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Analytics in Search

Mon, 2016-05-23 12:06

Content contributed by Balaji Pattabhiraman

In two recent posts (creating simplified analytics--user perspective and creating analytic home pages), we’ve described some of the capabilities of Simplified Analytics.  In this post, we’ll examine how analytics and charting can be used to enhance search. 

Searching is an important part of the PeopleSoft UI, and we are continually improving it.  For example, we included related actions in search pages, enabling users to act on data directly from the search results without even having to navigate to transactions.  We also included commercial search features like facets and filtering to focus result sets.  Following that, we provided search in the Fluid UI, making search easier to use across form factors, including phones and tablets.

Now as part of Fluid Component Search, we have enabled analytics which helps users visualize and understand their results better, so they can act on those results more effectively.  Let’s examine what that looks like and how to enable it.

Analytics on a Search Page

First, recall what a classic component search page looked like.



It’s useful, but not as powerful as it could be.  As of PeopleTools 8.54 and higher we have transformed the search experience for all Fluid Components. 

Here is an example of a Contracts search.  In this example, the user can look at the Gross Contract Amount by Supplier in addition to searching for the contract.  Notice how the search page is transformed in Fluid. The left panel provides filters to narrow the results or initiate a new search. Here we have some Administrator and Contract Style filters applied. You can select a row of detail to open the page for that contract detail after narrowing the search. In this case, Gross Amount by Supplier Name.  Applying a filter will update the analytics as well as updating the search result grid because the analytics reflect live data.



Analytic charts are available for this page, so the user switches on the chart slider in the upper right of the page.



Here is the same search result page with the analytic turned on.



The charts are interactive like any Fluid Pivot Grid.  This means that you can select any data point and drill down using related actions.  Here we view the details by another field for the selected supplier (For example view contract date vs amount for a supplier).  You can also narrow the results for the supplier from the chart data point by selecting the Detailed View option.   There are more options under the gear menu in the upper right.  This lets you change chart options, download data to spread sheets, etc.



Adding Analytics to a Search

Now let’s see how to build a Fluid component search to include Pivot Grids.  Open the component properties.  (You would have already enabled the Fluid Flag while building the fluid component.)  In this case we’ll set the Search Type to Standard.  The other option for Search Type is Master-Detail, which enables you to persist the search results on the left panel after selecting a search result and opening the transaction.  This allows easy navigation between the search results without navigating back to the search page.   (You would also have the search/add record filled for the component, which is similar to any classic component with search.)



Next, open the Pivot Grid wizard and create a new pivot grid model.

In step 1, give the pivot grid a title and, optionally, a description.  You can also set the Type and Owner here.

In step 2, choose the data source type.  Here we’ve set the type as Component.  Then choose your component.  Also, choose a tree name and access group you generally use with the product line.  In this case we’ve chosen the Purchase Order access group.  This will ensure a query can be created from the search record and the end users of the component can see the search results. (Note: The search record will be added as part of this tree and the permissions from the component are added to the tree).  When we click Apply, this creates a query with the same name as the component and the fields will be listed.  Now we choose the fields that we want the end-user to see. 

In the step 3, we set overriding labels for the fields and choose the column type--whether a field is only for display in the grid or whether it should be part of the chart axis or the value the chart plots.  In addition, all the key fields become prompts for the pivot grid model automatically.  We can set default values for these prompts.  Note that you can change the prompt fields and change the criteria by modifying the generated query.  In most cases, the key fields serving as prompts will suffice. You can also choose which prompts to show or hide to the end-user in this step.

In step 4, we specify axis information including which fields will be the x-axis, y-axis and the filters.  In addition, under the Fluid Mode Options, we can fill the list view Title and Summary fields to show if your component is to be used on small form factors like a phone. 

You can optionally preview the chart in the last step and save the pivot grid definition.  This completes the setup.
Now when a user navigates to the component, the search page will show up based on the configuration.   (Typically a user might navigate from a home page tile, registered using the tile wizard.)

Now you can open the Search page by selecting the Group and Special Contracts tile.  You can view it with or without the chart.


Because this uses the PeopleSoft Fluid User Interface, the search page renders nicely on smaller form factors like smart phones and tablets.  This requires no additional configuration.  Here is the same page on a smart phone.



Transforming Analytics and Reporting

Wed, 2016-05-04 09:12

Content contributed by Balaji Pattabhiraman

A few months ago, I wrote in this blog about a feature in PeopleTools called Simplified Analytics.  This is really transformative technology that puts tremendous power in the hands of end users, enabling them to perform ad-hoc analytics right in context of their transactions and business processes.  It makes reporting timely, secure, and relevant.

Let's expand on that concept and take advantage of some other PeopleTools featues.  In this case, imagine I am a manager or subject area expert.  I've created several simplified analytics that I want to make available to my team for use in their daily work.  Simplified analytics enables me to create a tile from any analytic I create.  Those tiles can then be placed on any Fluid home page or Dashboard, which is another new PeopleTools feature.  Lets see an example of this.

As a business administrator I've created several simplifed analytics for the My Team page.  These are available in the My Analytics tab in Related Information.

Note that each tab on this page--Summary, Performance, Compensation, and Leave Balances--contains different analytics relevant to each topic.  I've created these analytics  to provide better decision support for these processes.

This calls for a quick review of an important part of the Simplified Analytics process.  When creating or editing the analytic, I have the option of publishing the analytic so it can be used by others.  (See this post for more info on creating a Simplified Analytic.)



When I choose to publish, I have the option of publishing to the My Analytics section of the Related Actions frame or publishing to the Tile Repository. Since I'll be creating an analytic dashboard, I'll save to the repository.



Now I can go to the Personalize option from the menu in any home page.  From here I can create my new analytic home page.  (This could be created as a Dashboard as well.)



In this case, I'll create a new home page called Team Analytics.  This will provide a single access point for our group of analytics, making them available in a convenient form to all team members.



Now that I've created the new home page, I can add tiles representing the analytics that were created previously.



I'll add several analytic tiles and make this home page a robust and valuable analytic tool.



Once I save the page it is displayed.  Here you see the home page with all the tiles I've added.



Now let's publish the home page and make it available to the team so all can benefit from it.  (Note: If I don't publish the home page to other users I can still use it as a personal home page.  One might do this for analytics that are used exclusively by me.) 



Enter a name and label and any other field data necessary. In this case I'm making it public, but in many cases you will want to make a page like this available only to a particular role or permission list.

Now when someone on our team logs in, (in this case Rosanna) she will have access to the new Team Analytics page.

Note that the data from the analytics correspond to Rosanna's team.  If the same analytics were published to a different group, the data would be relevant to that group.  The data, context, and security are determined by the PS Query that forms the basis of the analytic.

This illustrates how you can extend the power of Simplified Analytics to make valuable decision support available to teams, not just individuals.

Searching in PeopleSoft

Mon, 2016-04-25 17:50

Many customers have asked us about PeopleSoft’s search strategy.  They may have seen that Oracle’s Secure Enterprise Search (SES) isn’t on the price list any longer, so they wonder about PeolpleSoft’s continued use of that product. 

First and foremost, Search is an important part of PeopleSoft’s overall user experience, and we are continuing to invest in a consumer grade search experience for the enterprise.  When we re-architected our approach to Search several releases ago, we built a PeopleSoft search framework that provides a great Search UI that enables users not only to search enterprise information, but to refine their search results with facets and filters.  We also made it possible for users to act directly on search results through our Related Actions framework.  In many cases, users do not even have to navigate to a transaction page to complete a task.  This provides a rich Search UI that users have come to expect.  Further improvements using PeopleSoft’s Fluid UI include Pivot Grids in search pages that allow users better visualization of search results.  Oracle’s Secure Enterprise Search is the engine for that search in PeopleSoft. 

In an effort to provide choice, PeopleSoft is working on providing an alternative search engine that customers can use in their PeopleSoft ecosystem.  We are planning on offering Elastic Search as an option with PeopleTools 8.56, and our applications that are delivered on 8.56 are planned to contain Elastic indexes.  Note that Oracle will continue to support SES with PeopleSoft for some time yet, and customers can continue to use SES if they have deployed it.  We think that Elastic will be an attractive option for many customers, however.  It is important to note that whichever search engine you use, the PeopleSoft search framework will work with either search engine, and the search UI will be essentially the same regardless of your choice.  Here are a few key points about the Elastic Search option for PeopleSoft:

  • Planning on Elastic availability in 8.56, back porting to 8.55
  • Leverage PeopleTools Search Framework
    - SES or Elastic is a deployment Choice
    - Deploy Elastic on the separate search host instead of SES
  • Take PeopleSoft Images for application fixes and Elastic indexes
  • Will require a one-time full index build with Elastic using the new process
  • We plan to provide a migration guide to help deploy Custom indexes on Elastic
  • PeopleTools DPK for Elastic infrastructure
    - Supported on Linux and Windows
  • We plan to provide a deployment guide to help with performance tuning, load balance, and failover

Our initial testing indicates that Elastic will require fewer resources and will perform better—and will be easier to install than SES.

There is also some discussion of our plans for Search in this PeopleSoft talk video.  The Search discussion is at the 5:50 point.

Updated PeopleTools Performance Guidelines Red Paper Available

Tue, 2016-03-01 12:48

This performance tuning document is not a general introduction to environment tuning.  To use it, you should be experienced IT professionals with a good understanding of PeopleSoft System Administration. To take full advantage of the information covered in this document, we recommend that you have a basic understanding of system administration, basic Internet architecture, relational database concepts/SQL, and how to use PeopleSoft applications.

This document is not intended to replace the documentation delivered with the PeopleTools PeopleBooks. Many of the fundamental concepts related to PeopleSoft Internet Architecture are discussed in the following PeopleSoft PeopleBooks:

  • PeopleSoft Internet Architecture Administration (PeopleTools|Administration Tools|PeopleSoft Internet Architecture Administration)
  • Application Designer (Development Tools|Application Designer)
  • Integration Broker (Integration Tools|Application Messaging)
  • PeopleCode (Development Tools|PeopleCode Reference)
  • PeopleSoft Installation and Administration
  • PeopleSoft Hardware and Software Requirements

 

Additionally, we recommend that you read documentation on Oracle Application Server, BEA Weblogic/Tuxedo, and IBM Websphere. See your PeopleSoft Installation and Administration PeopleBooks for directions on accessing the Oracle, BEA, and IBM documentation.

Reporting in PeopleSoft Without Crystal Reports

Thu, 2016-02-25 14:40

As you’ve probably heard, PeopleTools 8.55 will not support the use of the Crystal Reports product with PeopleSoft. (Click here for more information).  Most of you know that we’ve been talking for years about ways to move away from Crystal Reports.  The obvious alternative has been to migrate your reports to Oracle BI Publisher.  I’m writing this post to help you understand that you have other options, and that we think that in many cases, there is an even better solution that will give your users more relevant and timely information.

Conventional reporting tools are used to create and publish static reports.  That is, they query the database and present information as a snapshot in time.  One of the problems with this approach is that important data can become instantly stale and not secure. 

Contemporary reporting is changing, however, and we feel that customers should re-evaluate how they can take advantage of some of the new reporting and analytic capabilities that PeopleSoft offers.  New options exist that help make reporting a strategic part of enterprise business processes.  In fact, you can easily incorporate business intelligence and real-time analytics directly into business process flows as an integral part of the application user experience. 

Using this more modern approach, designers are able to provide users relevant information directly in context of related business activities.  In this way, the user doesn’t have to “look up” information or pull up a report.  Instead, the application system provides the information directly on the page, or as part of a process, which leads to better decisions.  With modern PeopleSoft reporting capabilities, the data is fresh and secure because it never actually leaves the system. 

Take this approach to decide whether you need to replicate every one of your static reports from Crystal Reports in BI Publisher.  We believe that many older, static reports can be repurposed as online, real-time analytics rather than simply rewritten in a new reporting tool.

Chief among these exciting PeopleSoft reporting capabilities are the new Simplified Analytics and updated Pivot Grids.  These new features enable users to produce analytics and reports right in the context of their transactions, providing more agile and powerful analytics that result in better decision support.  In addition, these new reporting tools are easy to use and put power in the hands of end users and business experts.  Functional users won't have to rely on technical professionals to generate the reports they need.  With these tools, data can be sliced and diced as required, as well visualized in different ways to gain greater understanding of the information presented.

PeopleSoft applications teams will also be delivering new reports and analytics using these tools, so customers will get many new reports as they continue to take new application images.  Again, this means even fewer Crystal reports that need to be recreated.

Of course enterprises will still need conventional reports for things like Period Close and other regulatory reporting.  In those cases, customers can indeed convert old Crystal Reports into BI Publisher reports.  However, we believe that after thoughtful analysis, the number of such reports that need conversion into traditional formats and uses will be much smaller than you may have originally anticipated, and that most business needs will be better served with newer tools for producing on-line, real-time, business analytics. 

Tools - Only Upgrades for the Interaction Hub

Fri, 2016-02-19 11:59

Now that the Interaction Hub is on the Selective Adoption release process (like all PeopleSoft applications), some customers have been asking us about Tools-only upgrades for the Interaction Hub 9.1, and how that relates to taking maintenance and updates using PeopleSoft Update Manager (PUM).

Although it is possible to do a Tools-only upgrade to 8.55 and continue to use your earlier (non-PUM) release of the Interaction Hub 9.1, we don’t recommend this.  Issues will arise when you need to apply maintenance or any kind of update in the future.  Instead, we strongly recommend that you first move your Interaction Hub to the PUM baseline, then do your Tools upgrade.  This will make the process of taking fixes for Interaction Hub much easier going forward.  Taking subsequent Tools upgrades and Interaction Hub images will be simpler and go more smoothly once Interaction Hub is on PUM.

Note that this is no different than the process for other PeopleSoft applications.  Selective Adoption and PUM are the means for taking all maintenance and updates for PeopleSoft applications now, and Interaction Hub is part of that.  Selective Adoption and PUM are great new processes and tools that make taking maintenance and updates simpler and easier, so you should take advantage of that.

Image 2 of the Interaction Hub 9.1 is now available, and it has some exciting features that you may want to adopt.  So that is another reason to start using Selective Adoption and PUM.  The Update Manger home page has the information you need to perform to get your Interaction Hub on the PUM model.

There is a lot of great information on Selective Adoption on the PeopleSoft Info portal. 

Interaction Hub Image 2 Now Available

Mon, 2016-02-08 18:42

As we reported last June, the PeopleSoft Interaction Hub now uses the PeopleSoft Update Manager to deliver all updates and maintenance.  Customers can now take advantage of the Selective Adoption process when updating their Hub system.  This puts the Hub in alignment with all other PeopleSoft applications.  We are happy to announce that image 2 is now generally available from the PeopleSoft Update Manager home page. (Choose the Upate Image Home Pages tab, then choose the Interaction Hub Update Image page.)

Here are a few of the valuable features included in this image that customers should consider:

  • Guided process for branding.  The Hub offers a guided process that enables customers to do simple branding of their Fluid UI-based home pages and headers.  This is called Theme Builder and is described in PeopleBooks. Using this quick and easy process, administrators can set the header logo, banner color and text, background image and color, and more.  The administrator can also set roles to determine which branding themes are seen by which roles within an enterprise.  In addition, once the branding theme is set, you can publish your branding theme across all PeopleSoft applications in the wizard at the push of a button!  The Hub also gets its own delivered theme, but of course it's easy to create your own.
  • Administrator Landing Page.  The Hub delivers a landing page from which an administrator can monitor the health and performance of their PeopleSoft ecosystem.  This may also be where the administrator performs branding activities.
  • Guest Landing Page.  This page can be assigned to Guest roles for people that don't have full access to a system.
  • Navigation Collections.  Fluid Navigation Collections were actually implemented in PeopleTools 8.55.  However, Nav Collections have been used extensively in Hub designs, so now customers can design Fluid Hubs with home pages that use Nav Collections to streamline user navigation.

See the Update Image Home Page for complete details about this image.  

In addition, review the Planned Features page on My Oracle Support for updates regarding the Hub and a look at what we have planned for future images. 

Multiple PeopleSoft Applications: Using the Interaction Hub or Not

Mon, 2016-02-08 16:25

Many PeopleSoft customers have multiple PeopleSoft applications.  We often refer to this type of environment as a ‘cluster’.  Customers have different types of clusters, some using the Interaction Hub to unify the cluster and some without the Hub.  We are often asked how these are different.  Should a customer use the Interaction Hub for clusters?  Can you get by without it?  

The scenario I’m describing in this post relates to PeopleTools 8.55 and it’s use with applications using the Fluid header (whether the content is Classic or Fluid).

What is a Portal System in PeopleSoft?

This can be somewhat confusing because the PeopleSoft Interaction Hub was originally called the ‘PeopleSoft Enterprise Portal’, which was designed to be used as a traditional portal, aggregating content from multiple sources.  People still often refer to that product as simply ‘The Portal’.  The Interaction Hub still provides that traditional, aggregating functionality.  However, PeopleSoft also uses the term ‘Portal System’ to mean more than just the Interaction Hub system connecting to content systems like HCM, FSCM, and Campus Solutions.  In PeopleSoft, whatever system the user logs into first is considered to be acting as the Portal system.  For example if Single Sign-On (SSO) is set up between HCM and Campus Solution and the user logs into the HCM system and from there access Campus solution then the HCM system acts as the Portal system. 

What Does This Mean to My Users?

Let’s look at a specific Example.  In this scenario, the customer is NOT using the Interaction Hub, but they have PeopleSoft HCM and FSCM and have SSO set up for these applications.  A user of this system logs into HCM and is presented with an HCM-based Employee Home Page.  That home page contains a tile for FSCM content, and there is other FSCM content represented in the Nav Bar.  When the user selects an FSCM tile, they are presented with the FSCM content, but the header context remains in HCM. This means that the Nav Bar will still be the one from the HCM system.  It also means that if the user employs Global Search, the results will only come from HCM. Similarly, any notifications/alerts/actions they receive will originate from HCM only.  Basically, the partitioning between the applications is maintained.  If users want to search in FSCM, they must log out of HCM and log into FSCM, which at that point will become the acting portal system.  

Now let’s look at an example in which the customer is using the Interaction Hub to unify the cluster including HCM and FSCM.  In this scenario, the user logs into the Interaction Hub system, which provides the header and context.  The home page displayed initially can come from HCM or FSCM (or any application), and the Nav Bar can contain content from any PeopleSoft application where the content from these applications are registered.  When the user navigates to any content--whether it comes from the Interaction Hub, HCM or FSCM--the header and the Nav Bar is from the Interaction Hub system, which is where the user originated.   In this case, even when the user navigates to an HCM or FSCM transaction page, they can still use the header or the Nav Bar to navigate to any content in the cluster seamlessly.  In addition, if the user executes a search, the results of that search can come from any application in the cluster—in this case HCM, FSCM, or the Interaction Hub.  Furthermore, the user can take action from those search results using Related Actions regardless of where that content originated.  Similarly, the notifications in the header will deliver actions and alerts from all content systems in the cluster, and users can act on those notifications from the notifications window.

What We Recommend

Customers that have a cluster of multiple PeopleSoft applications should use the Interaction Hub to unify their user experience.  The Hub enables you to break down the barriers between applications and align your user experience with your business processes.  This enables your users to navigate freely among PeopleSoft content (and even external content) to complete their work--without having to know which PeopleSoft application is being used.  In addition, users don’t have to log in and out of different applications to complete business processes that may cross application boundaries.  Instead, the Hub presents the PeopleSoft cluster as a single unified ecosystem.

PeopleTools CPU analysis and supported versions of PeopleTools (update for January 2016 CPU)

Fri, 2016-02-05 14:30

Questions often arise on the PeopleTools versions for which Critical Patch Updates have been published, or if a particular PeopleTools version is supported. 

The attached page shows the patch number matrix for PeopleTools versions associated with a particular CPU publication. This information will help you decide which CPU to apply and when to consider upgrading to a more current release.

The link in "CPU Date" goes to the landing page for CPU advisories, the link in the individual date, e.g. Apr-10, goes to the advisory for that date.

The page also shows the CVE's addressed in the CPU, a synopsis of the issue and the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) value.

To find more details on any CVE, simply replace the CVE number in the sample URL below.

http://www.cvedetails.com/cve/CVE-2010-2377

Common Vulnerability Scoring System Version 2 Calculator

http://nvd.nist.gov/cvss.cfm?calculator&adv&version=2

This page shows the components of the CVSS score

Example CVSS response policy http://www.first.org/_assets/cvss/cvss-based-patch-policy.pdf

All the details in this page are available on My Oracle Support and public sites.

The RED column indicates the last patch for a PeopleTools version and effectively the last support date for that version.

Applications Unlimited support does NOT apply to PeopleTools versions.