Easy Tailoring in Oracle Fusion Applications Sets Stage for Better User Experience
Next-Generation Enterprise Software Reimagines Personalization and Customization, Giving User Central Role
Author: Kathy Miedema, Oracle Applications User Experience
Revised: May 4, 2012
First published: April 20, 2012
New possibilities for doing more with less, and doing it safely, are the guiding principles behind tailoring in Oracle Fusion Applications. An improved user experience in this new generation of enterprise software extends to all types of customizations, which can be made quickly, easily, and with confidence that the changes are upgrade- and patch-friendly.
User experience experts Killian Evers and Kristin Desmond from the Oracle Applications User Experience team pinpoint how the ability to tailor your applications more easily with Oracle Fusion Applications provides for a more efficient process that benefits the entire business.
“We are reducing the burden of IT [information technology] when it comes to tailoring [Oracle] Fusion Applications,” says Evers, Senior Director, Applications User Experience. “We are also lowering the total cost of ownership. This is significant because I am not aware that any of our competitors can do this. That’s a pretty big bang for the buck.”
The extensibility of Oracle Fusion Applications is important for customers to understand for three fundamental reasons:
- The customization process is more efficient with Oracle Fusion Applications because there’s no need to pass customizations to the IT department. Passing customizations to the IT department can sometimes slow down the process because it can take several cycles before requirements and code are interpreted correctly.
- The extensibility process enables businesses using Software as a Service, or SaaS, as well as on-premise software, to reduce their IT workload. Users don’t have to turn to the IT department to implement customizations because they can apply the customizations themselves.
- Any tailoring that users do is upgrade-safe and patch-friendly, so there is no need to redo customizations when the company moves to a more current version of software.
What Do We Mean by Tailoring?
When the Oracle Applications User Experience team talks about tailoring in Oracle Fusion Applications, several areas are included: configuration, customization, extension, personalization, and localization.
Desmond and Evers define these areas as follows:
- Implementation changes that you make to set up your application
- Any changes that you make to existing features in the application
- New features that you might create in the application
- : Changes that an individual user makes for themselves to new or existing features
- Changes that you make to provide specific functionality to an area or region
According to Evers and Desmond, defining what you can do is an important aspect of tailoring your own software application. But defining who can perform the tailoring is just as important in the context of Oracle Fusion Applications. Evers and Desmond identify the business systems analyst, or BSA, as a key participant.
|Operates at the juncture of requirements from his or her business and understands:
- The needs of the end users of the system who must use the system to complete their jobs
- The technical possibilities of the system, which come from the IT department
- The executive-level requirements of the system that are aimed at productivity and efficiency
Members of the Oracle Fusion Applications User Experience team spent several months researching the role of the BSA. The BSA operates at the intersection of several parts of their business, Desmond said. These analysts take requirements from the executive level, and from end-users who say, “We work this way, and we want this,” and from the IT department, who frames what is possible and knows how to accomplish it.
Customers “want a lighter-weight way to change an application,” Desmond said. That’s why Oracle decided to provide tooling to support the BSA. In Oracle Fusion Applications, these tools are called composers, which run in a browser. These tools can be used to do everything from changing field labels to adding or removing components on a page to providing simple, template-based design patterns—without coding and in an upgrade-friendly manner.
“The tooling really supports a variety of roles,” Desmond added. “It offloads work from the expensive, overworked IT department,” for the on-premise customer, and it supports SaaS, where the customer doesn’t have a big IT department. “You don’t have to be extremely technical any more to know how to use this tooling.”
Desmond said extensibility is an ongoing issue in enterprise software. According to a 2008 report from Panorama Consulting Solutions, only one-quarter of customers can take “vanilla” versions of products and use them immediately. “That means 75 percent of customers have to touch the application and introduce customizations,” she said. “That’s a lot of cycles. If you can make it possible for the person specifying the changes to actually make them, you save a whole loop between them and the IT department.”
Providing the ability to make some of these changes in Oracle Fusion Applications, without doing any coding, is a natural outgrowth of what the BSA is doing anyway, Desmond pointed out. By making this part of the user experience, Oracle is saying to its customers: “You should be able to change a label on these fields for your system of users. You should be able to add fields on your UIs [user interfaces] for users to put data in.”
“That’s the kind of quality we’re striving for with these users,” Desmond added.
Changing the Future of Enterprise Applications
“We are changing the nature of IT,” Evers said. “We are opening it up to the BSA under specific conditions. The implication is that this is lowering the total cost of ownership with [Oracle] Fusion Applications, because we are supporting changes with [Oracle] Fusion Apps through patches and upgrades. This also lowers the total cost of ownership because customers no longer have to redo changes they make to the system after applying a patch or upgrade. This was a big pain-point for our customers in the past.”
“We are changing the nature of IT.”
|– Killian Evers, Oracle Applications User Experience team
Evers said that there’s an impact on Oracle’s partners as well as its customers. According to Evers: “One of the things that this does is reduce the number of lower-level employees required to just cyclically make changes to the system. And it empowers BSAs to make changes to the system. This is good because the BSAs are the ones who really understand who they are making the changes for and why.
“We have up-leveled that functionality,” said Evers. “I think that there is a good argument for doing more with less because you’re going to basically say, ‘I’m going to use my highly specialized people’” and get this project done quickly without adding to the workload of lower-level employees.
Desmond said that the impact of extensibility tools, as well as the ability for the user to use the tools, streamlines the customization process. There’s no need to make several round trips during the customization process with the IT department.
In addition, the ability to retain patches and other customizations through upgrades changes the game for enterprise software.
“With nearly all legacy products, when you make changes, you make changes to code,” Desmond said. “You are all on your own with that. You have to manage and track the changes. If you do an upgrade, you will have to reapply or rework your customization because you will lose it during the upgrade.
“With [Oracle] Fusion, that does not happen any longer,” said Desmond.
What that means for customers is that they can do more with less, and do it safely.