Oracle have announced that they’re stopping the practice of bi-annually upgrading HCM Cloud and are going to roll the enhancements into the quarterly updates instead.
It’s a move that isn’t particularly surprising as large upgrades are being phased out by most vendors in favour of continuous software delivery. Particularly when looking at Cloud vendors, most are eschewing large upgrades and delivering much more frequent incremental improvements instead (think Microsoft and Office 365, or Amazon and AWS).
So what does Continuous Software Delivery (CSD) mean for customers?
Instead of having to wait 6 or 12 months to get the improvements now clients will have to wait a maximum of 3 months. Innovations will flow from Oracle to customers much quicker this way.
Removal of Upgrades
There was a fair amount of inconvenience associated with upgrades – they have to be planned in advance, there is considerable testing effort and there is some downtime involved (although that was being reduced in more recent upgrades).
Larger Quarterly Updates
Of course, the quarterly updates will be slightly bigger as they’ll contain more enhancements than they currently do. They’ll still stick to the same schedule (1st/3rd Friday of the month) and customers will be able to choose their months so it fits around their business calendar – i.e. you could be Jan/Apr/Jul/Oct or Feb/May/Aug/Nov or Mar/Jun/Sept/Dec. You’ve never going to be more than 3 months from an update, but at least you can avoid a busy month.
Ability to Defer Functionality
Although Oracle will deliver the functionality to all customers in the same updates (aside from the monthly staggering) customers will be able to leave some ‘switched off’ until they are ready to roll it out. They’ll be able to defer the deployment until their business is ready.
Those who’ve elected to be on monthly maintenance will be largely unaffected by this change (aside from the obvious removal of upgrades and the inclusion of enhancements in the monthly updates).
I attended a great webinar recently given by Chris Leone (Oracle, SVP Apps Development) on the Cloud Customer Connect site. Chris walked through some of the HCM Cloud UX changes coming in Release 13 and the updates in 2018.
First of all, if you’re not a member of Cloud Customer Connect, you should be. There’s some great content on there and regular webinars.
So, what did I learn from Chris?
During his introduction slides we obviously heard about Oracle’s commitment to embrace leading-edge technology, their desire to keep the UX fresh etc. One comment I really liked was:
Deliver a warm and approachable HCM tool that people will use
We’ve all used applications in the past that have been fussy over how steps are performed, or been told “you just need to do the process this way because that’s how the system works”. This is starting to change though and we’ve recently had a client pass-up on the chance of training as the system was intuitive enough for them to work out without assistance. “Warm and Approachable” is taking it a step further than just ‘intuitive’ so I look forward to seeing that in practice.
These are the enhancements that I noted during the webinar:
- All Self Service pages will be moving to a new mobile responsive layout over the next 12 months, making mobile use significantly easier
- Type-ahead in fields
- Better prompting/look-ups
- A new homepage
We’re going to get the choice between a new twist on the existing formats (shown on the left below) and a more contemporary version in a vertical layout (on the right):
The vertical layout is particularly interesting as it combines several of the areas that you’ll want to see into a single page (Quick Actions, Tasks, Infolets). This is the MSS view:
It has tabs at the top to switch between Employee and Manager actions (there could be other tabs here, for HR perhaps), quick actions on the left, and the applications on the right.
Some other really great functionality that Chris teased was dramatically simplified pages.
For some flows (e.g. promotion) you can select the areas that you wish to amend:
This means that the user isn’t shown sections that aren’t relevant.
Also, the areas of the screen are broken down into collapsing sections:
So when a user has finished a section and scrolls down the next area automatically expands. The demo was very slick.
The UX has taken a big jump forward over the last couple of years, however it’s continuing at the fast pace with some well-considered enhancements to keep making life better for the end-users.
The full 45 minute video can be found here (Cloud Customer Connect account required):
Every year, Mary Meeker – partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers – releases her ‘Internet Trends Report’. It is probably the most eagerly awaited slide deck of the year (alongside Stacey Harris’ HR Systems Survey and Research report – which if you haven’t yet filled it in, you can do so here). Mary’s Internet Trends report gives a facts and figures based summary of the current state of the marketplace, and predicts how that’ll change over the coming years. It’s lengthy, but always a treasure trove of information.
The slide deck can be found here, however I’m going to highlight a few items of interest and point out how they’re relevant in the world of Oracle.
Mobile vs Internet use
Both mobile and internet use are still on the rise, however the increase in mobile handset shipments is decelerating. Are we approaching saturation point with mobiles? There are 3.4Bn internet users – approx half of the World’s population – and this is increasing by 10% each year, with the number of mobile handsets shipped at just below 1.5Bn – with more than 80% of those Android.
What’s also intriguing is the number of hours spent each day using your mobile is now averaging 3.1 hours (up from 0.3 hours 8 years ago), however this isn’t coming at the expense of Desktops/Laptops (which averaged 2.2 hours last year and 8 years ago). So the amount of time we spend interacting with digital media has increased hugely in that time.
Oracle has improved the responsiveness of the HCM Cloud in recent versions, and this is – rightly – going to continue in future releases. It’s important that the desktop interface is still improved at the same rate, as the figures show that isn’t declining.
The report states that 20% of searches are now performed by voice command, rather than text input. In the age of Siri/Google Assistant/Alexa this should be no surprise, but it does illustrate that we’re on a path towards voice interfaces being more commonplace. The accuracy of systems understanding voice commands is also on the increase – it’s now around 95% (which is about the same as humans).
Clearly chatbots (whether interacted with via voice or by typing text) are the future for much of HR Self Service interactions.
Doormen = Foremen
We were tickled by the pictures of doormen in apartment blocks becoming more like foremen and needing a room to use as a warehouse for holding all the parcel deliveries that come in via the post for residents each day.
Lowe’s Augmented Reality app to provide in-store directions to goods on their shelves is very cool.
Augmented/Virtual Reality is going to be important in the field of learning. Most people learn better by ‘doing’, so a situation where trainees can perform a task in a virtual environment – free of consequences if they make mistakes while learning – is a useful tool. I’m not sure we’ll see AR/VR in HCM Cloud any time soon though.
Instant Gratification and Gaming
Millennials are growing up surrounded by gamification, and apps and games that give instant feedback by ‘levelling up’ quickly. Different games are preferred by the generations, but many of the mechanics that drive players to return are consistent across the games. We’ve all seen sites that rank your profile as XX% complete, but what is newer is the rise of services such as Twitch – where live games are streamed to interested viewers – which is considerably more popular amongst younger generations than older people. An example of this it the recent League of Legends World Championship received 43 million unique viewers.
Oracle Cloud Connect now highlights its top 10 users of the month, rewarding those who’ve put effort in to the platform. Instant feedback is also coming to the HCM Cloud, in the form of kudos now becoming real-time performance feedback, rather than the annual routine that we used to follow.
Developer / Designer Ratios
A short topic that caught my eye was the change in Designer vs Developer ratios over the last 6 years. Back then, companies such as Atlassian, IBM and LinkedIn reported ratios of 1:25, 1:72 and 1:11 respectively, with Developers far outnumbering Designers. The ratio has moved in significantly however, with companies now reporting a ratio of between 1:5 and 1:9.
Oracle’s Apps UX team have been at the forefront of designing the HCM Cloud user experience, and can be seen at most Oracle events evangelising the design paradigms that they’ve used in this process.
The Rise of Digital Healthcare
The number of companies that focus on personal health has grown very rapidly, but this growth isn’t just in the field of wearables, as one might expect. Companies offering health-related datasets to dramatically reduce the time needed for clinical trials (and hence speeding time-to-market), patient Electronic Health Records and tests for genetic disorders that you can take via the mail (e.g. 23andMe) are all areas of growth.
Oracle HCM Cloud has a whole module for this, My Wellness.