Enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementations are mainly business projects rather than IT projects, so a lion’s share of efforts and, consequently, costs of ERP adoptions belong to the business side—for example, business process changes and master data preparation. However, ERP systems can’t just be acquired and started to be used overnight, so a system’s deployment itself and its fine tuning to certain business processes and practices is still a significant part of a deal. These processes are often interchangeable so it’s difficult to draw a fine line between system-related or business-related tasks—in some areas we have to change the system setup while in others we optimize processes because the software requires it. Sometimes clients need to modify both in parallel.
In order to make this process less painful and more effective, there are multiple strategies that have been developed by ERP vendors. One of those that works well and recently even became trendy is developing specific solutions for different narrow vertical industry segments. For instance, in the ERP for discrete manufacturing space there are solutions specifically for automobile, electronics, aerospace, and many other verticals. Vendors of ERP for process types of manufacturing also often offer solutions for pharmaceutical businesses, for food and beverage companies, for chemicals, oil and gas, and so on. Software solutions, although similar to each other, vary in multiple ways within those verticals due to different product types, different compliance and item auditing requirements, and many other reasons. Such vertical-focused solutions are typically pre-defined for a certain market niche and require significantly less effort from both vendors and their clients to implement.
The Benefits of Vendor Experience: Oracle's Implementation Tools
Tools incorporating implementation strategies and methodologies based on vendors’ multi-year experience in deployment of their systems can also prove to be very helpful in the implementation process. Those tools can include implementation project management methodologies, various types of utility applications, and so on. One of the most notable examples is Oracle’s experience with the deployment of its Implementation and Integration Tools, provided through Oracle Application Integration, Oracle Business Accelerators (OBA), and Oracle User Productivity Kits (UPK).During my recent briefing with Steve Cox, VP Oracle Accelerate Global Programs, he was kind enough to specifically present the Oracle Business Accelerators program using the example of Oracle JD Edwards to explain how one of these tools works in general.
In addition to Oracle Implementation Integration—a single-source content development tool pre-loaded with templates that is aimed at providing users with the ability to fully integrate Oracle products with other applications that the client uses, and with User Productivity Kits—the vendor offers Oracle Business Accelerators. Those are essentially cloud-based templates that describe major elements of a client’s structure and its main business processes. They are currently available for seven of Oracle’s products, including its flagship ERP applications E-Business Suite and JD Edwards, and have several vertical industry segments to better fit the system. By answering a set of standard questions tailored to certain software, the client’s vertical industry, and the nature of the project, the client quickly receives a pre-built software instance which is already personalized according to the client’s structure and needs. It defines the company’s structure of the system, a number of modules, required functions, and allows users to choose from dozens of pre-defined and ready-to-use business process flows. If more customization is required, Oracle Business Accelerators offer graphical and visual tools to quickly modify or create new processes and their relationships, and immediately update the system’s configuration. As a result, a definition of a system configuration and rough design of a customer’s internal processes can take hours and days instead of the weeks and months that are typical for systems of this level of complexity. I am sure Oracle’s customers appreciate the time and costs saving that Oracle implementation tools provide.
Business Accelerators is definitely a remarkable practice that Oracle’s competitors have most likely evaluated to a certain degree. Some of them already provide methodologies of this kind, or, at least, are in the process of developing those. Availability (or lack) of such instruments and methods that are undoubtedly useful for both sides involved in the business software implementation process—software vendors and their clients—can be an additional and very strong argument in favor (or against) a certain shortlisted software product.