Readers should note that this post is about PeopleTools 9, not PeopleSoft 9 applications. PeopleSoft 9 has shipped to customers. PeopleSoft 9 applications are based on the PeopleTools 8.4x codeline.
When I was reading Larry’s post about the history of Tree Manager I said
“Hey Larry, late 1998 wasn’t PeopleTools 8. “
“No, it was PeopleTools 9. “
When work first started in late 1998 on what is now known as PeopleTools 8, the code base was originally named PeopleTools 9, but was later renamed to PeopleTools 8.
Part of the problem was that the PeopleTools group was ready to start working on that release before there was much of an applications plan in place. The general thinking at the time was that the release would be too large to have it just be a “.5” release (1).
There were already designs / proof of concept code in place for things like
* Application Messaging (using this new fangled thing called XML)
* Component Interfaces (these were originally known as Business Components, which is why all of the Component Interface tables are prefaced with BC)
* Business Interlinks
* Java in PeopleCode
* LDAP / Roles / Signon PeopleCode
That’s quite a bit of stuff for one release, and this is even before the whole “no code on the client” stuff appeared.
As proof of how much work went into the release prior to going completely browser-based, look no further than the “Insert” menu in Application Designer.
Notice that option for inserting ActiveX controls? That was actually built for the Windows client, not the browser. Technically it is still supported with the 8.1x tools, but I would strongly recommend against using it. The menu option should have been removed when 8.4 came out (code cruft is a topic for a separate blog post some day).
I don’t remember how the decision to rename it as PeopleTools 8 happened though. There was lots of turmoil inside PeopleSoft then (falling sales, layoffs, new CEO, Vantive acquisition, etc), so it’s hard to say. I do know that build managers just love writing scripts to rename everything though. Not!
So when did PeopleTools 9 next show up? Believe it or not, in late 2001. We were planning on having a small new version of PeopleTools to clean up a few things in the 8.1x codeline that we wished we had been smart enough to think about before shipping it. This would have been similar in scope to 7.5 PeopleTools; a follow on release after a major technology shift that served to be a long term stable base, while new development continued on. There was even talk of just calling it PeopleTools 8.2 and making it a mandatory release for customers. While that was going on we began working on the Next Big Thing for PeopleTools 9.
A couple of things conspired against that go around for PeopleTools 9. One was that the name “PeopleSoft 8” had some off the chart brand recognition (at least according to our marketing folks), so there was some senior management push to not lose that name right away.
The other was that customers were still wrestling with a lot of the details of running large scale PeopleSoft 8 deployments and there was quite a bit of pressure to make the follow on release deal with a lot of those issues.
So work on PeopleTools 9 was (mostly) halted to put all hands onto what ended up as PeopleTools 8.4. Why 8.4? Mainly to leave room for a potential 8.8 release. That ended up happening for the applications, along with 8.9 releases. Heck, the CRM group almost did an 8.95 release. Talk about asymptotically approaching 9 🙂
I’m not sure which customer managed to finally convince PeopleSoft senior management that doing some releases that were focused on making current stuff work instead of The Next Big Thing, but I remember being in several corporate visits where (due to scheduling issues) I ended up sitting through Craig Conway or Ram Gupta’s sessions and get to hear the same earful that they were getting.
It’s wasn’t unusual to hear from people in charge of actually running PeopleSoft at a customer site about things that we could do to improve operational efficiencies. That’s one of the main reasons people used to come to Pleasanton for a corporate visit – to get a chance to talk with product strategy and development about their needs. Historically though you wouldn’t see the “C-level” discussions get into this sort of thing though.
So that’s what led to Total Ownership Experience (TOE). PeopleTools 8.44 was the big TOE release for PeopleTools. Performance Monitor, Change Assistant, etc were all big features, but not really “sexy”. Of course, they took a fair amount of development effort, which meant that there wasn’t really enough folks left to work on PeopleTools 9.
This was the go-around where there were actual PeopleTools 9 baseball hats created. I’ll have to talk Larry into posting a picture of his. I gave mine to a friend at a PeopleSoft customer in Germany awhile ago.
The last stab at doing PeopleTools 9 was in the middle of the Oracle acquisition, so it was a little strange to be doing long term project planning. SAP was scoring sex and sizzle points with their NetWeaver story, which shaped some of the internal scoping debates.
This time around, PeopleTools 9 was not being called 9, but rather “X”. No one was ready to venture a guess as to what version number it would finally ship as. Which turned out to be rather smart since it didn’t ship 🙂
As it turns out a lot of the ideas for PeopleTools 9 are things that Oracle had already been working on (or would soon acquire).
One was the whole idea of radically extending/re-writing the component processor to make things that are common customizations today into personalizations. Imagine the tab order personalization feature from PeopleTools 8.44 being extended to moving and hiding fields (while still honoring the business logic of course). Check out some of the ADF Faces work for some ideas on what Fusion applications will be capable of.
Another big feature was the idea of re-usable data objects. Oracle got that with the acquisition of Siebel, who in turn had acquired a company called nQuire. This now has the awkward name of Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition, but it is some really slick stuff. As Larry mentioned in a previous posting, we had brought nQuire in before Siebel bought them, but we didn’t move quick enough (historically PeopleSoft didn’t do acquisitions that well).
One of the things that we did right after the acquisition was to survey some PeopleSoft customers about what they wanted to see from Oracle in relationship to PeopleTools. To a customer, every single one said in no uncertain terms that they didn’t want to see any major new things from PeopleTools – just focus on quality, performance, operational excellence, integration, etc.
This was prior to the announcement of Applications Unlimited, but the sentiment remains.
As it turns out, folks that are looking for something radically new are starting to adopt Fusion Middleware. Oracle seems to be having a decent uptake of that within PeopleSoft customers.
(1) Funnily enough, the comedian that PeopleSoft hired for the PeopleSoft 8 launch party, Greg Proops, actually did some research before the event and made a comment to the effect of “All of this for going from 7.5 to 8? .5? “. Of course, he actually made it sound funny.
On a sad note, that launch party was held in the summer in 2000 at the Windows on the World restaurant, which was destroyed on September 11, 2001.