Last year's release of PeopleSoft 9.2 assured uneasy users that Oracle Corp. wasn't abandoning the legacy product line for the vendor's new Software as a Service (SaaS) human capital management and financials offerings. Both users and experts praised the upgrade's improved user experience and easier feature update model.
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In this podcast, SearchFinancialApplications Associate Site and News Editor Emma Snider delves into this latter point with Larry Zagata, vice president of solutions delivery with MIPRO Consulting, and Vijay Rajgopalan, PeopleSoft lead administrator. Zagata and Rajgopalan explain the basics of the PeopleSoft Update Manager (PUM) and walk listeners step by step through how to use it to get updated features. They also talk about the benefits of the new update model and advise users on how to best take advantage of PUM to keep their PeopleSoft systems up to date.
Since PUM is only available with PeopleSoft 9.2, has there been increased interest in upgrading to 9.2 to take advantage of it? Find out what Zagata has observed among his client base near the end of the interview.
Emma Snider: Today, we're going to be talking about the PeopleSoft Update Manager with Larry Zagata and Vijay Rajgopalan. Larry is the vice president of solutions with MIPRO, a consultancy based out of Milford, Michigan, that focuses solely on PeopleSoft implementations, upgrades and optimizations, and Vijay is PeopleSoft lead administrator. Larry and Vijay, thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.
Larry Zagata: Our pleasure.
Vijay Rajgopalan: Thank you.
Snider: To start, could you explain, what is the PeopleSoft Update Manager?
Zagata: Absolutely. As you mentioned, with PeopleSoft 9.2, there is a brand new mechanism for receiving updates and patches, and that's the PeopleSoft VirtualBox Image. And with that PeopleSoft VirtualBox Image, there is a brand new tool called "PUM," or PeopleSoft Update Manager. What that tool allows customers to do is better manage and maintain their PeopleSoft solution by easily being able to select the update that is applicable to their environment. It creates a nice custom change package for them and it applies their custom patches in the right process. [This] allows them to one, select only what's applicable to them and two, make it a very easy process. So, PeopleSoft Update Manger, in a quick summary, is that tool.
Rajgopalan: To add to that, it's easy and flexible to choose a fix to a particular issue that the customer is facing rather than going through a whole bunch of code before you apply it to the target environment.
Snider: OK, excellent. How does this represent a change from upgrades or patches in the past?
Zagata: In the past, customers had some challenges as updates and fixes would be delivered periodically. But, most importantly, it was challenging for customers to identify what of those updates and fixes were most applicable to them. That was a challenging process and, many times, customers would have to apply the entire content of a particular patch. That would result in additional time [and] testing for things that may not even be applicable to their particular environment. PUM allows them to easily identify the fixes and new features that are just applicable to them and only what they want to apply. That makes it extremely easy for them, both in the identification process and the application process. So it improves identification and it improves the update process, makes it easier for testing and overall, it's just much more convenient for the customer.
Rajgopalan: Just to add to that, earlier Larry mentioned the patches were available in bundles, which was accumulated off of various fixes. Which actually were to be downloaded from the Oracle support site and then updated into the target environment and you would be applying a lot more fix than you actually required which also extended the time required for testing. It consumed a lot of time for the customers.
Snider: I've heard several times that this is PeopleSoft's answer to more Software-as-a-Service [SaaS] style upgrades. Can you explain how so?
Zagata: With SaaS, typically the vendors are able to control the upgrade process, new features, new functionality, and they can roll that out rather effectively on whatever schedule they deem and dictate to us and send that to their customers. Again, customers can select what they want to apply and when they want to apply it. PeopleSoft will be releasing new virtual images, which are a fully working PeopleSoft image with specific new features, new functionality, new updates. PeopleSoft has made the decision that they're going to release these images, I believe every eight weeks or so. This allows customers to be in tune with new features, new functionality, and to be able to apply them as they need, and they're released every eight weeks or so. This is different than the past, because customers would have to wait [for] a major feature pack or a major release and that no longer has to happen because PeopleSoft can be delivering these updates periodically throughout the life cycle of a release.
Snider: For my next question, could you walk me through, step by step, how a user would get a patch or updated features through PUM?
Rajgopalan: PUM is basically, like how Larry mentioned, a lifecycle management tool. There are really two steps that you need to accomplish before getting a patch piped to a target environment. The first step is to install, in setting up the PeopleSoft image. In order to do that, you need to download the PeopleSoft Virtual Box that is used to build the PeopleSoft image on. The image is available through the Oracle support site and is downloadable. It is available through the application and contains all the patches and updates that have been previously released prior to the image that you are applying from. The second step is basically setting up PeopleSoft Change Assistant, which is an upgrade and update tool that is primarily used for applying the change package. Just to verify, the change package is a package that contains all the code and fixes for applying to the PeopleSoft environment. So, coming to the second part of it is setting up Change Assistant where you configure a target patching environment. Then Change Assistant uploads the target environment into the PeopleSoft imaging tool, the image environment, where it verifies and validates the patches that are missing from your target environment and builds a list that you can log onto the PeopleSoft image application, navigate to that environment, and pick and choose the fixes that you want to apply. The next step is basically creating a change package name that you would want to apply that contains the list of fixes and updates. The next step is to actually use that change package and apply the Change Assistant which gives you a step by step automated way of applying the updates to your target environment, including any customization that you need to apply and any files that need to get updated. The entire process is applied to Change Assistant.
Snider: PUM is only available with the new version, 9.2. Have you seen increased demand from customers to upgrade to [PeopleSoft] 9.2 to take advantage of this?
Zagata: We have. We are in the middle of several upgrades now. We're being very proactive to make sure that we're evangelists in terms of the power and value of PUM to customers. While there has been a lot of communications out there around PUM, I don't think customers have fully come to the point where they can appreciate what PUM can do for them. As more customers go live with 9.2, I think the swell will increase as word spreads of the value of PUM and how it can really change how customers maintain and add new features and functionality to their product set.
Snider: How can users then best leverage PUM to keep their PeopleSoft systems up to date? Do you have any advice in that area?
Zagata: Yeah, I think that the biggest value and the biggest thing that they can do to have a positive outcome with PUM is to make sure that they're in sync with the new images that are released with PeopleSoft, every eight weeks roughly. And evaluate the content that is in those images, both in terms of patches and new features and functionality that may be rolled out. If they keep current with those updates, [then] they hit the value of certainly addressing any issues there are with patches. But they can continually enhance their environment, continually to add more value to their users as they keep up with this. So my one piece of advice would be, certainly as those images are deployed, look at them, evaluate them and then apply what's most applicable and keep current, if possible. That'll make the process much smoother and you'll get much more value out of PUM.
Rajgopalan: And how Larry mentioned earlier, the release of these images is roughly on an eight week turnaround. It helps the customers evaluate how and what needs to be applied and the turnaround could be pretty quick because what you can choose to apply totally depends on what your requirement is.
Snider: So we've talked about some of the benefits of PUM. For my last question, I'm wondering if there are any downsides here or any pitfalls to avoid, and maybe if you've heard any customer complaints around PUM?
Rajgopalan: So far, we haven't encountered any downfalls or pitfalls using this new tool. Overall, our customers have given us very positive feedback about this new way of maintenance and upgrades. Larry mentioned earlier about PUM, it is flexible and it's simple. This new process of applying the maintenance of an update for customers is really enlightening because this wasn't something that was available in the previous releases.
Zagata: So far, we've been utilizing PUM and as Vijay mentioned, it's been very smooth. It works great. We really have not encountered any negative issues or any pitfalls at this point.
Snider: Well, thank you so much Larry and Vijay for talking with me today. I think this has been very helpful.
Zagata: Thank you, Emma.
Rajgopalan: Thank you, Emma.
Snider: Thank you. And, thanks to you for listening. For more information on MIPRO, visit MIPROConsulting.com and to keep up with all the latest HR and financial technology news, check out SearchFinancialApplications.com. Thanks again for listening, and have a great day.
Emma Snider is the associate site editor for SearchFinancialApplications.com. Follow her on Twitter: @emmajs24.