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Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Oracle Has Fusion But PeopleSoft Lives On

Despite plans for Fusion app 'coexistence,' Oracle will keep offering PeopleSoft releases after this week's update and a major release next year.

Oracle upgraded PeopleSoft Human Capital Management (HCM) this week, it will offer another feature-pack upgrade later this year, and there will be a major 9.2 release next year. Upgrades will continue after that point, Oracle promises.

So, that might leave you wondering -- if PeopleSoft's getting all these upgrades, what's the purpose of Oracle Fusion, the application suite that's supposed to blend all the best from Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, and Siebel? Fusion was finally released June 1, but Oracle hasn't had a lot to say about it. Expect that to change at this year's Oracle Open World event in early October.

In the meantime, here's the latest on PeopleSoft upgrades and how customers might choose to coexist with -- and someday cut over to -- Oracle Fusion Applications.

This week's feature-pack upgrade to Oracle PeopleSoft 9.1 delivers in four areas: payroll, compensation reporting, time and labor reporting, and online training integration. European customers will benefit from the payroll upgrade, which supports management of payments according to the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). This is a fairly new standard that saves time and effort when making payments across European borders.

The feature pack delivers PeopleSoft Total Rewards Statement 9.1 as a way to provide a more holistic view of total compensation, including benefits, allocations, incentives, and bonus pay. This makes it easier for companies to help their employees count their many blessings.

Of course it's the paycheck that matters most, and PeopleSoft Time and Labor 9.1 now includes more than 40 customizable, rules-based templates for reporting standard hours, overtime hours, holiday hours and more. Pay calculations get complicated, particularly when union-specific rules are applied. The templates are aimed at simplifying matters. Consulting firms have made a pile of money helping organizations figure this stuff out, but Oracle says templates will minimize the need for such support.

In a PeopleSoft Enterprise Learning Management 9.1 upgrade, the software has gained support for the SCORM 2004 Fourth Edition, a standard specification for how online training materials are created and delivered. This spec has been around since 2009, so it appears Oracle's a bit late to the party. Where other HCM vendors such as SuccessFactors have actually added capabilities to create and deliver SCORM-based content such as training videos and audio-visual presentations, Oracle is just supporting integration to third-party providers.

Future Upgrades

Oracle came up with this feature-pack upgrade approach as a way to deliver smaller, incremental upgrades with less disruption -- and to respond to the rapid upgrade capabilities supported by software as a service (SaaS) competitors, like Workday and SuccessFactors, according to Gartner analyst Jim Holincheck. Oracle PeopleSoft 9.1, the application's last major release, came out back in 2009.

"Feature packs were originally meant to be annual releases, but they've changed direction and decided to do them more frequently," Holincheck says.

Indeed, Oracle has another PeopleSoft feature pack upgrade planned for later this year. The company won't be precise about the timing, but executives tell me it will pack self-service capabilities -- a theme competitors have previously pursued.

Where does PeopleSoft go from there? A major 9.2 release is planned for next year, and there's no end in sight for future releases. In fact, Holincheck says Oracle has good reason to keep PeopleSoft going, even with Fusion now as an option.

"I don't think Oracle is in a rush to try to get people to move to Fusion. PeopleSoft is a very profitable business for them," he says.

Where Fusion Fits In

PeopleSoft and the other legacy apps are far more profitable than Fusion precisely because the latter is so new. Margins on the profitable legacy apps helped fund investment in Fusion innovations including role-based interfaces and embedded business intelligence. The dilemma for legacy customers is when to opt for innovation over stability.

Oracle has put forth a co-existence strategy and architecture for Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Siebel apps and Fusion. For PeopleSoft it suggests the combination of PeopleSoft's financial and human capital management software with Fusion Talent Management. PeopleSoft also offers talent management capabilities, but they were introduced in 9.1, so 8.8 and 8.9 customers may wish to jump directly to Fusion.

Talent management includes compensation management, succession management, and performance management (for reviewing the performance of personnel). Fusion also offers Oracle's only SaaS-based human capital management alternative, while PeopleSoft is only offered on-premises or hosted.

Oracle's architecture for co-existence includes integrations between Fusion Talent Management and PeopleSoft 8.9 out of the box. In this scenario, PeopleSoft HCM continues to be the system of record for information such as employee name, address, organization structure, job codes, and position. Profile information like competencies gets migrated to Fusion Talent Management, which becomes the system of record for personnel profiles, goal management, performance management, talent reviews, and compensation management. Once compensation management activities are completed in Fusion Talent Management, the new data for individual employees gets synchronized back to PeopleSoft.

Cutting over entirely to Fusion is not an endeavor to be taken lightly. If you're running PeopleSoft Financial Management (FM) as well as HCM the migration will be even more daunting, as Fusion Financials has more in common with Oracle E-Business than it does PeopleSoft FM. That said, Fusion does adopt PeopleSoft's Trees metaphor for organizational hierarchies, according to Holincheck.

The bottom line is that Oracle has good reason to keep the PeopleSoft upgrades coming, and it won't be pushing you to move to Fusion. The coexistence strategy notwithstanding, Fusion seems like a PeopleSoft alternative to be considered like any other competitive app, with cost, breadth and depth of functionality, ease of deployment, and innovation as key reasons to consider replacement.

Oracle will certainly try to get you to consolidate and upgrade infrastructure middleware and hardware with Oracle Exadata and/or Exalogic, but that's another story.

As for the application choice, I'd say may the best-of-breed selection win.

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