In September 2009, Oracle released the long awaited PeopleTools 8.50. There was a spectrum of expectations and hype in the market about the latest and greatest technology platform that would power the next generation of PeopleSoft applications. Oracle had invested heavily in embedding new technologies to keep up with other vendor specific platforms while still keeping the core framework. Some of these included adoption of AJAX, Web 2.0 and 64-bit platforms resulting in improvements to key areas user-experience, reporting, integration, collaboration and maintenance.
This is one of the top most items on the list of improvements. The impression that one gets from using the new application is that Oracle intended to deliver a much more smoother, productive and faster user experience. A few of the notable enhancements:
•Pagelet Drag and Drop
•New Menu, Favorites, Recent Visits
•Scrollable Grids + Dynamic Column sorting
•Type Ahead / Auto Complete
•Mouse Over Popup
•Rich Text Editor
•Control of number of rows returned on a Search Page
While most of the user enhancements are automatically available upon installation of new tools version, enabling the remaining only requires minimal effort by the developer (checking an option in Application Designer in most cases).
Related Content Framework
Another huge advantage of PT8.50 is the ability to display related content as part of the current component. This content can be independently managed on a separate system or can be generated via sources from within the PeopleSoft Application (e.g. PeopleSoft Query). The content can be secured and selectively displayed for certain groups of users (this is in addition to the existing PeopleSoft security). A key application of this is “BI in Context” or embedded reporting where Business intelligence/Reporting data from another system (such as OBIEE) is displayed in context with the current transaction.
As part of the PeopleTools 8.50 platform, there is also a limited license for Enterprise Portal. The tools 8.50 comes with Related Content services defined for collaborative services available from enterprise portal. This allows items such as tags , comments and discussions to be displayed as related content on a component.
Connected Query is the major addition to the set of reporting tools in version 8.50. A Connected query is essentially composed of one or more hierarchically nested queries that are connected via the connected query definition. The connection is done via configuring and mapping the key fields from the top level query to the one below it. There is no limit to the number of nested queries which is very helpful. The tool can be used by functional users with minimal technical involvement. The data is fetched and the output is hierarchically in the form of an XML file. This XML file can be used as a data source for XML Publisher.
One of the reasons for including this new functionality is that Oracle is trying to push users to use XML Publisher rather than Crystal Reports (as per peoplebooks).
Other changes include enhancements to PS Query and XML Publisher.
Feed Publishing FrameWork
This allows content from the PeopleSoft application to be published as feeds that can be read by other applications. This functionality is helpful in pushing out data that needs to be used constantly , especially when the content has changed. PeopleSoft provides various data sources for these feeds which can include a service operation, PS Query and Portal content.
Enhancements have also been made to make the integration broker more flexible. Some of these include features controlling the message structure, security enhancements, graphical routings, application engine based handlers etc.
Oracle has also delivered a Query Access Service (QAS) that allows running ,scheduling and retrieving data from PS Query results. This is very powerful for stand alone BI tools that need to display this data in real time to the users.
Another service that Oracle has made available is the Process Scheduler Webservice. This allows an external system to submit and get results of a PeopleSoft process. An application of this is a SOA based workflow that can use this service asynchronously.
Having said all of the above, there are challenges that organizations would face:
1.PeopleSoft 9.0 upgrades: which features do I and don’t I get from a Tools 8.50 only upgrade.
2.Effort estimates for retrofitting and what’s really required to benefit fully from a tools upgrade
3.Related Content framework: Although powerful, how can this be used at my organization
4.Feed Publishing framework : How to identify systems that can use feeds from PeopleSoft
5.Identify systems that can use the delivered web services to maximize use of the PeopleSoft application