Well, start here.
So, you have decided to convert your Oracle Forms modules towards a new technology.
Having done multiple conversions from Oracle Forms to Oracle APEX, I will answer questions that you should be asking before starting this project. Mind you, even if you don’t end up using APEX, the following questions are still important to answer.
Do I need to do this project in one single phase?
If you are staying in the same database, then you have the option of working in multiple phases without disrupting your production environment. Grouping business functions together and creating modules with them is a good idea. These projects tend to be quite demanding in effort, and converting by phases could end up being a very valuable strategy if you are looking to spread costs over time because of budget constraints. Since APEX lives in the same database and data model, it makes it easier for a phased approach.
Are your users ready for this move?
Don’t underestimate the readiness of your users for 2 reasons:
- They will likely be heavily involved in the conversion process – do they know that? Their input will be crucial for validating business requirements and explaining the actual functionality needed. You will have to plan multiple sessions with them to go through existing system to ensure you fully understand how the system is used, how they expect it to work, and any major features they wish existed.
- You want to get their valuable input on what you will be proposing for modernizing business functions in the new system. Are they ready to move on to something new? Change management will be very important for buy in. The best thing to do is to prepare mock-ups of what you will be developing and then have them participate in meetings where you get their input on what they like and dislike as soon as possible. You don’t want to end up having developed half the system and then have the users criticize what has been done because they were not involved in the process.
Do I take advantage of this project to do enhancements to the actual system?
Yes. You must take advantage of this project to make enhancements. If you are converting your forms towards a new technology this most likely means the actual system was built years ago and therefore is in need of enhancements. As you are already aware, there is no “one to one” conversions when converting to a new technology. So, since you will be doing things differently anyway, you might as well do them with new requirements in mind.
Do I know which Forms are not used anymore?
You won’t want waste cycles converting outdated forms, so you need to have this information. This sounds like a simple question, but believe me, you will not get a straight answer from your users. This is why you need to set up some sort of an audit tool to get statistics out to challenge your users about their form usage. Don’t forget, some functions get used only on a monthly or quarterly basis, so make sure your auditing tool takes this into account.
What do I do with my Oracle Reports app?
Oracle Reports are often the forgotten child of these conversions. (People often ask us to quote their Forms to APEX conversions, but forget about the reports.) Again, report conversions could be part of a phased approach, and your reports could be converted at a later stage. You will still need your Report server for your reports to continue working until then. Don’t forget, APEX can call existing Oracle Reports quite easily.
I recommend that you do a small analysis phase for your reports before doing anything else.
You will determine which reports are not used anymore, what output format to produce them in(interactive, PDF, other), which ones to combine if possible (especially when using interactive reports), do they need to be printed or not, and identify which ones need to be sent in batch.
How much is this going to cost?
To fully understand the effort and costs, what you really need to do is go through the existing system and open each form one by one and go through each canvas, block, field, trigger and program unit of the form, and you will have a good idea of the effort to convert each form.
As you might have guessed, that approach might work for a system with a handful of forms, but what if you have 1,500 forms to convert, as was the case with some of our clients? After facing this problem time and time again, we decided to build a tool to automate the process of evaluating each form, which we constantly refine after each project to improve the accuracy of automated estimations. Now, after many Forms conversions projects behind us, we are able to scope the effort of even very large projects in a matter of hours.
Costs obviously vary with the complexity and number of Forms and Reports in your environment. Keep in mind, development costs can be partially offset by the fact that you will no longer need to maintain Oracle Forms and Reports licenses.
In closing, please do not underestimate the following two items:
- You need to plan this project well ahead of time. Some of the questions previously discussed will prompt you to do things before you even start programming like asking yourself what to do with your reports or which forms are obsolete in the current system. You will probably start talking to your users to get a feeling if they are ready for this adventure and what would be a good timing for them.
- You need to assemble a team of people that know what they are doing. Obviously if you can get people who have done this before then you’re in great shape. My guess is that if you are reading this blog that means you haven’t done this before and that you would benefit of having a team like ours to help you out. At the very least get someone that has this experience to coach the team throughout the project
I hope this list of questions was helpful. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about an upcoming forms conversion project. It will be our pleasure to share some real-life experiences. If you’re interested in having us help scope your Oracle Forms project, please contact us. Using our automated tools, we will gladly scope the effort of your project at no cost.