Public universities in America are supported by nonprofit foundations that raise money from alumni and other benefactors. One such foundation — who asked that their name be kept anonymous — engaged Traust to help modernize their Oracle Forms gift processing application. The Foundation processes an average of 200-300 gifts every day, and as many as 1,000 gifts per day during the end-of-year rush. Over the last ten years, they have raised more than $1 billion for student support, more than $2 billion for faculty and research, and nearly $1.5 billion for other university initiatives and outreach. With that kind of volume, the gift processing system is an absolutely critical part of the Foundation’s operations.

The Foundation was using a severely outdated version of Oracle Forms to manage donor gifts, as well as pledges (called “expectancies”) offered by individuals or organizations. Gifts could include cash, equity (such as stocks), percentages of estates, matching gifts, and even non-money gifts, such as several horses donated to the university’s equestrian society. The system handles any schedules associated with these gifts, alerts and reminders for promised donations, and preferences of the names of individuals, donor organizations, and in memoriam.

End of Life for Oracle Forms

“Our mission-critical gift processing module [was] 20 years old and built on a platform that could no longer be sustained,” says the Foundation’s software development director. Due to the aging Oracle Forms software, a small pool of development experts, shifting Foundation demands, and time constraints, the Forms had reached the end of their life as a useful system.

Because of the antiquated Oracle Forms software, access to the system was only possible with a deprecated version of the Mozilla Firefox browser, as it was the only one that could render the Forms and use Java. This old browser posed a security risk that had to be mitigated by limiting access to only the giving system. Prior to COVID-19, end users also needed to be physically on campus to access the giving forms. (Once staff began working from home during the pandemic, end users could use a VPN to access the Oracle Forms application while off campus.)

In addition to usability issues, the Foundation’s IT staff could only access they system using a remote desktop environment with a virtual image from more than 10 years in the past. Code within the system was rarely updated, because there was significant uncertainty about what how the system would be affected by any changes. Previous attempts to upgrade the Oracle Forms had not gone well. As a result, by the time that Traust was brought in to help modernize Oracle Forms, there was a large backlog of change requests and bugs that had not been able to be addressed.

On the few occasions when changes were made to the system, it required a major effort due to the immense size and complexity of the Forms. Simple changes that took only an hour in other systems could take 4 to 8 times as long in the giving system Forms application.

“A lot of consultants come off as cold and like they don’t care. Not the case at all with Traust. And, of course, they delivered.”

Software development director for a major public university foundation

Project Tech Stack

  • Oracle Enterprise Database
  • Oracle APEX
  • Oracle Forms (modernized with APEX forms)

Mission Critical: Modernizing Oracle Forms

The Foundation uses Oracle applications to run their other mission-critical systems, and any replacement for the giving and expectancy Forms had to integrate with the rest of that system. Their IT team determined that Oracle APEX was the right platform to develop the replacement system, but none of their senior Oracle developers had much experience in it. They brought on Traust to provide that expertise in Oracle APEX development services and work with the Foundation’s development team to deliver a replacement module within the fiscal year. After a small pilot and training project went well, the Foundation moved ahead with the initiative to modernize Oracle Forms for their gift processing application by migrating to Oracle APEX.

The initiative involved a full software development lifecycle to complete the project. Traust performed requirements gathering, design, build, documentation, system test, deployment, and maintenance. Our team then worked hand-and-hand with a senior developer from the Foundation. The Foundation defined the business rules — more than 500 of them — while  Traust built the Oracle APEX application and trained the Foundation’s developers on how to maintain it.

In addition to modernizing the Oracle Forms system to current, maintainable technology, the new application provided significant new operational benefits. The new app changed from a tabular navigation format a progress wizard, using conditional logic to show users only the fields they needed to enter based on the gift type. This streamlined the data entry and reduced the opportunity for data entry errors. We were even able to fully automate some donation types, to avoid manual data entry entirely.

The new system also improved the editing process, making changes to gifts easier to log and track. On the back end of the Oracle APEX application, the Foundation’s developers can now make routine changes to the system — such as editing labels, business logic, and selection fields — in minutes, compared to the hours required by the old Oracle Forms system. They can even make edits to the database, if needed.

Modernized Giving — Delivered

The new gift processing app “was nearly flawless,” says the Foundation’s software development director. Once launched, they were able to start processing gifts at full capacity nearly immediately.

“We couldn’t have been more happy with the outcome of this project,” says the director in an interview with Clutch, an independent reviewer of service providers. “The final product was a huge success and had a very high user satisfaction rating.”

In addition to a successful effort to modernize Oracle Forms to APEX, the director cited his positive experience working with the Traust team. “The project management team was terrific,” he says. “They are so easy to work with and just very warm and friendly. A lot of consultants come off as cold and like they don’t care. Not the case at all with Traust. And, of course, they delivered.”

Do you need to modernize Oracle Forms and upgrade your mission-critical operations — or build something completely new? Schedule a call with one of our solution architects to learn how Traust can help improve your performance.

“The final product was a huge success and had a very high user satisfaction rating.”

Software development director for a major public university foundation