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HEUG Board Meets With Oracle Management

The HEUG Board was invited to hold its June 19-21, 2005 meetings on-site at Oracle headquarters in Redwood Shores, California. This provided a great opportunity for the Board to do a face-to-face review of the many things happening in the Oracle user group world, as well as to meet personally with key Oracle executives, several of whom are new to their positions and were relatively unfamiliar with the HEUG.

As you may well imagine, the organization chart at Oracle following the acquisition of PeopleSoft is still somewhat fluid. However, the Board was pleased to find that many of its old friends from the PeopleSoft organization have found highly-placed homes at Oracle. For example, Jesper Andersen is Oracle's Vice President of Strategy; Jim McGlothlin is the Vice President for North American sales for higher education and health care; Motasim Najeeb is the Group Vice President for Enterprise (PeopleSoft) Development, responsible for a successful version 9 of PeopleSoft products; Susan Beidler is the director of Campus Solutions Strategy; Mark Armstrong is the Director of Student Applications Development for both the PeopleSoft Campus Solutions Products and the Oracle Student Systems.

It was also quite beneficial to meet others of the Oracle executive team. As we learned at the HEUG Conference, higher education is an important "pillar" in the Oracle marketing strategy, as part of the "Education and Research" customer group. As such, Oracle views our industry as one they hope to dominate, with regard to ERP solutions - not just the "sticky" or "vertical" solutions like student administration, but also the "horizontal" solutions, like Financials and HR/Payroll.

The HEUG remains the largest single user group of Oracle and PeopleSoft products, although we do not fit the traditional Oracle user group framework. This has led us to further discussions about our structure, our separate user conference, etc. The HEUG Board has concluded that it is in the best interest of higher education institutions and individual members to continue as an independent corporation, with the primary purpose to provide a forum for training and support to higher education customers of Oracle/PeopleSoft products, and to provide input to Oracle representing the higher education customer community to continuously improve their product offerings. With the merger, the Board is also inviting higher education users of Oracle's other products to affiliate with the HEUG, since we will all eventually be users of the common "Fusion Product Lines". Input from both groups should be most helpful to Oracle in developing the combined products as the Fusion initiative progresses.

HEUG does not plan to merge into the Oracle Applications User Group ("OAUG") or align itself with the Quest user group, which will continue to represent the J.D. Edwards product users, as well as many of the smaller PeopleSoft user groups. The recent joint conference of OAUG and Quest users was attended by about 3,500 people. HEUG President Mike Ten Eyck and three other board members attended that conference, and concluded that the HEUG organization, the HEUG Conference, HEUG.Online and the quality of volunteers and the spirit of sharing and fellowship that we enjoy as HEUG members makes HEUG a unique organization, which should probably continue to pursue its objectives and activities as an independent organization. However, especially since many HEUG members are also OAUG members/have Oracle applications, HEUG and OAUG will consider appropriate joint activities, collaborative efforts, announcing each other's events, etc.

It may be advisable, however, for the HEUG to consider forming some kind of alliance strategy, in which it takes advantage of other user groups with common interests, such as has been done with the Public Sector User Group as a user of HEUG.Online and attendees at the annual HEUG conference. Several such groups have common administrative similarities in terms of funding sources, public service aims, financial and accounting requirements, etc. Again, input from HEUG members is welcome as the Board considers this possibility.

The Board will continue to look for opportunities to make higher education's views and needs heard by Oracle. These might include seeking appointments to Oracle's management advisory groups, global and regional councils, etc. All HEUG members are encouraged to become aware of any such opportunities and become as involved as possible at all levels, whether local, regional or global.

Newsworthy Notes

In the course of the Board meetings with Oracle, the following items were discussed and seemed noteworthy for the HEUG membership:

  1. Oracle has assigned additional developers to work on the Campus Solutions team. The Campus Solutions strategy team has prioritized their list of development needs into "pre-version 9 items"; version 9 priorities; and "deferred to Fusion". The Board will ask Susan Beidler for permission to publish her PowerPoint presentation, which provided themes for each of these categories.

    • The window for possibly upgrading from the supported version 8.0 SP1 Campus Solutions release to version 9.0 is short and needs special attention by both customers and Oracle. Version 9.0 is scheduled to be available in either Q3 or Q4 2006, but support for version 8.0 SP1 expires in August 2007. This leaves only about 7 to 8 months for a fully supported upgrade, once upgrade scripts become available.
    • The Campus Solutions Upgrade path to Fusion will be direct from both versions 8.9 and 9.0, as best fits the individual institution's needs.

  2. The Higher Ed and Healthcare consulting group under Rick Vaughn now deals with both PeopleSoft and Oracle applications, as well as technology. The implementation/upgrade lab services have been approved to continue in Oracle. (Sean White has returned to the consulting practice.)

  3. Oracle sales within the Higher Education market were brisk near the end of PeopleSoft's calendar year 2004, and have picked up again during Oracle's fourth quarter (ending May 2005). The sales organization is encouraging new customers to register with HEUG.Online and will provide new customer information to the HEUG Board. Jim McGlothlin is coordinating with Jim Cole's "Pre-Sales Solutions Support Group" to provide appropriate demos and discussions for current customers.

  4. The Campus Solutions development team under Mark Armstrong is tasked to upgrade both the PeopleSoft and Oracle Student Systems suites to versions 9 and 13, respectively, then the Fusion combined products. This is the only development team working on both software suites simultaneously. Version 8.9x releases will include work on:

    • Satisfactory Academic Progress;
    • Full use of Chartfields;
    • New Administrative Self Service capabilities;
    • Contributor Relations enhancements;
    • Advisement enhancements; and
    • Analysis Database purge functionality.

  5. The "Total Ownership Experience" ("TOE") initiatives adopted by Oracle are now relabeled "Superior Ownership Experience" initiatives ("SOE").

  6. The "A to B" upgrade ideas are not forgotten, but will probably not be pursued again until after the first Fusion applications are released. However, Oracle intends that all PeopleSoft transaction data and setup data will be easily migrated into the Fusion applications.

  7. Version 9.0 releases will include another minor tools release (version 8.48), which may introduce more "embedded analytics" capabilities.

  8. Oracle will work with the TAG to provide information on Fusion tools, including guidelines for programming PeopleSoft customizations in such a way that carrying them forward into the Fusion versions can be streamlined as much as possible.

  9. Those needing to contact Susan Murphy regarding Campus Solutions and Student Systems consultants are asked to include her middle initial for e-Mails: susan.r.murphy@oracle.com. She explained that while Rick Vaughan is responsible for selling consulting services and providing project management, her group trains and manages the consultants.

  10. The currently official upgrade paths for all PeopleSoft products to Fusion go through either versions 8.9 or 9.x. However, there is ongoing discussion about the possibility of direct upgrading from version 8.8 of Financials and HR/Payroll to Fusion's initial release of these products. Any official decision from these discussions will be communicated to the HEUG Board for announcement on HEUG.Online.

    • Support for Financials version 8.8 expires 12/16/2007.
    • Financials version 8.9 is expected to be released Q3 2005. Pre-release notes are available now. Changes from version 8.8 have mostly to do with commitment control.
    • Financials version 9.0 is expected to be released Q4 2006 or Q1 2007. Changes expected in this version center on internal controls, reporting & analytics, enhanced commitment control, enhanced grants accounting, XML publishing integration and SOE.
    • Oracle is interested in identifying any users of both Oracle and PeopleSoft Financials modules. If there are any HEUG institutions who meet this criteria, please advise the Financials PAG.
    • Oracle is still considering an upgrade path from Financials Version 8.4 direct to Financials Version 9.0, skipping both 8.8 and 8.9. No official announcement yet.

  11. If there is a mantra for Fusion, it appears to be "simplify, simplify, simplify." Greg Jones, Vice President of Industry-Specific Development for Oracle's Higher Education products, as well as Health Care and Pharmaceuticals, has been working toward a "fusion-like" architecture in his products for several years. This meeting was his first exposure to the HEUG. His Fusion objectives include:

    • Fusion will be a "development platform" with web-service-oriented architecture.
    • Fusion will incorporate "pure vanilla standards", using Java, J2EE and Web Services technology.
    • Oracle likes the basic idea of "PeopleTools", and will be working toward some variety of "declarative programming tool" for Fusion products. (Chris Heller's recent departure from Oracle was announced, but Oracle plans to replace Chris in the effort to create such a tool.)
    • The end goal of Fusion will be "Simplicity for our User Customers."
    • The Oracle Fusion product suite for Higher Education will include a major Learning Management tool, either by development or acquisition.
    • Customers will want to use Oracle's application servers and middleware technology because of the natural affinity they will have for Fusion products. However, there is still no announced requirement to use Oracle's database. It appears that other databases will be supported at least in the near- and intermediate-terms.

  12. Version 9.x will be certified for Oracle database version 10g, but this will likely not be true for the 8.9 product versions.

  13. We were advised that the Fusion development process will definitely start with the Oracle e-Business Suite applications, then add in PeopleSoft functionality. The reason given for this procedure is that Oracle's basic data model is different from PeopleSoft's in that Oracle intends that all of its applications will run on a single database instance. They will save time and energy by starting with the Oracle applications - even for Student Systems, although they were pretty clear that they believe the PeopleSoft products' functionality is generally superior. Greg Jones added that "We know we will have to tear out whole chunks of the Oracle applications and throw them away, but this is our best starting point."

    • Fusion will NOT use Oracle Forms.
    • For many of the applications, Oracle admits that PeopleSoft has better usability, and Oracle will incorporate the PeopleSoft "look and feel" into the Fusion products.
    • Oracle is committed to soliciting significant customer input into their decisions as to what constitutes "best business practices" to be included in their Fusion products. It seemed clear that they will welcome the HEUG's input, especially for - but not limited to -- the Fusion replacement for Campus Solutions.

  14. Oracle strategists in all product groups are responding very positively to the HEUG's PAG structure for product feedback and issue resolution strategies, although some are just learning about the HEUG.Online Issues Tracker. Oracle is evaluating various Issues Tracker systems, including HEUG.Online. Regardless of that decision, HEUG members will be encouraged to continue to use our own Issue Tracker, which can then be used either directly or indirectly by Oracle strategists.

  15. Although Higher Education is a relatively small market segment in the total Oracle picture, it has been a major contributor to Oracle/PeopleSoft's recent sales growth, and penetration into this marketplace has been and continues to be a major goal. Oracle plans to "dominate" this market and provide products far superior to those offered by its competitors. Oracle considers it a great advantage to expose our student users to Oracle products during their higher education experience, believing that this exposure will lead to a natural affinity for Oracle products in future years.

A Big Picture Perspective of the Fusion Direction

From all of the discussions the Board held with Oracle, the following themes emerged:

  1. As HEUG institutions plan their strategy for the next few years, it is apparent that the "best place to be" in preparation for Fusion will be either version 8.9 or 9.x of all PeopleSoft applications. Oracle has publicly stated that there will be direct upgrade paths from both of these versions, and getting to version 9.x for many of the products may not require upgrading to version 8.9 first. However, all other hopes about extended support for pre-8.9 product versions are very speculative.

  2. It is therefore possible that support will be extended beyond the typical 4-5-6 support cycle, as necessary, for version 8.9 or even 9.x product releases. Minor releases of version 9.x products (i.e., version 9.1, etc.) are certainly possible.

  3. PeopleSoft customers would be best served with the most unmodified versions 8.9 or 9.x as possible. The old "vanilla is best" axiom is probably more true for getting to Fusion than it has been for the typical PeopleSoft upgrade. Oracle will probably not be providing an easy way to bring forward customer modifications into the Fusion product suites.

  4. Oracle will likely not start its Fusion product releases with the major product suites (i.e., Financials, HR/Payroll, Student Administration, etc.). HEUG members who own smaller, less complex or more generic applications are more likely to see Fusion versions before the major suites appear in that format. Examples might include CRM, EPM, data warehousing, etc. The PeopleSoft products which appear early in version 8.9 and 9.x and which are advertised as having "Fusion technology" are more likely to be early Fusion products as well.

  5. Institutions would probably be best served to migrate first those products which they deem to be less mission critical, and gain experience from those migrations.

Regards,

Mike TenEyck, TCU
HEUG President


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