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PeopleSoft
 
New PeopleSoft Releases Embrace Usability

Available for Customers This Year: PeopleTools 8.52, and Feature Pack 2 in PeopleSoft 9.1

Kathy Miedema

Author: Kathy Miedema, Oracle Applications User Experience
November 23, 2011




The PeopleSoft user experience is not only improving, it is thriving—and new user experience features added in the latest releases are showing just how much value Oracle places on usability.

 
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Two new deliverables, just-released PeopleTools 8.52 and the upcoming Feature Pack 2 in PeopleSoft 9.1, are bringing more user experience features to PeopleSoft users, aiming to boost productivity and efficiency. These enhancements were also a huge part of PeopleSoft discussions at OpenWorld 2011 in early October. Paco Aubrejuan, the Group Vice President for PeopleSoft, focused almost exclusively on new user experience features in these releases during his OpenWorld general session presentation, “PeopleSoft Product Roadmap.”

Paco Aubrejuan
Photo by Martin Taylor – Oracle Applications User Experience

Paco Aubrejuan, the Group Vice President for PeopleSoft, talks about user experience features in upcoming releases during a general session at OpenWorld 2011 in San Francisco in October.

Aubrejuan described several user experience capabilities that were introduced in PeopleSoft 9.1, including a Succession Planning module built using PeopleTools 8.50. Such user experience features, from streamlined navigation to new customization controls on grids, have proven to be appealing. “Fifty percent of customers are on 9.1, which says a lot about the release,” Aubrejuan said at OpenWorld. He added that the plan is to continue to deliver these kinds of user experience features, making upgrading to current releases a sensible decision with tangible business results.

Jeff Robbins, Senior Director of PeopleSoft Development, says the launch of PeopleSoft 9.1 and PeopleTools 8.50 in September 2009 marked a new commitment and a new beginning to the enterprise application suite. “It was a milestone for us rather than a destination. With PeopleSoft 9.1, we initiated a new, more productive user engagement model,” he said. “We’ve been actively engaged in defining a new direction for PeopleSoft.”

That direction has been guided by the user experience. With the delivery of Feature Pack 2—as it was with Feature Pack 1 delivered in December 2010—the mandate is for a strong user experience backed by solid research that empowers customers and facilitates improved productivity and efficiency.

This mandate translates to a straight-forward mission: “You need a simple system, with a user experience that feels more like consumer websites,” Robbins says.

Harris Kravatz, a Senior Manager on the Oracle Applications User Experience team, said his team’s focus on improving usability aims to streamline the navigation around the application and to introduce user experience features such as collaboration tools to improve user productivity and effectiveness, no matter where the user is working within the application.

Jeff Robbins
Jeff Robbins, Senior Director of PeopleSoft Development, talks about new opportunities for productivity in the user experience of PeopleSoft 9.1 Feature Pack 2, and in PeopleTools 8.52.

Kravatz has an excellent repository of well-designed user experiences to draw from. The Oracle Applications User Experience team has created hundreds of design patterns for Oracle Fusion Applications, a suite of enterprise applications that became generally available in October after a year of controlled availability to carefully screened early adopters.  Years of research went into creating those design patterns for next-generation user experiences, and PeopleSoft has been tapping into them and sharing their own design patterns for the last few years.
 

“I believe users will find that they are more productive.”
– Jeff Robbins
Senior Director of PeopleSoft Development, Oracle


That means that users can find many of the same user experience tools and workflow designs in PeopleSoft and in Oracle Fusion Applications, Kravatz says.

“The UI [user interface] has come very far,” Robbins said at OpenWorld. “Users will find they can do more from wherever they are within the system. They can navigate, analyze, and collaborate more easily. They have access to a rich and collaborative web and mobile experience. I believe users will find that they are more productive.”

Enhanced productivity was the goal, Kravatz adds. And customers seem to be noticing. “Customers at OHUG [Oracle HCM Users Group, June 2011] said, ‘Wow, you’ve really improved the user experience in the last few years.’ ”

Feature Pack 2

What will you see in the latest PeopleSoft deliverable?

Feature Pack 2 is taking an approach to design that provides actionable content and streamlined transactions, Aubrejuan said at OpenWorld. “Our goal is to eliminate navigation, especially for self-service users.”

Harris Kravatz
Harris Kravatz, Senior Manager, Oracle Applications User Experience, answers questions after an OpenWorld session in October 2011 that highlighted new user experience features in PeopleSoft 9.1 Feature Pack 2.

New features like the new Manager Dashboard have most of the capabilities that managers need, all in one place. “The dashboard shows a visualization of your data, the state of various projects, analytics—it shows what’s important to your role, and you can take direct action,” Robbins said. “It’s a very flexible and effective dashboard, with information coming together in one place in a more powerful way than it has in the past.”

Expanded capabilities on the previously delivered organizational chart also exist, which managers can use as a starting point for human resources-related tasks. You can see the whole organization—both direct reports and the matrix reporting team—and take action or launch a task related to an individual, directly from the Manager Dashboard, Aubrejuan noted.

New also to Feature Pack 2 is the Talent Summary, which gives managers a holistic view into each of their employees. Feature Pack 2 gives managers a tightly integrated set of new tools that provides all of the information that they need, reducing navigation and improving productivity.

“What we’re doing in Feature Pack 2 has a big impact,” Aubrejuan said. “There’s a significant investment in the feature pack, and the response from customers has been really positive.”

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PeopleTools 8.52

Many of the new user experience features are delivered through PeopleTools. “We are delivering innovation through PeopleTools, which defines what we can do in PeopleSoft,” Aubrejuan said.

One example is the new search functionality. Search is a “pretty radical change,” Aubrejuan said. Oracle wanted to make it look and act like Amazon, with a consumer-website feel. “You can tailor the information you see. It’s real obvious, real simple—that’s the point.”

Robbins called the faceted search intuitive and flexible, adding that it is “much more effective and faster than it has been before.”

PeopleTools 8.52 also introduces the Pivot Grid feature.

“It’s a very powerful way to present interactive data to your users,” Robbins said of the Pivot Grid.

A few other user experience highlights in the new releases from PeopleSoft:

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This cleaner, modern look shows the type of website-centric approach that’s possible with today’s PeopleSoft.
  • Related actions are in context with the work that the user is doing, which means fewer clicks and less time hunting for information.
  • Workcenters, which are role-based, functional dashboards, are configurable and customizable.
  • Pagelets, which can be included on Home pages, dashboards, workcenters, and even on transactional pages showing related content, are more powerful and interactive and provide direct access to tasks.
  • The dynamic menu system tracks where the user has been recently, gives immediate access to recent search results, and enables users to bookmark their favorite or most commonly used links,  keeping everything users need within reach.

Measuring the User Experience

Several key actions have been measured in the enhanced PeopleSoft 9.1 and PeopleTools 8.52 to get a clear idea of how these new user experience features can help improve productivity for a user.

Oracle found that all transactions that use the direct reports user interface, for example, dropped at least two clicks—all thanks to new user experience designs.

Transactions such as “promote” and “transfer” had half as many clicks with the new user experience designs. Several other transactions were also affected.

The time savings represented by these fewer clicks per task, spread over an organization that completes these tasks several times a week, adds up to many hours of time saved annually. And that’s a user experience benefit for everyone in any organization, Kravatz said.

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