Record breakers

Abu Dhabi Fund for Development has finished its Oracle HR project in a record 30 days. Eliot Beer reports on how the team beat the clock.
Record breakers
By Eliot Beer
Sun 09 Sep 2007 11:36 AM

Dedication, so they say, is what you need to be a record breaker - and it is a quality the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) appears to have in spades. The Fund's completion of an Oracle deployment in 30 days is - as far as anyone knows - a record.

The organisation, part of the Abu Dhabi government, is the first department to have implemented Oracle systems following the vendor's deal with the Emirate to supply all its public organisations. The emirate and Oracle signed the deal at the end of May, and ADFD was quick off the mark in taking advantage of the agreement.

When I proposed the project, I told the Fund we needed at least two months to implement the system. Ahmed insisted we do it in 30 days.

Its director, Ahmed Al Mazrouei, says the decision to implement an Oracle system - in this case the vendor's Human Resources Management System (HRMS) - was easy to make, in light of the government's agreement, but also the quality of the system itself.

"Personally, I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel - obviously, Oracle is the best ERP application in the market now. The government has signed a deal with them, just a few months ago. I am a practical and logical person - let's apply logic: it puts Oracle in the picture. This is why we selected Oracle," he explains.

ADFD selected integrator Appslink to deploy the system. Appslink - a specialist firm in HRMS implementations - has a wide range of project experience from across the Middle East, and was apparently very vocal in its pitch for the project.

"We selected Appslink for several reasons. One, they showed a very strong interest in the project - they were committed, they were determined, and they represented their case very strongly. These factors made us select the company," says Al Mazrouei.

Mohamed Muwafaq, consulting manager at Appslink, adds that Oracle also recommended the integrator to ADFD. Appslink's enthusiasm for the project has not apparently abated even now the system is live, judging by the fervour its staff have for the implementation.

"The project itself is unique. One of the reasons we managed to get the project done in 30 days is that they have a very strong management team here," says Muwafaq. "They sponsored the project - Ahmed Al Mazrouei gave us very good support. In addition, he already knew the product, from his time in the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority - he knew the application, he knew its capabilities."

When it comes to the record-breaking implementation speed, opinions differ as to where the impetus and original idea came from. Al Mazrouei modestly explains that ADFD did not go into the project with the aim of completing it in 30 days.

"We didn't really set out to implement the system in this timeframe," he says. "We were determining our objectives, to have an application that serves the human resources in general - payroll and self-services. We tried to explore the opportunities, and we came across this company (integrator), we came across this opportunity, so we decided to go live in 30 days, and we achieved it."

The Appslink team tells a slightly different story, however - they suggest the drive came from Al Mazrouei and ADFD. Muwafaq says his original project timescale was rejected by ADFD for being too long.
"For me, the 30 day timeframe was a surprise," says Muwafaq. "When I proposed the project, I told the Fund we needed at least two months to implement the system. Ahmed insisted we do it in 30 days - I told him I'd do my best. We completed the plan, and started the project - after two weeks, we realised that the 30 day target was achievable, that we could do it."

Regardless of where the 30 day timeframe came from, ADFD and Appslink only achieved it through a potent combination of tight planning, clear objectives, willing management and employees - and some smart thinking.

"The main challenge we had was the time. This project came in a difficult time, when there was a lack of internal resources - lack of servers, lack of a strong IT department. All this became a challenge - but fortunately we overcame it," summarises Al Mazrouei.

He says ADFD also had a lot of help from within the Fund itself, and from other departments: "There was strong support from within the organisation, from the company we selected to implement the program - Appslink - and there was strong support from ex-colleagues of mine, in other Abu Dhabi organisations. And there was very strong support from the Abu Dhabi IT committee."

Appslink's methodology also played a significant part in the project's speedy success. The firm uses pre-defined templates for its implementations, taking a lot of uncertainty about the exact project procedures - and saving significant amounts of time. This was mirrored by ADFD's internal coherence when it comes to policy, according to Appslink's Muwafaq.

"Our project plan was pre-defined - we focused on the deliverables, the aims of the project. We didn't use the full application implementation method - we only focused on the core application functionality," says Muwafaq. "Our deliverables were well-defined from the beginning.

"The other thing that helped was the dedicated team at ADFD - they worked day and night," he adds. "There were four of us at Appslink, and the ADFD team is three-strong - one of their team used to work more than 18 hours a day. It is a dedicated team, willing to learn - and to work hard."

ADFD and Appslink also resolved one major element which is normally time consuming - staff training. Instead of traditional training methods, the organisations instead provided ADFD employees with interactive tutorials to explain the system - and met with a certain amount of success.

"The training methodology is a new system we're starting to use," says Muwafaq. "We've developed this material, which includes every single process in the HR system. We allied this with the self-service application, and we made the information into video tutorials - you just push the button to request leave, and the video shows you what to do.

"It was a change in culture for the organisation," he goes on to say. "After three days of the system being live, more than 70 employees had used the system to make a request - to change their personal data, add a phone number, make an HR request."

Now the project is live - and a success - ADFD will be looking to implement more Oracle modules in the future. But Al Mazrouei says the Fund will not be in so much of a hurry for the next enterprise project at the Fund.

"Time is not a factor from now on - I think we need to go slowly and maturely on the other applications, which are business critical - such as the loans, the grants, the project management type of programs we're looking for."

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