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Posts Tagged ‘analytics’

VIDEO: Configuring Dashboards in PeopleSoft

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In our daily discussions, we often get asked about what’s the best way to get the most dashboard functionality out of PeopleSoft. Dashboards make organizations more efficient, allow the right analytics to be displayed in the right place, and help data turn into actionable information. Plus, they’re far more engaging for the end user.

The PeopleTools Dashboard Framework is the answer, and this video says more than our 600+ words would. Take a look.

VIDEO: Drilling URLs in BI Publisher (Hint: Easier and Cooler Than It Sounds)

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We have created multiple videos in the past on drilling URLs in PeopleSoft query as well as a few on BI Publisher (XML publisher).  Now, in this video we will demonstrate how easy it is to put that URL on the BI publisher report.

Essentially, whether a BI publisher report is run ad hoc or scheduled, users can click on the URL hyperlink in the BI publisher report and be taken directly to the source page right within PeopleSoft.  Again, this is another way to have a “pencils down” approach to PeopleSoft.  No longer do users have to take the information in their reports, log into PeopleSoft, navigate to the correct menu and then type in the information from the report.  It is a great way to improve efficiency, accuracy and save time. Customers love this, but not many know about it. Hopefully the video below changes some of that.

User Group Report: Hot Topics Among PeopleSoft Users

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I recently attended the Midwest Regional User Group (MW RUG) meeting in Chicago. There were a number of PeopleSoft customers/users in attendance and breakout meetings were held to discuss current hot topics. Below is a collection of things I noticed — a pulse of the conversations, at it were.

Needless to say, everyone is interested in Fusion as a potential future option in some of their application areas.  However, by and large, the reality for most of organizations is that they are still focusing on taking advantage of their current systems investments.  With PeopleSoft v9.2 slated for availability the end of this month, a breakout group I attended shared their company’s view and plan relative to upgrading.

The fact is that the customer base is varied relative to the version of products that they are running.  Some are planning on upgrading as soon as v9.2 is available.  Some are still considering upgrading to a previous version (9.1).  Some will wait and see and plan on upgrading later in 2013.

My observation is that the PeopleSoft customer base is hungry for information and is being pushed and pulled in different directions.  Some say move to Fusion, some say upgrade your current (stable) platform, some say upgrade and expand that stable platform with add-on solutions, Business Intelligence (analytics) and Mobility solutions.  And naturally, competitors to PeopleSoft/Oracle say “come to our solution.”

While there is no one right answer for everyone, the vast majority seem to be leaning toward protecting and expanding their investments in their current PeopleSoft solutions.  It is stable, it is supported and it makes financial sense.

This is where a lot of folks stand right now. What will the landscape look like in 2014? 2015?

When KPI Really Means “Keep Profits Increasing” (Hint: It Always Does)

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How’d you like that headline?

Yes, you and I both know KPI is an acronym for Key Performance Indicator but the goal for most organizations is to utilize these valuable metrics to keep profits increasing.  KPIs are the lifeblood for any company; they provide the pulse of the business.  All of the various metrics that people analyze provide valuable information to guide decision making and help chart a company’s path toward realizing their full growth and profitability potential.

They exist for no other reason.

This post by Rob Petersen, called 12 Experts Define Key Performance Indicators, provides a simple overview and four-minute video about KPIs. Petersen states that one of the best definitions he has heard is “KPI’s are an actionable scorecard that keeps your strategy on track. They enable you to manage, control and achieve desired business result.”

This article supports the notion that you do not need a lot of metrics. You need to select them carefully, report and take action.

Steps to consider:

  • Desired Business Result: Begin with a clear understanding of the desired result and be specific – how will you achieve your result? If you are clear about where you are going you can construct KPIs that get you there.
  • Actionable Scorecard: Choose a handful of measurements, generally no more than six or so that you believe are the most important to the achievement of your goal.
  • Keep Your Strategy on Track: You have raw numbers – the data. Use this data to measure your progress against the achievement of your desired result. And choose a comparison period: are you comparing this against last year, last month, last quarter?
  • Dashboards: This data provides graphical representations for your dashboard.

Now is always the perfect time to review your organization’s existing KPIs to determine if they are still relevant and it is the perfect time to create new KPIs if your company has not done so in the past.

Looking Ahead: What to Be Excited About in PeopleTools 8.53

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Being a combination business intelligence and PeopleSoft guy, I am always looking for enhancements to improve the end user experience and capability of embedding business intelligence into the business process. Here are some of the favorite enhancements I am most looking forward to evaluating in PeopleTools 8.53.

Related Actions/Related Content

Enhancement: The Related Actions Framework is a feature originally delivered with PeopleTools 8.52; it presents a mini menu of actions or options that are contextually appropriate to the user’s role and particular data presented on the application screen. PeopleTools 8.53 brings Related Actions to Pivot Grids, allowing users to take actions directly on data displayed in a pivot grid.

Comment: I’m looking forward to understanding what capabilities around “taking actions” directly on the data are introduced. I’m hoping for true ability to take action and navigate to source pages much like drilling URLs allows the end user. Combining this with grid reporting can be of real value.

Work Centers and Dashboards

Enhancement: Operational dashboards are designed to provide vital decision support information based on role. WorkCenters are used to streamline process execution, and they provide easier and faster navigation as well as other information that is needed for the transactions at hand. This release improves the way WorkCenters and Dashboards can be designed and used. Application developers and designers can deploy dashboard-like pagelets within WorkCenters to provide better decision support for WorkCenter transactions. This capability combines some of the features and benefits of Dashboards with WorkCenters. In addition, applications can now consume remote pagelets in WorkCenters, Homepages, and Dashboards.

Comment: This should prove to be a nice enhancement and improve the overall decision-making process by embedding more relevant business intelligence into the work centers. This is similar to what we have been helping our clients with related to homepage dashboards but focused on the workcenter.

Activity Guides

Enhancement: Activity Guides allow application designers to define processes that guide users through a series of predefined actions. Activity Guides are often used for infrequent self-service events, such as benefits enrollment, and also can be used for managing process-specific tasks, such as period-end-close in Financials Management. In 8.53, the Activity Guide enables application developers to define a list of action items tied to transactional, collaborative, or manual tasks. The action item represents a task that can be tracked for assignment and completion, and is secured by roles and user lists. Activity Guides also enable a hierarchical list of action items.

A new Activity Guide WorkCenter template is available for use with building and configuring Activity Guides. This template provides a frame with the navigation controls used to traverse an Activity Guide.

The WorkCenter template also provides the following features:

  • A status bar to indicate the progress of the Activity Guide, and the Active Action item is
    highlighted.

Comment: We have utilized navigation collections to mimick a process but this new functionality will take everything to the next level by assigning tasks and really creating a “guide” for a business transaction. I envision this as project oriented tasks associated with work centers and transactional business oriented duties. Thinking beyond just the use associated with the product, this may be expanded for user training and designing the activities as step by step processes. This could again, really change the end user experience.

  • Ability to do pre-processing and post-processing for an action item.
  • Pre-processing: Perform business logic before transferring the user to the appropriate
    transaction.
  • Post processing: Perform business logic when a save is performed on the transaction
    associated with the action item.
  • Ability to assign an action item to a role or a user.
  • Ability to create dependency rules for action items.

Hopefully, this overview makes you as excited for PeopleTools 8.53 as I am. We are asked constantly about the roadmap for PeopleTools, and this blog post represents the best of our understanding based on public information as well as personal projection and opinion. If you have questions or want to chat to sort this out a bit, I am always available. Drop me an email.

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MIPRO Consulting main website.
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Counterpoint: Reasons to Like PeopleTools-based Dashboards

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ZD Net contributor Joe McKendrick wrote a great blog about three reasons to hate BI dashboards.  His opinion is certainly one that I share, and many of the blogs I have written here in the past try to focus on how to avoid these pitfalls.  McKendrick’s post can be found here.

Essentially his three reasons are:

  1. Dashboards haven’t gotten much smarter in the last 20 years.
  2. Dashboards don’t prioritize information.
  3. They don’t help individuals take action on the information they receive.

I can’t say I disagree, but I don’t on a wholesale level. I agree that those are prevalent problems with enterprise BI solutions that are used for every data source.  As many of our readers know, MIPRO is focused on everything PeopleSoft, from the application to the toolset.  Our approach to building dashboards within the PeopleSoft product itself addresses and resolves many of the issues McKendrick raises.

Previous blogs (here, here, here and here) outline the thought process around making these dashboards embedded into the business process, prioritizing information and helping individuals take action.  In these examples, the dashboards are made up of dynamic queries that are refreshed every time the user goes to the home page within PeopleSoft. This will happen many, many times throughout the day, which keeps the data fresh and always prioritized.  The dashboards are designed to prioritize the information such as the top five or top 10 or most urgent items as they relate to what is most important from a business user’s perspective.  All of this is controlled by the query and ordering the data based upon defined critical content.  Each dashboard, with drillable URLs, takes the end user straight to the transaction page which is directly linked to the content within the dashboard.

So not only do we have the ability to drill down into data, but it’s not just more data: it’s the actual source of the business information so action can be immediately taken.  These dashboards can not only be on a homepage dashboard, but they can be embedded anywhere within the PeopleSoft application furthering their value by truly embedding them into the business decision process.

McKendrick is right: many BI dashboards aren’t valuable. But if you understand the business problem that’s trying to be solved — along with per-role requirements so users see what they need — you can build some amazing useful tools that literally change a person’s workflow for the better and help a business unit perform far better than it ever has.

A huge factor in whether or not a BI dashboard is effective lives in the requirements gathering, planning and design stage. If this part isn’t done properly, the end result could be quite a bit less than valuable. Garbage in, garbage out.

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More links:
MIPRO Consulting main website.
MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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MIPRO VIDEO: How to Take Reporting to the Next Level with PeopleSoft’s XML Publisher

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In our previous video blog about XML Publisher we showed you the basics on how to get going with creating some simple queries and reports.  In this video blog we show a few more tricks and tips to help take your reporting to the next level.  We will highlight how to create charts within groupings, some basic aggregations within groupings and some conditional formatting.  These are an extension of the basics which will help enhance the look and feel of your reports.

As always, if you have any questions or if something is unclear, just drop me a note and I’ll be in touch.

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MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

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Piloting the Power of Business Intelligence

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In several of our previous blogs we have discussed the proper way to build a business intelligence enterprise solution.  Many of you have responded in agreement with much of the content and the steps required to truly unlock the potential of BI.  However, there are a number of readers who have reached out and asked for ways to promote BI within an organization that does not have a deep understanding or appreciation of what business intelligence can do. In other words, those that still view BI as mere reports.

Promoting BI certainly is a challenge if the organization has a lack of appreciation for what business intelligence truly represents.  However, there are still proven methods to promote BI within the organization.  The key way to do this is to find one area of the business that has acute pain, secure an executive sponsor who needs that pain resolved, and pilot the power of business intelligence.  Done correctly, the executive and business unit will become BI evangelists, spreading the word internally and driving the desire for business intelligence organization-wide.

The key to this approach is to deliver results in a very quick fashion.  Contrary to what has been preached previously on the holistic approach to BI, this will require an iterative development process, so you still need to be careful to treat this as a pilot and make sure the pilot does not become the foundation of the organizational BI structure and unknowingly paint yourself into corners that will later result in much rework.

In summary the steps to this approach include:

  • Find pain in the organization.
  • Secure an executive sponsor that requires a solution to that pain.
  • Take an iterative approach to development.  The first delivery may not be perfect, but show speed of response. (Also don’t worry about getting every BI requirement correct the first time.  Let the process develop the requirements. )
  • Demo the solution — perhaps start with a simple dashboard (see our earlier blog on how to build a proper BI dashboard) as this will help displace the myth of BI as a simple report.
  • Tweak the solution based upon feedback.
  • Once tweaked, let the business begin to utilize the BI solution, appreciate it and evangelize. Once it realizes BI truly helps enable more mature decision-making, that’s when buy-in occurs.

Hopefully, done well, there will be an influx of requests for increased business intelligence analytics across the organization.  Once that need is established, you can take the proper steps to build out your enterprise BI program.

Questions about this? I hear them all the time. If you have any, don’t be afraid to reach out.

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MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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How Strategic Is Your BI Solution?

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In the late 90’s all of the buzz talk was around ERP, and understandably so.  A lot of the buzz I hear today is about Business Intelligence (BI).

There are probably a variety of reasons for this.

Chief among them, in my experience, is the notion that ERP was pervasive in the 90’s because of the need to replace antiquated accounting systems to solve an imminent Y2K problem.  BI, on the other hand, is pervasive because everyone now has an ERP type solution and they want more.  But what does “more” mean?

One of the great differences that I have talked about in the past is the need to take an ERP transaction-based system that reports historical information and turn that into useful, quantifiable information so you can plan the future and make real-world decisions.  For the first time, I have found an article that clear puts a correlation to the two views.

In his article entitled 6 Habits of True Strategic Thinkers author Paul J.H. Schoemaker describes characteristics and traits of executives who would like to spend more time focused on strategic thinking rather than then day-to-day activities of their organization.  Interestingly enough, these characteristics are the very same traits that separate an accounting solution that reports history from a solid BI solution that allows you to make perceptive decisions about your business.  These traits include:

  • Anticipate
  • Think Critically
  • Interpret
  • Decide
  • Align
  • Learn

You can read the full article over at Inc. online.

I encourage you to do so at the behest of two questions you should aks yourself:

  1. Are you a strategic leader?
  2. Do your systems provide the information (not merely data) and knowledge that allow you to be a strategic leader?

If the answer to either of these is no, it may be time for a change.

If you’re interested in BI fundamentals and how we look at BI implementations and their value, don’t miss our whitepaper, MIPRO’s Business Intelligence Manifesto: Six Requirements for an Effective BI Deployment. And naturally, if you have questions, want to tell me I’m wrong, or just go over what you’ve been kicking around in terms of BI lately, don’t be afraid to drop me an email.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Think You’re Not Being Data-Mined? Think Again.

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Say you’re a father of a teenage girl. One day, you get the mail and notice a Target coupon book addressed to your daughter, and it’s full of impending-baby supplies: supplements, lotion, diapers, cotton balls. You’re outraged. What is Target trying to do? Encourage another teenage pregnancy? You do what any father would do: you go to Target, ask for a manager, and give him a piece of your mind for sending out blatantly mist-targeted advertising like this. The manager, completely unsure of why in the world your daughter would get such a coupon book, apologizes profusely. Everyone chalks it up to a gaffe.

A few days later, you have a truly Orwellian moment: Target knew more about your daughter than you did. She’s pregnant. You didn’t know.

Sound like an impossible story? It’s not. In fact, it’s only one example of how companies are employing customer IDs, statisticians and data-mining to send you extremely targeted marketing. Here, ‘extremely targeted’ doesn’t mean advertising based on some known part of your shopping history or demographic; it means they are assigning you probability scores that something in your life is about to happen, and they want to get in on the ground floor to build customer loyalty.

Kashmir Hill, writing for Forbes, examines this exact story and illustrates how accurately companies can learn about you:

Every time you go shopping, you share intimate details about your consumption patterns with retailers. And many of those retailers are studying those details to figure out what you like, what you need, and which coupons are most likely to make you happy. Target, for example, has figured out how to data-mine its way into your womb, to figure out whether you have a baby on the way long before you need to start buying diapers.

Hill references the original NYTimes story that uncovered company secrets like this, which is entertaining to the point of fiction. Except it’s not.

You always hear about privacy issues when it comes to major gaffes by web companies: Facebook and Google, most predominantly. I know folks who refuse to use Facebook because of privacy concerns. I know others who refuse to use Google unless their browser is in some flavor of privacy mode. I always tell them they’re kidding themselves. Opting out of those two services might prevent data collection and targeted marketing from them (and their partners) to you, but everyone is doing it. Everyone. The ones we find out about are the ones who have made mistakes. The others? They’re running data on you right now, or maybe selling your data to another company, who will combine your data assets to paint an incredibly detailed picture of you.

We get outraged and freaked out when hear about a company violating or monetizing our privacy. We might cancel accounts and refuse to patronize the company again. But what about the companies that haven’t violated us yet?

Is it any mystery why after you, say, buy an Infiniti, you get deluged by mailers and emails from BMW boasting about how the 3-series recently bested Infiniti in so-and-so tests?  I’ve had this happen and have even thought, “Huh, that’s smart marketing” — right up until you realize how they’re doing it. And wonder what else they’re doing. And what other companies are doing.

You probably can’t drop off the grid, but this is worth thinking about. Even stuff that’s totally legal has the ability to make you very uncomfortable.

These are our times.

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MIPRO Consulting main website.

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