Monday, December 23, 2019

I See Systems

Working in enterprise software has changed my perspective on the world around me... I see everything through more of a systemic lens.

My wife recently had knee replacement surgery.  World-renown surgeon performing the surgery.  But being done at his 2nd choice of hospitals due to limitations of our health insurance policy.  Good hospital, but not his hospital of choice.  Like everything else involving health care in the U.S., it's a money thing.

The surgery was originally scheduled for Friday, December 13th but postponed until Monday, December 16th.  On the 16th, we were requested to arrive at the hospital at 11 am for a planned surgery of 1 pm.  But the surgery did not begin until 6 pm.  At this point, I'm thinking that these guys have no idea about linear programming and managing their supply chain.

While my wife was in surgery, I was directed to a "Surgery Waiting Room".  The room allegedly had an attendant and a television screen for monitoring patient status during surgery.  When I entered the waiting room, I immediately noticed the attendant's desk was unoccupied.  Seems that the attendant's shift ends at 5 pm - those waiting on surgeries beyond 5 pm are asked to answer the phones on a volunteer basis.  The idea being that surgical staff will call the waiting room to update family and friends when surgery is completed, and to alert those waiting that the surgeon is on the way up with a more detailed debrief.  So, being the volunteering type, I sit at the attendant's desk and start answering the phone.  After about three incoming calls, I notice a trend - no friends or family in the room to receive the updates.  And I'm also noticing surgeons coming into the room looking for friends and family who are not there.  I put the phone to use and make a few inquiries within the hospital - and discover that there are three surgery waiting rooms in this tower alone (the hospital in question has seven towers).  Neither the surgical staff nor the surgeons have any idea which waiting room contains friends and family for any particular patient, as they have no waiting room check-in function.  So they're literally hunting for the pea under any one of three shells as they go from waiting room to waiting room searching for friends and family of a particular patient.  Low-key chaos.

Another observation from the surgical waiting room:  the status screen showing patient status is listed by case number rather than patient name.  I did not have a case number for my wife's surgery.  And a quick survey of the folks in the waiting room indicated that none of them had a case number either.  So the status screen was useless to those of us waiting on surgical outcomes.  During the next few incoming calls from surgical staff, I asked for case numbers.  But the surgical staff had no idea of the case numbers either.  What in the world?

Fortunately, the surgery went well, the outcome was positive, and Marlene is now home working through the long recovery process.

After rolling the surgical experience over in my head, I decided to view this experience as a systemic failure for this particular hospital.  Lots of good people with lots of energy all trying to do the right thing, but nobody has tied it all together.  So how might I suggest improving things from a system point of view?

First, I'd establish personas:  the patient, the family member/friend of the patient, the surgical staff member, the attendant, the pre-op nurse, the surgeon, and so on.  Then I'd walk through the entire process, from the time a patient walks in the door until they leave post-op recovery.  And I'd do it for each persona.  Essentially build a systemic "As Is" flow.  Then design how we want things to work, review the changes with the people doing the work, then implement.

Sounds a bit like an enterprise applications implementation project, doesn't it?  Well, enterprise applications are all about implementing systems.  Like I said, working in enterprise software has changed my perspective of the world around me...

How about you?  Ever have a similar experience?  Healthcare?  The DMV? Retail returns?  Sound off in the comments about your experience and how you'd approach a fix.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Changing Up On BYOT

So if you're tired of the same old story, 
Oh, turn some pages
I will be here when you are ready
To roll with the changes, yeah, yeah

                  - From REO Speedwagon's "Roll With The Changes"

It's a bit of a milestone for my employment with Oracle today.  For the past 7 or so years, I've been a "Bring Your Own Toolbox" (aka "BYOT") kind of guy:  my own laptop, my preferred software applications, my library of virtual machines, my setup of development tools, etc.  That's mainly because I could get better results faster with my own toolbox than with the tools my employer provided.  An example of this is the Toshiba Tecra laptop running Windows 7 that I was issued at the start of my current employment.  It's made for a fine doorstop, but not much else.

My approach changed today.  I have a spiffy, brand-new MacBook Pro provisioned and configured by Oracle.  In fact, I'm writing this post on that very machine.

When Oracle offered the MacBook Pro, I decided to give it a try because it's a superior hardware platform to my MacBook Air.  Better hardware performance was the enticement.  I was even willing to put up with the inconvenience of accommodating the USB-C ports (4 of those and a headphone jack are all you get on the 2019 MacBook Pro).

On the downside, I no longer entirely control the configuration of my work platform. For one thing, I'm not a big fan of McAfee Endpoint Security for macOS due to the performance suck.  And I can't run Little Snitch on the Pro to see what services and connects are active.  So I'm a little concerned about the impact to my productivity.  And that's why I still have my own work platform running in my office right next to the new MacBook Pro ;)

As I've said in the past, I really believe in the BYOT approach.  So this will be an interesting test as to whether or not that approach makes sense in this situation, especially in an "all cloud all the time" world.  I'll check in here every once in awhile to let y'all know how it's going.

In the meantime, how do you approach this?  Do you bring your own tools and devices to your job?  Or do you make do with what your employer gives you?  Why have you made the choice you've made?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

What Looks Good To Me: Oracle OpenWorld 2019

As I write this, we're a week away from Oracle OpenWorld 2019.  And, as always at OOW, there are a flood of sessions, events and gatherings that compete for your attention.  So I thought I'd share some thoughts on what looks good to me.  Keep in mind that my current focus is Oracle HCM Cloud Applications, so I'll be limiting my shared thoughts to that subject area.

Needless to say, the executive keynotes and the HCM Cloud Roadmap sessions are high points.  For the most part, I won't be calling those out here even though I personally plan to make as many as I can.

For starters, note that I'll be hosting or co-hosting several sessions myself:

You'll note that the first two sessions have the same title.  Here's a pro tip for OOW 19:  look at the first three letters in the Session Number.  TRN indicates a presentation, while CLS means more of a round-table discussion gathering.  You'll see I'm mostly doing round-table discussions.  And I'm pretty happy about that, as I prefer conversations over more structured presentations.

For the remaining list, I limited myself to the top 15 sessions that look good to me.  Your interests may be different.  And it's also worth stating explicitly that, while I'm an Oracle employee, my opinions and selections are strictly my own:

So that's my take on the 15 most interesting looking HCM Cloud Applications sessions at OOW 19.

One more thing:  I'm hoping to meeting with lots of customers one-on-one.  Especially those customers interested in Oracle HCM Cloud's mobile responsive Newsfeed UX or automated functional regression testing.  If you're attending OOW 19 and you would like to meeting, ping me on Twitter @fteter and we can set up a meet.  Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

New Admin Pages

As you all know, I've been deep into the new mobile responsive Newsfeed UX for Oracle HCM Cloud since last year.  And, like most everything else in a continuous service delivery model, new features and functionality have been rolling out incremental with each new update.  And the latest update, 19C, continues that trend.

One of the big changes in 19C is the uplift of administrative pages (aka professional landing pages) to the Newsfeed UX look and feel.  It's coming to all users, regardless of whether you're still using the classic Simplified User Interface or the new mobile responsive Newsfeed UX.  For customers still on the classic UI, this provides an opportunity to dip your toes in the water with Newsfeed UX without any configuration effort.  For those customers already on Newsfeed UX, this makes the look and feel of the administrative pages consistent with all the other pages.

Here is a before and after screen shot example so you can get a feel for what I'm talking about:


Personally, I've found that the Search feature at the top of the page in the new layout is really handy.  I don't need to scroll or try other navigation - just search for what I need.  Nice cool factor for ease of use.

This brings me to a really important point:  if you are an Oracle HCM Cloud customer who has not switched to mobile responsive Newsfeed UX, I have to ask why not?  It is Oracle's strategic direction going forward - we're releasing more and more new functionality that ties into Newsfeed UX.  So the longer you wait, the further behind you fall on benefiting from that new functionality.  Is that really where you want to be, burping and chirping behind the curve while the rest of your industry grabs the gains of those new features?  Just a thought... you can always sound off with your own perspective in the comments.

Monday, July 15, 2019

The End Is Here

A little different from our usual fare here...

I'm a Mac user.  Switched from Windows to OS X several years ago and never looked back.  As time has passed, Apple has fallen behind on hardware design.  There's no question that the Microsoft Surface line surpasses the MacBook line in terms of hardware elegance and utility.  But I just can't bring myself to leave a rock solid operating system and run it back to Windows as my main operating system (I run both Windows and Linux VMs for when I absolutely have to do work with either).

I'm not alone in the Oracle ecosystem with my choice of OS X over Windows.  I run into Apple users everyday.  Usually they're more technical types, but I have run into a fair number of functional consultants and business end users on OS X.  Heck, Oracle now even gives their employees the choice of a company-issued MacBook Pro.

For those of us running OS X (whether it relates to use of Oracle products or not), we face a major shift coming later this year.  The end is here for 32-bit apps.  When Apple issues the latest version of OS X, Catalina, 32-bit apps will stop working.  Catalina will come out in September.  Apple sounded the death knell in HighSierra with notices about 32-bit app future incompatibility with "not optimized" warnings:

So it's not like we didn't know it's coming.  But still, like many others, it's arrived faster than I would like.  I still rely on some 32-bit apps:
  • Cisco AnyConnect - I use this VPN client every day in my work; I'm actually in VPN a majority of my work day.
  • Text Wrangler - A wonderful, simple little text editor.  Every week, I write a status report to my management using this app.
  • Skype Meetings - I use this once or twice per week for customer virtual meetings.
I could go on, but the list is pretty extensive.  And, again, I'm sure I'm not alone.  To make things even stickier, many of these 32-bit apps do not have 64-bit replacements.  So I'll have to somewhat change the way I work before up taking Catalina.

For those of you out there running OS X, there are a number of ways you can identify the 32-bit apps you're running.  But the easiest is probably a free application called Go64 from St. Clair Software.  The app scans your hard drive and identifies any 32-bit apps.  Pretty handy - after all, the first step in changing behavior is admitting that you have a problem.  And 32-bit apps on OS X are now a problem.

I can't even imagine the level of hurt for someone taking automatic updates who will wake up some fine morning early this fall and discover that mission-critical 32-bit apps no longer work because their operating system upgraded overnight (and you KNOW this will happen to someone - just don't let that someone be you).  So between now and September, I'll be changing the way I work by moving off all my 32-bit apps.  If you're an OS X user, you should be doing the same.   For 32-bit apps, the end is here.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Old Bugaboo

So after a bit of a hiatus, I've decided it's time to get off my butt and start writing again...

Today I'm raising an old bugaboo, but I'm adding a new perspective.  The bugaboo? Customizing packaged software.  It's more expensive than either building your own apps from scratch or buying software off the shelve.  But you all already know that because we've previously hashed that out at length here.

On to the new perspective.  As many of you know, I've been up to my eyeballs in helping customers switch to  the mobile responsive Newsfeed UX for Oracle's HCM Cloud Applications.  And we're finding customers love it.  The ease of use, the consistency of the user experience between mobile and desktop platforms, the overall look and feel, the short learning curve, the high levels of user acceptance smoothing the change management involved in the switch.  Newsfeed UX is a huge hit.  But I digress, so let me get back on track.  We offer several tools for personalizing, extending and customizing this new user experience.  Between the components of the HCM Experience Design Studio and Page Composer, customers can change the UX in pretty much any way their heart desires.

But just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do something.  I'm seeing quite a few customers burn quite a few calories on customizations with relatively minor impact, mostly involving the user interface rather than the user experience. (What's the difference?  The user interface is about the look and feel.  The user experience is about the way you work.  The latter has a much broader and more meaningful impact than the former.)  Changing the color of the text in a button.  Removing the category title from an event.  Substituting a seeded icon for one of their own design.  To sum up... making big efforts to change minor details, things that don't impact the ability to conduct critical business processes or provide meaningful business intelligence.

Changing minor UI details, in and of itself, is not so bad.  I often think the energy expended is over the top in comparison to the return.  But if it is important enough to a customer to burn their resources in that way, that is their choice to make.  But the thing so few realize when implementing these changes is the cost going forward.  That cost comes in testing and maintaining those customizations as part of each and every system configuration change.  A new patch is applied?  Better test our customizations.  Implementing a new interface?  Better test our customizations.  A new release or update?  Better test our customizations. And, by the way, redesign and reapply those customizations as needed.  A change in application architecture?  We need to redesign and reapply those customizations.  Start thinking about the frequency of these and similar cases, then consider the resources involved.  You'll get the idea.

One more time:  just because you can do something doesn't really mean you should do something.  Are there times when customizing is the right choice?  Of course.  If a customization is necessary in order for you to execute a critical business process using packaged apps or services, then that is what you do.  Just consider it carefully first.  Because the old bugaboo of customization is the gift that just keeps on taking.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Bits And Pieces

Lots of innovative change afoot in the Oracle HCM Cloud space, so I thought I'd catch y'all up on the more significant bits and pieces.

  • Enhanced Talent Profiles:  Oracle Recruiting Cloud ("ORC") and Oracle Learning Cloud ("OLC")customers must upgrade to Enhanced Talent Profiles as part of their 19A uptake.  See My Oracle Support Doc ID 2421964.1 "Upgrading Fusion Profile Management" for more info. This is a really cool upgrade for the ORC and OLC customers - you'll want to jump on this one.
  • ORC customers:  must switch to Newsfeed UX as the first step in upgrading to Enhanced Talent Profiles.  This essentially means that ORC requires a switch to Newsfeed UX and an upgrade to Enhanced Talent Profiles as part of the 19A uptake in order for the app to function going forward.  Double benefits here:  a mobile responsive UI and the Enhanced Talent Profiles!
  • File Based Loader:  File Based Loader ("FBL") will not be supported as of update 19B (which begins to roll out to HCM Cloud customers in May).  Last I looked, there were still a small set of customers using FBL.  If you're one of those customers, may I suggest that you make the move to the more powerful HCM Data Loader ("HDL") now?  
  • Newsfeed UX:  It seems that Newsfeed UX may become the default with the 20A update, which is due begin rolling out in February 2020.  But, in the meantime, we're seeing new and very cool functionality appear that only works in Newsfeed UX - with more on the short term horizon.  So the longer you wait to switch, the further behind you'll fall.  So the question is not "when will Newsfeed UX become the default", but "how soon can we switch to Newsfeed UX?"  I recently had a customer tell me switching to Newsfeed UX " the best thing we've ever done for our users!"  So what are you waiting for?
We have some additional innovation goodies on the verge of coming out, but I'm not at liberty to discuss those yet (one of the very few downsides to this job).  But I can say that sine of those goodies depend on you taking up the changes listed here.  So roll up your sleeves and get going - we have lots of cool innovation available and in the pipeline, but it doesn't do you any good until you take it up!