Oracle Keeps on Innovating
This marks the end of my three-month cycle examining the new-product innovations of the Big Three HCM vendors. With reports of 1,300 signed HCM clients in the cloud (as of last June), Oracle is in a virtual dead heat on that basis with Workday and SAP SuccessFactors. Here are the latest details of what its customers and prospects are getting and can expect.
By Bill Kutik
In the last year, Oracle says it has invested $1 billion in HCM research and development (out of $5.3 billion in the cloud), and the deliverables and product roadmap indicate that level is continuing. Chris Leone, head of Oracle HCM Cloud, has had 2,000 HCM strategy people and engineers in his group for years.
Release 12 of Oracle HCM Cloud in September delivered all the functionality that Chris previewed at Oracle HCM World in April. It has hundreds of new features, 80 percent of which were requested by customers. And the next round was previewed at Oracle Open World this fall.
What's been delivered includes 116 country "localizations," a hierarchy of functionality that Oracle laid out for me for the first time. These are not necessarily unique to Oracle, just to my understanding of them. Perhaps yours, too, so the question "What countries does your system run in?" can now be asked with more specificity.
Localization comes in four layers. The first, or Tier 0, simply consists of translations into a foreign language. This is obviously the easiest kind of localization and Oracle now offers 33 languages.
Tier 1 includes base localization frameworks for 100 countries: from simple name-and-address conventions (six names for Spain!) to more complicated local conventions. This involves shipping specific content that customers find particularly useful, according to Divisional Vice President Gretchen Alarcon, when they are opening their first sales office in Europe, for example.
Tier 2 includes deep country specific localizations for things such as labor laws, taxes, VAT, statutory reporting, absence management -- core HR functionality.
Tier 3 includes deep payroll localizations and Oracle has seven (see below).
The September release includes only a few new modules but dozens of features boosting the functionality of what's already in the product.
One is "HR Help Desk," now embedded in the HCM suite with full case management and a knowledge cloud for content searching. Gretchen points out that, by using the same structure as HCM, users can go seamlessly from a transaction to opening a case when they realize they need human help. She also says this is the first natively built HR Help Desk, having been at PeopleSoft when it used the acquisition of Vantive to provide one.
The new "Intelligent Smart Hierarchy" uses the familiar employee baseball cards to allow all users to navigate to any other user, within a context of working or reporting relationships, with recommendations based on knowing who the user is to help reduce flailing around.
Oracle continues to build out its unique "Work Life" applications (no dash, no slash in the name, insists their father, Mark Bennett) with a new one announced, but not yet delivered, called My Volunteering.
The Employee Profile has continued to evolve and now includes an employment-history slider, which I loved when Chris first showed it and now it's been delivered.
Oracle has long led the pack in what cloud vendors call "extensibility," which almost means "customization" but with none of the hassles that used to be part of upgrading on-premise systems. With the new release, a variety of custom extensions can be made to the core functionality and protected from upgrades. Vendors call this Platform as a Service (or PaaS).
In talent management, there are enhanced calculations in performance management, which help model complex performance processes.
As reported in a previous column, Oracle is finishing off its reinvented LMS, which it started before any of its competitors, and is backfilling the traditional requirements of compliance courses and reporting after starting with new video and social learning.
Workforce management now includes specific U.K. absence rules, which are evidently maddeningly different from one part of the empire to another.
All the big vendors are working hard to make their implementations faster and cheaper. Not just in the middle market, as previously reported. Oracle has created "The HCM Cloud Solution Library," a series of rapid-start documents of best-practice implementations.
The Oracle Cloud Portal offers users self-service monitoring of how the data center (all of which Oracle still maintains) is performing and meeting key service metrics.
As for payroll, I find it amusing that competitors always knock Workday for having so few cloud country payrolls: U.S., Canada, U.K. and France. But Oracle only has seven (swap out France for China) and the additional three are for the Middle East, where it has long dominated while battling local vendors such as CivilSoft. It has payrolls for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The road map includes a new payroll for Qatar!
Of course, like Workday, Oracle is partnered to its eyebrows for global payroll with ADP (both GlobalView and Streamline) and with NGA, which always makes me smile because both vendors use SAP's 50+ on-prem country payrolls. Just as SAP SuccessFactors does itself in a cloud wrapper.
So even the big guys are involved in "co-opitition."
HR Technology Columnist Bill Kutik is co-chair emeritus of the 20th Annual HR Technology® Conference & Expo, returning to Las Vegas, Oct. 10-13, 2017. Watch top HCM influencer Jason Averbook on the 22nd episode of his broadcast-quality video series, Firing Line with Bill Kutik®, for his advice on how HR should stop putting frosting on the "moldy cake" of HCM systems.