This post is a follow-on to both our Inside PeopleTools 8.5 webinar (which had over 80 attendees last week) as well as our initial blog post on this subject. As the person sometimes inaccurately referred to as “the father of reporting in PeopleSoft” (Dana Quitslund deserves that honor), I am extremely excited about this feature, as I think most of you should be.
Put quite simply, RSS solves probably the most important problem that users want solved in reporting (and it is not to be shown fancy charts with drag and drop). With all the information that they have to wade through every day, users just want to be told when something that’s important to them changed. With PeopleTools 8.5, your users how have the ability to subscribe to your application data and get told when something they care about changed.
Here’s a simple example of an RSS feed I created against the Query Statistics table. It returns data for queries that I’m worried about, and over time will only show me when things change in this respect. Probably a better example would be to create RSS Feeds against queries related to your employees (or how about warehouse inventory information) so you can be notified when things occur versus having to run reports yourself and look for yourself to see if the information has changed.
Although there are 3 different ways to publish an RSS Feed, I’m going to focus on the one that’s easiest for you to control without having to write code: the Query feeds. From within Query Manager, you will see a new link at the bottom, the Publish as Feed (or Manage Feeds) link.
By clicking on this link, you can either create a new RSS Feed or modify and existing RSS Feed for this query. When you either Create or Edit a feed, you will begin with the Publish Feed Definition page, which allows you to give it a name (the default is the query name), a description, as well as other properties of the feed. When you Clikc on the Advanced Options, you will be getting in the heart of creating the feed.
If you just take all the defaults when you create a feed, this is what your end-user will see.
As you can see, it’s not very easy to comprehend. Therefore, you will want to spend some time with the Advanced Query Options.
As previously stated, this is where you will really take your query reults and format them into a meaningful feed
The first thing you will see is the set of options in the middle of the page. Here is what they are:
The next section is the Feed Entry Content Mapping. This is where you have the ability to specify the title, the formatting, and how the feed entries are determined as updated. As these are the most important options, let’s go into them in more detail.
Actually, even before that, I would like to discuss how data from the query can be used in each of these “Entry Templates”. You see, you have the ability to pass in Query results, Message Catalog Entries, System Variables, and “Templates”. All of these are surrounded by the % sign (just as all meta-variables are in PeopleTools). Here is what each is:
Okay. Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s go into each of the common Feed Elements you can map in the Advanced Feed Options page.
This is where the end-user will drill to when they click on the feed title. You can either specify a fully-qualified URL (including the server name), or specify a URL that begins with /psp/ or /psc/ if you want to define a relative one from the current PeopleSoft system. Keep in mind that you can pass in parameters from the query results using the syntax described above. I was hoping to see more of the Query Drilling URL functionality replicated here, but it isn’t so you’ll need to know how to compose the proper URL yourself and will have to go farther up the chain of the URL to define a relative one.
Here is a sample Entry Content URL I put in one of my Queries:
This is what shows up for the detail of each feed entry. For Query results, I suggest you create a table with headings with all the fields you’re interested in (but not the field you put in the title). You can use full HTML syntax with all of the variable substitution for the data.
If you click on the Edit push button, you can be sent to a web-based HTML editor that’s embedded in PeopleTools. It even has a helper dialog if you don’t have the list of variables you can use handy. Here’s what it looks like.
This is the internal ID for each feed entry that shows up inside your RSS feed. It generally represents an identifier for each row of data that comes back from the Query (assuming that you’re using the One Row per Entry option).
It’s important to note that what you specify for this element in combination with the Entry Updated element will determine how the entries will show up as “new” in your feed reader. With the playing around I’ve done, I’ve found that putting a Last Update DateTime field works very nicely here. I’ve tried other key fields of the query without much luck (for example, putting the QRYNAME in there for a feed that returns query statistics won’t flag updated entries as new in the feed, which is what I want if I want to know if the statistics have changed for query). I found that the GUID (which is the default) was the worst option, because it simply causes the feed reader to think every row returned is new each time it requests the data.
The Entry Title is exactly what you would expect it to be. Because a lot of my queries are against data that people are not very good at putting descriptions for, I end up usually stringing together the meaningful keys to the data with a space and dash in the middle. Again, you just use the alias.columname syntax to do this.
Just as I did for the Entry ID, I use a last updated datetime field whenever I have one available. Although effective date may be tempting, you will find that it will not mark items as being updated if they are modified in corrections mode.
How End-Users Subscribe to Quer Feeds
There are several places in PeopleTools 8.5, where your users can go to subscribe to a feed.
Probably the most common place your users will go is the main menu.
When they go there, they can search through the list of feeds available to them and click on the one they wish to subscribe to:
Then, they can use their feed reader to subscribe to it and they’re up and running.
Here are a few things that I found as I started using this feature
All of that being said, I am extremely impressed with the work for RSS Feeds in Tools 8.5. The issues I highlighted are very minor in nature, and it’s evident that a lot of though went in to this feature, and it will make a big difference to PeopleSoft customers out there.
Labels: EnterpriseRSS, PT850, Query