OOW17 - How GE Digital accelerated Fusion integration with Oracle ICS

Jessica Twentyman Profile picture for user jtwentyman October 2, 2017
GE Digital at OOW17 explains how it accelerated Fusion integration to legacy ERP from 12 months to less than 2 months and saved $350,000 with Oracle ICS

At industrial giant General Electric (GE), new CEO John Flannery has work to do if he is to tackle perceived problems at the 125-year old company, which have seen its shares take a hammering over the summer. But there’s one growth area to which Flannery remains as wedded as his predecessor, Jeff Immelt – and that’s digital.

In a LinkedIn post that appeared in mid-September, the new GE CEO could not have been more clear on this point:

I have a lot of decisions to make in my new role as CEO but one decision is easy: GE is all-in on digital.

His statement no doubt comes as a relief to many at GE Digital, the business unit announced in September 2015, which brings together digital expertise in one organization designed to lead transformation across the company. Reports have suggested that GE Digital will be expected to cut costs in the year ahead, but one area where it has already done that successfully – while also achieving some significant business benefits – is in software integration.

Fusion integration

At Oracle OpenWorld 2017 in San Francisco, GE Digital’s vice president of software engineering Kamil Litman, told OOW17 attendees about the series of decisions that have led its integration team to be confident of saving GE some $350,000 on integration costs during 2017.

But first, a bit of background. GE Digital runs on Oracle Fusion cloud-based applications, but must integrate Fusion with a wide range of different on-premise (and in many cases legacy) ERP systems on which other units and businesses within GE rely, as Litman explained:

When we created GE Digital, we knew we wanted to be modern. You cannot create a digital business and run it on premise, right? It makes no sense. So we invested in Oracle Fusion and that was our ERP of choice.

But for the first phase of Fusion implementation, integration work – primarily between Fusion and finance systems located elsewhere in GE – was being carried out using an on-premise integration product (Oracle SOA Suite, apparently), with unsatisfactory results.

The integrations took over 12 months to do; the design was very chatty; there were multiple failure points; and we spent a lot of money on [the integrations], too. All in all, you could say that the integrations were actually slowing down the ERP programme and accounting for more than 60% of the entire budget of the project. That’s not a good place to be – the slowest guys in the room. That’s not what we wanted.

Enter Oracle ICS

The situation clearly needed to change, so in the second phase of the project, where integration work needed to focus on more complex processes including order management, project management and order fulfilment, GE Digital made the switch to Oracle Integration Cloud Service (ICS). This product – just like GE Digital itself – was launched in 2015 and is primarily targeted at lightweight cloud-to-on-premise integrations. It is itself a cloud-based subscription service. Because it is so new, much of the functionality in ICS is based on needs identified by Oracle developers while they were working on the project at GE Digital. The difference was immediate, and astonishing, said Litman:

All of a sudden we were able to go much faster. We built around 50 integrations in a couple of months; we saved over $1 million dollars both on infrastructure and development time by going onto the cloud.

What’s more, multiple steps in a workflow that had previously been represented by several interfaces could now be tackled with ready-made adapters that Oracle developed that rely on a single service call.

Automating integration

The integration team at GE Digital were pretty happy with this performance uplift – but it didn’t rest on its laurels. According to Litman, it has focused heavily on automating much of the work that previously went into integration, again with the result of significant savings made.

In the past, if we wanted to add more users or more business workflows to our cloud ERP, we’d have to go through a pretty resource-heavy process. We’d spend a lot of time talking the business users from elsewhere in GE about their requirements to integrate with us. And then the GE Digital ERP and integration teams would do a great deal of configuring, testing, reconfiguring. There had to be a better way.

Now if anyone changes anything in our ERP, with a click of a button then can replicate that change in the integration space. The integrations in ICS self-configure themselves. It’s not always perfect, but testing is minutes, not weeks or months. You get a much faster start to integration once you start automating.

The result of this automation is not just that previously mentioned $350,000 in 2017, but also an expected $100,000 saving on all future integration projects, Litman claimed. And that will be important, because as CEO John Flannery put it in his message to the 333,000-strong GE workforce:

Digital is our future – and it’s your future, too.

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