Monday, 20 April 2015

Collaborate 2015 - User Group Thoughts

There is not normally many IOUC official meetings at Collaborate as the 3 user groups hosting, IOUG, QUEST and OAUG are too busy to take part but they all try to include Usergroup leaders in invitations to their receptions.

This year however there was an international delegates lunch on the Sunday with a 100 or so guests and EOUC had a good representation, interestingly the biggest contingents came from Iceland.

This was followed by my first session that was on understanding communities and how user groups fit in. I had also written an article for OTech magazine that was published in the lead up to collaborate.

Mary Lou Dopart who runs the IOUC on behalf of Global Customer Programs, did have a user group leaders dinner on the Tuesday evening that I was invited to. There were not too many in attendance about 20, but it was good to catch up. Mary Lou had invited Mark Sunday who had been the first Oracle keynote speaker and who had also spoken at the Quest Executive Forum and I was privileged to sit with him for a while. He was happy to answer questions all evening and truly understands the value of user groups.

As Mark Hurd was scheduled to be the main keynote speaker on Wednesday, Mary Lou had arranged an audience for user group leaders, and we had met a few times over the phone and in person in preparation for the meeting.

On Wednesday John Fowler head of Engineering met with Usergroup leaders and I had a question for him from our infrastructure SIG,, as we discussed this John said ‘something like a wizard?’, which I agreed would be ideal. He said he couldn’t promise that but we talked towards him sharing some of the education they give sales, through adapted webinars for Usergroup leaders and some sharing or rather highlighting of solution guides.

Unfortunatly Mark Hurd did not make Collaborate so we took the opportunity to meet with Jeb DeSteel instead, Jeb heads up GCP.

Most user groups have the same core challenges, how to attract and maintain members in a world that is constantly changing and presenting new challenges and threats them. Mark Hurd has said that he wants Usergroup membership to grow, as there is evidence that user group members are happier customers.

The number one ask from all user groups is always to help reach customers that are unknown to them. Data privacy means Oracle cannot simply share the data, and it seems that the simple answer would be to just reach out to all new customers and tell them, but the problem is, the independence of user groups means that there are overlapping product, industry and geographical groups all wanting the same. Oracle can do more to point customers at users groups generically but in turn we must create content for a site that explains and guides customers in their choices. It has been agreed that the IOUC will create a task force to do this, and in turn Oracle will look at ways to do more when we are ready.

Another big request from users groups to be keep informed of Oracle events which normally being free to attend and funded by Oracle, can be competition especially when landed at short notice. The answer is always good communication between the local players and this is something UKOUG and Oracle UK constantly strive to achieve.

I also started a conversation about the new type of users that Cloud Applications are introducing. Midsize companies are disrupting Oracle both as consumers of apps and as a sales challenge. JDEdwards traditionally has a lot of midsize customers, and I think we, both UKOUG and Oracle can learn from this community.

GCP took notes throughout the event, at all these formal and not so formal meetings and UKOUG will play a big part in the follow up.

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