Oracle E-Business Suite users face EBS R12 upgrade challenges

An upgrade to E-Business Suite R12 can offer many benefits, but EBS users have also reported a number of business and technical challenges during and after their EBS R12 upgrade process.

As Premier Support for Oracle E-Business Suite 11i ends and users begin their upgrade planning for Release 12, many are anticipating unique challenges when moving their data, technologies and IT staff to the new version.

At the Oct. 25 New England Oracle Application Users Group conference held at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass., customers discussed the pros and cons of an upgrade to EBS R12. While an EBS upgrade can ultimately offer improved features and performance, no amount of planning can save users from unexpected challenges before, during and after the upgrade.

The Fortune 500 company ONEOK, an energy and natural gas corporation, completed an upgrade to R12 this summer after 11 months of test and exploratory rounds. The upgrade was ultimately successful; however, the team faced some challenges, even after planning their upgrade timeframe with the expectation that issues would arise. For example, the Vertex sales tax module they were using was not certified with R12, so they had to switch to Oracle’s new Tax Engine. Another challenge arose when the final upgrade was performed mid-payroll cycle, locking old time cards.

Mike Miller, vice president of service delivery at Data Intensity, the IT services firm that helped ONEOK complete the upgrade, also discussed in his conference session the large amount of historical data that ONEOK had, which he said was one of the biggest challenges. Miller said this issue had the greatest impact on ONEOK’s Oracle Accounts Payable system.

“We expected bugs, but data problems were a surprise,” he said. “We knew that during the exploratory (round); we couldn’t get upgrade rounds to finish until we ran purge programs.”

Poulimi Mehta, a business analyst at General Dynamics, said that this will also be a concern for her company, since they plan to keep all of their past data. She said while an R12 upgrade is on her radar for sometime in the next two years, they currently have a large number of higher priority projects. She also wants to see what issues other users who upgrade run into -- and what solutions Oracle will offer

Some users are also asking whether they should upgrade R12 or go to Fusion Applications. Colleen Baumbach, senior director of product strategy at Oracle, spoke at the conference and recommended that users stay current on Oracle applications releases and also adopt a “coexistence strategy” by adding new Fusion apps modules to their existing Oracle apps portfolio.

Kathy Korman, a business analyst at Atrium Medical, said she hopes to start an upgrade to R12 sometime in the next year in order to get full support from Oracle. But when asked if she knew whether her company would adopt Fusion Apps, she said she didn’t know yet.

“If we saw benefits in certain modules, we might consider it,” she said.

Still, Fusion Apps or not -- and despite challenges ranging from hardware implications to functional and technical retraining -- an R12 upgrade can have many advantages. Stan Korwin of the consulting firm DARC Corp., who led a conference session on R12, said these benefits include globalized features and more flexibility for companies with complex organizational structures.

Neil Feldman, senior director of applications at Abt Associates, upgraded to R12 a year ago from EBS 11.5.8. He said that the upgrade allowed his company to get rid of about 25% of its customizations, like custom reports, and make them part of their standard product.

Feldman also said that while they had a few problems in the project building and Oracle Accounts Receivable (AR) space, these issues were resolved rather quickly.

“It was surprisingly smooth,” he said of the upgrade.

Korwin that since R12 has been out since January 2007, the significant bug problems have been worked out.

 “It’s stable, he said. “It’s been stable for the past couple of years.”

Shayna Garlick can be reached at [email protected].

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