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Five of the best features in the November 2016 Oracle OPA release

The November 2016 OPA release has opened up new doors to enhanced user experience through more dynamic style options, real-time validation rules and simplified testing capabilities. Laura Langenaken, Senior CX Cloud Consultant, explains.

Recently, Oracle released the November version of Oracle Policy Automation (OPA). A great amount of effort has gone into this release, with the introduction of what is called ‘the next generation interview’. This latest interview development has an emphasis on making interviews more dynamic, improving the navigation and adding more styling options. Furthermore, a number of changes have been made for interview developers, with the addition of two new text functions and the introduction of interview collections. The latter allows hub administrators to give interview developers specific permissions for a subset of related interviews, making cooperation and separation of work during development easier.

With so many new, impressive features being introduced including the above, I’ve taken five of the best and will shed light on how they can be leveraged to benefit customers, end-users and businesses.

1. Improved user navigation

Over the last few releases, the standard layout of OPA had already improved significantly, with new button and control styles. The November release has therefore continued on this path to optimised user experience and gives us a number of advanced options to tailor the interview process even more.

For example, the navigation strip at the top of the screen can now be displayed as either a classic ribbon or a new ‘train stop’ style.

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Fig. 1: Ribbon style navigation


Train stop style

Fig. 2: Train stop style navigation

Another example is that it is now possible to add a screen list. A screen list is a dropdown menu listing the various screens available to the user, for easier navigation between screens in use and interview access via a footer. Also, two new optional buttons have been introduced: ‘Restart’, which clears the interview data and return to the first screen and ‘Exit’, which allows you to redirect the user to another page without saving anything. When a user navigates away from a partially completed screen, the details they have already captured will no longer be lost and no warning message will be displayed. All of these make navigating through (and away from) an interview much more intuitive and user-friendly.

2. New input controls

A number of new input controls have been built in to this version which are worth mentioning. The new input controls allow you to provide the user with a unique interview experience without the need for CSS or Javascript customisations. In addition to having access to a dropdown list, your options can now also be displayed using images.

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Fig. 3: Image list style in input view

What’s more, there is the option to customise with sliders that display the options for different types of attributes and value lists.

Slider number input control
Fig. 4: Slider number input controlFig. 4: Slider number input control
Slider value list control
Fig. 5: Slider value list control
Running through the full list of input control options would be a complete blog post in itself, but I’d really recommend having a look at the many new options related to capturing dates and times, special text inputs such as passwords or input masks, mobile-style switches for Boolean values and more. A lot of effort has been put into making the user journey within this version easier and more consistent across all channels, with the help of better input control functionality.

3. Real-time validation

For me, the most exciting improvement in the November 2016 OPA release is the introduction of real-time validation. While any validation in the August 2016 version could only be done after the ‘Next’ button is clicked, validation rules present in the November release will be checked in real-time. In the example below, the validation error has displayed as soon as the second date field (‘Date maternity leave is to start’) is selected.

Real-time validation

Fig. 6: Real-time validation error notification

Imagine a user completing an interview screen with many conditional sections. A common frustration for end users is running through all the questions on a screen only to find that, when clicking the next button, they had made a mistake at the top of the page rendering previously completed fields as irrelevant. In the new release, errors or warnings are flagged up straight away, minimising the user’s frustration.

In line with this real-time validation, other improvements have been made related to dynamically displayed questions and dynamically set default values based on other selections on the screen. If the logical link between several attributes is held within a rule document, it is now possible to display those attributes on the same page and see real-time updates. In this example the user would select the ‘Loan type’ and ’Purchase price’ after which a default ‘Down payment’ value will be calculated dynamically which is immediately displayed to the user. Furthermore, a ‘Loan amount’ will be calculated and displayed as a read-only value.

Dynamic updating of attributes

Fig. 7: Dynamic updating of attributes

Previously this would not have been possible because rules would only run after the user selects the next button. But in the new release, whenever the user updates the purchase price, the other values are updated in real-time, giving the end-user clear visibility as to what the effect of their selection is.

4. Functional Improvements

If we step away from visual developments present in the November 2016 release and have a look at added functionality, it’s worth noting that a new control has been introduced in which users can share their location, to provide a more tailored interview experience (based on user location) or simply to allow the user to store personal details that can be used at another time, saving data entry time. If the user chooses to share their location, the latitude and longitude will be saved as attributes and can be used throughout the interview.

Location control

Fig. 8: Location control functionality

The ‘Explanations’ function has gone through a redesign of its own, significantly improving the user experience, especially for those interviews with a complex reasoning. An Explanation is a structured list of reasons about how a value was determined and often contains many levels. While in the past a user had to open every drilldown level separately to see the full explanation, two clicks should now be sufficient to see every detail about how a decision was reached.

Improved explanations section

Fig. 9: Improved explanations functionality

5. Upgrade process

On a final note, I wanted to cover the new upgrade process recently announced by Oracle, which sees two major changes. First of all, your test and production sites will now be upgraded at the same time, around 8 weeks after General Availability (GA) of the new release. Secondly, there is good news for companies who prefer doing optional quarterly customisation testing for new releases. It is now possible to create your own upgrade sites at any point between GA and the upgrade date by using the configuration assistant.

Additional notes on custom controls

It’s important to note that ‘the next generation interview’ experience does not yet work in combination with custom controls. Custom controls are PHP / Javascript code snippets which get added to an interview to add functionality. They are often used when the out-of-the-box data mapping options between OPA and the target application, e.g. Service Cloud or Siebel, don’t suffice (for instance, to display data related to a certain organisation within an interview). Companies currently using custom controls in interviews will have to be a bit more patient as they won’t be able to move to the new interview experience just yet. However, luckily, the traditional interview style remains available when upgrading to the November release of OPA.

Summary

In summary, the November 2016 OPA release has opened up new doors to enhanced user experience through more dynamic style options and real-time validation rules paired with simplified testing capabilities. Even the smallest tweaks such as the added location tagging and customised data input sliders can significantly improve the user experience by cutting down data entry time and keeping the interview as headache-free as possible for the user.

Bear these developments in mind throughout building, testing and system reviews within OPA, and you’re sure to uncover the additional opportunities that bring value to both your customers/users and to the business.

More information

Boxfusion Consulting has in-depth expertise in Oracle Policy Automation, having worked with it across a number of versions. If you are interested in understanding more about how Oracle Policy Automation could help you in your business, or require support with an implementation of OPA, we’d be happy to help – simply email us or call us on +44 203 283 4315.