University of Virginia
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
Industry: Higher education
Oracle products: Oracle Database, Oracle
E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft Enterprise
applications, Oracle SOA Suite
ensuring a successful project. “It was
important to have such an engaging
client that was determined to be suc-
cessful,” says Elaine Myrback, CEO at
EMS-IC. “The involvement of univer-
sity constituents gave us the momen-
tum necessary to achieve a successful
project together and establish a foun-
dation for future success.”
An EMS-IC staff member remained onsite at U.Va. during
much of the project, not only to help with the launch but also
to train the U.Va. technical staff in SOA concepts and tools.
“At first, there’s a lot for the technical staff to learn, because
there are many new terms and new ways of doing things,” says
Barbara Henry, project manager for the Effort Reporting System
project. “But once they are onboard, they can very rapidly
develop new applications.”
One indicator of the project’s success is how U.Va. has been
using its staff more efficiently since the system went live last
October. U.Va. calculates that the new Effort Reporting System
automation will save 300 hours annually for each of its 200 Effort
Reporting System coordinators. This equates to 60,000 staff hours
that U.Va. can now devote to higher-value research activities.
Related to this, the time to certify reports has been cut in
half—from 90 days for the paper-based certification process,
when so many hard-copy reports were being passed around.
Now, the school’s certifiers are easily meeting the new 45-day
deadlines. “One big factor in the accuracy of the reporting effort
is that it is harder for people to document the work they did the
farther they are from the time when the work was accomplished,”
Henry says. “So shortening the certification period is important.”
The upgraded system alerts faculty researchers and inspectors
to potential certification problems. So if a faculty member con-
tributes less than the promised amount of time to a project, the
updated Effort Reporting System can route warnings to all neces-
sary parties. The staff can then take appropriate action, whether
it’s correcting inaccurate data or reducing the researcher’s salary
to reflect the actual amount of time devoted to the project.
Another important test of the SOA strategy came seven
months after the Oracle SOA Suite implementation. The IT
staff upgraded U.Va.’s existing Oracle E-Business Suite 11. 5. 10
installation to Release 12. 1. 3. If SOA worked as advertised,
this major upgrade would be so seamless that the university
wouldn’t have to make any adjustments to the Effort Reporting
System—the integration details should be solved by Oracle
SOA Suite without any manual intervention.
Evans and her staff were hopeful that this would be the case,
but they hedged their bets by setting aside extra money to cover
any emergency consulting time needed to tweak the interfaces.
In the end, they didn’t have to tap into the stash. “The very first
day it went live, the Effort Reporting System was 100 percent
usable and viable without a single change,” Henry says. The
contingency fund is now being used to finance other projects.
The ease of integration afforded by Oracle SOA Suite
represents a big change from past upgrades involving large
enterprise applications, which
needed to be completely reworked
if there were hard-coded interfaces
and customizations. That work alone
could add 30 percent or more to the
cost of a project, Evans says. “SOA
is a layer in between that makes it
so your customizations are isolated
from the upgrades,” she explains.
A ROADMAP FOR ORACLE FUSION APPLICATIONS
With the first phase of the upgrade completed, U.Va. staff are
now adding reports that document staff and student contributions to grant-funded projects. This is a greater challenge than
tracking faculty work; student and staff work may be spread
over an even larger number of projects, with one lab specialist
contributing to 15 different grant-funded projects. Approvals
must come from a principal investigator for each grant, which
could mean 15 different sign-offs. Evans expects that future
adjustments to the Effort Reporting System will address these
complexities as effectively as those for faculty members.
U.Va. planners also expect the Oracle SOA Suite infrastructure to provide flexible integrations for changes to other important enterprise applications, including systems run on Oracle’s
PeopleSoft Enterprise applications and other Oracle E-Business
Suite modules. Evans has a goal in mind: achieve real-time integration that allows applications to exchange information without
the delay of an overnight batch process update. With real-time
interfaces between the appropriate programs, updates such as
class assignments can post as soon as they are made.
“Our people learned how to build services with Oracle SOA
Suite and to create workflows using Oracle BPEL,” Evans says.
“The tools and skills that they used for the Effort Reporting
System will translate into other projects that we do. And that
includes Oracle Fusion as we move toward those applications.”
The platform for Oracle Fusion Applications was built on
SOA technologies and the principles of flexible services. So
even if Oracle Fusion Applications are absent from the U.Va.
IT infrastructure in the short term, IT staff are already crystal-
lizing their strategy. The likely approach will be to add Oracle
Fusion Applications modules over time to build on U.Va.’s
“We will likely be able to take advantage of Oracle Fusion
Applications sooner rather than later, because we already know
how to integrate them,” says Evans. “And the SOA skills are
already in-house.” <>
ALAN JOCH is a New England–based technology writer.
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