With so many industry-leading services firms around the globe managing their businesses with PeopleSoft, it’s always an adventure setting up times and meetings for us to keep in touch with them, especially those outside of North America who often do not get to join us at Oracle OpenWorld. Fortunately, during the first two weeks of May, Nigel Woodland (Oracle’s Service Industries Director for the EMEA region) and I successfully blocked off our calendars to visit seven different customers spanning four countries in Western Europe. We met executives and leaders at four Staffing industry firms, two Professional Services firms that engage in consulting and auditing, and a Financial Services firm.
As we shared the latest information regarding product capabilities and plans, we also gained valuable insight into the hot technology topics facing these businesses. What we heard was both informative and inspiring, and I suspect other Oracle PeopleSoft applications customers can benefit from one or more of the following observations from our trip.
Each of our visits followed roughly the same pattern. After introductions, Nigel outlined Oracle’s product and technology strategy, including a discussion of how we at Oracle invest in each layer of the “technology stack” to provide customers with unprecedented business management capabilities and choice. Then, I provided the specifics of the PeopleSoft product line’s investment strategy, detailing the dramatic number of rich usability and functionality enhancements added to release 9.1 since its general availability in 2009 and the game-changing capabilities slated for 9.2.
What was most exciting about each of these discussions was that shortly after my talking about what customers can do with release 9.1 right now to drive up user productivity and satisfaction, I saw the wheels turning in the minds of our audiences. Business analyst and end user-configurable tools and technologies, such as WorkCenters and the Related Action Framework, that provide the ability to tailor a “central command center” to the exact needs of each recruiter, biller, and every other role in the organization were exactly what each of our customers had been looking for. Every one of our audiences agreed that these tools which demonstrate a respect for the user would finally help IT pole vault over the wall of resistance that users had often raised in the past. With these new user-focused capabilities, IT is positioned to definitively partner with the business, instead of drag the business along, to unlock the value of their investment in PeopleSoft.
This topic of respecting the user emerged during our very first visit, which was at Vital Services Group at their Head Office “The Mill” in Manchester, England. (If you are a student of architecture and are ever in Manchester, you should stop in to see this amazingly renovated old mill building.) I had just finished explaining our PeopleSoft 9.2 roadmap, and Mike Code, PeopleSoft Systems Manager for this innovative staffing company, said, “Mark, the new features you’ve shown us in 9.1/9.2 are very relevant to our business. As we forge ahead with the 9.1 upgrade, the ability to configure a targeted user interface with WorkCenters, Related Actions, Pivot Grids, and Alerts will enable us to satisfy the business that this upgrade is for them and will deliver tangible benefits. In fact, you’ve highlighted that we need to start talking to the business to keep up the momentum to start reviewing the 9.2 upgrade after we get to 9.1, because as much as 9.1 and PeopleTools 8.52 offers, what you’ve shown us for 9.2 is what we’ve envisioned was ultimately possible with our investment in PeopleSoft applications.”
We also received valuable feedback about our investment for the Staffing industry when we visited with Hans Wanders, CIO of Randstad (the second largest Staffing company in the world) in the Netherlands. After our visit, Hans noted, “It was very interesting to see how the PeopleSoft applications have developed. I was truly impressed by many of the new developments.”
Hans and Mike, sincere thanks for the validation that our team’s hard work and dedication to “respecting the users” is worth the effort!
As a “product person,” one of the most rewarding things about visiting customers is that they actually want to talk to me. Sometimes, they want to discuss a product area that we need to enhance; other times, they are interested in learning how to extract more value from their applications; and still others, they want to tell me how they are using the applications to drive real value for the business.
During this trip, I was very pleased to hear that several of our customers not only thought the co-existence of Fusion applications alongside PeopleSoft applications made sense in theory, but also that they were aggressively looking at how to deploy one or more Fusion applications alongside their PeopleSoft HCM and FSCM applications.
The most common deployment plan in the works by three of the organizations is to upgrade to PeopleSoft 9.1 or 9.2, and then adopt one of the new Fusion HCM applications, such as Fusion Performance Management or the full suite of Fusion Talent Management. For example, during an applications upgrade planning discussion with the staffing company Hays plc., Mark Thomas, who is Hays’ UK IT Director, commented, “We are very excited about where we can go with the latest versions of the PeopleSoft applications in conjunction with Fusion Talent Management.”
Needless to say, this news was very encouraging, because it reiterated that our applications investment strategy makes good business sense for our customers.
The third, and perhaps most exciting, lesson I learned during this journey is that our audiences already know that the latest generation of Business Intelligence technologies will be the “secret sauce” for organizations to transform business in radical ways.
While a number of the organizations we visited on the trip have deployed or are deploying Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition and the associated analytics applications to provide dashboards of easy-to-understand, user-configurable metrics that help optimize business performance according to current operating procedures, what’s most exciting to them is being able to use Business Intelligence to change the way an organization does business, grows revenue, and makes a profit. In particular, several executives we met asked whether we can help them minimize the need to have perfectly structured data and at the same time generate analytics that improve order fulfillment decision-making. To them, the path to future growth lies in having the ability to analyze unstructured data rapidly and intuitively and leveraging technology’s ability to detect patterns that a human cannot reasonably be expected to see.
For illustrative purposes, here is a good example of a business problem where analyzing a combination of structured and unstructured data can produce better results. If you have a resource manager trying to decide which person would be the best fit for an assignment in terms of ensuring (a) client satisfaction, (b) the individual’s satisfaction with the work, (c) least travel distance, and (d) highest margin, you traditionally compare resource qualifications to assignment needs, calculate margins on past work with the client, and measure distances. To perform these comparisons, you are likely to need the organization to have profiles setup, people ranked against profiles, margin targets setup, margins measured, distances setup, distances measured, and more. As you can imagine, this requires organizations to plan and implement data setup, capture, and quality management initiatives to ensure that dependable information is available to support resourcing analysis and decisions.
In the fast-paced, tight-budget world in which most organizations operate today, the effort and discipline required to maintain high-quality, structured data like those described in the above example are certainly not desirable and in some cases are not feasible.
You can imagine how intrigued our audiences were when I informed them that we are ready to help them analyze volumes of unstructured data, detect trends, and produce recommendations. Our discussions delved into examples of how the firms could leverage Oracle’s Secure Enterprise Search and Endeca technologies to keyword search against, compare, and learn from unstructured resource and assignment data. We also considered examples of how they could employ Oracle Real-Time Decisions to generate statistically significant recommendations based on similar resourcing scenarios that have produced the desired satisfaction and profit margin results.
Although I had almost no time for sight-seeing during this trip to Europe, I have to say that it may have been one of the most energizing and engaging trips of my career. Showing these dedicated customers how they can give every user a uniquely tailored set of tools and address business problems in ways that have to date been impossible made the journey across the Atlantic more than worth it. If any of these three topics intrigue you, I’d recommend you contact your Oracle applications representative to arrange for more detailed discussions with the appropriate members of our organization.