With Oracle OpenWorld 2010 coming up next week, I hate having to miss one of the major enterprise IT three, four, five-ring circuses of the year. I would have loved to attend, but HR Tech 2010 is thefollowing week. And unlike my much valued and much younger Oracle AR handler, Kris Barondess, I’m no longer able to handle two weeks of back-to-back firehose learning, swag-gathering, mile-long convention center halways, dawn to dusk vendor/colleague meetings plus official sessions, not to mention the late night action in whatever bar is still serving.
Lots of the EIs will be at #oow10 (for you Twitter virgins, that’s the hashtag for OpenWorld 2010) there, tweeting/blogging/ferreting about like mad. I plan to attend vicariously through their coverage and that of many other analyst colleagues as well as by following as much of the livestreaming and twitterstream as possible.
To help all of them get ready for the action, and to ensure that my questions don’t get lost in the shuffle, I wanted to enlist not only the official analysts/press/influencer/kibbitzer contingent but all those PeopleSoft HCM and EBS HCM customers and prospects in my search for answers. And since I’ve got more questions than even I can remember, I thought I’d better start capturing them in one giant OpenWorld prep post. As further preparation, you should read the relevant and quite lengthy, not to mention lively, discussion in the HR Technology group (membership required) at LinkedIn.
As in all Bloom & Wallace contests, the first person (or this could be a small team from one organiation because one bottle of good sipping tequila goes a long way) who provides credible answers to all of my questions — even if I hate the answers — will get a bottle of Souza Tres Generaciones served by me personally at Casa de Ranas. So let’s start with the easy questions:
- With respect to the product roadmap for PeopleSoft (PSFT) HCM, what comes after 9.1 and 9.2? What are the plans for PSFT 10.0 and beyond?
- What are the long-term, rearchitecting, rejuvenating, massive overhauling next generation plans for PSFT? Or is that plan named Fusion HCM?
- Beyond customer releases (and reading Bill Kutik’s entire column on this is a must), introducing ever more bits of Fusion middleware, and making changes that make it ever easier to connect (or will it be truly integrated?) Fusion HCM capabilities with PSFT HCM, is there a real future for PSFT HCM or does Oracle’s Applications Unlimited really mean that PSFT HCM is an evolutionary dead-end (as I’ve been saying from the get go) but one which, for 22% annual maintenance, will continue to get modest customer releases?
- With respect to the product roadmap for EBS HCM, what comes after 12.1 and 12.2? What are the plans for EBS 13.0?
- What are the long-term, rearchitecting, rejuvenating, massive overhauling next generation plans for EBS? Or is that plan named Fusion HCM?
- Beyond customer releases, introducing quite large bits of Fusion middleware (since with EBS, it only runs on Oracle DBMS etc. so can consume a lot more of Fusion middleware), and making changes that make it ever easier to connect (or will it be truly integrated?) Fusion HCM capabilities with EBS HCM, is there a real future for EBS HCM or does Oracle’s Applications Unlimited really mean that EBS HCM is an evolutionary dead-end (as I’ve also been saying from the get go) but one which, for 22% annual maintenance, will continue to get modest customer releases?
Now for some additional questions about the future of PSFT and EBS HCM:
- Why would Oracle be advising their current PSFT and EBS HCM installed base, and advising them strongly, to get to their current releases as quickly as possible rather than advising them to get ready for a migration to Fusion HCM? This is the confirmed position of Oracle on this point, and the rationale for doing an upgrade at this time may be compelling — improved functionality, improved user experience, better underpinnings via taking advantage of more Fusion middleware (except where, for PSFT HCM customers, that would conflict with their choosing not to use Oracle DMBS etc. under the covers), better operational performance, and better preparation to consume (don’t you love that word?) Fusion HCM. But it’s interesting that no one seems to be talking about better preparation for migrating to (there’s NEVER a mention of the shunned term implementing) Fusion HCM.
- And what about all those, perhaps most, PSFT and EBS HCM customers who are on older releases, with tons of added on modules from other sources, miles of PeopleCode and FlexFields, and a truly spaghetti-like pile of HR technology? I believe the party line is for these folks to unleash as much as possible in EBS and PSFT HCM, use the opportunity of an upgrade to current releases to unwind the spaghetti, rationalize those Flexfields while eliminating as much PeopleCode as possible, and cast off those other vendor add-ons where they overlap with Oracle-provided PSFT or EBS HCM functionality?
- Where all modern HCM software is presumed to be self service and there’s no separate payment (license or subscription) of same from the relevant vendors, what plans (if any) Oracle have to eliminate separate pricing for the self service capabilities of EBS and PSFT HCM?
- For those PSFT or EBS HCM customers on older releases who just want regulatory updates, will Oracle offer a much lower annual maintenance fee for some like “regulatory sustainance?” Whether these customer are destined eventually for an implementation of Fusion HCM or going in a different direction over the longer term, what’s the probability that Oracle will offer tiered maintenance fees to those customers who simply choose to stay where they are and not upgrade? That’s right, I want someone (obviously not me!) to get up and ask Mr. Ellison if he plans to offer his valued customers tiered maintenance fees that are commensurate with the value received.
Now for some questions that are strictly about Fusion HCM (but may well apply to other parts of the Fusion applications portfolio):
- When will there be a complete Fusion HCM replacement applications suite — so global core HRMS including payroll, benefits, talent management built on a common architecture, object model, and entirely integrated with a fully social and mobile user experience — to which current PeopleSoft HCM or EBS HCM customers may migrate?
- If that complete Fusion HCM replacement applications suite isn’t going to be GA in Q4/2010, what will be on offer in terms of functional scope, maturity of underpinnings, readiness for market?
- If you’re a card-carrying, full maintenance-paying licensee of PeopleSoft HCM or EBS HCM, will you be given Fusion HCM, absolutely free as a licensed application for on-premise implementation? I’ve heard that you’ll get like for like, but I worry about what that really means given how differently and in what separate modules older software was licensed. I’d hate to see PSFT or EBS HCM customers, long-standing customers, not get their complete replacement Fusion HCM suite as recompense for all those maintenance dollars they’ve paid Oracle by Oracle partitioning Fusion HCM quite differently (as you would expect for a new, truly integrated, only self service, totally social modern HCM) so that it rarely qualifies for that like for like replacement.
- When will there be a complete Fusion HCM applications suite — so global core HRMS including payroll, benefits, talent management built on a common architecture, object model, and entirely integrated with a fully social and mobile user experience — which can be “sold” outright to new customers (i.e. those who are not current PeopleSoft or EBS HCM customers)?
- Whether for new customers or migrating legacy customers, on what business model/deployment/architectural basis will Fusion HCM present itself? Will Fusion HCM be available as (1) multi-tenant SaaS, (2) single-tenant on demand, (3) single-tenant customer maintained on premise and/or (4) single-tenant appliance delivered on premise? Will it be offered as true SaaS, as SaaS InFullBloom or will it merely be hosted, single tenant, for those customers who want hosting?
- If Fusion HCM isn’t true SaaS, run multi-tenant by Oracle, and only true SaaS, then how much of the benefit of true SaaS will be lost through their having to support other business/deployment and architectural models? Can this new product line survive/prosper if Oracle chooses to offer it on a mix it and match it basis?
- Whether subscribed (or even if licensed), will it be subscribed such that new capabilities don’t add to the cost or will it be subscribed by mini-modules so that there’s always more subscription needed to get to the full suite? I’d love to see Fusion HCM appear as a true SaaS application, taking the position that Workday’s taking where once you’ve subscribed to HCM, you get all the new functionality at no extra cost for the length of your subscription contract. How wonderful that would be for those PSFT and EBS HCM customers, perhaps running on old, no longer supported or even fairly recent but not adequate releases if they could get their new apps essentially free and just pay that portion of the subscription which covers the hosting and support charges?
- Whatever Release 1 of Fusion HCM consists, what will be the roadmap for the next 3-4 releases? What functionality will be available immediately, for what geographies, with what depth and breadth of capability? What type of business could run completely on Release 1?
- If not a full replacement suite, does Release 1 of Fusion HCM consist of add-ons that may be useful to current PSFT or EBS HCM customers, either to replace specific PSFT or EBS modules or to displace add-ons purchase outside of Oracle?
- What will be the scope of those add-ons and how many releases/collections of add-ons will it take to get to a full replacement HCM suite?
- Will Fusion HCM, whatever its initial scope, once subscribed (or licensed?), deliver new functionality three or four times a year? Will the functionability be at no additional cost regardless of expansion?
And now for the toughies:
- Since Fusion HCM is presumably built on a modern HRM object model, which should differ tremendously from the core data design of PeopleSoft, which dates back to the late-’80s, how are PeopleSoft customers are going to connect their Enterprise HCM platform directly to Fusion HCM? How (by what magic?) will Fusion and PeopleSoft HCM interoperate/integrate in real-time, in a fully automated manner with that automation provided by Oracle as to data structures, including historical data structures, processes that cross platforms, business rules that live in PeopleCode but are needed in Fusion, etc.? I admit to being sceptical about the ease not only of interoperation/integration but also of migration from PSFT to Fusion HCM. And I suspect that the now known (at least by Oracle) difficulty of any such interoperation/integration/migration has been factored carefully into when and how they will urge their PSFT HCM customers to do more than “consume” specific Fusion HCM components.
- When looked at objectively, Oracle’s EBS HCM has a more modern object model under the covers than does PeopleSoft. Since anything Fusion HCM must have an object model, Oracle has said previously (but I haven’t heard this recently) that Fusion HCM’s object model would be based on EBS HCM’s. If that’s true, and considering that EBS HCM has been unleashing Fusion middleware to a significant extent, I can well understand the possibility of treating Fusion HCM snippets/modules/whatever as tightly (by Oracle) interated add-ons to EBS HCM (although this product is pretty rich already in strategic HRM functionality). Nonetheless, I would like to know about the ease not only of interoperation/integration but, therefore, of migration from EBS to Fusion HCM. And I suspect that the now known (at least by Oracle) difficulyt of any such interoperation/integration/migration, although expected to be much less so than with PSFT HCM, has been factored carefully into when and how they will urge their EBS HCM customers to do more than “consume” specific Fusion HCM components.
- PeopleSoft never imposed any discipline on its customers around position versus job, and neither did most of the implementation consultants working with those customers. Since you can’t do robust talent management without that clear distinction, just as one example of incompatible object models, how on earth would a robust Fusion talent app be integrated with PeopleSoft implementations that don’t use position at all? No doubt this will all become clear in time, but it may well be ill-advised to invest heavily in a long-standing PeopleSoft implementation — let alone to do a new one — until you’ve got most to all of these questions answered about Fusion HCM apps.
- With the great, very large, and long-standing team devoted to Fusion HCM apps, I’m expecting a really wonderful, next gen suite that’s a full replacement for EBS HCM and, much more urgently in my opinion, for PeopleSoft HCM. I’m expecting robust system of record functionality tightly integrated with equally robust talent management functionality, not to mention full global payroll and benefits administration. I’m expecting everything social/collaborative, lots of embedded intelligence, actionable and predictive analytics, interrogatory configuration — the gantseh megilleh. While not all functionality for all geographies can be expected in R1, with 3-4 releases every year, as most true SaaS vendors are providing, it shouldn’t take very long for Fusion HCM to mature into that truly next gen replacement suite. That’s what I’m expecting, or really that’s what the market deserves after this long wait and zillions of paid maintenance dollars. Is that what’s happening? If that’s not what the market gets — R1 Fusion HCM Apps late 2010 with full replacement suite available by mid to late-2012 — what will we be getting and with what customer reaction?
- Oracle faces the innovator’s dilemma with Fusion HCM apps, but that’s no surprise. If Oracle’s Fusion HCM team have indeed done a green field object model, using the best ideas from EBS and PSFT, I have no doubt that the very capable team working on this will have come up with the right HCM object model for the new decade. But doing that, as noted above, would create serious challenges in creating a seamless and durable integration with either EBS or PSFT, something with which we are all familiar from having had to interface, let alone integrate, totally disparate HCM products in the past. No wonders of Web services, no XML schemas, no magic manipulations can create stable, durable integrations across disparate object models in our world of historical, current and prospective data management “out of the box.” And that’s before we take into consideration the extent of customizations — yes, code-based customizations — that were done to so many PSFT HCM implementations and the extent to which EBS HCM implementations have been built out using Oracle’s equivalent tools, e.g. FlexFields. So I’m VERY interested in how far Fusion has gone toward that industry-standard, modern object model?
- From an object model perspective, either Oracle has minimized the leap of their Fusion HCM object model in the interests of ease of integration between new Fusion HCM apps and EBS HCM/PSFT HCM or they have optimized the new Fusion HCM object model with a keen understanding of the integration challenges they face. But let’s remember that Oracle owns both EBS and PSFT and can do with those products as they like, to include making such changes, subject of course to customer impact/preferences, as may be needed to simplify and/or stabilize the relationships between the EBS and PSFT HCM object models/data designs and those of Fusion HCM. There are definitely ways in which Oracle’s Fusion HCM apps could mitigate the challenges to EBS and PSFT customers and still make that object model leap (and we know they’re making some really important architectural leaps). And there are also some ways that Oracle could mitigate the cost/learning curve/etc. for those customers who haven’t made a full-scale commitment to Fusion Middleware — a middleware collection that my experts in same declare to be quite good. It would be great to get a copy of the Fusion HCM object model ASAP so that we could do a detailed assessment of the extent of discontinuities, similarities, modernizations, compromises, etc.
- Mitigating both of these next gen challenges could be done with one or two approaches which the cognoscenti — that would not be me — have been hinting/discussing for some time. First, Oracle could subscribe/host (dare I say offer SaaS?) Fusion HCM apps, to include the whole middleware stack and — and this is where it gets interesting — the needed two-way integrations with EBS or PSFT HCM, keeping those integrations up-to-date continuously, and in both directions. Each customer would still have to go through some flavor of implementation to use the new Fusion HCM apps, and that implementation would have to include a very careful review of how they have used the current object models and physical data designs of EBS or PSFT HCM in order to eliminate any usages that complicate taking advantage of those supported integrations. Furthermore, Oracle might need to limit/constraint the use of some EBS or PSFT HCM or Fusion HCM features in order to enable a more robust and stable set of two-way integrations, but customers may well be willing to do that in order to keep the familiar while taking advantage of the new. A second approach would be for Oracle to host (or partner for this purpose) everything for their customers, which would allow them to take advantage of an entire Fusion hardware/middleware/applications/everything stack to handle all the complexities and costs out of sight of their customers. Customers would still go through some form of implementation as they brought their EBS or PSFT HCM suites into conformance with whatever constraints Oracle needed to impose on them in order to make all the pieces work together at a still affordable hosting cost, but it’s an intriguing idea on the surface. On this topic, I’m reminded of Joel Summer’s email to then Chuck Phillips dated 6/9/2003 with talking points for Oracle’s planned migration of PeopleSoft HCM customers to Oracle’s EBS. This is just one of a treasure trove of documents released as part of the relevant discovery process when PeopleSoft tried to prevent Oracle’s hostile takeover of PeopleSoft. http://www.justice.gov/atr/cases/f204300/204369.htm Our industry lost a genuine thought leader, talented executive and very menschy guy when Joel retired. But if you’re thinking that the path to Fusion HCM is going to be an easy one for either EBS or PSFT HCM customers, Joel’s email is required reading.
But what would I most like to know? Assuming that Fusion HCM will be highly competitive with the best of today’s HCM software, I’d love to run some of my “killer” scenarios through it, check it out against my preferred architectural behaviors, compare its object model to mine (at the highest levels) and put it to the same “tests” that I do the products of all the major HCM software vendors. So I guess my biggest question is when will they let me get my hands on Fusion HCM?