A well-focused article by contributor Taylor Putney on how companies implementing Oracle Product Hub should approach the readiness, project initiation and implementation phases
Before I became a consultant, helping companies assess and implement Oracle Product Hub, I worked with (and learned) Product Hub as a client. My employer wanted to implement it to bring all of our products into one master database so we could better run our business. I was selected to be the functional implementation lead for the project, and we also hired an outside consultant to lead us through the functional design and implementation.
Working with that consultant on a daily basis for over a year taught me a lot about what makes a good client/consultant relationship. When engaging an experienced functional consultant, here are some things the client should consider to help ensure a productive working relationship and a successful Oracle Product Hub implementation.
- Understand the basics of master data management, the principles in general and product mastering in particular. Why master data? What is a taxonomy? What purposes can a product master database serve?
- Understand your company’s reasons (business objectives) for implementing a product hub. Do you need to get control of the product lifecycle? Do you need one source of product data for all of your business systems? Do you need better product reporting? Do you need to integrate your product master with other business systems?
- Understand that you’ll need to staff your project adequately to get the maximum benefit from the consulting services leading you through Product Hub design and implementation. That means having adequate numbers of business, technical, and database staff with the appropriate knowledge and skills.
- Be prepared to develop a taxonomy of your company’s products. How do you want or need to organize your products to meet your business objectives? To meet your business objectives, and to form the foundation of your master database, you must organize your products so that data definition, security, and change management can be handled efficiently.
- Be prepared to develop a set of requirements for the product hub implementation. Be able to distinguish between “must haves” and “nice to haves.” Start with a complete inventory of everything you think that a master database of your products should do. Your requirements will drive the design of the setup of Oracle Product Hub to meet your needs. Be able to prioritize your requirements.
- Be prepared to change business processes. Remember that in implementing Oracle, you are setting up an off-the-shelf software package, not developing code from scratch. You’ll need to change some business processes to effectively interact with Oracle. The changes could be in product development, business transactions, and/or business reporting.
- Know that you’ll have to devote human resources, business and technical, to get the job done. Think of the consultant you bring in to implement Oracle as an advisor who’s there to help you set up Oracle. Ultimately, you’ll need to be able to manage your product master database. You will need resources to manage business and technical requirements, manage the relationship between the business and the functional setup of Oracle, and manage the relationship between the functional and technical implementation.
(1) Keep it simple.
- Don’t over-design. Instead, start by laying a broad design foundation upon which you can build. At the outset of a project, you don’t necessarily know everything that Oracle Product Hub can do or how it can do it. Your design will likely change in the early stages of setup. There are big design decisions that have a major impact on the overall project, and these should be made first, tested, and settled early in the project. There are also small design decisions that can be more easily changed, and these can be made and adjusted throughout the project.
- Manage your RICE-W objects (Reports, Integrations, Conversions, Extensions, Workflow). These are implemented via technical sub-projects that supplement the functional setup of Oracle. They are necessary, but should, at the outset, be only what is needed to meet essential business requirements.
- Balance automated and manual processes. Just because Oracle can do something via software setup doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Oracle can get quite complex, so it’s best to start small and build on it. For example, the lure of automated workflow is strong, but if the workflow is really simple and few people are involved, it might be best to manage workflow manually until the product master is released and working. Setups like workflow can always be added later when the benefits of automated workflow are clearly demonstrated.
- Don’t forget data governance. One of the primary reasons for creating a master database of products is to better manage the products for the enterprise. That will involve new governance policies, processes, and procedures. It’s best to develop these throughout the project. There are usually many meetings and presentations, and a lot of training and documentation involved in changing governance, but governance is essential to making the new product master effective.
(2) Be flexible.
- Requirements will change. Some scope creep can’t be avoided. It’s best, though, to always manage requirement changes via a change process that assesses priority, schedule, and cost.
- Your design will change. Count on it. Be able to adjust and adapt to design changes that result as business requirements change or as your understanding of Oracle capabilities grows.
(3) Learn, learn, learn.
- After your product master is released, you should eventually no longer need your consultant to manage the functional administration of Product Hub. Client staff should learn how to administer Oracle functionally as the project progresses. Learning how to be mostly self-sufficient is an important project objective.
- Besides learning how to functionally administer Product Hub, you also need to learn how to manage the product data. This is the data stewardship process. Developing it should be part of your project’s deliverables.
Respect your consultant’s knowledge and ability.
- Your consultant should be an expert with Oracle Product Hub. He/she should know what capabilities of the package to use to meet your business requirements. You should expect to be presented with alternatives and expert recommendations about what to implement, how to implement, and what not to implement to meet your business needs and get your product master up and running in a reasonable amount of time.
- Your consultant should also be able to teach you how to functionally administer Oracle to meet ongoing changes after the project is completed. Your consultant should teach your product hub users how to manage the data, including new product creation, attribute updates, value set updates, lifecycle management, and bills of material management.
- Let your consultant do his/her job and you will get the most out of your product hub implementation project.
About the Author
Taylor Putney is a Product Information Management functional architect. He draws on his experience as a business analyst to gather, organize, and implement business requirements. He has a broad understanding of master data management (MDM), primarily regarding customer and product data, based on 10 years of MDM experience. Taylor is experienced at guiding clients through the configuration and design process, emphasizing “off the shelf” functionality and meeting client business requirements.