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With the internet accelerating the sharing and collecting of information of all types, concerns about the accuracy and protection of the collected data have grown drastically. In this document an attempt will be made to describe risks will be managed during the process of "Upgrading the existing Oracle Financials ERP implementation to 11.5.10 version". This document defines roles and responsibilities for participants in the risk processes, the risk management activities that will be carried out, the schedule and budget for risk management activities, and any tools and techniques that will be used.
The risk management process attempts to identify what could prevent or limit the upgrade of the existing oracle applications (11.5.9) and achieve the targeted functional and performance objectives within cost and schedule constraints. This is a very essential component of delivering the upgrade project, and any other project, to the altar of success. The competition among the software vendors drives them to deliver the new versions to their customers without thorough testing and fixing the loop holes in their product. In addition, every new version calls for stronger hardware requirement, more skilled and trained individuals, more clarity in the expectations from the software/upgrade, and faster implementation and/or upgrade because the obsolescence of software takes place before the new version is released. Therefore, the planning of an upgrade process of any software needs to be planned very careful.
An applications upgrade delivers the organization a tool which acts as a catalyst for business change, by delivering new functionalities, better performance, new applications, etc. The effective migration/upgrade of the application ensures that the management enjoys the fruit of the efforts put/invested in this project. Thus it is the responsibility of the project team to ensure that all the risks are mitigated effectively so that the time frames are met, appropriate skill levels are available, all hardware resources are within hands reach, and the project team has clear and specific goals.
On broad guidelines, the upgrade process of Oracle Applications can be classified into three categories:
1) Project Risks
2) Technical Risks
After playing the simulation "Managing Project Risks", we can list down the following risks under these two headers.
In general, project risks are which do not involve any involvement of technology. These are generic risks factors which are common to most of the projects. The leading risks to the upgrade process, relating to our case scenario, are:
- Change in management priorities
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- Lack of team synergy and Commitment
- Poor selection of team
- Lack of clarity of objective
- Nature or Manmade disasters
Any change in the following parameters does not increase the percentage of risk and does not endanger the project any further. The list of parameters is:
- the number of application/database users,
- the commitment from the management,
- the corporate culture,
- the number of people on the upgrade team,
Technical risks comprise of risks relating to hardware, software, and network resources. The factors which can and/or will influence the technical risks are:
- Applications Complexity
- Extent of functionality used
- Stability of the release
- Customizations in the Applications code
- New functionality
- Integration of modules
- New technology
- Network resources
- Legacy systems and standards
In Oracle Application upgrade project, the possible risks which can dampen the motivational level of the upgrade project are:
- Skill and Competency level of the upgrade team
- New issues coming into picture
- Availability of the network resources
- Legacy systems and standards
- Stability of the release
Once the risks have been listed and categorized, it is very important to prioritize it so that adequate resources can be allocated to monitor the possible risks and help the project sail through to success. The risk prioritization is done based on the following factors:
- Past experience
- Similar experience of other customers of Oracle Applications
- Post of experience in the forum of OAUG and support site of Oracle.
- Benchmarking data available on competitor's and vendor's website
- Gut feel/sixth sense
- Expert opinion of experienced staff, as was available from Sid, Rafael, and Viviane. Their past experience helped a lot in making right decision to mitigate the possible threats in the simulation.
- Impact of each risk factor on the outcome of the project.
During the process of prioritization of the risk factors, suitable Probability (P) and Impact (I) rating is given to each possible risk factor Project and Technical. Based on the Exposure (E) reading (P x I) it becomes easy to prioritize the risk factors.
Risk Factor Probability Impact Exposure
Skill and Competency level of the 0.85 0.8 0.680
Availability of the network resources 0.80 0.80 0.640
New issues coming into picture 0.60 0.8 0.480
Stability of the release 0.60 0.60 0.360
Legacy systems and standards 0.60 0.40 0.240
The impact of these factors on the project under consideration is discussed, in brief, below:
Skill and Competency level of team Historical data and the expert advice in the forums of experts indicate that the probability of this risk factor is very high in the software upgrade projects. The upgrade process of the applications is highly technical and complex. The complexity and the technical level can be handled only by skilled technical expertise. To explain this by an example: The configuration of new version of Workflow and Notification mailer, new version of Oracle Framework Agent, new version of Discoverer Server/Viewer, etc. are some of the upgrade features which need expert knowledge to install, configure and maintain them.
Stability of the release Metalink, the support website of Oracle and OAUG
forums are good source for any issues or failures encountered during the similar or identical upgrade process. Past experience has enough proof that an upgrade process is more than 4 months long; and during that time every software vendor comes up with an upgrade and/or new version. These versions are resolution to the bugs to the existing version. Thus it becomes necessary to go with the latest version of the software. Such situations create further delay in the deliverable dates of the project.
Network resources With the due course of time it is very likely that the
cost of equipment and the related costs will increase. This can affect the cost and the schedule quite significantly and that will be a great. In addition to this any delay in the commissioning of the hardware will further delay the project. At this client site, this is a very critical factor to be monitored and mitigated.
Legacy Systems and Standards: The mismatch of standards and equipment pose a
risk critical to the upgrade process and the project integrity.
New Issues coming into picture During the testing of the upgrade in the test instance, new issues come up and service requests are logged with the Oracle support for the resolutions. At times the resolutions are very simple fixes which do not involve any complexity. But the resolutions can involve complex resolutions also, which require major fixes provided by the support team. In such situations, the testing period increases, as new resolutions need to be tested before the upgrade process is complete can signed off by the testing team. This delays the project further and can also result in increase of cost involved.
Mitigation of the risks:
The show must go on. To lead the project to success, it is very important that the identified risk factors be mitigated and nullified to the maximum. The processes of mitigating these risk factors involve:
Factor Mitigating Strategy
Skill and Competency level of team Introduce training to the team members which lack required skill level required for this project. This may require rescheduling the project deliverable time line to some extent, but it is worth it.
New issues coming into picture It is very important to clearly define the objectives and requirements from the upgrade. Technology gets upgraded daily and on hourly basis, at times. It is very difficult to keep pace with that, but by being farsighted and going with the latest versions, this pitfall can be avoided and avoid objectives being compromised with.
Availability of the network resources By involving the network and hardware team in the planning stage, assigning the roles very objectively, taking commitments from them and doing the backward planning from there helps any pitfalls when any shortfalls occurs here. Budget costs need to be tracked and reserves kept for any uncalled for shortfalls.
Legacy systems and standards Additional network maintenance procedures, purchasing of additional equipment, and short listing of additional reliable and certified vendors for immediate replacement of equipment will greatly help mitigate this risk factor. Arranging of additional resources will minimize the deviation of the project from the committed deliverables to the management.
Stability of the release Every activity cannot be planned and no effort will mitigate every risk factor. This is one of them. The only way to mitigate this risk factor is targeting the upgrade to one version lower than the latest available. When I suggested and planned for upgrading the applications to 11.5.9 version, at that time 11.5.10 was already released. But experience proves that the latest is always full of bugs and thus is unstable. Therefore, the version targeted was 11.5.9. Now that the next version is out for more than a year, we are planning it. The latest version available is 126.96.36.199.2.
Change management of Risk Management during the upgrade procedure:
Project lifecycle management is the process of managing the project from its conception stage to the stage of obsolescence or retirement. (Oracle Corporation; http://www.oracle.com/applications/plm/PLM_OVVW_DS.pdf) Similarly, monitoring the change management of the risk management during the upgrade process is very important for the future maintenance of the final product delivered. In the previous upgrades we have maintained detailed history and logs of the issues encountered, resolutions implemented. The different versions of the resolutions are also stored and version levels maintained in the Software Control Manager product of Oracle to maintain the different versions of the software and resolutions.
To remain profitable in today's competitive technical world, it is very important that the organizations keep pace with the growing technology level. As customers expectations evolve and global competition intensifies, companies need to new ways to maintain and grow profit margins and provide better products and services, faster and at less cost. For this they need to upgrade. Every upgrade is accompanied with some inherent and some circumstantial risks. Managing risks is like walking through a minefield. Every step can be a life saver and at the same time every step in the wrong direction can be a fatal blow to the project. To avoid such fatal situations, it is very important that the risks be:
- Analyzed, and
- Responded to.
Any lapse in the either of the steps can have a great impact on the deliverables. To make the deviation as little as possible it is very important that the identified risks be a correct strategy to mitigate the risks should be planned, discussed, and implemented well in time and with the complete involvement of the team. Any half-hearted approach will only result in the wastage of resources and the project going in tangent off the target. In nutshell, the Risk Management process is as important as the planning and execution of the project.