Halloween – A Time of Ghouls, Ghosts and R12 Upgrades (Pt 1)

Darkness falls across the land
The midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize the neighborhood

Now if you don’t know that song intro, shame on you. It’s from one of the biggest hits of all time – Michael Jackson’s thriller. A very appropriate one for Halloween I’m sure you’ll agree.

So first movie recommendation of the day. This would be “This is It”. There’s something very poignant about seeing him performing in what was his final curtain call.

Now Halloween has always been a time to scare the crap out of people. Kids dress up as Ghouls, Vampires and the like and go “trick or treating”, sometimes with some very nasty tricks indeed. Either the local neighborhood pays the kids with sweets, etc or the kids do something nasty.

Back when I was a kid, there was one particularly nasty kid who didn’t bother with the treat stuff. He figured he could go beat up the other kids at the end of the evening and steal their sweets. This saved him the effort allowing him to do his favorite trick of all.

This kid had a real nasty trick. What this kid would do would be to get some dog crap, put it in a brown paper bag and then go place it on someone’s doorstep. He’d quickly set the bag on fire, ring the doorbell and wait for someone to answer.

Now what is amazing is that the immediate reaction of an adult to a small burning paper bag (even if they are not wearing shoes) is to try to stamp out the fire with their feet. Irrespective of wearing shoes or not, this had some pretty unpleasant results for the poor neighbor at the end of this “trick”.
Before we start, let’s put our other movie recommendation out. It’s the original Halloween movie. Now I saw this when I was 13 and it scared the absolute crap out of me. Well worth getting the video. A classic 70’s horror flick for Halloween, but definitely not for the kids. (Don’t see the more recent one, it sucks).

So seeing as it’s Halloween, I should scare the crap out of everyone reading this right? So everyone’s moving to an R12 Upgrade in 2011. So what better way to scare you than tell you how horribly wrong it can all go on an R12 Upgrade !!!

So R11 Oracle Apps Premier Support is ending in November. That means you are screwed. OK, not completely (but Oracle will be putting the pressure on you and telling you that you are) but seriously you should be looking at R12 now.

Now let me tell you that an R12 Upgrade will be the biggest, toughest upgrade of ERP that you will EVER have done. It can go disastrously wrong. You could corrupt your data, you could have major functional failures dropping your business to it’s knees. Or your entire ERP could disintegrate and you could lose your job because at the end of the day your boss will need a sacrificial lamb and you seem to fit the bill.

Are you starting to get scared? You will be by the time you read this article, because it contains a very long list of every single thing that I can possibly think of that can wreck your R12 upgrade.

So let’s start at the very beginning. Getting the Project Started. If you get this wrong, it’s probably not worth bothering about the rest of the project. Here’s a short list of things to worry about. (Now the purists will say these are not risks). For me I like to have everything that can go wrong on one spreadsheet. Call it risk, call it a list, doesn’t bother me, because I can quickly mentally check each month how things are going and make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. It also gives me a nice risk score and lets me manage that to hopefully give the project a fighting chance of delivery.

Let’s start with the Project Management risks and everything that can go wrong here:

Weak Business Commitment to Project

Funding is not secured for Project

Project Decisions are not Timely and On Time

Weak Business Commitment to Change

Review of Project Deliverables and Sign-Off is not timely

Weak Support of Business Case

Scope is not defined clearly or completely

Business process model is not defined clearly

Planning is of poor quality

Project involves large number of departments

Tight Time-Frames, Minimal Slack between Dependent Tasks

Go-Live Date accommodates limited UAT

Project Milestones are not achievable (Project Schedule)

Dependency on other Projects

Project requires complex organizational changes

Contract involves significant cost

Project involves time-critical Procurement

Significant Scope creep

Gold Plating by Implementation Team

Project Budget is not sufficient with Current Progress

Project Resources are no sufficient with Current Progress

Project schedule is delayed

Project Cost is overrunning

Product does not meet client expectations

The very first thing you need to do is get your most knowledgeable and trusted people in a room and do proper planning, taking into account your organizations political landscape, resources, expected funding and other commitments. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Your planning must give ample slack time for delays in UAT, delays in decisions, procurement delays, bugs, resource problems (only 5% of people have done R12. The other 95% of people will do R12 in 2011, so can you get resources??????)

The most important part of any project is to get high level buy-in and commitment from the senior people across your organization. From a resource viewpoint an R12 Upgrade requires intense Business and IT Commitment. Fail to get every area of Business and IT involved and agreed, then you are screwed 100% come UAT, if not even earlier. You need to make it clear when you need the business, what you need them for, how long and how many resources right at the onset of the Project Initiation. IT resources need to be equally onboard.

Securing realistic and adequate funding is critical to an R12. It is bigger. It is more complex. It does take longer. An R10 to R11 or a 11.0.3 to say 11.5.10 is NOT the same as an R12. Build in a decent contingency.

An R12 is not a basic like for like Technical Upgrade. You should ideally keep R12 as a pure technical upgrade and not a re-implementation, unless there are very good reasons, otherwise your risks and costs will escalate severely. However even doing a technical upgrade involves a pile of new modules and new functionality (albeit some can be deferred). But you’d better be prepared to implement Subledger Accounting, EBiz Tax, TCA (changes in Banks), Payments and Self Service (new functionality and removal of MOD PL*SQL). All of these will need user review, functional designs (if customizations on top), setup and decisions, as well as time for your own team to learn the implications.  This can lead to multiple risks including your own team wanting to add “cool functionality” or users not making timely decisions or being prepared to adopt new processes to account for changes in say TCA or Payments.

If you are dealing with contracts for consultants, firms (outsourcing or otherwise) or need hardware, etc, be prepared for the heavy risks of delays in Procurement. IT guys often overlook that it may take a while, despite having the cash to get resources onsite or hardware commissioned, etc.

Talking of resources this should be viewed as a serious risk throughout your project. R12 resources are still less rather than more common.

As well as all of the above, you still have to worry about all the usual Project Management stuff of quality, schedule, cost, delays, budget, etc. And think about it, we’ve not even got to the actual project yet…….

So the very first thing you need to do (before your project team arrives) or is internally deployed is to make sure they actually have an R12 Instance to work on…..

Infrastructure is often overlooked for projects. Unfortunately this can cripple the project team (and therefore your project) very rapidly indeed.

Network Speed

Performance Issues on Project hardware

Performance on Production may not be acceptable Go-Live

Deployment involves new hardware

Hardware is not sized correctly

Database is not sized correctly (do you have enough disk space for R12)

Hardware is no available for Project Use

Backups are not available for Projects

Project Environments not available

Network availability is poor (if teams distributed)

DMZ Configuration is not available

Architecture is new

R12 Instances are not available

Space for Project Instances is not available

Missing interoperability patches

Missing patches to Operating System

If you are going R12, either you have a lot of servers around spare, or you are going to need to buy (or lease) additional hardware. Otherwise what is your team going to use? Ten Consultants onsite doing nothing is some serious cash burn.

Then you have to have a plan for environments needed, dates needed, who prepares them, who sets them up, etc. DBA’s will shout at you if you need environments the next day. And what if there is no space? Did you check the disk space as part of your project? Your average R12 environment requires considerably more space than your R11.

During an R12 Upgrade you’ll need a pile more databases. We used around 8 additional (and we still needed all our R11 Development, Patch, Test as R11 Production work could not be completely halted).

Now just think when you finally deliver that R12, and it crumbles on day 1 into a performance black hole. Did anyone bother to do proper sizing either on CPU or disk or Memory? If not, try www.jobserve.com when it all fails on day 1.

Even when you are starting the project, insufficient hardware will kill you.

Did anyone ask for backups of your project databases? It would be a real shame to see your R12 go down and no backup, losing months of effort.

If your Production is a DMZ enabled configuration, I hope that someone is also going to emulate this for some of your R12 databases as you go through the project.

 

So lets get to the one that usually gives R12 Project Managers nightmares. Resourcing.

Poor IT Staff Skills – Functional

Poor IT Staff Skills – Business

Poor IT Staff Skills – Quality Assurance

Poor IT Staff Skills – Java

Poor IT Staff Skills – Oracle Development

Poor IT Staff Skills – ERP

Poor IT Staff Skills – Modules Implemented (or new modules)

Poor IT Staff Skills – Technology

Poor IT Staff Skills – Unix/Linux

Poor IT Staff Skills – DBA

Poor IT Staff Skills – Project Management

Poor IT Staff Skills – Senior IT Management

Poor IT Project Team Rating – Skills

Poor Business Project Team Rating – Skills

User Department Staff not available for Project

IT Staff not available for Project

Poor User Department Staff Skills

Poor or lack of Project Team Lead (s) per Functional Stream

Experience of Business Area is Low

Project has competing projects for Resources

Custom Development relies on 3rd party

Project Manager is inexperienced in Upgrades/ERP

Legacy Staff unavailable for Data Conversions

IT Staff skills – training required

Low retention of project  team during implementation

Low availability of Trained and Experienced reasonable cost alternate resources externally

No IT Staff available for existing Production Support

Oracle Support provides poor support

Have you even contemplated the vast variety of resources you are going to need to pull off an R12 Upgrade? Have a look above if you think you can use a couple of consultants over a few months.

Will your internal IT guys be good enough? Do they know the R12 functionality? Probably not. Will you train them? Probably not. So how can they deliver? And even if you want to train them, can you get the appropriate training completed before they actually do the upgrade. Training courses from Oracle can be hard to come by, especially on some of the niche modules and require booking way in advance.

Do your IT guys REALLY know the business? If not are you sure you’ll catch every scenario and every nuance during implementation.

Do you have decent Oracle skills? Do you have decent Java skills? Do you have decent Oracle ERP Technical people? If not, you are going to need to ramp up or get someone that does to do your upgrade (unless your complete vanilla ERP).

Do you have anyone that knows all the new R12 modules, such as EBiz Tax, Subledger Accounting, Payments, etc? These are not optional modules (except Payments, but if your running Payables in R11, then Payments becomes essential in R12 and it’s a new module). Most companies will require to have knowledge on these and something like Payments has heavy changes between R11 and R12 – indeed it is a rewrite between R11 and R12.

New technology components are included across the board. Are your people ready and capable?

Your typical upgrade will require some pretty heavy Unix or Linux skills. You might have to upgrade the O/S or you may take the opportunity to switch to cheaper, less proprietary hardware or Linux. Do you have any clue what’s involved? (we did this and yes it saved us a pile of cash for the future, but it ain’t easy and is littered with risks).

Did you tell the Infrastructure guys you’d be needing a full time DBA for the R12; to clone R11 Production; to work on the upgrade process; to write detailed upgrade documents that give step by step guides; to optimize the process so that it can fit into a long weekend on a huge global database? To apply all the patches? You probably thought your DBA’s sit around doing nothing and can do all this at the drop of a hat…….Count on the initial upgrade where your DBA’s find out the nuances of R12 to take quite a chunk of initial time and plan that into your environments and people coming onboard project wise.

R12 Project Management. Words fail me on this one. If you are not an ERP person don’t even think of doing an R12 without a strong R12 Project Manager, ideally someone that has done R12 Upgrades. It’s horrendously complex, extremely technical and the risks are catastrophic if you get it wrong. (I can be contacted on the following number for lucrative job offers……… 🙂   )

Are the Senior Management (both in IT and Business) in full support of both you and the R12 Upgrade, or are they ready to crucify you at the first delay? R12 will have delays, it will throw horrendous curveballs in terms of bugs and other complexities. Just make sure everyone is on your side politically before you start. The guy below thought everyone was his friend, until he forgot to order the hardware in time……

Now this is a weird one, but how well do your Business know the Business and Oracle ERP? Look for the weak spots here before you start. If a Business Unit has a lot of new people or inexperienced people or are anti-Oracle ERP (and some are), how are you going to get them to assist (or write) Test Plans and Test Scripts and do actual testing. Now if your IT and Consultants don’t test well (and they are NOT business experts) the one hope of catching everything before Go-Live is the Business. I never build 100% dependency on the Business for testing, but if your IT and Business guys can’t be relied upon for testing, you’ve got a perfect storm.

The other thing to check is everybody’s schedules. We’re not talking dinner dates, or when they plan to see a movie. Are the Business available for an R12 (which won’t add vast value to be honest) or do they have a planned move to say IFRS planned from June to December 2011. If so you won’t get a look-in resource wise for UAT and your project will be dead in the water.

Same goes for IT. If they have some major high profile initiatives, your R12 is bottom of the list, as in the priority list, it’s just one of these unpleasant tasks that needs to be done.

Watch out that your R12 Upgrade doesn’t just focus on Oracle ERP resources. When we did the upgrade, we had Legacy guys, email guys, Web guys, external 3rd parties (Citibank and others), Health Insurers, etc. Miss those guys out and who can help you complete your UAT?

What’s amazing about an R12 Upgrade is that you’ll need exactly the same resources that are getting used for your R11 Maintenance and Support. That leads to automatic conflict and resource contention and delays (and when it comes to Production problems or R12 Upgrade, you’ll lose that argument every single time). So ensure you augment your team to not be 100% reliant on goodwill.

If you are getting a company to do it for you, be careful. Have they done an R12? If yes, will they give you resources that have ACTUALLY DONE AN R12? Most outsourcing or consulting companies might have done R12’s, but they are as keen as anyone else to stack your project with their guys who can then learn R12 at your expense. Nice how they’ll happily charge you for the privilege of training their people…….Interview all people, before they deploy onsite. Hire an independent highly knowledgeable freelancer Consultant to fight your corner and keep the vendor on the right track, working in your interests, not the vendors.

Do you know the effort involved in training people for R12? The IT guys, the Business guys, etc? If not, start to worry.

The great thing about an R12 Upgrade is that your team (and maybe your consultants or outsourcers) will all get fantastic R12 skills, in the midst of the hell of an R12 project. Trust me that’s a great way to learn. Of course all those companies that have not done R12 (and that’s 95% worldwide) will be looking and admiring your very skilled people. And your loyal people that you’ve spent time and money training in R12, will of course be looking for that next payrise with their new found skills. Losing key resources (say for instance your Payments expert) is your worst nightmare. Suddenly one single module can derail your entire R12 Upgrade. If you think this is the stuff of nightmares, well during our R12 back in 2008/2009 we lost our Payments Consultant (one of the few in Asia at the time). Luckily we had him shadowed throughout the project by another staff. The demand for R12 skills will hugely increase in 2011 and your guys will be headhunted or tempted away. Just be ready. I am sure the resigning employee will feel your pain as your project is now doomed, in the same way you felt his pain when you froze his pay last year, as part of a corporate wide pay freeze…….

Our final resource issue is to prepare for the maelstrom of Production support hell. Just make sure your well staffed and haven’t let the entire project team go, just before you get deluged with Production issues. (and yes you should start thinking about this not at the end of your project when everyone is jumping ship as the project for them is over, but at the very start of your project). It’s funny as R12 projects get to go-live, most of the work is done, and you start letting consultants/contractors go. Do you have any idea the pyschology in play with the others that you expect to see remaining to do the support work and provide critical support for a few months after go-live? Why should they stay when they can get a far longer, far higher paying and far easier (i.e. not pressured go-live support) contract with their fantastic R12 skills you gave them? Sleep on that one, assuming you can still sleep……..

And I hope you’ve got a full communication plan going on – an upgrade can take time and if you are not informing and working with the users throughout…..don’t expect them to be enthusiastic about putting large amounts of time into your UAT. Of course if you run workshops and demos and mini training throughout your R12 you’ll have a whole lot more acceptance during UAT and go-live…….

And finally Oracle Support………..now R12 should be stable now, but back in the early days, we had these jokers on the phone daily. We even had a few removed from our support calls because progress was atrocious. Are you ready to deal with Oracle Support? Do you know how to escalate calls effectively? Do you know how to work around Oracle stalling for time or sending you on a wild goose chase? If not hire someone that does. Good ERP people with strong experience are essential for your R12. It’s funny but I bet you didn’t even think about informing Oracle Support of your upgrade, which is a shame as they might have given you a Critical Account Manager that could have helped you push all your Service Requests….

And that’s all for now folks. Part 2 will cover more in ghost, ghouls, implementation, transition and onto go-live, together with a whole pile of great references, covering fantastic presentations from experts in R12 and great Oracle Open World links of R12 Presentations there, together with a heavily researched bunch of Metalink articles around R12.

I’ll be scaring you very shortly with Part 2 before the full moon of halloween is over.

The other blogs can be found on https://oracleprophet.wordpress.com

Enjoy.

Footnote:

The great graphics were the work of:

WWW.MYSPACEGRAPHICSANDANIMATIONS.COM

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