Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Convergence

Convergence (\kən-ˈvər-jən(t)s\)

1  :  the act of converging and especially moving toward union or uniformity; especially :  coordinated movement of the two eyes so that the image of a single point is formed on corresponding retinal areas

2  :  the state or property of being convergent

3  :  independent development of similar characters (as of bodily structure of unrelated organisms or cultural traits) often associated with similarity of habits or environment

4  :  the merging of distinct technologies, industries, or devices into a unified whole

"Convergence." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.
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We're seeing convergence in process, right now, in Oracle's enterprise applications.  Some examples:

Simplified UI:   Take a look at Simplified UI in Fusion Applications Release 8.  Then look again at the Simplified UI recently announced for the E-Business Suite.  And then take another look at the new UI for PeopleSoft 9.2.  They're all looking and working in a similar fashion.  Built on different technologies, to be sure, but providing a similar user experience.  Functional design patterns are driving a convergence in the user experience for Oracle's packaged applications.

Continuous Delivery:  PeopleSoft uses a continuous delivery model - feature packs developed incrementally, then automatically distributed to end users for review and application in an incremental fashion.  Not upgrades, but incremental enhancements of the existing version...which may eventually lead to the end of major upgrade events for PeopleSoft altogether.  With online patching as of release 12.2,  the E-Business Suite seems headed in the same direction.  With Fusion on the cloud as SaaS, moving to a continuous delivery model is not a difficult matter (in fact, short of the branding of new releases and the perception that branding creates, Fusion Applications is already built on a continuous delivery model).

Cloud:  The convergence here seems to be one of industry strategy.  Commercial industries on cloud, public sector industries on cloud, and the recently announced clouds directed at the higher education space.  Oracle is utilizing their basic cloud applications services, then supplementing with additional services built for specific industries.  Again, the higher education market is the best example of this:  Student Cloud, Higher Education Cloud, and new higher education specific functionality for Fusion Applications.

These are simply the most visible examples of the convergence trend taking place within Oracle's enterprise applications.  There are more taking place, and I'm sure the future holds even more.  We're barely at the beginning of this trend.

The real question here:  what does this mean for the customers?  IMHO, it's significant...but each customer will probably come up with different answers.  Just some ideas to get the gears turning:  co-existence between different Oracle applications with a single, consistent user experience; hybrid platforms running transactions on-premise, but with big data processed on the cloud to provide information through a combination of transactional reporting and embedded analytics; moving from teams supporting major upgrade efforts to small teams engaged in continuous delivery, thus freeing up more resources for important, strategically-oriented work.

That's all I can jam into this post without turning it into an epistle.  Hopefully I've left you with your brain cells jiggling about what convergence within Oracle's enterprise applications means to you.  Thoughts?  Comments?  You know what to do.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Simple Is The New Cool

We've all heard it: "simple is the new cool".  It's true.

We certainly see it in the UX world.  Simple designs for human interaction.  Tell me what I need to do, how to do it, and make it easy.  If I only had a dollar for every time I heard that mantra... And when we consider the market moving to the cloud, UX is the major differentiation - and simple is carrying the day every day.

That last paragraph?  Double-down on it for mobile.

And we see it in system architecture as well.  Big emphasis on unraveling institutional spaghetti bowls of interfaces, services and business processes in favor of simple, straight-forward enterprise architectures.

Packaged enterprise applications?  Sure.  How many times over the past five years have we heard and seen examples of "reconsider your customizations"?

And let's not forget about embedded analytics that blur the line between business intelligence and transactional reporting.  We're making it simpler to identify and understand the information we need, rather than getting wrapped around the axle about how to classify the source of that information.

Everywhere you look in the enterprise applications world these days, it's all about simplification.  Simple is the new cool.

So how do you start with simple?  You start with a strong focus on the problem you're trying to solve.  What are you making better?  And, by the way, problems like "our company needs to sell more software/services to end users"?  Not the type of problem I have in mind here.  Think about a warehouse working taking inventory.  A college freshman attempting to register.  An AP specialist attempting to identify and analyze payables trends.  Those are the types of problems you want to solve.  Those are the types of situations you want to make better.

Get focused.  Simple is the new cool.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

UX - No Time To Kill

There’s no time to kill between the cradle and the grave
Father Time still takes a toll on every minute that you save
Legal tenders never gonna change the number of your days
The highest cost of livin’s dyin’, that’s one everybody pays
So have it spent before you get the bill, there’s no time to kill
                                        —From Clint Black’s “There’s No Time To Kill”

Ha! A classic country music pull…who’d have thunk it, huh?

There’s no time to kill is an appropriate phrase for the past few weeks in the Oracle UX world.  Lots of cool stuff happening.  To whit:

-  The brilliant and versatile Ultan O’Broin (@ultan) and the Oracle Applications UX team have released a free ebook on Simplified User Experience Design Patterns for the Oracle Applications Cloud Service.  Yup, it’s written for the recent R8 release.

-  In conjunction with the ebook release, Amis(@amis_services) and Oracle recently partnered together in putting on a great Next Generation UX showcase event in the Nederlands (you may need a little help from Google Translate to get the gist of this summary).

-  If you’re a member of the Oracle Partner Network, there is a new Guided Learning Path and Specialization:  Oracle Fusion Applications User Experience Specialist.  Yes, of course I jumped right in and earned mine.  And Steve Bentz (@smb1650) was “johnny-on-the-spot” as well.  It’s a challenging cert, but well worth earning…I learned a few things in the process. And I'm grateful that the test was offered online - no trudging down to a PeasonVUE test center.  Hello, 21st Century!

- In working with Higher Education customers, I’ve found a very cool (and free) prototyping tool for PeopleSoft, including Campus Solutions.  And it’s built in PowerPoint.  You can get a copy yourself here.  Very cool for those of you working with PeopleTools.

Busy, busy, busy time in UX…gotta keep up.  No time to kill.  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Moving Forward

Seems to be quite a bit of buzz in the enterprise software user community these days about moving forward.  Budgets have loosened up, users want better experiences, in-house IT providers want to reduce maintenance and infrastructure investments, C-level officers want better and more timely information on strategic initiatives, and everybody wants to be agile (even though there are multiple visions of agile, we all want it).  So it seems the big question lately is "how do we move forward"?

Most of my posts lately sound like "blasts from the past"...you can probably add this post to that category.  I'd recommend four things you can begin with right now in preparing to move forward:

1.  Move To The Latest Applications Release


If you're not on the latest release of PeopleSoft, Campus Solutions, E-Business Suite, or whatever packaged products you're using, get there.  Doing so will assure that you have the best platform to move forward from, in addition to making most transitions substantially less complicated.

2.  Prepare A Business Roadmap For Moving Forward


Another way to state this is is develop a description, in well-defined behavioral terms, for where you want your enterprise to be.  Note that this is not a technical roadmap, but more of a business-oriented roadmap.  Some considerations for that business roadmap may include:








3.  Inventory Your Enterprise Assets


Understand what assets you have on-hand that may help or hinder your way forward.  Were it me, I'd want five categories of existing enterprise assets:
  • Business processes
  • Applications (custom and packaged)
  • Information (including both what we have and what we share with whom - they're different!)
  • Projects
  • Customizatons

4.  Reconsider your customizations


Customizations increase the cost of moving forward and extend the time required. That customizations list we built in step 3?  Why do we have those customizations?  Could we replace any of them with out-of-the-box functionality from shrink-wrapped applications?  What about an extension to a packaged application?  Do we still need the customization at all?  Should we rebuild the customization on a new technology platform?

So, there ya go.  Four things you can do today.  No consulting services or special tools required.  Just serious commitment on your part: get to the latest release of whatever you're using, describe your desired business end-state, catalog your enterprise assets and reconsider your customizations.  The discussion doesn't change, regardless of the tech platform you're currently using.

We'll talk soon about what comes next.  In the meantime, share your thoughts in the comments...and get busy!



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Deja Vu in Higher Education

And I feel like I've been here before
Feel like I've been here before

                  --From "Deja Vu" by Crosby, Stills & Nash

As I write this, I'm sitting in my hotel room resting up from another day at Alliance.  Sore feet, sore back, great conference.  I'm also having a Deja Vu experience:  Oracle made some product announcements here that hearken back to the early days of Fusion Applications (aka Oracle Cloud Application Services).

So, as you're probably heard, Oracle announced three new products directed specifically at the Higher Education marketplace:

  • Campus Solutions 9.2:  This new release of Campus Solutions, an upgrade from 9.0, rolls up of all the feature packs from 9.0.  It will also include the yet-to-be-released PeopleTools 8.54 and the PeopleSoft Upgrade Manager ("PUM").  The UI looks for similar to Simplified UI, but it's built on PeopleTools rather than ADF.
  • Student Cloud:  The first release will include services for continuing education, with later releases including functionality yet to be revealed.  The UI is Oracle's Simplified UI (which makes it pretty cool in and of itself).
  • Higher Education Cloud:  This will be a group of new features for Higher Education in Oracle's ERP and HCM clouds.  The features announced include Grants Management, Budgetary Control, Encumbrance Accounting (all in the ERP Cloud), Position Control Multiple Appointments and Collective Bargaining Agreements (in the HCM Cloud).
Some of the important points to remember in all of this:
  • These are not "either or" offerings.  The intent is to offer customers freedom of choice...including the ability to "mix and match".  For example, CS customers will be able to utilize features of the Higher Education Cloud to add value quickly, without additional infrastructure investment.
  • All the Oracle offerings in the Higher Education space will continue to evolve.  All three products will grow and develop according to the needs voiced by Higher Education customers.
  • For those worried about Oracle's commitment to the PeopleSoft and Campus Solutions products, my advice is to stop worrying.  This announcement represents a higher level of commitment to those products, not a death knell.
Now about that feeling of Deja Vu.  For those of you who recall the evolution of Fusion Applications, all this sounds mighty familiar...with one important exception.  Those in the Oracle ecosystem learned and improved quite a bit in the evolution Cloud Application Services up to this point.  Higher Ed customers will benefit from all that learning and improvement as the Oracle brings the opportunities of choice to the higher education space.

Campus Solutions 9.2, Student Cloud, Higher Education Cloud - this is going to be one fun ride...again.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Hanging With The HEUG

So I'm hanging with the Higher Education User Group this week in Las Vegas; Alliance 2014.  It's been a year or so since I've gotten to Alliance, so it's pretty cool to be back here.  I'm also excited in general about working with Higher Education customers.  I've only been here for a day so far, but I've noticed some very obvious things already:
  • The people here are almost desperate to provide their students with a 21st century experience.  They feel the need to have their student systems match the excellence found in their academics and research.
  • Many of the schools struggle to implement well.  And it's not that they don't understand the technology.  The common theme seems to be one of organizational change management.
  • While total cost of ownership is obviously a concern, system quality seems to be an even great concern with these folks...a positive in my book.
  • Prior point notwithstanding, a huge issue for many international schools seems to be infrastructure reliability.  Things many of us take for granted (dependable electricity, broadband internet connections, physical hardware security) are huge issues in some parts of the world.
I've already heard some of this from my involvement in strategy and road mapping efforts for Io Consulting customers, but this conference is reinforcing all these themes.  I'm absorbing so much, especially in terms of this unique set of Oracle users, that it feels a bit like drinking from a firehose.  Lots of interesting stuff happening here.  I'll post more as the conference progresses, especially in light of what is shaping up to be a really big Monday. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 07, 2014

A Crazy Game Of Poker, Verse 2

A few months ago, I announced my resignation from EiS Technologies ("A Crazy Game Of Poker").  Another one of those leaps of faith - agreeing to part months ahead of time, not quite knowing where I was going next.  It's a great approach to parting ways with an employer if all parties can step up to behaving like grown-ups.  It gives the employer time to find and train a replacement as well as picking your brain for knowledge transfer, and it gives the employee time to search for the next gig without facing huge financial pressures.  It works well as long as all parties are mature enough to refrain from any vindictive behavior.

Big kudos to the leadership at EiS for stepping up through this time period and making it all work well.  EiS is a special place with a special team...I miss every bit of it.

I started a new adventure with Io Consulting in February.  I like the social value of the company's mission:  100% Oracle, 100% Higher Education, 100% Customer Satisfaction.  Each and every one of those elements are important to me.  My role will be building up Fusion Middleware and Oracle Cloud Applications Services capabilities within the company. So I'll continue to be deeply involved in User Experience, ADF, and the overall Fusion/Cloud Applications architecture.  I'll likely get into some PeopleSoft & Campus Solutions areas as well...it's been awhile since I've been intimately involved in either, so it'll be nice to get back there again.  So I'm very excited to join the Io Consulting team and look forward to what lies ahead.

In some ways, it will be weird: no more Collaborate or KScope, a little less emphasis on EBS, a more narrowly focused customer set.  But I'll get to attend Alliance on a regular basis (rather than the sporadic attendance of the last five years) and I'll still be a regular at OOW.  And the new management team uses the word "cool" on a regular basis, so that's a good indicator.  And I get to work with Ted Simpson - it gets no better than that!

OK, I'm done being self-centered now.  The next post will take us back to our regularly scheduled programming.