Change Management in Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS)

By Subraya Mallya - June 2007 | Topics - Change Management, Compliance

Quick Question: What is the most challenging aspect for IT?

Few would argue if I said change management is the most critical and the challenging process in the IT world. The same is probably true in business world too,  especially given the rapid pace at which things are changing.

The effectiveness of  your change management process can be directly measured based on the business continuity your company has. Conversely, how agile you are as a company in dealing with changes effectively is a reflection of the quality of your change management process.

The key objective of implementing an effective change management process is to ensure that the company conducts the appropriate due diligence around the impact of the change. The regulatory mandates that companies have to abide by has made it an imperative.  Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) 404, PCI and other regulatory mandates have explicit requirements for

  • instituting a detailed change management process with approvals for each change
  • segregation of duties in terms who affects change and who has access to the system
  • providing a detailed audit of all the patching that has taken place etc.

I will cover more of each of those topics in another article.

Change Management means different things to different people. For the sake of this article, I will stick to the Business Application Change Management. Furthermore I will just look at the change management landscape in Oracle E-Business Suite.

Changes in Oracle E-Business Suite can happen in myriad of areas. They can be broadly categorized into

  • Configurations
  • Extensions/Enhancements
  • Modifications
  • Localizations
  • Integrations

Each of these changes have their own lifecycle. The needs originate either due to a product defect or  gap and lives until the product addresses the need. Sometimes the change is so specific that the change lives as long as the product.

Configurations
These are the switches and knobs in the application. These come typically with a range of values and combination of these various switches and knobs allow customers to model their business processes one way or the other. In the Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS)  world, these configurations include

  • Profile Options
  • Menus, Functions
  • Responsibilities
  • System Parameters
  • Concurrent Program Setup
  • Flexfields

Most of these configurations are setup using the User Interface shipped as part of the product/suite. These are typically done by a user with superuser/administrator role in the company.

Extensions/Enhancements
Despite the features’ arms race in the past decade, Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) still has a lot of gaps in functionality. This is probably the same with all ERP solutions out there. Customers that require specific features that meets their industry needs or business needs have to then either make customizations/build a custom feature or buy a solution from a niche vendor and integrate it to the central ERP solution. Extensions are features that are implemented to add net new functionality that did not exist before into the product. Some of the typical extensions done for Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) are

  • New Tables to capture additional information
  • New interfaces to import data, for e.g bulk import where one does not exist
  • New User Interfaces, libraries to extend the business process
  • New Database Triggers, Synonyms, Views
  • New Report
  • New Concurrent Program like a custom purge program
  • Adding Approval Rules when they were none
  • Generating new output format for reports besides the one that is shipped out-of-the-box
  • New Custom applications
  • Branding

Modifications
Modifications slightly differ from the extensions in that they are changes to the out-of-the box product feature or behavior. These are typically done to meet company need around specific processes, industry needs, performance needs. The most commonly performed modifications in Oracle E-Business Suite are

  • Workflow customizations
  • User Exits to override default behavior
  • PLSQL API customization
  • Menu, Responsibility customization
  • UI customization to implement security
  • Report modification i.e., customizing the layout, content to meet your needs.
  • Data Model modifications, i.e., adding indices, creating partitions

Localizations
Localizations are changes/adaptions done to setup the business to operate in particular country, local currency, local language and local geographical requirements. In a way there are customizations but they are applicable to only a geography. Multiple localizations one per locale can exist at the same time in applications. Primary needs that necessitate these localizations are local statutory reporting requirements, local language. Most commonly done localizations in Oracle E-Business Suite are around

  • Tax calculations as applicable to a region
  • HR policies as applicable to a region
  • Accounting Principles as applicable to a region
  • Invoice, check printing

Integrations

Integration is the glue between two products. Integrations could be either to send data or supplement functionality between two products.  Oracle E-Business Suite has some good models to build integrations (the recent SOA initiatives not withstanding). There are standard public APIs, Open interfaces to build out integrations. Integrations can be synchronous or asynchronous. SOA, which has been touted as the silver bullet to all the integration woes of years gone by is still a few years from becoming the norm.  Most commonly done integrations in Oracle E-Business Suite are using

  • Open Interfaces
  • PL/SQL Public APIs
  • Java APIs
  • XML Gateway
  • Business Events

Oracle has published a comprehensive repository of all the interfaces that third parties, customers can use to integrate into Oracle E-Business Suite and can be seen at http://irep.oracle.com

For a company that has a mature change management process a adaptable workflow as below would be the norm.

IT Change Management - Request for Change (RFC) Lifecycle

IT Change Management - Request for Change (RFC) Lifecycle

I will go through the change management maturity and policies in another next article.

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