Hello! This is Aidan Duffy from iloveoracle.com
In this blog post I want to the 6 Key Skills of a functional consultant.
- 6 Most important Functional Consulting Skills
- 6 Skills Triple your Hireability
- Key work Products – Objectives
- Key work Products – Requirements
- Key work Products – Design
- Key work Products – Build
- Key work Products – Testing
- Key work Products – Transition
Link to Functional Quadrant Post
6 Most Important Functional Consulting Skills
This is the course objectives, so we’re talking about the six key functional skills. We’ll recap on what we call the functional quadrant, it’s how you can map your experience from outside Oracle into Oracle functional skills and how to triple your hireability.
What we maintain is that these six skills triple your hireability in 30 days. Because if you can demonstrate your experience or knowledge in these six key skill-sets, objectives and requirements, design and construction, test and transition, you will triple your hireability for three reasons.
The first reason is you’ll be able to describe in detail what you need to be hired for the functional consultant role. No course can provide you commercial experience but I guarantee you that these are the skills that you need to be hired for a functional role. We provide the next best thing as we’re using a real-life topical scenario and you get to watch as we work our way towards the solution.
The second reason is that these skills triple your hireability; it’s that you can understand the skills and stay on the project from end to end. When I was hired for my first functional role, a major component of the role was the delivery of a key interface on the project. I transferred in from technical but there was much more to the functional role than that, and I wasn’t really prepared at all. I got into a little bit of trouble actually as I literally didn’t know what was coming during each phase of the project, and I kept getting surprised and kind of blind-sighted. So I remember thinking wouldn’t it be really great to understand what was going to happen next. And one of the aims of the program is to tell you what you can expect next during the project from the functional consultant’s point of view.
The third reason why we think this will triple your hireability is that the combination of all these six skills will enable you to shine on your current project when the next one is being planned. Going back to my own experience, I recovered my reputation somewhat but in the end I wasn’t renewed. I delivered a successful project but the mistakes I made due to a lack of experience caused me a renewal, and it actually cost me a significant amount of money at the same time.
So if you can do a good job across the project in the six skills especially in the last phases, the chances are you’ll be retained.
These skill-sets form the backbone of Oracle Unified Method.
We’ve looked at Oracle Unified Method (OUM). It’s based on Unified Process (an Agile Method) and is actually pretty unapproachable, over 600 different activities in the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).
There are 5 phases in the Implement view of OUM: (1) Inception; (2) Elaboration; (3) Construction; (4) Transition and (5) Production and 15 Process Streams:
- [RD] Business Requirements
- [RA] Requirements Analysis
- [MC] Mapping and Configuration
- [AN] Analysis
- [DS] Design
- [IM] Implementation
- [TE] Testing
- [PT] Performance Management
- [TA] Technical Architecture
- [CV] Data Acquisition and Conversion
- [DO] Documentation
- [OCM] Organizational Change Management
- [TR] Training
- [TS] Transition
- [PS] Operations and Support
We’ve boiled it down and atomized the phases and process to understand the essence of what is needed from the Point of View (PoV) of a functional consultant, there are 6 key skill areas you need to achieve mastery of on an Oracle ERP project:
Define and validate the scope, set out the business and system objectives for the project.
Facilitate workshops, interviews or meetings. Prepare for the workshop and lead the process modelling activities, record/document process models and work products. Develop the glossary; focus on a clear definition of project scope. Verify that the business and system objectives are achievable and testable. Facilitate the development of the current process model. Develop the domain model, develop future process model. Determine and document the audit and control requirements. Help formulate and prioritise the organisation and product architectural risk factors. Describe documentation needs and current documentation usage. Map and gap requirements against the applications and identify where customisations are required. Consolidate requirements into a single requirements specification document. Prepare the functional conversion requirements.
Produce designs that meet the functional requirements within technical constraints. Define the configuration of the application. Provide assistance with application extension strategy. Define the business rules implementation strategy. Design the business rules. Identify and document the source systems to be converted. Document the special data conversion considerations and technical assumptions. Agree documentation standards. Gather and document the procedures supporting the business processes enabled by the system.
Support build of custom components CEMLI (Customisations, Extensions, Modification, Localisations and Interfaces) aka RICEW (Reports, Interfaces, Customisations, Extensions, Workflow) etc. Implement business rules, refine and revise configuration. Load demo data. Assist with content for the user reference manual and user guide. Conduct interviews and prepare list of proposed courses and the roles of attendees. Research availability of standard courses. Prepare bespoke training course materials.
Provide input and assist preparation of material for acceptance testing. Determine and document the testing requirements: unit, system and acceptance. Assist in creating the unit test scripts. Oversee, review and approve the development of the system test scenarios. Assist in performing the unit test. Assist the client in developing the acceptance test plan. Support user acceptance testing by providing assistance about business requirements.
Set up and configure the application software. Define cutover strategy, identify resources and plan for cutover. Execute and support cutover. Compile and prepare list of enhancement requests. Determine efforts necessary to implement each set of enhancements. Work with business management to assign priorities, present alternatives and develop the proposal including the work and financial plans.
We’ve distilled an approachable way for a functional consultant to look at what is needed from them for the project to succeed. To re-iterate, we focus on those tasks and key work products in an Oracle ERP (EBS or Fusion) project that a functional consultant is involved in.
6 Skills – Triple Your Hireability
They describe what you need to be hired for functional consulting role.
When I transferred into functional consulting I knew that I didn’t have the skills required to get a functional role. The biggest questions I had about functional roles were:
- What will I be doing all day?
- Will I be able to actually deliver any of these functional tasks?
Looking back I didn’t have any idea what was involved in a functional role at all, but I got the job due to my reputation for delivering good technical work for the client. I used my network to get a break in a new area, maybe you have connections who can provide a chance for you.
No course can provide you commercial experience but I guarantee you these are the skills that you need to be hired for a functional role. What I suggest is you review your career so far to find examples where you used these skills before, and add them to your LinkedIn profile. Once you get to interview stage, this is what you need to talk about. The white paper we are providing is your interview script. If you can talk about this stuff, this is the next best thing to commercial experience.
If you are entering functional consulting from technical, emphasize construction, design and test skills and build towards the others. This is the path I took. I got into functional consulting because I could deliver interfaces, so I had construction, design and test. I then acquired the other skills over a few projects.
Current Functional Consultants
If you need to build towards full functional skill-set, first determine which of these 6 skills you already have and work towards obtaining the rest. Depending on if you came from technical or user community, you will have a different core set of skills. Start developing the others by volunteering spare time and watching carefully what successful consultants do on a project.
If you are coming from user community, start with requirements and test. Then move to objectives, design and transition and build up from there.
Start with the skills you have in testing and build towards design requirements.
If you need to build or maintain your functional experience, you already have management of these areas, start with objectives and build up 6 skills one at a time.
Cross-Training into Oracle
If you are entering Oracle functional consulting, you hopefully have business analysis skills in other disciplines. Use the 6 key skills and start with objectives and requirements and build from there.
Understand these skills and stay on the project from end to end.
When I was hired for my first role, a major component of the role was delivery of the key interface on the project. This was to bring in AR transactions from the manufacturing system, and this part of the project went fine but there was much more to the role than that and I wasn’t prepared at all. I got into a bit of trouble as I literally didn’t know what was coming during each phase of the project. I remember thinking wouldn’t it be great to really understand what was going to happen next.
These are the 6 skill-sets required for functional consultants, so all you need to do is use this roadmap to gain these skills and you are on your way.
Shine on the current project when the next one is being planned.
Even though I had recovered my reputation somewhat, in the end I wasn’t renewed. I had delivered a successful project stream but the mistakes I had made due to lack of experience cost me a renewal and a significant amount of money.
If you do a good job across the project, especially in test and transition, chances are you will be retained.
The next “emergency” project has to start in next 2 weeks, you are on site and available. The benefits of just being around on site should not be underestimated. It’s much easier to retain a guy who already has system accesses, is known to project team and business, rather than look to hire a new person, wait for their notice periods etc.
Key Work Products – Objectives
Objectives is really part of the inception, the get-go of the project. The requirements covers inception and elaboration. Design covers really the key, the bulk of what would happen during the operation and construction phases. Build of course naturally kicks off really during construction and transition. Testing is a parallel activity to the build and transition, in our terms really happens during the transition phase and the production phase of OUM.
So in the key work products, objectives has got one work product. It’s so slim.
What is the Work Product
The previous version, you may be aware of it, it’s called Oracle AIM. It had a numbering system to it and a set of deliverables or documents. Oracle referred to them as deliverables or documents in that version, and they are now calling them work products. And that’s kind of to bring together this idea of not every “deliverable” is a document. A work product might be the outcome of a meeting. It might be a configured environment. It could even just be a decision that’s being taken. But everything comes together and builds towards the final outcome of a project i.e. a successful go-live. But a work product doesn’t necessarily have to be a definitive document. You just need to cover this thing that you’ve done.
For example, business and system objectives would probably encompass a number of kickoff meetings with the client management, achieving and understanding of what are the key business and system objectives. And you may well want to document, to set out and agree what those things are. On a big project it could be a very big document. On a small project, business and system objectives may just be a PowerPoint slide presentation that you give to the steering committee of the project. And a note, a minute note that they all nodded and agreed during that meeting that yeah, this is what we are going to do on a small initiative.
Also within this section when you’re defining the business and system objectives, you’re defining it to validate the scope, you’d agree what the objectives of the outcome are. You can’t let that get-go of a project. You’d use this to build on the agreement to kick the project off and start to build your relationship with your client as well through this.
Key Work Products – Requirements
The requirements are all built on the back of those business and system objectives. There are a few more deliverables that we’re flagging up here. These are the key deliverables that we think are there. You might not do all the things on a project. In fact in a full-blown OUM there are a lot more than this. But we have kind of narrowed it down to a shortened list of what are the things that you might have to generate.
It also depends actually on the approach that you will take into a project. If you are doing a requirements-driven project whereby you’re walking into a client and you’re saying, “What is it that you want?” Then you would often do all of these things in that. If it was a solution-driven project where they never install Oracle Cloud ERP, this would be a much shorter list. You wouldn’t do probably two-thirds of these documents in that kind of a project.
And to bring down to what we want to talk about, we’re kind of taking more of a requirements-driven approach to this project or this solution.
Most projects that I’ve worked on with would be requirements-driven project where there is quite a lot of documentation, where there’s route around solution-driven project. I guess maybe with the advent of Oracle Cloud that might change, it will be more a solution-driven project.
There is a shift, there is a big shift going on in the market right now between the classic ERP on-premise installed big projects requirements towards these rapid cloud-based implementations where requirements aren’t really what it’s all about. It’s all more to do with validation and scoping. And we might touch on some of those things later as well and show you some of the different approaches that are taken. And also we can point you to towards good material sources on Oracle’s website and around about the web.
Will every project have to go through all of these steps and the requirements?
Not really. It depends on the project as well and on the requirement. Often when you’re building, you’re agreeing a project and you are scoping out the work in a project. One of the first things that goes on is a project manager in concert with his functional lead and a system architect or a solution architect would start to frame the work that you are going to do on the project and part of the agreement. And depending on the scope, you may need to build a future process model.
For example on our scenario because we’re talking about fixing an issue with a currency, we aren’t really going to need a future process model because the current process model that they’re operating under would fit the scenario. What’s changed is the currency so the process hasn’t changed, it’s just the currency that’s changed. So we wouldn’t necessarily need to do a future process model on that project.
This looks like a big chunk of stuff to generate. Sometimes some of these things can be in one document, you might write an overall project strategy document that includes a training strategy, a cutover strategy, a data conversion strategy but they’d just be separate sections within the same document for example. It may not be you writing it, what you might have to do is contribute content to that document but you need to know that these things are going on.
The key documents really on here for the functional consultant would be the future process model, the use case model, and the business data structures. Those would be the things that you would need to know about.
Business data structures is an interesting work product. What that’s about is the key structures within an Oracle Financials configuration, number one being the job accounts. When you see business data structures MC.010, that’s about defining and dividing the job accounts, the tax structure in R2R but also in P2P. It would be about working out what the approval hierarchy would be with the organization. So that’s what business data structures in, that’s quite a key document.
One more point, I guess from my point of view most consultants in the market won’t really be that familiar with these Oracle Unified Method documentation standards. But they’re not that different from the old standards. And then I guess what they are is the way of the future. We are sort of future-proofing so that it will be useful going forward and that’s the way projects are being run now.
Any project you go on would be run going forwards on OUM. You would be expected to know OUM. Although a lot of the stuff in the past was done in Oracle AIM, Oracle AIM was discontinued. I can’t remember the date, I think it was 2008 or 2009 it was actually discontinued. Oracle don’t support it anymore, what they do support is OUM. There is a mapping between Oracle AIM documents and Oracle OUM documents that we can share with you so that will arm you to understand what people are talking about. And it’s good if you can relate back to and fro between those two sets of deliverables as well on projects.
One other point I wanted to make is in terms of process and those flows I showed you, it’s worthwhile you all getting on to a website. Google APQC when you’ve got a moment, the American Productivity and Quality Center. What they’ve got is a monopoly on business process framework and the business process flows. So have a look at the collateral and sign up to their website if you are able to. They’ve got a monopoly really with the big consultancies and a lot of the American multinationals. It’s a not-for-profit organization and a lot of organizations contribute to it, and they do a lot of work on benchmarking on process flows. So it’s well worthwhile you take a look at that stuff.
Another question is how we can get the OUM templates on example documents?
Unfortunately, Oracle do not release this anymore. You either have to be with a client who has got a license to use it and then you can get it; or working for a consultancy who’ve got a license to use it and they’ll let you download it; or you need to be Oracle Gold Partner or above. You might find on the Internet, it’s stored somewhere for you to download but it’s kind of illegal because you need to have a license to use it. And you can kind of rip it off from these places but we’re not going to point you in that direction because it would be in breach of our licensing.
We can share with you some of these documents under the terms of our license that we’ve completed to illustrate this project. But we can’t share with you a full download of Oracle OUM, our license prevents us from doing that. If you want to, register yourself as an Oracle Gold Partner, your business, and pay the subscription and that gives you access to this material.
Key Work Products – Design
In terms of the design; the data structure setups, that will be the design of the job accounts. The application setups, in the old world that would be BR.100, which is the configuration guide. The design specification DS.140, that would be roughly equivalent to a functional spec in AIM which you would know and love as MD.050. Those would be the key documents, the core, the bread and butter really for a functional consultant. The MC.050 application setups, and AN.100 which is an analysis specification, and DS.140 which is a design specification, those would be your key, key documents.
I want to say at this point not to forget about data conversion. Data conversion can be a nice little niche actually for a functional consultant. You can focus on becoming and building yourself as being a data conversion specialist, so a whole area of cutover and data conversion and knowing how it works is quite a nice niche to get into. So those documents or work products are prefixed with the CV and it’s a parallel track often on a project. It starts quite early and it goes all the way to the end of a project. It’s often autonomous. So you wouldn’t necessarily be a functional consultant who specializes in record to report, order to cash or purchase to pay. You can build yourself as a functional lead with a specialist in data conversion and on that way. So you need to have a good understanding of the CV of data conversion work products. We can break out on some of those pieces as well later.
The other useful niche if you’ve got a background in training is building yourself as a functional consultant with a specialism in training and delivering training courses and training materials. So that’s another good way of what place to specialize.
Key Work Products – Build
The build, during the build the techies want you to configure the environments for them; they want you to set up the development environment. They want you to set up conversion environment, and they want you to set up the training environment. They also want your input and it’s vital that you give input into the definition of unique test scripts. During this point you would be getting involved in writing the training courses and working with the business on doing their test planning actually and supporting their test planning.
One of the things about the Oracle methods is really that the Oracle methods don’t really talk about acceptance test planning or producing acceptance test stuff but it often falls to the functional consultant to heavily support that. So you’re being involved in user acceptance test scripting, planning, and the scenarios and the test data, it’s quite a good skill to develop.
Key Work Products – Testing
Testing, testing is also another good niche for a functional consultant to build themselves out. It’s often on a project as specialist role of a tester, a test manager. If you’ve got a background in quality assurance and quality management, you can brand yourself as a test manager or a functional tester. In here you need to understand how to produce the testing requirements, agreeing with the business, devise a strategy which is how you’re going to do it, the approach, the tools, setting up the team to do the testing.
Devising some static test data is a really good thing to be able to do when you’re on a project saying this is going to be my test data that I’m going to use and pre-configure my test environments with this static data, and be able to track that data as it moves through an end-to-end scenario and show what the changes are as the test scenarios are executed.
You would build, devise the system test scenarios and those will be relayed back to the business flows and the use cases defined in the requirements and the design earlier. You would also be configuring the system test environment, which is kind of a rerun of all the other configuration you’ve been doing previously. Obviously, when you are doing the configuration, you’re maintaining those set of documents. I mentioned earlier the MC.050 or which is what the document is called in OUM, whereas in AIM it’s called a BR.100. When we get into testing, we’ll talk a bit more about that as well.
Key Work Products – Transition
The transition piece really is the culmination of everything, and that’s why I mentioned this thing about being a data conversion and cutover. Here you are going to define what the cutover plan is and help in the transition from development to production. And it’s quite a key area really of a project. Often if a consultant could come in and help get the client through this, you are often viewed as being a knight in shining armor. So in here you’ll be doing user training, handholding. You’ll be doing the cutover plan. You’ll be doing the final configuration of the production environment. And you’ll be involved in the go, no-go project meetings.
When you’ve gone into production, one of the things that you often get involved in as a functional consultant is floor walking, assisting the client when they cutover, going out on to the floor with invoice entry clerks and helping them to key-in their invoices, process their transactions, run their interfaces. This is a good way actually of achieving longevity with the client because sometimes clients didn’t really take proper notice of all the training needs that they need to do and didn’t properly train out everybody. So often they need to hang onto a few key individuals from the functional team that help to run the business, to get their own people up to speed. All the way through their project if you’ve been building relationship with the work stream managers in the client area, you’ll be seen as the go-to person for accounts receivable or the go-to person for fixed assets. And when they need help, it will be you they come to, to help them. You will be retained and kept on a project.
I know one colleague of mine, an old friend, a business consultant who became a functional consultant who has been retained by a client for about four years because he is the go-to person for AR. They actually bent the business rules for him. They only keep contractors for one year. He has been with them for four years. The reason is he has made himself the go-to person for accounts receivable in their business, and that’s a good thing to be, a good place to be. Being with that kind of a client, he’s been able to maintain his rate, maintain his billing, take holidays and he’s ostensibly got a permanent job but on contract rates. He is probably paid more than the finance director in that company but he’s got a really good niche to be.
6 Key Skills Work Product
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