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integration and implementation of technology-focused business solutions

How we can help you with a broken project

May 16th, 2017

It’s not unusual for us to get called in to fix a broken project. We’re always happy to help.

And after years of helping businesses with this issue, we’ve learned a few things about broken projects.

These can be on a large or small scale. In most cases, our client has spent money with the intent of reaching a preset goal, but for a multitude of reasons that goal was not achieved.

We are then called in to get the project back on track, and help our client reach their goal.

We’ve found that there are a few important things to keep in mind in order for us to help our clients pick up broken projects quickly and efficiently.

What happened

To fix a problem, we need to know in detail what happened from the beginning. This can be difficult, since people previously involved on the project may be hesitant to divulge information for fear of finger-pointing or receiving blame.

However, this is not the time for accusations. This is the time to lay out a road map of what happened, so we can identify the barriers and work to overcome them.

An easy way to focus the team on the problem at hand, and not on specific people, is to have each person discuss the tasks they performed, what went well, and what could have been done better.

To get people talking openly, it’s often helpful to have the project manager or lead start the discussion listing what they did, what went well, and what they could have done better.

What needs to be done

Often, our clients have a clear vision of their end goal. However, sometimes on a large IT project, the vision becomes blurry. This can be due to unforeseen impacts of the project, or differing expectations from various stakeholders.

Whatever the reason, we meet with the team and all stakeholders to ensure that everyone understands the project finish line.

To stay on task as the project starts moving forward, teams can adopt the stoplight description for tasks. When the team meets for project updates, each stakeholder can list the status of their task as a green, yellow, or red light. A green light means that the task is completed or being completed. A yellow light indicates that there are some gaps or challenges with a specific task. A red light means that a task is at a full stop.

When these updates are given, the team can compile a list of all the tasks with a yellow or red light status. Then, using all the resources available to the team, they can begin working through that list to mitigate those challenges.

Keys to reaching the end goal

We have found some key points are especially helpful to remember when completing a project that has faced some challenges in the past:

  • Start and finish something before adding on to it.
  • Appoint someone on staff as the project manager.
  • Have a secondary project manager for oversight and accountability.
  • Communicate often.
  • Agree on a system for approvals to give checks and balances for the project.
  • Set expectations with both developers and end users.
  • Avoid best case and worst case scenarios. Reality is usually somewhere in between.

Rest assured that, with patience, broken projects can certainly be fixed.

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Oracle software audits: What you need to know

May 2nd, 2017

Recently, a company in Oklahoma told us about their experience being audited by Oracle. They were long-time Oracle users, and had never previously been audited.

Over the course of many years, their company’s IT personnel installed and ran various Oracle programs, but never performed a self-audit to check for appropriate licensing.

For this client, years of installing new features without referring back to their licensing agreement with Oracle ended up costing them a lot of money. $200,000 to be exact.

This is a common problem we see. Often, businesses install Oracle software, and as their IT needs change, install more software. However, during the installation process, there are specific boxes that get checked, allowing for greater functionality that is over and above what’s provided in the business’ original software license with Oracle.

This cycle gets repeated. Over time, this leads to major (and expensive) problems during an audit.

Here’s what you need to know in order to prevent an expensive penalty from an Oracle software audit.

Oracle’s honor system

Unlike Microsoft systems, Oracle’s software can be installed based on an honor system. Oracle does not require a key code to install their product.

While this allows for ease of use at install, it can also allow users to inadvertently install features they may or may not need, and which may or may not be included in their licensing agreement.

Oracle does perform random audits of users. If a user (business) is found to be using software or features without the proper licensing, Oracle charges a penalty based on what the user would have paid if they bought the appropriate license in the first place.

Be the skeptic

Any time your team is installing new software, be the skeptic. Teach your IT people that it’s okay to question whether a new feature is included in the license.

Always refer back to the licensing agreement for comparison. If something isn’t clear, be proactive and reach out to Oracle or an approved Oracle vendor, like LSG Solutions, with any questions.

Self-audit

Get your IT staff in the routine of preforming self-audits. Compare the current software running with your licensing agreement to see if there are any gaps.

If gaps are discovered, ask questions such as:

  • Is this feature being used?
  • Why was this feature turned on or installed?
  • Should we purchase the appropriate license or uninstall the item?

As always, LSG Solutions is ready to help your organization with any needs related to Oracle software licensing. Some of our clients will self-audit and then ask us to assist in verifying the information, which we’re happy to do.

Though we are an Oracle Value-added Reseller in Oklahoma, our relationship with our customers is paramount. We’re not the Oracle police. We don’t report customer information back to Oracle. But we will help you get back in compliance, so you won’t face a huge penalty if Oracle audits your company.

Please contact us at 405-285-2500 or our contact form for questions and other assistance.

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Oracle 12c R2 database available to on-premise

April 18th, 2017

Released in 2013 to all customers (on-premise and cloud / DBaaS), 12c was available for purchase or upgrade for any customer. However, Oracle 12C R2 is Oracle Corporation’s first database release available only to database cloud (DBaaS) customers, in October 2016. In order to boost ‘cloud’ revenues, the Oracle 12c R2 version was no where available to download for supported customers for months.

However, recently Oracle made available, Release 2 of 12C, to the on-premise customer. Linux customers were the first to benefit from the wait while Windows customers were appeased later, in March 2017.

Features

With this new release of 12C, customers can expect:

  • The elimination of downtime with specific features
  • The ability to perform maintenance without taking the system offline
  • Improved performance
  • Improved Multitenant architecture allowing for more databases per virtual or physical server.
  • Further streamlining of space consumption and overhead of indexes
  • The ability to perform simulations with a timeline predictor
  • “Hot cloning” (a copy made without shutting down the source database)
  • Ability to perform simulations for enabled features
  • Ability to split items up across multiple databases, or to offload one thing into multiple databases
  • Increased memory

Moving organizations forward

Oracle understands the demands on business and organizations to do more with less. Their commitment to improved systems allows customers to do just that.

With ever-expanding features, this is a good time to assess your organization’s database and support timeline. It may be time for an upgrade. Though upgrading may seem expensive, when compared to the loss of productivity due to system downtime or inability to access data, the long-term benefit is often well worth the expense.

If you are considering upgrading to Oracle 12C or have general questions about your database, please let us know. We offer a wide range of services to assess what you have and help you plan what you need as your business scales.

Oracle 12c Whitepaper

Transforming Data Management – March 2017

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Will you need to switch to Oracle’s Standard Edition 2?

April 4th, 2017

Effective December 2015, Oracle launched Standard Edition 2 (SE2), intended to replace Standard Edition 1 (SE1).

We’ve recently seen an increase in customers asking questions about upgrading to this version. So, with that in mind, let’s take another look at SE2.

Oracle has always offered a database option for small and medium sized businesses with Oracle Database Standard. When compared to Oracle Enterprise, the cost savings alone made it the obvious choice for targeted users.

Customers using Standard Edition 1 (SE1) should be aware that this version is no longer supported. For customers using other versions, they may be seeing limitations on performance and limited processor capability.

Oracle says that SE2 is:

  • An affordable, full-featured database
  • Built for ease of use, power, and performance
  • Available on servers supporting a maximum of two sockets
  • Optimized for small business
  • Zero-cost license migration from either SE or SE1

SE2 vs. Enterprise Edition

It’s important to understand the differences between Oracle’s two types of databases.

SE2

This version is the small business edition. It is scalable as your business grows. However, you should be aware of possible licensing requirements when changing from one version to another.
Affordability is a hallmark of this version. Prices range from $700 to $17,500. Though it has a maximum support of two sockets, this is typically a good option for small and medium sized businesses.

Enterprise Edition

For those businesses needing greater scalability, Enterprise Edition will be the better choice. This version is available on single and clustered servers. There is no socket limitation.
Cost is a consideration with this version, as prices range from $4,750 to $47,500.

Migrating from SE1 to SE2

As Oracle moves forward with SE2, customers may have questions about migrating from their old edition to the new. Oracle says they expect this to be a seamless process. Though, as with any new database, delays or challenges may arise. It is important to fully understand the transition, and how it will affect your business before the migration.

We at LSG Solutions look forward to speaking with you and working with you through this change. Please contact us with any questions or simply to discuss your options.

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Making a positive impact with change management

February 21st, 2017

In our last blog, we discussed the basics of change management. We covered why it’s important and what should be included in the process.

For this blog, let’s go one step further and look at how to create a change management plan that has maximum positive impact for all involved.

WIIFM?

This is the most important question people will ask when faced with any type of change: What’s in it for me? People want to understand what they can expect and how it impacts them.

If you want to create buy-in and engagement, be prepared to answer this question. Often with software or other IT implementations, people are worried about technology replacing them or some of their job functions.

Being aware of this and ready to answer their questions can help alleviate concerns and focus stakeholders on the project goals.

In the case of software or other IT implementations, explain to team members how the change will directly benefit them by increasing their efficiency or freeing them up to do other functions that require people and not systems.

Be sure to point out other added benefits, including those to the customer and end user.

Get the right people to the table

In the initial planning stages, it’s important to get the stakeholders to the table to discuss the project. This must include those doing the job most directly impacted by the change, as well the end user, just to name a few.

Getting essential information early on means greater visibility on potential roadblocks and more people to problem-solve for solutions.

Also, engaging people in the process and decision-making gives them a sense of ownership, which creates more buy-in as the project rolls out.

Create a system everyone understands

All organizations have different ways of communicating, and many departments within those organizations have their own specific jargon.

When mapping out your change management strategy, create a clear system for communicating project status and the challenges that will inevitably come up.

This could be as simple as using a green, yellow, and red light system.

During meetings, various groups involved in the implementation of the new project or system can use this to describe their current status.

For example, let’s say the marketing department is tasked with implementing a new social media strategy. During a status update meeting, the marketing representative announces that task is a red light, which means they are making no forward progress. The representative explains the reasons surrounding the issue. Then the rest of the group brainstorms and helps the marketing representative create a time-bound plan to move that task from red light to green light status.

That’s just one way you can handle inter-departmental communication during significant changes. There are many others that may be a better fit for your organization.

Whatever strategies your organization uses for change management, remember, having a plan is essential. Help connect your stakeholders to the mission of the project by answering WIIFM, getting the right people to the table, and creating a simple system to communicate.

Keep people informed and celebrate the wins along the way. Great change creates great opportunity.

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Managing change so it doesn’t manage you

February 7th, 2017

In a rapidly advancing business climate, organizational agility is key. Market disrupters appear at a breakneck speed and leave companies struggling to keep up.

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins says, “Change is inevitable. Progress is optional.” In the realm of change management, truer words have never been spoken.

So, what is change management and how can it impact your business?

Planning the process

Change management is simply a process put in place to ensure business functions and relationships are maintained while implementing new procedures or systems.

It’s planning a way to manage change, so it doesn’t manage you.

For example, if your organization is implementing a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, there will likely be effects felt across the entire business. From the marketing department to sales to customer service, many people need visibility on planning the implementation, carrying out the implementation, and then providing appropriate feedback to make necessary adjustments.

A change management process creates a roadmap to make sure these things happen at the right time.

Setting expectations

One of the biggest benefits of a change management strategy is creating appropriate expectations for all stakeholders. The communication surrounding expectations is crucial.

When implementing new systems or processes, everyone should understand what will and will not happen. Nothing derails an implementation plan faster than over-promising and then under-delivering results. The implications on morale and future support of new projects can be massive.

To maintain buy-in, everyone impacted by the new project or process needs to be included in preliminary discussions. Time should be spent asking stakeholders about their needs, expectations, and concerns.

After the feedback is gathered, time should be spent with the same team reviewing the feedback and outlining the implementation. Emphasis should be placed on appropriate expectations including timelines, deliverables, and communication plans.

Common missteps

During implementation of new projects or systems, one common misstep is failure to plan. There should be clear guidelines on the goals of the project, who owns what pieces of implementation, and how everyone can ensure effective communication.

Assuming these things will happen organically will derail the project. Without clear guidelines, inefficiencies become the norm as scope creep takes over. Teams are then left feeling confused and frustrated.

All of this can be avoided with some basic change management planning.

Change management may sound complicated, but the core principles are not. Remember, it’s simply casting a vision for where you want to go, establishing goals to achieve the vision, and mapping out how the team will get there.

When done well, the process will increase your organization’s agility, threshold to deal with market disruptions, and ability to grow relationships during change. In today’s business, this is the winning combination that sets organizations ahead of their competitors.

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Shining a light on Oracle options

January 17th, 2017

In our last article, we discussed common issues you may encounter with your Oracle products, and how LSG Solutions is available to offer advice or resolving those issues. As an extension of that blog, let’s take a few minutes to discuss some tricks of the trade in regards to Oracle support.

Updates and upgrades

Updates and upgrades are included in your annual support package from Oracle. We encourage our clients to take advantage of them.

Often, these offer important value for clients in terms of minimizing downtime for backups and other maintenance tasks.

An example of this is Oracle Enterprise. Built into the licensing agreement, this gives you the option of having a standby database take over in the event you need it.

You are already paying for these services. We can help you leverage your resources to make the most out of your product.

Gold-level partnership

Our Gold-level partnership with Oracle ensures our clients have the most-up-to date and actionable information on their Oracle products.

As a recognized Gold-level partner, this means:

  • We have skills and expertise that set us apart from our competitors.
  • We are authorized to sell all Oracle products as well as SaaS solutions.
  • We receive educational opportunities directly from Oracle, so our team is current on all new Oracle technology.

Combining this expertise with our client relationships allows us to offer unique options and solutions tailored to our client’s needs. Since we implement what we sell, we know the realities of what works and what doesn’t. This allows us to give our clients advice balancing their present and future needs (and budget).

We can also help you balance strategy and technology. We know finding the right technology fit to match your budget is essential for your business.

Some of our other services include:

  • Reviewing annual licensing renewals
  • CSI consolidation
  • Adding database options
  • Middleware
  • Scaling up servers with additional processors and licensing
  • Oracle E-Business Suite and options
  • Failover, standby and redundancy options

For more information on tips regarding your Oracle product, please contact us. We would be happy to answer any questions or offer advice.

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Find Oracle answers with LSG Solutions

January 3rd, 2017

In the world of Oracle licensing agreements, new technology, and constantly updated versions, confusion reigns supreme. Often business owners find themselves reviewing renewals with little understanding of the jargon within the contract.

This is not because of any deficit on the part of the owner. Oracle lingo is complicated, even to those who “eat, sleep and breathe it.”

Here’s are some of the issues we find that Oracle customers often run into.

I don’t understand my licensing agreement, which worries me.

First, you are not alone. We often get calls from folks with the same concern. Since we work with Oracle applications every day, we are a good resource to help walk you through your licensing agreement.

We also find clients have questions about renewals and migrations. We can help answer those questions and develop a strategy to migrate from legacy Oracle technology to newer Oracle technology.

I have to go with a big-name reseller to get accurate answers, right?

Companies, agencies, and municipalities are short on resources. Invariably, they don’t have time to build relationships with resellers. This leads to going with what’s perceived as the safe bet; straight to the product owner. In this case, it is Oracle or one of the big national resellers.

However, these large resellers often have high sales turnover issues. LSG Solutions offers a different option. We don’t have sales quotas, therefore there are no conflicts in the sales process. Sales commissions are the same regardless of product.

Along with that, we typically implement what we sell, allowing checks and balances regarding product and functionality. We see first-hand the needs of your organization, and can recommend product and strategy built to fit your need; no more, no less.

What if I’m out of compliance with licensing?

First, we aren’t the police for Oracle licensing. We will certainly advise you when we discover compliance issues, but we will not come in, perform an audit, and report it to Oracle.

We are here to serve our clients. We understand that with the roll-out of new versions, it’s easy to be confused about licensing requirements. That’s where we can be a valued resource providing the most up-to-date information.

It’s important to note that we are not incentivized as a partner on support issues. We do it because we believe it’s the right thing for our clients. Our goal is to offer personalized service to meet your organizational needs.

If you would like to discuss these or any other questions regarding Oracle products, please let us know. We never charge to give advice. We believe this is how we build sustainable relationships with our clients, and become a trusted business partner.

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Coming soon: updates to the Oklahoma Sex & Violent Offender Registry

December 20th, 2016

checking-information-on-phoneLSG Solutions is proud of our work on the Oklahoma Sex & Violent Offender Registry. Over the years, there have been many changes made and new features offered in hopes of providing more information to the public.

As our work on this system continues, we are entering the next phase of development. Coming in the spring of 2017, the registry will offer new features, including a mobile interface.

Currently, the site features the same image on desktops and mobile devices. This forces mobile users to zoom in multiple times for readability.

In an effort to add mobile responsiveness to the site, here are new features we are working on:

  • Community alerts: This will allow users to sign up to receive mobile alerts when a sex offender moves into a selected geographical area.
  • Area scanning: You can scan the area you are in to see registered offenders in up to a five-mile radius.
  • Greater functionality: The mobile interface will allow for increased functionality, which should lead to a better experience for the user.

We know it is essential to keep the sex offender registry updated to interface with current technology. We feel confident that expanding the site in this way will allow more people to access the information they need.

This build-out will most likely be launched to the public in phases. Our hope is that with the mobile interface, we will see an increase in items like signups for the community alerts. We also anticipate that traffic to the Oklahoma Sex & Violent Offender Registry website will increase.

At LSG Solutions we are committed to serving our customers and our community. Our continued work on the sex offender registry is an example of that commitment. We look forward to providing this information and making it accessible to all Oklahomans.

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Overcoming common software testing challenges

November 1st, 2016

testing-softwareWhen you’re in a hurry, it’s easy look past the test phase of implementing new software. However, testing is essential to avoid future problems.

When software rolls out with bugs, it can become a huge morale problem, involving the extension of deadlines and increased cost. Here are some common challenges in software testing, and ways that you can overcome them.

Unskilled testers

Just because someone possesses technical skills doesn’t mean they are a good fit for testing software. The trick here is to find people who understand the business needs and how the software should promote them.

Failure to plan ahead

Too often, test plans are put together as the project is winding down or not at all. A test plan should have an appropriate structure with a checklist of items to be tested in various environments and conditions.

A test plan developed at the beginning of a project can build in check points to catch issues before they become major challenges. A thorough plan can also help reign in the scope creep that inevitably happens.

Lack of automated testing

Automated testing allows you to run scenarios over and over, which becomes even more important as you increase functionality. Since software often operates in a changing environment, it’s important to set automated testing to catch bugs before they become a problem.

Inability to test the unknown

Despite your team’s best efforts, you can never plan for every scenario. It’s essential that you are working closely with project managers and appropriate stakeholders to keep them informed on project developments.

This relationship can prove educational for the business stakeholders, giving them a more holistic perspective to software development and implementation.

Whatever challenges you face in testing software, resources are available to help you overcome them. The team at LSG Solutions is always ready to answers your questions, or work with your business to chart a way forward.

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CONTACT

501 E. 15th St., Suite 200B
Edmond, OK 73013
(405)285-2500
info@lsgsolutions.com