2018 E-Business Suite “Spring Cleaning” and Roadmap Planning
By Marc Caruso
On 27 March 2018
I’m not one to make New Year’s Resolutions, but I do like to take the beginning of the year as an opportunity to clean up from the prior Year and plan out my roadmap for the future. Your Oracle E-Business Suite can also benefit from short, medium and long-term roadmaps. I have sketched out some guidance to get you started and will hold a webinar for an interactive discussion on these topics Feb 7th.
Short Term Spring Cleaning (1 – 3 Months)
Once you get through year-end, it’s time to do some spring cleaning. Some of the following tasks should help improve the management of your EBS environment:
Document System Use and Growth –
How many users are in the system, and which modules are they using?
How many Concurrent Requests were run
How many Workflows executed?
How big is your database?
Answering these questions can help you determine if system utilization is going up or down, so you can do some capacity planning. It also gives you a stronger footing for justifying budget increases (or, God forbid, reductions) to management.
Reflect on Last Year’s Pain Points –
What big issues did you encounter last year?
Did your system perform well?
How did you respond to the needs of the business by creating new environments, cloning, and patching?
Are your service levels acceptable?
Are you proactively detecting system issues?
Are your high availability and disaster recovery equal to the requirements of the business?
What business flow processes could be carried out more efficiently?
Work from these issues to map out the things you need to do to improve your implementation and turn pain points into positives.
Understand Platform Lifecycle –
Where do your database and application components lie in the support lifecycle?
How about your hardware and operating systems?
Have you spoken with your infrastructure teams about possible upgrades to your underlying network, storage, and server infrastructure?
Can your platform expand quickly enough to meet business needs? Are you oversized?
Develop a plan for these often overlooked items, and consider the option of moving some or all of your E-Business Suite to a cloud environment.
Purge Your Data – Keeping up with purge programs and managing them carefully delivers more efficient disk space utilization and maximizes system performance. More than 100 purge programs in the E-Business Suite should be the responsibility of the Super User of a given module or product family; other purge programs are the Application DBA’s job. If these stake holders are not running them, it’s difficult to get that space back.
Gather Statistics – If you’re not doing this regularly, you should be. Schedule program as a Concurrent Request to help keep your system performing well.
Review Scheduled Concurrent Programs – During the course of a year, lots of programs get scheduled. But very few companies take the time to audit what is scheduled, and over time conflicting and duplicative programs wreak havoc on performance. Find out what is scheduled, remove duplicate entries, and ensure that conflicting programs aren’t set to run on the same schedule. As an extra credit exercise, review the setup of your Concurrent Managers to see if there are ways to optimize program execution.
Review Application Security – Run E-Business Suite Security Diagnostics. Do this regularly starting now if you’re not already doing so, executing in a weekly or monthly cadence. These health checks uncover things like default passwords, seeded application accounts, profile options, and other things that can cause problems.
Review Network Security – You’d be surprised at how many customers find that their network settings have mysteriously changed over time. But there are a lot of things you can do with very little effort to tighten up your environment and implement defense in depth principles. Are appropriate firewall rules in place? For Internet-facing applications, has a URL firewall been set up, at minimum? If you can, implement TNS Listener security.
Audit Your Users, Responsibilities, and Functions – You should already be doing this regularly, but if you’re not, this is the year to start. Ensure users are actively using the system, and if they’re not, disable them. Take away responsibilities that are not needed. And most important, make sure that the functions associated with responsibilities are being maintained.
Consider Compliance – HIPAA, PCI, and GDPR compliance should be at top of mind to ensure smooth sailing into the new year. Ensure you’re in lock step with your internal and external auditors, remediate any findings from any previous audits, and be prepared to face the challenges of the road ahead.
Review License Compliance – Oracle is audit-happy these days to fund their push to cloud, so you should be ultra-diligent about staying in compliance both for technology and application licenses. Pay close attention to revenue and headcount-based application metrics, and make sure those licenses you thought qualified for run-time don’t require the purchase of full-use licenses. If you are running in a virtualized environment, make sure you comply with Oracle’s rules. Any firm that performs license management services should carry out a soft audit before Oracle comes knocking. Many firms, including ours, offer a service to manage your licenses so you don’t have to worry about it.
Schedule a DR Test – Nobody wants to do it, but everyone should. At a minimum, you should request the business to add this to their operating calendar. At least you can say you tried!
Medium Term Fine Tuning and Upgrades (3 – 12 Months)
The good news is that if you’re on a stable, supported application release (12.1.3 or 12.2.6+), there’s not much you’ll need to think about this year other than some of the underlying technology. Don’t rest on your laurels, though, and take the time to start preparing for that 12.2 upgrade or the migration to Cloud Applications. Oracle EBS Development has stated that they will provide future releases to guarantee support for E-Business Suite through 2030, so if EBS is working well for your business, be confident and continue to make investments in the platform. Make sure you plan initiatives far in advance, ensure the initiative is visible the wider business calendar and get buy-in from the business for testing.
Document Customizations and Integrations – I know, I know. You never have the time to get to it. However, I can’t overstate the importance of keeping up with this critical task. If you don’t have good source control and deployment practices, you’ll have to audit this information regularly for consistency and currency. Creating a formal process for developing, deploying, and documenting code is one of the most important steps in maturing an ERP platform.
Upgrade Customizations for 12.2 EBR Requirements – If you aren’t yet on 12.2, it’s not too early to start updating your code to comply with Edition-Based Redefinition. It will make your life a whole lot easier when and if you decide to move to 12.2.
Upgrade Your Database – The clock is ticking on the fee waiver for Extended Support for Database 11gR2. If you haven’t started planning your upgrade, now’s the time to do so. Moving from Database 11g to 12c will require functional testing, which means involvement from the business, so you need to get it on the calendar soon, rather than later.
Upgrade Java – This is another task that nobody has time for, but it is super critical. Do it as part of the database upgrade so users have to test just once. Oracle says it has no plans to certify server-side components with Java 8, so Java 6 and 7 are your options. On the desktop tier, 6, 7, and 8 are all supported. EBS supports Java Web Start (JWS) which allows browsers that don’t support Java plug-ins to run Java content.
Apply Security Patches – I know I’m pushing it – a database upgrade, Java upgrade, and now security patching??? But I can’t stress enough how important this is. Over the past year, we have seen dozens of attempts to exploit code for which there are available security patches. Customers need to get serious about this, especially those of you with Internet-facing modules. Again, bundling this testing with database and Java upgrades will make life easier on your users. If you have a third-party support contract like Rimini Street, ask your vendor what options are available.
Think About Mobile – Oracle has developed a bunch of cool mobile applications that are relatively easy to get up and running. It’s a nice benefit to users, it will make you look like a hero and it costs very little to deploy and nothing in licensing. There’s also a mobile development platform that you can use to customize those applications or build your own from scratch, but you’ll have to pay for licensing if you go that route.
Review Oracle Release Content Documents (RCDs) and Build a Functional Roadmap – Most organizations have an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset if they don’t make themselves aware of key features and enhancements built into a software version they’ve just implemented or upgraded to. Look at the Release Content Documents (available through MOS) to see what things you already have at your fingertips, and sketch out a functional roadmap so you can begin to harness them. Firms like ours would gladly invest some pre-sales effort to help you exploit more efficient ways to use your system.
Long Term Cloud Options (12 – 60 Months)
Oracle’s support up to 2030 may seem like a long way off, but time flies when you manage a large ERP environment. Premier Support for 12.1 ends in four years, and for 12.2, six years. If you will be upgrading from a release prior to 12.1 or if you’re on 12.1 currently, you should focus on a 12.2 upgrade. While 12.2 is often viewed as a technical upgrade, there are many functional improvements that can be highlighted and promoted to get your business’s buy-in to justify the move to 12.2. Customers dissatisfied with their current EBS deployment should consider an option to combine an upgrade to 12.2 with a move to Oracle Cloud Applications.
Consider Cloud (Public or Private) for E-Business Suite – There are a number of ways to achieve the flexibility, scalability, and velocity of an SaaS-based solution for E-Business Suite. Public cloud and private cloud options – and the service providers who manage them – offer automation of regular maintenance tasks, rapid provisioning and scaling of environments and out-of-the-box monitoring, security, backup/restore, cloning, and patching solutions. If you haven’t worked with cloud before, you don’t have to opt for a big bang. Disaster recovery and non-production burst capacity implementations are good first steps. We partner with AWS and Oracle for public cloud use cases and run our own purpose-built private cloud, so reach out to us if you’d like to discuss options. I’ve also published a webinar on this topic.
Prepare for Oracle Cloud Applications – If you aren’t satisfied with your current EBS deployment but aren’t quite ready to move to Cloud Applications, it’s not too early to start planning for the move. Consider the answers the those questions we raised earlier in Short Term tasks, and use them to establish a basis for justifying a move. Work with a partner to map and gap functional requirements, especially for modules that may not be as mature in the Cloud. If you don’t have all data flows documented, take the time to organize the task.
Get Serious About Hybrid Cloud Management – In a multi-cloud, multi-SaaS world, where most businesses are moving to best-of-breed solutions, your ability to integrate those solutions is critical. Your IT team will need to keep up with the velocity of release cycles coming from multiple vendors to keep your business running smoothly. Start thinking about holistic monitoring, orchestrations, code deployment, quality assurance, release management and list the processes and tools you will need to support those activities. These are often overlooked, and both time and money should be budgeted for implementing them.
There’s no time like the beginning of a year to do some housekeeping and plan ahead. I hope this post has you thinking about some of the things that you can do to improve the experience of your end users, ensure you remain supported and secure, and keep you looking forward.