In PeopleSoft Now! episode six, Rebekah Jackson, Vice President of Product Management at PeopleSoft, sat down with Paco Aubrejuan, Senior Vice President of PeopleSoft, to discuss the current state of PeopleSoft from a product, business, and customer standpoint, PeopleSoft’s investment strategy, and some of its strategic initiatives.
PeopleSoft Now! Episode 6
Oracle OpenWorld 2019 Wrap Up
Jackson started by asking Aubrejuan about his thoughts about how Oracle OpenWorld 2019 went and how it represents the state of the PeopleSoft customer community. Aubrejuan shared that PeopleSoft customers have always loved conferences, and every year Aubrejuan hears that its “the best conference yet.” He said that, for PeopleSoft customers, there has really been a huge change over the last several years that has resulted in a different level of engagement, which allows them to get a lot more out of the conferences that they are attending.
Aubrejuan also added that the fact that many customers are now on the same release and are adopting making of the changes that are being put out there, transparency about PeopleSoft’s roadmaps, customer participation with Idea Spaces, and videos that PeopleSoft is putting out helps increase the levels of awareness and relevancy of what PeopleSoft is doing.
At OpenWorld 2019, Aubrejuan felt that there were a lot of customers there that were using the features that were discussed at OpenWorld 2018, knew what was coming down the line, and were excited to start leveraging the new features that were coming. While the size of the PeopleSoft install base has remained relatively the same over the years, Jackson and Aubrejuan agreed that the increased level of engagement in the PeopleSoft community has made it feel bigger and better.
PeopleSoft’s Investment Strategy
Aubrejuan had previously spoken about some major investment themes within PeopleSoft – one of which focused on simplification and modernization of the user experience. PeopleSoft has aimed to add functional productivity into the application. Aubrejuan explained that what “modern” or “familiar” means to people continues to change. When PeopleSoft released Fluid, it felt that it embodied a modern, simple user experience. However, Aubrejuan explained that, to many, “simple” usually means “familiar,” and what’s “familiar” to people is largely driven now off consumer Internet. The consumer Internet has a tremendous amount of investment and change year to year in terms of the technologies that are being used to interact with people.
One example that has been talked about a lot over the last year, and now more than ever since the product has been released, is conversational interfaces – the ability to interact with technology through chat or text message, and in some cases, even voice.
In PeopleSoft HCM, Peoplesoft has released the Chatbot Integration Framework and a chatbot for Absence Management. This is one area where Aubrejuan feels PeopleSoft will continue to evolve and leverage Oracle’s investment and technology to continue making applications modern and use modern technologies.
The image below shows the roadmap for future PeopleSoft chatbots:
Another big focus is trying to standardize the way PeopleSoft does common functions in the application, simplify those, and then take it a step further and give more personalization capabilities to the end-user. Another feature that Aubrejuan spoke about was Notifications. When an action happens in the application, a notification can alert a user of what needs to be done. PeopleSoft delivered a framework that allows users to set notification preferences, like getting notifications through text message, email, browser pop-up, etc.
In the past, every PeopleSoft application had a different way of doing things, and there was no centralized way of managing processes and actions. Now, it has become easier because PeopleSoft has provided the necessary tools, adopted new technology and channels that users prefer, and has put the power in the hands of the end-user. In addition, Aubrejuan says that PeopleSoft has taken it a step further by centralizing and standardizing processes like approvals.
One item that had not been previously standardized across applications was how to delegate work if you were going to be away from work. Now, PeopleSoft has delivered a Delegations Framework that allows PeopleSoft customers to use and set delegations while they are out in a standard, simple way.
Aubrejuan explained that analytics has been something that PeopleSoft has focused on for a number of years now. In the old days of PeopleSoft, it was all about putting data in the system to capture transactions. What PeopleSoft has come to realize is that it is great to put the data in, but you have to be able to get the data out to help people make decisions in their jobs and present key performance indicators (KPIs) in the business.
What people used to have to do is take the data out of PeopleSoft and then manipulate it in Excel. Now, PeopleSoft has built pivot grid capabilities that are embedded in PeopleSoft and enable dashboards and charts. Then, PeopleSoft took it a step further and provided simplified analytics that allowed the end-user to set up some of their own analytics within certain constraints. Last year, PeopleSoft also delivered personalized analytic notifications, which allow users to establish a threshold and have the system alert them when that threshold was met or exceeded.
Aubrejuan explained that there are some limitations with that TechNet kind of embedded technology. Some customers were worried about putting too much of a load on their transactional database with people running queries and being in the system, so PeopleSoft began working on an analytic called Kibana that was just announced this year. Essentially, Kibana is a technology that uses almost 120 Elasticsearch indexes that PeopleSoft has delivered. These Elasticsearch indexes take data out of PeopleSoft, flatten it, and move it over to the Elasticsearch server.
Kibana has several advantages, including:
- Different visualizations that weren’t/aren’t available in pivot grids
- Extremely fast on very high volume data because it is all indexed – it’s built to be fast for search
- Capabilities around time series
- Ability to combine analytics with search
- Leverage PeopleSoft security rules
Aubrejuan advises customers to use pivot grids if you want the data to be actionable and leverage Kibana if you have the search indexes and want to look at time series data or want to remove the load from your transactional database.
Oracle also offers an Analytics Cloud solution that is going to be better suited for bringing analytics from multiple sources and doing trended analytics.
Eliminating and Isolating Customization
Jackson and Aubrejuan agreed that one of the biggest challenges that many customers still need to face is dealing with invasive customization that slows down their ability to take on and adopt new features that are being delivered. PeopleSoft has been focusing on this area for a few years now and continues to address it moving forward.
Aubrejuan explained that roughly six or seven years ago, there were three big mountains that needed to be climbed:
- Simplifying the user experience
- Getting away from expensive upgrades and maintenance
For a long time, PeopleSoft basically told customers to use delivered functionality to get rid of customization. Aubrejuan explained that there is some truth to that, but the problem with that is the ability to make it do what you want. That’s one of the reasons that customers have historically bought PeopleSoft and implemented PeopleSoft. So, lately, PeopleSoft has shifted away from this and really looked at where customers are customizing and has come up with two different solutions to reduce the maintenance cost surrounding customizations.
The first is where you can make something configurable, PeopleSoft is going to drive configuration into the tools. There are some configuration tools that have been delivered and are pretty significant. The biggest one is the Page and Field Configurator.
The other approach is for when there are customizations that cannot be turned into a configuration. PeopleSoft has been working hard to deliver frameworks that allow customers to isolate customizations in a way where maintenance doesn’t impact them at all. The biggest one that has served as a foundation for a lot of other tools is Event Mapping – the ability to basically plug-in custom business logic and add a number of points on a PeopleSoft page so customers’ customizations will not be impacted.
In addition, PeopleSoft has delivered Drop Zones. Drop Zones are currently available on Fluid pages and will soon be available on Classic pages as well. They allow customers to put their own fields on a page without customizing it.
The image below shows some additional tools that can help you eliminate or isolate customization in your PeopleSoft system:
PeopleSoft on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure
Jackson and Aubrejuan discussed how running PeopleSoft on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) can impact the lifecycle management of the application and be that next level of change. Aubrejuan explained that PeopleSoft has spent a lot of time focused on how to make the delivery of PeopleSoft changes more effective and efficient while lowering costs for customers. With PeopleSoft 9.2, PeopleSoft has introduced the PeopleSoft Update Manager and Selective Adoption, which allows code to be delivered incrementally and continuously. Customers can select when they take on new features.
Aubrejuan explained that it became apparent that a lot of the activities associated with provisioning or scaling PeopleSoft and doing backups or spinning up new instances for testing and development were not just activities – they involved getting servers, storage, networking, and load balancing. This was both costly and time-consuming for customers.
In order to get that next level of optimization, Aubrejuan explained that PeopleSoft needed to have lifecycle management activities control the entire stack. The only way to do that was to get on a consistent platform, which was fortunately available through Oracle. PeopleSoft has spent the last three or four years investing significantly in the shift of PeopleSoft onto Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and managing all of the lifecycle management on Oracle Cloud.
PeopleSoft has delivered the PeopleSoft Cloud Manager, a full-fledged PeopleSoft application that sits on its own instance, that can be used to do lights-out automation across the entire spectrum of PeopleSoft lifecycle management – from moving environments onto Oracle Cloud to setting up templates to do provisioning and topology. It also assists with all of your PeopleTools patching and upgrading. You can subscribe to the maintenance channel, so it automatically downloads patches from MOS so you don’t have to look for them.
Aubrejuan said that the things you are able to do now with PeopleSoft on Oracle Cloud were unimaginable a few years ago. He said that they would have never tried to do it then because it couldn’t be automated because there was no set of APIs to do it with.
Aubrejuan also explained that while the Cloud is good from a cost, scalability, and flexibility standpoint, the automation from a lifecycle management perspective in terms of what PeopleSoft has been able to do is quite exciting. Jackson elaborated by saying that customers have noticed not only cost-savings benefits but also improvements in performance and stability.
Aubrejuan shared that he expects over half of PeopleSoft customers to be running on the Oracle Cloud within the next three years.
Cloud Services and Emerging Technology
Jackson mentioned that another area that PeopleSoft has been investing in is the Oracle Cloud and emerging technology. They have started looking more into how to tap into Oracle’s portfolio of capabilities in order to extend the value of PeopleSoft for customers.
Aubrejuan explained that there is so much innovation happening on the Cloud, and that innovation is happening at multiple levels of the stack. Not only does OCI bring innovation, but services and offerings also bring innovation to the table. These capabilities can be detached and offered as a Cloud service that can be consumed by applications, whether they are on-premises or running in the Cloud – either SaaS or a Peoplesoft application.
It started off as primarily focusing on the Database Cloud Service and offering the ability to run your database as a Cloud service, but over the last few years, PeopleSoft has started focusing on other value-added Cloud services that can be consumed. For example, the Oracle Digital Assistant and chatbots are Cloud services that Oracle offers that can integrate with PeopleSoft either on-premises or in the Cloud.
There is also an Asset Monitoring Cloud solution that uses the Internet of Things, so you can put sensors on your assets and track things like engine temperature, oil pressure, location, etc. The sensors can monitor thresholds that are met or exceeded. If there are thresholds that are exceeded, you can basically raise a service request in the PeopleSoft Maintenance Management solution. You can update the parameter maintenance schedule, create a work order, etc. You could also tie thresholds tie an alert of notification that gets sent out when the thresholds are met or exceeded.
Aubrejuan said that they have also spent quite a bit of time working on machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to see how to take Oracle technology and apply them in PeopleSoft without bringing the code into the PeopleSoft application by leveraging the service in the Cloud. His expectation is that over the next several years, these technologies will continue to be consumed in PeopleSoft. It will be optional for customers to deploy certain capabilities, and if they want to, they can simply subscribe to the service. They don’t have to install software to start using it.
Oracle Cloud Applications
Jackson asked Aubrejuan to touch on where he thinks they are at in terms of Cloud applications for PeopleSoft customers. Aubrejuan explained that this has been a challenging conversation for PeopleSoft customers over the last several years – in part because it is a big decision that customers have to make because it is a big change. However, he felt that the PeopleSoft team is getting better at having important conversations with customers. Part of the question is whether Cloud applications are ready for the level of capability that is needed and expected for PeopleSoft. Aubrejuan said that the answer depends on what the customer needs, so customers need to take the time to evaluate that.
However, there are already many customers who have successfully made the move to Oracle Cloud applications. In fact, some statistics about customers on Oracle Cloud included:
- 1,000+ Cloud applications
- 31,000+ Cloud applications customers
- 12,000 new Fusion applications customers in the last five years
- 125 countries with customers on Oracle ERP Cloud
- 27 million+ employees served by Oracle HCM Cloud\
Aubrejuan said that while Oracle will continue to invest in and support PeopleSoft and ensure that customers can be successful while running their businesses on PeopleSoft, it is also Oracle and PeopleSoft’s job to talk to customers about what it would mean if they moved to the Cloud. If they don’t make the move now, they likely will at some point in the future. While there may be some nervousness about what that means for people, their skills, and how PeopleSoft’s capabilities will translate, Aubrejuan explained that it is important to also understand the value of moving to the Cloud and what’s next for PeopleSoft customers.
Jackson agreed and elaborated that this is where the PeopleSoft team comes in. They are the people who understand what PeopleSoft customers’ current experience is, so they can provide context about what will be similar in the Cloud, what will be different, what some considerations are for making the move, etc. They are able to bridge the gap for PeopleSoft customers without having ulterior motives or pushing them to make the move. Aubrejuan also said that it is important to let customers who have already made the move to Cloud have a voice and share what they have done and how. This gives other customers visibility and the ability to hear not only from Oracle but also from PeopleSoft customers just like them. Customers can be honest with each other about the challenges that they have faced, solutions they have come up with, and the value that they have realized.
Aubrejuan said that while they have a commitment to PeopleSoft that has no end date at this point, that doesn’t mean that customers shouldn’t pay attention to what is happening with Cloud. Jackson agreed and said that customers should be aware of what their options are in order to make the best-informed decision about what is right for running their businesses.
To wrap up PeopleSoft Now! episode six, Aubrejuan shared that things are going well overall for the PeopleSoft community. He is confident in PeopleSoft’s ability to continue to make customers successful, and it makes him feel good that so many customers are not just aware of what Oracle is doing, but they are adopting the new capabilities being delivered.
Aubrejuan also shared that the level of influence that customers have on the product roadmap through Idea Spaces, the level of transparency Oracle has about planned features and enhancements on the roadmap, and the Cumulative Feature Overview tool has allowed customers to be more engaged than ever before. He said that customers seem happier and more engaged than ever. While PeopleSoft may not be perfect, Aubrejuan feels that they have an exciting roadmap full of features that customers will be thrilled with. He said that it is a great time to be a PeopleSoft customer, and ultimately, an Oracle customer.
Jackson wrapped up the episode by encouraging customers to get more involved in some of the following ways:
- Submit a PeopleSoft Innovator Award nomination
- Visit the Idea Spaces or join a focus group
- Talk with Oracle representatives at conferences (like COLLABORATE 20!)
- Join a Quest webinar to hear from Oracle speakers
Check out PeopleSoft Now! Episode Six and the additional resources attached below. to learn more about the current state of PeopleSoft.
COLLABORATE 20 will take place April 19-23, 2020 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada! Don’t miss this chance to share inspiration, insights, and solutions with your peers, vendors, and the Oracle team! Register before March 6, 2020, to take advantage of Early Bird pricing.
If you’re looking for more PeopleSoft content, join us next year at RECONNECT 20, the premier deep-dive PeopleSoft focused event of the year! The event will take place July 21-23, 2020 in St. Louis, Missouri. Keep an eye out for more information on this event!