Wednesday, 9 November 2011

PeopleTools 8.52 Form Posting

When a user clicks a link in PIA, that causes a roundtrip, the entire form along with all fields on the page get sent in the resulting form POST back to the web server.

With PeopleTools 8.51 a feature was introduced which detects the fields changed by the user and ONLY sends these.  The upload savings in payload size of this are very significant.  I found this didn't work all the time in 8.51 and sometimes, for no apparent reason, would revert back to old behaviour.  Of course on a high speed office network users wouldn't notice but on slow networks this new form post feature was massively beneficial.

This feature looks like it's had some improvements in 8.52 and seems to more consistently do the smart post back of only changed fields.

If you haven't got a clue what I'm talking about then watch this video.... it may help understand this simple but effective new 8.52 feature.

Nice one PeopleSoft developers!

Friday, 14 October 2011

PeopleTools Tables Reference Library

My good friend, Dave Kurtz,  from Go-Faster Consultancy Ltd produced this handy PeopleTools reference a little while ago and I thought the PeopleSoft community might like a reminder that this very useful resource exists.

It's a reference for all PeopleTools tables.  Not sure what tools release it's based on and there are a few gaps. But, if you know how to fill them then you can contact Dave and make this resource more complete.

Monday, 10 October 2011

OOW Wrap Up

So here are my top 11 take-aways from OpenWorld 2011

1) Continued massive investment by Oracle development of new features in PeopleTools and PeopleSoft applications (see below for highlights).
2) Most of the development effort going into improving the User Experience (as distinct from user interface).  This is a combined focus on improving process, UI and software behaviour.
3) Pivot Grids are very nice.  See screenshot here. (8.52)
4) Embedded Oracle (SES) Secure Enterprise Search in PeopleTools for cross application and component keyword  search really is going to "change the world".  (8.52)
5) Inter Pagelet communication framework significantly opens up the power of Work Centers (8.52).
6) Related  Actions are a very powerful concept (8.52).
7) PeopleTools 8.52 is coming soon.
8) Oracle are launching big time into the public Cloud market with back-end Exadata and Exalogic.  Look out Amazon?
9) A little bit more noise at conference around Oracle Fusion Applications but they didn't appear to be the big noise. I think some customers are now live.
10) Oracle heading unashamedly down the "engineered" solutions road.  In some books this might be called proprietary.  I think proprietary solutions can be good and I certainly think Oracle have some very smart engineers to produce some of the best hardware and operating system software combinations on the planet. (see Exadata, Exalogic and Exalytics).
11) A long conversation with Greg Kelly and Tom Lenz (both Oracle security experts) was incredibly useful.  I'm afraid I can't tell you here as "The first rule of security? - - - -  Don't talk about security". 

Nice to be back home!

Friday, 7 October 2011

OOW2011 Thursday Day FOUR

Last day of conference... loads to try and squeeze in.  Here are the highlights.

Spent a brilliant hour with the PeopleSoft platforms team (Mark Johnston & Friends) in the hand-on-labs building a virtual machine using on the Oracle VM templates.  Very easy to if you know a bit about Linux (I know nothing) and if you have access to an Oracle Virtual Server platform to host your new VM (not many people do).  Some discussion about the value of providing an ISO disk image that would work with local PC based VM clients such as Virtual Box or VMWare.  It really can be done in minutes.

One of the last sessions of the day was a useful panel discussion with PeopleTools product management.  From left to right there was Jeff Robbins (PT Strategy), Binu (PT Development), Willie Suh(PT Strategy), Ravi Shankar (PT platforms development),  Virad Gupta (PT Dev - IB & Reporting) and on the end is Mike (PT tools development).

Discussed were topics such as
  • release date of 8.52 - A: very soon.
  • more auto setup in Apps Portal
  • 8.52 to split out PS_APPS_HOME
  • IB Integration Network in 8.52.  Aims to simplify setup, monitoring through auto-discovery.
  • Support for FireFox and Google Chrome. When a tools version is released Oracle will support minimum versions at time of release.  Aim to certify each new version of browser being relseased.
  • 8.53/4 plans to allow LDAP authentication for 2-tier tools connections.
Very usesful session on PeopleSofyt Reporting.  Jody (PT development)  covered subjects such as

  • rename of XMLP to BIP (Businesss Intelligence Publisher).
  • BIP now with Rich Text and Image support
  • BIP Query data sources can now be transformed before rendering using XSLT
  • Connected Query performance significantly improved.
  • Drilling URLs in Query now have free form URL structure
And so, finally, to my companion Smurf to tell us of this conference MAIN MESSAGE.

Hadware and Software - Engineered to Work Together.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

OOW2011 Wednesday Day THREE

Today was even busier than yesterday. I spent more time at the PeopleSoft demo booths talking with Keith Collins (developer of all things integration broker) - he showed me all the new tools for building RESTful services in 8.52 - Very nice!  I love meeting with Keith.... he knows his stuff and he's a great programmer.

Met Tom Lenz from Global Support and Greg kelly (both PeopleSoft Security gurus) and found out how to integrate PeopleSoft signon with Windows.  I'll blog on this once I've got it working.  Thanks guys.  "The number one rule of Security....?  - Don't talk about security!" (hat tip Mr Kelly).

Tom Lenz
Keith Collins

The Meet The PeopleTools Experts session at the end of the day was just great. Thanks to all the Oracle staff for showing up and in engaging so well with the customers that showed up.

I sat through a great session by Christine Libby from FSCM Applications Architecture who showed how some of the new PeopleTools 8.52 features can be used to extend applications. She covered Pivot Grids, Related Actions, Inter Pagelet Communications and the simply awesome Oracle Secure Enterprise Search (SES) embedded into PeopleSoft. Her presentation slides are well worth getting hold of as they cover in quite a bit of detail how some of these things are put together. Loved the Lego bricks Christine!

Smurf with Larry Grey's iPad app
On Monday night I got a chance to see the new soon to be released PeopleSoft Mobile solution from GreySparling.  They've got a very neat thing their doing to get PeopleSoft pages rendering and behaving like a native iPad or iPhone application. I'm going to leave them to talk about technically what they're doing because I don't want to get it wrong.  Just to say here - it's impressive and well worth a look if mobile enabling PeopleSoft in your thing.  I took a picture of Larry with the iPad app but for some reason it didn't come out. (this is odd as my photo of Chris also didn't come out either - must be something about GreySparling staff - are they real?)

It was great to meet and present alongside Mark Johnston from Oracle WebLogic and JOLT development today.  We we're cover the benefits of virtualising PeopleSoft.  Some really good news is that in 8.52 a new feature has been added to allow new application servers to be introduced into the server string without needing to bounce PIA.  Very nice... thanks Mark.

More great content expected on Day 4 tomorrow.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

OOW2011 Tuesday Day TWO

I'm starting to see a big theme for PeopleSoft at this conference...... Paco's session on PeopleSoft Apps strategy, Jeff's session on PeopleTools roadmap, Jim, Mathew and Robert's session on building a good UI and even Jim's "legendary" tips & tricks session are all following a strong theme this year - USER EXPERIENCE.

It appears that a significant investment is being but into the look & feel, navigation experience and application behaviour of PeopleSoft apps.  What I'm seeing is VERY nice.  Having had a tour of Oracle User Experience Labs at Redwood Shores last week and having sat through an hour of usability testing and feedback with the PeopleSoft eProcurement team today I'm not surprised that such high class software is being tuned out.  - - BTW Thanks for the nice chocolates UX Team and really nice to have met you all :-)

Got a picture of the new pivot grid feature being released with 8.52 ("due soon").  Thanks Michael from Oracle Dev team for a great walk through of this on the PeopleSoft demo pods today. You guys all work really hard down there on the demo pods - thanks!

Mathew Haavisto and Jim Marion and Robert (sorry didn't get surname) both gave great demos of how to themse and re-skin the Applications Portal (see above sample from their presentation).  Jim's posted a blog entry on the really neat concertina menus which are based around navigation collections.

I had a very useful time today with some members of the Oracle CABIO (Customer Advisory Board for International Organisations) many of whom share similar harsh comms challenges like Oxfam. (low bandwidth, high latency, high packet loss).  World Bank, BIS, US State Dept, UNDP and others.  I think there could be a lot synergy within this group with a common set requirements for disconnected mobile working - something Oracle/PeopleSoft are not really focussing on much.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

OOW2011 Monday Day ONE

So it's the first day of OpenWorld conference and the downtown San Francisco area is packed with conference attendees as usual. I've been here for 4 days already attending meetings with Oracle development at Redwood Shores and the weather has been blue sky and a scorching 35C.  Today it's cold, wet and windy.  Of course only the sensible ones brought umbrellas - so not many then.

Paco Aubrejuan gave a break-kneck speed insight into what PeopleSoft developers are doing in 9.1 Feature packs and 9.2 Applications with the new 8.50, 8.51 (and soon to be released 8.52) toolset.  Lots of prebuilt Work Centers, integrated search-centric interface (search then act rather than navigate, search, act) which more closely matches the consumer internet experience (such as Amazon, Google, etc) and strong emphasis on improved usuability.  Paco gave some examples of features to keep cost down such as dynamically building your own product update package (need to find out more on this as it sounds fascinating - sounds like you pick and choose what patches, features you want and an upgrade package gets built for you online) and new feaure called Data Sets which allow you to compare and migrate confiuration data from one system to another.

Spent another high speed, concentrated "run" through building and consuming web services in PeopleTools. Highlighted some new features in 8.52 including REST, new configuration Work Center and improved cross PopleSoft transaction monitoring and test and diagnostics tools.  The presenter brilliantly demonstrated how easy it was to create and consume web services and how the new 8.51 Document feature was the way forward in working with XML.  Excellent hour.

The last session of the day was the PeopleTools Roadmap. Jeff Robins (Oracle PeopleTools Strategy) gave a great insight into what applications look like when the new PeopleTools were used.  Rather than a blow by blow list of new features Jeff took the approach of demonstrating applications built using the tools.  Nice!  Here's the main themes

1) A change from the traditional "Navigate - Search - Action" to a new search centric paradigm of "Search - Action".  The inclusion of Oracle SES (secure enterprise search) as part of core PeopleTools is most impressive feature.  A search experience similar to Amazon, Google or eBay is now available across the entire application or within a specfic component.

2) Context sensitive action menus are springing up in search results and elsewhere in the application.

3) Heavy investment in improving how pagelets behave in portal, work Centers and Content Dashboards.

4) Pivot tables/graphs are new programming objects replacing the traditional analytic grid.  Vey visual way of viewing and dynamically changing the view of data on a page.

More tomorrow.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Speaking at Oracle OpenWorld 2011

Honoured to be attending OOW this year to share some of Oxfam's success stories around running PeopleSoft applications on virtual platforms.

PeopleSoft Success: Using Virtualization to Manage TCO Session 14006 Wed 1pm Moscone West 2024

In this session I'll be sharing some of the problems we encountered in running PeopleSoft applications on virtual servers and how we resolved or worked around them and are now reaping significant benefit over equivalent physical servers.


Wednesday, 6 July 2011

UKOUG PeopleSoft Conference 2011 - Update

Well here's my report on the UKOUG PeopleSoft 2011 conference. I hope you'll get a flavour of this significant 2 day event in the PeopleSoft world.

Great venue at Heathrow airport with good food and plenty of space. Loved the Fizzy Cola Bottles - I think I ate over 40 !

Oracle PeopleSoft People
I'm writing this from the perspective of someone who spent the 2 days in the Technology Stream but I heard really good reports from the other HR, Financials and Payroll streams. But, before I get into details I must say first how wonderful it was to have such high profile Oracle staff speaking and networking at the conference - Marc Weintraub (Product Strategy Director), Amira Morcos (Director Financials Strategy) and Jeff Robbins (Snr. Director PeopleTools Strategy, Oracle). Having these people at the conference gave us first hand insight into product strategy, impact of Fusion Applications, PeopleTools next release and a chance to network with frontline product specialists. It was also great to have Colin Kilpatrick and Neville Varnham join us from Oracle UK both really good friends and supporters of the Technology SIG.

Keynote Message from Marc Weintraub
I'm not a writer and Marc packed so much into his opening keynote that to make it easier for me to write and you to read I'm going to bullet the key messages.
  • Out of 120,000 staff at Oracle 1,250 work exclusively on PeopleSoft products. This does not include the middleware, dbms, o/s staff that work occasionally with the PeopleSoft teams.
  • SUPPORT - marc gave a good overview of the premier support package
  • APPLICATIONS UNLIMITED - Continued to reinforce the message of ongoing support and comitment to product development.
  • COEXISTANCE - This message positioned PeopleSoft alongside other Oracle apps (Seibel, EBS, JDE and now Fusion (still not sites live yet)). Fusion Middleware meant that apps could coexist and Oracle would be doing a lot work around making these apps work together.
  • ONDEMAND DEPLOYMENT. This message positioned Oracle has supplier of Cloud bsaed SAAS as well as simply products and services. Fusion Apps are currently only available through Oralcle OnDemand.
  • PeopleSoft 9.1 Apps had seen huge take up compare to previous releases. Over 20% (1,250) of all customers were either on, upgrading to or planning an upgrade. From this I was able work out that Oracle has over 5,000 PeopleSoft customers.
  • INVESTMENT STRATEGY. Oracle's investment strategy in PeopleSoft applications were along 3 main themes Simplicity (making it easier to use), Productivity (bringing information together/reducing the number of clicks) and Total Cost of Ownership (lower the cost of patching, doing upgrades)
  • RELEASE STRATEGY. PeopleTools will have an annual release (usually just before OOW), Applications will have a major release every 3 years, Annual Feature Packs will roll up fixes plus deliver incremental new features.
  • FUSION APPLICATIONS. A few customers going live but not live yet. Only hosted by Oracle OnDemand. Customers will not be forced to upgrade. If customers see a need for these apps then they will be available. Oracle is "getting ready" so that when customers need standards based, web2.0 apps they will be there.
PeopleTools Keynote from Jeff Robbins
Always great to see Jeff at conference. He's got a passion for making technology work for users and for using technology to spark innovation and ideas. Great to have the opportunity to network with a key player in the PeopleTools strategy team.

Key messages from Jeff include
  • PeopleTools 8.52 out before OOW conference in October.
  • Release Value Proposition out here
  • New features include a fantastic new application search based on an embedded Oracle Secure Enterprise Search which looks like it will deliver configurable indexing of actual application data and a search interface that includes powerful filters like that found on Google, Amazon and eBay, WorCenters and Related Content have all had significant improvements along with continuing to extend the navigation paradigm seen in 8.51 with recent search results.
Very Useful Technical Content

Duncan Davies from Succeed Consultancy gave a very useful insight into opensource product Jenkins for controlling and automating admin tasks against PeopleSoft infrastructure. He demonstrated the automation of a database refresh. Very impressive.

Succed also demonstrated a very nice tool under development which can compare and copy configuration data from one PeopleSoft database to another. PeopleTools 8.52 will have a feature called Data Sets which is similar but Succeed have a powerful compare tool which it looks like 8.52 won't. These guys are well worth watching closely.

Like I said earlier it was great to have Neville Varnham from Oracle UK support the PeopleSoft technology community. Nev demonstrated the electronic forms and approval system. Nice feature and it sparked a lot of exctirement and discussion. Read more here

Friday, 24 June 2011

UKOUG PeopleSoft Conference 2011 - Query Features in 8.50 & 8.51

The annual 2 day UKOUG PeopleSoft conference was a great success. I'm going to post up a summary soon but for now here's my slides from the session I presented on "New PS/Query Features in 8.5x". Download PowerPoint Slides.

Hope you find them useful.


Friday, 10 June 2011

Portal Index Fail

From PeopleTools 8.50 the PS_HOME and PS_CFG_HOME can be in different directories. Not going to discuss why you'd do this here but I'm finding many customers are choosing to separate their configuration from their PS programs.

Well we discovered a problem with running the Portal Index process PORTAL_INDEX with the separated design. The process runs to success but does not create any indexes.

One of our senior developers here at Oxfam, Scott Horman, found the solution and with his permission I'm posting it here.

When you run the process it creates the indexes in the PS_CFG_HOME\SEARCH\EMPLOYEE folder on the batch server. If you don't use PS_CFG_HOME to split config and programs then the indexes get created in PS_HOME\SEARCH\EMPLOYEE. However, the PORTAL_INDEX process looks for the STYLES folder in PS_HOME\DATA\EMPLOYEE and needs this in order to properly create the indexes. If this folder does not exist then the process runs to success without any warnings but fails to create the indexes.

We had made the mistake of assuming that because of this new configuration no longer writes indexes to PS_HOME\DATA we were safe to delete all the contents of the DATA directory on our batch server. Doing this will cause the create index to fail. You must leave the STYLES folder and all it's contents in PS_HOME\DATA

Thursday, 5 May 2011

CA and backdoor index warning

Encountered an interesting gotcha during a recent PeopleTools upgrade using Change Assistant.

One of the CA SQL jobs failed trying to drop an index that did not exist. The index really didn't exist either in the database or in meta data against the PSINDEXDEFN table and so I couldn't understand why the CA job was scripting the delete.

After much head scratching here's what we found.

The table in question was the PSPMTRANSARCH (Performance Monitor archiving table) and the index (which didn't exist) that CA was trying to delete was PSPMTRANSARCH.PSSMTRANSARCH.

The PSPMTRANSARCH table did however have one additional index which was not defined in Application Designer. It was an experimental index added directly in the database that had not made it's way into the Record definition in App Designer. The name of this index was GRS_TEST_INDEX and therefore did not conform to the standard index naming convention used when the index is created in App Designer. The standard is that the name of the index is the same name as the RECORD object name with the PS_ prefix The 3rd character _ is then reserved for the KEYS index and custom indexes replace the 3rd character _ with a single alpha character (sequencing multiple indexes starting with A).

When App Designer was asked to script the table alter (which includes index alters) it sees there is an index in the database that does not exist in App Designer, it assumes the index must have been created legitimately by App Designer and therefore must be in the standard naming convention. It therefore scripts the DROP INDEX assuming the index name is the same as the record name and leaves the 3rd character alone - in this example the 3rd character of the rogue index GRS_TEST_INDEX is S so App Designer scripts DROP INDEX PSPMTRANSARCH.PSSPMTRANSARCH. This index does not exist and so returns and error which is trapped by CA.

Lesson to be learned here? Always build indexes in App Designer. if you can't (and there are some instances where you have to work outside App Designer) then be aware of this gotacha!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Queries with Hyperlinks

From PeopleTools 8.50 the PS Query tool allows the user to create a hyperlink to another Query, PeopleSoft component or an external link. You can also bind into the url string fields from the query. Very powerful. However, there are two BIG issues that I've discovered

1) if you schedule a Query to Excel then the Query parameters are displayed horizontally in the first rows of the worksheet. The code that inserts in the hyperlinks is not expecting the parameters to be there and so starts adding the links at row 2. This means that the hyperlinks are out of step with the rows of data and the last n rows have no hyperlink at all. Reported this to Oracle support and have a POC to fix this for 8.50.11.

2) The other issue is that hyperlinks seem to increase the size of the Excel file massively. So when a Query is run to window there is a size in bytes shown to the right of the links to download to Excel, CSV and XML. Not sure quite what this size is but it never matches any of the download sizes (could well refer to the JOLT data message in bytes). Anyway, the screenshot below shows the result of adding a single drilling link to an existing field. The Excel file without the link is 8,721KB and the same Query with the link added increases the size of the Excel file to a massive 36,516KB. Note the CSV and XML output types are similar sizes.

Logging this with Oracle.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Oracle ACE Program

I'd like to thank my peers in the Oracle community who have nominated me for membership of the Oracle ACE Program . Well, I can now say I'm officially and Oracle ACE.

"Oracle ACEs are known for their strong credentials as Oracle community enthusiasts and advocates, with candidates nominated by anyone in the Oracle Technology and Applications communities."

There are 334 Oracle ACE members across the entire Oracle applcations and technology products. From the Oracle PeopleSoft world I know a few including Dave Kurtz, Duncan Davies and Nicolas Gasperatto.