Larry’s Sunday night keynote at OpenWorld is always good value. He’s a rare beast in that he’s a CEO (or now ex-CEO) who can talk the language of the business but also gets the tech behind it. He litters his slide commentary with digs at the competition which is always entertaining too.
So, what were the big ticket items that impact us in the world of Oracle Cloud this year?
In a move clearly aimed at Government departments and companies with stringent security requirements, Larry announced Cloud@Customer.
The service provides the same hardware and software as that which runs in the Oracle Public Cloud, but behind your firewall. It’s managed by Oracle and you don’t pay for the hardware, it’s all part of the subscription pricing. Larry said that it’s the same price as if it were in Oracle’s Cloud too, which would be amazing if that comes to pass as the Cloud is normally significantly cheaper.
My understanding of this is that it’s not ‘HCM/ERP Cloud within your Firewall’, unless you subscribe to Cloud@Customer as infrastructure and then install HCM Cloud yourself.
Cloud Adoption – ERP
Larry also talked about the customer success that the Cloud applications have been gaining, and contrasted it with the competitors.
He showed this slide comparing the breadth of the ERP Cloud functionality vs Workday Financials:
Larry went on to say that ERP Cloud has 10x the number of Workday Financials customers, but that Workday are not catching up – ERP Cloud has twice their growth rate.
These were the numbers and geographic spread as-of the end of Oracle’s Q4, there’s another 200 on top of these now.
Cloud Adoption – HCM
Larry surprised many by announcing that HCM Cloud is selling 2.5x as fast as Workday (900 new customers in FY16, compared to Workday’s 318).
Aggressive Competition with Amazon
Now that Larry believes that the SaaS and PaaS areas of the Oracle Cloud stack are moving along nicely he drew focus onto the Infrastructure as a Service area. He announced that Oracle are going to compete much more aggressively with Amazon in this space, showing some comparisons where Oracle Public Cloud delivers more power for less money than an equivalent AWS instance.
More Tools for Building Cloud Apps
Larry announced more functionality within the Oracle Developer Cloud, including wider language support, more APIs and better integration. He also announced a development platform for extending the SaaS applications without writing any code, which he then went on to demo with a fun chatbot application:
Slick and amusing, it showed a chat based interaction between Larry and the Oracle Cloud (touching on both procurement and HCM). Of course, this is only the next step – voice interaction is the logical next one – however, it’s functionality that keeps Oracle ahead of the competition.
Some of the OOW announcements are “the product is Generally Available” and some are more of an “it’s in the medium-term future” announcement. Larry’s announcement of Machine Learning AI felt a little more like the latter, however, in the near future we can expect our Cloud applications to apply machine learning algorithms to predict business decisions, such as Optimised Payment Terms in ERP and Best-Fit Candidates in HCM.
The full keynote can be seen here.
Last night we held Cedar’s annual HCM Cloud Executive Dinner in a lovely restaurant atop the Gherkin, London.
It’s a fantastic setting for an event such as this, and with the late sunset we were able to walk around the top of the building and look out across our wonderful city from all directions – both in daylight and then again once the city’s lights came on.
There were – of course – customers to talk to, but the headliners were quite a coup, an Oracle double-act of David Bowin (Senior Director, Product Strategy) and Tracy Martin (Sr. Director, HCM Cloud Strategy).
David and Tracy were able to share the ‘inside line’ on the history and future direction of the HCM Cloud and some stories for smoother implementations.
Those of you who know me will know that I’m working at Cedar and we’re moving from PeopleSoft to the Oracle Cloud. I won’t talk about the company’s journey, but more how I’ve found the transition personally.
In brief, there’s a lot to learn.
Data Model knowledge
In the PeopleSoft world, once you know the table structures you could work significantly faster. Whether you were writing an SQR, an App Engine, an XMLP report, a migration script, an ad-hoc Query or a piece of page code the source was always the same – the PS tables.
In the Oracle Cloud world the tables are still there, although they’re closer aligned to the eBusiness Suite data model so they’re not immediately familiar to those from the PeopleSoft background. This isn’t the end of the story however, as the raw tables are only accessed some of the time (for instance, during a BIP report). If you’re doing an ad-hoc Query in OTBI then you’ll need to know the Subject Area structure and this is very different from the underlying tables. If you’re writing an HCM Extract then you’ll need to know the UE structures, and they’re different again.
Is this better than what we had in PeopleSoft? These abstractions are good in some respects, for instance OTBI Subject Areas are easier for end-users to pick up than the database tables for ad-hoc querying. But it does mean that for techs there are multiple different data models that you’ll need to learn.
I was never involved in a File-Based Loader migration – luckily it seems – but we’ve used the new HCM Data Loader tool a couple of times now, once for a migration and once for a mass update of existing data (annual salary uplifts). It’s actually quite nice, once you get the spreadsheets setup – and I had a couple of colleagues helping with that – and the data goes in pretty well.
Is this better than what we had in PeopleSoft? Yes, I think it probably is. Many times the code for PeopleSoft migrations was handwritten from scratch and would be thrown away after it was completed. With HDL there’s a lot of re-use and it’s probably quicker to put together too.
In the PeopleSoft world we have three levels of role-based security, the user profile, roles and permission lists, all managed from a handful of pages and covering both page access and data security.
In the Oracle Cloud world it’s a much larger model, with abstract roles, data roles, job roles duty roles, security profiles. Each is managed from a different set of pages in completely different areas of the system. The system is moving in the right direction, as the Security Console does bring some of this into a single place.
Is this better than what we had in PeopleSoft? I’m not sure. I don’t consider myself a security expert in the Cloud yet, and although I can see it’s a larger framework with more moving parts I’m not yet sure whether this is a better thing.
In the PeopleSoft world we had a very capable toolset and the access to change whatever we wanted. This could be dangerous as although something ‘could’ be changed, it wasn’t always the case that it ‘should’ be changed. With a little experience it was generally pretty easy to see between these cases however. This generally meant that whenever there was an issue it could be fixed by getting into the code and making some changes.
In the Oracle Cloud world it’s a similar story when it comes to typical tech tasks – migration, interfacing, etc, but it’s a different.answer when it comes to issues with the delivered system. If there is a problem then it’s often the case that you’re helpless to do anything other than raise an SR.
Is this better than what we had in PeopleSoft? I think time will tell here. Everyone is still learning to work together in this area. Our SRs could probably be more detailed in order to prevent a lot of to-and-fro between Oracle and implementation team, and the Oracle support teams are still learning as well, especially as the system is moving target with new releases every 6 months. In general Oracle Cloud fixes get delivered about the same speed as PeopleSoft ones (assuming the client is on 9.2 with Selective Adoption).
Is my life any easier in the Oracle Cloud world? Not yet, but that’s largely down to the amount of time I’ve spent working on the Cloud vs my PeopleSoft experience. I’m confident that I’ll improve – and the product keeps improving at breakneck pace – and I’ll be able to help many more customers make the move.
Cedar held its annual Oracle Day in Oracle’s City office last Thursday – it was actually our 6th year of running the event. The attendance was great – just short of 100 – and with 3 streams of content there was plenty to choose from. If you weren’t there, here’s the highlights of the sessions that I attended:
After the opening keynote from Dan Woolstone, Oracle’s James King and myself spoke to a full room on Top 10 Tips for a Successful HCM Cloud Implementation. There was a good mixture in the audience of clients already running in the Cloud and those at some stage of their journey, and we received some great questions.
Swiftly following on was Mike Everitt peeling back the curtains on HCM Cloud R11 and revealing some of the new functionality we can look forward to.
Next up was a customer success story from one of Cedar’s recent go-lives – Chubb Insurance. The team spoke about real business benefits from implementing Oracle HCM Recruit (formerly Taleo) and how Cedar and the in-house team worked together to deliver the project within the time-frame. We’re now working with them on a phase 2.
After networking lunch I went to the payroll stream to listen to Oracle’s Andy Spencer introduce the Oracle Payroll Cloud.
The final session I attended was Merrick Hartslief and the benefits of Oracle Social Sourcing (extending Taleo Recruiting functionality).
Before we all headed off to the pub for some well-earned refreshments and sharing of learnings we all got together for a prize-giving, including an iPad, some champagne, etc:
If you missed out and would like to attend next time, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
HCM Data Loader (HDL) data ready to load into Oracle HCM Cloud is in pipe separated text file format, however most people will create and manipulate these files in MS Excel as it’s the handy swiss-army-knife for data manipulation that almost everyone is familiar with.
The way that we’ve worked is that we create template files containing the sheets and columns corresponding to the fields that the client is using, which the client then populates, then we’ll validate and load into HCM Cloud. Although we use the Data File Validator for HDL as a final pass, most of this validation is first performed in Excel.
Some of this validation is basic (checking for trailing spaces, making sure the provided values are valid in the lookups etc) and some is slightly more complex, eg. looking at consistency across templates. It was whilst doing the latter today that I colleague and I came across a tip that we didn’t previously know.
How VLOOKUP almost works
My normal method of looking up a value in a table elsewhere in Excel is to use the VLOOKUP function. It’s quick, easy and has saved us from countless data issues by spotting problems early. There’s a problem however, which I’ll explain, and provide the solution.
A simplified example is Banks and Branches. First we obtain the list of valid Banks, then we check the list of Bank Branches to make sure that the Bank operating each Branch appears on our list of Banks.
On the left here we have the list of valid Banks in column B, and a text string in column C saying ‘OK’. This is the value that gets returned if the bank matches. (This is a heavily simplified example, the genuine data would have many thousands of branches to check.)
On the right we have the list of Branch owners to lookup against the list on the left.
By using a formula we want to check each of the banks in column E is somewhere in the table on the left. So we use:
=vlookup(<bank to check>, <table of valid banks>, <column to return>, FALSE)
which translates to this for the first cell:
This works a treat, giving the following results:
We can clearly see which branches are run by banks on our list and which are not.
The reason that this sometimes fails is VLOOKUP isn’t case sensitive. Looking up the value LLoyds in the valid banks table would result in a match (despite the second upper case L), however it would obviously fail when we tried to load the data in using HDL.
The method that I now use is a ‘Lookup Exact’. It combines two Excel functions (surprisingly, LOOKUP and EXACT) to give a case sensitive equivalent to VLOOKUP (with the added benefit that the lookup table doesn’t need to be sorted alphabetically).
The formula has the syntax:
=LOOKUP(1,1/EXACT(<table of valid banks>, <bank to check>), <values to return>)
which translates to this for the first cell:
And if I add this to column G we can see that it looks up perfectly against our table, correctly identifying even those in the wrong case (where vlookup in column F fails us).
To give credit where due, I didn’t create this Excel function. It is well explained in this YouTube video:
The ‘Year in Blogging’ reports have come through so I can see what posts and newsletter items garnered the most views.
The Fusion Tipster Blog
So, according to the summary, the most popular post was Introducing OTBI-E, followed by What’s Coming in Taleo 14B, and then the posts on specialisation. Of those, only the former was written in 2015, with the other two coming from 2014. The other popular posts written in 2015 were Storyboarding with Oracle and Microsoft Edge and the Oracle HCM Cloud.
About 40% of the traffic is from the US, 20% from India, and 15% from the UK and smaller amounts from Brazil, Canada and Australia.
The Fusion Weekly Newsletter
The Fusion Weekly newsletter subscriber base rose from 174 to 216 during 2015 which is an approx 20% increase. The ‘open rate’ sits around 40% for any one issue (against an industry average of 17%) with the US and UK each accounting for 35% of readers, and India 9%.
Interestingly, the Fusion Weekly readers are a lot more likely to read on a mobile than the PeopleSoft Weekly readers (32% vs 22%).
The top articles in terms of clicks were:
- Compare Oracle HCM Cloud to Workday (45 clicks)
- BT’s Journey from PeopleSoft to Oracle HCM Cloud (31)
- Gartner on Picking between SAP, Oracle, Workday (30)
- Oracle vs Workday (28)
- Spotlight on HCM Cloud R10 (26)
- Hakan Biroglu’s Tips & Tricks for a succesful implementation (24)
- Histography (22)
- Continue Learning Post-Oracle OpenWorld (22)
- HR in the cloud, is it secure? (21)
- Dennis Howlett’s Oracle OpenWorld Verdict (20)
- Is it really cheaper to put your HR system in the Cloud? (20)
- Why Workday is Tumbling (19)
- Seven Ways to Compare the Enterprise HCM ‘Big 3’ (19)
- 10 aspects you should consider before selecting a SaaS solution (19)
- Oracle is quietly becoming a cloud giant (18)
- HCM Data Loader Overview (18)
- Enterprise Software’s Life Lessons (17)
- The real-life Doppleganger (17)
- Back Stretch of the HCM Horse Race (17)
- The 10 Most Valuable Features of HCM Cloud R10 (17)
I found a great new tool earlier today that I thought I’d share with you all. It’s an Open Source project called ScreenToGif. Looking at the project page it looks like it has a healthy team of developers and activity, so I think it’s going to become quite a popular little tool.
I’ve been looking for something that records a section of your screen and saves it as an animated Gif for a while. There are some alternatives out there, but they’re cumbersome or lacking somehow. This is a really straightforward, yet powerful tool that does exactly what I need.
Why do I need an Animated Gif recording tool?
It’s really useful to be able to share short, quick videos of a particular item. There may be a bug that you’re trying to document, a business process that you’re trying to communicate, a slow area of the system that you want to record evidence of, or even something flashy that you want to insert into a slide deck. In these situations a word doc full of screenshots is a poor substitute for a video. Video files tend to be too large though, so animated Gifs hit the sweet spot.
What have you used it for?
Earlier today I wanted to demonstrate something on a support ticket. There is a 1mb upper limit on attachments so a video or word doc full of screenshots would be too big. I opened the tool, dragged the frame to the right size, hit record and then demonstrated the activity. Once I was done I clicked stop, then save as Gif. Quick and easy!
How can I get it?
It’s Open Source so anyone is able to download and install it. Visit the ScreenToGif website for more details.