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Posts Tagged ‘enterprise it’

Spotlight: PeopleSoft Program Management

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Have you heard of PeopleSoft Program Management? If not, you’re not alone.

Program Management is one of the lesser known applications within the PeopleSoft footprint.  However, when utilized in conjunction with PeopleSoft Project Costing, Program Management can provide organizations a tremendous amount of value by consolidating project information into one neat repository.

Having all of the projects in one repository allows for a level of consistency amongst projects and empowers project managers to have common work plans, progress, project milestones and definitions.  With a standard view of projects, an organization can have a better understanding of project or program profitability and an overall comparison of budgets and actual to forecasts across projects.  Users utilize the Enterprise Program Tree to group like projects together to summarize data and create project dependencies.  Similar projects can be templated which promotes the ability to compare similar project efforts.

It’s really an amazing piece of software for project-heavy organizations.

Here are a few snapshots of the features of PeopleSoft Program Management (click to enlarge):

Snapshot of the Enterprise Program Management Tree: All projects within a business unit, all projects rolling up into programs.

Snapshot: See the status of all projects rolled up into a program “at a glance”.

Consistent projects rolled up into programs allowing for a consistent view and analysis will better power your organization to successfully manage enterprise programs.

If you’re curious or interested in learning more, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll get in touch with you right away. No BS, no sales. Promise.

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PeopleSoft Web Services and WS-Security

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If you’re having problems deploying PeopleSoft Web Services because of ws-security issues (I think we all know that security is a paramount concern when pushing any new web services into production), Dave Bain over at the PeopleSoft Technology Blog might have the help you’re looking for:

I was speaking with a customer a few days ago about PeopleSoft Web Services.  The customer created a web service but when they went to deploy it, they had so many problems configuring ws-security, they pulled the service.  They spent several days trying to get it working but never got it working so they’ve put it on hold until they have time to work through the issues.

Having gone through the process of configuring ws-security myself, I understand the complexity.  There is no magic ‘easy’ button to push.  If you are not familiar with all the moving parts like policies, certificates, public and private keys, credential stores, and so on, it can be a daunting task.  PeopleBooks documentation is good but does not offer a step-by-step example to follow.  Fear not, for those that want more help, there is a place to go.

Bain spent some time finding the right solutions to this issue. If you’re struggling with ws-security and PeopleSoft Web Services, don’t miss his suggestions.

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The Importance of Real, No-BS Planning

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When was the last time you asked a person, “Where are you going on vacation?” and they said, “I don’t know!”  Or you asked, “How are you getting there?” and they shrugged and said, “No idea.”

Doesn’t happen, does it?

The reality is that vacations are so important that we make plans.  We define the outcomes by identifying a destination and the finer details like how we plan to get there and what we plan to do while we are there.

And when we get home, we show people pictures to validate our successful project, I mean, vacation.  At MIPRO, we do ERP projects,  and the process of understanding where we are going , how we are getting there, what the challenges will be, and how we will know we are successful are vitally important to understanding how you will gauge a successful project.

A recent report in Computerworld UK talks about this very issue in the context of a systems integrator stating that ERP projects deliver disappointing results.  Now, I have to ask myself if so many of the survey respondents are feeling less than satisfied with their ERP project results because they did not fully understand where they were headed, or what they were getting into.  That is very likely, especially if the systems integrator did not take the time to thoroughly understand the business objectives to be solved by the new ERP solution.

How do we know this probably played into the response data? We see it all the time. More than once, we’ve been called into clean up a mess left by another consulting firm/integrator only to discover that the previous firm didn’t take the time to understand fully what the client was trying to achieve. When we start asking these fundamental questions, despite being in the middle of a meltdown, they look at us in a strange way. A way that says, “Why weren’t these questions asked before? Would we even be in this mess if they were?”

These projects are complex and they touch many people in the organization who all have an independent measurement of what a successful ERP project means to them.  At MIPRO, we start every engagement with a BluePrint Workshop so we can help you understand, assimilate, and measure your ERP project against these outcomes.  Without that workshop, it is very likely you could successfully implement (or upgrade) the software such that it works, while having a terribly unsuccessful project on your hands where the end-users declare it a failure simply because it did not live up to their expectations or meet their business requirements.

If you don’t know where you are going, or how you are getting there, or what challenges to expect (like forgetting to bring your passport), you probably won’t understand how to make your trip a success.  Planning helps, expertise helps, and a little luck never hurts. We’ve seen countless combinations of the three.

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Technology Projects are *Always* Interesting. Right?

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When titling this post, I reminded myself of the ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”  Actually, what we strive for at MIPRO are uninteresting implementations and upgrades.  So, that said, before beginning a project, one should always review the following:

MURPHY’S LAWS OF COMPUTING

  1. For every action, there is an equal and opposite malfunction.
  2. To err is human… to blame your computer for your mistakes is even more human; in fact it is downright natural.
  3. He who laughs last probably made a back-up.
  4. If at first you don’t succeed, blame your computer.
  5. A complex system that does not work is invariably found to have evolved from a simpler system that worked just fine.
  6. The number one cause of computer problems is computer solutions.
  7. A computer program will always do what you tell it to do, but rarely what you want it to do.
  8. When computing, whatever happens, behave as though you meant it to happen.
  9. When you get to the point where you really understand your computer, it’s probably obsolete.
  10. The first place to look for information is in the section of the manual where you least expect to find it.
  11. When the going gets tough, upgrade.
  12. When you need to send an email quick, that’s when the modem wireless router won’t connect!

So, how does one avoid as many of these real – though humorous – problems and maximize success?  One word:  planning.  Throughout the rest of this post, you will see numerous examples of platitudes, conventional wisdom, and corny advice – all of it real and all of it worth emphasizing.

So, plan your work and work your plan.  Sound reasonable?  You’d be surprised how many projects fall into the ready, fire, aim category.  In fact, if you don’t have time to do it right, how are you going to find time to do it over?

Projects should be planned.  In fact, the planning phase of a project should consume 10-15% of the total cost and effort of the entire project.  I’m sure your momma once told you that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Or, as the Cheshire Cat told Alice, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

So plan already.  In fact, if you plan well enough, you can probably find someone else to do the work (just kidding!).  But, laying out the plan well, and then measuring how your project conforms to the plan, is the surest method to ensure success.  In fact, if you are serious about planning and measuring, this is one time that no good deed goes unpunished will probably not come to fruition.

For those of us with some engineering background, remembering the 2nd law of thermodynamics is always critical:  increasing entropy, or while the quantity of something may remain the same, the quality of it deteriorates gradually over time.

Projects are like this, in spades.

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Who is Killing Your Project?

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Prior to jumping into the world of PeopleSoft consulting, I spent many years implementing accounting solutions, as well as conducting instructor-led training for those applications.  In my years, I had some great classes, and I had some that just plain left me scratching my head.  Was it me?  Probably not: nobody except the lead developer knew the software better than me.  Was it my delivery?  I didn’t think so: I resonated with people and their survey forms said so.  Was it the material?  Okay, maybe….sometimes accounting software doesn’t compare with the world news, or the latest celebrity gossip.

It took me a while to recognize characteristics of the adult learner and how the dynamics of the people in class impacted the whole class.  I can’t remember who shared this with me, but my world became crystal clear when I recognized the three types of learners – explorers, vacationers, and prisoners.

Explorers are there because there is a world waiting for them and they want to know about it.  They hang on every word looking for opportunity to be better, do better, or just make things better.

Vacationers are there because they just want to get out of their day job.  It is an interesting break from the mundane.  Needless to say, their heart is not always invested in what you are trying to say or do.

The last group is the prisoners.  These are people who are forced to be there.  Imagine their reaction when their boss said “I need you to attend this training”.   It should come as no surprise when you catch these people doing everything except what you want them to do.

I share this with you because I am often perplexed about the amount of time spent in today’s world in meetings, conference calls, planning sessions, etc.  The next time you have to run a meeting, maybe you should do a quick inventory of who is in the room and what category they fit into.  Chances are pretty good that the prisoners won’t volunteer (or accept responsibility) for anything, much less grab an idea and run with it, and the vacationers will agree to anything as long as it does not create more work for them.

As a consulting company, we work with many organizations implementing new software.  That often means adopting new systems, implementing new business processes, and challenging the client to see things in a new and different way.  Of the three types of people I have described above, who do you think tends to perform well in these scenarios?  And more importantly, how many of these people are on your project right now?  If the answer is “not enough,” you may have just found who is killing your project.

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ERP Makes a Comeback

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Dan Tynan, writing for CIO.com:

For the past decade, ERP has been the poster child for IT projects that overpromise and underdeliver. It was notorious for painfully complex rollouts that took years to implement, required massive customization, and were often only partially realized. Billions of dollars were spent just trying to get ERP systems to work as advertised.

Now ERP is back — and not just for big enterprises looking to refresh legacy systems. According to surveys by Forrester Research, roughly one out of four SMBs and enterprises plans to either upgrade their existing ERP solutions or implement a new one over the next 12 months.

We see this too. Every day.

What’s different? Isn’t ERP’s sometimes-broken promise giving way to the new promise of SaaS and cloud computing? Not just yet — ERP has been around forever, and in that time companies have learned a great deal. They now fully understand what works, what doesn’t and what mistakes to avoid. They’ve gotten their technology down, integrations minimized and streamlined, and they’ve tied smart business processes to their operations.

In short, they’ve grown up. Learned a thing or two.

Our clients tell us that while they’re looking at cloud apps, they have too much tribal wisdom wrapped up into their existing applications and business processes. Many of our clients have just now put in their first real cut at business intelligence and are using that information to make actual, real-world, daily business decisions.

Their ERP systems may be old, and they may not look as shiny as some of the new cloud platforms offered up by Oracle and other vendors, but they work. And organizations understand them completely. That’s why they aren’t afraid of expanding or upgrading their ERP systems — because finally, they’re delivering the promise that they whispered years ago.

In short, they’re finally humming.

It takes a brave soul to scrap something wholesale that is finally working in favor of something that, in essence, represents a great deal of starting over.

What’s your take? Does Tynan’s article sound like you?

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The Importance of True Collaboration Between Executives and IT

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I came across this article over at CFO.com and couldn’t agree with it more.

It illustrates the importance of collaboration between business stakeholders and IT to any successful technology project — a topic we’ve all heard a dozen times. What’s the big deal?

We all do things with the best of intentions; nobody ever begins a project with the intention of killing it midstream. The thinking goes: We’re smart. We’re experienced. We know what we’re doing. This is especially true on the business side of the house.

But the details go like this: As business types get down the project’s path, we often find there are technical interfaces and integrations we are not equipped to handle on the business side. I know that many business-side stakeholders think we can handle doing it ourselves and in less time than when involving our IT departments. Well, that could wind up being dramatically wrong thinking.

Bottom line: if you are an executive with a DYI technology project underway, I would heed the advice in Susan’s article and learn from the project instead of killing it. Such an easy lesson, but often handled so wrong.

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Looking Forward: Why Enterprise Software Is Changing

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It’s clear that 2011 was the year of the cloud, with many traditional enterprise vendors accepting that the cloud is something they can no longer denigrate or ignore. The ‘cloud’ buzzword has been (sometimes annoyingly) tossed around for upwards of two years, but last year is when it hit critical mass in terms of action, not just marketing and positioning.

Chris Kanaracus, writing for IDG News, highlights a few enterprise trends we’re seeing and hearing in everyday conversations. These give real heft to the notion that the cloud is something everyone should be thinking about and/or planning around. It might not be happening right now, and it might not be top priority for you, but ignore this medium- to long-term direction at your peril.

Here’s one that struck us:

SAP buys SuccessFactors, Oracle buys RightNow, both accept cloud reality

Collectively, SAP and Oracle spent nearly US$5 billion this year to acquire software vendors based in the cloud.

Each sought different types of technologies, with SAP’s purchase of SuccessFactors boosting its human-resources software offerings as well as general cloud know-how, and Oracle’s RightNow buy giving it an array of customer-support capabilities.

But the deals have a common thread, marking a sea change for the traditional on-premise software world, said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research. “[It] signals the realization that cloud deployment will be the predominant approach.”

We do a massive amount of Oracle work, and what we’re hearing from Oracle and our customers is very real and perfectly synchonized: the cloud is real, it’s mature, and it’s time to start figuring out how it can help enterprise IT. It’s not just for early adopters or skunkwork labs anymore.

Along similar lines, you can’t ignore perhaps the biggest story out of Oracle, one that’s sure to mold future IT decisions for a long, long time:

Oracle delivers Fusion Applications

It took a while, but Oracle finally managed to deliver the first wave of its next-generation Fusion Applications, and its launch strategy also showed how cloud computing has influenced the enterprise software market.

The company has taken pains to stress that Fusion Applications can be deployed in a highly modular fashion, with no need to remove existing systems, and at a time of customers’ choosing. Users will also be able to run the software both on-premises and in cloud form, although some of the details of the latter remain to be made public.

Oracle’s strategy is partly a nod to reality, since few customers will rush to rip and replace their core ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems with new software, and Oracle also wants to ensure early users are successful. But its message of easier, more flexible consumption for Fusion is straight from the cloud-vendor playbook.

Now more than ever we are being asked by our clients to come in and help them simply assess: put executive/organizational expectations on a piece of paper somewhere (harder than it sounds, trust us), inventory current systems and capabilities, and plan roadmaps. Such basic blocking and tackling, but given the churn and change in what ‘enterprise IT’ will mean in three years, so important. We offer clients two very powerful planning workshops: our BluePrint Project Services and PeopleSoft Architecture Assessment, both of which are popular. Lately, we’ve been doing a lot of our BluePrint workshops, largely because of the reasons discussed a few hundred words ago: things are changing, and smart planning has never been more important.

Questions? Don’t be afraid to drop us a line. Always happy to have conversations.

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Mark Hurd: Oracle Knows CIOs

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The backstory: there’s some sentiment (especially from Information week editors/contributors) surrounding this past Oracle OpenWorld that suggests Mark Hurd and other Oracle executives didn’t demonstrate enough vision. In such a wake, Oracle’s Mark Hurd granted InjformationWeek’s Rob Preston another interview to relay a message that’s refreshing clear and to-the-point: Oracle knows CIOs.  Here are the key quips that caught my eye from the interview:

He started by recapping the four prongs of Oracle’s strategy. First, it’s focusing on being best of breed in every layer of the stack: hardware, operating system, database, horizontal and vertical applications. “We want all of those capabilities to be open and work well in heterogeneous environments,” Hurd said, “and we’re lined up from engineering through sales to make that happen.”

and

Second, he said, Oracle wants to vertically integrate those pieces to deliver “extremely attractive performance, cost, and, in the end, TCO for customers.” The first manifestation of that strategy was its Exadata database appliance, then its Exalogic middleware machine, and most recently its Exalytics in-memory business intelligence machine and Big Data Appliance. Hurd reiterated Oracle’s claim that the highly tuned Exadata hardware-software combo yields 70x performance improvements–reports that took 70 minutes now take one minute, Hurd said. And those gains can be “dialed in as cost savings for our customers,” he said. “The customer who says it cost me $7 million to do that job before, you can literally take 70x off that and it costs him $100,000.”

and

Third, it’s building out its vertical industry expertise, hiring sales and technical support people to help customers in healthcare, retail, financial services, utilities, and other sectors solve their “most strategic and difficult business problems,” Hurd said.

and finally

Fourth, it will deliver applications and infrastructure “any way the customer wants it,” he said. That includes the public cloud–note its recent launch of the Oracle Public Cloud, infrastructure as a service for customers looking to develop Java apps or deploy Oracle Fusion apps in the public cloud. That strategy also includes software as a service, punctuated this week by Oracle’s $1.5 billion deal to acquire RightNow, a leader in customer service SaaS. Oracle will help customers build out private and hybrid clouds as well, or, of course, it will work with them on premises. “You can use the same code base no matter which delivery vehicle you choose,” he said.

Don’t take my word for it. Read the whole thing over at IW GlobalCIO. Very good interview by Preston.

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Upgrade: Obligation or Opportunity?

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Some folks rank an upgrade right up there with routine maintenance on your car and a trip to the dentist.  You know it has to be done, and everyone can tell you why you should do it, but it is just so darn hard to get motivated about it.  Let’s be honest, you have heard more than once that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, so why are so many people concerned?

The obvious answer lies in things like tax tables and other statutory requirements that can only be met with the latest and greatest release of software.  Another answer lies in the fixes and patches that repair code that is causing you pain.  The less obvious answer is the ability to improve your situation, whether it is reducing the cost of ownership, realizing new efficiencies, or adding new functionality.

The difficulty in the ERP space is balancing the needs with the wants.  Every end-user can tell you what should be improved to make their life easier.  At the same time, the formula is just not that simple.  New features and functionality take time to analyze and implement.  De-customizing is almost as challenging as customizing.  So, for many companies, the stock answer is a “technical upgrade” where the apps are moved to the newest version, but the functionality stays status quo.

The technical upgrade works – low cost while maintaining support.  It’s quick, limits the disruption to the current schedules, doesn’t require a large integrated team, and allows you to check off that box on the audit checklist.  But the real question is what it costs you?  In a world where social media reacts in minutes rather than hours, what is the cost of not adopting new features?  And what is the cost of continuing to do business “the way we’ve always done it”?

Upgrades are opportunities to adapt and evolve, and while many companies perform upgrades because of an obligation to stay current, the real value in the upgrade comes when you take time to understand the features and functionality that can change the way you do business.  Every significant upgrade has them, and your support dollars pay for them, so why do so many companies forego them?

It is interesting to me that as I look back over the last 6-8 years, there was incredible stress, consternation and debate about whether Oracle would continue development on the PeopleSoft applications after the acquisition.  Yet today, I still encounter customers who are at least four releases back and wonder what all the fuss was about.  After all, if they stopped at 7.5 or 8.0, then what benefit have they received from any of the post-acquisition development?

I am encountering more and more customers who are now looking to upgrade, but too many are talking about a re-implementation.  It is always a project.  It should just never be that big of a project.

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