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The PeopleSoft Roadshow 2014 – What’s coming next for PeopleSoft? April 7, 2014

Posted by Tipster in PeopleTools.
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Last week I attended the UKOUG PeopleSoft Roadshow, and it was very interesting for a number of reasons. Here’s what I took away from the event:

Presenters

We’re quite used to hearing Marc Weintraub and Jeff Robbins speak here in the UK. They come over every year for the roadshow, and they’re the sessions that everyone attends for.

Marc’s style was a touch different this time in that he gave us a little more insight into his personality. Finding out who his sports teams are, what he does for fun (running Tough Mudders), what he drives (surprisingly, a Mini Cooper) etc rounded him out more as a person in our eyes – an important change as previously we really only got the professional side of Marc.

Jeff’s style was the same as ever … dry, humorous, and very comfortable and relaxed speaking to a room full of people. At one point he even paused his session so that he could photobomb a pic I was taking of his demo.

photobomb

Strategy

So what did we learn about PeopleSoft from a strategic point of view?

The switch to patching via images every 10 weeks means that customers don’t have to wait for a major release to gain new functionality. This does sound more like the continuous delivery model that has been used with Campus Solutions (where there is no major release) whereby new functionality comes via regular bundles. As a result, the 9.3 applications might just be a roll-up of everything that has been released in the images since v9.2. There are some interesting implications of this, and we’re not sure how a client can truly be sure that they are on 9.3 if they’ve only applied some of each of the patches that comprise it. The 9.3 releases are still looking like appearing in 2017, but it doesn’t have focus within Oracle as continuous delivery is the preferred method of providing new functionality. There is an internal edict not to target functionality for 9.3 as that means you’re not thinking about delivering something now, which does sound a positive message.

Much was made of the fact that PeopleSoft is “the only enterprise application suite that gives you the ability to deploy PERFECT FIT applications, through the use of PeopleTools.” After years of customisation=bad it’s interesting that there is now an admission that often a small amount of judiciously applied changes are needed to fully meet client expectations.

Also, there was another statement which I didn’t realise the signifcance of until letting things percolate down through on the train journey home, but Marc’s statement that PeopleSoft has a “95% retention rate, and the focus is on our existing customers.” is quite important. It’s great that Oracle are focusing on keeping existing customers happy – that’s what the ongoing licence fee is for, after all – and 95% is a good success rate and ongoing investment is designed to add value to existing customers.

EDITED above paragraph on 11th April to correct paraphrased quote.

User Interface

There was a lot that was exciting to see here. The new UI (christened FLuiD) is very contemporary and pleasing to look at. It works across multiple devices (i.e. mobile, tablet and desktop) and is responsive based on the device resolution. Jeff gave a live demo where the items on the screen realigned themselves and changed as he dragged the width of the screen to be smaller.

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Role-based landing pages (eg. for execs, team members, employees). 

It appears to have been very well thought through. The previous changes to the UI have been ‘all or nothing’. If you wanted the Swan UI (Tools 8.50) or the Tangerine UI (Tools 8.53) it was switched on or off as a system side setting. Whether or not the FLuiD UI is shown is based on your preferences and whether your device is capable of displaying it, so one user may get the full FLuiD UI and for another user with an older device PeopleSoft will seamlessly fall back to the ‘Classic UI’ – which I assume means the Tools 8.53 tangerine UI.

Unified UX seems to be a trend at the moment as Fusion R8 has introduced a new UI also. This UI convergence is sensible from a co-existence P.O.V. as users are going to be surprised if you switch them to Taleo and the look-and-feel is different. It’s notable that as Oracle’s applications UIs converge, PeopleSoft is often getting there first – possibly because of the toolset, and possibly as it had a better UI starting point. Often Fusion or EBS or JDE adopt UI elements that PeopleSoft has already adopted.

The FLuiD UI components are new components that run alongside the existing components. Security is inherited however, if you have security for the existing ‘PIA’ component then you’ll be allowed to use the new component. In terms of browser requirements, we’ll need IE9 for the Classic UI and IE11 for the FLuiD UI. You can still use FLuiD on your smartphone and tablet without issues, and you can use Chrome, Firefox or Safari quite happily.

2014-03-26 11.35.43  2014-03-26 11.37.11
Configuring a Landing Page and the Side Nav Menu

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Components within FLuiD

Technical

Aside from the UI, what else is new in Tools 8.54?

Also arriving is the Mobile Application Platform (MAP). This is a standalone app – i.e. it’ll be native to your device, and can retain credentials etc. Applications for MAP will come in a PUM image after Tools 8.54, but there was no comment about how quickly after Tools 8.54 this will come, and maybe not until Tools 8.55 (Oracle aim to release a new version of PeopleTools every 15 months approx).

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There are also lots of changes for analytics and reporting. Pivot Grids are getting a lot of new functionality – and they’re already better and more dynamic than much of the competition offers. It was stressed that Pivot grids aren’t static images pasted onto pages, or from data taken into other systems, but live and dynamic analytics over your data. You’ll also be able to add multiple pivot grid views on top of a pivot grid model from 8.54.

Jeff also demoed functionality where a component search page was replaced by a pivot grid, allowing you to select segments of the grid to refine the search results. This was a very slick upgrade to the search facets that we’ve previously seen.

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Filter search results by facet

PeopleSoft Test Framework in 8.54 has improved around management of test cases and delivery of pre-supplied test cases will apparently come in later tools versions.

Graham Smith

As well as the Oracle guys, Graham Smith from Oxfam also gave a session on their Financials upgrade from 8.9/8.50 to 9.2/8.53.

Graham was particularly enthusiastic about the new PeopleSoft Images and the PUM update process. Although he did concede that the PUM process is difficult to get the hang of initially – and that they ended up doing some things more than once – however it works very well for them now. Upskilling the team in advance was very important. The Oxfam approach is to divide up the improvements, allocate them to team members and give everyone time to research their topics and then report back to the team – which seems a very good way of improving the team quickly.

It has added a new requirement however, as it doesn’t replace the DMO environment (we need DMO to contain the vanilla versions of just the patches that we’ve applied), whereas the PUM image contains all modules and patches that have been released. We previously used Oracle Support as the repository of all patches and bundles.

Oxfam have also used Performance Monitor to gather intelligence on how their users are using the system. It’s really interesting to gather stats on which areas of the system are used the most (both ‘Most popular components by number hits’ and ‘most popular components by the number of users’). This allows the team to invest time in the components that are used the most, or are used by the most users – thereby targetting the effort at the areas which will give the most impact.

Other tips from Graham included:
– The Merge page functionality in App Designer is really useful during upgrades when comparing updated pages with customised ones.
– Reapply customisations in module order (as this helps the testers) instead of object type order.
– When applying custom code, aim for empty events if you can, as the cost of upgrading is less (as there’ll be no code to compare).

Graham also spoke about SES which they’ve found to be very fast and doesn’t need particularly beefy hardware. They have needed to spend some time looking at indexing, but in the main it’s a positive experience.

Summary

In conclusion, this was a very strong event with lots of great content. The next versions of PeopleSoft are going to bring a lot of exciting changes, and we can’t wait to read the Release Value Proposition when it is released.

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