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OOW11 Day 3 Round-up October 9, 2011

Posted by Duncan in Fusion, OOW, PeopleSoft.
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Following on from Day 2’s round-up:

I started day 3 squeezing into a pretty packed room for a Fusion Technical Overview from Nadia Bendjedou.  There was quite a lot of detail in this section so I’m not going to fill up this post with everything, but the stand-out points for me were:

  • All applications are based on a common unified data model (not split into multiple pillars like PeopleSoft), so you install the database once and you get EVERYTHING, even if you only want one small module! It doesn’t matter if you just want Talent Management, you not only get a database full of every HR module, but all other applications too (Financials, CRM etc).
  • Everything in Fusion is meta-data driven.  When you change something, the core isn’t changed, the change is stored at a higher level.
  • The data model is largely based on eBusiness Suite, however it has been enhanced with some of the best bits from PeopleSoft, namely effective dating, Trees and Setids for striping the data.

Next up was PeopleTools Search from Matthew Haavisto. I think this is going to be the single best change in Tools 8.52, users are going to love it! In Matthew’s words “It’s more than just a way of finding things, it’s a better way to navigate.” The Search box appears on homepage, plus keyword search on component pages. The most relevant results are shown at the top with facets down the side for additional filtering.

In the afternoon I went to PeopleSoft On-Demand with Marc Weintraub. This is an area of real interest to me as I’ve done a lot of PeopleSoft work in the cloud, and it seems like Oracle are starting to flesh out their offerings. Anything that Oracle sells is now available On-Demand, and across their entire suite of products they host 700 customers and 5.5million users on Oracle On-Demand.

Next up was Larry’s hotly anticipated keynote.  There was a sponsor session first, which was particularly arduous to sit through. I won’t name them here, and I appreciate that they’d spent a lot of money to get such a good billing, but I don’t think much that they said was relevant to the broad interests of those sat waiting for Larry. They’d have been better putting their logo up as a big backdrop and getting a proper professional speaker (Clinton or someone) to talk instead. As for Larry, it was a session of two halves. He started in barn-storming fashion, really sticking it to Marc Benioff and overturning some of the accusations from SalesForce. It was really enjoyable to see one of the world’s foremost CEOs really in a combative mood. He then announced three products, the GA of Fusion, the Oracle Social Network and the Oracle Public Cloud. The energy level tapered off during an overlong demo of the Social Network – but it’s good to see a CEO doing demos (a la Jobs) as many don’t know the products well enough and pass the responsibility to someone else.

The final session was PeopleSoft Portal creates a great UI with Southern Company and Matthew Haavisto. This was a showcase for Southern Company’s portal. The UI itself was pretty nice, good use of Lightboxes etc, however the real surprise was the amount of content that they’d included. It had taked a big team to put it in (2.5 consultants for 10 months, plus internal resources) but when they showed the volume of content it’s easy to see where all that effort went.

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OOW11 Day 2 Round-up October 9, 2011

Posted by Duncan in Fusion, OOW, PeopleSoft.
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Following on from Day 1’s Round-up:

I started off the second day by having another look around the demo grounds. One of the booths had a ‘proof of concept’ demo of how Fusion apps might look on the iPad and it was very impressive. Really slick and gorgeous to look at. I know that there has been a lot of fuss over the Workday iPad functionality, and although I haven’t seen it I fail to see how it could look much better than what was demoed here.

My first session of the day was Best Practices for Using PeopleSoft Test Framework by David Howard and Scott Shafer.  They asked for a show of hands at the start, and although a lot of people present were on Tools 8.51 not many had used PTF yet. It was an interesting session and I learnt quite a lot, for instance that PTF is the next version of PS Script (for those that have been around a while) and that it works well with the Usage Monitor to narrow down exactly what needs testing. Other things I didn’t know are that there is a debug mode for stepping through the tests, and that you can use variables to make the tests more repeatable. There are apparently bug fixes for this in each of the Tools8.51 patches, and a lot of nice new functionality coming in Tools 8.52.

Next up was Creating a great PeopleSoft UI with Jim Marion, Robert Taylor, Matthew Haavisto.  This was an interesting one for me as I do enjoy the UI side of PeopleSoft. Much was made of Workcenters, Dashboards and the role based branding in Application Portal and how it makes the task a lot simpler (and more dynamic – different users can have different UIs). Rebranding is normally accomplished by a team of 3 – a graphic artist, a web developer (jQuery and XSL) and a PeopleTools expert. They also showed some eye-candy examples of their handiwork:It seems that the more attractive portions are accomplished by either jQueryUI or XSL (I guess that’s where the Web Developer of the trio comes in).  Other tips included not using Query pagelets on the homepage too often as they’re not great for load-time, and use pagelet caching as much as you can (particularly on static HTML based pagelets). They also mentioned that there is a big focus on the UI in upcoming versions, and that some features are going to move from the Applications Portal to PeopleTools.

 

OOW11 Day 1 Round-up October 4, 2011

Posted by Duncan in Fusion, OOW, PeopleSoft.
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Our flight in on Sunday night was delayed so we missed Larry’s Sunday keynote, although as there was no mention of PeopleSoft (unsurprising) or Fusion (more surprising) this wasn’t as disappointing as it could have been.

We started today with a tour of the exhibition area.  There’s far too much to take in in one day, but special mention is deserved for the stand that let brave volunteers grapple an actual Sumo wrestler. There’s a large area of demo-pods, where you can walk up and ask specialists either for a quick demo or about an issue that you need help with. I’ve met some of the guys behind PeopleTools (who’ve previously only been names before) and had a great demo of Fusion HCM.  It’s really encouraging (for PeopleSoft, at least) to witness the crowds around the PeopleSoft booths compared to other products – it’s noticeably busier.

Of the sessions I’ve been to today I started with Shawn Haynes of Cardinal Point talking about Workcenter pages.  I’ve not done much 8.51 work – the client I’ve been working on is 8.50 – so a lot of it was new to me.  It seems a really powerful concept though, and Shawn is an engaging and knowledgeable speaker. He also gets bonus points for having the courage to go with a live demo – always good to see!  I cornered him afterwards for a couple of questions and he seems a thoroughly nice chap too.

Next up was William Varma on Performance Monitor.  This was a much lower level session, and contained a lot of info, not only on Performance Monitor but also some good intel on pre-loading cache too.

After lunch was Humair Ghauri and Daan van Egmond on Fusion HCM: Enterprise grade SaaS.  I really enjoyed this session for a number of reasons.  Both are excellent speakers, and I can recall Daan from many years ago when he presented on PeopleTools to the UKOUG.  What impressed me most was the strength of the Fusion SaaS offering, and the breadth – there is a complete set of options, whether you want on-premise, hybrid or cloud (both single or multi-tenant). You get the advantages of everyone on the same release, regular updates etc without the downside of being on a proprietary platform  It’s also very extensible, so you have the ability to tailor (not customise, but tailor!) the application to the client’s needs. I’m hoping to get a look at the tools behind this at a demo pod during the week.

Finally I went to Jeff Robbins PeopleTools Roadmap session.  Jeff also had a lot of live demos (which was bold considering the number in attendance) and shared a lot about 8.52, upcoming Portal functionality plus glimpses of what’s a little further out.  The one question he wasn’t asked, was “where is Tools 8.52?”.

I’ll try to add more during the rest of the week.

Self Service at Pret a Manger September 6, 2011

Posted by Duncan in Look and Feel, PeopleSoft, Strategy.
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I’ve been a little quiet over the last year or so as I’ve been working hard helping my colleagues at Succeed implement PeopleSoft at a retail client here in the UK – Pret a Manger.

It has been a challenging project and we’ve all worked really hard. The end is in sight now though, and we’re proud of what we’ve delivered.

It has been refreshing to work with a client that isn’t afraid of customisation if it improves the user experience for their employees. And Pret really have held the engagement of their Self Service users as of paramount importance.

This short video shows some of the highlights:

Restrict external access to PeopleSoft with Squid June 8, 2011

Posted by Duncan in Infrastructure, PeopleSoft.
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I recently had to expose a client’s PeopleSoft installation to the outside world, which I did in the usual manner (additional PIA in the DMZ etc).

We wanted to use the “closed by default, open by exception” approach, so we would start by blocking access to everything and then open the areas we needed access to URL by URL.  I suspected that the final ‘URL Whitelist’ might take many iterations to get right and as the Reverse Proxy in the DMZ was outside of my control I needed to trial it somewhere else first.

I commandeered one of our less frequently used environments and went about searching for a quick/free method of blocking access.  After trying a few different approaches I settled on Squid, the open-source forward-proxy / web-caching server.  Although it’s better known for running on Unix systems, there is a Windows implementation and it can operate perfectly well as a reverse-proxy.

Setting up Squid

Once I’d downloaded and unzipped the binaries, and installed it as a service (using this helpful write-up as a guide) it was just a case of setting the rules.

In the ACLs section I added my bad and good URLs:

acl bad_url urlpath_regex *DEV*
acl good_url urlpath_regex "c:\squid\etc\good-urls.squid"

This would block any URL with DEV in (my chosen environment was DEV), but then allow any URLs in the ‘good-urls.squid’ file.  I then had specify in the http_access section what to do with these ACL groups.

http_access allow good_url
http_access deny bad_url
http_access allow all

It took me a few goes to get this right as the last line confused me for a while, but luckily there are copious notes in the provided .conf file:

If none of the “access” lines cause a match, the default is the opposite of the last line in the list.  If the last line was deny, the default is allow. Conversely, if the last line is allow, the default will be deny.

I was happy leaving my PeopleSoft environment on port 80 and Squid on 3128 as this is just a temporary setup for my testing.  Obviously Squid would be on port 80 if this was a production setup.

I amended the default port line thus:

http_port 3128 defaultsite=xxx.yyy.com

(where xxx is the hostname and yyy is the domain name)

And finally I added this line:

cache_peer 127.0.0.1 parent 80 0 originserver default
 

I used 127.0.0.1 as Squid is on the same host as the PIA, and the rest is for forwarding.

Setup PeopleSoft

In the Web Profile ‘Virtual Addressing’ tab, add the reverse proxy details.  This willensure that PeopleSoft uses the reverse-proxy port number.  Bounce the PIA.

Custom Error Page

If you want a nice custom ‘Access Denied’ page instead of the default Squid one, they can be found in ‘C:\squid\share\errors\English’.  They have no file extension, but they’re HTML so a cinch to amend.

Building up the good-urls.squid file

This is largely going to vary depending upon what you want to expose to the external users.  A lot of what we opened up were custom pages so there isn’t a lot of value sharing the full file here.  Having said that, here is a snippet of our file:

*login*
*css
*/psp/ps/EMPLOYEE/HRMS/h/*
*/cs/ps/cache/*
*/ps/images/*
*/psc/ps/*viewattach*
*/psp/ps/EMPLOYEE/HRMS/c/ROLE_EMPLOYEE.GP_SS_EE_PSLP.GBL*
*/ps/ckeditor/*
*/psc/ps/EMPLOYEE/HRMS/c/HRS_HRAM.HRS_CE.GBL*
*/psp/ps/EMPLOYEE/HRMS/c/HRS_HRAM.HRS_CE.GBL*
*/psc/ps/EMPLOYEE/HRMS/s/WEBLIB_TIMEOUT.PT_TIMEOUTWARNING.FieldFormula.IScript_TIMEOUTWARNING
*/psc/ps/EMPLOYEE/HRMS/\?cmd=expire
*/psp/ps/EMPLOYEE/HRMS/\?cmd=expire
*/psp/ps/EMPLOYEE/HRMS/\?cmd=logout

Lines 1 and 2 sort out the signon page.

Line 3 is the Employee Portal homepage.

Lines 4 and 5 are for images.  Lines 6 and 8 are for viewing attachments and the Rich Text editor.

Lines 7, 9 and 10 are sample PeopleSoft pages/components.

The remainder deal with the timeout and signout links.

(Assuming that your PIA site is ‘ps’)

Gotchas

And you’re done.  There are a few little quirks to note.

Firstly, every time you change your URLs file you’ll need to restart the Squid service, but it’s a quick process so doesn’t hold you up too much.

Secondly, PeopleSoft frequently uses the ‘?’ special character as a URL delimiter so Squid only matches against the characters before this point.  There are several occasions when you need to match against the full URL which is why I’ve used url_path_regex in the ACL section above.  This allowed me to escape the special characters so that the log-out, time-out and view attachment links work ok.

PeopleSoft and iPhone/Smart Phones June 28, 2010

Posted by Duncan in PeopleSoft.
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At the recent UKOUG PeopleSoft Conference Succeed Consultancy (who I work for) demonstrated an iPhone application that we’ve written to allow users to access PeopleSoft and walked through how we’ve put it together.  We’ve also recorded a quick video showing it in action (click the video to go through to youtube for higher resolution video):

The components we’re using in the iPhone app are requesting and approving of absences, but any PeopleSoft functionality could be exposed in the same manner.

We’ve also been working on the same app in other phone platforms (so users can also book/approve absence on Android, Blackberry or any smart phone that has a browser).  Here are some (pretty grainy, sorry!) pictures of it working on an HTC Desire and a lower resolution Samsung):

If anyone has any comments or great ideas on how we could improve this I’d be interested to hear.

Real or Fake? July 16, 2009

Posted by Duncan in PeopleSoft.
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Every site will have at least one environment with Demo data in it, and many developers will have a favourite PeopleSoft Demo data employee, one they know the Emplid for better than their own.

Some pick the first in the list, so that’ll be Rebekah Jones or Kimberly Adams.  It’s often wise not to pick the top ones as they’re also likely to be chosen by others – and it’s good to find an employee that others don’t mess with.

These names will be instantly familiar to most long-time PeopleSoft (HR) developers:

Darlene Bergsten,

Leo Puddephat,

Paul Acosta,

Beatrice Test,

and my personal favourite: Ginger Buckalew.

I’ve often wondered – and perhaps a PeopleSoft alumni can help with this – were these ever real people?  Or did someone fake up a load of demo data one day?

PeopleSoft Timings Records October 14, 2008

Posted by Duncan in PeopleSoft, PeopleTools.
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Have you ever wanted to retrieve timing information for a process only to find out the the purge has removed all trace from Process Monitor?  Or have you ever wanted more granular information about which parts of an App Engine took the longest?  Or maybe you’re not troubleshooting an individual process but want to establish a baseline for long-term performance gathering on your batch window to identify potential future issues.

There is an easy way to accomplish all of the above as PeopleSoft can (although it doesn’t by default) write some really useful data on processes to database records, all ready to be queried.
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Skills shortage? September 22, 2008

Posted by Duncan in Oracle, PeopleSoft.
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Frank Scavo has a post covering an article from CIO magazine discussing the Oracle and SAP skills shortage.

He muses over a comment on the article concerning whether the skills shortage is independant of experience, or whether it’s only the more experienced end of the spectrum that has a shortage.

My first reaction is to agree with this.  From the consultants I know here in the UK there are those that seem to skip from project to project, only having gaps in between where it’s by their own volition.  Pondering this further though, are these the best consultants or just those that are better organised or with better networks?

It’s difficult to tell the difference, because the most experienced consultants are likely to have a wider network of contacts, and will have changed projects many times so will be well versed in the traps novices may fall foul of.

So which is it?  I’d like to think it was the former.  A talented and experienced consultant will always get work.  However I fear it’s the latter as I’ve come across a few that have succeeded by being barely adequate developers but expert schmoozers.

And is the comment on the article correct?  Is there a surplus of inexperienced consultants around, but a dearth of their experienced colleagues?

What are your experiences?

Creating an entirely read-only user in PeopleSoft August 28, 2008

Posted by Duncan in Oracle, PeopleSoft, PeopleTools, Security, SQL.
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On big projects it is quite likely that large numbers of developers have access to a many environments. Occasionally they can have access to environment which is quite important, for instance one that the customer is using for training or testing.

To reduce the likelihood of developers accidentally deleting some data that they shouldn’t it would be quite normal to remove their access to the environment altogether. However if they need access for troubleshooting purposes then (at least on projects I’ve seen) it’s quite normal for developers to be told “OK, you can have access, but be careful not to do anything destructive”. Occasionally – as with everything – things can go wrong. Either someone forgets which environment they’re in, or does something with unintended consequences. An alternative to the “just be careful” approach would be to create an entirely read-only user profile (i.e. one that has display only privileges to every component system-wide).

A read-only user profile is shown in screenshot below, where no fields are editable and the save button is inactivated:

Also, on Run Control pages the ‘Run’ button is inactive. It’s going to be pretty difficult to alter data in this environment.

Here’s how to do it quickly and easily …

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