It’s a journey that’s been 12 years in the making, but the State of Texas has recently migrated its centralised PeopleSoft ERP - which is used by over 115,00 employees for HR, across 113 agencies and sees 94$ of state spend ($92.8 billion) flowing through the system - to Oracle Cloud.
The State of Texas first rolled out a customised version of PeopleSoft back in 2007, where it was managed by the State centrally and called CAPP. However, as Sandra Woodruff, deputy director, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, explained at Oracle OpenWorld this week in San Francisco, the system needed new scale and capabilities, due to the amount of agencies and users making use of it.
In 2013 Texas decided that it needed a more sustainable solution and undertook a year long analysis of how it could move to a managed service, before it finally contracted Accenture to take it on. And just 8 months later, the CAPP service was moved to an Accenture Private Cloud.
However, after Accenture saw maturity in the Oracle public cloud opportunities, it approached Texas and suggested that this could be a better alternative. Woodruff said:
Given the growing size and our continuation of deploying agencies year over year, we needed a sustainable solution. And as you know, technology is always evolving. But we wanted to prove it. So we said to Accenture, show us proof of concept. Show us that moving to OCI (Oracle Cloud Infrastructure) is going to be better for us.
We didn't want to make the move unless we could at least maintain what we had at those current levels. And we hoped that it would be better. We also wanted to leverage moving to Exadata and see if we could gain some efficiencies on the processing. So Accenture came along and they were able to provide a proof of concept. And we saw great possibilities With that.
Woodruff said that cost was a big factor in the State’s decision making process, off the back of the proof of concept, as Texas would see a 50% reduction in infrastructure cost over a five year period. Interestingly, the State also took the decision to go with Oracle’s commercial cloud, rather than its dedicated Government Cloud, as it felt that it met the necessary security requirements and they would access to newer features, sooner.
The State of Texas has been live on OCI since April. Woodruff explained:
It's put us in a better position, we have a more sustainable solution. And as I mentioned, with the bursting that we have to do for the deployments of either additional agencies or new functionality that we add, we have a better solution for that now. It's also scalable for the number of users that we continue adding, and then with those new users, we have additional transactions. So we've seen improvements across the board.
Some other benefits include: a 15% increase in the number of processes that run in less than 30 seconds (5,000 more processes per month run in under 30 seconds on OCI); a 50% reduction in PO dispatch run time; a 60% reduction in PO/AP print run time; a 40% reduction in production backup run time; a 50% reduction in nightly environment refresh run time; a 70% reduction in pre-release report run time; and an elimination of downtime during quarterly patching.
New features coming
Woodruff said that the move to OCI started with the core functions of the system, but the State of Texas is now looking to expand with additional features and functions. For example, travel and expense is something that agencies were asking for, and so Woodruff and her team have started with a project to add these modules to CAPP.
Texas is also interested in how the use of chat bots could be used to help users better navigate the system. Woodruff said:
We are excited about the possibility of chat bots. Accenture just completed a proof of concept for us and we think that it’ll be a different way that employees can interact with the system. We spend a lot of time today just teaching them navigation and how to get where they need to go in the system.
Now I don't have to teach how you navigate somewhere, you can just say, “I'd like to take eight hours and leave on Friday”, and have the system process that for you.
Further to this, the State of Texas is in the middle of expanding its security capabilities and has purchased Oracle’s Identity Cloud solution. In approximately six months, Woodruff expects that users will be able to benefit from single sign-on, multi-factor authentication and adaptive authentication for the ERP programme (over 100,000 users).
Despite the numerous benefits, the State of Texas did have on big issue with Oracle’s FastConnect solution, which provides private direct connectivity between a buyer’s on-premise applications and cloud networks. Texas was hoping to use this for the few remaining on-premise CAPP systems, but soon discovered that FastConnect didn’t include encryption. Woodruff said:
Unfortunately, we learned right in the middle of the project that FastConnect wasn't encrypted. And so we weren't going to use that. And we felt like it was going to be more complicated to try to add another product to encrypt it. So we reverted to VPN. And using Oracle's VPN as a service achieved our goals.
That being said, Oracle is now looking to include encryption in FastConnect, following guidance from buyers. Woodruff added:
However, again, Oracle took our feedback, and we've talked to other states as well, who had the same problem. And they're adding native encryption to that. So it's on their roadmap. And again, we'll reevaluate. And if it meets our needs, then we'll consider switching.