Sunday, 26 June 2016

Not a good day - so I am allowed to wallow in self pity - the final chapter


After parts I and II this is the final chapter.

I got to the airport hotel about 7pm, and just couldn't be bothered to eat. I should have done, I was entitled to British airways paying for it, but I was just too weary.

I also met people on the same flight as me from Belfast who were given £10 vouchers for outlets at the airport and no one offered me that. Probably they were simply stressed and too busy, they had also run out of overnight kits.

So I went to be at 10 it had been a very long day, I had a boarding card for a flight at 11:20 and I was resigned myself to having missed my plans for Friday evening and that I would miss the Kscope Community Service Day.

What did help was all the people on social media keeping my spirits up, and the idea of #fingerscrossedfordebra.

What didn't help was Mark Rittman, who by coincidence was always booked on the 11:20 and was contacted to be given an upgrade to club class. That's fine, and it reinforces a strong belief of mine that only men travelling on their own get upgrades but he does love to rub my nose in it.

Anyway roll through till the morning and I'm woken by a message to say my 7:45 am flight is still on time. And a twitter message from BA in response to my last message 8 hours previously to say, sorry we took so long to come back to you but we can see you have been booked on the 7:45.

So I went straight back to them who said, sometimes the syste doesnt tell us!! There was no way I was going to get ready and over to T2 for this flight and i still had a luggage tag and boarding card for the 11:30.

I went straight to customer services in T5 and they confirmed I was on it and my bag was actually loaded already. Then I made my way to the lounge, checked twitter and Mark is tweeting more pictures of his upgrade options. Others are telling me he is joking but I know he isn't.

I got to the lounge and the gentleman there said the boarding card was not valid. apparently it wasnt entered properly in the sysyem. so another 10 minutes before that was sorted.

And once I got to the gate for an on time departure, there is Mark with his upgrade. In fact he even tweeted as he left me waiting when they called Club Class. But I felt great relief when i was sat in my seat (in cattle class) ready to go. Then the pilot announced there would be a short delay when they found someone to remove the luggage trollies left behind the aircraft on their parking lot!!!!!

smug git in his seat
The journey was fine, Bryn Llewellyn was also on board, he had been moved over from a United flight that had been cancelled. I'd like to say everything else was ok but an elderly gentleman decided to open a luggage locker and hit me with a violin.

We landed, did immigration and collected luggage with no issue at all. Bryn and I shared a taxi to the hotel, and I was here, at Kscope16.

I'm not blaming any one person at British Airways, it was chaotic, but whoever is in charge of that software needs to accept here is a problem. I have had 7 different boarding cards to take 2 flights and you just couldn't make up the sequence of events.

But it is all over now and thank you to everyone who encouraged me past my sense of humour bypass, and the great welcome I have received once I arrived.









Friday, 24 June 2016

Not a good day - so I am allowed to wallow in self pity - Part II


So I wrote part 1 at lunchtime to vent my frustration and hoped it would be followed up with, "I've arrived"

Not so

After two hours in one lounge and another two in the BA lounge my 1325 flight was delayed ten, twenty, thirty minutes and finally we boarded the plane. With a following wind I might, just might make the 1600 flight.

Seated, belted and then an announcement from the pilot "we have a misunderstanding with air traffic control in Belgium, it appears we don't have a take off slot for another hour". 

official arrival time
Then later he says, 'the good news is they have reduced it by 5 minutes'. Finally took off at 3pm, that is 60 minutes before take off of my trans atlantic flight and a 75 minute flight between me and Heathrow.

At 4pm he announces a pretty common "it's busy at Heathrow and they've asked us to go around once more" - the views of London were beautiful but didn't really help. I did meet the most interesting guy on the plane and we talked about religion and its place in conflict resolution. The only good thing all day.

We landed at 16.13 but then we told "there is unfortunately no stand for us to park at", we finally got off the plane after 1700.


landed but another hour before we got to terminal

Then it was time to queue again for a reroute. Domestic T5 has no priority lane for connections and when it was finally my turn, I was offered American Airlines at 10am.

I eventually persuaded them British Airways at 1100 would do. Then came the hotel options, they had an IBIS (US equivalent Motel8) or a good hotel in Paddington. Those of you who know me in London know Paddington is my weekly home. Anyway finally went for a pay and claim back option and am in T4 Hilton.

The knock on effects at Heathrow included there being no overnight packs available, total confusion over what compensation or vouchers to hand out and very little information.

I had even managed to get an upgrade on the 2nd rebooking of the day and now I am back down to cattle class but at least it is an aisle and on a plane going to Chicago.

So I finally get to hotel, and spend the next hour phoning hotel in US to say I will be late please don't give away my room, only to be greater with not sorry to hear that, look forward to seeing you tomorrow but "you know you will still be charged?"

I had a dinner meeting this evening planned, I was taking part in the community service day tomorrow. Both cancelled. An entire day wasted and another one travelling to go. I travel a lot and normally I get annoyed but it doesn't out me off. This is becoming a nightmare, and remember this was caused by rain.

Then I start on this blog and the twitter fest I have been having with BA suddenly comes back to life. Worrying thing is A they think I am on a different flight -

What does their IT system do?

And B they think filling in a survey on customer service is going to make me feel better. It didn't.

Is it OK to swear on a survey?


Finally Chapter, part III







Not a good day - so I am allowed to wallow in self pity


I am a global person, I travel a lot, I work in a global market and I believe in the EU. So the UK Brexit has hit me hard. Like Tim, I am going through grief, but I have the perfect distraction:

Today, I am meant to, fly to Chicago for Kscope16.

When I booked my flight, which is one of the events that is funded by my employer, I selected a route London to Manchester and on to Chicago. Not a brilliant option but I was offsetting some of the cost with air miles, and this route was 50% cheaper.

Not too bad an option as I spend most weeks in London anyway.

Then it transpires I didn't have to be in London I was in Glasgow for OUG_Scotland, Tuesday and Wednesday. So I booked a flight to London from Belfast for this morning (Friday). A bit more of a nuisance but OK. I rang British Airways and had the two tickets linked, so at least I could check my luggage in at Belfast for full journey.

Then I needed to go to Birmingham at short notice on Thursday for the boss, I don't mind, it is my job and I love it. The meeting was in Birmingham because Oracle are remodelling their London office and have no meeting rooms available.

So I went by train from Glasgow to Birmingham. I asked British Airways if I could just join my itinerary from Manchester but they said if I didn't use the 1st 2 sectors on each ticket both the tickets would be cancelled.
Map of UK and my crisscrossing
So I left Birmingham which is less than an hour from Manchester, to fly home to Belfast, for an 11 hour layover in my own home. To add insult to injury it was on the most expensive domestic ticket I have ever used, apparently people wanted to get home and vote, so it drove up the price.

Useless fact - Do you know most airlines use 'essbase' technology for their pricing?

Just after I got home I had a text (from Tripit) to say my flight was cancelled. London has had horrendous thunderstorms, the runway was flooded and the last flight to Belfast cancelled and so no flight to take off at 7am, the one I was booked on.


And then a lovely email from BA to say they had rebooked me on a 3pm flight to London.

This wasn't going to work, my connection in London was 10.10am. 

But I still wasn't worried, I am a BA silver member and that should count for something. I rang the dedicated line, but it was closed.

I rang the main number, which costs extra money, so far on two 1 hour calls I have spent £40.

On a lighter note to some people, that would have been $60 yesterday, today it is closer to $50!

The lady I spoke to was very kind and tried hard to help, but couldn't fix the problem. The issue is that the flights are 'linked' and not on a single ticket. You can't see they are linked until you open the flight record, and when rebooking one of many thousand flights, it had been missed. They gave priority to those who had onward flights and mine was missed, hence why such a later flight was booked. Obviously nothing available earlier. She did however say I could have a flight direct from London on Saturday morning. Not ideal, I have to find a hotel and hope insurance pays, miss the dinner I have planned when I arrive and miss the community service which I really want to attend. But it would get me to Chicago.

I left it another hour and then went to try and see if there was anyway I could select a better seat.

Not so good either, but she did say if I could get to London earlier they could help me bring that flight forward.

I went to bed, relatively sure something would happen and woke up early today to find we had voted to leave EU. I am not in a good mood. I was confident we would JUST stay.

Then I get a text message to say flight to Manchester delayed!! Why, I have changed that flight? I go online and my account still shows original sectors. 

OK, get to airport ASAP and get this sorted.

Belfast 'George Best' City Airport (or rather Kyle Lafferty a temporary rename whilst Northern Ireland are still in the Euros), is small, and in one of two efforts to save money that I discovered today, British Airways no longer have a customer services desk. Luckily I can use priority lane and bypassed the 'hoards' of people trying to check in, only to discover that the very stressed staff can do nothing, yet, whilst they process everyone with tickets for the next flight at 9:10. 

"come back at 8:15 and we will see what we can do".

So I decide to use the time to ring their dedicated silver helpline and see what they could do. Another lovely person tried to help. He confirmed my ticket hadn't been changed, and 40 minutes later (still paying), he confided their new IT system couldn't handle the change for some reason, but he had put a note 'IN THE BOOKING' to say I wasn't a no show for Manchester and that a seat was held on the saturday early morning flight. He said once I got to London there would be customer service people who could help.

At 8:15 I re-presented myself to the checkin staff who under stress where still a long way from having everyone already flying processed so they asked me to wait. Another 25 minutes, and then they tried to help. They really tried, but, and I know so much about airline systems now, the flight was technically oversold, so they couldn't have put me on standby. If they had got in before the system automatically closed the flight they could have overruled it. If I had hand luggage only they might have been able to do something, but despite trying and trying, they couldn't. 

So a very full plane but with at least one seat available, not leaving for 40 minutes, was leaving without me.

And leave it did 
At this point I was near to tears. No flight till 1.40pm if they can get me on it, and then not enough time to get a seat on last flight to Chicago even if the ticket desk is empty and staffed by the nicest person on earth when I finally get to Heathrow. I would have to collect my luggage as well as they can't check it through without a confirmed flight.

Still, under EU law I can get compensation, according to sign I had been staring at for over an hour. 

But will they pay now we have voted to leave?

Still time to claim, I hope.
Now the queue had died down the nice lady at check in, and don't get me wrong, everyone has been nice, this is a combination of bad luck and a new IT system with bugs. Anyway I asked if I could get BA to change me to the 4pm flight from London to Chicago would she be able to get me on 1.40 flight? She tapped away for about 15 minutes and eventually said 'done it'. She had got me on both flights. And actually if this works, I will only be 3 hours late to Chicago, a better routing and even a slight upgrade from 'cattle' to 'special cattle class'. 

Now it all depends on the flight being on time as the connection is rather pushing it, but I can run and I have a change of clothes in my hand luggage as I was expecting to stay at Heathrow overnight.  

Just need to wait 4 hours now. I thought at least I can work in the lounge, but I was wrong, remember I said two BA cost cutting measures? Well the second is only to keep lounge open for two hours before flights. Luckily my IOD card got me into the other lounge, and there was one bacon roll left. Not all is lost! 

I'll update later to let you know if I make it, but to finish on a positive note, when I checked the Heathrow website to see if flights on time, I got this message.








 Obviously people are confused and these are the people who voted us into this #Brexit mess.

Read part II


Thursday, 23 June 2016

OUG Scotland - 22 June



When Scotland Events were first started they tended to be held in Edinburgh or Glasgow in hotels, the more traditional conference venue.

Then when Oracle bought Sun and that came with Linlithgow they wanted to show it off and invited us to hold the events there. But once they started to fill Llinithgo and convert it into one of the first Cloud Data Centres there was less and less room. As Dermot Murray said as event lead, "we will miss the Linlithgow bacon butties but it was right to look elsewhere".

I wonder if anyone stayed here?
 So we went to the Raddison in Glasgow, and I remember being there before. There used to be a sign outside for some sheltered housing named Fusion, and I used a photo of that in my slides for a couple of years. I felt like I was back at home.


We had 222 registrations which was fantastic. We had two Oracle VP keynotes, Penny Avril for technology, talking about the next generation of the database and Rob Harrison talking about Apps and Clouds. We did have one issue, we didn't have a single room big enough for everyone so there we two introductions, one before each keynote, Steve Gold the VP responsible for Scotland and Gordon Mackie the Scotland OUG Oracle liaison . Dermot introduced and hosted the tech stream whilst i had the pleaseure of the Apps and Cloud.

Steve Gold even did a session on the oracle stand, now that is sonmeone who wants to understand his customers, very impressed.

Nice to see Peter Robson

There were six streams and audience seemed pretty well across the board, there were great catering and lots of great networking opportunities.

The UKOUG staff did a great day and apart from some logistical issues with room keys the day was a great success. I had to leave mid afternoon as I had to get to BIrmngham but I was really impressed and everyone I spoke to had a great day.

My time with UKOUG goes back to when regional events were just an idea on a directors' strategy day, and now they are business as usual.




Thanks to everyone to planned, delivered, presented, sponsored, exhibited and most of all to those who attended. See you next year.










Wednesday, 22 June 2016

UKOUG 2016 Agenda Planning Day


It's over, the milestone of Agenda planning Day has been reached, which for me means we have a conference for December.

I feel a bit guilty having said that, as the office have so much to do, check, checking, confirming speakers, reserves, letting people know if they were not selected, and chasing the volunteers for the sessions we still have to source.

But it really is a major achievement. Last Friday so many volunteers got together and after a pep talk from Fiona Martin we split into three groups JDE, Tech and Apps. Within Apps we are further split into EBS Financials, EBS HCM, Digital CX, PeopleSoft, Cloud and Apps Tech, along with generic apps based Business Analytics and Business & strategy.

EBS Team
We had a lot of papers submitted and selecting is hard, especially as we have to tell a story, make it compelling for people to take time away from work, make people want to be part of it.

There is a lot to do and we had some new volunteers which is excellent, they have a new lens on what we are trying to achieve.

The agenda we built is slightly different, we have process streams for EBS, product streams for PeopleSoft. Business Analytics have their own apps streams as well as being woven into the product and process streams. The biggest change is Cloud, we are not only providing education about the Journey but more so Life in the Cloud, by product and then a whole stream focused on Cloud Services as well as what you technically need for Apps in the Cloud.
Tech Team

After planning the agenda, we had our AGM and then we had a few drinks to say thank you to all the volunteers.

Agenda Planning Day is always a long, very busy, and very exhausting day, but the feeling of achievement is untouchable.

But the planning is not over, there is still so much to do.

Thank you to everyone who took part. It will be a great event.











Wednesday, 8 June 2016

AMIS25 Beyond The Horizon




In the Hackathon blog I explained I had already been signed up for AMIS25. I only had one presentation on Digital Disruption in the Oracle World, and so was prepared to fund the trip myself, until the Hackathon came along; I knew it would be great.

I love the dutch ACEs. For some reason The Netherlands embrace technology ahead of the curve. If you look at the APEX or ADF masters there is a disproportionate number of Dutch people, so this promised to be a  great conference.

AMIS was celebrating their 25 annversary and have always been a great supporter of sharing knowledge so thought an event like this was an excellent way to do so. Watch their trailer.

Alex Nuijten talking in a 'Muffin'
AMIS started as the Aircraft Maintainence Information System so the location of an aircraft hanger seemed quite fitting. As a user group leader I am always looking at different locations and this one intrigued me. The lecture halls were a series of blow up muffins, or rather that is what they looked like, and is it wrong that I wanted to disconnect one and see what happened to the occupants?

As each theatre was the same size it ensured the audience were spread out. you may not have got your first choice but you may have learnt something you didn't expect. I was concerned about how it would be to present in one, and perhaps there needed to be a quick briefing, but as long as you used a microphone and looked at the audience it was fine. If you turned your head the walls would soak up your voice and no one could hear you.

My first session, on digital disruption was early on the first day and I was really pleased with the audience (although they probably had to come due to no room in their first choice). there was lots of interaction so I loved the session

I say first, because a few weeks ago, Lucas from AMIS asked me if I would give another presentation. I had submitted an new presentation idea on the reality of UX. I love what Oracle have done with the UX in cloud, but now there are lots of customers, I wanted to look at it from their perspective and what did that actually mean?

Now having said yes I had to write the presentation but actually it wasn't too bad, I knew what I wanted to say. Again I was really pleased with the size of the audience and loved the interaction. This was about why UX?, in a really practical way.

I loved this conference, there was a great vibe, great sessions and along with the Hackathon, a lot for me to have learnt as well. They had a great party with a band who said they played requests. Actually they were just brilliant at taking requests, singing as much as they knew and moving into a prepared list. But I was first up to ask and as a tribute to my youth when all parties started this way; requested Daydream Believer from the Monkees.

We always have fun at these events, and Bjorn was making more of his Basil Gin Smashes and Tim Hall, was being, well Tim Hall.

Another great thing about this conference is that Amsterdam is one of the few airports I can travelled direct to Belfast from; a real Treat.


Thank you AMIS for the invitation and OTN for the funding.




OTN Developer Challenge



I had already signed up for the AMIS25 conference so when OTN suggested an ACE Cloud Day on the Wednesday, I thought why not?

It did mean I had to leave ilOUG a day early and transverse Europe as there are no direct flights but I did get 2 hours in Berlin and sneaked in a cheeky currywurst.

Anyway the Cloud Day morphed into a Hackathon, or more correctly renamed later by legal as the Developer Challenge, to see how many cloud services we could consume in in a realistic use-case.

We needed to be in teams and there were a number of categories, one being PaaS4SaaS so the obvious one to me was to pick up the PaaS4SaaS proof of concept, that Certus and eProseed did last year and extend it.

Then my Oracle Family said I needed to be in their team, and to be fair as I would not be the most technical on either team, I didn't mind AND it gave me twice the chance of being a winner!  This team comprised of Tim Hall, Heli Helskyaho , Gurcan Orhan and Osama Mustafa, although poor Osama didn't actually make the event due to not getting a visa in time.

The format of this first day was a couple of Product Management talks on Cloud Services, to complete a series that we had been having as webcasts in the run up to the event. The technical side of the challenge was handled by Bruno Borges. He had also arranged all the cloud service trials for the teams, except he couldn't get us a SaaS instance, lucky I had my own.

After the briefings we had the rest of the day free to work on the use cases. Whilst the AMIS25 event started the next day we didn't have to pitch our efforts until 4.30 on day two.

In the first team, the PaaS4SaaS team, my biggest contribution was the name, the 'SPACE' or SaaS & PaaS ACE team. The team consisted of Lonneke Dikmans, Ronald Luttikhuizen, and Antoniou Antonis from eProseed , Sten Vesterli, so we had plenty of excellent FMW developers plus and little old me.

The idea was to take the PoC which used the Java Cloud Service (with Apps Extension) and extend it to use Integration Cloud Service ICS, Process Cloud Service PCS and Oracle Document Cloud Service ODCS.

As I have said before, the Rapid Development Toolkit from the UX enables developers to create PaaS extensions with the same Simplified UI that is used in SaaS giving the 'seamless' extension we need for customer UX. Our original PoC was using RDK r8, and we had found a number of constraints. With continuous innovation in SaaS two of these have been fixed and another in RDK r10.

Our use-case is the governance of an HR policy for a grievance complaint. Very simply if an employee complains about any other employee there must be a meeting held between them and facilitated by a HR professional within 5 days.

My role was to set up the SaaS system - we have been beta testing R11 at Certus so this was the first time I had extended a R11 system. Cloud Apps has a 'sandbox' concept so I can set up a 'SPACE' branded access to the system without upsetting anything else. As well as branding I added a new 'page' or tile to the welcome page that called the PaaS application. In R10 Oracle added the PaaS tile concept which allows a simple call within a new window which ensures we do not loose the SaaS system.

The actual PaaS application in our PoC used a single table, this time we had a couple of tables, a better design. We did some tidying up and removed some more of the outstanding list from the original PoC. The PaaS instance we used is one of the trials OTN arranged at the last OOW for ACE DIrectors which have been extended for a year, so really, really useful.

We wanted to use ODCS, so we added functionality to the PaaS application to store any attachment here. Which then became the event to kick off a process in PCS to establish the meeting date as 5 days after the date the complaint was raised although this could be over ridden.

Our final intent was to take this date back to the PaaS system using ICS. This needed a REST service creating in the PaaS system which was done at the database level.

We fell foul of a few things, in layman terms the software expects all your clouds to be in the same datacentre and in reality they would be but we were using trial systems so not necessarily so. You have to be logged into each and therefore needed different browsers to do so at the same time. There was also an issue getting ICS to work to we abandoned that when we ran out of time.

The Family Team had a great use-case. As we travel with the OTN tours the sharing of travel information, especially before it is booked is always a challenge so we decided to create an app. This would use the Database Service and Mobile Cloud Service MCS 

With Heli on the team we had a wonderful database design, although I was concerned we were getting too ambitious, and Gurcan created the most awesome presentation as a wireframe for the app. My role was the data and the graphics, thanks Pete Sharman (another Family member) for the family decal inspiration.

Our biggest issue on this project was our lack of developers, the new name of Developer Challenge should have been a clue to us! Anyway we thought all the difficulties we came up with in MCS was down to our lack of ability so we went with an APEX based mobile app as we could at least deliver something. As it turns out even amazing developers hit the same challenges so it wasn't just us.

I pitched both use cases and had to have a break between the two, so I could log out of the cloud services we had been using and then into the others as I had run out of browsers.

I pitched the SPACE team use case first and was pleased with it. At first the ODCS wouldn't work, but luckily I had 'one prepared earlier' although a few minutes later I was able to show it working. I felt we did well as we had used elements not used by other teams and it is a real usecase.

The Family pitch was difficult, as I started with the wireframe Gurcan had provided and it was difficult to keep a straight face when I knew what the final app looked like. However I think we deserved a prize for the most entertaining pitch. Everyone appreciated the use case and I was able to demo hotel bookings against one leg of a tour.

The other teams had such a variety of projects. The first team that pitched I was gutted for, they had created a 'vending machine' using a raspberry pi to generate IoT data. However the power socket they had plugged into wasn't live so by the time they came to demo it the machine was dead, I felt so sorry or them.

My favourite was the overall winner, the team 'Without Borders' had a use case for tackling air pollution in Mexico City, basically when the smog is bad, using freely available data, they wanted to limit the number of miles an individual driver could make. They designed an app to tell them how many they had used and the remaining amount. The idea being that you would be fined if you violated your quota.

It was such good fun, and the judges were product managers who took it very seriously, each marking in secret against various pre determined criteria, so people had to wait 24 hours for the results. I wasn't there for the ceremony, I had to fly home, but it was done on the main stage in AMIS25. I believe the SPACE team got an honourable mention for their name, so I guess I didn't do too bad.

The reason for this hackathon challenge was to give Oracle feedback for their products, and although every team hit challenges, many were to do with the clouds working together which I wont be an issue in a real customer, and there was certainly a lot of feedback collected. What I love about Cloud is that the feedback can be acted on immediately and improvements will be in the product in no time at all.

I am a winner though, I have learnt more and now can update my PaaS4SaaS presentation with what we did, and again reduce the list of constraints.


Thankyou OTN