Unpacking Your Update Manager Box for PeopleSoft: “Is it just me or are they empty inside?”

Unpacking Your Update Manager Box for PeopleSoft: “Is it just me or are they empty inside?”

Software updates can be a lot like getting a gift you didn’t ask for, and while you may pay a great deal for software updates, they can often contain no clear value.

Imagine unwrapping a beautifully wrapped present. It’s a big box so you figure it has to be something amazing, but as you rip open the box, you see an oversized and poorly-designed sweater you will most likely never wear. You dig deeper into the box, only to find the a few new “self-help” books you didn’t ask for and don’t necessarily need. Now, imagine getting your credit card statement and finding out you were being forced to pay for this gift, and you can’t reject or exchange it.

This might be how you feel about ERP software updates: are you getting something new and useful in exchange for your loyalty and costly annual maintenance fees?

When major ERP platforms were younger, their customers unwrapped each update eagerly, knowing they contained significant advances. Today, an ERP software update can feel like an unwanted gift. These days, however, customers are increasingly finding their ERP updates contain mostly generic fixes and updates — and a lot of the “enhancements” are not necessarily relevant to their business or are things they could do themselves.

For example, when it comes to Oracle PeopleSoft updates, in our experience less than 5% of the updates include any new enhancements. Of those, only a limited set may even matter to your business. What’s worse, the vendor expects you to continuously adopt their updates lest you potentially expose your company to risk.

Using that approach, your only option is to commit to the update, spend months scoping the changes, running rigorous regression tests – and allowing time to fix whatever breaks – before putting new software into production. Often, the glitches that crop up when updates are implemented involve custom code and integrations with other systems – changes that were added to meet critical business needs but which Oracle won’t support. The whole process may introduce a lot of risk for little value.

As a result, many organizations wind up with access to years of software updates that they have yet to put into production. Rather than continuing to just pay for them, our clients ask for help and I thought I would share one of the ways we do that.

Our team performed objective analysis on updates delivered between Oracle EBS 12.2 (September 2013) and 12.2.6 (September 2016) – seven point releases over three years. We reviewed over 875 incremental features in more than 200 EBS 12.2.x applications based on a set of criteria around benefits, level of effort and more. Click here to read more about the methodology.

Here’s a snapshot of what we discovered in the analysis:

In the Financial Sector analysis shown above, the update that impressed us was an enhancement to a Financials Information Discovery feature. We generally consider an update to be an enhancement if it is broadly useful across industries.

Is there room for disagreement over what we might categorize as a “minor change” and someone else might consider significant? Sure, but when we do the analysis for a specific client, we tailor it to their needs. One reason for classifying a change as “minor” is that it’s a “niche” industry feature. If it’s your niche, that’s different and has more meaning to you than other clients.

We work hard to make this analysis rigorous and credible, delivering enough detail that clients can make their own judgements. For most, one of the reasons they came to Rimini Street in the first place for support of their ERP systems was that they felt they were not getting enough value for their vendor maintenance payments. Part of the case the ERP vendors make to lure them back is that they are missing out on dozens or even hundreds of updates by not staying on the most current release available with a maintenance contract.

The question we help clients answer is how many of those incremental updates are relevant to their business. When I was a consultant I felt strongly that all updates should be applied because I was getting paid to apply them. I changed my mind when I left consulting. It is obvious from the client’s point of view that many times there is simply no ROI for applying updates indiscriminately. Only updates that make a real difference for the enterprise should even be considered.

If a software change isn’t an enhancement, what is it? The others quadrants in our analysis represent tax, legal, and regulatory change updates (which Rimini Street also provides), minor changes, and “possible to do yourself” features.

Within each quadrant, we show the range for level of effort to implement versus potential benefit delivered. That makes it easier to see which features we consider to be relatively high benefit / low effort versus low benefit / high effort – and perhaps not worth the trouble.

In a recent analysis of PeopleSoft 9.2 updates, we rated the updated “Rent Variance Report” that was delivered in the Real Estate module with release 9.2.005 as a moderately beneficial “possible to do yourself” feature that would be relatively easy to recreate in PeopleTools.

We found approximately 64% of the PeopleSoft 9.2.x changes to be bug fixes – most of them minor and many only relevant to users of the Fluid user interface framework PeopleSoft introduced a few years ago. One client we spoke with recently, who had been concerned about missing out on updates, quickly realized those updates were irrelevant because the organization had not implemented the Fluid UI and had no plans to do so. Even when bugs do impact you, it’s often easier to implement a work-around than implement a vendor update.

This is not to say enterprise software updates aren’t worthwhile…only that you ought to know what’s in them before blindly committing to a possibly disruptive and expensive process. Sometimes we help our clients make the case for implementing updates they have been backlogged on. Just as often, we show them that there is no rush. We make the case that they should always consider best of breed solutions and not go “all-in” with one ERP vendor.

Our goal is to help you optimize the value you get for the money you spend on annual maintenance and support for your ERP system.

If you are a PeopleSoft user, rather than spending time sifting through everything coming your way courtesy of PeopleSoft Update Manager, tune in for a recurring 30-minute webinar (the second Tuesday of every month) to ask questions about updates and gather our assessment of HCM and FIN PUM Images. You can also download our technical white paper here.

If you have a minute, reach out. I would love to hear your experiences with the PeopleSoft Update Manager and where your roadmap is taking you with regards to PeopleSoft in general.