Thursday, September 23, 2010

Going Mobile with PeopleSoft

Chapter 14 of my PeopleTools Tips & Techniques book walks you step-by-step through creating a mobile application. That chapter uses a CI based web service and Oracle ADF to demonstrate some of the simple drag-and-drop tools provided by Oracle. Even though the technique demonstrated appears simple, if you start to dig into the generated code and try to work directly with the Web Service Data Control, you will quickly see that JDeveloper does a very, very good job of hiding the real complexities behind web services. For this year's OpenWorld, I wanted to show just how simple it could be to create a mobile app for PeopleSoft. For my prototype, I chose to build a mobile worklist out of plain HTML, JavaScript, and CSS (it seems to me that plain HTML, JavaScript, and CSS is about as simple as web development gets). Without a server side technology like JDeveloper's ADF and JSF, I knew my mobile app would have to communicate with PeopleSoft using Ajax. As it turns out, most modern mobile browsers support XHR (as of BlackBerry 6, Torch, the BlackBerry browser is now WebKit - YEAH!!!), but I knew having a good mobile JavaScript library like jQuery would certainly help. A quick google search turned up xuijs, which happens to be modeled after jQuery. Using jEdit, my favorite syntax highlighting text editor, I prototyped the user interface, substituting Ajax URL's for local text files. After ironing out the server side requirements, I set about creating the Integration Broker App Class synchronous request handlers that my app would require. To make my HTML and JavaScript as simple as possible, I wrote my handlers to return data in JSON and JSONP format. While my JavaScript and PeopleCode may prove to be of some interest to you, I believe the most important concept from this exercise is the mechanism for calling Integration Broker from Ajax. To execute a web service from an HTTP GET (basic Ajax in REST-like fashion), you use a URL similar to:


Calling any service operation implies, of course, that you have a message, service, service operation, handler, and an any-to-local routing.

My point for sharing this is that we easily forget how simple an application can be. PeopleTools provides the integration architecture. It is up to us to pick a language we are comfortable developing with. If your organization prefers .Net over Java, then write your web based mobile app in .Net. The language doesn't matter. Pretty much any language can make an HTTP request to the Integration Broker and then process the response. The keys are:

  • Knowing how to call Integration Broker
  • Remembering that the mobile device has a much smaller screen

That is about all there is to building mobile applications. Pretty simple... right?

Posting Data to IScripts

If you are a regular reader, you already know that I am a big fan of Ajax. Most of my PeopleSoft Ajax requests use HTTP GET operations to send query string parameters to iScripts. I have considered using POST to send structured data to iScripts (XML, JSON, etc), but have not found reason to do so. Considering my background in other web based languages, I just assumed the %Request object provided direct access to posted content. I didn't really look until I saw an IT Toolbox forum question from KCWeaver asking how to post data to an iScript. The Request object does have a GetContentBody() method that will return POST'd data. What PeopleBooks doesn't tell you is how to activate the GetContentBody method (Note: I don't think this is an oversight. I think it is because GetContentBody is designed for Business Interlinks, not for iScripts). Special thanks to Kevin for digging through the documentation and figuring out how to POST to an iScript. The trick is to add postDataBin=y to the end of your query string.

View the full IT Toolbox thread here: AJAX to iScript

PeopleTools Tips Sample Chapter Available

Are you still trying to decide whether or not to buy my new PeopleTools book? Would a sample chapter help? The McGraw Hill page for this book allows you to download chapter 3 for free. Chapter 3 contains step by step instructions for workflow enabling a transaction using the relatively new Approval Workflow Engine (new in PeopleTools 8.48). If you have ever had trouble configuring AWE and wondered if it was possible to trace the stage, step, path, approver selection information, you will want to take a look at the Tracing AWE sidebar on page 125 (page 35 of the PDF).