Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) covers most of the business processes an organization requires, but there are gaps in its capabilities. For example, EBS data-entry screens can be daunting. It takes a fair amount of training for new users to master their sequence of execution. An enterprise hiring part-time employees or students to work on inventory using native EBS screens might find their work inefficient. This was the case for one of our recent customers. More on that later.
Oracle Application Development, Then and Now
In the past, EBS developers relied on tools like Oracle Forms, Oracle Reports or Oracle Application Framework (OAF) to customize EBS to their needs. Although still in use, these frameworks lack key compatibilities with existing technologies.
Fortunately, Oracle’s current application development platform for the enterprise, Oracle Application Express (APEX) is up to date with the times. And I think that’s a euphemism.
Accordingly, there has been an increasing demand for APEX application building. And we’ve been seeing this trend come to the forefront recently. For example, ODTUG’s recent “Learn From Home” series contained several Presentations on APEX technology. Also Collaborate, Oracle’s premier annual technology and applications forum for the functional user has a history of APEX sessions being among the most popular at the event, and its organizers have received repeated specific requests for APEX training. If you are an EBS administrator or developer it’s definitely a hot topic you should look into.
Why Oracle APEX to extend EBS?
Why all the fuss? One of the best things about APEX is its ability to handle the complexities of EBS in the background while delivering a simplified, web-based user experience (UX). And this is much more in line with what users now expect from their applications. APEX can combine a series of EBS screens related to an activity; for example, running screens A, B, and C in the background while the end-user deals with only the most pertinent information. It does wonders for data entry screens.
These kinds of integrations simplify work, reduce errors, and increase efficiency, not to mention make it much easier for new users to master the process. Those part-time employees I mentioned earlier now access EBS through APEX with tablets. This enables them to move freely around the warehouse and dock area, free from a specific work station.
APEX Brings Elegance and Efficiency to EBS Data-Entry Screens
Another great example. We are working with a chain of jewelers running on an EBS system. Their retail outlets have highly refined decors and let’s just say that what stuck out the most in these environments were the 1980’s-looking EBS screens.
The outlets had resorted to hiding their workstations in the back store, where sales clerks would do their transactions. This kind of setup was not helpful in peak periods such as Christmas, graduations, Mother’s day, etc.
To keep sales moving, the clerks would take down client information manually and then enter it at the end of the day. Needless to say this created inventory discrepancies.
We’ve instead provided them with good-looking APEX applications on POS tablets. These allow clerks to stay in continuous contact with the client while doing multi-screen EBS transactions within one activity, on a slick-looking interface. It also allows them to update inventory, confirm delivery, close orders, etc. in EBS, all instantaneously. We’ve even added a function where the client can confirm by signature that they’ve taken possession of their purchased goods. This is all integrated with EBS.
We helped them improve client experience, increase sales clerk efficiency, and add functionality that would be hard to get otherwise. And on an elegant interface, I might add.
Interested in APEX’s design potential? Then I strongly recommend you read Senior APEX consultant Hayden Hudson’s excellent blog post entitled APEX should be beautiful.
Data-Entry screens are just one of the ways APEX can be used to bridge EBS and satisfy your organization’s business processes. Interested in how APEX can integrate with and create extensions for EBS? See my video entitled APEX integration with EBS, first steps.