In this episode of the PeopleSoft Spotlight Series, you’ll learn:
- Drivers behind developing PeopleSoft Fluid UI
- What Fluid UI is and what it can do
- How to develop a strategic plan to roll out Fluid UI
Fluid User Interface represents PeopleSoft’s strategic direction for delivering a robust and intuitive, yet familiar experience for application users. Application usability is something that PeopleSoft has been working on for a long time. Each of the last few releases of PeopleTools has included enhancements to the user interface. PeopleSoft has been paying attention to the overall experience that users have as they work with applications. The goal has been to make systems more intuitive and easier to use.
User Needs and Expectations Are Changing
PeopleSoft has also been paying attention to what is happening in the technology marketplace. Websites, online and mobile applications have been evolving. As they have evolved, PeopleSoft has noticed that user expectations and customer requirements have also evolved. The fact of the matter is that PeopleSoft customers need to put more capable resources into the hands of more of their employees than ever before.
In some cases, the catalyst for this change has been the mobile initiatives of PeopleSoft customers. Users have more smartphones and tablets than ever before. While this plays a factor, it also goes beyond that.
Today, PeopleSoft customers expect their employees to be information workers that have access to important systems. PeopleSoft has had to respond to these new requirements, not just with an updated look to the applications, but with a robust, intuitive, easy-to-use, mobile-ready solution that allows customers to empower their users to do more on their own, be more productive, and make better and more informed decisions. The resulting response is Fluid UI. Fluid UI represents a new paradigm—a new pattern or model for working with the PeopleSoft applications.
In addition, there’s no question that technology is marching forward. Things like the latest web standards and design methodologies that allow online systems to morph and adapt to user devices are some of the drivers behind Fluid. Pages simply look and feel different on a smartphone than they do on a desktop. However, it’s more than that.
Users should expect that what they can do might also adjust contextually. If they come to a system on their phone, they expect that the system will give them a very streamlined path through a complex process—essentially helping them move through the process more efficiently. Users expect the system to know and respond to how they’re using it, not just make sure the page fits on the screen. This is how Fluid has been designed—responsive to users needs.
With Fluid, PeopleSoft has redefined the approach to the user application experience. There’s an emphasis on where they start, how it looks, where they go, and how they get things done. It’s important for PeopleSoft customers to take advantage of the investment in Fluid. It will be valuable to users and business units. PeopleSoft also wants to help users build a plan for getting the most out of these investments.
Understanding Fluid UI
PeopleSoft Fluid UI is a new way of using the system. It’s more than a mobile initiative. Existing PeopleSoft applications on the Classic UI, for the most part, are menu-driven and optimized for backend power users. These applications focus on finding instances and entering data, not providing a simple user interface for novice users to accomplish tasks. The Classic PeopleSoft user interface simply does provide a rich user interface that can produce an easy-to-use, intuitive application for the non-power user community—including executives, managers, and employees.
In the past, rolling out business applications to this community has been difficult, and typically requires a lot of customization. Thinking in more broad terms, say the objective of a new and improved user interface is to simplify the applications to the point where they can be rolled out to novice users. Ask yourself, what does this new UI need to do in order to make that happen?
What Users Need and Get from The New Fluid UI
In order for a UI to be ready to roll out to novice users, it needs to provide:
- A new navigation paradigm
- A simplified UI
- Real-time analytics
- The ability to run on any device
PeopleSoft Fluid UI does exactly that.
This new UI would need to offer a new navigation paradigm—one that presents information to the user and allows them to navigate directly from the data they see, rather than always having to return to a menu. Fluid UI does this by leveraging the new Secure Enterprise Search and offering related actions from every search result.
Second, this new UI should be simplified in order to be rolled out in a way that serves novice users. Simplified means breaking down large components with many different tabs and complex entry into simple pages that are easy to read and fill out. These pages should guide users through steps based upon data that they have entered or questions that they answer. This type of UI is essential for the casual user, who does not spend most of their day working in applications. Fluid UI does this by giving application developers the tools they need to build simple, data-driven user interfaces.
Third, the new UI needs to provide relevant, important information to the users that they can use to help them do their job, whether it’s making decisions or navigating the system. Fluid UI does this through the use of real-time analytics that can be viewed, drilled into, and even ingested and model by the end user.
Finally, the last requirement for a new UI is to be available anytime, anywhere, on any device. Casual users are sometimes at their desk behind desktops, sometimes in meetings with a tablet, and other times they may be commuting and using a smartphone. In all of these scenarios, access to the applications is critical. Fluid UI accomplished this with the responsive and adaptive UI that changes based on the screen size of the device the user is on.
These four features make up what Fluid UI is all about. With Fluid, PeopleSoft has changed the user interface significantly. The UI is now information-driven, self-service oriented, targeted to the novice or casual user, and extended to any device—whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer.
Building a Strategic Plan for Fluid UI: The Business Side
Building a strategic plan requires looking at the two sides of a plan—the business side and the tactical side. Let’s start with the business side of the plan.
The first step to building a strategic plan is to look for places in your organization that can benefit from what Fluid UI provides. The best candidates are processes that benefit from having employees, managers, and executives use the application themselves. These benefits that Fluid provides—the new navigation paradigm, simplified UI, real-time analytics, and the availability on any device—are all features that make pushing the application out to the novice user much easier to do than in the past. With that said, what are some of the applications that would make employees and managers more productive if they were Fluid?
Some great examples include:
- Expense Management
- Time Entry
- Real-time analytics
- Project Management
- Employee Self-Service
- Manager Self-Service
These are just a few examples of the applications that are being delivered using Fluid UI. There are many other examples of application content that leverage the new features in Fluid that can benefit end users. Maybe your organization has some other demands or custom application components that could use Fluid technology to move the application into the hands of users who are in the most need. This is the type of analysis that is important to do upfront in your project. You need to see and understand the benefits of Fluid and determine if it’s something that your organization can benefit from.
There is a lot of information and resources that business analysts can use to keep up with PeopleSoft Fluid UI product direction. To understand the scope of what PeopleSoft has delivered, business analysts can utilize the Cumulative Feature Overview tool that identifies all of the new features in each update image. It also provides relevant information like the minimum PeopleTools release required to leverage a new feature and links to resources with more information about the feature. To stay current on what PeopleSoft is working on for future releases, check out the Planned Enhancements and Features homepage on My Oracle Support.
Both of these resources can be accessed through the PeopleSoft Information Portal at www.peoplesoftinfo.com. You can also find video feature overviews, PeopleSoft Talk episodes, and links to additional resources here as well. All of this information can help the business analyst understand what types of Fluid applications are being delivered by PeopleSoft and how to take advantage of what Fluid UI offers.
Building a Strategic Plan for Fluid UI: The Tactical Side
Once you’ve decided on the Fluid content, the next thing to do is put together a plan to get it into your application. This is the tactical part of the plan for implementing Fluid UI. This part of the plan breaks down into three parts:
- Operational: This is all about how the content is implemented into the PeopleSoft application and what you have to do to the application. It also involves Lifecycle Management and application maintenance.
- Mobile: This is new and involves distributing applications to mobile devices and allowing access to enterprise data from these mobile devices. We’ll look at what you need to consider and do.
- End User: Some of your users will be getting these applications for the first time. How do you roll the applications out to them and get the users to start using them?
Starting with the operational aspect, think about what has to happen to your PeopleSoft application as part of the strategic plan to roll out Fluid UI. There are five areas to cover in the operational part of your strategy.
- Use Selective Adoption to apply Fluid UI changes.
- Customize delivered Fluid UI content.
- Convert custom components to Fluid UI.
- Understand different UI technology.
- The pre-9.2 customer.
The first part of your plan should be to become familiar with and start using Selective Adoption best practices. Selective Adoption is PeopleSoft’s lifecycle management process that’s used to deliver both maintenance and new features to PeopleSoft customers. All changes are delivered in a PeopleSoft Update Image, and using PeopleSoft Update Manager, users can select only the changes that they want to apply. It gives you the flexibility to take only what you want and do it on your own schedule. Selective Adoption has changed the maintenance process, and PeopleSoft has published a recommended set of best practices to get the most out of it. Since all Fluid UI content is delivered using Selective Adoption your strategic implementation plan should recognize that.
Just like with Classic PeopleSoft, customizing pages is a very real part of implementing Fluid applications. In many ways, customizations for Fluid are similar to Classic PeopleSoft. After all, Fluid UI is PeopleSoft technology. All Fluid applications are built with PeopleTools. PeopleTools developers will be very familiar with that part, but there are significant differences between Classic and Fluid PeopleSoft.
The biggest difference is how the pages are defined. In Fluid, all of the user interface controls are positioned by relative layout instructions, rather than the pixel-perfect layout used in Classic. Relative layout means that every item that shows up on a page positions itself relative to something else on the page. It’s this relativity that makes Fluid UI pages dynamic and capable of changing the look based on the size of the device display screen.
This means that the developer making the customizations needs to be aware of how to modify and define new instructions that will cause the page to present the desired layout. These types of pages have typically been the responsibility of Web Developers, but now it’s the responsibility of PeopleSoft Developers.
Your project might include converting custom components to Fluid UI. If it does, there a few things that you should be aware of. It’s very rare and unlikely to have a Classic component convert directly to Fluid without any changes or with the only changes being to the page. Classic components are designed for power users, not novice users. They were built without the new features available with Fluid. Power user interfaces tend to be very large, complicated pages that often have many tabs and typically require some training to be able to use. They are not the types of user interfaces that can be distributed to the masses without a lot of difficulties. Fluid has the added benefit of simplifying the user interface using the new, simplified navigation paradigm, access to real-time analytics, and the ability to run on many different devices. In addition, non-power users will be using the applications, and you can see how the design requirements have changed to reflect that. All of this should be considered when designing the Fluid component. It may be easier to just convert components in place, but they might not meet the functional needs and won’t take full advantage of what’s available with Fluid UI.
PeopleSoft has delivered applications that run on mobile devices using several different UI technologies. Fluid UI was made available with PeopleTools 8.54, so all mobile applications that were delivered prior to 8.54 were made using a different technology. There are two different technologies that you should be aware of: PeopleSoft iScripts and PeopleSoft Mobile Application Platform (MAP). Both of these technologies, as well as Fluid UI, are built by PeopleSoft for use explicitly in PeopleSoft applications. So, we aren’t talking about external mobile development tools here. Both iScripts and MAP can co-exist with Fluid UI and can also be used interchangeably with it.
All of the Fluid UI application content from PeopleSoft is delivered with Apps 9.2, but that doesn’t mean that the pre-9.2 customer can’t take advantage of Fluid UI. Any PeopleSoft application that uses PeopleTools 8.54.03 or above can run Fluid UI. If you haven’t already, you would need to update your application to PeopleTools 8.54. Once that’s done, you’ll have all of the tools necessary to create your own Fluid UI content. You can create new Fluid components and take advantage of the simplified user interface, new navigation paradigm, and real-time analytics. Try to use delivered 9.2 Fluid UI content as a design prototype as much as possible. If you follow the same UI guidelines and implementation style that PeopleSoft did with 9.2, it will go a long way to help you with the look and feel of your applications and make your implementation easier. It will also make it easier to upgrade to 9.2 when the time comes. It is recommended to upgrade to 9.2 now instead and using the Fluid UI that is delivered instead because it would give you the benefit of using the delivered Fluid content. Additionally, you could use Selective Adoption for your ongoing maintenance and adoption of new features. If that’s not possible, custom Fluid can be built on any application running PeopleTools 8.54.
Moving on to the mobile part of your strategy, there are a few things you need to consider when rolling out Fluid applications that will run on mobile devices.
- Where are the devices coming from?
- How will the applications access secure corporate data?
- What happens when a device is compromised?
- How are you going to get Fluid applications onto the device for the user to use?
All of these are good questions, and they are being dealt with by virtually every organization that rolls out mobile content in different ways. One of the most common solutions is to use mobile device management software to control enterprise applications used on the devices supplied by employees. These products control what applications can be loaded by corporations and how secure data is accessed. They can also secure devices and manage situations like lost devices or an employee leaving the company. Oracle provides this technology in a product called Oracle Mobile Security Suite.
For PeopleSoft applications to take advantage of mobile device management technology, they can either run in a secure browser as an HTML application or they can run in a mobile wrapper that’s distributed to the mobile device. While the app is still HTML based, it’s distributed and accessed as though it’s a native application. PeopleSoft delivers the Mobile Application Framework Foundation (MAF Foundation) to do this.
MAF Foundation lets you package your PeopleSoft Fluid applications with a native mobile wrapper and distribute them in either public mobile stores, like Apple’s App Store or Google Play, or more commonly, in enterprise app stores. Users can select and download the application and install it on their mobile device. It will look and behave like it’s a native application, not an HTML app. Consider both mobile device management software and MAF Foundation when planning your roll out to mobile devices.
The final step in creating your strategic plan is figuring out how the application will be rolled out to end users. Remember, this involves access to the application on mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. It may also involve access on desktop computers. On desktop computers, the minimum browser levels are different for Fluid UI than they are for Classic PeopleSoft. For Fluid UI, the minimum browsers are Chrome-35, Firefox-25, and IE-11. Fluid applications are designed so that the end users can use them with little or no training, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be issues. You should still plan simple roll out instructions like video trainings, proper support, a feedback process, etc. It’s the novice user that will be in these applications, and quick turnaround for simple problems will help with the success.
For more information on developing a strategy for implementing PeopleSoft Fluid UI, check out the video below or any of the numerous Quest customer stories attached below.
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