Suite significantly reduced the time to develop new services for engineers. By reusing portions of code developed for eChartered’s pricing, the organization cut the time to develop similar pricing for its second project, eRenewals, by several weeks.
“It would have taken a month or two to develop pricing from scratch, but by developing reusable pricing processes and functions, we only have to spend a couple of weeks developing the module components specific to each project,” Holmes said. “Reusing the same generic functionality for each project will save us significant IT administration, maintenance, development, and testing costs.”
Oracle BPM Suite has also made each process more visible to administration and call center staff, enabling them to provide a better service to engineers.
“Now, if an engineer calls to find out how their enrollment or approval process is going, call center staff can easily login to the system and provide that information,” Holmes said. “In the past, they had to ask an IT technician to access that information before calling the engineer back.”
Engineers Australia can easily create virtual servers for the development and test environments using Oracle VM. This ensures the organization has resources and environments to efficiently develop and test new features or services throughout the software development lifecycle.
Engineers Australia wanted to implement best-in-class COTS products and a powerful middleware platform to support its MIS renewal program and develop its new eChartered system.
The organization assessed two top-tier middleware vendors. As an existing Oracle customer, Engineers Australia already had confidence in Oracle’s products. After assessing the other products and reading several product-related reports from technology research firm Gartner, the organization decided Oracle offered the highest performing and most cost-effective solution.
“The Gartner reports made it clear that it was important to work with a primary vendor that had an end-to-end solution—hardware, middleware, and applications—for ease of integration, cost-effectiveness, and support,” Holmes said. “We kept this in mind when evaluating solutions, and it was a key reason in our decision to choose Oracle.”
“Once we engaged with Oracle, it quickly became our preferred vendor. Oracle offered a more comprehensive product footprint and we were very impressed by the extensive toolset in Oracle BPM Suite. We were also confident Oracle offered the best solution in terms of product development to support our long-term plans,” Holmes said.
Engineers Australia began installing Oracle BPM Suite, Oracle SOA Suite, and Oracle WebLogic Suite in September 2011. The organization also extended its licensing agreement for Oracle Business Intelligence PublisherOracle WebCenter Content, and Oracle Database .
Engineers Australia upgraded to Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.1, including Oracle Financials, in January 2012. It went live with the new eChartered system supported by Oracle BPM Suite, Oracle SOA Suite, and Oracle WebLogic Suite in November 2012.
Engineers Australia has begun its second project, eRenewals, and will use Oracle BPM Suite and Oracle SOA Suite to develop new processes for its membership and migration skills assessment services.
Engineers Australia engaged Oracle Platinum Partner Red Rock Consulting to implement the Oracle Fusion Middleware products and upgrade Oracle E-Business Suite.
“Red Rock helped us implement the products and build the additional functionality and integration required for the eChartered system,” Holmes said. “Red Rock played a major role in the Oracle E-Business Suite implementation. We grew together as a team as we worked on the middleware, and, as a result, it was a very positive experience.”