Monday, 19 December 2016

UKOUG 2016

First week of December and it's UKOUG. Wonderful tradition and something I passionately look forward to every year. This year again I was conference lead for Applications, but also a board member so involved in the whole thing.

There were 3 conferences co-located, Tech, JDE and Apps, and the buzz at the conference is a great feeling of belonging. The committees put on an amazing itinerary and people can move freely between the agendas, which I saw a lot more of this year.

I am not going to talk about sessions, most speakers have blogged, but I will say I wanted to attend so many and failed. But I did try and catch up with many of the speakers.

What I care most about is the off piste stuff, not just the agenda, but everything else you get from conference.

Sunday is the now very traditional Super Sunday with the 'super geeks' getting more content and then in the evening the volunteers' reception. We have normally had the ACE Dinner on the Sunday which means I haven't stayed too long at this but by popular demand we moved the ACE dinner till Monday and it meant all the fantastic volunteers who are also ACEs were not pulled in two directions, and I had the opportunity to thank more volunteers in person.

Monday kicked off with the Keynote. First our President Linda Barker and then Neil Sholay of Oracle, who talked more about the digital world and the need to be data driven. 

Neil spoke last year at the Tech conference and the feedback was so good we had a keynote across the 3 events this year. The turnout was amazing. 

Linda also introduced us to Paul Fittons are new President elect. Paul told us a little bit about him. 

Paul will take over from Linda next year and this is his opportunity to get to know the role in the run up to this. Paul spent most of the conference speaking to delegates, exhibitors and speakers, getting to know what he has signed up to.

Another speaker on stage was Laura Ramsey from OTN, they have sponsored our speaker awards for many years and this year also sponsored the Cloud Balcony and OTN lounge were people could try out and sign up for cloud trials. 

Well done to all the speakers who won awards. I love this initiative, rewarding the best but more than that encouraging the new speakers.

Jennifer Nicholson who runs the ACE Program for OTN, hosted the ACE dinner on the Monday evening when nearly 70 guests enjoyed the traditional Thai meal. 

The ACE program gets a lot of support from Oracle and Jennifer has to listen to all us ACEs moan about change. I hope she doesn't take it personally.
Tuesday morning kicked off with the Women in IT breakfast and I was pleased to see a few men attend. Each table shared what their organisations do, what they would like UKOUG to do and shared their details if they want to be further involved. There were lively conversations and we are going to facilitate speaking in schools, to get children especially girls, thinking about IT as a career really early.

Another great tradition at conference I love is the User Experience Team, and this was their 10th year at UKOUG. It is now so popular when I tried to book a session a couple of weeks before the event, they were full. Everyone who takes part learns so much about what is happening in Oracle applications development. 

Tuesday evening we had the party, which followed the apps community drinks. Last year I thought the apps community drinks failed to fully achieve the sense of community it was meant to, but this year it was a great success, which lots of ideas shared for next year's SIGs.

The party was fun and I particularly loved that Susan Duncan our Oracle chief liaison sang with the band. I had to actually get on stage and tell the audience, I don't think many of them recognised 'their Sue' as the professional singer.

Wednesday had a very different feel, with most people staying all day and the post lunch exodus was much less evident. I have seen lots of feedback for this. A result!

I sais I wasn't going to talk about sessions, but I got the chance to repeat the session I took part in at Oracle Open World, when my colleague Richard and I spoke with England Rugby on their implementation of ERP & HCM Cloud. It was wonderful and we had a very full room.

So as we start the post event process and start the planning for next year, I can say I loved 2016 and thanks to everyone who was part of it.

See you next year.

DOAG 2016

I sat down this evening to write about UKOUG and realised I hadn't blogged about DOAG 2016.

As I say every year I have venue envy at DOAG, but that aside I enjoy the event.

The day before the conference there was an EMEA User Group Presidents meeting and I represented UKOUG. This is the 3rd year this has happened. It is good to just discus what different groups are doing and how they work with each other to capitalise on each other's conferences instead of clashing. We also talked about how to User Groups cater for Cloud? This is a difficult one, user groups are about what their members are doing now, and keeping them educated with what Oracle are doing. We have to be able to predict what that means, how much existing and how much futures to include. But more about this on my UKOUG posting.

The actual conference runs Tuesday to Thursday but with being there Monday as well I needed to get back to the UK, so asked DOAG if I could have all my sessions on the Tuesday. Thankfully they said yes.

I had three talks, An update on PaaS4SaaS, my 'What does Digital Disruption mean to the Oracle Ecosystem' and "UX tales from real implementations'. I had good audiences and great questions. All developers should strive for good User Experience and they can all learn from the research Oracle has done for own development.

Oracle marketing held a number of closed sessions to hear from users on their thoughts about Cloud, and this included a session for the EMEA Presidents. The main outcome was the sense that Oracle are simply marketing at everyone, and talking about nothing else.

In fact I even felt my hotel was in on the Oracle Marketing.
The travel was fine although I did have to spend a night at Stanstead airport as there were no easy travel options, but it all went smoothly. I stayed in a lovely small hotel, although I am not too shore about some of the other 'establishments' on the same street!

So a short trip, no time for the markets or shopping, but two great evenings, Thanks TO OTN for the ACE dinner and DOAG for the overseas speakers' dinner. A really good user group meeting and a fantastic day of sessions.

Hope to be back next year.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

UKOUG - Something to REALLY Look Forward To

Each year one of the last conference events of the year is UKOUG.

The event co-locates our Applications, Technology and JDE conferences, and is jam packed with content from customers, Oracle, local and overseas speakers. There are almost 100 speakers recognised by the ACE program.

Why should you attend? The opportunities to learn are amazing, this event is big enough that it covers most specialities and attracts so many Oracle product managers giving us the roadmap information and making sense of the recent Oracle Open World announcements.

In the tech conference expect to hear a lot about 12.2 database, the online information appears to have been released and the first cloud release is still just days old. But even more content is about getting the most out of what you have today. Share your story with other delegates and learn from them.

In the Apps event we have streams looking at life in the cloud for those who have started their journey and those who are new to the Oracle world. We also have content for those who are thinking about moving from their current on premise solutions to cloud. And then again lots of information about getting that extra value today. The E Business Suite and PeopleSoft teams are over from HQ to give you that 'from the top' information, and the very popular one to ones.

A lot of delegates are Apps Technical, and feel split between these two events so we have made their sessions run in the same time slots as the technical event.And anyone can move between events.

JD Edwards are again at Birmingham and their product teams will be over in force. I will miss John Schiff a personal friend who has retired but no way is their commitment to our members reduced.

Look through the agendas the content put together by the volunteers is amazing, and there truly is something from everyone. Outside traditional sessions we have the exhibition, the user experience teams, a Cloud Balcony hosted by OTN and much, much more.

Don't just listen to me, watch this video of why it will be such a great event.

Traditionally the first Monday of December it has the feel of Christmas, just yards away from the conference centre is the Frankfurt Christmas Market (I think they are lost). Just wandering around, bratwurst and gluhwein just make it magical, and plenty of opportunities to get a little shopping done.

And if you are from Europe or even further afield and have often thought you would like to come to UKOUG, why not? our pre Brexit exchange rate is so terrible you will get a great deal.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Oracle ACE Program - A Victim of It's Own Success?

My twitter stream has had many posts about the ACE Program review process and I have decided to explain what is going on.

When the ACE Program first started, the original ACE Directors were invited. Then Oracle solicited nominations which required a certain level of community involvement.

OTN is ultimately funded by marketing, advocates are an incredible, powerful way to influence people. Oracle are not alone in this, Microsoft have their MVP or Most Valuable Professional program.

Oracle soon introduced a second level, that of ACE, and I was asked to join in 2007. I was very worried, I was an Apps person, why would they want me? But I did talk technology, or rather how that technology delivered value to the business. 

A year later I was recognised for my advocacy and community input by being awarded ACE Director and if you read any of my blogs you will know how proud I am to be one.

However as the program grew, it became harder to administer it. How do you know if one person is more active than others? This is done by people giving their own pitch in a nomination, and then in an annual self appraisal, but no one likes doing that, especially where it is culturally unnatural.

Even harder is how do you recognise people not known to HQ? Last year in a special UX Advocates briefing, we were asked to do a pitch back to show we had taken it all in. One of my peers from Central America struggled and the GVP Jeremy Ashley asked him to do the pitch in Spanish. What a difference! I think for a global program you have inherent difficulties in understanding and judging eligibility from a single team. 

At ACE Director level you need Oracle Product Management approval which should recognise your knowledge, although not necessarily how much you share it with the community.

Oracle have even added a third, entry level, ACE Associate, but the team managing this growing community has not grown. 

To try and help with sharing what people are up to and to treat contributions a bit like CPD Continuous Professional Development, we have been able to list contributions in an application for a while, but not everyone did so, and it wasn't policed. I am a Chartered Director and I have to log all my learnings each year. I could do it as I go along but like 99% of others I don't and have to do it once a year. If I don't I can lose my charter but it is what I signed up to.

So what happens when a program gets too big to manually manage? You try and automate the process, not only to list contribution but also to earn points with a threshold to be met. 

At the annual ACE Director briefings before Oracle Open World we were told this was going to happen and asked for feedback. A small focus group was formed and we gave feedback on the different categories and how we thought it should be scored.

A system has been built (in Apex and it looks great), to capture our contribution for this year's review.

Personally, I don't like it, but I do recognise the need for it, and it is better than the survey. My main feedback and I wasn't on my own, was that whilst community facilitation is important and should be recognised, is not as important as delivering content. 

The Focus Group have have access for a few weeks and were asked to enter their content to test the system, and most feedback was around categories and the points scored. 

Remember, I started this by saying it is sponsored by marketing? Well it isn't a surprise to find there are more points for cloud content. I don't like that either but again understand it.

So now all the ACE Directors have been asked to complete it, and my are we a vocal lot. There are many concerns and some good feedback for other important areas of contribution and how that should be scored. I must point out you are given an indicative score and it can be adjusted both up and down by OTN when they review it.

Some people have decided they don't want to be part of it and have resigned, for some they probably would have moved on at the review point anyway, and for others I am sad to see them leave, they are great advocates and should be recognised; but it is their choice. Leaving the program does not make them any less knowledgeable or any less an advocate.

Others have decided to publicly moan about it, but we all need to work with OTN as many more directors are. Interestingly for a supposedly intelligent group of people we are unable to communicate in a forum as requested but manage to 'reply all' on a list server which is actually more annoying that the issues that need to and will be, ironed out of the application.

It is a pain, it takes a long time; as one person tweeted at least in Europe we had an extra hour to do it as our clocks went back. It will be revised, the score levels will probably change, and it will likely take several iterations, but when it is finished, we can complete as we go along, and it will be fine.

But on the positive side, I can see the contribution I have made in a subjective way and it doesn't sound like a political manifesto.

Once it is tuned to its optimum for existing ACE Directors, I can see it can be extended to make it fairer, and easier for new entrants at all levels.

P.S Can we have a mobile version? 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Congratulations to Certus - Thank you to everyone who Voted

Back in August I asked for your vote in The UKOUG Partner Awards. I always say how important these are because they are voted for by end users.

It is a hard process for me, I am not allowed to do anything for PYA by UKOUG because I am a partner and there has to be a total separation. Most people understand that but my boss rang me 3 times on the day asking if we had won something and I just didn't know! Even during rehearsal in the afternoon they wouldn't let me near the boxes of trophies in case I saw anything.

photo from ukoug

Linda Barker, UKOUG President was unable to be at the event due to ill health and that meant I was asked to step in and host the night, but even then I wasn't allowed to hand out the prizes; again total separation.

I say all this because I know most people understand but I want to make it clear if anything being UKOUG counts against me.

Certus submitted in 6 categories this year, simply because we thought we had a story to share in each of them. We were then shortlisted for 5 which was a shock as the submissions this year were up 25% with some really strong competition. All of the management team in Certus asked people to vote,  through our customer relationships, and through linkedin to the wider community. If you read ANY of the Linkedin posts you will have read the passion for what we do; that is Certus, and why people want to work with us.

On the evening Richard Atkins arrived early, which on its own was impressive. Shortly before OOW, Richard moved into a new flat then flew out to San Francisco and then onto Australia where we have our APAC offices. He arrived back at 4pm on Thursday, rushed to a shop to buy a tux, rushed home and couldn't find any shoes! Hence he arrived at the Cafe de Paris looking reasonably smart, if not tired but with brown shoes. A fact the comedian, Chris Hunter (who was excellent)  mentioned several times. However when most people felt tired after midnight Richard was just waking up, jet lag has its advantages.

Richard was joined by Maria our Marketing Executive, and Charlene who runs our HR. I was sat on a different table.

photo from ukoug

Certus wanted most the Cloud Applications Award. In 2013, in the very early days of Certus, this was the Fusion Award and they won Silver. In 2014 and 2015 they had won the Gold Award. The company has grown, and now has 26 Cloud Customers (not including Australia which is also growing) and very proud of everything they have achieved.

The evening started well, we won Gold for a new category of Digital Transformation, helped by ONS who talked in a video about Digital Transformation in Government and how we are helping them achieve it, and England Rugby who talked about their Digital Transformation in Sport at Oracle Open World.

Then we won Gold for Middleware, this was a shock. We have been very, very open about our PaaS4SaaS work, it will be crucial for SaaS customers, especially those moving from EBS with many customisations. I did feel a little guilty, PaaS is one of the current buzz words and there are other partners doing amazing things with traditional middleware, but then we are sharing our findings as we go along and hopefully these help other end users. Last year we won bronze for this in the emerging technology category.

Interestingly Peter Care from FXLoader who was co-author to me in the latest Oracle Scene won Gold for ISV Innovative Service Partner with his APEX PaaS4SaaS application. People are really interested in what can be done in this area.

With two Golds under our belt it was really nerve wracking when it came to the Could Applications Category, this really was the big one for us. I so wanted to get on stage with Richard to collect it but as UKOUG I couldn't.

Mark Sweeny our CEO was at home following us with WhatsApp (no phone reception in the venue), but Tim Warner our COO is cleverer and he was following on Periscope, (thank you Mark from BPI on Demand). Even better the next morning we were all able to watch the ceremony and laugh again at Richard's shoes.

Three Golds was amazing and we still had 2 more nominations in the running. SME and Training. Again two important parts of what we do. I love working with SME customers the difference you can make is really powerful and quite fast, and Certus started by training and that was the first thing I did when I joined them. We won bronze in both these categories which we are really pleased with.

I had arrived at the venue at 4pm for a rehearsal in my UKOUG role. I had a small suitcase with my dress, makeup etc as travelling on the tube in black tie is fine for a man, but not a woman in broad daylight. This turned out to be a great thing as it meant I was able to carry our haul away no problem, and then deliver them to our office in Guildford the next day.

Mark and Tim were so happy, and we all watched the awards, laughed at Richard (again) and then cleaned the new and old awards. Mark joked abut the cost of cabinets but it was just how pleased he was. Mark and Tim started Certus when they were first movers on Fusion (Cloud Apps). The disruption in the partner market meant there was no niche partner willing to concentrate on just this. They started really small and have built the business up, working with development all the way. The investment has been tremendous, everyone has to be in learn mode constantly and there are always challenges, what we strive on that, and have customers happy to tell you that.

So the UKOUG partner awards, voted for by customers, are really important to Certus, and on the evening I was really touched by all the genuine congratulations from our peers. Thank you everyone for voting for us.

Thank you to all the UKOUG staff for the great night and Congratulations to all the other winners.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

My Rock Star Life

I recently posted about not going on the APAC OTN Tour. My motivation for doing so was to explain just once, why not, hopefully to crush the rumours and debate as to why.

Actually for my UK friends, it was a bit like Will Young leaving Strictly Come Dancing, if you don't say why, people simply make up their own mind.

Anyway, I posted the blog and received great messages of support both publicly and privately, but one response to the blog was simply evil.

My blog requires me to authorise comments, and I could simply have deleted it. I often get comments that say 'well written, thank you for sharing, let me tell you what I sell' etc that I simply mark as spam and delete; but after consideration I thought I would let this one stay.

Anonymous is obviously under the illusion that I am self opinionated and living the life on Oracle's dime. Something that gets brought up from time to time and those of us who do have the opportunity to do this, do sometimes feel personally attacked for it. Most of the time it is friendly banter 'can I carry your bag?, 'I want your job'; but sometimes it is nasty.

Tim Hall, who I have travelled with a lot, has responded with his glamorous life videos, to show you that whilst most of it is great, that is not always the case. I have also posted about bad days.

Yesterday Martin Widlake who is quite new to OTN tours, tweeted about his travel schedule and a response came saying 'Rock Star Life' and I though YES that is exactly what it is.

A Rock Star life, at the beginning of their career.

The endless travel, never knowing where you are when you wake up, but knowing after a very long day you will pack up and do it all over again.

I love presenting, I love sharing the stories of what I do with Oracle software for my customers. I love my job.

But an OTN tour is not glamorous. It is fun, the people you travel with and the people you meet make it fun. Oracle cover travel, and accommodation costs for the night before and conference days. So at weekends and in gaps, we are paying our own way. We pay for our food and we pay for our entertainment between events. I am lucky and have been able to combine touring with having even more fun, having often dived before and after tours and that ill fated trip to Machu Picchu.

So yes, I lead a Rock Star's Life, and I love it. Next Gig the DOAG and I hope to see you all at the best one UKOUG2016.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

OTN Appreciation Day : That wonderful no-cost option - APEX

When I first read Tim's post  for this initiative, I had no idea what to write about, but I am sure none of you expected it to be APEX.

Yes I am a Cloud Apps girl, and for development to extend that (with PaaS4SaaS) I use ADF, and am looking at the non-technical ABCS (made just for me), but I don't discount APEX.

The reason I have chosen APEX as my favourite feature is because people who buy Oracle have found it hard to see value in a product with no associated cost. APEX is a no cost option within the database. That means you don't pay extra, it doesn't mean it is free; it is part of the base bundle.

Nobody says Oracle is cheap (well perhaps Larry did at this yea'r Open World), in fact did you know Oracle spelt backwards in Spanish means:

What this meant was that people decided that if Oracle was not charging extra for it, there could be little value. I used to work for a very large Systems Integrator and when APEX arrived (then called HTML DB) it took me years to persuade our development team to use it for customers. Now some of the best systems are written in APEX. 


But once the development community realised just what a gem this was, and their product managers started to evangelise , all that changed. 

As ever for some unfathomable reason, that small area of Europe known as the Netherlands have more APEX expertise per capita than anywhere else in the world, and they lead the OTN and ACE community in this area.

So I have chosen APEX as my favourite features, even if I don't use it myself much.

Happy OTN Appreciation Day