By David Wright, Product Champion Lead at More4Apps, and Rob Kennedy, Cloud Financials, Owner of Paso Consulting
After more than 20 years of using Oracle on-prem, a leading global software, consulting, and technology company made the move to Oracle Fusion Cloud Applications. The company provides professional services and technology solutions in 140+ countries and has more than 30,000 employees. With such wide-reaching operations, the company’s ERP system has long been vital to powering its business across industries and countries. Conducting a new implementation on the cloud gave them a chance to rethink and ultimately improve many of their processes and workflows, especially those related to project and portfolio management.
Project and Portfolio Management Before the Move
The company—let’s call them ABC Technologies—had been using the on-prem version of Oracle E-Business Suite R12 when they decided in 2020 to move to Oracle Cloud. Over the years, they’d upgraded their on-prem Oracle systems several times but had made few changes to their processes, despite organizational transformations. Moving to Cloud gave them a fresh start and a chance to implement functionality and solutions that better fit their current business needs. One of these changes was adding the Oracle Project Management solution to the Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP.
Previously, the business was operating without Oracle Projects, meaning much of their project accounting was done using Oracle’s General Ledger alongside a number of offline spreadsheets and project management and financial systems. Disjointed systems complicated reporting and decreased efficiency. It also opened up the possibility for multiple conflicting spreadsheets to exist, errors to occur, and data to be outdated or inaccurate. Project managers and accountants were relied upon for updating their spreadsheets and sharing the relevant information whenever a question arose or numbers were needed, putting heavy reliance on the availability of these individuals. A trustworthy, shared source of truth that was easy to access and maintain was required. Using Oracle Project Management on the cloud was the clear answer.
Finding a Solution for Creating and Maintaining PPM Data in the Cloud
One key aspect of implementing Oracle Project Management for the organization was deciding how they would create and update projects, related metadata, and related transactions like time, miscellaneous costs, and usage cost. Generally, most teams would need to create 20 to 40 projects a month. More importantly, thousands of projects already existed that would need to be updated and maintained, as would the new projects after they were added. To help them determine a path forward, the company turned to their Oracle PPM Implementation Specialist, Rob Kennedy, from Paso Consulting.
For project creation, Rob’s initial plan was to utilize More4apps, an Excel-based data loading software he’d previously used when consulting on other Oracle implementation projects. However, getting any outside software approved by the company’s legal and security teams required time, and the company was eager to keep things moving. Since the company only needed to create projects in small numbers, Rob decided to utilize one of Oracle’s new built-in tools: File Based Data Import (FBDI) templates. However, working with the standard templates requires users to have extensive knowledge of the included columns and how they work. To help, Rob customized the templates to be more user-friendly for importing information.
“I put in macros and Visual Basic and stuff like that to make it more intuitive,” Rob explains. “If I had More4apps earlier, I would've used that from the get-go and built my inputs around that. If you build a whole solution around mass project creation and maintenance with More4apps rather than using FBDI, you’ll have download and upload functionality, and the columns are way more user-friendly. In FBDI, you don't have anything like the download function unless you build a report, but it doesn't come out in a format comparable to More4apps.”
Even now, Rob says, the templates require job aids and training, and the error message can be hard to interpret and understand for everyday users. If users need to create more projects, the company may revisit the project creation process to incorporate More4apps rather than FBDI templates.
Project Creation Tool Comparison
With no standard Oracle tools available for managing a high volume of project metadata after it was loaded, Rob felt even more strongly that automation was needed to maintain the company’s projects and related metadata. Doing it manually would be time-intensive, costly, and error-prone, and essential deadlines would be missed. His preferred solution was More4apps.
“If you’re making changes to anything over 10 projects or 100 tasks, I would never ask anyone to do it manually,” Rob shares. “In fact, I refuse to do it myself. I'd rather spend the 15 minutes figuring out how to do it in More4apps, and get that to do it.”
Creating a custom in-house update API was an option, but it wasn’t ideal. Building a custom tool requires considerable upfront investment in development and testing and specialized knowledge of PPM REST APIs. Later, significant training is usually needed to help users learn the custom tool. Maintaining skilled in-house support for issues and errors also leads to ongoing expenses.
Rather than deal with this large investment and its ongoing expense and complexity, Rob recommended that the company utilize the More4apps Projects Module. With its Excel front end, the software provides a familiar, intuitive interface where users can quickly and easily download, edit, and upload mass data to complete project updates. Data validation and easy-to-understand error messaging are also included.
“Its biggest pro is being able to maintain all the project data in an Excel-based format,” says Rob. “Anything to do with task attributes, as soon as you start dealing with anything at that level, you are talking about massive time savings, especially on the update side.”
Project Maintenance Tool Comparison
In-House Update APIPros
The Value of Planning and Change Management
The process of guiding ABC Technologies in moving to Oracle Fusion Cloud Applications has reiterated to Rob the importance of communication and planning in these types of undertakings. For example, the number of conversations required and the length of the approval process to bring in his preferred software for data loading took longer than anticipated. This led to him moving forward with customizing Oracle’s FBDI templates and building a process around this functionality rather than using More4apps. Shortening timelines for bringing in external software helps to anticipate and prepare for likely questions.
In addition, moving away from long-existing systems and workflows almost always creates friction among teams and employees comfortable with their old ways of working. For this project, explaining the changes and their benefits has helped to reduce the hesitancy among employees, but more training and communication lie ahead before everything runs smoothly. Old habits are hard to break, and change takes time. Simplifying processes with tools like More4apps that are intuitive and easy to learn can help. Still, having a support model and a dedicated change management team are critical to the success of any move to the cloud.
Project Management Since Go-Live: Rapid Updates, Higher Data Quality
In 2022, approximately two years after beginning the process, the new ERP system, including Oracle Project Management, went live in the cloud. The company’s project management and financial systems have now been wholly and successfully integrated, leading to better reporting, improved insights across the organization, and easier project management.
One significant benefit of the move is maintaining projects across more than 70 countries in the cloud. With automated processes and instant data validation that helps users find and fix errors, the company can be confident in its project management data and reporting quality and reliability. Even with a lean team, the company can efficiently manage ongoing maintenance and respond to urgent requests for same-day production updates. For example, Rob recently needed to add a DFF value being used in accounting/SLA configuration. Using More4apps, he updated the value across 9,000 projects within an hour. Manually, he estimates it would have taken one person more than six days.
“Without the change in place, all accounting would have failed. This is an example of when the urgency of the request illustrates how important More4apps is,” Rob explains. “If the process was fully manual, there is no way one person could complete these tasks within the timeframes required, not to mention the insanity to the poor person doing the update and the increased risk of making mistakes.”
Between go-live in July through mid-September, nearly 25,000 updates have been made to projects and tasks. Those changes have taken less than seven hours; manually, it would have been approximately 17 days of highly tedious, error-prone work. Managing these updates and hitting deadlines would require a much larger team without a data-loading software solution. Instead, because they have More4apps, the company can invest in team members spending less time on data entry and more time on high-value, rewarding work.
Rob also used the software prior to go-live to make changes during design and user acceptance testing. “The time saved in testing cycles is virtually impossible to quantify,” says Rob. “Without More4apps, I am not sure we would have even been able to test PPM successfully.”
While much of the organization is still getting acquainted with the Oracle Fusion Cloud Applications systems and Oracle Project Management, eventually, Rob will train more people on More4apps. Once that happens, users can make the updates they need without submitting a support request, further streamlining and accelerating processes.
“Even though the company has moved onto Oracle Cloud and is using Projects, there is still a long road ahead to truly gain the advantages this application has to offer,” Rob shares. “As the company’s knowledge improves and they begin to utilize more of the available functionality, More4Apps will prove critical to that successful growth.”
Moving Forward with the Right Tools in Place for Success
With the combined power of Oracle Fusion Cloud Applications and More4apps, ABC Technologies has finally ditched the dispersed spreadsheets and disjointed systems for project accounting. While they’re still learning everything that’s possible, they now have processes and systems in place to maximize efficiency and optimize the project management, reporting, and financial processes across the organization—paving the way for ongoing future improvements and success.
David Wright, Lead Product Champion at More4Apps, is part of a dynamic team developing software for Oracle ERP software, specifically Oracle Fusion Cloud Applications and eBusiness Suite. His team’s aim is to streamline organization data entry to help accelerate business activities and improve resilience to disruptions. David is highly involved in helping organizations using Oracle in Advanced Pricing, Supply Chain Management & Manufacturing, which allows him to develop extensive connections throughout the IT community.
With over 20 years of experience in implementing, upgrading, and running Oracle e-Business products, Rob Kennedy of Paso Consulting helps guide customers through the process while identifying key risk areas that require extra attention. Oracle EBS and Cloud specialties include complex global multi-currency design across all applications, Projects suite (R12 Certified Implementation Specialist), Financials applications and reporting solutions across all applications.