Users vent complaints about Oracle app upgrades

Migration issues surrounding the new set of business applications that Oracle Corp. released earlier this year were expected to be a big topic at the recent fall conference of the independent Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG) .And those predictions were right on target.

During sessions at the conference held in Honolulu, Hawaii, users looking to upgrade to Oracle’s E-Business Suite 11i software expressed frustration with a long list of things. Included were what they described as a lack of reliable information about the status of the applications, a flurry of bug-fix patches, malfunctioning modules and the difficulty of being able to get help from Oracle’s customer service organization.

Several attendees said they had received notices of about 5,000 patches that Oracle has released for 11i. The software “is not ready for prime time,” said Donna Rosenstrater, an OAUG board member who works at San Jose-based electronics contract manufacturer Sanmina Corp. A lot more cleanup work is required before many users can safely go live with the new applications, she added.

The 11i suite, which became fully available in May, is the latest version of Oracle’s Web-based ERP and CRM applications. Oracle plans to stop offering free customer support on most of its earlier releases at the end of next year, which means users – many of whom still run green-screen versions of the software – will have to upgrade or pay extra for support.

OAUG board members said users have found the 11i payroll and order-management modules to be especially bug-laden. And the conversion process itself has been drawing a lot of heat at the conference.

Karen Gilbert, another OAUG director who works at Dallas-based consulting firm Computer Systems Authority, said the general rule of thumb among users is that it takes about seven days to go live with 11i. But that’s time most businesses don’t have, she added, noting that companies typically have just a weekend to implement an upgrade.

Gilbert, who said that 11i migration issues would take centre stage at the conference, also claimed here that Oracle’s own support staff hasn’t been properly trained on the workings of the 11i suite. Oracle’s applications unit needs to start performing “triage” by stopping new-product development work and focusing resources on helping users get through their upgrades, she said.

Jeremy Burton, senior vice president of products and services at Oracle, said only 43 companies have gone live with 11i applications thus far. But the time it takes to implement the new applications isn’t that long, compared with the time it takes to install ERP systems from rival vendors, he added.

Any new application release is bound to result in bug problems, Burton said, but he described the 5,000-patch figure cited by OAUG attendees as too high. While he wouldn’t disclose a specific total of patches, Burton said Oracle has “a huge services organization geared up to help solve these problems” during migrations.

The company is doing its best to cope with customer support requests related to the new software, Burton said. He acknowledged that the hubbub surrounding the release of 11i has made it “difficult [for users] to get accurate information” about the applications. Oracle’s own Appsnet online community is one avenue for users looking to share migration tips and other data, he said.