The annual Oracle HR User Group (OHUG) is the biggest conference dedicated to Oracle’s expanding HR Suite of products which now includes (deep breath) PeopleSoft, Oracle E-Business Suite, Taleo (now called Oracle Talent Acquisition), Cloud HCM and JD Edwards. I guess Netsuite might be in there now too but it was too early for that product to get a look in at the conference this year.
The conference is not run by Oracle but by a board of volunteers and targeted at end users rather than executives and buyers. It’s much more down to earth and ‘real world’ than Oracle’s own conferences such as Oracle Openworld and Oracle HCM World, which have a sales-y feel about them.
This year’s conference was held in Orlando and is our annual reference point for all things Oracle HR. It’s a great place to hear about Oracle’s future Roadmap as well as listening to how end users are feeling about their Oracle platform of choice right now.
Little Fluffy Clouds
The early keynotes were, predictably, focused on Oracle Cloud HCM but in a more muted fashion than you might expect. We were treated to pragmatic Roadmaps from Product Development rather than chest beating sales projections and growth from execs like Mark Hurd.
Over the past few years, it’s been frustrating to see Oracle focusing on what I call ‘fluffy apps’. Stuff like Social Reputation Management, Gamification and Work Life Alignment. Nothing wrong with all of this but why not get your Core HR system in order before you try the sexy bolt ons?
Fact is, not many customers are beating down doors to get ‘Employee Competitions’ in front of their workers. Most customers still can’t run a headcount report and, shockingly, our recent analysis shows that most customers don’t even have 50% adoption for basic Self Service.
So, it was refreshing to finally see a sensible, if unglamorous, Cloud HCM Roadmap for the next couple of years. Gasp at the introduction of position hierarchies and grade step progression. Calm your beating heart when you hear about a focus on vertical solutions and increased localization.
Sexy? No. Essential? Yes. These are missing features that stop a conversation from starting with a client you’re looking to move from on-premise Peoplesoft / EBS systems into Cloud HCM. It was good to see Oracle realising this and prioritising effectively.
Another enticing feature was a new integrated Helpdesk product. PeopleSoft have had this for years and it’s now coming to Cloud HCM but with a few more bells and whistles. In parallel to this, Oracle is investing in tech like chatbots and adaptive intelligence. If that makes your eyes grey over, sit up – it’s important. If Google is able to answer the question “What is the temperature in Las Vegas?” then why can’t my HR system answer “What is my vacation balance?” or “When will I next get paid?” This tech is still in its infancy but the next wave of solutions designed to make HR systems even easier to use seems sure to center upon these emerging trends.
All in all, Oracle presented a practical and realistic roadmap. Still, they couldn’t resist throwing in another fluffy app – in the pipeline is a product that analyses the emails workers send and who they send them to, their social connections and their social feeds (like Tweets and LinkedIn posts) and then tries to aggregate all this to work out who your influencers are within your workforce.
EBS and PeopleSoft still exist!
The majority of users we spoke to ran Core HR on PeopleSoft or E-Business Suite. The only customers that didn’t run either of these were Taleo users.
At Applaud we focus on Oracle E-Business Suite and for that product line, the key takeaways for me were:
- There are lots and lots of EBS customers out there who aren’t ripping and replacing Core HR + Payroll to go to Cloud HCM
- There are lots and lots of EBS customers running Taleo
- There are quite a few customers running Cloud HCM Talent alongside on premise EBS Core / Payroll / Benefits but people don’t seem as interested in Talent Management any more
- Oracle will be supporting Oracle E-Business Suite (and, by association, PeopleSoft) into the deep 2020s and almost certainly into the 2030s.
On that last point, Oracle will say that’s no news – Apps Unlimited has always been out there as a policy. Oracle’s latest EBS release is 12.2 (equivalent to 9.2 on the PeopleSoft side). That is currently officially supported until 2023. In the world of ERP and 2 year programs, that’s not too far away.
So it was nice to get verbal confirmation from EBS Head Honcho Cliff Godwin that release 12.3 will go on General Availability in late 2019 / early 2020. If that is the case, the standard Oracle contract puts the support date out to 2027/28 (Oracle contractually supports major releases for a minimum of 7 years). It’s likely to go farther than that – one enormous organization we spoke to is currently implementing EBS Payroll with a 2021 go-live date. Try telling them to rip it out after 6 years.
It’s all about Mobile
On the flip side of the extended support, new product announcements or development were thin on the ground. On the E-Business Suite side, the focus was squarely on mobile with a suite of new mobile apps aimed at the US Market, including Mobile W2, W4 and US Payslip simulator – the latter app being one of the more innovative ideas to come out of EBS product development. This app lets workers simulate what will happen to their pay check if something happens like a change in dependents or a move to a different state.
Take away the mobile delivery and it was slim pickings – one audience member got excited at the prospect of a new feature that allows time cards to be entered against ex-employees. When you have a Product Roadmap that has items at that level of detail, you can read between the lines and see Oracle are not putting as much into their on-premise development as customers might expect for the support dollars they pay annually.
Moving On-Premise Systems into the Cloud
If you’re a PeopleSoft or Oracle E-Business Suite customer then the pressure to move into the Cloud is relentless. However, large customers simply aren’t ripping out their core systems of record as fast as Oracle want (I think the same must be true for SAP as well).
Oracle seem to have realised this and the message to customers was far less aggressive than it was two years ago, where the 2015 conference was inferring that if you didn’t rip out Core HR you were going to feel like a loser in a few years.
This year, the Oracle play has to pitch moving Oracle on-premise customers into the Oracle Managed Cloud Service. This is where your existing ERP sits in Oracle’s data centers, effectively giving you the benefits of your infrastructure and database in the Cloud without having to rip out your applications. This is a solid pitch from Oracle and I know many customers who have taken this approach. One customer reported their estimated savings from this move were in the region of 70-80%. Whilst this is not a particularly new model, Oracle has a compelling business case and plenty of success stories. We heard from lots of customers considering this offering.
Oracle also announced a new hybrid hosting model. Called ‘Cloud@Customer’ this is where Oracle put their own hardware on your premises, migrate your ERP onto that and they take ownership of the management and patching of the ERP. Designed for customers who have concerns about their data being stored outside their country in Oracle Data Centers, this is an interesting play that not many other vendors will be able to offer.
If you’re scratching your head thinking ‘why?’ this is a big challenge for customers who are in highly regulated countries where Oracle doesn’t have a data center: think Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE.
The rise of UXaaS
Do we need another ‘aaS’? Well, it seems we’re getting one. My co-founder, Duncan, talks about User Experience as a Service in his blog and SAP has been talking about it for a few years.
In short, Oracle’s diminished investment in their on-premise system has spawned a new offering from Oracle partners concerned with modernising the User Experience (UX) of systems like Oracle E-Business Suite and PeopleSoft. The demand here is ripe – if Oracle isn’t going to invest in enhancing UX for their on-premise solutions, then someone else will.
This is what we have been doing at Applaud on Oracle E-Business Suite for the past 6 years and interest from end users has never been higher than in 2017. Reassuringly, we’re not the only ones. At the conference with other partners: Grey Heller (modernizing PeopleSoft); Inflight (modernizing PeopleSoft and Taleo); TUX (modernizing Taleo).
Yes, you read that correctly. 3rd parties are building a business around modernizing Taleo, Oracle’s Jewel in the Cloud and the world’s leading recruitment solution.
Does this suggest Oracle is not investing in Taleo as much as you’d think? Perhaps. What’s striking is that maintaining a cutting edge User Experience is proving challenging for vendors of even the more modern Cloud based applications.
Onto Vegas 2018
The Oracle HR User Group continues to be my favourite conference of the year. You get an insight into Oracle’s strategy with less of the bravado associated with most Oracle conferences, combined with valuable feedback with customers using Oracle software on a day to day basis.
I’d recommend the conference to anyone using one of Oracle’s HR products; next year’s conference is in Vegas, June 11th – June 14th.