Monday, April 17, 2017

HCM Cloud R12 - 3 Cool Things

Just to give y'all a taste for HCM Cloud R12 as it rolls out, here are 3 new features I find really cool.

1.  Home Page with Quick Actions 



The coolness here comes from being able to easily initiate an action without requiring the user to have any knowledge of the application structure, navigation, or work area organization.  Simply find what you want to do and do it.  And, for the security geeks out there, access control is based on functional security for roles.

2.  Personalized Email Notifications



This is a feature folks have been requesting for some time:  personalizing email notifications.  You can apply your brand and preferred content as well as...wait for it...define custom templates for life cycle events.  And the scope of approval/rejections and requests for more information has been expanded for R12.

3.  UX Consistency Across Devices



For a long time, we've been working toward user experience ("UX") consistency across devices; the idea that the cloud is a platform that works the same way regardless of the device used for access.  We've nailed that concept in R12.  Look, feel, and work processes across devices are as consistent.  Your desktop, your laptop, your tablet, your phone...use what you want wherever you are.  The UX will remain the same.

So there you have it...3 cool things about R12.  You have others?  Tell us about them.  Find the comments.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Oracle HCM Cloud Extensibility - The Easiest Win

I've been doing quite a bit of work lately with Oracle HCM Cloud user experience extensibility...presenting, helping partners and customers, etc.  Seems like a hot subject of late, with lots of folks wanting to know more.  So let's get into it a bit.

Working in the Oracle HCM Cloud Center of Excellence, I see quite a few opportunities for wins that come up repeatedly.  You know what kind of win I mean: something that's easy to do and scores big points with your customer/boss/fellow users.

The one I see with almost every HCM Cloud implementation is actually pretty simple to deliver:  an organization wants to extend the user interface appearance and structure.  You'll hear requirements like the following:

  • Appearance:  We want the UI to reflect our brand and identity (which typically means show our logo and use our color scheme).
  • Structure:  We want the home page (aka springboard) to show actions and information in a structure relevant to the way we work.  The structure out of the box doesn't fit us.
  • Text:  We have our own terminology and we want that terminology in the UI.

So you'll hear about one or more of these types of requirements.  And they're important to that organization - sometimes they're deal breakers.  And the solutions are easy to deliver.  Most can be delivered and ready for review in 15 to 30 minutes.  Let's take each of these use cases individual and walk through how it works.

Appearance


As an administrator, I can define the logo, background image, icon style, and color scheme here.  Note that I can pull both the logo and the background image from a URL, which may eliminate the need to recreate the image altogether.  Even better, with the exception of the logo and image URLs, you can utilize drop down lists for your entire appearance design.


And yes, as a matter of fact, you can see the colors before you make your choices.


Easy peasy.  Responsive to the device you're using for access...including some nifty enhancements for your phone in R12, like this:



Structure


Editing the UI information and action presentation structure in HCM Cloud is pretty simple.  You're presented with a list of information and action choices.  Do you want it visible for all roles or a particular role?  Do you want it visible on the Welcome Springboard (aka the home page)?  In what order to you want the visible items to appear? 


By the way, you can also click on the Names to drill down make edits to lower-level pages.  You can also create new pages from here.  So you are the master of your structure.

Text


In all honesty, Text is so easy that there is no need for a dedicated administration page.  That Structure administration page just above?  Click on the Name and make your text edits.  Done.  Or drill down to the appropriate page and make your text edits.  Done.  Now you've included terminology specific to an organizational culture.   That's one change management issue you can cross off the list.  No fuss, no muss.  Done.

So, with a little bit of effort, you can move the UI from something like this:



... to something with a little more corporate and seasonal context like this:



A Few More Thoughts


First, because I know you're going to ask, the changes we've discussed here survive upgrades for the most part.  I've seen a few glitches regarding text changes, but they're easily fixed without much effort.

Second, I know this all appears to be pretty easy stuff.  But you'd be amazed how often I find myself helping customers and partners in tailoring their Appearance and/or Structure and/or Text.  So it seemed like a good idea to share some of this here.  So now you know.

Third, note that all the screen shots of changes I've made are deployed to a sandbox.  Best practice, folks...deploy to a sandbox, let the customer/end users review (and rest assured they'll change it a bit), and deploy to production after you obtain approval.

UI extensibility is the easiest win...small effort leading to big value for your users.  And this is about as easy as it gets.

As always, your comments are appreciated.  Let me know what you're thinking.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

It's A Matter Of Perspective

So I suppose that if I'm going to blow the trumpet and announce the resurrection of this blog, I'd better write something meaningful...

I'm in Northern California at Oracle HQ this week. It's always fun to observe what's happening here in Silicon Valley.  For example, I can see the tech market is still good...lots of employment ads on billboards between the San Jose and San Francisco airports.  And the highly-publicized drought is clearly broken:  the area is as green as I've ever seen it.

I will say that I've also seen some divergent behavior in response to the breaking of the drought.  On one hand, I see lots of recently-installed xeriscape landscaping.  But on the other hand, I also see a bunch of recently repaired lawn grass - with lawn sprinklers watering every day.  I guess whether you're adapting with new water-wise landscaping or salvaging your lawn depends on your perspective.  Are drought-like conditions the new norm or is the weather in Northern California returning to normal after a long anomaly of dry weather?  I suppose it's all a matter of your perspective.

I see the same type of divergent behavior among SaaS customers.

Some customers see SaaS as driving a new business norm.  They embrace the trade-off of increasing simplicity to lower operational costs with the reduction in flexibility through business process customization.  Those customers see that they get more value from SaaS by accepting less flexibility in customizing the way they do business.

Other customers seem to simply look at SaaS as the latest trend to arrive in the enterprise tech world.  They're willing to have a vendor host their technology platform, but still want the flexibility to customize the software in order to make it fit their existing business processes.

It's possible for either type of customer to get what they want.  I'll maintain that the former type gets more value from SaaS than the latter.  But, in the end, I suppose the choice of adapting to the new norm or attempting to salvage what you had before really depends on your perspective.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Welcome Back, My Friends!

Welcome back, my friends
To the show that never ends
We're so glad you could attend
Come inside! Come inside!
                     -- From Emerson, Lake and Palmer's Karn Evil 9

Yup, it's true.  We're breathing new life into an old blog with the resurrection of ORCLville.

When I closed down ORCLville last year, it was over concerns regarding conflicts of interest over my employment with Oracle while serving as an impartial source of information.  Admittedly, that conflict still exists.

I also stepped away because I'm no longer a big fan of long form text.  Terse messages and visual presentations are more my speed these days.

So why am I bringing ORCLville back?  Because there are so many stories going untold: stories that involve Oracle Cloud products and the delivery of the services that go with those products.  In one way or another, I witness many Cloud challenges and victories every day.  And this seems like the best way to share and discuss those experiences...which, in turn, does us all a bit of good as we continue on this Cloud journey.

So we're up and running again, effective immediately.  Some disclaimers to share so you'll all be away and so I can sleep at night:

1.  I'm an Oracle employee.   And I love my job.  So don't look for any criticism or sharing of information that might mess up my gig.
2.  I also own Oracle stock.  It's a key component of my long-term savings program, so I'd like to see it do well.  It's not likely you'll see much here that might cause the stock to sink long-term.
3.  Items 1 & 2 above notwithstanding, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own and no-one else's.  I'm also the final decision maker in terms of what we explore here - not Oracle, but me.
4.  I'm hoping we don't have a monologue, but a two-way conversation.  Your comments matter.  So comment early and often.

So we're back.   It's been tough being gone, so I'm really happy to be back again with the show that never ends!

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

All Good Things Must Come To An End

All good things must come to an end
           - Geoffrey Chaucer,  "Troilus and Criseyde", circa 1385

Time has proven repeatedly that Chaucer was right.  And, for this blog, the time has come to wrap it up and call it done.

When I decided to rejoin Oracle, I was well-aware of the risk that I might have to dial back or close down my professional presence on social media.  Oracle makes great effort to shape their messages, especially product-related messages, through all available channels...including social media.  And, for the most part, Oracle products are exactly what I've explored with my own social media accounts.

Over the eight months since I've rejoined Oracle, there have been times when the things I write here and on Twitter have "crossed wires" with Oracle's own messaging.  And it's now reached a point where it could distract from what we aiming to achieve as a team.  And we're talking about information related to Oracle's products and services.  Simply stated, as a member of the Oracle team, I adhere to the concept that Oracle has a right to control the messaging about Oracle's products and Oracle's services.

One more thing I'd like to clarify here in this last post:  there is nothing draconian working in the background here.  Nobody at Oracle has threatened my standing within the company if I fail to dial things back.  No slap on the wrist or anything like that.  Quite the opposite:  I'm a member of a team attempting to accomplish significant things, and my commentary on Oracle-related products and services is heading towards becoming a distraction...possibly even a detriment...to that effort.  So don't go there.  This is my decision and mine alone.

Now don't get the idea that I'm done blogging.  I still have some serious passion for user experience, business metrics, SaaS and smart approaches to software design & development.  So it's highly likely that you'll see me start something up on one or more of those subject.  It just won't have an Oracle-related context.  So I'm not done.  I'm just done with this.

So this is it for ORCLville.  This is also it for Oracle-related commentary on my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.  It's been both an educational and a fun ride for me.  Hope y'all got something out of it too.  Keep an eye out on my Twitter account (fetter) - you'll see new things from me in the near future.

UPDATE:  Be sure to check out my new, technology-agnostic blog The Enterprise Software Puzzle!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Customer Service Thinking

My definition of good customer service is pretty simple:  deliver what you promise.  Period.  You can over-deliver and still make me happy.  But other than that, it's pretty simple.  Tell me what you promise you'll do.  If I sign up for the service, then delivery that service:  on-time, at the price you promised, and make it as easy for me as you promised.  That's it.

Earlier this week, I encountered back-to-back customer service failures with my preferred airline.  The first fail took place when winter weather struck on the runway...waited in the plane on the runway for two hours because the airline failed to have the wing de-icers ready to go.  The second failure occurred when the plane failed a brake inspection prior to boarding; lost two hours and rebooked a later flight.

In both cases, the airline did quite well in providing details for the cause of the delays and expressed profound apologies.  But here is a tip for the airline:  that is not customer service.  You blew it when you failed to deliver your service on-time at the price you promised.  Providing details and status is about mitigating the damages from your failure to provide customer service...it's not good customer service.  In fact, the line defining a customer service failure has already been crossed.

One more customer experience failure this week; I went to my favorite hardware store to shop for a few tools and place a larger order for some building materials (more house remodeling).  The tool shopping went well, but it took two hours to place the order for materials.  The cause of the delay?  Not one of the five service representatives knew how to enter the order into the store's order entry system.  An utter failure of customer service due to a lack of effective training for the team that works with customers.

Now you may be thinking that I've just had a crummy week and I'm using this forum to vent.  On the contrary, it was a good week...because this experience got me to thinking.

You see, Software-as-a-Service is not just about software hosted on a public cloud.  It's about delivering a service.  Telling customers what you promise to do.  Then delivering on that promise.  Including provisioning, implementing, and support...all the activities and exchanges that go into the "Service".

We see too many service fails in the SaaS world.  All the time.  Every day.  Regardless of software vendor.  The industry is still working through the transition from thinking about providing software applications to providing a service...a much, much wider scope of responsibility to our customers.  We need to up the standard - quickly!

Thoughts?  Find the comments.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Tools vs Products

I have a garage full of neat tools.  Drill press, miter saw, band saw, table saw, power sander, Dremel, several Milwaukee power drills and portable hand saws, gauges, clamps, vise grips...yeah, the works. But I've learned something over the years; other than other people with a shared interest in nifty tools, nobody cares about the tools I have.  What they care about is the speed, quality and cost involved in making things with those tools.  I can own the niftiest hammer on the face of the planet, but few people will care; they care about the house I build, regardless of the coolness of the hammer.

This concept is not limited to traditional shop and construction tools.  Pull out your smartphone.  Take a look at the apps.  Nobody cares about what tools were used to build the app if it misses the mark on quality, speed, ease of use, or cost.

The same holds true for SaaS applications.  Customers don't care about the underlying platform...nor should they, when the idea is to make all that complexity transparent to them.  Customers care about care about speed, ease of implementation and use, quality (including reliability, depth of features and security), how well the application will perform their business process, and the information the application will provide about those executed transactions.

So, to put it bluntly, SaaS is not about the platform nor the development tools.  It's about ease of use, quality, and cost.  Let's stop talking about the technology and start talking about the things that matter.