Sue Shaw, Director of IT Operations for ATCO Group, spoke at COLLABORATE 19 about how to manage change after you’ve made the move to the Cloud. Sue discussed the scope of ATCO’s Cirrus Cloud Project, the types of changes companies may face during Cloud projects, and tools that are available to help with Cloud implementation change management.
ATCO was originally founded during the oil boom in 1947 and is currently based in Alberta, CN. The company provides customers with innovative solutions in sectors that are fundamental to global prosperity (i.e. housing, real estate, energy, water, transportation, and agriculture). This $23 billion global company has provided products and services to over 100 countries.
ATCO’s Cirrus Cloud Project
ATCO began its Cirrus Cloud Project at the start of 2017. This project consisted of an Oracle Cloud upgrade across each of ATCO’s global business units—electricity, pipelines & liquids, structures & logistics, and corporate & energy. The near two-year implementation, which went live in October 2018, provided ATCO with the following modules in the Cloud:
- Financial Management
- Project Portfolio Management
- Supply Chain Management
- Human Capital Management
The main drivers behind ATCO’s decision to move to the Cloud were:
- Wanting to create a single Chart of Accounts for ATCO companies
- Simplifying and standardizing business processes with no customizations and minimal manual processes
- Business training to ensure business process understanding and optimal system usage
Scope of the Project
The first phase of ATCO’s Cirrus Cloud Project included the bulk of Financial Management, Procurement, Human Resources, Project Portfolio Management, and Supply Chain Management. There was a mix of moving modules that the company previously used in on-premises systems and what they implemented when they moved to Cloud. ATCO also implemented parts of Enterprise Planning and Budgeting before the Cloud project began, but there is still continuous work being done in that section. The image below shows what was implemented in Phase 1 of the project:
After going live with Phase 1 in October 2018, ATCO began working on Phase 2 of the Cirrus Cloud Project. In March 2019, ATCO went live with the Talent Management suite that included:
- Recruitment and Onboarding
- Goals and Performance
- Compensation Management
- Succession Planning
- Talent Review
Moving forward with Phases 3, ATCO will add more of the Project Portfolio Management module (Project Control, Scheduling, Forecasting, and Reporting). Phase 4 consists of adding the Enterprise Asset Management Module (Transportation, Utility, and Facilities). The image below shows the full scope of the Cirrus Cloud Project.
Types of Change to Consider
Sue explained that there were a variety of changes to consider during a Cloud project. The types of changes she dealt with included:
- Oracle Infrastructure (PaaS and IaaS) updates
- Vertex updates
- Oracle SaaS updates
- Integrated systems upgrades/patches/refreshes
- Configuration changes
- Externally driven required changes (i.e. regulatory)
- Exception updates for all of the above
- Possibly more!
Refreshes are an important aspect of managing change in the Cloud. A refresh is an Oracle-performed copy from production to a non-production environment. They are often referred to as P2T (PROD to TEST or another non-prod) or as T2T (TEST to TEST or other non-prod to non-prod). Refreshes are important in order to have an up-to-date environment which supports PROD and creates a space for doing project work.
Initiating a refresh can happen in two ways:
- Through a MyServices request
- Through Oracle SR (required if you want more than one refresh on the same date)
ATCO works with three non-PROD environments, so they typically prefer working through an Oracle SR.
There are many guidelines that are necessary for successfully completing refreshes. Refreshes from production to a non-production environment can take up to 48 hours, and Sue mentioned that she has seen them range from six to 36 hours. Remember, a quarterly update does not include a refresh, and you are responsible for planning refreshes yourself. Communicating thoroughly about refreshes will help ensure success.
When planning a refresh, it is imperative that you plan ahead. Refreshes should be scheduled a minimum of three weeks ahead, but ATCO typically plans two months ahead. You cannot schedule more than 12 weeks in advance. After you enter an SR, it could take three to seven days to receive date options on or around your requested date. In order to undergo a refresh, your source and target environments must be at the same patch level. The final patch level check happens one to five days prior to the start of the scheduled refresh. Refreshes must be complete for at least 72 hours before an update is applied, so they must be scheduled 48 hours in advance of that. If you need to cancel a refresh, a minimum of seven days notice is required.
To aid in efficiency, ATCO came up with pre-refresh and post-refresh task lists.
As part of the pre-refresh task list, you should:
- Send a reminder email or other notification
- Export anything that needs to be restored
As part of the post-refresh task list, you should:
- Turn off notifications
- Remove read-only PROD access limitations and make any other required security changes
- Ensure service accounts are still working in TEST
- Make any required job scheduling changes
- Change the color on the background
- Restore anything that is required
There are several general changes that come from Oracle, including:
- Oracle Infrastructure (IaaS and PaaS) updates
- Vertex updates
- Oracle SaaS updates
- Opting in for new features
- Monthly maintenance packs
- Weekly updates
- Emergency one-off (EOO) updates
The Infrastructure (IaaS and PaaS) updates come quarterly, typically during the second or fourth weekend of any month. The good news is that they typically result in no outage. Unfortunately, they can be canceled frequently. There are also optional updates (sometimes referred to as P4FA updates), so it’s important to read the notifications from Oracle.
Vertex updates come monthly. Updates for non-prod environments come on the 18th of each month, and updates for production environments come on the 25th of the month. These updates impact both HCM and Finance modules.
There are also SaaS updates, which may include:
- New and enhanced features/functions
- National Language Support (NLS) updates for all installed language packs
- Fixes for reported issues with Oracle Cloud Applications, Oracle Fusion Middleware, and Oracle Transactional Business Intelligence (OTBI)
Oracle allows users to choose which month works best for them when going through SaaS updates. ATCO selects the month that comes after quarter-end (February, May, August, November).
By default, any new features/functions that come with quarterly updates are not automatically enabled. Once you decide what you want, you must enable the offering in your Cloud environment. Sue recommends opting in for new offerings and notes that some optional offerings may change to mandatory over time. To figure out what comes with each quarterly update, review the documents in the New Feature Summary and What’s New sections on the Oracle Cloud Readiness page.
Monthly maintenance packs are optional but can be very useful for users who have time-sensitive requests. You can switch from quarterly to monthly updates at any time. This is useful when you need a fix that cannot wait until the quarterly update. An SR needs to be created in order to change to monthly updates. You can also switch back to quarterly updates at any time if you wish. The lead time required to opt in for monthly updates is 10 days prior to the first Friday of the month.
Weekly updates can be triggered by anyone with an SR on your CSI ID, so ATCO recommends flagging CSI IDs so that only specific people can approve patching. Cumulative weekly bundles include all fixes released up until that week for all Financial, CRM, HCM, and SCM products. By default, updates are applied to TEST on a Friday and are applied to PROD the following Friday. This can be controlled through an SR.
Emergency one-off (EOO) updates are also available when unexpected issues arise (i.e. something that disables a business critical process with no workaround). You will raise the exception request through the SR for your initial problem. Oracle will approve exception requests on a case-by-case basis. Several criteria must be met in order to request and receive an exception update, including:
- A resolution is available
- No workaround exists (or you believe that a proposed workaround is not acceptable)
- You updated the existing problem SR and explained how the reported problem severely impact a key business process
An emergency one-off update will create differences in update levels between your environments, which may impact planned refresh timing. It could also require additional outages. All exception updates are included in the next quarterly updates and monthly maintenance packs.
To help keep up with Oracle updates, check out these documents:
- Oracle Applications Cloud—Fusion Applications Update Policy (Doc ID 1966109.1)
- Oracle Cloud Change Management Information (Doc ID 1681146.2)
ATCO’s experience with these Oracle updates has shown that they are generally of good quality. ATCO creates a spreadsheet with a patching schedule in order to keep all team members informed. The team has noticed that there is more risk associated with monthly and weekly maintenance packs. It’s important to balance the need for a fix with the risk of unknown impacts. Since going live with the Cirrus Cloud Project in October 2018, ATCO has not taken any monthly or weekly updates. They have taken two quarterly updates (18C and 19A) that have gone well.
Moving forward, ATCO is still developing the release management processes. There is also a need to identify critical business processes to test, and ATCO will be looking at automating testing tools (due to a short time frame for testing).
Available Tools for Managing Change
Sue highlighted the many tools that are available to help people manage changes in the Cloud. The Configuration Set Manager (CSM) or “sandboxes” can help configure changes, publish to TEST, and ultimately publish to PROD. Not all configurations are sandbox-aware, and source environment configurations must match the target environment exactly before you start. Additionally, the Functional Setup Manager (FSM) can move setup data from one environment to another.
For change integrations, integrated systems have upgrades, patches, and refreshes. This process involves defining critical processes to test, as well as aligning both patches and refreshes across applications wherever possible. ATCO creates a refresh and update schedule to help streamline the process.
Another tool that some use to manage change in the Cloud is notifications. However, Sue notes that notifications can sometimes be bothersome for the user. They are improving, but there is still a long way to go. Notifications are not always timely and can be cryptic in nature. ATCO has experienced several notifications for outages that were less than 24 hours away. Sue has reported their issues to Oracle and encourages others to voice their concerns about notifications.
Being in the Cloud does not mean that you can avoid managing technical changes. It’s important to be aware of what is happening in all environments, research and understand what impacts you, and always plan ahead. Remember, communication is key for effective Cloud implementation change management.
For more information about how ATCO managed change in the Cloud, the experience they’ve had with notifications, and the plans they have moving forward, check out the presentation from COLLABORATE 19 below.
For more Oracle HCM Cloud resources, case studies, best practices, etc., check out Quest’s Oracle HCM Cloud Content Center. There are resources and training available for all aspects of HCM Cloud, including payroll, analytics, recruiting, and more!
For more Oracle ERP Cloud resources, case studies, best practices, etc., check out Quest’s Oracle ERP Cloud Content Center. There are resources and training available for all aspects of ERP Cloud, including risk management, financials, extensions, and more!
For a quick guide to help you find more content that was presented at COLLABORATE 19, check out the Quest How To video below.