Impact Analysis: Useful Tool, or Auditor’s Check Box?

We CNCs have 101 tasks to do every day.  Some of them you WANT to do, and many are ones you HAVE to do.  Generating an Impact Analysis is one of those tasks that is both.  You should have to do it, AND you should want to do it.  In the long run it will save you and your company lots of valuable time and reduce the risks associated with change.

There are 3 basic questions that must be asked and answered before applying any ESU (Electronic Software Update) to your system.  How hard will it be to apply the ESU?  How much testing will it take to confirm that the ESU does no harm?  Will there be additional benefits beyond solving the problem at hand that will help justify the effort?  The Impact Analysis will provide the information you will need to answer these questions!

You might be thinking that the My Oracle Support Update Center provides the information you need to answer the questions about the ESU you are interested in, but the Update Center does not know your system.  It knows the ESU, but it doesn’t know the other ESUs you’ve already applied, and it does not know if you’ve modified any of the objects in the ESU.  You cannot answer the 3 questions without this knowledge.  The Impact Analysis bridges the gap between the knowledge in your system and the knowledge in the Oracle Update Center.

You can best assess how hard it will be to apply the ESU when you know whether any of the objects in the ESU have been modified in your system.  The impact analysis will tell you this!  When there are no modified objects, applying the ESU is generally very straight forward.  However, when some of the objects have been modified, then you need to assess whether the modifications are still necessary.  This is a very important question, because every modification you can eliminate makes your system easier to manage.  Unfortunately, the Impact Analysis isn’t much help in answering this question.  Only you know why the modifications were needed in the first place.  If you decide the modifications are needed, you also need to ask if the developer resources necessary to retrofit the modifications are available?  If the resources are not available when the ESU is installed, you risk breaking your DV environment until the retrofits can be done.  You should avoid this risk when multiple development threads are actively using your DV environment.

You can start to assess how much testing the ESU will require when you know how many new or changed objects the ESU will bring.  An ESU may have many objects in it, but not all of them may be new to your system.  Previous ESUs already applied to your system may have already updated some of the objects in the ESU and the net new object count could be substantially lower than the number of objects in the ESU.  The impact analysis will tell you how many of the objects in the ESU are newer than the objects already in your system.  An ESU with 50 new objects would likely require a more comprehensive test plan than one with just 1 or 2 new objects.  You can see how knowing the number of net new objects to your system could dramatically scale back a test plan.

Lastly, ESUs are packaged to provide solutions to SARs (Software Action Request) and it is not uncommon for an ESU to provide solutions to multiple SARs.  You may be interested in a solution for a specific SAR, and you certainly want to confirm that SAR is included in the ESU, but what about those other SARs that are supposed to be fixed?  The Impact Analysis will list the SARs that will be solved when you apply the ESU.  You may find that that the ESU has a fix for a problem that you didn’t realize you were having, which can be a positive thing.  The potential negative is that you may have a business process that could be impacted by a fix for a SAR other than the one you want.  Therefore, a longer list of applied SARs could mean the ESU carries more risk to your business processes, which could cause you to scale up your test plan.

It’s not hard to interpret the Impact Analysis report after it has been generated.  You start at the end!  Scroll to the last page to see the counts and percentages of objects that will be applied, counts and percentages of modified objects, and counts and percentages of SARs that will be applied.

If you like what you see on the last page, then you should look at the earlier pages for the details of exactly what objects are being applied, exactly which ones have been modified, and with that information you will be well armed to answer the 3 basic questions.

ESUs are a common part of any living EnterpriseOne system.  ESUs bring change, and while change is inevitable, it should never be a surprise.  The Impact Analysis tool is your ally and is much more than an auditor’s check box.