Fooled ya. This isn’t about me but about your HRMS — my own retirement planning will be addressed in a future post, dated sometime after the 2nd coming.
With a new generation of ERP/HRMS in release or coming next year, a reasonable question is when and how to plan for the retirement of your backbone HRMS, of your official system of record? The fact that software graveyards exist and, to some extent, prosper on the maintenance revenues rather than from doing new licenses of long-outdated business applications demonstrates that many firms are still running on HRMS’ whose architectures are several generations behind the current state. But this wouldn’t be a very useful post if I focused solely on retirement planning for the true antiques, for those brands that are so far past their shelf life that they’re only of interest to software historians and a few old industry watchers like me. No indeed.
Instead I’d like to address that much larger group of organizations running current or close to current releases of PeopleSoft, Oracle EBS, SAP ERP, Lawson, and many other still selling HRMSs whose owners have already or will soon announce/release their next generation products. The reality is that any HRMS vendor which intends to keep selling/subscribing their software is being forced to re-architect their products for a world of Web services, SOA, SaaS, models-based development, embedded intelligence and complete self service etc. on the technology side and for a world of free agency, workforce rather than employee management, total compensation, KSAOC-based and integrated strategic HRM, and dynamic and concurrent organizational designs etc. on the business side. And whether you’re accessing these soon to be obsolete HRMSs via your own license and in-house or hosted deployment or you think you’re out from under these concerns because you’ve convinced a BPO provide to “run your mess for less,” there’s no place to hide from retirement planning.
Let me use PeopleSoft as an example. There’s no secret about Oracle’s plans to release a complete Fusion HRMS some day, but there’s still limited public information about the architecture, data model, or delivery dates for this next generation HRMS. What we do know or can surmise is that it will NOT have exactly the same data design as PeopleSoft, let alone the same architecture. We can be fairly certain that PeopleCode won’t be reincarnated in Fusion. There will certainly be some features in Fusion that are familiar to PeopleSoft customers, and Oracle will make a sizeable investment in migration/implementation tools, but I’m prepared to bet my professional dignity that every current PeopleSoft HRMS customer that decides to go with Fusion HRMS will be facing a completely new implementation. Such is life.
Have you written any PeopleCode, and who hasn’t? At a minimum, you’ll have to decide how to reincarnate that functionality in Fusion, using newly delivered functionality or creating Fusion-based add-ons. Have you added any customer-defined data fields, and again who hasn’t? These too will have to be reincarnated in Fusion, whether using delivered functionality or creating a new set of Fusion add-ons. And what about all of your historical data? Will you migrate it into the very different data design of Fusion or keep it locked up and accessible only via some frozen version of PeopleSoft? What about those dozens of outbound and inbound “interfaces” that you’ll be moving to Web services strung together in real time? Those important analyses which will have to be redesigned around a new object model? And did I mention a completely new user experience into which you’ll have to embed all those edits, content, guidance, etc. that you’ve embedded in your current user experience? These and many more questions will need to be answered as Fusion’s HRMS design reveals itself, for those PeopleSoft customers who expect to migrate eventually to Fusion, and for each of these your retirement planning initiative must find answers.
In my view, it would be very naive to believe that answering these questions is no different than planning for the next release of PeopleSoft. Either Fusion will be a major leap forward and, therefore, not be upwardly compatible, or it will be a failure, and what we have seen thus far does not look like a failure. More importantly, when faced with what I believe will be a major body of implementation work to get from PeopleSoft to Fusion, much more work than doing a “routine” PeopleSoft upgrade, you’d best consider whether or not there are other, better options before your CFO or CIO wonders why you didn’t.
The bottom line. The new generation of HRMSs are as fundamentally different from the last generation as that last generation was from the classic HRMSs of yesteryear, and no one would suggest for a moment that going from Tesseract to Oracle EBS or to SAP ERP was a walk in the park. Fusion is coming, and it looks to me like a terrific time for all those PeopleSoft customers to plan a retirement party or wake, depending on your point of view.