As we have talked about in our blog, All Aboard the Cloud Train, the enterprise software industry is moving swiftly to a cloud-based future. Every institution needs to consider this reality when setting their own long-term strategy. For Oracle’s Student Cloud, the train hasn’t pulled into the station yet, but we can smell the smoke.

If you are on Campus 9.0 you have been faced with a difficult decision. Do you spend a lot of money upgrading to Campus 9.2 or do you take that budget and invest it in your long-term future, the Cloud?

For Oracle, this question was especially problematic because ending support for Campus 9.0 was causing customers to weigh a 9.2 upgrade vs. other options. The issue is Oracle’s other option, the Student Cloud, is not ready yet. If customers wanted to remain supported, they would need to invest in a 9.2 upgrade and then implement the Student Cloud. That’s two implementations and is not a good fit for everyone, so Oracle is adjusting to customer feedback.

In June 2017, Oracle published their Oracle Student Products Position Statement as a response to this anxiety. One particular line addresses the Campus 9.0 customers directly.

“Oracle is investigating the possibility of providing one or more additional years of support for CS 9.0. This extension would enable customers to move to the new Cloud components rather than upgrading to CS 9.2.”

Oracle is now saying it is ok to stay on 9.0 while you wait for the Student Cloud. That’s a great option for many, but can you afford to stand still and do nothing with PeopleSoft in the meantime? We talk about standing still waiting on Student Cloud in our blog, Just finished your Campus 9.2 upgrade? Now what??

Believe it or not, but your students aren’t sat on campus eagerly awaiting your next PeopleSoft upgrade. Or wondering when you’ll be moving to a cloud-based solution. The reality is they really don’t care about platforms and vendors. What they care about is how they can interact with your systems. How easy do you make it, or how difficult and behind the times is it? They are also comparing you, often unfavorably, with consumer solutions that they use on an everyday basis. And they wonder, out loud, why your technology solutions are nothing like what they are used to seeing on their phone or tablet.

In the consumer world Chatbots are the new way people are accessing systems. So your students are looking to you to provide that level of service to them today, not in four years’ time. By then they’ll have graduated and moved on. So it’s critical that your campus is fully accessible on their phone in ways that consumer systems are today. That means fully responsive web access, conversational messaging, and even voice.

This is where IntraSee’s Usability First methodology comes in. We address the user experience issues today, and that work provides a smooth path to eventually moving to Student Cloud at your pace. It is the best of both worlds. Consider usability improvements in your current PeopleSoft Campus 9.0 such as Mobile, Student Self-Service, Academic Planner or even some Artificial Intelligence with Chatbots.

You can improve the user experience today and your efforts are a down payment on your next-generation student system, if you do it right. An added bonus is that your team can learn the technology of the future through this process and be fully ready for the Student Cloud.

Contact us below and we can chat about how you can improve your Campus 9.0 UX and be ready for the Student Cloud.

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Why does all the cool stuff happen with consumer technology? It’s a question, or complaint, that is familiar to many people living in the ERP world. Everyone remembers when the iPhone first came out, but nobody can remember the day any ERP application was first announced. Today we live in a world where we can talk to devices in our home (even an oven!), and they do what we want them to do. Then we go to work and struggle daily with ERP systems that seem designed to never understand what we want to do. It’s frustrating, it’s time-wasting, and it costs organizations billions of dollars each year in lost productivity, bad data entry, and too many calls to the Help Desk (which we wrote about in our blog, “There’s gold in them thar hills“).

Today, IntraSee is announcing that the cool stuff is finally happening in your world. Better still, it’s available July 2017. After many years of development, we are now providing Chatbot capability with your entire ERP system. Cloud, on-premise, or both.

So, imagine this world (where a manager wants to initiate an employee transfer):

Manager: “I’d like to transfer Jane to a different department”

Chatbot: “Which Jane would that be, Jane Rogers or Jane Smith?”

Manager: “Rogers”

Chatbot: “Which department would you like to transfer Jane Rogers to?”

Manager: “I don’t know the name, but I believe David Chen works in it.”

Chatbot: “That would be the Finance department in New York, I would be happy to transfer Jane there. Will Jane still report to you?”

Manager: “Yes, she will”.

Chatbot: “Is there a salary change or promotion involved?”

Manager: “No, but I would like to add a performance note to say that I think she’ll do a terrific job”.

Chatbot: “Yes, I will add that to the Oracle Talent Management system for you. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Manager: “No thanks, that was so easy!”

Chatbot: “It was my pleasure”.

So, let’s explain what just happened. The manager initiated a PeopleSoft HCM transaction to add a new JOB row that now puts one of her direct reports into a new department in New York. The manager also created a new performance note in the Oracle Talent Management Cloud system. All of this was done via a phone, and the manager either typed in the conversation on her phone, or she spoke into the phone. Can you imagine how complex and time consuming it would have been if the manager had to login to multiple systems, navigate to the correct place, and fill in complex forms? Or imagine if the manager didn’t want to have her time wasted and instead called up the Help Desk and asked them to make the changes for her?

There’s a reason chatbots are so popular. People value their time, and people want things to be easy. In the ERP world people are surrounded by complexity, and things are rarely easy. This is your opportunity to improve the experience and productivity of every person in your organization.

At IntraSee, we have focused all our efforts on improving the UX of ERP systems. Whether they are on-premise or in the Cloud. We are also helping our clients slowly transition from a PeopleSoft on-premise solution to an Oracle Cloud solution. Plus, helping them with the UX integration of all the other Cloud and on-premise applications they have.

The world of ERP is not simple, so we have taken it upon ourselves to make it simple for you. Chatbot integration with your ERP system is, without doubt, a means to that end.

If you are interested in finding out more, visit our AI page or contact us below.

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The average high school student lives in a world that is tightly micro managed. If it’s not “helicopter parents” overseeing every aspect of their education, it’s schools with heavily structured curriculum, and a schedule that never changes. Then one day everything changes and they wake up in the middle of the campus maze. All they now know is that in two or four years they are supposed to make it out with a degree in their hands. Failure in higher education means failure in life. The stress for many can be suffocating.

UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute found that college students are suffering more from stress than in the previous 30 years – and they party half as much as the previous generation.

Meanwhile the stated goal of most institutions, and something that can also impact federal funding, is the successful completion of a degree within four years. As any parent and student well knows, higher education costs have never been so expensive, and therefore the stakes have never been higher. The failure of a student to graduate in a timely fashion is a failure that radiates across multiple strands of society. So what is the main roadblock that is causing students to struggle more than we’ve seen them struggle in decades? The answer is simple: the campus maze.

So what is the campus maze and what problems does it cause?

Pac Man Maze

Figure 1: The perils of the maze

The campus maze is an environment of processes and academic systems where a wrong turn can result in devastating consequences. There may be many paths to success, but an even greater number of paths to failure. In IntraSee style, let’s look at the top three wrong turns we commonly see while students traverse the campus maze.

Wrong Turn #1 – Student’s Waste Their Time

Often, none of the academic systems are connected and it is impossible to find anything. Sometimes there are awful redundancies where more than one system is used to achieve basically the same thing. We knew one university with over 60 help desks! The problem is that the student wastes so much of their time. Wasted time trying to figure out which system they need to use. Wasted time trying to learn new navigations and search engines for each and every system. Wasted time calling the help desk or asking friends/advisors when they get stuck.

All that time wasted does three things:

  1. It creates a tremendous amount of stress. Given that students complain that time management is one of the main things they struggle with, this is stress piled on top of the stresses students already feel. And this is no small problem. Stress is a huge concern area for universities.
  2. Wasted time is just taking away from their studies. Add up all the wasted time and that time not spent studying or researching can impact grades and degree progress. This is a real problem!
  3. Student’s perception of the university changes when so much of their time is wasted. They begin to ask how such a prestigious university could be ignoring these issues. They start talking publically and the whole problem spirals into negative publicity.

Wrong Turn #2 – Student’s Miss Deadlines/Indicators

The next big problem when you have such a decentralized environment with no centralized UX layer is that Students miss deadlines. Think about all the notices and alerts each of these systems can send. Your library book is overdue, your parking fine hasn’t been paid, you have an upcoming homework assignment, you haven’t met with your advisor to clear your enrollment, your student financials account is overdue, and on and on.

The maze leaves students having no idea what they need to do. The student misses these alerts because they are all buried in places they don’t frequently visit. What happens when critical notices aren’t read and acted on? Problems as bad as missing your graduation date can result. Stress levels spike when they are surprised to learn of the consequences of missing something they didn’t even knew existed!

Progress indicators are also all over academic systems even if in subtle form. Assignment grades, term grades, degree progress reports, advising notes, tuition paid to name a few. When students don’t have visibility at their fingertips into these indicators, they can miss the signs that trouble is on the way. Next thing they know, they are paying for an extra semester to graduate.

And one more thing, all this should be visible on the student’s phone, because that’s where they spend much of their life! Times have changed, and how students expect to interact with your university have changed too. Mobile access isn’t a nice to have anymore. It’s a requirement.

Wrong Turn #3 – Poor Progress Planning

In today’s higher education, students really need to be on top of their plan to graduate. They need to make sure they decide their major/concentration early enough and that they are taking the right classes, in the right order, to graduate on time. Given the maze of pre-requisites and required courses, sometimes there is only a single semester that can feasibly hold a class. You miss that window and now you are graduating late.

Some of the problems are related to not understanding the degree requirements, but increasingly there are issues around availability and capacity. If a student doesn’t realize a class is hard to get into, they may fall victim to no seats being available. It then becomes a chain reaction pushing back all courses, as the class in question is a pre-requisite for other classes. Problems can also be as simple as not understanding how long it takes to walk to class. Once a student realizes they will be 10 minutes late each day, they end up dropping the class which again sets the chain reaction in motion.

The Advisor has a role to play in navigating this maze, but we will leave that for a future post.

Given the highly negative impact to student success that the campus maze causes, the obvious question is why does it exist, and why are so few organizations focused on solving it?

According to the latest CDS Benchmarking report, 80 percent of higher education IT budget is spent on operations (run), 13 percent on incremental changes (grow), and 5 percent on non-incremental changes (transform).  No institution type spends more than 8 percent of their technology budget on transformative projects.

The sad truth is that transformative (UX) projects are not a priority in the higher education world, aside from some notable exceptions (Harvard University, as in many things, leads in this area). Instead, IT departments are almost entirely focused on maintaining the current maze of systems that are in place today. Somehow the goals of the university and the goals of the IT department are massively out of line.

The only way for schools to meet the needs of the students is to focus far more of their spending on UX (transformative) projects, and far less on the day to day running of multiple legacy systems.

This isn’t about spending more money, it’s about spending money more wisely (see our recent blog on this subject).

The first step in this transformation is to create your UX experience in the Cloud. The worst thing you can do is to try and shoehorn a UX into each of your campus systems. All this does is increase your maintenance costs, and creates a vicious cycle of ineffective IT spending. Plus it dooms your UX initiative as it almost inevitably entails trying to solve a critical problem with all the wrong tools (see this blog for an explanation on that)!

Simply by implementing your UX in the Cloud you get four immediate advantages:

  • Lower total cost of ownership (so now you don’t have to dedicate 80% of IT budget to maintenance)
  • Access to better tools in the Cloud to more easily provide a coherent UX solution
  • Protection of your IT dollars in your UX investment. Now that your UX is not tied to your legacy systems you do not need to rebuild your UX each time a legacy system changes
  • As you slowly migrate all your legacy requirements to the Cloud, the cost of doing so will be reduced because your UX already sits in the Cloud.

At IntraSee we would recommend using Oracle Platform as a Service (PaaS) tools to solve your UX problems (check out this short video on the subject). It’s something we are doing today and we know it works. And better still, it works with your current PeopleSoft Campus Solutions, your other legacy and Cloud systems, and also your future Cloud Student Information System. So why not make 2017 the year of transformation, and the year you finally start to focus on student success? It’s time to solve the campus maze problem. And to kick things off, let us know if you’d like to see a live demo of what this could look like for your organization. So contact us now.

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The Money Pit, starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, is a great, if underrated, movie that we would recommend anyone should see. The premise, for those who haven’t seen it, is that Tom & Shelley purchase a house, only to discover that they need to spend more, and more, money just to make it habitable. At the end of the movie (spoiler alert) the bickering couple go to extreme lengths to protect their “investment” dollars in the house of their dreams – which has now turned into a nightmare. However, because this is Hollywood, it all ends up happily ever after. If only life was like that!

Unlike a Hollywood movie script, it’s no joke to see your money disappear into a bottomless pit. For many organizations in the ERP world there is a strong feeling that their HCM system is a living and breathing money pit swallowing huge amounts of cash each year, and with no sign of ever letting up! Out of the box your HCM system wasn’t a money pit, so how did you get to this point? A large part of the blame may belong with how you’ve implemented it. And why this is relevant now is that it’s likely that in the next five years you will be changing your HCM system from PeopleSoft on-premise to a modern Cloud-based system. So, to avoid repeating mistakes of the past, now is the time to look forward to how you can spend your money wisely on your next HCM system.

And, because we are IntraSee, let’s go with the Top 3 ways people squander money in the ERP world (in no particular order). Next time around, avoid the following pitfalls and you’ll be on your way to a rapid ROI.

1. Bad Design/Planning

Traffic Lights

Figure 1: Result of not taking “human factors” into account

In a recent ROI blog we discussed the 1-10-100 rule as it relates to data cleanliness. Well, there’s a sister rule that applies to software cleanliness too. Basically, the rule is that $1 spent identifying an issue in design avoids $10 spent catching and fixing that issue during testing, which in turn avoids spending $100 fixing each issue in production that was not caught during testing. So, given this math and some laws of probability, the chances are that you spent upwards of 10 times more on implementing your ERP system than was necessary. Ouch!

So what exactly is “bad design”? To answer that question, consider this:

According to recent research, about 80% of unanticipated fixes during the development/implementation cycle are issues stemming from the UI/UX, while only 20% are actual bugs.

What this tells us is that any design that does not take into account “human factors” is destined to be a failed design that is massively costly to any organization. So why does this happen? There’s a whole host of reasons (and we’ll talk about them in a future blog), but the core reason is that most organizations that are implementing an ERP system use “configuration experts” to handle UX design. Unfortunately, just because someone has installed and implemented a certain HCM system hundreds of times, that doesn’t make them a UX expert. When you have a toothache, you go to a dentist for advice, you don’t ask your chiropractor just because you happen to be lay on the table. Engaging with UX experts, whether it is internal to your organization, or external as a vendor, is a good idea because it saves you a lot of money in the long run.  Oh, and be sure to bring them in at the start of the project! UX experts will allow you to pinpoint how to get the most out of your implementation during the design phase. And they’ll do it using tools that your user base can understand (hint: they won’t be handing out a 100 page requirements document and asking them to digest and sign-off). The bottom line is that a small investment in UX during the design phase will reap massive savings throughout the rest of the project.

2. Bad Testing

Jurassic Park Stampede

Figure 2: Results of bad usability testing

OK, so if your design sessions weren’t very good, and never captured the true requirements of your user audience, then it’s going to cost you ten-fold. But the good news is that if you catch things during the testing period then that will save you another ten-fold cost if you can stop the issues ending up in production. Because if it hits production it gets really messy. Lots of people need to get involved, requirements need to be properly gathered, design specs updated, developers/configurators engaged, and development and test cycles begun all over again. Yuck! No wonder it costs a fortune. And that’s not even taking into account the cost of wiping all that egg off your face.

Fortunately, that’s what usability testing is all about. The purpose of usability testing is to simulate what will happen in production when “real people” start using the system. Because it’s ten times cheaper to catch a bug during testing than it is to fix a bug in production, usability testing is a good idea. Organizations that don’t include good usability testing inevitably end up wondering why they have so many “little” bugs, and also wondering why maintaining their ERP system is so expensive. And, of course, the key with usability testing is “early and often”.  Why? Per, the 1-10-100 rule, the earlier you catch something the cheaper it is to fix. Have you ever seen bricklayer’s create the walls of a house? You’ll notice that for each layer of bricks a spirit level is used to check to make sure that the layer is perfectly level. This takes time, but it’s the smart thing to do. Imagine if you waited until the final layer of bricks was laid before you tested it. Yes, all it takes is one layer to be out of sync and the entire wall is a mess and you have to tear it down and start again. The 1-10-100 rule goes back centuries and applies to almost everything.

3. Solving UX Requirements with the Wrong Tools, and with the Wrong Platform

Huge Drill

Figure 3: Wrong tools, wrong platform

If we had 10 cents for every time we’ve seen this cardinal rule broken we’d have $246.70! This is a big one, so let’s walk this through and see where we land. Given the earlier fact that 80% of “fixes” are due to UI/UX issues then it becomes apparent that the majority of changes to ERP systems during implementation are done for UI/UX reasons (see this blog for an explanation of the difference between UI and UX). In the PeopleSoft world these “UX enhancements” are often done by:

  • Modifying delivered components (which now makes the ERP system costly to maintain).
    Note: we have known organizations that went from having thousands of customizations in the HCM system to having hundreds, purely by moving UX/UI requirements into the UX layer.
  • Creating “custom” components to create new UI/UX functionality (which locks your changes into a code-heavy framework, and locks you into a development platform that you’ll likely start moving off in the next 5 years).
    Note: Meeting UX requirements with configuration-based tools that the business community can use is far cheaper and more effective than having developers build code to create a solution.

The bottom line is that UI and UX changes to your HCM system, for example, should not be made inside your HCM system. They need to be made in a UX layer (the “single pane of glass”) that sits on top of your HCM system. That’s where you should be spending your UX dollars. HCM systems come and go. Even elements of your HCM solution can change from year to year. One day you’re using SuccessFactors for talent management, the next day it could be Oracle’s Talent Management Cloud. The one constant is the “pane of glass”/aka the UX layer. Investing in the “pane of glass” instead of building these custom components inside your HCM system future-proofs your UX investment as it is barely affected by changes to the underlying set of systems it is manipulating for the benefit of your users.

Pane of Glass

Figure 4: Tom Cruise dragging a PeopleSoft component into view, while he pauses his interaction with Oracle’s Talent Management Cloud

For many years, this UX layer was the PeopleSoft Interaction Hub. Going forward from today we would recommend that organizations look at Oracle’s Platform as a Service (PaaS) as an eventual replacement (in a time period you feel comfortable with). The reason we would recommend switching from one UX development platform to another isn’t just because that’s exactly what Oracle is doing. It’s because PeopleSoft has a finite life to it (kind of like a lease car that you need to return), and eventually the move to a development platform in the Cloud is inevitable for everyone (just think of it as your next car). So, investing your UX dollars in your future toolset is something that we would recommend organizations start to consider.  Making UX changes in core PeopleSoft HCM is not a good investment of dollars, as when you do move off PeopleSoft those UX dollars will be lost (just like putting a sunroof in your car four months before the lease is up), as they are not transferrable into the cloud (Special note: there are a number of things we can migrate from the PeopleSoft Interaction Hub into the Oracle Cloud, so don’t panic!).  We would recommend two different options instead:

A. UX changes are made in the PeopleSoft Interaction Hub, with a defined migration path to Oracle PaaS (Note: we’ll create a future blog on this, as we know many people are using the PeopleSoft Interaction Hub and will need that migration path).

Or

B. UX changes are made in Oracle PaaS enabled by integration between Oracle PaaS and PeopleSoft (Note: we are providing this integration, so this is an option available today)

The benefits are:

  • Your UX dollars are protected
  • The cost of running your HCM system (present and future) is reduced
  • The cost of migrating to the Cloud is reduced
  • The period of time you would have to run PeopleSoft in parallel with the Cloud is reduced (which in turn reduces your maintenance dollars).

Hopefully all this advice will help when you start planning for your next ERP adventure. Just remember, it doesn’t have to be a money pit. It is possible to implement ERP solutions fast, cheaply, and with a high ROI. You just need to take the right approach, which will in turn assure you of a high return on your investment, and many good night’s sleep throughout the entire implementation.

Please contact us to learn more

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