What’s New in Oracle 20D for Higher Education?

What’s New in Oracle 20D for Higher Education?

The latest 20D update, being rolled out from November 2020, provides some valuable upgrades and enhancements in Oracle Financials and HCM that will benefit all user communities. I thought it worthwhile to highlight some of the features that Higher Education Oracle customers may find useful.

Key Enhancements for your Oracle Applications in 20D:

ERP: Manage Dependencies Between Chart of Account
So excited was Namos’ Finance Practice Lead upon the news of this, he couldn’t hold back a hallelujah”. I can’t profess to have as many years’ experience with this frustration, however, I know first-hand how complicated it is to maintain hundreds of departmental cost centres across a University.

This change will ensure valid account code combinations can only be entered in the first place, without the need to interpret outputs from cross-validation rules – or worse – creating internal journals. Whilst this is a small change, as a former Head of Budget Centre in HE, I can imagine this being a really helpful improvement to user experience.

ERP: Expenses enhancements to aid adoption and administration
In my 20C blog, I spoke about Academics facing onerous administration and only travelling for urgent University business and research. Unfortunately those things have not changed, although Oracle has. Oracle are releasing yet more features to aid adoption and administration of Expenses in 20D.

On the user side, for those serial co-investigators(!), a simple project code lookup should make life easier if staff are booking their expenses against multiple projects. More exciting is the Intelligent Document Recognition for scanning and interpreting receipts. Finally, there is a useful new feature to release unused funds after travel is complete and expense reports are approved.

ERP: New Workflow Notifications Across the Board
In my 20C blog, I alluded to the joys of Higher Education governance; whilst I keep hearing positive news on agility and autonomy being bred into the sector, I cannot imagine this has gone away! This raft of changes cannot ease those complex HE workflows, however, what they will do is make the information presented smarter.

The workflow notifications are now fully configurable (BI Publisher) templates that can display whatever text, images and styling you wish. This covers Cash Management, Journals, Payables, Receivables, and Budgetary Control.

Whilst you may not wish to take advantage of this optional UI enhancement just yet, take note that it will not be optional from 21A!

Procurement: Assign Buyers by Cost Centre
Buyer assignment rules can now be set at cost centre, especially useful if you have dedicated buyers for satellite cost centres such as Research Agencies or Industry Partnerships.

Procurement: Punchout Price Overrides
Punchouts to Marketplaces are incredibly useful to aid requisitioner adoption in HE. Marketplaces such as Proactis and Science Warehouse mean that requisitioners have the affordance of their familiar look and feel whilst central Finance departments see little difference in ordering ‘downwind’. This works great, but up to now there has been little flexibility in the data returned from the punchout.

20D makes a subtle change to allow buyers to override prices on PO lines. Whilst subtle, this paves the way to allow the punchout marketplace to become a “one-stop-shop for your requesters”, allowing consistent business practices for managing prices regardless of whether they originated from internal catalogues or catalogues hosted on external marketplaces.

HCM: Assignment Level Security
HE has notoriously complex workforce structures leading many Oracle partners to get ‘caught out’ by staff with multiple assignments. However, even the most informed implementors face certain restrictions on applying rules at assignment rather than person level. With 20D there are two changes that will be a boost to HE customers. Security and Approval rules will both now recognise assignments.

It sounds small, but think of all the areas of the system where you may want to restrict access or route approvals based on assignments, for example access to My Team, Directory, Employment transactions, OTBI reporting, or approvals on Areas of Responsibility and Person External Identifiers.

Thanks to our close ties with Oracle, we are also hearing some positive noises on payment processing for absences on multiple assignments. Hopefully before too long that will fall into place also.

HCM: Removal of Worker Extra Information
We all know that HE are often the target of Freedom of Information requests and GDPR challenges on right to be informed and forgotten. Quite rightly, this means GDPR is a hot topic in HE.

This enhancement is one to watch for all of those customers storing HESA data in person level flexfields. Whilst a HE can rightly claim contractual reasons in a Privacy Notice to retain and process sensitive data for HESA purposes. Once the employee has left and the HESA return has passed (yesterday at time of writing!), it may be appropriate to remove that data.

The good news is that from 20D, Worker Extra Information can be removed only for terminated workers using the Remove Person Information feature.

HCM: Weekly Working Hours
I am yet to see a ‘magic bullet’ for categorising HE working patterns; it seems that every permutation of working hours and working days exists in HE! At least with 20D the maintenance of working hours has become slicker.

Admins can use Weekly Working Hours sections to define the hours per day of the week that an employee is expected to work; and also manage the weekly working hours in transactions, such as Add a Pending Worker, Transfer, and Change Working Hours.

HCM: Payroll Batch Loading
Further to the above, I am aware of HE clients looking to employ third party solutions to manage the complexities of Rostering and Workload Allocation Modelling. One important thing to note is that from 20D Payroll Batch Loading interfaces will be deprecated. Ensure your Oracle Managed Service partner is aware and has already made the shift to APIs or HDL.

Common: OTBI Usage Monitoring
It may be a little ‘big brother’ but I have always recommended monitoring application usage. In times gone by, it was because, I had some creaky systems where a drop in usage could mean performance or availability issues! However, nowadays it is all about user adoption. Every HE I speak to tells a similar tale of trying to decentralise administration, however, they are often hampered by laggards who are slow to adopt.

In the area of transactional reporting, self-service is key. Your most experienced report writers need to be focussed on ‘value add’ management information (think HESA, REF, Athena Swan etc.), not the BAU. 20D brings gives you an arrow in your quiver to monitor and encourage OTBI usage through dashboards, subject area usage and user trends.

In Closing
I realise it can be a balancing act taking on new features whilst embedding existing; this is true whether you are in your first months of adoption or if you are a mature cloud customer. I hope you have found the points called out above useful. Wherever you are on your cloud adoption journey, whether you are an existing Namos customer or not, I would be more than happy to connect and discuss any of the points in this blog or HE SaaS adoption in general.

About Namos Solutions
Namos Solutions are an award-winning Oracle OPN Modernised Partner specialising in the implementation and support of ERP, EPM and HCM business solutions, both in the Cloud and on-premise.

With global experience together with an impeccable track record, our business is built on our passion for delivering successful business transformation.  Passion underpins everything we do at Namos – passionate about delivering beyond expectations, earning trust and building long-lasting relationships with our clients.

Namos already has a number of Higher Education clients who have enjoyed implementations in record time delivered by consultants who understand the sector.  For more information, please visit www.namossolutions.com, our Ucisa Showcase, or email rclayton@namossolutions.com

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