In my previous blog (2 of 4 in this series) I explained how similar the web-based development platform called Oracle APEX is to Oracle Forms. These similarities give your Forms developers the confidence and efficiency that come with working in familiar territory. This brings me to the business advantages of modernizing Oracle Forms with APEX.
Oracle APEX is a Bridge to New Technologies
From a business perspective, this means that any of your internal IT/development resources can now team up more closely with your Forms and Reports resources. Together they can quickly move forward with development plans and modernization, creating new functionalities and new applications.
Oracle APEX is Quick to Learn
Your team can start learning Oracle APEX today. I strongly recommend your developers download the latest version of Oracle APEX here. They’ll get the hang of it in no time. Once they learn the basic functions they can quickly create applications that are productive and secure. APEX is so simple to learn, you may even choose to get some of your users to work with it. Your dev team can declaritively add functions such as sorting, Excel extractions, PDF creation, file uploads, integration with Web services and interactive reports, just to name a few. Using APEX’s Create Page Wizard, end users can quickly create Dashboards, Adhoc reports and also import Excel data.
In other programming languages, developers must build such functions themselves, basically from scratch. The beauty of this approach is that since APEX is a Rapid Application Development Platform, it isn’t necessary to be familiar with the inner workings of web applications. On the contrary, these organize themselves “behind the scenes” as applications are built. to add to this efficiency, APEX generates recurrent code. This is useful for building applications quickly and improving overall performance. It also has the advantage of being genuine Oracle code, optimized for the database. After all, APEX is built by Oracle employees! APEX builds as much code as possible to be reusable. Oracle fully supports APEX, so any code produced interacts seamlessly with the Oracle database.
Start Simple, Small and Manageable
You’ll want your development team to start with something simple. For example, create a dashboard, an interactive report or a simple form. When working on modernizing your existing applications, I would recommend proceeding by segments or modules, in phases, a little bit at a time. This way you aren’t throwing large amounts of money at a project with a rollout that is 2 or 3 years away. Working in phases means the code and the applications will be more easily evaluated. You’ll see tangible results within weeks. Costs will remain under control.
APEX Can Quickly Take the Work To an Expert Level
Just starting out? Consult with Experts
If you are just starting out with APEX, we recommend contacting experienced APEX experts, who can train and guide you throughout the adoption process. Also, a major advantage of APEX over other application development platforms is its community of developers. The APEX community, primarily found on Twitter under #orclapex is enthusiastic and responsive. The spirit of collaboration that you’ll find among its members is like an extension APEX’s open and collaborative nature. Its unbiased support is a tangible business advantage that your developers can tap into at any time. Finally, a quick search on Oracle APEX’s events page will provide a host of opportunities to meet and learn from active APEX developers from the world over.
The business advantage is this: there is no big bang. It’s a controlled Roll-out. Long-term plans and actions can be sequenced over several months, or even years. Budget and investments can be easily managed. You can manage the rhythm and phases of the project.
Change management is key to Forms Modernization
It’s important to mention: If you want to be successful in your Forms modernization, be prepared to pay careful attention to change management. This is, after all, a change of paradigm: from client-server, to web. I’ve found that almost any time such changes cause problems, the source can be traced back to issues with change management. such issues can occur at all levels: with the development team, the users, or upper management.
Lack of Adoption Means Trouble
When it comes to user adoption, you can’t come up to people and tell them “here is a new application, use this instead”. No matter how slick and effective the application, people will challenge it. They’ll try to prove that the new way of doing things is less efficient than what they were doing before. There is some truth to that. Up until that point, the old way is more efficient because your users are too upset with this new thing being forced upon them. This lack of adoption forces you into a cycle of making changes to keep the users happy, which will almost certainly include re-creating exactcly what they had before. This isn’t an efficient path for your users, nor will it satisfy the business needs being addressed.
Involve Users from the Start
Rather, you should involve your users in the project from the beginning. Train them on what a web interface is like and how it works. Train them on how to get the most out of an interactive report. Give examples. Show them that the Web is a different environment, yes, but a more productive one too. You can make parallels between this system and their internet banking or other web-based systems in the company. It is a road your users must travel down. You can’t just plop them down at the arrival point and expect them to understand why things are so different.
Involve your users in the creation process. Get their opinion on the user interfaces while you are building them. Involve in your analysis and your approach. Perhaps they are used to shortcuts and they don’t like to click a couple more times to get to the same data. Then show them what they are getting in the trade-off. More dynamism, more direct and real-time access to the data, Reports that can be customized on the fly, so much more quickly than before. Shortcut keys are great but overall productivity involves much more than that.
We use an agile approach to quickly come up with concrete deliverables (“low hanging fruit”). Quick wins that are small in scale but that useful to the business and convincing. Once people see the value in a new way, they will want to continue down the path of change.
Don’t try and reproduce what was there before
The biggest error that companies still make when transferring to new technology (in this case from client-server to web technology) is trying to reproduce exactly what they had before. This can greatly complexify maintenance and development, which will nullify your gains in speed and flexibility. This is the most important aspect of Modernization: The approach must be from the standpoint of the business need, not technical needs.
Once the changes you are making gain acceptance change management becomes much easier. User enthusiasm and engagement is just as important as creating a process that makes them efficient. You’ll notice that the less experienced younger users will adapt more quickly than the older, more experienced users who’ve been using the system for years.
Involving users makes them feel like their opinions are important (because they are) and can even allow you and your users to come up with solutions that had never been considered.
From a technical standpoint, APEX is exceptionally well-adapted to bringing your Forms applications into the 21st century. However, if you don’t handle change management properly, all this is for nothing. To be frank, we’ve never encountered a technical problem we couldn’t solve. Virtually all the problems we’ve faced have concerned people’s ability to adapt to a new way of doing things. This is why change management is so important.
To recap the business advantages of Modernizing Oracle Forms with APEX: Avoid the Big Bang approach. This way, you are in control. You can make long-term plans and a establish sequence of actions over several months or even years. The budgeting for such a project becomes reasonable. You can easily manage investments. You can manage the rhythm and phases of the project. Best of all your Oracle Forms Applications will be up to speed with the rest of your business.
Other Links on Forms Modernization
First blog in this series Forms and reports Modernization – Forms Challenges
Second blog in this series Oracle Forms Modernization, Forms-APEX similarities