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.
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.
- Select Copy Picture:
- On the resulting dialog leave the top radio button selected as ‘for screen’
- 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’
- 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.
- Click OK.
- 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.
- 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:
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 …
The Windows 10 upgrade was released late last week, and with it came a new web browser – Microsoft Edge. Formerly codenamed Project Spartan, Edge is the default web browser in Windows 10. Internet Explorer 11 is also included with the new OS, but is basically unchanged from the version of IE11 found in Windows 7 and 8.1.
Although it might be a while until Windows 10 gains widespread enterprise adoption, it’ll likely have reasonably swift uptake in the home so Edge will start becoming an important browser for cloud-based systems that are designed to be used outside of the enterprise within 6 months or so.
First Impressions of Edge
It’s actually pretty nice. It’s clean, unobtrusive (unlike those Firefox skins) and snappy to use. It doesn’t work for all websites however – some sites give the following:
This is controlled by a ‘blacklist’ of sites however, so there’s no need to worry about your Fusion or Taleo implementations giving this message.
Edge and Taleo
So, does it work with Taleo? The answer is Yes, it certainly seems to. I’ve spent a fair amount of time noodling through some ‘difficult’ pages and they look OK. I compared with Cedar’s internal Taleo 14A (TEE) environment and it looks like it renders everything well. I checked configurations pages, the Recruiting Center (which loads, even with the Adobe Flex content) and even a career section:
Edge and Fusion
So, does it work with Fusion? Mostly, yes. The first time I tried to log on it stalled on the sign-on page, but when I refreshed it logged straight in. I couldn’t get it to do it again, so maybe it was just a one-off glitch.
The rest seemed to perform well.
We’ve all been told that presentations and demos will be better received if we weave a story around our topic and we take the audience on a journey with us.
Taking this concept a stage further is Storyboarding. Instead of using PowerPoint as the visual aid to your story, you start with a blank dry-wipe whiteboard and build up the big picture via a series of interconnected images as you move through your session.
Last week Oracle hosted a ‘Storyboarding workshop’ for Oracle HCM Cloud partners. We were obviously present and heard about the new improvements coming in HCM Cloud Release 10, but also some first-hand accounts from Oracle staff about how they’d used Whiteboard selling with customers successfully.
My first concern was that I’m no Picasso when I’m fully concentrating, so what my drawing would be like when trying to multitask and talk at the same time I dreaded to think. However, Oracle’s deck showed that the level of artistry necessary is something that pretty much anyone could achieve:
Then we adjourned to side-rooms and each partner present began to create their own story and accompanying picture. The end result wasn’t a polished and slick spiel as we only had a couple of hours to throw it together, and it’s a little cheesy/corny, however – for your amusement – here’s our masterpiece:
The story that we told alongside it was of a client (draw house/office in the Uk with Union Jack post-it) needing to expand. In this case, the growth was to France and beyond (draw Eiffel Tower and Tricolour – unwittingly used upside-down here!). The client has an on-premise system that is large and slow (draw ferry).
The client has a number of options to adapt their business systems for the required level of growth. They can:
a) Customise and add bolt-ons to their existing system. Although this might improve things slightly (draw tug to pull ferry along) you’re still left with most of the problems that you had before. Using the ferry analogy, it’s slow, you’ve got no internet access as you go so you aren’t productive and there is a limit to your growth as the ferry has a finite range.
b) Choose a competitor product (draw EuroStar). This is analogous to the EuroStar in that it is an upgrade to the ferry as it is faster and you may have internet access for some of the trip. Like a competitor’s product however, you’re still limiting your growth (the EuroStar only goes to some cities) and your visibility of the big picture of your business suffers when you’re in a tunnel.
c) Choose the Oracle HCM Cloud (draw cloud and plane). This is obviously analogous to flying which is the quickest route (although technically I guess this depends upon where you start!). It also unleashes your company’s growth in a number of ways (adding post-its as we discuss them):
Just as planes fly to many more destinations than ferries or the EuroStar, the HCM Cloud has more numerous and deeper translations than competitors.
In the same way that flying gives a greater choice of timetables and destinations, Oracle gives a lot more flexibility over upgrade timetables than competitors.
When you’re flying you have internet access so you can check out the Oracle Social Network which enables you to proactively see whether there are any striking workers at the ports (draw burning blockade in front of ferry), or you could use Oracle TAP to review CVs of the latest batch of job applicants and catch up with the performance reviews of your team. If you take other modules from the Oracle Cloud you could even file an expense claim for that beer you had in the departure lounge.
In the same way that airlines decorated their planes in country colours for the London 2012 Olympics, the HCM Cloud can be branded to your company’s corporate colour schemes.
When you’re on a ferry you’re disconnected. When you’re in the EuroTunnel you’re in the dark. When you’re in the air you get a great high-level view of what’s going on.
We’ve all heard the statistic that flying is the safest mode of travel. The Oracle HCM Cloud uses Oracle’s Red Stack from top-to-bottom, and 19/20 of the top Cloud companies also use Oracle’s software.
The final part of the pitch was ‘why Cedar’. In this analogy Cedar are your friendly pilot. We take you on the journey, reassuringly allaying any fears at take-off, steering around any turbulence and providing a smooth landing.
It’s hilariously-cheesy, we know. In our defence, it was hastily put together and it needs a lot of finesse before we ever consider using it outside the safe environment of the Oracle offices. It was however, a great learning experience and a fun afternoon.
Yesterday marked the first anniversary of my start date at Cedar. The year has passed really quickly and – although during the ‘heat of the moment’ it may seem like you’re only making small steps – when you take the time to step back and reflect you can see genuine progress has been made.
I’m not in any way pretending or implying that all of these are as a result of my presence – that would be doing a real disservice to the great people at Cedar – however these are areas that I’ve enjoyed contributing to, in some shape or form.
Cedar is now Specialised (Oracle accredited, in other words) to implement both Fusion and Taleo after passing a series of exams and client success criteria.
We’ve hired some genuinely game-changing staff to take our Oracle Cloud practice forwards (and some high-quality additions to the PeopleSoft side too). We’ve also progressed a good amount of our existing PeopleSoft consultants through the Fusion and Taleo courses, giving us a much more flexible resourcing pool.
We’ve presented at multiple UKOUG events, Cedar’s own ‘Oracle Cloud and PeopleSoft Day’ and have much more lined up to give (including OpenWorld if we’re selected). We view sharing with the community as a vital part of our place in the Oracle ecosystem. The Fusion/Taleo and PeopleSoft newsletters have gone from strength to strength – the Fusion/Taleo subscriber base has more than tripled, and the PeopleSoft list has grown from 650 to more than 1,000.
We’ve also launched our much-improved website, with lots of content and case studies.
We came away from the UKOUG Partner of the Year awards with a Gold and a Silver, in PeopleSoft and Taleo respectively, which we were very pleased with as it’s voted for by end-users.
For obvious reasons I can’t mention details here, but we’ve had some very satisfying gains in the last 12 months and the pipeline currently looks very strong for further Fusion and Taleo work.
We’ve also got a handful of really great initiatives coming up that we think will be very well received in the market.
We now have much stronger links with Oracle. On the PeopleSoft side, we have a great many good links at all levels, and we’ve a much better understanding of the ever-shifting landscape on the Oracle Cloud side.
In addition to the hard work, we’ve also had some fun along the way. From cocktail nights, to team days in the sun, to exploring our new office and the surroundings, all while getting to know a new group of colleagues has been a real privilege. We’re all off to Paris for our Summer Team day later this week where I’m sure the laughter will continue.
I’m looking forward to a second great year.