PeopleSoft Update Manager Delivers Significant Improvements to the Upgrade Tools and Processes

10 July 2014 ID:G00264336
Analyst(s): Michael Guay

VIEW SUMMARY

Clients that have upgraded to PeopleSoft version 9.2 report time savings of 35% to 50% in the update and upgrade process. ERP and IT leaders responsible for PeopleSoft upgrades need to understand the benefits provided by the new PeopleSoft Update Manager to existing tools and processes.

Overview

Impacts

  • Many PeopleSoft customers are unaware of the time savings offered by the new upgrade tools and processes in version 9.2.
  • The new process permits faster, more streamlined updates and upgrades, making it less difficult and less expensive for ERP and IT leaders to stay current.
  • The reduced time spent on patch installation and upgrade activities frees up IT resources for more value-added activities to help ERP and IT leaders realize business objectives.

Recommendations

  • Upgrade to version 9.2 sooner rather than later, using the new PeopleSoft Update Manager (PUM) and the Change Assistant delivered with version 9.2 to streamline your upgrade process.
  • Develop a new governance process for the more frequent adoption of Oracle-provided functionality.
  • Utilize the time freed up through the improved productivity of your IT resources and project teams to eliminate customizations where possible.
  • Institute a Pace-Layered Application Strategy to identify opportunities for innovative and differentiating applications without customizing your core PeopleSoft modules.

Analysis

Managing the long-term maintenance activities of a PeopleSoft environment has been a complex and resource intensive endeavor. As with most major ERP systems, PeopleSoft clients have struggled for years with the cost and effort of the installation of patches and performing upgrades. The old update process was very cumbersome and time- and resource-intensive — often taking six to nine months or longer. This was exacerbated by the fact that, as with most large ERP systems, nearly every PeopleSoft deployment of any size included a significant number of product extensions and customizations — all of which need to be reviewed as part of the upgrade/patch installation process.

The combination of these factors resulted in many PeopleSoft clients adopting a vicious cycle of delaying or abandoning upgrades, and adopting more and more extensions and customizations to make up for the lack of new functionality, making any future upgrade that much more difficult.

In March 2013, Oracle released PeopleSoft version 9.2 and PeopleTools 8.5.3, which included the enhanced PUM and Change Assistant. This incorporated a new code line architecture and new tools and processes to greatly improve and streamline the update and upgrade process. ERP leaders responsible for PeopleSoft need to understand and take advantage of this new improved process.

This research includes information from five clients who have completed or are near completion of the PeopleSoft 9.2 upgrade. The initial findings substantiate the claims made by Oracle of a more user-friendly, streamlined process. A case study includes a client evaluation of the new PUM and associated tools and process changes.

Though the new tools provide much needed improvements, there is a learning curve and training requirement associated with their use. Project plans must allow for staff training to properly understand the new processes and environment and accommodate time for a learning curve. The major benefits of the PUM and Change Assistant will accrue only after you have implemented version 9.2 and your staff has become adept with the new tools and processes.

Figure 1. Impacts and Top Recommendations for PeopleSoft Update Manager Version 9.2
Figure 1.Impacts and Top Recommendations for PeopleSoft Update Manager Version 9.2

Source: Gartner (July 2014)

Impacts and Recommendations

Many PeopleSoft customers are unaware of the time savings offered by the new tools and processes in version 9.2

Client feedback about the previous PeopleSoft update and upgrade process consistently described it as difficult to use, complex and cumbersome. With version 9.2 and PUM, Oracle has improved the process to reduce the time and effort required for clients to install patches and perform upgrades.

The new method is a radical change from the older PeopleSoft Delivery method and represents a new life cycle management process for PeopleSoft clients. A good summary of the old method versus the new method is provided by Oracle on a PeopleSoft Update Manager video.

Using the old process, major releases were produced every two or three years, interspersed with patches and updates released periodically between the major releases. This resulted in delays in customers' ability to access new functionality available only in major releases. It also amounted to many changes to manage at one time and infrequent, time consuming and expensive upgrades.

The PUM transforms the maintenance process for PeopleSoft 9.2 applications. One PeopleSoft image per product (HCM, financials, etc.) will be released multiple times per year by Oracle. Each image contains all the patches and functional enhancements released since version 9.2. Customers can use the new tools to search for the patches or functional enhancements that they want to apply and create their own customized change package.

The major improvements to the PeopleSoft update process claimed by Oracle process include:

  • No more keeping track of bundles and update packages, since a full and current image, including all previously released updates and patches, is included in each PUM release. Oracle states that a new PUM image will be released approximately once per quarter. Clients have confirmed that to date Oracle has largely adhered to this schedule.
  • There is no longer a wait to install new features, as PUM provides a more intelligent and user-friendly process to select and install updates. Clients can selectively choose what and when to apply. To install a recently released patch or functional enhancement, you simply select it from the most recent PUM package. The update manager automatically searches all prerequisite patches not yet installed and includes them in a bundle to be installed. You no longer need to manually sift through previous bundles.
  • Once you have configured a "package" using the PUM, the tools permit updates to several "regions" (databases) at once, so the same updates do not need to be processed manually against multiple databases.
  • Each PUM includes a fully updated version of DEMO so the DEMO database does not need to be patched — it can simply be reinstalled.

Feedback from clients we spoke to indicated that although there is a learning curve involved, Oracle's claims are largely validated. Clients consistently state that the new process is much more user friendly and streamlined than the old process.

Recommendations:

  • Upgrade to release 9.2: If you are planning on remaining on PeopleSoft, plan for an upgrade to release 9.2 at a time soon which suits your business. Understand how to use PUM and the Change Assistant delivered with release 9.2 to streamline your upgrade process. The benefits of the new tools and process will accrue only after you have upgraded to release 9.2 and your staff becomes adept with the PeopleSoft Update Manager.
  • Understand the new tools and processes: To avoid disruptive impact to upgrade and implementation plans, it is critical to understand and plan for the procedural change that PUM represents.
  • There is a learning curve — don't underestimate it: The PeopleSoft Update Manager (PUM) is a new process and requires training — there is a learning curve to be able to use the new processes effectively. One reference customer stated that the new process was a great improvement, adding "… but we did find that extra configuration expertise was still needed to complete the job." Ensure your upgrade project plan allows adequate time for staff training and your staff to become fully familiar with the new processes.To alleviate the learning curve issue, Oracle has set up training courses and documentation:

The new process permits faster, more streamlined updates/upgrades, making it less expensive to stay current

Upgrading PeopleSoft has always required very careful planning and execution to manage the costs and risks involved in what is always a highly complex exercise. Upgrade project complexity depends on the number of modules installed and the degree to which they have been customized. The complexity, expense and resource requirements of the patch installation and upgrade process have caused many PeopleSoft clients to delay these activities resulting in their falling behind on releases.

With release 9.2, Oracle has greatly refined the upgrade tools by automating as much as possible of the conversion process and changed the structure of the code line. Clients have the ability to determine what patches to apply and when to apply them without having to wait for the next major release. They then can create a single change package to get current. Some clients have mentioned that it provides a SaaS-like ability to incrementally evolve the application forward within the run rate of their support infrastructure, on as frequent a basis as monthly — with the added advantage of being able to do it on their timetable, not the vendor's.

Essentially, you can now select patches based on a query similar to "give me all the priority 1 bug fixes released by Oracle that I haven't installed yet." The PUM automatically excludes patches already delivered and installed. Any dependencies or previously installed patches are considered and the appropriate remaining patches are bundled into a Change Package that you can then automatically apply to all your environments — development, testing, quality assurance (QA), production, etc.

More frequent updates means more frequent testing — use the PeopleSoft Test Framework to automate testing where possible. It is free to all clients and enables you to record and play back a library of automated test scripts for regression testing. Although you still need to do proper testing, the time and cost savings the new upgrade process enables are significant.

Getting to release 9.2, although easier from a technical perspective than earlier upgrades, still requires effort in evaluating customizations and modifications.

Recommendations:

  • Develop a new governance process for the more frequent adoption of Oracle provided functionality: ERP and IT leaders should develop new governance and a strategy to review the continuous delivery of new features. Since major upgrades are no longer required, and new features will be available on a more regular basis, plan for more frequent but less burdensome upgrade feature evaluations.
  • Remove unnecessary customization: Remember that customization is a cost that keeps on costing unless you take action (see "Customization: The Cost That Keeps on Costing"). Utilize the time freed up through the improved productivity of your IT resources and project teams to eliminate customizations where possible. Upgrades and other change cycles are often an ideal opportunity to carry out a review of customizations, which should be categorized. Document how and why the customizations were built. Keep the documentation up to date so it will be useful for the entire life of the application.
  • Results will vary depending on specific circumstances, but several HCM clients upgrading from older releases reported they were able to remove between 35% and 70% of customizations when moving to version 9.2.

The reduced time spent on patch installation and upgrade activities frees up IT resources for more value-added activities to help realize business objectives

A consistent theme we hear from our clients is that they want to focus more IT resources on value-added activities and increasing application agility and spend less time on routine maintenance activities. The time and expense of updates and upgrades has inhibited the direction of resources to more value-added activities. PUM streamlines the updates and upgrades providing an opportunity to reallocate these resources.

Many clients have a difficult time justifying PeopleSoft upgrades to executive management due to the historical cost, effort and difficulty. The challenge with many ERP initiatives is that once the initial implementation is over, any additional activities are treated as tactical projects that require their own budget approval and business case. This leads to a tendency to batch up changes to the ERP system around major upgrades, making these activities even bigger and harder—to-justify on a tactical basis (because they contain an accumulation of maintenance activities that are required for the care and maintenance of the asset but are not significant in terms of incremental business value). This increases the likelihood of the ERP initiative getting stuck at a certain point where it is hard to get funding to move the system forward and keep it supported. To avoid this, Gartner advocates an "ERP life cycle" approach to long-term, holistic ERP planning (see "Use Pace-Layered Application Strategy Governance Principles to Avoid ERP Upgrade Shock").

Steps to capitalize on the potential benefits available with the new streamlined update and upgrade process in version 9.2 are as follows:

  • Educate decision makers on the benefits to your organization of upgrading to version 9.2
  • Implement a Pace-Layered Application Strategy to harmonize IT and business objectives
  • Plan for cost reductions and how resources may be reassigned to more value-added activities

Recommendations:

  • Educate decision makers on the benefits to your organization of upgrading to version 9.2: Communicate the advantages of the new process in the context of reduced time required for updates and upgrades. Link this to the opportunity for adopting Oracle-developed improvements on a more timely basis. Identify PeopleSoft functionality released by Oracle not in use in your organization due to falling behind on versions and the reduced cost of adopting new functionality in the future.
  • Institute a Pace-Layered Application Strategy: Utilize Gartner's Pace-Layered Application Strategy as the foundation for harmonizing IT and business objectives (see "How to Use Pace Layering to Develop a Modern Application Strategy"). Identify opportunities for innovative and differentiating applications without customizing your core PeopleSoft modules.The streamlined upgrade process provides the ability to evolve the application over time to meet changing business requirements, thus providing enhanced sustainability to your core PeopleSoft modules (see "Get the Most From Your HCM Technology — It's Not About the Technology").
  • Plan for cost reductions: Remove or reduce costs that do not add or sustain value in terms of quantifiable business benefits. This can be particularly important and yield great cost reductions in enterprises that have implemented PeopleSoft some time ago, because both PeopleSoft and the business model are likely to have evolved. The enterprise's business model will also change over time, and this is particularly true of differentiating capabilities — what differentiates today may not do so in a few years (see "Manage and Optimize the Lifetime TCO for ERP").

Case Study

As part of the research for this article, Gartner spoke with three early adopters of version 9.2 and several other PeopleSoft clients at or near the completion of the 9.2 upgrade — all with similar feedback. This case study represents a large financial institution that has been a PeopleSoft client since 2000 (originally a version 7.5 install). They are running most of the Financial modules and Treasury with a number of modifications to Treasury due to their business requirements.

Historically, the client would wait two or more years between upgrades since they couldn't make the business case for the cost and effort required for an upgrade. The client upgraded from version 8.9 to version 9.2 in 2013. The planning phase started in March 2013, just after the release of PeopleSoft 9.2. A 10-month project ensued to move from version 8.9 to version 9.2. Oracle provided a direct upgrade from version 8.9 to version 9.2, since version 8.9 was nearing the end of support.

When asked to evaluate the PUM and the new associated processes, the client indicated that there is definitely a learning curve for IT resources familiar with the old update process. However, the more they used it, the more familiar they became with it, and the more they liked it. The client stated that if they wanted to, they believed they could install selected updates from a PUM over a weekend with no disruption to production.

On a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high), they rated the old PeopleSoft update procedure as a "1 or 2" and the new process as a "4.8 plus." When asked to summarize the major advantages the new process offered, the client responded:

  • Much easier selection of functional enhancements to apply to existing version
  • Much easier selection of individual patches to apply or not apply if an individual patch will affect modifications or otherwise involve extended testing or other additional labor
  • More flexible scheduling of updates, since Oracle rolls out a PUM about once per quarter, and the PUM automatically keeps track of previously installed updates and automatically includes previously released required patches
  • The ability to generate one change package that can be applied automatically to all PeopleSoft environments
  • An estimated 35% to 45% savings in the time required to process PeopleSoft updates and upgrades

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