Kibana provides rich analytics and visualization with performance enhancements, enabling better decision-making and improved understanding of your data. During PeopleSoft Week 2021, members of the PeopleSoft Technology Special Interest Group (SIG) joined for a discussion on how customers are utilizing Kibana. The panel was made up of Michelle Erkenswick and Zach McCormick (Jack Henry & Associates), Mark Thomas (Hays Recruitment Solution), and Sasank Vemana (Florida State University).
About the Panelists
Michelle Erkenswick, HCM Technical Lead, and Zach McCormick, Financial Systems Analyst, both represented Jack Henry & Associates on the panel. Jack Henry & Associates is currently running PeopleTools 8.57 on the Financials side and PeopleTools 8.58 for HCM. The HCM team is taking the lead on exploring Kibana for Time and Labor, Benefit Plan Enrollment, and Workforce visualizations. Eventually, the Financials team would like to explore opportunities for using Kibana to improve reporting.
Mark Thomas is the UK IT Director at Hays Recruitment Solutions, an organization with a large PeopleSoft footprint including HCM, Financials, CRM, and ELM. Hays is currently running PeopleTools 8.58 and is on the latest Images for HCM and Financials. The team is exploring Kibana visualizations for items like internal recruiting and billing.
Rounding out the panel is Sasank Vemana, the Lead Application Architect at Florida State University (FSU). FSU utilizes PeopleSoft HCM, Financials, and Campus Solutions and is currently on PeopleTools 8.57 for HCM and PeopleTools 8.58 for Financials and Campus Solutions. They aim to move to PeopleTools 8.59 soon and are looking at Kibana and Elasticsearch capabilities.
Customer Panel: Kibana Analytics
Are Customers Planning to Use Kibana?
To start the presentation, the audience was polled on whether or not they are planning to use Kibana. The poll results showed:
- Already live or working on it – 16%
- Plan to start in the next 6 months – 23%
- Plan to start in the next 7-12 months – 17%
- Sometime in the future, 12+ months away – 19%
- Not sure yet or do not plan to use – 25%
While the audience members have a variety of different timelines for implementing Kibana, clearly a 75% majority are either currently live with Kibana or plan to be in the near future.
What is the most compelling value proposition for Kibana?
Michelle: For us, it’s being able to do reporting and having analytics without database performance impact. We’ve had issues trying to do a lot of pivot grids on a page because it’s running queries and pulling data, which takes a long time to load. When we’re trying to look at large amounts of data at once, we’re excited to use Kibana and the indexing so we can these insights to users quicker without causing additional problems in the system. Also, some of the additional visualizations with Kibana don’t look the same or can’t be done with other analytics. It’s a more robust tool that we’re excited to roll out.
Mark: I agree with Michelle. For Hays, we currently have to go to a third-party application to get analytics. To have something that is embedded in PeopleSoft and can be visible on a tile within dashboards makes it so much easier for users. Our users like having it in one place, and they like the style and analytics that Kibana offers.
Zach: On the Financials side at Jack Henry, one of the big pushes has been delivering more of a one-stop-shop approach for reporting. One of the things that I see in the tool is the ability to embed it in the application, so people can come to the same place where they are coming to do approvals or expenses and see those analytics right there. You’re also retaining the drill-down capabilities into transactional details.
Sasank: The visualizations are awesome, and the drilling is great. The data is available, and you can slice and dice it to be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s almost like a search, and Kibana has its own search. You can navigate directly to transactions, so you no longer have to figure out the path to get there. It’s right there within the visualization. Kibana is open source, which makes it highly configurable and easy to build your own.
Other drivers for Kibana that attendees mentioned in the chat included the modern look and feel of the visualizations, trend reporting, simplistic administrative controls and setup, and more!
What are your thoughts on Kibana’s real-time indexing?
Sasank: Real-time indexing is handy not only for Kibana but also for search. If you’re able to have real-time search results, it means to can search for transactions and directly drill down. These types of features drastically improve user experience.
An attendee posed a question about real-time indexing metrics, performance issues, etc., and Michelle addressed it.
Michelle: We had concerns around this as well. All I can tell you is that when Oracle presented Kibana Palooza at RECONNECT Envision 21, they had an Oracle Support rep that said they haven’t seen many performance issues at all other than people trying to do visualizations with massive data sets or split series. With real-time indexing, there haven’t been performance issues addressed at this point. Whether you’re doing it real-time or incrementally, you’re still pulling that same data.
Sasank: Concern is always there with new implementations, but Elasticsearch is a great example of how things perform on the Oracle stack. There may be some tuning required, but I don’t think performance is a big concern with Kibana. Customers will need to make their own choices about what they want to be real-time. There may be certain indexes that may be fit for real-time, but not everything will be.
Mark: Quite often, users will ask for something to be real-time, but they don’t actually need it in real-time. I think it’s a case of understanding the reasoning behind the request and whether the overhead is worthwhile. We’d look to implement some elements in real-time when it’s warranted.
What Oracle-delivered dashboards are there?
An audience member asked if Oracle had delivered any new Kibana dashboards other than the two Accounts Payable and Financials dashboards.
Zach: PUMS 37 and 38 had the most released after the AP one. There is a dashboard for Contracts, three separate dashboards for General Ledger, and one for Purchasing that have been delivered. Amira talked about additional ones that are in the works for Financials during RECONNECT Envision 21 as well.
Comparison to MicroStrategy or Informatica
One attendee asked for a comparison between Kibana vs. MicroStrategy or Informatica.
Mark: We use Informatica, but we use it as an ETL-style tool to convert data. From the visualization standpoint, we don’t use Informatica for that. The biggest difference for us is having all of the data in one place and being able to easily display it on a tile in the application. It’s more point-in-time vs. having to go to an external solution.
Sasank: They both have their own use cases, but Kibana helps drive decision-making and helps users easily navigate within PeopleSoft for information.
Another asked for advantages of switching from Tableau to Kibana.
Michelle: I know I’ve heard Oracle say that if you’re using other reporting tools and data warehouses, you may want to continue doing that. The advantage of having Kibana is that it is within PeopleSoft and is used to report PeopleSoft data. If you have data being pulled into a data warehouse, that’s different than the analytics that you would get with Kibana. It all depends on what your needs are.
Sasank: I agree. Enterprise-level items will continue to exist, and I don’t think you’d want to convert it all to Kibana. That’s not the purpose.
Zach: On the Financials side, one perk of Kibana over other tools is enhanced control over when data is published. At Jack Henry, internal reporting wants that control, so if Financials are not misrepresented to Operations. So, we can control more of the index scheduling and when it’s pushed to a dashboard.
Michelle: Kibana is an open-source tool, so you can use it anywhere you want. When using it with PeopleSoft, Kibana is dependent on indexes, so it’s not doing a direct database connection to pull information in. From the PeopleSoft perspective, it uses Integration Broker to pull data into the Elasticsearch indexes. It uses that data to pull into Kibana. It’s hitting your database to pull into the indexes, but at the time that you’re doing visualizations, it’s not hitting the database at all. It’s hitting the index. That’s where you get the performance benefit because you can have a lot of people in PeopleSoft looking at the visualization at one time, but it won’t affect your database performance because it’s not touching your database at all. It’s nice because you can have a lot of people doing reporting at the same time.
Sasank: You would use the open-source version to do something like that, not the PeopleSoft install. This is important for PeopleSoft because users don’t have to log into a separate application, so there is built-in security. You’re logged in to PeopleSoft and have row-level security, which is an added benefit.
Michelle: In 8.59, if you do have additional data outside of PeopleSoft that you want to show in your visualizations, Oracle is going to allow file uploads, so you can load that additional data into the indexes and have it available in the PeopleSoft visualizations. This will make it a lot more robust.
Custom Kibana Dashboards
Michelle: We have not developed any custom ones yet. I’ve seen some demos, and it doesn’t look terribly difficult.
Sasank: I have done some, just from a proof-of-concept point of view. I haven’t deployed any into production. I’ve presented on this a few times, so I’m sure you could find my presentations on that. Everything is basically configuration. I don’t want to oversimplify or overcomplicate, but in my opinion, it’s not a very complex task. Once you understand the flow, you’re not writing code or developing it yourself. You’re utilizing provided templates and feeding data into them.
Mark: I’d echo that. We are new to Kibana, so we use it for use cases that we know our users are interested in. We look at delivered visualizations, get familiar with them, and then we plan to build our own dashboards around that. The feedback that we’ve gotten from business analysts is that they like not having to go back to the development team to build the dashboards. They feel that they can build it on their own.
To learn more, check out the panel discussion from PeopleSoft Week 21 and the additional resources below.
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