November 28, 2006

List servers and Discussion forums

There is often no better feedback or quicker answers to your questions than from your peers. Over the years list servers, discussion forums, e-groups and community forums have played an enormous role in assisting implementors and business users with their issues. While preparing for the OCP exam, this channel is an invaluable one. One can get lucky posting their questions and getting a relevant and fast feedback from one of the online gurus sitting somewhere in the world.

Here's a list of popular forums (in no particular order) that one can subscribe and post their OCP exam content related questions:
  1. OAUGNet
  2. OAUGNet-DBA
  3. OAUG Community Forum
  4. OTN Discussion Forums
  5. Metalink Forums
  6. IT Toolbox - Oracle
  7. OracleAppsForum
  8. Oracle Fans
  9. DBA Pool
  10. IOUG Discussion Forums
  11. OraFAQ

November 27, 2006

Regarding Study Material Requests

I often receive e-mails from blog readers from around the world requesting for 'soft copy' of study materials. On this blog, I have listed various sources of OCP study materials. Please note that unless I have or had developed the study material, for copyright reasons I couldn't possibly e-mail someone else's creation. Frankly, there is no single handbook or exam guide available yet for 11i OCP certification. This is perhaps the biggest challenge for all OCP aspirants.

At times, I'm inclined to volunteer and approach the publishers. Or perhaps I should publish it online as a downloadable e-book. Just for some fun, let me reach out to some of the publishing houses and see if they already have a handbook in the works or are they searching for an exciting author!

November 26, 2006

Oracle Metalink

Oracle Metalink is a treasure house of information. One uses Metalink to register Support Requests (SR), formerly known as TARs and for little else. From the OCP candidate's perspective, there are more hidden gems waiting to be discovered inside Metalink.

Knowledge Browser lets one drill down to specific module pages through a hierarchy-based navigation. Links to Hot Topics, Whitepapers, Troubleshooting and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) can be found here. This should be the most popular destination on Metalink for any OCP candidate.

One should use the Advanced Search page to find quick answers to questions. Make sure to search by exact text or form and report short name instead of navigation screen names for better results.

Patches & Updates section provides search capabilities to search for specific patches. Use this page to search for Family Packs and links to the Release Notes for the patches.

Finally, if one has specific module related questions, the ever helpful support analysts at Oracle Support always provide tips and provide pointers to relevant documentations. A Support Request is almost always a productive decsion.

November 23, 2006

Tips for 1Z0-231: Implement Oracle Workflow 11i exam

A comment left on the last post was from Fadi who is an Oracle Application DBA. Like many DBA friends of mine, Fadi finds its difficult to reconcile to that fact that Oracle Workflow is a pre-requisite for "Apps Technical (DBA) track". Oracle has named the track as Oracle 11i Applications Technology Certified Professional Administrator track and not an Application DBA track. However, in most organizations, the Application DBA does indeed do the additional tasks of Install-Patch-Maintain the application, System Administration and Workflow Administration. Hence, this track comes closest to an Apps DBA certification.

Let's take a deep dive into the exam content for 1Z0-231: Implement Oracle Workflow 11i exam. It is most likely that someone who is an Apps DBA would be familiar with the following topics - Setting Up Oracle Workflow, Oracle Workflow Components, Managing Service Components, Oracle Workflow Directory Service, Systems and Agents. Rest of the topics fall mostly in the domain of the technical team members responsible for developing and/or maintaining workflow customizations. Planning a Workflow Process, Diagramming a Workflow Process, Defining Item Type Attributes and Lookup Types, Defining Messages and Notification Activities, Defining Function Activities, Business Event System APIs, Error Handling, PL/SQL Documents, Selector/Callback Functions, Customizing Workflow Processes, Workflow Loaders,Testing and Monitoring Workflow Processes are topics that would need additional study by the Apps DBA.

The beta exam consisted of about 190-195 questions to be answered in 180 minutes. The production version of the exam is thus expected to have 80-100 questions for a two hour test duration. As per the trend of the exam questions in all the OCP tests, questions can be in case study format. For example, a workflow diagram could be shown as an exhibit with an accompanied PL/SQL code that would be triggered in one of the nodes. The question would be to select among the choices which path the workflow would proceed when a specific event happens. Business Events are a major part of the exam content. Hence, one should read and revise the complex topics related to Business Events and APIs. Also there may be more than one correct answer and hence one must be careful to read all the choices before selecting the answer.

The instructor-led class at Oracle University - 11i/2.6 Implement Oracle Workflow Ed 3 covers the exam content topics. One would find the 11i10 Workflow CD-ROM available in the Oracle Education portal a very useful one. The CD-ROM includes pre-assessment and post-assessment tests that are quite handy for the exam preparation. Instead of worrying whether the exam contents conform to one's daily job content, just go with the flow on workflow!

November 22, 2006

Study material for 1Z0-200: 11i E-Business Suite Essentials for Implementers exam

Timothy Agaba wrote in a recent comment to an earlier post: "Thanks for this very useful post. I'de like to inquire whether there is any extra reference material for the Oracle E-biz fundamentals exam? I've been mainly reading the student guides fom Oracle, and would hence like to know if there are any extra reference materials that can enable one to prepare adequately for the exam".

First of all, I'd like to thank Timothy and other readers worldwide who have been reading this blog, sending me e-mails or posting their comments and questions.

The 1Z0-200: 11i E-Business Suite Essentials for Implementers, a.k.a "Oracle E-biz fundamentals" exam is perhaps the first OCP exam one would take. It is an online unproctered exam which means that one can take them at one's convenience any time and anywhere. Of course, Oracle would assume that one would be taking the online exams as a closed-book exam , that is, not taking help of books, course materials and notes (or their friends!) during the exam. Oracle expects one should prepare for them fully and rely on one's own mastery of the material. The big question is how to develop the "mastery"?

Let's answer the question by quickly reviewing the exam content - Overview of 11i10 E-Business Suite, Shared Entities and Integration, Fundamentals of Multi-Org, Fundamentals of Flexfields, Fundamentals of System Administration, Fundamentals of Workflow & Alerts and 11i Daily Business Intelligence (DBI).

The following Oracle user guides cover each of the topics -
Oracle Applications Concepts (B19295-03)
Multiple Organizations in Oracle Applications (A81174-02)
Oracle Applications Flexfields Guide (A75393-06)
Oracle Applications System Administrator's Guide - Security (B13923-04 )
Oracle Applications System Administrator's Guide - Maintenance (B13924-04)
Oracle Workflow User's Guide (B15854-05)
Oracle Daily Business Intelligence User Guide (B14383-03)


While I'm not mentioning the specific chapters in each user guide, one can browse the table of contents and find the relevant ones. For sys admin, workflow and DBI, one need not read the entire user guide for this exam; only a few introduction chapters would suffice. However, one has to browse the rest of the user guide if one is attempting the exams in the Applications Technology Administrator track.

There is a Self-Study CD-ROM set available from Oracle Education that covers the exam topics entirely. The CD-ROM may be a good option for those looking for a concise and comprehensive examination preparation. Several online education providers mentioned in earlier blog posts also offer similar online course or access to the same exam study material.

The exam duration is of 90 minutes with about 64 or so questions to be answered. As per the trend of the exam questions in all the OCP tests, questions can be in case study format (for example, a multi-org question may describe 6 organization A-E and their relationship. The question would be to identify the minimum number of Set of Books that could be setup). Also there may be more than one correct answer and hence one must be careful to read all the choices before selecting the answer.

November 17, 2006

Oracle Blogs Page lists this blog!

The blogs page on Oracle Corporation website: http://blogs.oracle.com lists the Who's-Who in the Oracle world including Tom Kyte, Steven Chan, Steven Feuerstein and Richard Byrom among others. It is indeed a great honor to be listed on the same page. Thanks for the recognition!
Reference Material for the DBAs

I got an e-mail requesting information about technical books for DBAs.
So before I suggest any reference material, let me explain the DBA related certification track for E-Business Suite OCP. The certification exams in the Oracle 11i Applications Technology Certified Professional Administrator track are for an individual practising one or more of the following roles - Application Administration, System Administration and Workflow Administration. In many organzations, all the three roles are undertaken by the same person. In others, the roles are distributed. The Application DBA is assumed to have the skillsets of an Oracle DBA plus the additional knowledge and expertise associated with installing, patching and maintaining an 11i instance.

Oracle also offers a certifcation track for the Oracle 10g DBA. There are various exam toolkits from Sybex and others. Examination handbooks for Oracle 10g DBA are available from Osborne, McGraw-Hill, Rampant, Oracle Press and others. For the 1Z0-233: Oracle 11i Install, Patch and Maintain Applications exam Oracle University offers a 5 day instructor-led course that the exam is based on. Oracle University Knowledge Center has several lessons based on each sub-topics listed in the exam content.

CD-ROMs are available from the CD-ROM providers I have listed in earlier postings on this blog. One should read the following Manuals from the Application Documentation CD for the core knowledge on this subject - Oracle Applications Installation Guide: Using Rapid Install:B19296-03, Oracle Applications Maintenance Procedures:B19299-01,Oracle Applications Maintenance Utilities:B19300-01 and Upgrading Oracle Application:B19297-01. Another great reference book is the Oracle Application DBA Handbook by Skillsoft. As a practising DBA, one should also utilize the various reference materials on Oracle Metalink, including Release Notes and Installation Notes for patches, fresh installs and upgrades.

I believe, 1Z0-233: Oracle 11i Install, Patch and Maintain Applications is one exam where the expertise evaluated is based more on one's experience as an Oracle Application DBA rather than learning the concepts just for sake of the examination. Even if you are not an active application DBA, practice on the system before you take the test. The theory behind this exam is practice makes one perfect!

November 15, 2006

User Guides and Implementation Manuals

The foundation of any study material for the EBS OCP exams are the user guides and implemenation manuals. The Oracle Documentation CD or the 11i Documentation Portal is a storehouse of information. For example, if one is preparing for 1Z0-232: Oracle 11i System Administration exam , the following sources should be explored - Oracle Applications System Administrator's Guide - Security, Oracle Applications System Administrator's Guide - Maintenance, Oracle Applications System Administrator's Guide - Configuration, Oracle Applications Supportability Guide and Oracle Applications User's Guide.

There are also interface manuals on the Integraton Repository Portal for module specfic interfaces that should be part of one's reference library. The product update notes for the mega-releases (R11i, R12) provide concise documentation of the new features (or delta functionality) introduced.

The user guides and implemention guides are released once in two years or so and hence get outdated within six months with the next family pack release for the module. It is worthwhile to study the release notes for the specific family packs to get the latest features introduced.

Often candidates are found to study the handbooks or exam guides exclusively and not browse through the user guides and implementation manuals. The nature of the questions as reflected in the beta exams point to the fact that study of handbooks only would be inadequate. Read, reference, revise and remember the concepts from the user and implementation guides. There are no magic potion or shortcuts to success.

November 13, 2006

Online Library

For those who like the online version of the books, the online library is an option to consider. There are several libraries who provide access to hundred of books for a low annual subscription. Membership of some industry associations also provides free access to these libraries.One can access hundreds of books including many of the OCP Certification handbooks in these online libraries.
An online library that provides a large number of OCP certification study materials is
Skillsoft Referenceware (http://www.books24X7.com). The Digital Library at the Association for Comuting Machinery (http://www.acm.org) is another good portal.

Happy browsing and downloading!

November 11, 2006

Certification Handbooks and other Reference Books

In 1990s and early 2000, the 'bible' for Oracle E-Business OCP Certification was Oracle Certified Professional Financial Applications Consultant Exam Guide, a book with contents (based on Release 11.0.3) also available as a CD-ROM with 300 practice questions. Before the present relaunch of OCP certification, only certification handbook published which went out of print over the years. I wonder if the authors are burning their midnight oil and quickly rewriting the content for Release 11i. This book provided brief discussions on every exam content topic. I had used this book as a reference in 2000-2001 when I got my OCP Certifications for Procurement and Order Fulfillment Tracks.

Currently, there are two excellent handbooks from Oracle Press available - Oracle E-Business Suite Financials Handbook (Osborne) and Oracle E-Business Suite Manufacturing & Supply Chain Management (McGraw-Hill). Both the handbooks have been written for Release 11i and a must-read for the busy professionals who doesn't have much preparation hours to devote. Both books provide precise summary of key concepts that serve as a quick refresher course. There are two other books that should be in the OCP exam candidates library - Special Edition Using Oracle by BOSS Corporation and Installing, Upgrading and Maintaining Oracle Applications 11i by OnCallDBA et al. The Special Edition book is popularly known as 'The Black Book' provides overview of all the modules. The OnCallDBA book is popularly known as 'Herding the Cats' is a must-read for the Applications Technology Certified Professional Administrator track exam: 1Z0-233: Oracle 11i Install, Patch and Maintain Applications.

The handbooks are available in hardcover and paperback editions. In many countries, they are available in Economy editions and are affordable. One hopes that the Certification handbook publication leaders like Osborne, Sybex or Skillsoft soon launch Oracle E-Business Suite Certification handbooks.

Happy reading!
How to start preparing for OCP Certification exams?

I got e-mails this week asking another common question - How to start preparing for the OCP Certification exams?

The certification exams are a test of facts, concepts as well as application of real-life scenarios. Depending on one's current role using or implementing Oracle E-Business Suite, the level of expertise (and 'comfort') on facts (read: definitions) and concepts can mostly be self-determined. The gaps or concepts never learnt/implemented need to be addressed as part of the exam preparation as well as revision of concepts practiced daily.

The best way to start is to have a target date for the test and plan the study schedule in weekly buckets of exam content to cover, leading to the test date. For example, if the exam content has 12 sections and one intends to study 2 sections a week, a minimum of six weeks should be allocated before one takes the test. Time management is essential as the exam content topics cover the end-to-end cycles for each module.

Using the exam content sections as the guide for the exam preparation, one may decide to follow the topics in the same order mentioned in the sections. Another approach is to revise setup and configuration concepts, followed by master data concepts and lastly transaction data and reporting concepts for a particular module. This is the 'implementor's approach' for preparing for the exam, quite analogous to implementing the module at a client site.

Use any of the channels of study being discussed on this blog, for example - Oracle University student guides or CD-ROMS or 11i Implementation and User Guides and so on. The important thing is to start and be relentless in one's daily pursuit of incremental study week by week to be prepared for the OCP exam day.

November 6, 2006

Online learning - live web class and self-paced

Online learning is one of the greatest inventions of the internet age. One can attend courses from the comfort of their home or office, saving time and travel expenses. Oracle offers Live Web Class(LWC) where instructors deliver similar training as in the Oracle University classrooms. In addition, live office hours are scheduled every day to enhance the learning experience. Students are also provided access to hands-on practice on a hosted Vision database. While I didn't find any LWC scheduled for Oracle E-Business Suite, this might become an alternative to instructor-led courses in the coming year.

Self-paced online is an anytime-anywhere mode of learning. Most of the online courses I have attended were in the tranquility of home, often late at night when there are the least chances of interruption or distraction. Online courses are also surprisingly economic when compared to the instructor-led classes. Typically, the online subscription is valid for a three-month or twelve-month period. This provides one an optimum time to prepare for all the exams in one or more tracks. A subscription provides online access to courses that cover multiple certification exams. However, great discipline is required to attend the entire course in a timely manner as one may be prone to the 'slow learning and fast forgetting' syndrome. The courses have mini quizzes at the end of each section that provide some flavor of the examination questions. Surprisingly, there are not many portals that offer sample tests so that one can prepare for the exams in a simulated environment.

The best online learning portal is Oracle University Knowledge Center (OUKC) . OUKC library presently consists of more than 1700 courses covering the entire horizon of E-Business Suite modules from Fundamentals to Release 12 new features. There are several Assessment tests on OUKC that are good practice tests for OCP aspirants. I have been a member of the portal ever since its beta release in 2000-2001 and remain an ardent fan.

A brief list of other portals that provide online courses are as follows:
[1] Association for Computing Machinery, www.acm.org
[2] Braincorp International, www.braincorp.com.au
[3] CBT Direct, www.cbtdirect.com
[4] Trainup, www.trainup.com
[5] Guru, www.guruischool.com

Time to get hooked on to an online class now.....



November 3, 2006

Training Material on CD-ROMs

A busy schedule or staying far away from the city based education centers prevent many for enrolling for the instructor-led training classes. Training material on CD-ROMs are an excellent alternative. The courses can be 'attended' at any convenient time. The sections are audio-enabled and explain the concept in great detail. Perhaps, the only disadvantage is that one can't ask any questions to the instructor on the CD-ROM for clarifying any doubts and so on. Each section has pre-assessment and post-assessment tests that provide instant testing opportunity for the concepts learned.

Here's a brief list of content providers who have commercially released CD-ROM courses. Please note that while I cannot endorse a specific CD-ROM provider, the NetG ones are usually the benchmark as Oracle sells the same on the Oracle Education website. Please note that CD-ROM providers may vary by country and hence one has to find if any local provider is available.

[1] Thomson NetG : www.netg.com
[2] CBT Planet: www.cbtplanet.com
[3] Self Study Store: www.selfstudystore.com
[4] CBT Direct: www.cbtdirect.com
[5] Oracle Education: www.oracle.com/education

There are a very limited number of courses that are available on CD-ROM. Hence, this education medium cannot address the training needs across all certification paths. One hopes that content providers would now start to sell more CD-ROM courses with the introduction of the 11i EBS OCP certification tracks.