Oracle Applications Users Must Review Their Support Agreements Now

 Lately, I have been rereading one of my favorite books on change: Our Iceberg Is Melting by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber. The book shares a fable in which a colony of penguins discovers that their Antarctic iceberg is melting. If the penguins do nothing, the iceberg will shortly melt away and dump the penguins into the dark and frigid waters of the Antarctic Ocean, which will eventually lead to their deaths from cold and exhaustion. The manner in which the penguins deal with this change holds some great lessons for all of us.

Days later and with the book fresh on my mind, I had the opportunity to speak with five different Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) users about one thing or another. All five were on version 11.5.9 or earlier. In addition, all were uncertain about where to go from their current EBS version. I thought that right now, when many users are focused on implementing their strategic plans for 2008, it might be a good time to reiterate an important message as loudly and clearly as possible: your EBS iceberg is melting!

Oracle’s Lifetime Support Policy defines the three available levels for Oracle Support. Let me summarize those definitions here:

Premier Support includes:

    * Major product and technology releases
    * Technical support
    * Updates, fixes, security alerts, data fixes and critical patch updates
    * Tax, legal and regulatory updates
    * Upgrade scripts
    * Certification with most new third-party products/versions
    * Certification with most new Oracle products

Extended Support includes:

    * Major product and technology releases
    * Technical support
    * Updates, fixes, security alerts, data fixes and critical patch updates
    * Tax, legal and regulatory updates
    * Upgrade scripts
    * Certification with most existing third-party products/versions
    * Certification with most existing Oracle products
    * Note that Extended Support may not include certification with some new third-party products/versions.

Sustaining Support includes:

    * Major product and technology releases
    * Technical support
    * Access to OracleMetaLink/PeopleSoft Customer Connection/Siebel SupportWeb
    * Fixes, updates, and critical patch updates created during the Premier Support stage
    * Upgrade scripts created during the Premier Support stage

Sustaining Support does not include:

    * New updates, fixes, security alerts, data fixes and critical patch updates
    * New tax, legal and regulatory updates
    * New upgrade scripts
    * Certification with new third-party products/versions
    * Certification with new Oracle products

So in terms of the melting iceberg analogy, Sustaining Support looks like the freezing and dark waters of the Antarctic Ocean to me - it is not a place I desire to visit for any length of time. So with that in mind, we must look at some likely scenarios for EBS customers:

    1.) If you are an EBS Release 12 user, stop reading right here. Go see your boss and talk about the big bullet you have dodged by being one of the first R12 customers. Have a congratulatory donut, get back to work and then come back to this article in about three years…that is about the time we will start to discuss the future changes in your EBS support levels.

    2.) Premier Support for EBS 11.5.10 customers expires in November 2009. These customers will be have one of four options: a) purchase up to three years of Extended Support, b) migrate from EBS to another Oracle or non-Oracle apps product line (a very expensive proposition), c) upgrade to EBS Release 12, or d) go directly to Sustaining Support.

    3.) If you are on 11.5.9, Premier Support expires in June 2008. No Extended Support is available for purchase, so 11.5.9 users should defer to option 2.

    4.) If you are using 11.5.8, your Premier Support expired Nov. 30, 2007. Purchasing Extended Support is not an option. Unless you've already acted on options 2 or 3 from above, you're already on Sustaining Support.

    5.) If you are currently on a version prior to 11.5.8, your iceberg has melted and you are figuratively treading the freezing water of the Antarctic are on Sustaining Support right now. By the way, could you please move over to make room for the 11.5.8 users who are now joining you in the chilly waters of Sustaining Support?

So, if you are an 11i user today (regardless of version), your support agreement has either changed already or will be changing soon. What should you be doing? That answer will be different for each EBS customer. In my shop, sticking with 11.5.10 until we move to Fusion Apps looks like a good plan at this particular moment. Some customers are planning to upgrade to R12 in 2008, and that is probably the right answer for them (for example, if SOX is a big issue in your business, I would strongly encourage you to consider R12). The key really lies in recognizing the change and addressing that change as soon as possible. In doing so, I recommend that you work through the 8 Steps of Change laid out in “Our Iceberg Is Melting”:

    1. Create a Sense of Urgency: Help others see the need for change and the importance of acting immediately.
    2. Pull Together the Guiding Team: Make sure there is a powerful group guiding the change—one with leadership skills, bias for action, credibility, communications ability, authority and analytical skills.

    3. Develop the Change Vision and Strategy: Clarify how the future will be different from the past and how you can make that future a reality.

    4. Communicate for Understanding and Buy-in: Make sure as many others as possible understand and accept the vision and the strategy.
    5. Empower Others to Act: Remove as many barriers as possible so that those who want to make the vision a reality can do so.
    6. Produce Short-Term Wins: Create some visible, unambiguous successes as soon as possible.
    7. Don’t Let Up: Press harder and faster after the first successes. Be relentless with instituting change after change until the vision becomes a reality.

    8. Create a New Culture: Hold on to the new ways of behaving, and make sure they succeed, until they become a part of the very culture of the group.

Proactively dealing with challenges we face regarding our support options can enable you to thrive. Passively allowing your company to face a lack of support is like ignoring the shrinking iceberg.