Wednesday, May 02, 2018

About Continuous Service Delivery

I feel like a spinning top for a dreidel
The spinning don't stop when you leave the cradle...

                                                    From "Dreidel" by Don McClean

Continuous Service Delivery aka CSD:  it's all the buzz in the Oracle Cloud Application circles these days.  It's Oracle's answer to the ever-increasing rate of change we're seeing with our customers.  But what exactly is it and what does it mean to you?  Let's see if I can answer those questions for you, at least from an Oracle HCM Cloud perspective ...

The first thing to understand about CSD is that, rather than delivering substantial upgrades with loads of new functionality, we'll be delivering incremental updates with a smaller set of new features.  The idea is to get innovation from the drawing board to the customer at a faster rate.  For the Oracle HCM Cloud team, that means quarterly incremental updates.  No more big bang upgrades to the latest release.  Incremental updates instead - much easier for customers to digest.

As part of the move to CSD, we're changing our versioning nomenclature.  No R14, R15 and so on.  Updates will be identified by the last two digits of the calendar year plus a letter indicating the quarter of the year the update is released.  So the update for the first quarter of 2019 will be 19A, the second quarter 19, and so on through the four quarters of the year.  This change is a better reflection of how we deliver using CSD.

The time span for delivery is pretty simple:  your update is delivered to your test instance first, then to your production instance two weeks later.  This give customers a two-week window to test and evaluate.  Don't panic about the two week window...remember these are smaller, incremental changes.  And, if you're panicking anyway, take solace in knowing that standard operating procedure will be that new functionality in an update will not be enabled for existing customers, with the intent of providing a substantial opportunity to uptake new features and functionality before they become defaults. Will we deprecate features and functionality when it makes sense? Yes, we will.  Generally speaking, yes.  But if you read "Getting Ready" and "Getting Ready, Part II", you know that any changes will be well documented and available to research long before the incremental update hits your test environment.  If you're a new customer, you have even less to worry about: those new features will usually be enabled in your environments until you Go Live.

As it turns out, CSD will be pretty transformative for customers in the experience of uptaking new features and functionality delivered by Oracle:

  • Quicker delivery of new innovations
  • Easier adoption of smaller changes over time
  • Due to smaller delivered chunks of innovation, readiness docs can include deeper dives into the details
Will customers still see monthly patches?  Of course.  Fixes and statutory updates can't wait for quarterly deliveries.  But the innovative stuff will be delivered via CSD.  

I'm pretty excited about the introduction of CSD, as I think quick delivery of innovation is one of the best things a software services provider can do for their customers.  Questions?  Comments?  You know what to do.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Getting Ready, Part II

A recent post here, "Getting Ready", was all about getting ready for the Oracle Cloud Applications upgrade from R12 to R13.  Now that the upgrading is underway, I thought it might be a good time to add a bit to the info passed along in that prior post.  I'm thinking a basic bullet list is the best way to get this done, so here we go.

  • Upgrade Readiness  Checklist:  You can find a pretty nifty upgrade readiness checklist in My Oracle Support Doc ID 2354604.1.  
  • Upgrade White Paper:  There is a great white paper on the recommended approach to upgrading here.
  • When Will I Get My Upgrade?: Upgrades are in full swing now.  If you don't have an upgrade date yet, work with your Oracle Customer Success Manager to get that scheduled.
  • What Is The Opt In Feature?:  Oracle is sensitive to change management issues when we roll out new features, so we're expanding the time window for customers to uptake new features with the option to opt in.  You can read about how to opt in for new features here.
  • Learn About The New User Experience Features in HCM Cloud: You can get the straight scoop from the man himself (@chrismleone) right here.
So there ya go.  Between the two posts, you're getting a bucketload of information on R13.  But my little pea brain obviously can't think of everything.  So if there is something more you need to know, hit me up in the comments.  I'll answer if I can.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Nobody Does Vanilla

I have a granddaughter who loves ice cream.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, whatever...whenever she sits down at the dining table, she asks for ice cream.  Chocolate, Raspberry, Cookies and Creme, Fudge, Neapolitan, Rocky Road...all flavors are good.  Except vanilla.  Put vanilla ice cream in front of the kid and she would refuse to eat it.  Even to the point of shedding tears over the thought of eating vanilla ice cream.  Because nobody does vanilla.

Ditto for enterprise software.  Nobody does vanilla.  Oh, you'll constantly hear the declarations at the beginning of an implementation project: "no customizations".  I hear that and I consider it to be an edict similar to zero-based budgeting.  It's really a statement that customizations will require justification.  And that justification usually involves preserving an existing business process.  Because nobody wants to change their business processes.  So they tweak the software to fit.  And, because we don't all do business in exactly the same way, that means nobody does vanilla.

All that being said, there is an easy path to minimizing customizations when implementing enterprise software.  Why do you want to minimize customizations?  Because maintaining customizations costs money.  In fact, it's one of the most expensive things you can do when using enterprise software.

So let's talk about that easy path.  Most implementation project plans include two or three Conference Room Pilots ("CRPs").  So stick with vanilla for the first CRP.  No customizations, no extensions, no personalizations.  Just configure the software and run the "baked in" business processes.  Then take a careful look at the results, considering where it makes sense to change your business process to fit the software as well as where to customize in order to fit your business process.  You'll be surprised at how well the vanilla business processes will fit, and how little you'll actually need to customize.

The granddaughter finally got over her dislike for vanilla.  I slipped a spoonful in her mouth while she was protesting.  And she learned that vanilla tastes better than she thought.  The same thing applies to enterprise software - once you get a taste of vanilla, you'll find it's better than you thought.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Testing Latency On The Oracle Cloud

One of the best things about working on the HCM Cloud Center of Excellence team at Oracle is that you learn something new every day.

I recently worked on an inquiry from a customer asking about latency testing: has anyone ever done it and, if so, how did they go about it?  In all honesty, it was a stumper for me.  I had no idea how to respond.  Fortunately, one of the folks on the team put the question out to a wider audience.  The answer that came back was pretty spiffy.

Oracle offers latency testing as a service (LTaaS?).  You can get the basic explanation on how it works here.  But a short explanation follows:

Step 1:  Log into Oracle MyServices.

Note that you'll be asked details here about the Cloud Account you'd like to test.  If you're like me, you don't exactly have those details memorized or close at hand.  No worries; See the Orange zone to the right?  Click on the "Account Details" button - you'll have the opportunity to get information on all the Oracle Cloud accounts and services tied to a specific email address.  I actually tested this; received my results via email in about five minutes.

Step 2:  Select the domain you'd like to test.  Click on your username drop-down and select "Diagnostics.

Step 3:  Click on "Test" (I've put a red box around the Test button in the image below)

Step 4:  Once the test completes, you'll see something like the following result:

Step 5:  See the "Details" selection above?  Click it to get details similar to those below:

These details show the five tests run, the file sizes for each test, and the related network latency and throughput.

Like I said, pretty spiffy.  I did this myself for my Oracle HCM Cloud environments.  Took about 10 minutes total, including getting the info on my various accounts.  So, for those of you wanting to perform latency testing on your Oracle Cloud environments, the service is the way to go.

Now, because it's important to give credit where credit is due, the gentleman who educated me on this  is Oracle's Pierre-Luc Pelletier.  Because most of us in the States will butcher the French pronunciation of his name, we refer to him as "PL".  One of my incredibly smart teammates and the source of a wealth of information.  We're fortunate to have him on the team.

So, now that the word is out, y'all can go forth and test your own network throughput.  I look forward to hearing about it.  Comment welcome.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Picking Your Partner

I'm not much for New Year's resolutions.  History shows I just don't keep them.  Take my first New Year's celebration, for example.  My Dad told me I could stay up to ring in the new year if I could put meaning into it by making a resolution.  My resolution was to swear off chocolate cake.  So I rang in the new year with my folks; afterwards, they asked me what I thought of it.  I responded that it would have been better with chocolate cake.  It's been all downhill with resolutions ever since.

So this year, rather than making resolutions, I decided to count my blessings.  I made a list of the things that make my life great:  personal and professional.  No question I'm a lucky guy; I came up with a long list.  Lots of things about my health, my family, my friends, my job, and so on.  And I'd like to share one of the really cool parts about my job here, because I think it has relevance for many of the folks who read my ramblings on this blog.

One of the really cool things about my job is that I get a bird's eye view of quite a few Oracle HCM Cloud implementation projects.  It's an opportunity to learn a ton from the experiences of others in terms of what works and what doesn't.  And I see what customers go through in picking Oracle implementation partners.   It can get to be quite the beauty contest with various partners promising different approaches and prices in attempting to win the business.  Evaluating partner offerings can get pretty complicated; hardly a week goes by that I don't get someone asking for guidance in evaluating partners and their proposals for implementation projects.

One indicator customers should consider in evaluating implementation partner offerings:  does the partner have consistent communication with Oracle's HCM Cloud Development team?  The Oracle HCM Center of Excellence team (I'm a member of that team) holds regular "cadence calls" with a number of Oracle implementation partners: strategic partners, emerging partners and industry specialist (i.e. Public Sector, Higher Education, Healthcare, etc.).  In those cadence calls, we talk with partners about their current projects:  the approach, the current status, issues they're working through...whatever is relevant to the success of their projects.  I'm fortunate to engage in some of these calls:  I learn a ton and get to provide some help as well.

So thinking about all this, the thought struck me:  if I were a customer picking from several partner proposals for an HCM Cloud implementation, I think one of my selection criteria might be whether or not a partner is communicating with the HCM Cloud Center of Excellence team on a regular basis.  Because there is nothing quite like getting pointers from the folks that built the software.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Getting Ready

I don't think it's any big secret that we're getting close to R13 of Oracle Cloud Applications.  We've been talking about it publicly since Oracle OpenWorld 2017.  Having seen R13 up close, I'm very excited to see it come to market.

But, my excitement notwithstanding, I also know that existing customers get a bit antsy in the face of an impending upgrade.  Because preparation for an upgrade is important, and that preparation requires information.  What new features come with the upgrade?  What is the impact to the way my enterprise does business?  What should I be doing to help get my enterprise ready?

Having been part of the Oracle ecosystem for more years than I care to count as a consultant, a customer, and now a member of the Oracle team, I can recall the days when it was very difficult to learn about new features and perform impact assessments.  The information was tough to come by.  And, by the time we got the information, the timeline to upgrade was too tight to perform an in-depth impact assessment.  Which lead to encountering some fairly significant surprises during the actual upgrade.

Fortunately, those days have over and done with.  Because now we have Cloud Readiness sharing the information customer and partners need to prepare for an upgrade.  You'll find that Cloud Readiness offers quite a bit of information:

  • Spotlights: videos that highlight top level messages and product themes
  • New Feature Summary:  summary description of each new feature
  • What's New:  Learn what's new in this release and how to plan your upgrade by reviewing expanded discussions of new features, including capability overviews, business benefits, setup considerations and usage tips
  • Release Training:  online sessions providing an in-depth view of the release enhancements.
  • Product Documentation:  Provides detailed product guides and training tutorials to ensure successful implementation and use of Oracle Cloud Applications.

All the information you need.  Even better, it's all in one place.  You can check it out for yourself here.  And once you've looked over our Cloud Readiness information, please let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Let's Build Some Chatbots!

We're hearing quite a bit of buzz about baking Artificial Intelligence ("AI") into enterprise applications.  AI represents a ton of potential for this space, not the least of which is the net evolution in user interface in the form of chatbots.  As I've shared previously in this space, I have a developing infatuation with chatbots.

Chatbots are pretty cool, especially when we're talking about voice-based chatbots.  The idea of getting things done by holding a dialogue with a virtual assistant has been a very appealing design pattern almost since the inception of computers themselves.  Captain Kirk talking to the ship's computer in Star Trek, Dr. David Bowman chatting it up with HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, ... you get the idea, voice-based exchange has captured the public imagination for some time.

I'm having fun experimenting with chatbots and learning how they work. In fact, I wrote this entire blog post via voice-based user interfaces.  I used Siri on my MacBook Air to compose this post, then used a custom skill built for Amazon Echo to publish the post on this blog.  Yeah, I'm basking in the flow right now.

Think about interacting with a chatbot to add a new dependent to your health insurance.  Or making changes to your employer benefit package through a conversation with a virtual assistant.  Or kicking off an employee performance evaluation through a text-based conversation.

In my experimentation, I'm starting to collect HR and HCM-based use cases.  If you have an idea...some business process you'd like to execute or kick-off using a chatbot, I'd love to hear about it.  Share via the comments.  Maybe I can try building out your idea.