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Oracle Soar cloud migration not for slackers

In a Q&A, Oracle senior vice president Beth Boettcher details what's involved in meeting Soar's tight schedule. Get ready to leave those ERP customizations behind.

Introduced in June, Oracle Soar is a partially automated program designed to improve the speed, quality, predictability and cost of migrating from on-premises Oracle applications, such as E-Business Suite, to Oracle ERP Cloud.

Rife with aeronautical imagery -- think Soar to the cloud -- Oracle Soar offers flights to migrate specific modules of E-Business Suite (EBS) v.12.X or PeopleSoft 9.X or later and Hyperion Planning, with expanded migrations for additional modules arriving every quarter. Participants follow a flight plan.

In this Q&A, Beth Boettcher, Oracle's senior vice president of North America applications consulting, explains how Oracle Soar works. Before joining Oracle in 2017, Boettcher spent nearly two decades at Accenture and was the first employee of its cloud practice.

This interview was edited lightly for clarity. Boettcher began by explaining the Oracle Soar essentials and an upcoming project management app for managing ERP system migration on the Apple iPhone and iPad.

When is the project management mobile app going to be available?

Beth Boettcher: Our first iteration of it, we're targeting November 30.

The other thing that comes with Soar is access to our Oracle University LaunchPad. It allows for training for project resources so they can be an integral part of the implementation, but it also provides training for end users. It also includes what we call our mission control director, which is really our CSM -- our customer success manager -- and a client gets [that person] for six months after their deployment.

Beth Boettcher, Oracle senior vice president of North America applications consultingBeth Boettcher

All of our [customers] get a dedicated launch team. We come on site -- and we think this is important because we know our competition has other methods they use to accelerate implementing their products.

But most of those methods assume a remote workforce with nondedicated resources -- kind of a shared pool. So one week a customer may be talking to one resource, the next week they may be talking to another resource, and these resources are ... sometimes spanned across up to 12 or more projects at one time. And they aren't getting dedicated support and clients get frustrated.

We have a dedicated team that will go on site ... and then they also work in a remote manner, where appropriate, to do the configuration and the hands-on work.

How much does Oracle Soar cost?

Boettcher: The price for our clients for the first flight plans [is] $900,000. What happens, though, in full transparency, is that we go in [and] many of our clients [say], 'Love it, but I want to change my chart of accounts.' Or 'I want to rethink some processes.' Or 'I love that you give me these modules, but there's some other things I need to do from a consulting perspective.'

We're taking clients and saying, 'OK, great, we're going to automate these components in these areas, but then we're going to add on tailored consulting solutions to account for things that you want to do beyond what's in the packaged Soar product.'

Many of our projects that we're talking to our clients about aren't the 20 weeks in duration [for] $900K. They're actually 20 weeks plus some other things to get them to -- not where the product needs to be -- but where they need to be as a company to operate more efficiently once they get to the cloud. We call that Soar-tailored.

Is it a base price and a few hundred thousand dollars more for the tailoring?

Boettcher: That's exactly right. That's how you have to think of it. Or [customers] might say, 'I want to do my EBS upgrade, but I also want you to look at starting some of my HCM [human capital management] work. We might couple the two together so you get ERP automated but ... some of the HCM stuff will come later.

How automated is it?

Boettcher: Let's just take general ledger or expenses -- you can take any of these modules. What's automated is our ability to look at your configuration in EBS and map it to the new field -- the configuration field -- in cloud. And then our tool -- obviously, some of the pick list values you might choose to change -- but once you've selected those things, you hit a button and [the tool] upgrades it.

You can't do that in a day, sometimes because you have to think through your pick list values. We've got to sit down in a room and have a bit of a design session and say, 'Here's how we want to think through the values in a slightly different way, and how does that impact your business processes or your reporting?'

So we do some graphic design sessions because we know [what] decisions they're going to have to make because we know what's different between the two environments. But it's not that you have to spend three, six, 12 weeks in global design; it's a matter of a few meetings.

If they're highly customized, they're probably not going to be in Soar, they're going to be in a tailored Soar because ... we have to unwind that customization to help them think through it. But once we've unwound the customization, we can then do the mapping of the configured fields to the new field and automate the upgrade.

The data migration is automated. We can do some of the [extract, transform and load] and automate that and then our integration.

We have a whole catalog of integrations that we've built because we've done thousands of cloud upgrades.

What is the analyzer tool?

Boettcher: This is the tool that can peer into a client's environment to see how many customizations and extensions, etc., they have to know, how much complexity there is so that we can, from the onset of this as a sales conversation, set expectations [and say, for example], 'You can use the Soar tools, but you probably can't do it in 20 weeks.'

Is a certain kind of cloud migration best suited for Oracle Soar?
Boettcher: We looked at Soar 101 and we know that it addresses about 7% of our install base, and it's for customers that we know have financials, procurement, projects, [Hyperion enterprise performance management] planning and budgeting, and some [PeopleSoft] HCM core functionality.

And we also know for these customers that we can run [our analyzer tool] to look at all your customizations, your extensions, etc., to say 'If you over-customized your EBS product [and] you have a large amount of extensions ... you're likely not going to be Soar $900K.'

Our SMB customers don't typically do as much customization because they just don't have the capacity to do it or maintain it. So we're finding that those customers are great targets for Soar.

In this quarter, we'll have what we call Flight 201, which includes all the modules we talked about for 101, plus ERP order management and inventory, and that will touch about 11% of our install base [cumulatively with Flight 101 modules].

And then we go to Flight 301, which we're going to deliver in [Oracle FY] Q3, which includes things around financial accounting hub, procurement contracts [and] supplier qualification management. And then it goes further into the PeopleSoft base around benefits and talent.

We know that that can address 20% of our install base. And then we get to 25% percent of our install base in flight 401. Then we'll continue to enhance as we go into the next fiscal year [starting June 1, 2019].

How firm is the standard Oracle Soar 20 weeks' migration and what does it cover?

Boettcher: The 20 weeks is firm because we run as a dedicated delivery team and we run it like a factory. So if one of our clients falls behind -- they can't do 20 weeks -- it's just like building cars. The factory is going to slow down. The idea is that we think ... that dedicated team could do between two and three projects at one time.

We run as a dedicated delivery team and we run it like a factory.
Beth Boettchersenior vice president of North America applications consulting, Oracle

We walk through this implementation guide. It is detailed: 100 pages long, week by week, step by step, deliverable by deliverable what [you are] doing. We walk through with a client and say, 'Can you commit these exact resources at this time to go do it? Because if you can't, and it extends our timeline, your price goes up. But we know the exact way we need to go deliver this.'

If they say, 'We don't want to work at 20 weeks, we can't do it, it's longer,' then they get a tailored approach and their price ... could go up. Or they might say, 'I want a longer approach, but I don't need as dedicated a resource team, so still keep my price at $900K.'

What else are customers expected to do in Oracle Soar?

Boettcher: We need a project manager from them because they've got to manage their resources, get us access to the resources in their organization, etc.

We think one of the most important roles in a cloud engagement is what we call business process owners. These are the individuals that are accountable for making decisions on the functionality. We talk about the mapping of the configuration or changes to business processes they're going to have to make.

[The customer has to] map their data, and then they also have to help us integrate to their source system because we can't touch their sources. So they have to touch the back end.

They also have to help us with executing, testing and validating the configuration. And then we also like to work with our clients in partnership to actually deploy it into production so that they know how.

The roles are the same as what you'd see in a typical project. But they do it in a way that you don't need an army of resources because you can't go and customize a bunch. It's a very different set of decisions we ask them to make. And so their resource commitment is lower ... because it's truly an upgrade, not a re-engineering.

Is there a typical client or particular industry that you expect to use Oracle Soar?

Boettcher: We're talking to all types of customers, all segments, all industries. Is it good for a government or public sector client? No. We say 20 weeks and they say, 'Aargh, we can't do that.' And higher ed, they're absolutely more tailored.

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