What’s New in Oracle 21B for Higher Education?

What’s New in Oracle 21B for Higher Education?

Author: Richard Clayton, HE Lead, Namos Solutions

The latest 21B update provides some valuable upgrades and enhancements in Oracle Financials and HCM that will benefit all user communities. In this blog post our Higher Education Lead and Managed Services Director, Richard Clayton, highlights some of the features that Higher Education Oracle customers may find useful.

Key Enhancements for your Oracle Applications in 21B:

ERP: Further Project APIs – Now At Task Level

I am going to use this new feature as an excuse to talk about Project and Grants Management and integrations to third parties. 21B brings with it yet more integration points through the tried and tested API route. You can read about the latest here. I strongly urge any HE customers who are using file loading and manual admin to synchronise third party systems, to challenge whether current processes are efficient and effective. We all know Oracle is an ERP market leader, and we accept that there is niche Research software that can form part of a systems landscape that compliments with Oracle – especially when it comes to pre-award and research intelligence. That being the case, you needn’t ought to accept that, given the plethora of system integration options, those integrations cause inefficient rekeying and file loading, or ineffective synchronisation errors. Invest some time to use the APIs, it will be a lower total cost of ownership in the long run… I promise!

ERP: DFFs on Award Templates

I have seen some rather complex award templates that require loads of fields to properly capture the detail, so I sympathise that Research Admins and PMs can go a bit screen blind. Oracle can help move past some of the bureaucracy involved and streamline processes. It has also added a handy feature to specify descriptive flexfield values on award templates that can be overwritten later.

Procurement: Suppressing PO Change Orders

University purchasing is one of the most wide and varied (weird and wonderful) of any sector. There can be literally thousands of suppliers and purchasing categories. In my 20D blog I spoke about University procurement departments often looking to punchouts and catalogues to help requisitioners. However, regardless of any streamlining, support and training, with such a complex estate there is always going to be the need for a certain amount of PO changes. A common complaint has been that these change orders trigger unhelpful communications to suppliers… that is up until 21B where you can now suppress the comms.

ERP: Initial Budgets  

The threat of another HE spending review has been ever present in University Exec Boards for years. HEPI recently wrote an insightful piece likening it to Waiting for Godot. Whilst 21B brings with it some handy new features to classify budgets when you are loading them from files, if there are to be spending reviews and consequently budgetary impacts, spreadsheet loads won’t be much fun. It is certainly worth exploring the Planning and Budgeting capabilities of Oracle EPM, if nothing else it has out of the box integrations that can model and load budgets from EPM to ERP and post actuals from ERP to EPM.  

ERP: Dunning Letter Email Body

21B brings with it a new feature to format the body of the dunning emails (i.e. the mail rather than the attachment). I know how important it is to get communications to students right, it impacts heavily on the student experience and, in the case of Financial matters, on student wellbeing. I appreciate there may be customers with some workarounds or customisations (techie or manual) to customise mails. Hindsight would say configure over customise, adopt over adapt, however I appreciate it’s hard to hold that line when you have a literal line of students queued up outside of Registry/Student Finance offices.

ERP: Expense Creation from Teams

This is so cool I had to include it! Namos have been working with customers to configure Oracle Digital Assistant and we have seen some fantastic examples of saving admin time and improving user experience. We know there is a long standing criticism of administrative efficiency in the sector. I am convinced that effective use of Digital Assistants is a positive step to addressing that criticism. 21B now integrates that AI digital assistance into Microsoft Teams.

HCM: Talent Management

In a misspent youth, I developed bespoke HR and Payroll software that was sold to several Universities. In my experience, Professional and Organisational development requirements were never as pressing as mandatory HR changes and legislative Payroll ones. Considering Learning and Development is at the heart of what University’s do, it is crazy that their HR systems often do not keep pace. HE has well-trodden career progression paths, essential succession planning, complex recruiting needs, not to mention mandatory training for health and safety… you’re talking about organisations that handle nuclear substances!

Namos recently took an Education establishment live with a whole suite or Oracle Talent Management modules. We have other Education and Governmental companies following suit later in the year. Namos believe in Oracle Talent Management modules enough to use them to recruit and develop our own staff.

21B brings with it yet more Talent Management changes, in fact the last half-dozen quarterly releases have had new exciting Talent Management functionality. If you’re sitting on offline processes, cumbersome interfaces to third party ‘tactical’ solutions, or even an unloved Taleo implementation, it is definitely worth reassessing the investment.

HCM: Sensitive HR Data

We know HE organisations are subject to high volumes of FOIs and people exercising their personal GDPR rights. I have personally had the pleasure of responding to them!

It is worth looking at a couple of the new 21B features to capture and audit sensitive HR data. There’s also a handy new feature to preview documents of record rather than worrying about local copies of sensitive data.

HCM: Benefits

I was really impressed with the extent of Benefit changes in 21B and how detailed the readiness materials were. Like many complex organisations, University’s have a wide array of T&Cs and therefore benefits plans can get quite complex. It can be confusing for back office teams to determine eligibility and can be confusing for staff to make choices based on preference and entitlement.  21B has features to help staff self-serve with benefit plan comparisons, and to help back office with eligibility checking.

HCM: Save it For Later (Position Management)

I am old, so Save It For Later happens to be one of my favourite songs. After hours of position management to find you have a missing bit of info from a College or School, it may also be the name of your new favourite feature in 21B.

About Namos Solutions
Namos Solutions are an award-winning Oracle Platinum Partner and Cloud Excellence Implementer (CEI) 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. We are also the UKOUG 2020/21 Partner of the Year based on our achievements in the Industry of Higher Education. For more information, please visit www.namossolutions.com, our Ucisa Showcase , https://www.ucisa.ac.uk/showcase/consultancy/namos?overlay=true (bitlk link) or email rclayton@namossolutions.com

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