Wendy's makes its Oracle ERP upgrade quick and tasty

The fast food chain completed the move in six months

It's not uncommon for ERP projects to take longer and cost more money than initially planned, but neither outcome ended up being on the menu for fast-food giant Wendy's recent Oracle E-Business Suite upgrade.

A looming end-of-support deadline for E-Business Suite 11.5.10 prompted the restaurant chain to begin the process of upgrading to version 12.1.3 late last year, according to Robin Nelson, a business analyst who worked on the project.

The chain's E-Business Suite implementation is fairly large, involving 16 separate software modules, she said during a presentation at the Collaborate user group conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Wendy's decided to undertake an "as-is to as-is" upgrade, pushing end-users requests for new features to a "wish list" that's being prioritized now, after the upgrade went live, according to Nelson.

The project involved mostly internal staff, with the core group consisting of four database administrators, eight developers and five analysts. A steering committee was created, with 16 business "stakeholders" assigned in accordance with each of the software modules.

Engaging the business users early and deeply "kept them accountable" as the project went on, particularly with respect to pulling their weight on application testing, she added.

Also of help was a "pretty extensive" communication plan put in place before work started. This ensured all parties involved knew what was happening, when it was happening, who was doing it and how they were doing it, according to Nelson. Microsoft SharePoint was used for all project documents and collaboration, she added.

Wendy's acquired new hardware as part of the upgrade. The new setup was built with contingency in mind, Nelson said. "When we built the new environment, [version 11.5.10] stayed intact and if we needed to we could switch back to it within an hour."

Nelson credited Wendy's DBA team for the largely "error-free" transition over to 12.1.3. The DBAs executed the upgrade eight times before a final cut-over to the new production system.

From planning to execution, the upgrade took six months and went "almost exactly as planned," Nelson said.

But Wendy's did learn a few lessons.

For one thing, it would have been better to spend more time mulling over the upgrade's impact on a number of third-party applications Wendy's uses in conjunction with E-Business Suite, Nelson said.

Users also wanted more formal training on 12.1's new functionality. Instead, subject-matter experts picked to conduct the testing handled the training.

Wendy's also had a factor in its favor before work even began. Its E-Business Suite implementation doesn't have many customizations, "which makes a big difference," Nelson said.

Still, "on any enterprise project, six months from conception to go-live seems like an unusual feat, especially if the project remained within budget and users are happy with the results," said analyst Michael Krigsman, CEO of consulting firm Asuret and an expert on IT project failures.

"Apparently, Wendy's took a disciplined approach, clearly defining project goals at the start and minimizing mid-stream changes of scope," Krigsman added. "The basics always pay off: Clarity around goals, strict governance on change requests, and active communication."

Collaborate continues through Friday.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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