Guardian News and Media (GNM) has revealed it was able to upgrade its Oracle E-Business Suite to R12 in half the expected time, by using automation software-as-a-service (SaaS) from Panaya.

The media organisation worked with integrator Mokum and Panaya to upgrade the financials, HR and payroll components of its EBS software from version 11.5.10 to 12.1.3, and went live with the new version in April 2013. There are 1,500 users of the software at the Guardian, which has 2,000 employees in total.

“The traditional estimate was 850 to 1,100 developer days. It actually took 537 days, [which involved] mainly change control work, a bit of UAT [user acceptance testing] rework and post go-live support,” David Taylor, technical analyst in the Oracle applications team at GNM, told the UKOUG Apps 13 conference in London this week.

GNM used Panaya's tool to provide a reliable baseline for estimating the amount of technical work that needed to be done. By working out a robust baseline for estimating the work, the company could appropriately plan and provide resources for the upgrade work.

The tool mapped all its EBS system customisations, showing what needed to be tested and what would break in an upgrade and how to fix it. This would have been a hefty task without an automated tool, Taylor said, especially given the large customer footprint.

“The release 11 version of the control system was not kept up-to-date, documentation was poor, which all made it difficult to identify the custom stuff when looking into doing an upgrade,” he said.

Using the Panaya extract utility, GNM extracted a list of custom E-Business objects from the R11 version.

“Once you've got that list you can upload your extract back to Panaya and its rules engine figures out what you've got and what needs to be done to upgrade to R12,” Taylor explained.

“It gave us an estimated days in effort per task.”

One of the first things that GNM did using the results was to group custom components into logical units of work (LUW) by application module and function. It found 4,000 custom objects, and had to do work on 1,100 of those to make them R12-compliant. It reduced the 1,100 objects down to 96 units of work, which included things like user interface.

Although grouping the objects into LUW was time-consuming, Taylor said that it made it easier to manage the work, from a project management point of view..

GNM also identified what custom objects could be retired after some consultation with the business, which resulted in the retirement of 30 percent of the custom objects.

“Fifteen percent of those were not used anymore. The other 15 percent we found R12 stuff to replace the custom stuff,” Taylor said.

GNM then calculated the sum of Panaya coding and unit testing estimates per LUW, and added 25 percent effort to each LUW. Panaya estimated that it would take 350 days to upgrade the 1,100 custom objects, which increased to 537 days with the additional 25 percent effort per task.

The bulk of the technical upgrade work was delivered in 10 weeks (50 days) by six full-time developers.

While GNM recorded budget overall savings of 36 percent compared with the traditional estimate of work, Taylor said for him the key was “getting the reliable baseline with reliable estimates from Panaya”.

In terms of weaknesses with Panaya's product, at the time of the GNM upgrade, some custom objects, such as OA framework customisation and personalisations, were not within its scope. These objects are now available and can be scanned by Panaya.

During the course of the upgrade project, Taylor was technical lead at GNM, employed by integrator Mokum. He is now employed directly by GNM.