A premier private college on the East coast of USA, with a pedigree of almost 90 years had a growing need to track data from its academic programs across its campuses and its online courses. Over 5700 students enrolled in its programs combine on-site and online classes to suit their lifestyle and schedules. This made HCM tracking and reporting quite complex and the college leadership projected that the needs would continue to evolve rapidly. Over the years, individual user needs drove the creation of reports in silos and there was a proliferation of similar-looking reports. When Oracle announced the end to support for crystal reports on Peoplesoft, the college chose to convert to Peoplesoft BI. The customer also wanted to benefit from the variety of additional features available in Peoplesoft BI and its seamless integration with the Oracle ecosystem.
The customer chose DataTerrain to lead this transition due to its numerous success stories in completing similar and larger projects. The customer also noted that DataTerrain is a pioneer in establishing a robust automation based methodology for crystal reports to Oracle BI transition.
DataTerrain’s Zero defect philosophy for automated transition
Drawing upon its domain experience gained by working with numerous large higher education institutions, the DataTerrain SME(Subject matter expert) team adapted its proprietary methodology for the customer. The major steps followed are summarized below.
• AS-IS analysis and planning – The automated utility from DataTerrain was run to understand the AS-IS the customer landscape to–
• Categorize reports by data source
• Categorize reports by their complexity
• Evaluate the size and run-time details of reports
• Identify duplicates and opportunities to optimize the number of reports
The analysis helped to group similar queries/tables, layouts, prompts, and filter conditions to create an initial list of optimization candidates. DataTerrain SMEs then helped key users of the college evaluate options to rationalize the number of reports. A plan of action was created for every report and this resulted in an almost 60% reduction in the number of reports between the source and target systems. DataTerrain and the customer agreed on a phased approach to transition to ease change adoption by users and minimize disruption. A calendar was published to block calendars of key users in advance and ensure their availability during key milestones throughout the project. The target environment readiness was also validated during this phase.
• Automated conversion and transition–DataTerrain’s proprietary tool was run to convert the individual components in crystal reports and translate them into suitable elements in Oracle BI. This includes –
• Creation of data models to handle data design
• Creation of RTF templates to handle layout design using conditional styles, data alignment, numerical value formatting, suppress conditions, and structure of the crystal reports. The latest PS query XML from the PeopleSoft environment was used to build the RTF template
• Transitionof layout formatting functions into XSL/Java functions as applicable
• Creation of new queries or modification PS queries aligned to joins and filter conditions for similar reports
• Implementing performance fixes and upgrades agreed with users through manual intervention as required
Every converted report was validated using multiple test case scenarios for the uploaded PS query XML. Real data was used in the test environment to perform an automated comparison of outputs and formats in the source and target environments.
• User acceptance and rollout – A continuous flow of converted reports was maintained to the end-users. They were given access to the converted reports in the form of BI publisher process type in the PeopleSoft environment accessible through the application engine. End users validated these individually and using the process scheduler.The approved reports were subsequently promoted to the production environment for a phased rollout as planned.
The DataTerrain difference
Some of the highlights of this project noted by the customer include –
1. Zero defects – During the entire project, not a single defect was reported by the customers in the pre-production environment and all issues were addressed in the phases before user acceptance. The automated utility of DataTerrain eliminated significant manual testing effort and was key to achieving zero defects.
2. Savings due to rationalization – Since 60% of the reports from the source environment were either discontinued or combined with others, it has led to significant resource savings, improved performance, and reduced maintenance effort in the new environment.
3. Continuous user involvement – Since key users were involved in every critical step, the outputs and outcomes were exactly the way the user organization wanted it. Continuous feedback helped to identify and resolve issues much earlier in the process and there was no defect leakage to acceptance and pre-production.
4. Global Delivery Model–DataTerrain resources worked round the clock from global delivery centers to increase the velocity of delivery.
DataTerrain ensured that the College converted from crystal reports to Peoplesoft BI before support for Crystal reports was discontinued in Peoplesoft. The additional features and easy connectivity to the Oracle Suite has unlocked value for the college and its users are now able to track and manage their academic processes much better.
Our customer is a leading supplier of poultry, pet, and animal nutrition products with a diversified business. It has steadily grown to be one of the top 20 poultry producers in the United States and the largest supplier of store brand wet pet food in North America. It serves customers in all 50 states of the USA and more than 40 countries across continents. Operating multiple hatcheries, feed mills, company-owned farms, and processing plants, our client has unique and evolving requirements for reporting, BI, and analytics to support its growing business. Add the complexity of managing a variety of stakeholders including hundreds of poultry growers, farmers, and local farming communities, and the challenge multiplied manifold for the client’s legacy BI(Business Intelligence) system on Oracle Discoverer.
With Oracle announcing the end of life for Oracle Discoverer, the customer chose to convert to OAC(Oracle Analytics Cloud) to deliver significant additional value to its business. Other than the driver to move out of unsupported software, some of the major benefits the customer expected from OAC include –
• Delivering improved insights to business users using data visualization
• Improving data-based decision making by using business scenario modeling in OAC
• Accelerating business velocity using mobile analytics to deliver timely and personalized analyses
• Enhancing performance management and reporting at the enterprise level
• Simplifying data preparation and management using AI/ML
Bridging the generation gap between Oracle Discoverer and OAC and bringing the right expertise in both was determined as a critical success factor for this accelerated transition. The customer chose DataTerrain since it has a dedicated pool of subject matter experts in both technologies and has demonstrated ability and established credentials in handling such complex transitions.
DataTerrain’s approach ensured seamless transition
Based on its philosophy of ensuring Zero business disruption and minimizing impact to users, DataTerrain planned and completed this transition in these major phases –
1.) Initial assessment and detailed planning – DataTerrain used its proprietary automation tool to perform an initial assessment of the AS-IS customer landscape. This tool created a list of reports and provided insights into the owners, frequency of execution, events, triggers, last run date, execution time, number of outputs/workbooks generated, dependencies, destination files and folders, unique characteristics, and functions used for each report. The tool also identified duplications and redundancies, outdated and obsolete reports. This information was used to create a detailed transition road map for each report and elaborate on the activities and timelines for each step in the project plan.Reports requiring interventions, customization, and user-defined changes were also identified and activities were planned based on individual requirements.This detailed plan was reviewed and signed-off by the customer project manager and project sponsor along with the DataTerrain project manager.
2.) Automated transition and validation – The DataTerrain automation tool extracted and converted all major components, elements, and objects from Oracle Discoverer like reports, hierarchies, filters, conditions, joins, calculations, conditions, items classes, roles, and security. During the transition process, Discoverer metadata EUL was converted to OAC RPD and Discoverer workbooks were seamlessly converted to OAC reports while maintaining the original look and feel. The automated tool validated every element by comparing the outputs in the source and target systems to assure adequate quality control and save time. This time saved was used to customize and make changes to identified reports, addressing some long-pending high-priority needs of key users. During this transition, performance bottlenecks were also proactively identified and resolved.To prevent delays due to technical issues, DataTerrain created an SME(subject matter experts) pool consisting of experts in Oracle Discoverer and OAC. This team played a key role in early identification and resolution of issues in extracting, translating, and converting business logic from Discoverer to OAC.
3.) User acceptance and rollout – Key users were involved during every critical stage in the process and a train-the-trainer approach was followed to accelerate training and acceptance. Since the look and feel of reports were preserved AS-IS from Oracle Discoverer, adoption was easier and quicker in OAC.
Benefits to customer
After this project was successfully completed within the agreed budget and the agreed timelines, the customer noted the following major benefits provided by DataTerrain –
1.) Bridging the expertise gap – DataTerrain’s ability to stand up a team with experts in major technical areas like Discoverer and OAC helped to identify and address issues early and very effectively.
2.) Accelerated execution due to Global delivery model – The high velocity needed for this project was provided by the global delivery model which ensured that project activities were being executed round the clock across DataTerrain’s global delivery centers.
3.) Accelerated user adoption and value adds – User adoption of OAC was greatly accelerated because DataTerrain’s automation tool preserved the original look and feel of reports, minimizing the training effort required. The customization and performance improvements led to high user satisfaction and the quick-wins eased the rollout.
DataTerrain enabled the customer to quickly and seamlessly move their BI and analytics out of the unsupported Oracle Discoverer to the cutting-edge OAC. The scalability and flexibility provided by OAC have reduced the maintenance and keep-it-running effort for our client. They now use this additional bandwidth to exploit user-friendly OAC features like improved self-service and advanced visualizations with mobile analytics to improve business outcomes.