Alliance '18 Wrap Up

By Presence of IT's Chamanthi Weerasinghe

I had the good fortune of attending Alliance’18 Conference in Salt Lake City recently. Presence of IT has been sponsoring this great event for 13 continuous years and I have been personally involved with Alliance and Alliance Down Under for nearly a decade.

As usual, I went to a number of sessions and networking events including the Leadership Connection, President’s Reception, Client case studies, Strategy and Road-map sessions across PeopleSoft and Oracle Cloud. I also listened to a number of industry and technology leaders such as Jane Broad, Nicole Engelbert, Rebekah Jackson and Ernst La Haye to name but a few. As always, Alliance is a great event to network with 1000s of customers from the Higher Education and the Public Sector. This year, I had the pleasure of spending some time with Kerry Foster, President of the Public Sector Group and Nancy Ruoff, VP of HRMS/ HCM comparing notes on Fluid deployments.

For me, it was an incredibly proud moment when at the Opening Night Event, Presence of IT was one of the 7 partners (out of nearly 80+) to receive a Partner of the Year Honorable Mention. My heartfelt thanks to our loyal customers who nominated and recognized the contributions that we have made to their organizations’ Oracle journey.

Top takeaways from the conference:

  • The Higher Education sector “is transforming from ‘follower’ to ‘leader’ in adopting “new technologies” such as Elastic Search, Cloud hosting, Infrastructure automation, Fluid user interface. Such continuous and gradual adoption of technology and functionality aimed at negating large capex upgrades.
  • Oracle is 100% committed to the Cloud and that means using the Cloud in a variety of ways that best suit the customer. Cloud does not automatically mean SaaS Applications. It covers everything from on premise applications on the Oracle Cloud Hosting (IaaS), Integration / Development via the Oracle Platform Solutions (PaaS) and Oracle Cloud Applications (SaaS).
  • In the era of Cloud, customers should think about requirements falling into one of two categories:
    • Commodity where you take the delivered functionality out of the box and there is no solid business case to vary e.g. Payroll
    • Differentiation where something is a source of strategic or competitive advantage and it really does matter to the institution e.g. Academic Advisement.  This approach will standardize your business processes and enable feature updates quicker and cost effectively. Perhaps, this line of thinking can be brought into System Design Principles and Best Practices that a project could embrace be it a new implementation or an upgrade?
  • Line of Business must lead the change and transformation as opposed to the IT organization. The business should continuously assess the digital enablement opportunities to gain competitive advantage.
  • Leave your on premise ERP system as it is, especially when the organization’s mind set hasn’t changed to working in the Cloud or views on digital enablement of business processes are lagging and budgets are shrinking. Instead, focus on digitally modified businesses where you augment physical with digital offerings and share content across the organization via an enterprise wide integration platform.
  • According to a recent Forrester survey, roughly “85% of customer interactions within an enterprise will be with software robots in five years’ time”. Sure enough many of my conversations with Oracle PeopleSoft customers revolved around an effort to drive process efficiencies, labor cost reduction, and deliver better customer / employee experiences via the introduction of AI, machine learning, and RPA as core elements of their digital transformation strategy. Most sought after areas in HR for AI and chatbot enablement included benefits enrollment, training, recruitment, on-boarding and HR policy interpretation.
  • For those who are keen to know the upcoming PeopleSoft product changes:
    • PT8.57 will be accessible for those customers who run PeopleSoft in the Oracle Cloud a few months earlier than on-premise or a customer who runs PeopleSoft on other Clouds.
    • AI, Chatbots, Machine Learning, BlockChain and Natural Language Processing are all concepts Oracle and PeopleSoft are reviewing from a product strategy perspective.
    • Acknowledgment Framework / eSignatures – New capability, particularly in Benefits, to record that a person has agreed to a set of conditions.
    • Online data privacy – Data masking of personal data to comply with GDPR.
    • Fluid Workforce Administration – Personal, Position and Job Data 😊 This will enable the addition of sub-pages via configuration and dramatically reduce the need for customization.
    • Activity Guide Composer – Wizard based tool for setting up activity guides which includes embedded videos, decision support etc. Very useful tool!
    • Fluid Drop Zone – Allows you to create “a zone” in a Fluid page where you can drop another fluid subpage
    • NA Payroll – Component lockout feature.

The biggest take away from the product feature sessions is the strong direction that Oracle has taken to increasingly configure and personalize via tools and frameworks and the need for customization to lessen more and more.  Very SaaS like I thought, but still with the benefit of the free PeopleTools layer to enable customization as and when required.

When I attended Alliance’16 and ’17 and there was very little discussion about digitally modified businesses; lifelong relationship with the student that lasts beyond the length of a degree program; ‘leave your PeopleSoft ERP system as is’ and chatbots. Students are demanding more from their institutions than ever before. Engaging students with the service and information they demand cannot be accomplished with one-off processes and systems alone be it via on premise or the Cloud and hence why a well thought through integration model is critical. It’s a complex business operating model. For me, it was refreshing to see a pragmatic point of view from the sector where savvy administrators are seeking to make their institutions more operationally efficient with a business-minded approach to higher education management.

I cannot end without commenting about the huge interest and participation numbers that we had in the sessions that we presented. There is a definite interest by the Higher Education institutions to take up the new rich Oracle PeopleSoft functionalities.

Fluid Workflow Processes presented by Logesh Balasubramaniam on Monday at 0830 gathered a very eager audience of 80+. There was a huge appetite for the slide decks / documentation and mentoring in the use of this highly flexible / configurable tool for a variety of use cases.

The two Guided Self Service sessions that Vishal Mehta lead and co-presented was so compelling that many people were thinking and discussing with us that Guided Self Service in PeopleSoft HCM was enabling ground breaking transformations that was truly modernizing the HR organization.

My own session on Reducing Payroll Testing Effort with the PeopleSoft Payroll Verification bolt-on generated many discussions around time savings associated with comparison of pay data between PeopleSoft instances and between PeopleSoft and other legacy applications with Payroll Parallel Compares and Conversion testing. A must-have tool to bed down regular selective adoption.

Thanks @HEUG for an outstanding Alliance’18 conference. Definitely a great place to connect, share ideas, network with peers and hear about the industry challenges and opportunities upon us.

Chamanthi Weerasinghe 

Presence of IT, PeopleSoft HCM Lead

This article orginally appeared on Chamanthi's Insights.