Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Launching into the middle of a Fluid Navigation Collection

One of the greatest challenges to a successful Fluid deployment is Classic navigation and one of the most common solutions to this challenge is the Tile Wizard-based Navigation Collection. Tile Wizard-based navigation collections allow us to build business process-based navigation for our back-office users (back-office pages are primarily Classic). Let's say you have built some amazing Navigation Collections for your back-office users and now you want to drill from one collection or page to a specific target page in another Navigation Collection. You know you can easily craft a URL to a Tile Wizard Navigation Collection, but can you load a specific target component from that Navigation Collection? This is a great question that my PeopleTools Fluid course students ask me often. The answer is Yes!

When using the Tile Wizard to publish a Navigation Collection, PeopleTools uses a special Activity Guide template to display the Navigation Collection. This means that every Tile Wizard-based Navigation Collection is viewed as an Activity Guide. Each link is considered a step in the Activity Guide. Fluid Activity Guide steps have an id attribute called ptgpid. Once we find the ptgpid of a step, we can use that ID in a URL. When the Activity Guide is a Navigation Collection, the step ID is the Navigation Collection CREF Link ID. Note: this is not the base CREF ID, but the CREF link that was created by the Navigation Collection utility. If we inspect the HTML for a Navigation Collection, we can find the ptgpid in the HTML. Alternatively, we can find it in the portal registry under Portal Objects > Navigation Collections. Here is an example from the HTML:

To launch the highlighted item, copy the ptgpid and add the following to the end of the URL:

&ptgpid=<the id goes here>

For example, in the Portal Navigation Collection that is part of the PeopleSoft Developer homepage, appending the following to the URL will navigate directly to the Find Object Navigation item:

&ptgpid=HC_S201604180146095689166800

At jsmpros we believe that navigation is a critical component of a successful Fluid implementation, which is why we devote the first day of our Fluid 1 course to Fluid navigation. To learn more or to schedule a course, visit us online at jsmpros.com.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Documented JSON Classes

Looking through the PeopleTools 8.57 Feature Overview document, you may have noticed that 8.57 now includes support for several JSON classes as well as PeopleBooks documentation. As Chris Malek showed us a couple of years ago, the classes listed in the Feature Overview document are not new. What is new is the keyword Support and PeopleBooks documentation. Using the documentation, I was able to generate a sample on PeopleTools 8.57:

Local JsonBuilder &jbldr = CreateJsonBuilder();
Local string &json;

If &jbldr.StartArrayReturnsTrue("Employees") Then
   REM Empl 1;
   If &jbldr.StartObjectReturnsTrue("Employee") Then
      If &jbldr.StartObjectReturnsTrue("Name") Then
         &jbldr.AddProperty("First", "Jim");
         &jbldr.AddProperty("Last", "Marion");
         &jbldr.AddProperty("Middle", "J");
         &jbldr.EndObject("Name");
      End-If;
      &jbldr.AddProperty("ID", 123456);
      &jbldr.EndObject("Employee");
   End-If;
   
   REM Empl 2;
   If &jbldr.StartObjectReturnsTrue("Employee") Then
      If &jbldr.StartObjectReturnsTrue("Name") Then
         &jbldr.AddProperty("First", "Lucy");
         &jbldr.AddProperty("Last", "McGillicuddy");
         &jbldr.AddProperty("Middle", "");
         &jbldr.EndObject("Name");
      End-If;
      &jbldr.AddProperty("ID", 789123);
      &jbldr.EndObject("Employee");
   End-If;
   &jbldr.EndArray("Employees");
End-If;

&json = &jbldr.ToString();

MessageBox(0, "", 0, 0, &json);

Alternatively, we can build JSON structures using JsonObject and JsonArray directly, but I like the way the JsonBuilder structures code so that child items appear indented, etc. Notice the code above begins the JSON structure with an array? Here is the output. Notice the root node is an object, not an Array:


Even though my very first call to JsonBuilder was to start an Array, it started an Object. What if you just want an array as the outer node? We can extract the array from the JsonBuilder RootNode using the following:

&jbldr.GetRootNode().GetJsonObject().GetJsonArray("Employees");
What if we want to format the code? First, I don't recommend formatting code you will transmit to external systems as white-space compressed JSON is preferred for data transmission. But formatting for debugging purposes is perfect. We can format JsonBuilder output using the JsonGenerator class. Here is a fragment that will format the JsonBuilder result:
Local JsonGenerator &jgen = CreateJsonGenerator();
&jgen.SetRootNode(&jbldr.GetRootNode());
&json = &jgen.ToString();

One thing to note is that JsonBuilder will let you generate invalid JSON. The parameter to StartXxxReturnsTrue is the name of the node to create. If we start the first node with a zero-length string: &jbldr.StartArrayReturnsTrue(""), then the generated JSON will include curly brace object notation, but no property name before the Array start.

As I look through the documentation for 8.57, I see every Json class method and property documented, but what about the CreateJsonXxx functions? Anyone find documentation for these functions? Did I miss something?

As Chris pointed out, these JSON Classes have been in PeopleTools since 8.55.11. Assuming that just the documentation is new and not the classes, I ran all of this code on 8.56 and it works without modification.

At jsmpros, we teach JSON strategies through our Integration Broker and PeopleTools Delta courses. Are you interested in learning more? Contact us to schedule your next PeopleTools training session.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Do I have to use the Navigator?

Navigator exposed from the NavBar
I have seen several very clever Navbar customizations including:
  • Auto-expand the Navigator when expanding the Navbar and
  • Showing the breadcrumb path in the Navigator.
These customizations seem quite valuable to anyone that uses the Navigator. And who doesn't use the Navigator? It is the primary delivered navigation method for Classic content. But are we really supposed to depend on the Navigator? If so, should these customizations be incorporated into the product? Or are we missing the point of Fluid navigation? Does Fluid provide an alternative?

Let's start with a review of Self-Service. With a complete Self-Service Fluid rollout, do you need to use the Navigator to launch any Self-Service functionality? No. Every Self-Service transaction is available from a tile. Consider Personal Details. When an HCM Self-Service user launches Personal Details from a tile, PeopleSoft opens a WorkCenter-like experience, allowing the user to navigate through the Personal Details components using a left-hand sidebar. Again, did we need the Navigator for any of this functionality? No. But that was Fluid. What about Classic? In PeopleSoft HCM PUM 29 there are 400+ Fluid components and nearly 7,000 Classic components. How would you navigate to those 7,000 Classic components without the Navigator? Classic components predate Fluid and therefore aren't represented by tiles. Imagine if they were? How many homepages would you need to house 7,000 tiles? How many tiles would you have per homepage? Too many! So we use the navigator... but wait!

Let's review the list of Fluid navigation options:

  • Homepages
  • Tiles
  • Navigation Collections (published as tiles)
  • Related Actions
  • Activity Guides (Fluid, optimized as well as HCM ESS Activity Guides with categories)
  • WorkCenters (Enterprise Components Fluid WorkCenters or Classic WorkCenters)
  • Master/Detail
  • Side page 1
  • Two-panel layout

Many of these options are configurable and do not require Application Designer (Developer not required).

Fluid WorkCenter (Master/Detail) with Classic+ Components

Here is how I believe Fluid navigation should work. Keep in mind that Fluid navigation spans both Classic and Fluid components. Fluid navigation is not just for Fluid Components.


      Role-based homepage with business process-based tiles
    1. Homepages should be role based. My homepage collection should depend on the hats I wear in my organization.
    2. Within each homepage, I should have business process-based tiles. These tiles should launch WorkCenter-like Navigation Collections, Activity Guides, and so on. For example, if I am a PeopleSoft developer, then I should see a tile for managing security. When launched, that security tile will display a left-hand panel for navigating within the Security business process. If I manage payroll, then I might expect to find a tile labeled "Payroll WorkCenter USA" that includes navigation for all of the components associated with the Payroll business process. Remember, the items in the left-hand sidebar of a Navigation Collection or WorkCenter may be a combination of Classic, Classic +, and Fluid.
    3. From certain transaction pages, I should see Related Actions that allow me to drill from one transaction to a related transaction.
    Related Actions that drill from one component to another
    Done right, 95+% of my work will launch from tiles. The Navigator becomes my safety net. I reach for the Navigator once a year or every few years to complete some obscure configuration task reserved for implementation.


    What about the Navbar? We often think of the Navbar as an intermediate step used to launch the Navigator, but the Navbar is a homepage of tiles. Instead of a container for the Navigator, the Navbar is an always-present homepage with tiles I can launch from anywhere in PeopleSoft. Let's say you work in Procurement and often answer questions about Purchase Orders. You have your regular buyer and procurement duties, but you must be ready at a moment's notice to answer a question or solve a problem. To prepare for the inevitable interruption, you add your most common inquiry business process tiles to the Navbar. You are now two-clicks from the answer to any question.

    Now I ask you, "if you never use the Navigator, do you still desire a customization to automatically expand the Navigator when opening the Navbar?" I think not.

    How did we get here? I believe we are in an intermediate navigational state. Classic used breadcrumbs. Fluid uses business processes. I believe the problem is that our Classic content was moved into the Fluid navigation paradigm (PeopleTools 8.55) without usable business process maps (Navigation Collections, WorkCenters, and so on). We, therefore, must build our own business process maps using Fluid navigation tools to align Classic content with Fluid navigation.

    Building navigation is a critical phase of any Fluid implementation. Get it wrong and you may find yourself rolling back Fluid in favor of Classic (no joke, I have seen this before). When implementing Fluid we often focus on Self-Service, and rightly so. Self-Service comprises the majority of our headcount. But often Self-Service users are a minority of our actual time spent using PeopleSoft. Oracle has done a great job of building Fluid navigation for Self-Service users. What's missing? Fluid navigation for Classic. Today that is our job. As developers and business analysts, we must build that missing business process based navigation for our back office users.

    We believe that navigation is a critical component to a successful Fluid implementation and that is why we devote the first day of our Fluid 1 course to Fluid navigation. To learn more or to schedule a course, visit us online at jsmpros.com.


    Tuesday, March 12, 2019

    Collaborate 2019

    Collaborate 2019 is just around the corner. San Antonio is one of my favorite conference locations, with the riverwalk right outside the conference center. I will be presenting the following sessions next month at Collaborate:


    I look forward to seeing you there!

    Thursday, March 07, 2019

    Branding Shortcut

    Starting with his post PeopleTools 8.55.x - Branding - Part I - What has changed, Sasank Vemana provides a series of articles describing how to brand Fluid. If your organization supports multiple branding themes, then the PeopleTools delivered branding module and branding macros concept described by Sasank are a perfect fit. Although a fair amount of effort to configure, I didn't mind the macro concept provided in PeopleTools 8.55. But when PeopleTools delivered 8.56 with a brand new macro set and guidance suggesting we either start over with the new macro set or update ours with their new macros (which included evaluating all of our other macro changes), I folded. The scale had tipped. I realized that branding macros were not a "once and done" proposition. It was clear that maintaining branding macros would be more time consuming than injecting a little CSS into Oracle delivered stylesheets. I have this rule: If a configuration alternative exists, but that configuration alternative requires significantly more ongoing maintenance effort than customizing, I will choose the customization. Why? the point of configuration is to simplify Lifecycle Management. If the configuration alternative is more effort, complicating Lifecycle Management, then it is not a good alternative. It is counterproductive. PeopleTools includes very good compare tools for managed definition customizations. It is these great compare tools that sometimes make customizations simpler to maintain than configuration alternatives. This is not the case (yet -- I say "yet" because I believe this will change in the future) for configuration options that may become invalid (or broken) during an update/upgrade/selective adoption.

    If your organization has just one global branding theme, you may find this approach much simpler. This is the approach I used with PeopleTools prior to the attribute-based branding module:

    1. Open a Fluid homepage.
    2. Using your browser's developer tools, mock up the changes desired.
    3. Be sure to make your selector more qualified than Oracle's. I suggest including the ID of a higher level element, but do NOT use an ID that starts with win0div as these IDs change with every New Window launched from the base PeopleSoft window.
    4. Copy these changes into a new PeopleSoft free-form sub stylesheet.
    5. Add this new stylesheet to PSSTYLEDEF_FMODE.
    6. Test.
    7. Visit a Fluid transaction page to identify further changes required to finalize the Fluid branding theme.

    Here is some sample CSS to get you started:

    How does this work? Unlike the branding module, which replaces and/or changes Oracle-delivered CSS, we allow Oracle's CSS to be sent to web browsers unchanged. Just as before the customization, a user's web browser will parse Oracle's CSS, building a list of rules. But when the browser reads our rules injected at the very end, the browser will ignore Oracle's rules because ours will be both more specific and interpreted last.

    What about Classic and Classic Plus? Same principle, just a different stylesheet. Classic uses PSSTYLEDEF_TANGERINE and DEFAULT_THEME_FLUID. I prefer PSSTYLEDEF_TANGERINE because it is a structured stylesheet, allowing us to inject one object, very minor customization.

    What about Lifecycle Management? When applying PeopleTools patches and updates, it is very likely Oracle will replace PSSTYLEDEF_FMODE, erasing your one-line customization. Restoring the customization, however, is trivial. Just re-insert the free form sub stylesheet. It is possible that Oracle may change the HTML structure of Fluid and Classic pages resulting in CSS selector modifications, etc. We, therefore, must test after every update and be prepared to modify accordingly. However, I have used this approach with Fluid from 8.55 through 8.57 with no updates necessary.

    Did you find this article helpful? Are you interested in learning more about PeopleTools, including productivity shortcuts such as this one? Take your PeopleTools skills to the next level by registering for one of our courses at jsmspros.com

    Thursday, February 21, 2019

    Where is My New Optional Default Tile?

    Navigation is critical to any business application. Classic used breadcrumbs for navigation. As I'm sure you noticed, Fluid is different, using Tiles and Homepages as the starting point for application navigation.
    "In Fluid, tiles and homepages represent the primary navigation model, replacing Classic's breadcrumb menu."
    In Classic, breadcrumb navigation is managed by administrators. It is fixed, not variable, not personalizable. Users cannot personalize Classic navigation (other than creating favorites). Did I say Fluid is different? Yes. Fluid gives users significant control over their navigational view by allowing them to personalize tiles and homepages. This can cause significant problems, with users removing tiles that represent critical business functions. There are a few solutions for this problem (disable personalization, mark tiles as required, etc, see Section 4 of Simon's blog post for ideas). What I want to focus on is confusion regarding optional default tiles, where an optional default tile doesn't default onto a homepage. Here is the scenario:
    • A homepage already exists
    • As an administrator, you configure a new tile as Optional Default



    After configuring the homepage, all users that have NOT personalized will see the tile. Put another way, any user that has personalized the homepage will not see the new tile (and a simple accidental drag and drop will result in a personalization). Here is what users that personalize will see:


    If it is optional default, what happened to the default part? When users personalize their homepages, PeopleSoft clones the current state of the homepage into a user table. Let's say Tom and Jill both personalize their home pages. Tom will now have a personalized copy of the default configuration and Jill will have an entirely different personalized copy.



    Administrators will continue to insert optional default content into homepages, but Tom and Jill will not see those optional default tiles. Tom and Jill's homepages are now detached from the source. We can push optional default tiles into Tom's and Jill's copies by using the Tile Publish button available to each homepage content reference (in the portal registry). This App Engine program inserts a row for each optional default tile into each user's copy of the homepage metadata.

    Pretty clear and straight forward so far? OK, let's make it more complicated. Let's say an administrator adds a new optional default tile to the default homepage described above and presses the Publish Tile button. After the App Engine runs, the administrator notices Tom sees the tile, but Jill does not. What went wrong? If Jill doesn't have security access to the tile's target, Jill won't see the new tile. Let's say Jill is supposed to have security access so we update permissions and roles. We check Jill's homepage again. Does Jill see the tile? No. Why not? When we published the tile, Jill did not have security access so PeopleSoft didn't insert a row into Jill's personalization metadata. How can we make this tile appear for Jill? We could publish again. If we recognize and resolve the security issue immediately after publishing, this may be reasonable.

    Let's play out this scenario a little differently. Some time has passed since we published. Tom has seen and removed the new tile from his homepage. One day Tom is at the water cooler talking about this annoying new tile that just appeared one day so he removed it. Jill overhears Tom and logs in to look for this annoying tile. After some searching, however, she doesn't see it on her homepage. She calls the help desk to find out why she doesn't have access to the annoying tile (that she will probably remove after seeing it). This is when you discover the security issue and make the tile available to Jill. For Jill to see this tile as a default, however, you will need to republish the tile. When you republish the tile, what will happen to Tom's homepage? Yes, you guessed it. Tom will see the tile appear again and will likely call the help desk to complain about the annoying tile that just reappeared.

    What's the solution? At this time there is no delivered, recommended solution. The App Engine is very short, containing a couple of SQL statements. Using it as a guide, it is trivial to write a one-off metadata insert for Jill and all others affected by the security change without affecting Tom. When writing SQL inserts into PeopleTools tables, however, we must consider cache, version increments, and many other risk factors (I probably would not do this). I would say it is safer to annoy Tom.

    --

    Jim' is the Principal PeopleTools instructor at JSMPROS. Take your PeopleTools skills to the next level by scheduling PeopleTools training with us today!

    Friday, February 15, 2019

    HEUG Alliance 2019

    With the HEUG Alliance 2019 conference starting in a few weeks, it is time to finalize our session schedules. Reviewing the agenda, I see many great education sessions from partners such as Presence of IT, SpearMCAppsian, and Mutara Inc as well as many, many customer sessions covering important topics including security, user experience, integration, tools, add-on products and so on. This is clearly an Alliance we don't want to miss! On Monday I will be presenting new PeopleTools Tips and Techniques and then on Wednesday, I am leading the workshop PeopleSoft Fluid: Zero to Hero in an Afternoon. Session details:
    I look forward to seeing you at Alliance 2019!