A Journey from Customization to Standardization - Umer Aziz

It was a cold evening back in fall 2010 when a succinct but impressive cake cutting ceremony was held at Oslo’s massive indoor stadium, Telenor Arena. The ceremony progressed with some speeches and presentations, leading to a delicious cake and refreshments.  The gathering also comprised of brilliant IT Security and Identity & Access Management professionals, who were accompanied by personnel from other IT disciplines. Most of the audience showed great enthusiasm and pitched very interesting questions which were responded with great passion and confidence by those energetic professionals.

It was the launching ceremony of an application that received OracleFusion Middleware Innovation award at Oracle Open World, in the same year. The application was built on the concept of ‘Identity as a service’ for group companies and proved to be a great addition in application portfolio of our Shared Services organization.

Customized GUI over top of Oracle Identity Manager
The application was built as a customized layer upon Oracle Identity Manager 10g and offered user friendly Certification audits and Access Request Management, powered by a multi-tenant architecture. The features were a bit early of their time in IdM world and were key reasons to build customized layer over top of standard solution of Oracle. Though it was not the first time that we built customized application using APIs of standard identity manager, we had already done that in the form of “user creation management GUI” on top of Oracle Identity Manager 9i.

Shortcomings of Customized solution
Though customization results a product according to customer’s desire and fulfills requirements more precisely, but we shall have to believe that technology has somewhat matured recently and companies are offering off-the shelf solutions, better than the traditional tailored products.

Following are the major shortcomings of Customized solution that were faced.

  • A tailored solution is always more expensive than using an off-the shelf product. The logic is simple – customized product are made for a single customer and consequently all development expenses are borne by one entity.
  • Upgrade to newer version is always a big challenge when using a customized solution, but it becomes even bigger when customization is heavily dependent upon the application interfaces (APIs and WebServices). I still remember the mayhem while upgrading from OIM 10g to OIM 11gR1 :)
  • Maintenance and development of a customized solution (application) requires considerable time and resources as compared to the standard solution. A dedicated team of programming geeks is a must, for successfully running a tailored solution. Another relevant challenge is training and coaching of newly hired resources. Every time a new resource is hired to fulfill a vacant position, a hands-on training will be required for him to understand the architecture and approach used for customization.
  • The product support community does not offer any support for a customized product, so if you get a bug or challenge in your customized solution, you will be the only one to resolve that.
  • It is admitted by many of the solution providers, that customization has resulted in slow performance of their application instances. Allowed customization approaches use standard APIs or related interfaces to interact with core application, which have always been considered performance degraders due to the formalities of applications towards external interfaces. This challenge is not only true for Identity Management but similar feedback has been reported by experts of other products i.e. Oracle E-business suite and Oracle SOA suite.


Oracle’s Beta testing program
The Beta Testing Program is a joint venture featuring Oracle and its customers. This initiative provides a structured approach to include users of Oracle applications from selective organizations in the Beta Testing Programs. The overall goal is to allow selected users to perform in depth testing and analysis of Oracle's new products and releases in order to help Oracle deliver better products to market. As a beta testing participant, testers perform in-depth testing of the next generation of Oracle products. This also helps to build personal knowledge base, become an industry recognized technology leader, and help influence Oracle's future product direction.

Our organization, as a Shared Services Solution Provider of Identity and Access Management, was also involved in the beta testing for patch set 2 (PS2) of Identity and Access Management suite 11gR2. The focus area from our side was limited to Identity Governance – more specifically, features of Multi-Tenancy and Access Request Management.

Decommissioning of Tailored layer and rollout of Off-The-Shelf Solution
It's a common misunderstanding that boundaries limit creativity. It may sounds unreasonable, but boundaries can actually boost creativity. Instead, we need to impose boundaries by tightening our processes and one way to achieve this effectively is with Off-The-Shelf solutions.

As involvement in beta testing program resulted in the confidence on much awaited functionalities, last week we have decided to decommission the customized layer by moving functionalities in OIM 11gR2 PS2. The work has actually been started and intention is to complete before summer vocation of 2014. We're crossing our fingers and hoping that the rollout of Off-The-Shelf solution stays fine.

Umer Aziz is an ITIL Specialist Change Manager with Telenor Global Shared Services and has an extensive consulting background in Identity and Access Management in real world deployments. 

Comments:

I agree with the most of findings with Customization, but most important is realiablity factor ... It should be controlled by implementation of Transition Management life cycle

Posted by guest on August 28, 2014 at 10:43 AM PDT #

Hi, it is really a nice article. Good way to clear the concept.

Posted by Zeeshan on August 28, 2014 at 10:45 AM PDT #

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Oracle Identity Management is a complete and integrated next-generation identity management platform that provides breakthrough scalability; enables organizations to achieve rapid compliance with regulatory mandates; secures sensitive applications and data regardless of whether they are hosted on-premise or in a cloud; and reduces operational costs. Oracle Identity Management enables secure user access to resources anytime on any device.

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