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? 


Roel said...

A mobile version? Did you even try try to run the current version on your phone or tablet?
It probably just works ... ;-)

Niall said...

My thoughts exactly. Apex certainly makes mobile easy

Scott Wesley said...

Penny said running on mobile gave her issues. I think I must still be waiting for an email