Road to Alliance – Higher Ed Oracle APEX Success Stories: UC Berkeley
As we gear up for the Alliance Conference, the largest meeting of Higher Education & Public Sector users of Oracle Applications in the world, we wanted to highlight some stellar use-cases of Oracle Application Express (APEX) within Higher Education institutions. Here’s the first story: UC Berkeley integrating APEX into an Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE) dashboard.
Name: Teal Sexton
Title: Business Intelligence Functional Lead
Briefly describe how you are using Oracle APEX
We have integrated an Oracle APEX application into an OBIEE dashboard, to allow users to enter financial projections and then instantly view the impact on projected fund balances. We use this to project future costs for research contracts & grants so that faculty can make well informed purchasing and hiring decisions to support their research.
How did Oracle APEX come to be used at UC Berkeley?
We built an OBIEE dashboard for faculty to view their budgets, spending and current balances on research funds. After it was released, they said it would not be useful without integrated projections, which needed to be entered by 150+ different research administration staff across campus, on an ongoing basis. After seeing APEX in use at another campus, I knew it was capable of providing data to assist with projections, and then could write updates directly to the database. I suggested we look into using it to meet the requirements for the Projections Project and after showing mockups of my design for the projections input form, we found consultants who could build it for us.
What problems did it solve for UC Berkeley?
Now, projections are entered in the same standard format across UC Berkeley, available from anywhere in the world through the web-based OBIEE reporting platform. Previously, projections were done manually in Excel, using very different methods, and service was highly inconsistent. The research administration organization is now more sustainable and trainable as a result of the APEX projections input form.
What technology did it replace?
Manual Excel spreadsheets cobbled together with limited access to source system data
Was there an “Aha!” moment at some point with the staff and user base?
Absolutely! When I provided the first demos (and every demo thereafter) anyone who hadn’t seen the input form before was blown away by the design. It provides human resources appointment data for personnel that can be copied directly into the projections, which automatically triggers associated projections for benefits and indirect costs. What used to take days can now be accomplished in minutes!
If you could add a feature to the next Oracle APEX release, what would that be?
I think it is important to ensure that new releases do not cause existing APEX applications to become obsolete. For example, our campus is worried about continuing to use APEX, despite its amazing capabilities, because they’ve been burned by Oracle’s new releases in the past. We often rely heavily on systems for a long time because higher education is slow to change… so when all of a sudden a popular platform becomes “unsupported” we are left trying to figure out how to keep the lights on. This Projections application (built in APEX 5.0) is so vital to our business process we hope it will survive a decade of use before new releases turn it into a dinosaur.
What role do you see Oracle APEX playing in the future at UC Berkeley?
I plan to use APEX to deliver additional functionality in our OBIEE dashboards across other areas of Finance beyond just research funding. The campus would like to be able to input comments about funds, and make projections across all sources, to assist with multi-year budgeting. I am also considering using APEX for request forms for purchasing and reimbursement, so users can choose their funding source from a drop-down list based on enterprise finance data, and the request will automatically process in PeopleSoft. I continue to think of ways APEX might be helpful because it is a great way to extend the functionality of our Enterprise Data Warehouse.
For a college or university considering Oracle APEX, what single piece of advice would you give?
Where do you go when you have APEX questions?
I reach out to my friends at Insum!