Cloud Payroll – your options

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A few weeks back Oracle announced they are building out a Cloud Payroll localisation for France. It struck me at the time as an interesting move. French payroll is notoriously difficult – known both for its complexity and the frequency of change – so undertaking to deliver it is a real statement of intent. It’s not an enhancement you’d commit to lightly, and is certainly not something you say just for quick PR inches.

With the addition of Oracle France Payroll, Oracle Cloud HCM will provide built-in payroll support for 13 countries including Bahrain, Canada, China, Kuwait, Mexico, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States, with upcoming support for India and Oman.

I saw this quote from Holger Muller (Principal Analyst, Constellation Research) on native integration over writing interfaces out to 3rd party providers:

“Payroll is one of the single most important functions for keeping a workforce running smoothly. Employees have zero tolerance for mistakes or delays when it comes to their compensation, no matter how complicated the local rules and regulations are. It’s essential that organizations use a cloud-based payroll system that natively integrates with their core HR systems to automatically stay up to date with changes in regulations and their workforce.”

eBusiness Suite delivered loads of country extensions – but interestingly never tackled France. PeopleSoft also had a good set of localisations but – with the exception of North American Payroll – they move to ‘market driven support’ from January 2023 (i.e. customers must purchase the support from Oracle ACS or other partners).

It had me wondering what the other vendors have in terms of native Cloud Payroll support, so I thought I’d do a little research.

Workday just has payrolls for 4 countries –  US, Canada, the UK and France – and you’d need to interface out to a 3rd party supplier for anywhere else so lags considerably behind Oracle.

From what I can tell SuccessFactors seems to use an integrated, hosted version of SAP’s on-premises payroll software as SuccessFactors’ Employee Central Payroll application. Integrating back to a hosted version of a legacy payroll is clearly not the same as a Cloud-native payroll, but the flipside is that they don’t need to develop Cloud-native payroll country localisations and can keep using the old ones.

Caveat emptor, indeed.

Joining Namos

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This month I’ve started my new role at Namos Solutions. Most of the people who read this will know who Namos are as they’ll also be in the Oracle Cloud ecosystem and will be familiar with the trail that Namos are blazing.

Quite a few people have checked in, curious on my reasons for moving on from my previous role. It wasn’t an easy decision – as I had a good job with a great team of lovely people – however what swung my decision towards Namos were these two factors:

‘The’ Place to Work

Every now and then there’s a company that’s seen in the marketplace as The place to work. They have the best people, they’re winning a tonne of work, they’re picking up great talent, and they have a great reputation in the marketplace – both with customers and Oracle themselves. I interviewed with Certus in 2014 as back then they were the company everyone was talking about. Currently, and for the last year or two, Namos are the hottest ticket in town and I wanted to be part of the ride.

Authenticity and Trust

As part of the interview process I spoke to Jerry (COO) and Chris (CEO), plus I garnered opinions from a few friends I knew who worked there. My friends were all positive, however it was the responses from Jerry and Chris which really swung it. Normally during interviews you only get to ask a handful of questions back to the interviewer, but I peppered them with questions from every angle trying to find the reality of life at Namos. I dug around areas such as the role (breakdown of tasks, personal billing targets, KPIs for success, burning issues), company structure (mostly around the size/shape of the HCM team, the streams and the leads), the people (headcounts, turnover rates and reasons, recruitment processes, grades/career paths/performance reviews/1-to-1s), the culture (values, mission, team collaboration, recognition, knowledge sharing, certification and training), delivery (methodology, projects, deliverables, implementation to MS win rates) and sales (pipeline, bid process, estimation, collateral library).

They answered openly, patiently and honestly; I was really impressed, both with what I heard and the authenticity of the responses – they didn’t want to mislead me by giving a false impression, but what they described was a well setup and run operation.

I’m less than a fortnight into the role, but if anyone would like to hear more about life at Namos and the opportunities on offer, please do get in touch.

Temporarily Making Users Read Only

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I was asked a question earlier today on something I’ve dealt with a couple of times previously, and that was “how do we temporarily make a set of Oracle HCM Cloud user accounts read-only?” There are a number of use cases for this, typically around periods of reconciliation – the last thing you want when you’re trying to reconcile data (either migrated data, or during PPR) is people in the system making alterations.

Creating new roles with read-only attributes is a massive undertaking, so thankfully there’s a much easier way. Several other bloggers have written about the Administrator Profile Value FND_READ_ONLY_MODE before as it has been in the product for a long time. It works great, in that you set it to enabled for a user account and when that user next logs in they still have access to the same pages and sets of data that their existing roles allow, but they cannot make updates.

The extra piece I want to add is that you don’t have to add these profile values one at a time – particularly useful if you have a lot of accounts to make read-only, or if it’s part of cutover (pre-live smoke test users, perhaps) and needs to be a proven and automated process.

Profile Values can be bulk-loaded using File Import and Export. Simply create a text file using the following format:

ProfileOptionCode|LevelName|UserName|ProfileOptionValue
FND_READ_ONLY_MODE|USER|username1|Enabled
FND_READ_ONLY_MODE|USER|username2|Enabled
FND_READ_ONLY_MODE|USER|username3|Enabled
FND_READ_ONLY_MODE|USER|username4|Enabled

Save it with a .txt extension, upload it using Tools > File Import and Export, make a note of the filename, then go back into Manage Administrator Profile Values and import the values using the same filename.

Arcade – Something interesting?

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Those who know me will be aware I’m always on the look out for new and innovative ways to make life better/easier and I stumbled on a potentially interesting tool the other day called Arcade.

It first caught my eye when this tweet appeared on my timeline:

Yes – you are seeing that correctly – it’s not a static image or video, it’s a tweet with a clickable demo embedded!

This would be a great way to share enhancements and cool new Oracle Cloud functionality on Social Media.

It was then I noticed that one of the people behind Arcade is Rich Manalang. Those with an Oracle background might well recognise that name – Rich was at Oracle (and PeopleSoft before acquisition) for a long time earlier in his career. I can remember him sharing info on Enterprise Portal, using GreaseMonkey to improve PeopleSoft and the Oracle AppsLab back in the day.

Anyway – reminiscing aside – this is the Arcade website where you can see more about what the product can do. I’m excited about the possibilities for embedding clickable content into webpages and other media.

Good Context to Oracle’s Q2 Earnings

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I always cast an interested eye over Oracle’s quarterly earnings announcements. The stock figures don’t really concern me, it’s the commentary given alongside the release that can be a really interesting read. The Q2 announcement last week gave us more than most.

This quarter, Oracle beat Wall Street’s forecasts by a large margin. As a result of this, Oracle’s stock rose ~16%, reportedly its biggest gain in 20 years, to an all-time-high. The huge leap also added $16bn to Larry’s personal wealth and took him past Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to be the world’s fifth-richest person.

Why was this quarter so successful? There was strong growth in cloud-based applications, with 35% growth in Fusion ERP and 29% growth in NetSuite ERP, which serves smaller companies. Oracle’s cloud business overall was up 22%, and CEO Safra Catz said the company expects growth to accelerate to the mid-20% range in that part of the business by the end of the year. 

I’m usually more focussed on the HCM side of things, but a rising tide lifts all boats and Larry explained the future is incredibly positive in ERP:

We had 7,500 customers in Oracle on-premise, their ERP made up of E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards. Only 1,000 of those 7,500 have moved to Fusion Cloud ERP. Now we have not lost any of these customers to competitors. We expect all the remaining 6,500 to move to Fusion ERP, but it hasn’t happened yet. That’s all upside.

He then went on to explain that Fusion ERP now has 8,500 customers – so (from above) 1,000 of those came from the legacy on-premises business, and 7,500 came to Oracle from competitors’ installed base. Being Larry he obviously spoke about the Cloud ERP competition: SAP ERP isn’t a ‘true Cloud product’ and Workday ERP ‘has some customers but very few are live’. It certainly seems that in Cloud ERP, Oracle is benefitting from having much less solid competition than there is on HCM.

It’s easy to follow Larry’s logic and – if many of those remaining 6,500 on-premises ERP customers switch over the next 5 years or so, and Oracle continues to pick up new customers from the competition – his prediction that the Cloud ERP business can grow from $5bn to $20bn+ doesn’t seem that much of a stretch.

More Details:

With strong cloud revenue growth, Oracle easily beats earnings targets

Larry Ellison is now richer than the Google co-founders after big Oracle run-up

A $20 billion business within 5 years – the cloud ERP worldview according to Larry Ellison

Monitoring Oracle Cloud Users – Heatmaps and Recordings

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Earlier this week I mentioned a new service I’ve found which enables better monitoring of your Oracle Cloud Users and showed the dashboard and analytics it provides. Today I’m going to look into the HeatMap and Recording functionality.

Heatmaps

A heatmap allows you to see a composite view of all your users’ activity on one screen by overlaying it with colours to represent the most frequently clicked areas.

Using these heatmaps you can identify which are the most used pages and common navigation paths, and which areas are not being accessed by users – so you can introduce measures to increase adoption.

Recordings

Sessions are also recorded and can be played back later. Your first reaction to this is likely the same as mine – “what about GDPR?!?!” – however the data is masked to mitigate the risk of PII data being displayed. You can also tweak the masking settings to make the obfuscation more aggressive.

Here you can see the playback of a recorded session with progress bar at the bottom for quick navigation, and the cursor path and mouse clicks highlighted on the screen.

The real use-case here is you can use the dashboard to narrow the results down, and then follow the recordings of just those. For instance, you could filter by just those sessions encountering JavaScript errors and then view those playbacks – really useful for troubleshooting user issues and evidencing issues to Oracle.

Monitoring your Oracle Cloud Users

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It’s not particularly easy to tell exactly what your users are up to in Oracle Cloud.

  • If you’ve enabled auditing and written some audit reports you can see the changes users have made
  • You can query a couple of tables to retrieve a user’s last logon date
  • You can download the RUEI reports from the Cloud Console which give you summary PDFs (which have some useful stats, but you can’t really do much with it other than screenshot the graphs)

Each gives a partial picture, but I’ve always hankered for a little more. I do have a good solution – which I’ll write about soon – but it’s a paid service. I was intrigued recently when I saw the announcement for a free alternative. It was described as:

A free user behaviour analytics tool that helps you understand how users interact with your website through features such as session replays and heatmaps.

This sounded promising so I thought I’d give it a try. I set it up and then waited a couple of weeks for a representative amount of user activity to accumulate.

Dashboard

The first thing you see is the Dashboard. This is live data – we don’t have to wait for the following day or week to get the info. Across the top you can see session info – so 3,132 sessions from 957 distinct users with an average session length of ~30 mins (of which just under half was active time).

Then you get a series of donut charts and lists showing the proportion of sessions which have encountered problems, the most popular pages, browsers, OSes etc. What I like most is you can filter and drill into this data – so you can find answers to questions such as:

  • Are all the JavaScript errors encountered by a specific browser?
  • Which pages are the source for the most rage clicks (where someone repeatedly spams a button or field)?
  • Are users really engaging with the system on mobile devices, and is this level of uptake the same across all countries?

This is great, and the service also offers Heatmaps and Session Recordings.

Excited to join Inoapps

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Last week I published a retrospective post looking back over 7 years at my previous employer. This week it’s a forward looking post as I have now started my next role – HCM Practice Director at Inoapps.

Why do I think the future looks bright here? A few reasons …

(1) Inoapps are genuinely growing

Every prospective employer will tell you they’re looking to expand, but in the last 12 months – despite the pandemic – Inoapps have increased their headcount substantially. There is a real hunger for growth here, across all the countries we operate in – the UK, the US, Malaysia and India.

(2) Customers and Staff keep coming back

Inoapps have a lot of repeat work from customers (always a positive signal) and our first ever customer is still with us now. Also, despite only meeting a fraction of the employee base so far, I’ve already encountered 3 boomerang people – who left Inoapps but then decided to come back (I’m reading this as a good sign also).

(3) Exciting Cloud HCM Projects and Pipeline

Inoapps have real strength in the Energy, Public Sector, Engineering & Construction and Higher Education sectors – and they have active implementations in each. I won’t mention client names, however it includes one of the World’s top 20 Universities and a customer where even The Queen gets a user account.

If you know your shifts from your schedules, your benefits from your balances and your calc cards from your cost centres, please check out our openings:
Inoapps Career Site
(yes, this is ORC – we run our business on Oracle Cloud and you should too)

And it’s goodbye from him …

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I’m joining the Great Resignation/the big quit/the turnover tsunami. Yes, it’s another one of those “I’m leaving” posts.

I’ve been at Cedar – and Version 1 post-acquisition – just over 7 years and I’ve enjoyed every minute of the journey. My goal on joining was to grow an Oracle Cloud HCM practice, and – together with some great colleagues – this has definitely been achieved.

We’ve won and delivered to some great clients – 5 full implementations (some across multiple phases) and covering a real range of situations – UK only/global, HCM only/multi-pillar, private sector/public sector, and some multi-year, whilst another was live in just 3 months.

We’ve also hired/cross-trained some great people across the spectrum of experience. It’s been wonderful to watch you grow both personally and professionally, and take on key roles as the practice has expanded.

We’ve worked hard to give the clients what they needed (not always what they thought they wanted though!) and we’ve had a lot of giggles along the way. All the teams I’ve been part of have adapted to remote delivery smoothly and I’m convinced – for one client in particular – we were able to work even more efficiently that way.

My highlight of this time, however, has always been the people. I’m not going to name individuals, but I’ve had the privilege to work with some great friends during this time and I hope you know the high regard and affection I hold for each of you. I look forward to hearing what you go on and achieve.

Thank you, all.

One Shortcut to a better Teams UX

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I prefer to use Zoom over Teams for one simple reason – the “push Space to talk” shortcut key – however corporate choices mean I end up in more Teams meetings. There are some calls – particularly when you’re the one hosting – where you need to stay audible as you’re doing a lot of the talking, however there are other calls where others are leading where it’s common courtesy to remain on mute until you have something to contribute. With Zoom it’s a case of holding down the Space bar while you speak and then releasing it to return to muted. Simple and low friction. You don’t even have to look down at your keyboard. There is no equivalent in Teams.

Every time there’s a new release of Teams I check for this one feature – I can’t be the only one feeling this frustration – however I’ve come to the conclusion that if they were going to introduce it they would have by now.

What can Teams do?

What shortcut keys are available in Teams? There’s no ‘push to talk’ key, but there is a ‘toggle mute’ which is almost as good. Unfortunately it’s not a particularly user-friendly key combination = Ctrl + Shift + M. A lot of people are going to need to glance down at the keyboard for that one and the opportunity to add to the conversation may have passed.

There’s no way I can see in Teams to alter this to something easier to press either.

My fall-back – and I suspect this is the same for most people – is to put down my pen and notepad, reach for my mouse, locate the cursor on-screen and click on the Mute button. Again, not super-slick.

A better way

Rather than tolerate the issue, there is an alternative. You can simply remap a key on your keyboard to the Teams shortcut. It’s still not ‘push to talk’, but if you can toggle mute with a single keystroke it’s an improvement on the current situation.

A quick google shows there are a number of ways to remap keys on your keyboard. There are many free tools (see a list here) however I opted for one which isn’t on that list. Microsoft PowerToys is a free set of utilities from Microsoft intended to make Windows 10 better. One of the utilities it contains is ‘Keyboard Manager’. Here’s what it looks like:

I’ve remapped my Pause/Break button to the Teams shortcut for Mute/Unmute. I’ve picked Pause/Break (shown in red below) as it’s a key I can find quickly and without looking down at the keyboard. Depending on your layouts and usage, other possible options could be keys I’ve shown in blue – they’re on the edge of the keyboard so they’d be easy for your hands to locate.

Note: the Teams window must have focus in order for this to work – as otherwise the shortcut combination is sent to whichever application is currently active – but we should be paying attention to the meeting and not clicking around in other windows anyway, right? 🙂

You could always take this a little further by assigning other hotkeys too. I never use the ‘Scroll Lock’ key so that would make a good ‘Leave Meeting’ shortcut instead of CTRL+SHIFT_B or the pause while everyone reaches for their mouse, locates the cursor on screen and hovers over the leave button.