Towards the tail end of last year the release of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud HCM Suites for 1,000+ Employee Enterprises caused a lot of excitement. For a number of years Oracle had been positioned behind Workday by Gartner in their Magic Quadrant graph. In 2018 they were approximately level, and then in 2019 – for the first time – Gartner positioned Oracle HCM Cloud as ahead (in that it was the furthest up and to the right on the Quadrant).
This was obviously celebrated by much delighted posting on LinkedIn and Twitter with screenshots of the Magic Quadrant graph itself, and with good reason as it’s a positive message:
With all the delight at now being ‘ahead’ on the quadrant graph itself, I feel that some of the other messages in the narrative of Gartner’s report were missed (and – although there are naysayers about its rankings – it is a very comprehensive report).
The full report is well worth a read, however I’m going to pull out a few of Gartner’s comments that I think are the highlights:
Having closed all major gaps in product breadth, Oracle has more recently focused on innovation in UX, enhancing newer modules, as well as deepening support of hourly workforces. … The product is well suited to MNCs that want a global SOR for core HR and talent processes. During the past few years, Oracle has exhibited a sustained commitment to expanding and deepening its HCM applications.
Oracle HCM Cloud’s overall customer reference satisfaction with application functionality is well above average for this Magic Quadrant.
Oracle is one of only two vendors included in this research offering feature-rich platform as a service (PaaS) capabilities. Oracle scored well above average for mobile support, incorporation of emerging advanced technologies and integration of HCM suite with other applications.
Oracle has demonstrated vision and innovation by adding an Experience Design Studio, as well as expanding the use of digital assistants, mobile responsive design and alternative UX.
Here, Gartner commented on configuration limitations (and mentions that Experience Design Studio will aide here, but at the time was not fully rolled out). They also mentioned that reference customers are harder to locate outside of North America, UK, India and APAC.
In summary, it looks like Oracle was adjudged to be in a great position. There were plenty of strong positives and they weren’t called out for any cautions that are as glaring as the competition:
- SAP – “challenges associated with disparate acquired architectures, such as complex implementations, release absorption and reporting”
- Workday – “has application functionality gaps relative to its competitors” and “customer satisfaction with the value of the product for the money spent is well below average”
It feels a little like commenting on a school pupil’s report card, but Oracle HCM Cloud has made some large strides forward during the year and this progression is reflected in the results attained.
In the last week I’ve discovered two features of HCM Cloud security that I’d not encountered before – one is a bit of a pain, at least until you know how to work around it, and the other could be pretty useful but it’s tucked away in a counter-intuitive place.
Here’s the detail:
The Bad – Expression Language not Resolving User Roles
We encountered a situation where the visibility of a springboard tile was being controlled by a piece of Expression Language, however it wasn’t working like it should – the user had the role required but the tile was not displayed.
The EL was something like this:
and we’d performed the following checks:
- Double checked I’ve assigned the role to the user
- Made sure we’d used the Job role in the EL
- Run the security jobs (Retrieve LDAP, Import User and Data, Send LDAP)
- Regenerated the data role
- Logged out and cleared the browser cache
however the tile was still not displaying.
After a bit of research I was grateful to find this post on Cloud Customer Connect by Ashish Harbhajanka. It explains that if the pillar portion of the URL displays a different value to the type of Job Role you’ve defined, it may fail to resolve it. This is what was happening in our situation, the URL contained ‘fscmUI’ e.g.
however our role was an HCM Job role, and thus the EL was failing to resolve it correctly.
The solution – which is also documented in DocID 2444823.1 on MOS – is to amend the URL or to add a Common Duty Role.
The Good – Simulate User
Most people know with the ‘Security Console – Roles tab’ you can simulate the Navigator based on the permissions granted by an individual role. This isn’t particularly helpful if a user has many roles however – how do you find out which roles are granting access to a tile that you’re trying to hide? You’d have to go through each role in turn.
Within the ‘Security Console – Users tab’ you can call up all the roles a user has, but you’re not able simulate the Navigator so that doesn’t help either.
The trick is to go back in to the Roles tab and search for a User – which is completely counter-intuitive – but if you change the default selections of the checkboxes the search works. Then you can simulate the entire navigator for a user across all roles.
Here’s a 30 second walkthrough:
Every implementation team will have a mini arsenal of reports and dashboards they use to make common tasks a little less routine. Many will be variations on the same theme, however others will vary. I thought I’d share the one I use the most.
Security Console allows you to compare the contents of two roles with a number of filters. It does not, however, allow you to compare two users. I often find myself in a situation where one user can see a tile or access some data that another cannot. How do you quickly troubleshoot this? Look at one user in Security Console, screenshot their roles, then look at the other user and spot the difference? That’s not particularly effective.
Our solution – and there may be others – is a quick dashboard. At the top are two prompts, one for each user that you are comparing. When you hit ‘Apply’ three columns refresh –
- Roles only the first user has
- Roles on the second user has
- Roles both users have
It allows you to see the differences in seconds, and you can copy/paste the results straight off the screen or download to Excel.
If you make it easily available from the Springboard then accessing it is super-easy:
The sharp eyed may notice that these are BIP reports and wonder why I’m not using the new Security Subject Area in OTBI. The reason is that I wanted Role Name, not Role Code. The former is harder to get from OTBI.
During a testing phase on one of our current clients we encountered an issue where some HCM Cloud pages weren’t displaying correctly to users who used the Internet Explorer browser.
This presented us with a problem, as Microsoft no longer really support IE11 (recommending Edge instead) and some users weren’t even on the latest release, having versions as far back as IE6 – which has been outdated for at least 15 years. With it not being supported by MS it’s not fair to expect Oracle to fix the issue. We cannot force all users away from IE as although the company could mandate a more modern default browser via AD group policy we cannot control what users choose to have on their personal laptops.
So it was decided that we would still allow users with IE11 and prior versions to access HCM Cloud, but to place a warning on the homepage to inform them that they’d get a better experience on a more modern browser. We obviously don’t want to trouble users of other browsers with this message however.
Identifying Browsers / Duck-Typing?
Displaying a warning for only Internet Explorer users
Now we can identify IE users, we need to display a message to them.
First I decided where the warning would look best, deciding on just below the welcome greeting. I copied the name of this div for later use.
Within a Sandbox I used Page Composer to edit the springboard. I added an HTML Markup object and named it ‘IE11 Warning’.
The End Result:
It works a treat, displaying for IE users and not for anyone using other browsers.
We held our annual Oracle Apps day in London earlier this month so I thought I’d share a little about the event for those that couldn’t make it.
The acquisition by Version 1 has allowed us to expand our traditional annual Cedar event significantly, to the point where we have 7 concurrent streams of content and around 250 customer attendees.
There have been a couple of recaps of the event from a general perspective, however this one focuses on the HCM Cloud stream.
The day kicked off with a welcome from Paddy Meany, Version 1’s Practice Operations Director. This was the point we realised it was a full event as the Version 1/Cedar and Oracle attendees were ushered into a separate room to watch the welcome via a TV link as the main room was so full of attendees.
OpenWorld Announcements: Roadmap & Strategy – Tracy Martin
The first session in the HCM Cloud stream was from Tracy Martin – VP of HCM Cloud Strategy.
Tracy highlighted the themes from OpenWorld around the innovation that Oracle continues to bring to HCM Cloud across all fronts, including areas such as Chatbots, Machine Learning, AI, Blockchain, User Experience or further depth and breadth within HR functionality.
Oracle Recruiting & Learning Clouds
Next up were Tom Stewart and Rickesh Patel who demoed some highlights of the Learning and Recruiting Cloud products and how they fit in with a company’s Talent Management strategy.
Experience Design Studio & Conversational UI
Following straight on, Rickesh then showed us the functionality that is imminent in upcoming releases for Experience Design Studio and then spoke about the Digital Assistant capabilities that can be enabled within HCM Cloud.
What has Star Trek Taught us About the Cloud & Other Universes?
Leading up to lunch we had probably the most intriguing session of the day as our own Graham Varley shared 5 lessons for Cloud implementation success, by drawing parallels from Star Trek episodes.
Cloud Deployments – What Do the “Great Ones” Do?
Straight after lunch Tracy Martin took the stage again to share some key characteristics of the most successful Cloud deployments and also some of the bear traps to avoid.
Reducing Costs in HR Service Delivery
Jules Peters and Divya Singh ran a session on how HCM Cloud can support an organisation’s HR transformation program – Jules rarely stops moving so apologies for the poor photo.
Managing the Fusion Update Cycle
I had the final session of the day and shared some strategies for getting the maximum value from the Quarterly Releases while keeping the effort for each update to a minimum.
Finally, all the attendees came back together for a social.
It was a great day, and I’m sure it’ll be even bigger next year.
The latest versions of Oracle HCM Cloud look gorgeous and you can create some great first impressions with a well put together theme:
This is great when you need to create an attractive conference slide to catch attention, however when it comes to real-world branding there are complications such as how to provide a user experience that suits everyone in the company – particularly those with less than 20:20 vision.
Nice touches like jaw-dropping photo backgrounds and gradient shading tend to get dropped in favour of making a higher-contrast landing page that’s accessible to all.
It doesn’t have to be like this however as you can use the logon URL to change the theme on a per-session basis. This means that you can create the look that you want for the users who want the ‘fully branded’ look-and-feel and provide an alternative logon URL to provide a higher-contrast theme to the same pod for those that prefer a clearer look.
Over the last 6 weeks the project that I’ve been working on for the last year – University of Birmingham – has gone live with their New Core programme.
New Core comprises a number of moving parts, but front-and-centre of it all is Oracle HCM Cloud and Oracle ERP Cloud. The reason I say ‘properly live’ is this isn’t one of those posts where someone says “we’re live” but it’s really only a part of the employee population or a subset of the modules … this is a big bang deployment of both pillars across the entire University.
The important points for me were:
- It’s Oracle’s largest Higher Education Fusion implementation in Western Europe
- UoB has 17,500 employees and 60,000 customers
- Just on the HR side, it’s:
- Core HR
- Time & Labour
The full announcement can be found here.
Oracle posted some storming Q4 results last week, beating both Safra Catz’s own guidance and analyst expectations. Total Quarterly Revenues were $11.1 billion, up 1% in USD and up 4% in constant currency compared to Q4 last year.
Oracle CEO, Safra Catz said “Our high-margin Fusion and NetSuite cloud applications businesses are growing rapidly, while we downsize our low-margin legacy hardware business. The net result of this shift .. to cloud applications was a Q4 non-GAAP operating margin of 47%, the highest we’ve seen in five years.”
That all sounds very healthy.
Oracle CEO, Mark Hurd continued with “Our Fusion ERP and HCM cloud applications suite revenues grew 32% in FY19.”
Again, this sounds positive. Others, such as Diginomica, highlight the mentions of recent wins from competitors, including Diebold Nixdorf (from SAP), Helmerich & Payne (from Epicor), Tiffany and Experian (from SAP/Microsoft).
This is also a very good sign. This is where most of the reported coverage finished however. There was a hidden gem at the bottom of Oracle’s press release that I haven’t seen highlighted in many reports. Mark Hurd also said:
These strong results extend Oracle’s already commanding lead in worldwide Cloud ERP. Our cloud applications businesses are growing faster than our competitors. That said, let me call your attention to the following approved statement from industry analyst IDC:
Per IDC’s latest annual market share results, Oracle gained the most market share globally out of all Enterprise Applications SaaS vendors three years running—in CY16, CY17 and CY18.
Very interesting indeed …
Last month I started looking at in-app guides and Fusion – with the aim of finding the best service to increase user adoption and decrease the need for training.
The first that I’ve managed to see working is Oracle Guided Learning. It’s a product that they’ve acquired (Iridize was one of the market leaders pre September 2018’s acquisition) and I’ve been lucky enough to speak to one of the key people from Iridize who is now forging ahead within Oracle. I’ve also managed to speak to some of the people within Oracle University – as Oracle Guided Learning (OGL from now on) is a service that is now part of Oracle University. Here’s a taste of what I’ve learnt:
How does it look?
It looks good.
Here’s an intro popup upon logon:
This can either appear every time or be gone for good once dismissed. This welcome can be multi-step and contain content such as video:
The main selling point is the interactive guides that step the user through key tasks however. These are triggered from the drawer on the right-hand side:
The users can select which process they want to be guided through, thus:
There are some other nice bells-and-whistles, such as the ability to add information beacons and helpful messages beside certain fields:
All considered, a very slick offering.
How is it implemented?
What could be important is that OU look after the maintenance for you, so that if a field changes they will perform the changes to ensure it still works. And as they’re part of Oracle they get the releases early so will make the changes in good time.
How is it sold?
It’s sold as a Cloud service product – so you’d subscribe to it in the same way you would your Cloud apps – and the cost is a percentage based off of your Fusion contract value.
Want to know more?
If you’d like to know more please do get in touch.
I spent two days last week with a couple of colleagues in Oracle’s city office looking at Chatbots – or ODA (Oracle Digital Assistants) to give them their correct name. It was a really useful workshop.
I had been under the misapprehension that chatbots were earlier on the hype cycle than they actually are. Yes, a chat interface will replace most self-service UIs, but that’s 3-5 years off, right? Maybe not.
The growth of messaging apps over the last few years has been incredible. With 6 of the top 10 downloaded apps on the App Store being messaging apps and the spread of chat beyond just the workplace to groups of friends and families – spanning all generations – it’s a technology that almost everyone is comfortable with.
The workshop started with some case studies of companies who already have chatbots live. Examples included:
- The State of Geneva chatbot allowing citizens to access election results
- Hermes chatbot allowing users to track parcels
- Danish Technical University helpdesk chatbot provides FAQs, helpdesk tickets and passwords resets, plus a finance chatbot for expenses, procurement and invoices (integrated with EBS)
- Pernod Ricard chatbot integrated with JD Edwards
- Engie (2nd biggest utility company in the World) has a chatbot for Taleo to speed up the hiring process
- plus about 8-10 more covering government, gaming, sports, brewing etc
So it’s pretty clear that there are many examples of chatbots live, but were they working? It seems like the answer was ‘yes’ there also. Some of the examples above also gave success metrics. The Hermes chatbot has achieved a 50% deflection of customer enquiries away from service agents. They receive 17,000 calls a day and even when a chatbot cannot completely resolve the issue and needs to pass on to a service agent the human interaction time is reduced as the chatbot has collected much of the information needed. The payback time for the chatbot was an astonishing 3 days.
So, after convincing us of the viability of chatbots in the wild already, how do we go about creating them? I’ll address that in part 2 of this post.
Photo credit: Grant Ronald