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PeopleSoft Week: Burning Questions for PeopleSoft

As part of Quest Forum Digital Event: PeopleSoft Week, executives from the PeopleSoft team gathered for a panel discussion to answer PeopleSoft customers’ burning questions.

The panel was made up of:

  • Paco Aubrejuan, Senior Vice President of Oracle Applications Development
  • Rebekah Jackson, Vice President of PeopleSoft Strategy & Product Management
  • Willie Suh, Vice President of PeopleTools Development
  • Alex Man, Vice President of Applications Engineering
  • David Bain, Senior Director of PeopleTools Product Strategy
  • Robbin Velayedam, Senior Director of HCM Product Strategy
  • Amira Morcos, Senior Director of Financials Product Strategy
  • Steve Morgan, Senior Director of Procurement Product Strategy

Let’s get into the Q&A!

Burning Questions for PeopleSoft

Can Smart HR templates be used to update position information under Position Management?

Smart HR and Smart HR templates have been in PeopleSoft for quite some time. They were originally designed as person-based and were intended to update a person’s job data and profile information, but not Position Management fields. So, the answer to the question is, no it does not. However, we do have a request on the Idea Space that several customers have asked for us to increase the number of fields that Smart HR can update including being able to have approvals for Smart HR templates.

Will PeopleSoft rewrite the Payroll and Benefit calculation to include modern technology instead of COBOL?

We actually use COBOL for payroll and admin purposes, and it works. It’s large and powerful—doing significant volumes of data. Customers have asked in the past if we would ever think of doing something more online; however, payroll is one of the biggest areas from our perspective, and what we’re doing works. For that reason, I don’t see any plans to change.

We’ve had the same type of question regarding moving PeopleSoft off of PeopleTools to a standard base platform. In general, what we’re trying to do in PeopleSoft is to provide as much functional value as we can while simultaneously minimizing large disruptions in terms of upfront cost. So, there are no plans right now as far as a wholesale rewrite of things off of COBOL. We have done some of that in Financials already, and in cases where it has been done, customers are obviously able to take advantage of it. However, we don’t believe the cost that we would have to spend to rewrite payroll, for example, onto something other than COBOL would deliver the value for our customers as opposed to using that development capacity to do things that have more of a direct business capability delivery. We considered rewriting the program in the past, but the fact is that it is very reliable as is, and the risks involved in rewriting would be too great.

We are currently on a PeopleSoft 9.1 HCM SQL server backend, and we are heavily customized. Can you tell us what our options are to migrate to the Cloud?

SQL Server can run on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. OCI supports both Linux and Windows, so as far as SQL Server is concerned, you can move to OCI and still run SQL Server and migrate SQL Server into the Cloud.

Additionally, running 9.1 in the Cloud can be done as well. We have many customers running 9.1 in the Cloud. However, what you won’t be able to do is take advantage of our Cloud Manager product, which is something we’ve invested quite heavily in over the last several years to really integrate with OCI and take advantage of the automation capabilities that OCI provides. I know we have talked about Cloud Manager for a while, but provisioning environments and updating the applications as well as PeopleTools are all benefits of Cloud Manager. Unfortunately, Cloud Manager only runs with Oracle databases at this time, and it also requires Applications 9.2 releases and minimum PeopleTools releases. So, from that perspective, you wouldn’t be able to use Cloud Manager, but you could definitely run SQL Server and your 9.1 Apps in OCI.

In terms of customizations, they are fully supported in the Cloud.

What is the benefit of running PeopleSoft on Oracle Cloud infrastructure instead of AWS or Azure?

Cloud Manager is something that we have invested quite heavily in, and it provides a lot of automation. Not only are there benefits to running in the Cloud (not having your own data centers or any of those types of things), but also, we have integrated closely with OCI to provide provisioning capabilities, provisioning environments, automatically downloading Images and PRPs.

So, there is quite a bit of capability around Cloud Manager and in order for us to build this, the fact that we are Oracle and we have access to all the other Oracle development teams and everything internally, we’ve been able to do a lot with OCI. Those are things we are not able to do with AWS or Azure. We certainly could invest in that area, but we feel like with what we have in OCI, the integration capabilities and functionality we can provide is just more in sync with what we have available with OCI. So that’s a big advantage with running in OCI versus other Cloud platforms.

Additionally, there is a lot of investment that Oracle has around automation and what we are doing around the Autonomous Database. So, for us, the investment in optimizing and automating the PeopleSoft lifecycle management on OCI is more than just the work we’re doing on PeopleSoft. It’s doing that work along with the other technologies that Oracle has and around how you use the database to stream data in for lift and shift, backup and restore, and leveraging things that are coming in Autonomous Database. For us, it’s not just a tactical point-in-time tool you use to get on to the Cloud. It’s the full, ongoing lifecycle management around patching and all that, and we will continue to invest heavily in this area. In fact, we’ve just viewed our plan for the next Cloud Manager, and we plan on doing things like automated scaling based on artificial intelligence (AI), both to scale up based on usage patterns and to scale down to do cost savings.

Those are types of things that are not only not possible to do in your on-premise data center, but the amount of work it would take for you to do that manually is just not feasible. It can only be done through software. It can only be done if you automate it, and our goal is to take the cost of running PeopleSoft down as low as possible. The only way for us to do that is by controlling the full stack, and we can’t write a layer of software that leverages the full stack capabilities and supports all the different Clouds with that because every Cloud is different with different APIs. We would have to build it to the lowest common functional denominator, which historically we have done in areas like the database, and it would force us to not leverage the full capabilities of Oracle Database.

Because of the degree to which the performance, the capability, the scalability, and the automation is different with OCI, even customers who have standardized on other Cloud systems have built the business case and successfully determined that it makes more sense to run PeopleSoft in OCI (even if you happen to be a customer that has standardized on another Cloud platform). That’s not unusual because the benefits in this particular case are compelling enough that in most cases, that does make sense. With OCI, you can get service-oriented architectures (SOAs) both in performance and availability that you can’t get in other clouds. So, there are benefits to looking at what is available in OCI as opposed to other Cloud platforms. Additionally, getting on OCI can give you easier integration to a lot of platform services.

Do you have any recommendations for an individual who is working on 9.1 right now and is trying to decide if they should do a multi-year strategy where they move to OCI with current version 9.1 and then upgrade to 9.2 or move to an Oracle Cloud solution?

In general, if you are ready to move to Cloud applications and that is something your company is ready to do, meaning you’ve evaluated the products and feel they’re a good fit (most of them should be at this point), then moving to the Cloud is a good option. There are many customers who aren’t ready to move to Cloud solutions for any number of reasons. For those customers who aren’t moving to Cloud applications now, we feel that moving to OCI is a really good move for PeopleSoft customers. We’re past the point of it being a new thing for PeopleSoft customers. We have over 200 PeopleSoft customers, and some of our biggest customers are running on OCI.

It would be impossible for us to tell you which path to take because that is an evaluation that should be done with an account team looking at the options there. However, what we can say is that if you are not ready to move to Oracle Cloud now, then moving to OCI is a very good step, particularly if you can get to 9.2 because once you get to 9.2, we can do lights out automation on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.

In addition, we’ve actually spent some time over the past couple of months working to produce a new document that is geared specifically towards PeopleSoft customers grappling with the question of, “What are my Cloud options?”

Do I have to move my PeopleSoft to OCI?

No, it’s not necessary. Although, if you want to take advantage of the investments that we’re making to leverage the advances in technology that have come through Cloud, both in general and in infrastructure, regarding lifecycle management, a shift to the Cloud is necessary. So, you don’t need to, and you can still do it the old, expensive, and less agile way. My guess is that in the next five years, over half of PeopleSoft customers will be running on OCI because the business case to do so is that compelling. It’s also not unusual for customers who have moved to the Cloud to be projecting 50 percent savings in their total cost of ownership.

Are listeners considering PeopleSoft in the Cloud?

Results from this poll showed that 36 percent answered “Yes,” and 64 percent answered “No.” This reflects an education effort on the part of PeopleSoft customers because Cloud is a term that gets used a lot, and it can mean different things. I think there is still a lot of education that needs to occur among our customer base about what Cloud even means, and what that option looks like. There are still people that think you can’t bring your customizations or that you can’t have control. It also doesn’t make sense to move to the Cloud if you’ve just done a hardware refresh, for example, because you want to get the life out of the hardware that you’ve already purchased. It will be interesting to do this poll again over the next couple of years as our expectation is that the number of customers who are interested will continue to climb.

As we all know, COVID-19 has impacted businesses. In response, several organizations are now looking at needs to save costs. What are some good ways for organizations to save on operational costs within PeopleSoft?

I think OCI is the biggest and most logical lever to pull. If you haven’t already moved PeopleSoft into Oracle Cloud infrastructure based on what other customers have done in OCI and the impact that it’s having (not just in reducing costs, but in the ability to be responsive to rapidly changing environments), then the flexibility that it provides at a lower cost point is the most immediate aspect to consider.

The other thing along the lines of customization is that we have invested a lot in helping customers manage customizations. I think that is a good thing to consider and a big win in saving costs.

Additionally, on the Cloud side, there are a number of stories that we have out on www.peoplesoftinfo.com that you can read, and this is not just something for smaller or mid-sized customers. Even the larger customers who have migrated to the Cloud have seen exceptional results in performance. Across the board, they have seen lower costs and better performance. Getting back to the number of listeners who are considering Cloud migration, I’m surprised by that number because Cloud migration is one of the top things that I talk to customers about, so in the overall PeopleSoft community, I think that number would actually be a little higher.

Has COVID-19 impacted PeopleSoft development or roadmaps?

In general, the short answer is no. What we had planned and what we are working on, we continue to work on without interruption. However, it did cause us to evaluate two items.

One item we looked into is making policy decisions that could help customers in the short term. For example, we originally had PeopleTools 8.56 going off CPU support this October, but we have now extended that out for six months. We deferred some maintenance activities and policies we had set that would potentially have forced more maintenance-type of investments from you.

The other would be that we’ve been taking requests from customers who have been influenced by COVID-19 (functional use cases that they want to be able to support), and we’re either delivering solutions on how to configure PeopleSoft to do that or, in some cases, quickly turning around and giving those out.

The impact on the HCM roadmap is that we were able to move some things up in priority based on what customers needed to deal with this crisis. Health and Safety is one of them. It’s one of those features that has been in HR for quite some time, but we haven’t invested a whole lot of time in it up until this point. However, now that it’s become such a central issue, we moved it up and started working on it. Now we’re building out a self-service, Fluid-based front end to Health and Safety, and there are also a couple of other examples as well.

We heard from customers that “leave donations” have become rather popular these days. So, in our Absence Management module, we’re looking at what can we do to allow for retroactively leaving donations because that is something that we don’t have in the system today.

We are also looking at what can be done for customers who are trying to integrate Zoom and other types of presentation technology platforms that can integrate potentially with ELM. There are a number of things that previously were further down the road on our roadmap but have since been moved up due to what is going on currently and the feedback that we are receiving from our customers.

Regarding Financials, customers have asked for a quick way to refund monies out of accounts payable. So, we did an upload for single payment vouchers. The other thing customers also asked for in Receivables was the ability to defer overdue charges, so we provided that change as well. On the Purchasing side, we added the high-priority flag on purchase orders, so you can see that as part of the approvals. We have that on the requisition, and now that will go through sourcing if you set it on the requisition to go through to the purchase order.

We also did some stuff around PPE where we can do a fast-express issue, and there are some other things we’re still looking at doing, like PPE burn rate reports and things like that.

One of the advantages of doing continuous delivery and being in continuous planning mode is that we have the opportunity (whether it’s a crisis like COVID-19 or a shift in technology or new capabilities) where our roadmaps are in a constant state of care and curation. The nice thing is that we were able to really accelerate, pulling forward and responding to things that, in some cases, we didn’t know about and in other cases, we just moved up on the roadmap. However, it doesn’t disrupt or upend our roadmap plans by and large. As far as the impact on PeopleSoft development in general, COVID-19 has increased productivity, if anything, because people are staying home, and they have more time and are getting more work done.

Can you explain what the rolling 10+ years of PeopleSoft support mean?

Most of you know that historically, our central method of delivering software has been delivering a release and then supporting that release for a certain number of years. I believe it was five years of Premier Support and a couple of additional years of Extended Support. In that time, we would deliver another release and then have the support years on that release as well, so our support was really release dependent.

Once we moved to continuous delivery, that model wasn’t really effective anymore because there was no concept of major releases and our Images were all cumulative. We are no longer supporting a particular Image. No matter what image you’re on, you will be supported. The way you get those patches may be harder if you haven’t applied Images in awhile, but you can still get support.

So, there was a shift in the model, and simultaneously, customers kept asking if PeopleSoft was going away and if Oracle would continue to support PeopleSoft in the future. Because we have no intention of terminating PeopleSoft or its support, we decided to give customers enough runway, so this isn’t a concern for them going forward. Therefore, as long as we have no plans to discontinue investment and support in PeopleSoft, we will maintain a 10-year rolling window. So, now that we’re almost at the end of that 10-year mark, we’ve just recently extended that date out to 2031, and likewise, next year we will extend out to 2032. The idea is that customers will always have 10 years of support, so if Oracle ever stops supporting PeopleSoft, which we don’t plan to do, but if we did, customers would have 10 years to respond. There are very few software products on the market that have a 10-year support window with them, and especially a rolling 10-year window.

Is PeopleTools 8.59 still planned? What are investment areas within there?

Yes, we are already halfway through 8.59. There are a lot of things we want to continue to invest in—a lot of exciting things around the user interface, customization management, how we allow customers to manage those things more easily, and continued investment in Cloud Infrastructure support. So, there are a lot of things going on in 8.59. One of the most exciting things about 8.59 from Oracle’s perspective is that we delivered a way of changing how our users navigate the system with Fluid and Elastic Global Search, and one of the big components of the application usability is how you get to the information you want and the transactions you want in a simple way. The bar that we have set for ourselves with this release is that users won’t want to use anything except search again to navigate the application, and that includes our own developers. So, there is a huge amount of work we’re doing to make that real, and it’s not just the user experience. It’s the relevancy of the search and how it interacts with the homepage.

PeopleTools 8.57 was released on the Cloud first and then put out for on-premise. Can you talk about the benefits of taking it while it’s in the Cloud versus waiting for it to go live on-premise?

There are many benefits. By releasing it on the Cloud, one of the things Cloud Manager can do is automatically upgrade one of your environments to the latest PeopleTools release or the latest PeopleTools patch. So literally, with the click of a button, Cloud Manager will take the environment and the system that it’s running on (8.56 or 8.57) and get it on 8.58 with zero intervention. That’s huge when we need that early feedback, and one of the big things is that we want to get that early feedback once the release is GA (general availability) and understand that it still provides all the value that we anticipate.

There are no regressions. The new functionality does what we expect it to do, and by giving customers the ability to do that upgrade quickly, we can get customers up and running on 8.58 within days. The sooner we can get customer feedback on any issues there may be, the sooner we can get the updates into patches. When 8.58 was available initially (Cloud only) in December, and by the time it was available on all platforms just a couple of months ago, we were able to actually address many things. So, I think that’s a big benefit of early release in the Cloud.

In order to take advantage of running PeopleTools in the Cloud, you need to have an OCI Cloud account, and you need to be running a PeopleTools application up in the Cloud because this is where it’s deployed. By having a fixed environment and having a very quick update process, it’s very easy for Oracle to get customers up and running in the Cloud and start working with the latest version of PeopleTools. You don’t need to decide that you’re going to move to OCI in order to start using OCI. You can decide that you’re going to stay on-premise, you can keep your production on-premise, or you can even decide that your current development environments are going to stay on-premise. That shouldn’t deter you from deciding that you want to test out 8.58 or the latest PeopleTools. We have customers using just PUM images, and there are a lot of use cases where you can use the Cloud infrastructure to augment your current development processes.

Are there people using PeopleTools 8.58? What feedback have you’ve received on it?

We do have customers running PeopleTools 8.58 right now, and we just had our first customer (that we’re aware of) go live on 8.58 very recently. We have a group of early adoption customers working with us, and several of them are slated to go live within the next month or two.

As mentioned previously, PeopleTools 8.58 was released on all platforms in mid-April and within the first month or so, there were already several hundred customers who actually downloaded it. The activity on 8.58 is definitely growing, and we can see the SRs coming in and the activity.

Regarding the poll question of what version of PeopleTools customers are currently using, the results showed that 1 percent is on 8.58, 62 percent is on 8.57, 28 percent is on 8.56, and 10 percent is on 8.5 or below.

There are a lot of configuration tools out there. What are some things you would advise customers on when evaluating what tool is right for them?

There are so many tools out there and it just depends on what you are looking for and what you’re trying to accomplish. We’ve invested quite a bit in making it easier for customers to manage and maintain their environments in various arenas, whether it’s in Event Mapping, Drop Zones, Page and Field Configurator, etc.

We actually just released 8.58 pluggable AE actions. Similar to what you can do with Event Mapping, you can actually insert AE steps and actions without modifying the delivered AE. If you need to customize AE, you would use pluggable AE actions. If you were changing a label on a field, you would use Page and Field Configurator. If you need to capture additional information that is more complex, you would use Drop Zones.

The other thing we added in 8.58 is Drop Zone capability for Classic, so now we have Drop Zone capability for both Fluid and Classic. So, the ability to add one extra field or several extra fields is there on all of our pages now. So, it really just depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

If you are wondering where to start, I would say the biggest bang for your buck in terms of the effort and cost associated with both de-customizing and using a framework (as well as the impact) would be using Page and Field Configurator. That’s the one where if you’ve made label changes or used hidden fields, you’ve made very tactical changes with very big costs from a maintenance standpoint because they impact that component. You should be able to sweep through component by component, and revert to a standard component and do pretty much anything and everything aside from adding fields (which is a Drop Zone capability) to that page in Classic or Fluid—saving a great deal cost-wise with minimal effort.

Is Page and Field Configurator available in Financials?

Yes, Page and Field Configurator is available everywhere and is supported by universally by Classic, Classic Plus, and Fluid.

Is Page and Field Configurator available for subpages?

Yes, in the latest release Tools Release 8.58, we have added support for that function.

Can you talk a little bit about what Page Composer is?

We are doing a lot with approvals through the Approvals Framework, and Page Composer is a tool that was released over two years ago that allows customers to configure how they want the approval to look. It’s very flexible in terms of the approval actions that you will roll out to your end users, and you can easily choose what fields you want. Page Composer shouldn’t be thought of as a generic tool to be used across PeopleSoft applications, or that you can go out and customize your own pages with—it’s not that type of tool. It’s a tool that has to have the base of the component designed and configured specifically for the Page Configurator. It’s used for approvals and stops there.

If you utilize configuration tools to make changes, when you do the next update, do your configuration changes transfer with the application update?

The answer is yes. The purpose behind the tools is to make the updates easier, so each one of them works a little differently. The Event Mapping is for PeopleCode, and it’s basically used as related content to inject PeopleCode into the events. If you change that component or you change the PeopleCode, it’s not going to impact the related content or the Event Mapping. The same can be said for Drop Zones. With Drop Zones, you’re adding your own fields, and if we were to change that page, your changes are maintained. All of the applications are designed for you to be able to make changes to the applications we deliver and for us to then make additional changes going forward that do not impact your personal modifications.

Are there tools or suggestions on how to easily identify or track configurations that you are making within the system?

That’s something we are working on. When you are using Drop Zones or Event Mapping applications, they should be complex. So, when you’re doing maintenance via PUM images, we don’t want to flag that. Customers shouldn’t have to worry about that. Whatever you’ve added here, that should not impact application maintenance, and you shouldn’t have to reapply those things. From a traditional maintenance compare process, we don’t want to flag that because it’s not something about which customers should have to worry. With that being said, you should still be aware that if you’ve added an event map on some component and we deliver a change to that component. You should be aware of the change made because of the possible impact it could have on your setup. If there is some PeopleCode object or variable that you’re depending on that may have been updated, you should know that. Therefore, we will work initially on some cross-reference reports that we hope to make available in a patch of 8.58. In fact, so many customers have actually taken advantage of Event Mapping with PeopleCode, and they do realize there is this need to such an extent that some people have actually written reports to get this information. Therefore, we’re going to try to deliver this out of the box and make it available with 8.58.

Then, as previously mentioned with 8.59, we are working on additional enhancements in terms of customization management, and we’re looking at larger scale enhancements that will bring all this together as you take on your maintenance. Initially, it will be in the form of cross-reference reports, but then, hopefully, in 8.59, it will be more comprehensive as part of the whole application maintenance lifecycle.

We’ve also been asked by customers if there is more that we can do to help with actual customization. So not the tools we just talked about, but actual customizations. That’s one of the items we’re looking at for 8.59, and as we get more information there, we will make sure to get that out to customers. However, going forward, we will be investing more in customizations through the whole gamete—everything from getting rid of them to managing them more effectively when you have to do them.

Are you still getting customers that are buying PeopleSoft and if so, where do they go to buy it?

Yes, there are customers still buying PeopleSoft. We have existing customers buying new modules, but we also do get new customers. It’s just not the majority. The primary place to purchase as existing customers is the Apps Unlimited Sales Force in North America. We actually have an email inbox address that’s listed out on www.peoplesoftinfo.com, so if you don’t know who your contact is, you can get in touch with one of us and we will help you get in touch with one of them.

What are you excited about for the future of PeopleSoft and on the roadmap?

I think customers have seen that Oracle has taken a very balanced approach in what we deliver in each and every Image, which is something we are very proud of because it’s a mix of things that customers ask for, things we know we need to do, and strategic items. So, things like Kibana and chatbots are super exciting.

One of the areas I think customers will find exciting on our roadmap is modernizing job and person data. It’s one of the biggest projects we’ve taken on for our power users within PeopleSoft. We’re Fluidizing the component and making it more of an activity guide. You can leverage Page and Field Configurator, which we talked about earlier, so that the user only sees the fields that they need to interact with based on the action. That’s a far cry from how we’ve had admin pages designed and developed in the past. It makes it easier to enter data and makes it foolproof in terms of the data you have to enter. You don’t have to go looking for you need to enter because it’s simply presented to you on the screen.

What’s exciting is our system is becoming what people expect, which is the idea of “Just tell me what I need to enter so I can move on to the next step.” That’s one of the biggest things in HCM that we’re excited about. Another thing that is exciting is helping customers and seeing their success. There is nothing more rewarding than receiving an email from a customer saying everything is going smoothly and they appreciate the help through a tough time and things like that. That also means that whatever ideas customers are bringing to the table are being heavily weighed by PeopleSoft to make them happen.

Another exciting aspect is the power of PeopleSoft to support the different industries. Expansions come in from one industry, and we realize and have inputs for all the other industries we support. We’re excited about incorporating emerging technologies in our applications and leveraging conversational interfaces instead of forum-based input and the use of AI and machine learning. The way that we are working with the new technology is very exciting, whether it be with the Oracle Digital Assistant, chatbots, Kibana, or AI machine learning technology. Those are all very exciting technologies, and it’s nice to see that we are integrating with all of them.

We’re also doing quite a bit with notifications not only with PeopleTools but also across the application. We want to make it easy for not only administrators to manage all the different system notifications to alert customers to what they need to do, but also for managers, VPs, and executives. We’re trying to bring it to a point where it’s very easy to configure what channel you want—whether that be email, text, etc. So, we’re excited about that as well.

Hopefully, what all the customers see when we deliver the full solution with 8.59 and beyond looks really simple. However, there is a lot of work for us under the cover, not just to get the technology right, but to then deploy it consistently across our application.

Last but not least, one of the things we’re excited about is Kibana because the impact it can have for the cost the customer will incur to deliver it is significant. It’s a very low cost for customers to deploy (almost no cost in a lot of cases), and hopefully, it will have a significant impact on the value which customers get out of PeopleSoft with 8.58. So, we’re really excited for customers to start to see what we are delivering with 8.58, but also see what customers can do with the technology to increase the value of the solution that is already in use.

For more information, check out the Quest Forum Digital Event: PeopleSoft Week presentation attached below.

Additional Resources

It’s all new, all digital this year for RECONNECT 20! Dive deep into PeopleSoft learning, chat with the experts, connect with other users, and meet the solutions providers. Join us online from October 5-8, 2020, and be sure to register before September 21 to take advantage of Early Bird pricing!