Oracle HCM Cloud Executive Forum

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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).

2016-06-29 21.22.20

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.

 

Moving from PeopleSoft to the Oracle Cloud

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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.

Data Migration

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.

Security

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.

Fixing Issues

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).

Summary

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’s Oracle Cloud Day 2016 – Recap

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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.

DD & JK 4
James King and I talk Implementation Success

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.

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Mike Everitt: Oracle HCM Cloud Stretches its Lead with R11

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.

Chubb
Chubb’s Taleo Implementation Success Story

After networking lunch I went to the payroll stream to listen to Oracle’s Andy Spencer introduce the Oracle Payroll Cloud.

Andy Spencer
Andy Spencer – Introducing Oracle Payroll Cloud

The final session I attended was Merrick Hartslief and the benefits of Oracle Social Sourcing (extending Taleo Recruiting functionality).

Merrick Hartslief
Merrick Hartslief: Candidate Experience Re-invented

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:

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Marisa and Simon: Prize Giving

If you missed out and would like to attend next time, please contact marisa.harris@cedarconsulting.co.uk

 

A Tip for using Excel to Validate HDL templates

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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.

vlookup

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:

=vlookup(e3,$b$3:$c$8,2,FALSE)

This works a treat, giving the following results:

vlookup1

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.

vlookup2

The Solution

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:

=LOOKUP(1,1/EXACT($B$3:$B$8,E3),$C$3:$C$8)

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).

vlookup3.png

To give credit where due, I didn’t create this Excel function. It is well explained in this YouTube video:

 

What HCM Cloud content was popular in 2015?

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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:

  1. Compare Oracle HCM Cloud to Workday (45 clicks)
  2. BT’s Journey from PeopleSoft to Oracle HCM Cloud (31)
  3. Gartner on Picking between SAP, Oracle, Workday (30)
  4. Oracle vs Workday (28)
  5. Spotlight on HCM Cloud R10 (26)
  6. Hakan Biroglu’s Tips & Tricks for a succesful implementation (24)
  7. Histography (22)
  8. Continue Learning Post-Oracle OpenWorld (22)
  9. HR in the cloud, is it secure? (21)
  10. Dennis Howlett’s Oracle OpenWorld Verdict (20)
  11. Is it really cheaper to put your HR system in the Cloud? (20)
  12. Why Workday is Tumbling (19)
  13. Seven Ways to Compare the Enterprise HCM ‘Big 3’ (19)
  14. 10 aspects you should consider before selecting a SaaS solution (19)
  15. Oracle is quietly becoming a cloud giant (18)
  16. HCM Data Loader Overview (18)
  17. Enterprise Software’s Life Lessons (17)
  18. The real-life Doppleganger (17)
  19. Back Stretch of the HCM Horse Race (17)
  20. The 10 Most Valuable Features of HCM Cloud R10 (17)

 

ScreenToGif – a Really Handy Tool

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NewLogoI 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.

Sharing HCM Cloud Project Plans Effectively

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One thing that’s different in the world of Oracle HCM Cloud is that there are more, quicker projects than in the ‘old world’. Instead of an 18-month upgrade we have shorter initial implementations, often with a smaller scope, and then return for subsequent phases where extra modules are added. Frequently these are fixed price projects too. A result of this is that the projects have to be much more tightly controlled.

In the ‘old world’ the Project Manager wouldn’t dream of sharing their project plan as it was a monstrously complicated beast of gargantuan proportions and wouldn’t be understandable or useful to anyone outside of the PMO (Project Management Office). Instead, they’d carve up smaller work packages and share those instead.

In the ‘new world’ – with smaller, shorter projects – it seems that it’s increasingly common for Project Plans to be shared around as they’re far more comprehensible. MS Project is expensive, so few people have it installed and, as a result, the Project Manager exports the plan to PDF and emails it around.

The problem is that MS Project’s export to PDF is horrible. Any project with even a small level of detail spans multiple pages and it’s impossible to line up the project items on the left with any of the Gantt chart lines, and working out dependencies is impossible.

The solution is an easy one, and it is to export to an image instead. It only takes a few minutes and exports the complete view to something that’s easily readable by everyone.

  1. Select Copy Picture:2015-09-03 21_03_12-Project Professional - Data%20Migration.mpp [Compatibility Mode]
  2. On the resulting dialog leave the top radio button selected as ‘for screen’2015-09-03 21_06_06-Copy Picture
  3. Choose ‘Selected Rows’ (this allows you to control whether a segment of the plan or the whole plan is output). It is best to select the rows you want before choosing ‘Copy Picture’
  4. Choose the timescale that you need. This sets the left and right edges of the Gantt chart so it’s best to choose the start and end of your project.
  5. Click OK.
  6. If your project is massive you might get the option of whether you want a large image, or just to zoom out the on the Gantt chart.
  7. The image is on your clipboard, so you can paste it somewhere. Maybe in a graphics package, or a Word Doc. If you want it to go straight to a file then select GIF in the top box of the dialogue above.

The resulting image file for a 250 line project might look something like this:

Untitled-6

Everyone’s computer contains an image viewer of some kind so it’s accessible to all. It’s a single file so people can scroll around it easily, and zoom in and out as required (the text looks blurry as I’ve deliberately obscured it).

If only more people would do this then MS Project wouldn’t get such a bad name …