Accessibility, Security, UX/Mobile/Responsive

The Implications of Remote (Higher Education) Learning… Now that CSU Announced Campuses are 100% Remote in the Fall

By Scott Lavery • May 13, 2020

California State University, the largest four-year public university system in the country, made headlines when it announced Tuesday that it intends to continue with remote teaching in the fall term at all 23 CSU campuses, affecting most of its 482,000 students. This was a bold move, but I applaud the CSU system, or any college or university, as the rapid shift to online instruction amidst COVID-19 has been an undertaking of historic proportions. 

Lost in the headlines is the amount of work that IT teams must do to enable remote access for nearly the entire university staff and faculty. For Cal State University (an Appsian customer – 17 campuses), that’s more than 53,000 faculty and staff who need access to key information and systems. Along with student users, in total, that’s 535,000 (mostly remote) users accessing the university’s ERP systems from all over the world

The implications of this decision are wide-reaching. Beyond answering questions like, how will you be able to keep students engaged or how will you be able to provide parity to classroom learning, there are a myriad of implications placed squarely on the enterprise systems that support these institutions (ex. PeopleSoft and SAP ECC.) With millions of students, faculty and staff depending on these applications to keep operations running smoothly, how will campuses look to adapt these systems to their new normal? How can they ensure these systems can meet these new demands?

Universities Must Focus on (2) Key Areas: User Experience and Data Security 

Remote and distance learning means operations will be extremely dependent on self-service. Universities using PeopleSoft Campus Solutions face a double-whammy. Maintaining strict authentication and data security policies create challenges on their own. In addition, many campuses require additional UX/UI solutions that enable a unified mobile user experience. Without additional UX solutions in place, PeopleSoft’s mobile user experience can be challenging for students to navigate – especially as they’re trying to access self service via mobile devices. Several colleges and universities use the full suite of Appsian’s technology to address these issues.  

For Students, User Experience is EVERYTHING 

Today, student’s primary method for communication is through their mobile devices. A common problem for universities is that PeopleSoft Campus Solutions’ primary interface is PeopleSoft Classic. This UI is not mobile responsive and has a look and feel that doesn’t necessarily align with Millennial and Gen Z. expectations. As tens of thousands of students register for classes in the fall, this user experience could prove to be problematic, as students are so used to intuitive experiences. Without UX/UI enhancements, campuses run the risk of flooding their support desks or having students abandon self-service transactions – not meeting key enrollment deadlines. 

PeopleUX by Appsian turns the Classic interface of PeopleSoft Campus Solution into a visually engaging user experience. Students can easily navigate through transactions like add/drop/swap courses, view grades, class schedules, search for classes, access advisor information, and financial aid details from their mobile device. Giving students the proper tools to execute the majority of their tasks through self-service will alleviate your staff’s workload. It will also provide one less hurdle students (especially new students) will have to get over before class begins in the Fall. 

For EVERYONE, Data Security is EVERYTHING 

Colleges and universities face the same challenges as businesses that had to transition entire workforces from office-based to work-from-home. Remote access is now a requirement, and IT departments should have the ability to dynamically control access to sensitive transactions and maintain granular visibility into user behavior – something ERP systems like PeopleSoft and SAP ECC inherently lack.  

Campuses are turning to VPN to ensure secure authentication, but VPNs have plenty of vulnerabilities. In many cases, adding Multi-Factor Authentication via Duo Security® has been a top choice – one that Appsian couldn’t recommend more. However, integrating an MFA like Duo with PeopleSoft or SAP ECC presents significant challenges. Integration is necessary, especially if you’re looking to apply step-up MFA at the transaction level. This is recommended because application-layer authentication is good, but transaction level authentication is ultimately the best way to ensure data isn’t unnecessarily exposed.  

Integration also allows you to leverage adaptive MFA. This can enable you to deploy MFA challenges (at the application layer) based on the context of access, such as business hours, location of the device accessing the system, and type of device. This flexibility can reduce the disruption of MFA challenges on the user and ultimately provides significantly better data security. 

Additionally, campuses must consider how they can maintain visibility over the data in their transactions. After all, when you consider the sheer volume of sensitive data in a student information system like student records, student financial information, parent financial information, etc. it becomes clear that the implications of a breach could be catastrophic. This is not lost on hackers who are now aware that large university systems are moving to 100% remote learning. These are data security implications that are not simple to solve, but the focus must be on visibility, control, oversight, and accountability. How detailed is your view of data access and usage? If there was a potential security threat, how long would it take you to detect and remediate it?

Conclusion 

It’s too early to tell how many colleges and universities will follow Cal State University’s lead and announce remote learning plans for the Fall semester. Regardless, now is the time to prepare for a school year that still has many variables and unknown factors that can influence a decision. 

Request a demonstration so you can get to know the many ways that Appsian can help your university and college tighten your PeopleSoft data security and deliver a mobile-responsive and visually compelling user experience to students. 

Stay Updated

Accessibility

ERP User Experience: Managing Back Office in a Mobile World (Part One – The Challenges)

By Scott Hirni • April 3, 2019

We live in a connected economy.  We live in a connected world.

We want our games, our movies and our friendships to be accessible on our phones and tablets.  Why wouldn’t we also want to be able to manage our work life on those mobile devices as well?

Answer: we do.

Most modern applications are designed from the ground up with mobile support in mind.  For these applications, security is designed around the idea that identity is the new perimeter (check out our Security blog entries for more about that). 

And, to meet today’s consumer expectations, modern applications invest a lot of dollars in the development of mobile-friendly user interfaces that utilize modern technologies, such as HTML 5 and other responsive technologies that provide a smooth and efficient user experience.

But, what about legacy applications? What about ERP systems released in the 90’s? 

These applications were usually designed to be accessed only from within the network, and typically only by a select few users using tailored client applications running on the desktop.

Those legacy systems are still being used by many companies to handle critical operations including human capital management, financials and supply chain. 

How can these applications meet the demands of the new connected world, where managing my work life via mobile is just as important as managing my personal life?

Before we talk about solutions, let’s talk about some of the usability challenges of exposing those applications to a mobile world.

Mobile Devices

Smartphones, tablets and all of the other evolving mobile device footprints vary in their features and specifications. And typically, their capabilities fall well short of the routine desktop computer sitting in your office or home.

How?

  • Drastically reduced screen size
  • Limited power and processing capabilities
  • Challenging data entry methods (virtual keyboard, etc)
  • Range of operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows, etc)
  • Lack of standard security models

Mobile Connectivity

Desktop computers typically rely on wired connections to a network. Those connections have historically been stable and reliable.

Mobile connectivity is far more more dicey and depends on local conditions that dictate reliability, bandwidth and consistency.

We’ve all had a game of Candy Crush crash because we moved into a cellular dead zone – haven’t we?

Don’t judge me.

And, like the phone games we love to engage in, ERP systems also typically rely on long-lived sessions and multi-step transactions that depend on stable connectivity and session persistence.

The End User

Historically, applications had been designed around technology-oriented interfaces. We get back to the old model of legacy applications being implemented for selected users via a dedicated user interface that maximized the user’s ability to get their job done.

Modern applications, with mobility in mind, take a user-oriented approach to interface development. When you push connectivity out to the mobile world, you need to be able to support end users with different levels of skills (self-service, admins, etc).

How do you provide a user experience that supports retirees, many that may have accessibility challenges, trying to access benefits information via a phone? How do you support students that want quick and easy access to course scheduling and performance reports? How do you provide a mobile user experience that allows managers and administrators to access application functionality required to perform back office tasks?

More to come on this topic. 

After all, challenges breed solutions.

In the meantime, please reach out to info@appsian.com (or just click on our little onsite chat helper that tends to hang out at the bottom right) to get more info on how Appsian can help bring ERP into the connected world.

Stay Updated

Accessibility

Why is Optimizing PeopleSoft for Accessibility so difficult?

By Larry Grey • September 10, 2017

If you’re responsible for Accessibility at your organization, you have a lot of responsibilities:  facilities, training, technology, documentation, note taking, testing, and in the case of higher education – all of the supporting student and employee systems.  And, PeopleSoft is just one of those areas of responsibility – but it’s also something that is always a challenge – and your IT group struggles to meet your requirements.

This blog entry is intended to describe why PeopleSoft is more difficult to change than some of your other systems – as opposed to your website (for example.)

So, what makes PeopleSoft unique?  In a nutshell, it comes down to these 3 things:

  • PeopleSoft has thousands of Complex Use Cases (business functions it supports)
  • PeopleSoft Generates HTML Programmatically
  • PeopleSoft’s development tools don’t have a mechanism for addressing Accessibility Issues or optimizing user experience for assistive technologies

PeopleSoft Use Cases

A standard PeopleSoft environment has between 6,000 and 12,000 pages.  This is because, as an ERP system, there is a lot of data to be captured and managed – spanning all key areas of your HCM and Financial systems.  Institutions of higher education offer additional complexity as PeopleSoft’s use cases cover students enrolling in classes, in addition to the standard use cases found in commercial organizations (ex. employees enrolling in benefits, entering time and expenses, as well as back-office functions to support these processes.)  This creates a high bar for optimizing behavior for all of the assistive technologies available; spanning the wide range of users who routinely access those systems.

PeopleSoft’s Application Architecture

PeopleSoft is what’s called a “definitional development architecture.”  This means that, for the most part, developers use a Graphical User Interface (GUI) to define how the user interface will look instead of writing the code directly.  It has the benefit of streamlining the development process, but also has a significant downside from an accessibility perspective – in that the HTML is generated from these definitions.

What does this mean?  From your perspective, it means that your PeopleSoft development team does not have the ability to change how PeopleSoft generates the HTML.  All of the issues that you may see – such as repeated labels, lack of appropriate ARIA tags, the fact that the HTML is complex and does not follow a semantic structure (relying on CSS) – can not be changed by your PeopleSoft team because is generated by code developed by Oracle in a manner that cannot be modified easily by anybody outside of Oracle.

So, what can I do?

This architecture is why GreyHeller created our UX product (PeopleUX), which intercepts PeopleSoft’s HTML to apply rules to it and give your PeopleSoft team the hooks to change how PeopleSoft generates HTML for given transactions.  The rules address the vast majority of accessibility issues across the 6,000 or more PeopleSoft transactions, while the control allows you to optimize the most complicated use cases in the ways that you would like.

PeopleUX Features

PeopleUX delivers platform-wide consumerization of PeopleSoft (for smartphone, tablet, and desktop), optimizing all PeopleSoft pages without customizations. To take a closer look at how PeopleUX optimizes PeopleSoft to accommodate for a wide variety of disabilities requiring assistive technologies (blindness/low vision, color blindness, limited mobility, and cognitive disabilities) you can view our PeopleUX Features Datasheet HERE. We would also encourage you schedule a customized demonstration today!

Stay Updated

Accessibility, Security, Tips and Techniques

Adopting Cloud: Fact or Myth – “Hybrid as a Best Practice”

By Scott Lavery • September 6, 2017

Stop me if you’ve heard this one…

Do you want to get the most from your ERP? Then you must move to the cloud. Your bottom line will appreciate it, your users will appreciate it, and your IT security team will appreciate it.” Sounds like a pretty good deal, right?

In our upcoming blog series, we examine some of the most popular cloud adoption myths. By myths, we mean that there is a flipside to every story – and the cloud is no exception.

It’s important to note that we are not “anti-cloud.” Cloud HR functions serve an important purpose, and while there are undoubtedly benefits to moving some functions to the cloud –  it’s important to not get too caught up in the hype.  So, before you undergo a traumatic “rip and replace” of your core ERP and trade it in for that shiny cloud product – we invite you to stop and take a quick breath.

Hybrid as a Best Practice

From Gartner in their 2016 report, “…the extreme of having nothing cloud-based will largely disappear with Hybrid being the most common usage of the cloud.” As organizations determine specific business cases that are best served by a cloud solution, the corporate “no cloud” policy will become increasingly obsolete. This approach is fully supported by GreyHeller and we contend that using specific business cases to guide your cloud migration initiatives is a best practice. With that being said, the business case for a “rip and replace” of your core HR function is rare and can come with many negative implications. This blog series serves to examine just some of those implications and discuss the negative consequences that can occur.

Stay tuned as we release additional blogs in our upcoming “Adopting Cloud: Fact or Myth” blog series, where we address the truths behind:

  • Cloud as a platform for Innovation
  • Improving security via the cloud
  • Offloading operational costs
  • Market trends towards cloud adoption

Stay Updated

Accessibility

Don’t let the DOJ take your foot off the “accessibility compliance” gas pedal

By Hendrix Bodden • August 22, 2017

We are disheartened by the recent publication of the Trump Administration’s Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions which changed the status of its web accessibility rule-making processes related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to “inactive.”

What does this mean and why are we – and many of our friends in Higher Education – so disheartened? From the Seyfarth ADA Title III News & Insights Blog:

In the absence of website regulations, the courts are filling the void with a patchwork of decisions that often conflict with one another. The uncertain legal landscape has fueled a surge of lawsuits and demand letters filed and sent on behalf of individuals with disabilities alleging that the websites of thousands of public accommodations are not accessible.

Based on all of this, we believe that institutions should carefully consider their ADA compliance profile for PeopleSoft self-service systems. With the lack of clear regulations, your institution could be at risk.

We fully subscribe to our customer – University of Minnesota’s – position that Accessibility is a diversity issues. Our recent blog – University of Minnesota made PeopleSoft truly accessible. Here’s how.

Lastly, we encourage you to be proactive before you’re forced to be reactive – preview GreyHeller’s solutions for ADA compliance and UX modernization – PeopleMobile/PeopleUX. Contact us to request a demonstration today!

Stay Updated

Accessibility

AHG 2017 Conference: University of Colorado’s session about making PeopleSoft accessible

By Hendrix Bodden • August 6, 2017

The 2017 Accessing Higher Ground conference focuses on the implementation and benefits of:

  • Accessible media, Universal Design and Assistive Technology in the university, business and public sectors;
  • Legal and policy issues, including ADA and Section 508 compliance;
  • Creation of accessible media and information resources, including web pages and library resources.

Our customer – University of Colorado – will present their GreyHeller accessibility project at the conference – Implementing GreyHeller PeopleMobile in PeopleSoft Campus Solutions: Lessons Learned.

Summary

Learn about University of Colorado’s implementation of accessibility improvements for PeopleSoft Campus Solutions student self-service, using the GreyHeller PeopleMobile product.

Abstract

Over the past three years, the University of Colorado has focused on remediation and improvement of accessibility problems for PeopleSoft applications, with specific attention on PeopleSoft Campus Solutions self-service functionality. Campus Solutions 9.0, particularly student self-service, does not provide a useable experience for those using assistive technology such as screen readers. At the University of Colorado our goal is to provide an accessible and useable systems that follows WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines.

Stay Updated

Accessibility

University of Minnesota made PeopleSoft truly accessible. Here’s how.

By Hendrix Bodden • August 6, 2017

Leveraging GreyHeller’s PeopleUX technology platform, our customer – University of Minnesota – made its Student Self-Service, Faculty, Job Applicant components accessible and Section 508/WCAG 2.0 compliant.

The University set the PeopleSoft Accessibility bar at providing parity of access for its visually impaired students. It therefore needed to satisfy these critical requirements:
• All functionality had to be available if the keyboard was the only means of interaction
• All functionality had to be easy to use – versus merely render-able – on accessibility devices
• Functionality could not be disabled because rendering on accessibility devices was problematic.

Semantic HTML
The structure of the PeopleSoft HTML was transformed into proper semantic structure for use with accessibility devices.

Navigation and Taxonomy
To assist with end-user navigation through the dozens of elements on a PeopleSoft page and between the hundreds of pages a user may have access to, attributes were set and HTML was transformed using PeopleMobile®.
End-User Interaction
As an end-user reads and updates information in PeopleSoft, form and AJAX processing cause screen readers to lose track of where an end-user is in the page, causing significant productivity and usability issues. PeopleMobile® addressed this in the following ways.

• Highlighting focused content– content currently being updated

• Remembering scroll position after returning from prompts, AJAX updates, or
other processing

• Remembering the end-user’s focus on page load

Project Approach
The University prioritized the self-service functions into a list of 71 Use Cases and divided them up into 5 phases. Only users registered as Accessibility users have access to the PeopleMobile® product, so the focus of the implementation was to provide a screen reader user experience. The University deployed 10 Use Cases at a time – introducing functionality in phases rather than waiting until all Use Cases had been approved. Each month UMN went live with a new group of Use Cases, and each go live was accompanied by communications to the user group.

White Paper
To get a copy of our University of Minnesota White Paper, email us at info@devappsian.wpengine.com

Stay Updated

Accessibility

Top Campus CIO Priorities 2016

By Hendrix Bodden • February 5, 2016

We hear lots of noise about Cloud but in Higher Education it looks like for what The Campus Computing Project terms high clouds – ERP, HPC,  Storage – the migration to Cloud is slow.

We believe the 2016 Campus CIO Priorities survey, based on input from over 400 CIO’s and senior IT officers, supports our view that PeopleSoft in Higher Education is here to stay for some time to come…

Email me at info@appsian.com if you would like a PDF version of the report.

Stay Updated