Friday, January 27, 2012

A Bevy of Ways to Learn About the E-Business Suite: I've Tried Them All and Got Something Out of All of Them

I've had a little free time lately, so I've used it well and have been filling my head with interesting things I didn't know before. How's that for good? I'm rather proud of myself. So I thought I'd share some of the places I've been and the things I've learned; all about the E-Business Suite, mind you. This may take more than one blog entry, as my edification has been that good.

Communities > My Oracle Support Community: When I hit a problem with the E-Business Suite, I have a tried and true routine that I follow. Recently I was working on a Release 12 Upgrade Readiness Assessment and visiting a client DBA, and I noticed he does the same thing as me - so it must be good! Basically, I hit an issue and troll My Oracle Support first. If I find a direct hit I dance a happy jig and go with that. If I don't, then I google my problem. Often I find what I need there. And if that doesn't work, I go to and choose Communities from the pulldown at the top of the screen, and then My Oracle Support Community. You can search for fellow sufferers of your problem, and if that doesn't work, you can ask a question. Folks on this community go above and beyond the call of duty to be responsive. Be kind to them and tell them as much as you can about your environment when you pose your question. Otherwise they'll have to ask, and you'll have to answer, and that'll slow you down a bit.

OAUG Connection Point regional conferences: I'm biased because they let me work on the Paper Selection Committee, but the OAUG Connection Point conferences are regional conferences, managed by OAUG in partnership with a local user group and an appropriate SIG (Special Interest Group) to cover a hot topic. The first one I participated on was in Chicago in July, 2011. It was just on the Release 12.1 upgrade, and I thought it went very well. There were lots of presentations, all about upgrading. The users were all very focused on the topic. There were also vendor booths and presentations, which made it easy to find consultants and 3rd party solutions to solve some of the gnarlier problems.

The second Connection Point conference that I attended last year was in Atlanta in November. It covered more than just upgrading - the topics were EPM, BI and Release 12 Upgrade. There were lots of great presentations, but the ones I enjoyed most, because I hadn't had a chance to attend them at other conferences, were by Susan Behn, of Infosemantics:

Maximize Efficiency of Oracle EBS Releases 11i/12 through Diagnostics - Learn how Diagnostic tests can be used in your upgrade/implementation to validate configurations, data and much more. These are XML reports that are run from a new, more user friendly interface starting in 12.0.6 and higher. The Diagnostic Tool includes tests to for users in virtually every area of the organization—functional (setups, processes, month end close), technical (analyze data integrity issues, data validation, purge opportunities), DBAs (security best practices, setup.) There is much more.

R12 Function and Data Security- UMX and Role Based Access Control - Release 12 includes stronger controls across the application modules for limiting access to both functions and data. This presentation will discuss these controls and focus on how Oracle User Management (UMX) and the Role Based Access Control (RBAC) standard work to mitigate security risks.

Ten New Forms and OAF Personalization Examples - This is an update to Susan's original popular personalization presentation with ten new examples. As part of your R12 upgrade, use Form and OAF Personalizations to replace many of your customizations. Also use personalization to streamline your business processes through improved control of validations, defaults, terminology and other requirements. These are the newest examples highlighting the newest Release 12.1 features.

Susan's presentation on using Oracle's Diagnostics tool that is part of the Oracle Application Manager offers up one more place where you can root around to figure out what is going on in your E-Business Suite environment. I was tickled to also pick up two more purge programs (I have a soft spot for finding Oracle-supported ways to remove administrative data from an applications environment) - yup, if you're churning out diagnostics reports, you should also be purging the data periodically; check out the Delete Diagnostic Logs and Delete Diagnostic Statistics concurrent programs.

If you're an OAUG member, you can download all of these presentations and more from the OAUG website. And if you're not, then try googling them!

Oracle's Patch Wizard Webinar: Jonathan Janaitis from Oracle gave this webinar about Patch Wizard. I'm a big fan of Patch Wizard. OK, I'm an embarrassingly gushingly enthusiastic fan of Patch Wizard. Jonathan had this one slide that I really liked. I used snagit to grab a picture of it while Jonathan was talking, but it came out sort of bleary, so here's my reproduction:

Things I found interesting:
  • Jonathan described the process Oracle Development follows for causing patches to land in, the file that Patch Wizard uses to make recommendations of patches to apply to your environment. Basically, the assorted development groups tag patches that are recommended or critical patches. So you won't find every single patch that Oracle has produced to date in the file, just the ones that are very important.
  • That said, if you discover a patch that Patch Wizard isn't telling you about, you can still use Patch Wizard to tell you more about that patch. Patch Wizard's interface is very intuitive, particularly when it comes to digging around in a patch's details to understand what the patch (or patches) will affect if applied.
  • If you aren't a Patch Wizard user, you can still get to the same information on My Oracle Support. Just go to the Patches & Updates tab and select Patching Quick Links. From there you can search for patches for Release 11i or Release 12. If you go that route, you'll find it a little tedious; Oracle created Patch Wizard for good reason, so it is well worth it to use their tool rather than dig through the screens on My Oracle Support.
  • Going back to Jonathan's slide, you can do either a Manual download or an Automatic download of the data. The reason for manual downloading? Some customers don't have their production environments opened up to be able to directly download patches from Oracle. Some customers have to download the information to a separate location and then move it over. If you're in that situation, then you won't be able to make full use of Patch Wizard, which will not only download - on a schedule if you want - but can also download the patches.
  • One caveat if you are able to automatically download - as part of the setup for Patch Wizard, you tell it somebody's My Oracle Support identification information - a valid My Oracle Support username and password. So if the password changes for that account, Patch Wizard will stop working and you'll need to figure that out and match up the password in your Patch Wizard setup with your new password. I mention this because I can almost guarantee that this will happen to me and I'll end up searching for a solution on My Oracle Support and then blush to discover that it was just a password problem.
Upstate New York Oracle Applications User Group Meeting, January 2012:

Truth be told, I haven't been to a local user group meeting in... I'm thinking 16 years. I got an invite, and realized that I've lived near Rochester, NY for 11 years and have had almost no interaction with local E-Business Suite users. If you held me up against a wall and threatened me, I'm not sure I could name five user companies. So I thought I'd give this meeting a try, and had absolutely the best time!

Doug Eberhardt, Marketing Manager at Sealing Devices, Inc. gave a terrific presentation called Choosing an e-commerce portal about his company's implementation of Workbench Software's Customer Portal for the Oracle E-Business Suite, including information on the implementation, product features, and how his company's customers have reacted to the new services. I loved this presentation for several reasons:

Doug described the process that his company went through to select Workbench Software as their e-commerce portal software vendor. A key feature of the product that Sealing Devices chose was that it interfaced seamlessly with the E-Business Suite. Patrick Harris from Workbench Software mentioned that his company had years of experience with the E-Business Suite and had used only Oracle's standard interfaces for their software.

Doug talked about how things have changed in the sales arena. I've always known that having a website was a good and useful thing, but now understand that the way that we as consumers buy things has changed a lot for many of us, and a good website can mean all the difference. I can think of several cases in the last few months where I've gone to a website, done my research, and happily made a purchase without dealing with a salesperson. Doug also made the point that if your website can answer standard questions automatically, without requiring a human to respond, you can save your company money and make customers happier there too - my favorite example is websites where I can check the status of an order or track when it will be delivered without calling in for that information.

I think, though, that what I enjoyed most about Doug's presentation was the story he told of how happy his company was with this vendor, Workbench Software. The product was easy and quick to install, maintaining it can be done by a non-technical person, and the service provided by Workbench Software sounded phenominal. Those are the kinds of stories I like to hear, where a local company provides a product and service that is so good that customers are willing to spend time putting a presentation together to talk about it.

So, folks, get out there and consider some of the many resources available for learning more about the E-Business Suite. The big kahuna of OAUG conferences is now on the horizon - Collaborate 12, April 22-26 in Las Vegas.

I'll be presenting one paper, Clean Up That Mess! A Mother's Guide to Managing Your E-Business Suite Clutter: If you’ve noticed that your Applications seem to be slowly grinding along, perhaps you need to review your overall approach to managing your Applications data. Are you purging data that ought to be purged? Is your Concurrent Manager configuration all that it could be? Have you LOOKED at your Workflow tables lately? Join me for a lively discussion of all the dust bunnies I’ve found in assorted E-Business Suite closets, and what I recommend you do to clean sweep your way to performance improvements.

Another great conference coming up February 14-16 in Denver, Colorado, is RMOUG Training Days, sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Oracle Users Group. Is it the possibility of a ski weekend that snags all the great minds for this conference? Many of my favorites, including Tim Gorman, Jonathan Lewis, Jerry Ireland, Mike Swing, Cary Milsap, and Mark Farnham will be presenting. I wish I could go, as this looks like a super, well-organized, presentation-packed conference, well worth the investment.

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