Sunday, 15 April 2018

Chatbots - A Public Apology at Collaborate


One of the first sessions at Collaborate 2018 is my chatbot presentation
Last year at Oracle Open World I blogged about a chatbots session I had seen when visiting Oracle's User Experience labs the week before. 
The blog was about how the idea of a chatbot seemed alien to me as a reason to use Oracle Cloud. I did recognise that this is a common reaction to new technology and that I had been caught out before with voice recognition.

Anyway roll on 6 months and it's a real hot topic, something at Certus we recognise the need to be on top off. We have to keep up with the continuous innovation that Cloud brings. There is no cushion of time, whilst you wait for a customer to upgrade.

I saw lots of chatbot demos, and even did an online chatbot training course through Oracle Alliance & Channels. However the content was hard coded and not coming from a database and certainly not from Oracle SaaS.


I knew I had to learn this and so I had employed my favourite tactic, I submitted a presentation for a conference. And it was accepted! Thank you Quest for giving me the opportunity to publicly apologise for my earlier scepticism.


So if you are at Collaborate - please come along
Session ID: 105380  Reef F 0945 Monday 
Abstract: Do chatbots have a place in your HR department? This session deconstructs the chatbot to explain how it works

Through the ACE program we have fantastic access to Product Management and so I contacted Grant Ronald and asked him for some advice. There was also a delay in getting the cloud instance built and time was running out, but Grant had an answer.

Rohit Dhamija a Principal Product Manager working for Grant, was happy to work with me. I got a chatbot built and he got to learn all about Cloud HCM. 

The demo of the will return details quicker than logging into the system, deliver an FAQ and even allow me to resign online!

So come along and see our presentation and learn how it is actually done, and what is happening behind the exciting demo.















Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Passing on the Baton, Still Supporting the Team


As you will have seen in today's UKOUG eBulletin my participation on the board has come to an end. The time has come to hand over the baton to Neil Chandler and leave the organisation in the very capable hands of our current board.

It is a little bit sad. I know it right to go but I also feel there were things I had not finished however the board are perfectly capable of taking over.

As I start the hand over I had the chance to reflect on what I have achieved in all my time on the board, both this period and the earlier period which ended with me being chairman and then president:

  • I have worked hard to welcome our 'acquired' communities of PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Hyperion, Siebel etc into the wider user group world.
  • Bringing the User Experience team and their labs to UKOUG
  • I've bought Women in Technology and Next Generation initiatives which although we are always looking for better ways to make a difference are at least on the agenda.
  • On a personal note, UKOUG gave me, as it has many other members of the Oracle ACE program, an opportunity and stage, to learn my craft as a presenter and the opportunities to share my Oracle knowledge. I will certainly continue to do so.
  • I also grew my career through UKOUG, many years ago when first joining the board I undertook Director training from the Institute of Directors, jointly funded by UKOUG (in the main via a grant) and my then employer Fujitsu. Through that and many, many hours of hard work I gained my Charted IT Professional, Chartered Engineer (Software) and Chartered Director. 
But it hasn't all been easy, user groups have many challenges, I have seen Oracle change beyond recognition, both through acquisition and their move to Cloud. The global crash put great pressure on training of all kind and usergroup events struggled with both attendees and exhibitors. Digital disruption has also bought social marketing which now competes with in person marketing. Oracle are a big competitor too, not a month goes by that they don't have an event or meetup. More personal to UKOUG, we have had a succession of interim leaders since James Haslam left and now with James Jeynes having moved on there is again lots to think about. I still believe user groups have a big role to play, our independence from and our ability to influence Oracle are a big benefit to our members and the meeting of like minds to learn from each other should never be underestimated.

Paul Fitton our President has talked about the current Project Reach which looks to address the current challenges and I know that those involved will all work to overcome them with exciting new ways of working. My most recent job at UKOUG was to revise and re-issue our Mission and Values.

I want to thank all those who I have served on the board with, Ronan Miles for his mentorship, Burt Spence for his original encouragement and more recently Fiona Martin. I also want to thank the staff led by Karen McCormack. It hasn't always been easy but we have always delivered.

Most of all I hope I have encouraged others and that I don't need to be on the board to do.
I'm not leaving UKOUG, I am still leading the Applications conference this year, and hope to volunteer in a number of other areas so you haven't heard the last of me.




Sunday, 8 April 2018

Women in Technology - Paying it Forward


At the UKOUG conferences in December I had the pleasure of inviting Caroline Apsey to talk about what Oracle are doing supporting the Bloodhound project.

Afterwards I asked Caroline if she would consider an interview with Oracle Scene about being a WIT with such a high profile and she was happy to do so with her colleague and Oracle Intern Lahini Sivaganeshan.

This Oracle Scene was so successful we are going to do a series of interviews and I already have women lined up for the rest of the year! We hope to include two of the students who attended OUG Ireland a few weeks ago.

Then Caroline asked me if I would talk about UKOUG and how we select papers for conferences and how that includes encouraging women. This was at a meetup she arranged in Oracle just before Easter.

Career Developer: CFPs + Presentations + Life Coaching!


Abi Giles-Haigh
Another speaker was Abi Giles-Haigh, a great UKOUG speaker who has won both a highest judging paper and best new speaker with us, as well as being recognised for her work by Oracle.

In fact Abi has an article on her work again in this edition of Oracle Scene.
Helen Cottee

The evening finished with a life coach Helen Cottee talking about confidence and I loved it.

WIT groups should be about this, encouraging each other through our networks and hopefully in just these few examples you can see how one thing leads to another.






2018 OUG Ireland


This year on 22 March we had OUG Ireland. Sometimes it is hard to let go. I have been the project lead for Ireland for many years, but this year Tony Cassidy took the lead. He and his volunteers (of which I was still one), did a great job and we had a wonderful couple of days.



This is the third year it has been at the Gresham and was a case of 'last chance' for the hotel owners. On paper it is ideal: Central, easy to get to, right size, right cost, but the first year there were lots of problems. Last year they promised everything was fixed and although better, still not quite right. But then the hotel was sold the the RUI chain and I have to say I was impressed with the changes.

Again we had a two day format which does work really well here. The day was opened by Tony and then John Donnelly & John Caulfield, from Oracle spoke about the Irish market for Oracle.

After the keynote we had another first at OUG Ireland. Last year each sponsor was given a few minutes in the exhibition hall to say what they did and why they were there. It worked much better than expected and so this year, it was repeated but this time on the main stage. It is the sponsors who make these events possible and they loved the opportunity and delegates could hear the message without being 'sold to' and if they wanted could follow up with the vendors afterwards, and many did. 

I did the kick-off for the Applications stream which I was very proud to be asked to do. I wrote an article in Oracle Scene just before Christmas on 'What Route to Cloud'  which I presented. Looking at all the different scenarios and some of the options. 

We took a detour from the normal, Q&A being at the end of the day, and did it after my kick off. The idea being then all speakers would have an opportunity to know what people were looking for and hopefully answer their questions during the two days. We had hoped that oracle would join Tony and I on the panel, but for logistical reasons that didn't happen but I think we answered most of them. 

During the run up to the event we had a larger than normal number of selected speakers cancel. Part of this was our fault, call for papers was before the date was announced and that meant some had to say no, but others canceled for different and valid reasons right up to the last week. So many of the speakers picked up free seasons and I think did UKOUG proud, although someone not at the event suggested I did too many, which upset me as I didn't ask for them and was helping out. I wasn't the only one, I know of at least 3 others who at the last minute stepped up. Perhaps I am simply just too sensitive.

My extra session on day one was about the different ways you can extend SaaS. This is based on a short session I have been asked to present at Collaborate in a couple of weeks. So a new presentation for me and one that was really well received. I even had an Oracle sales person photograph some of my slides as he said it was the first time someone had compared the pros and cons of the different options. 

I felt the audience wanted to hear about cloud. Like in Apps17 people are keen to understand, and perhaps not all are actively planning, they know it is now relevant to all.

At the end of the first day we had our annual ACE Dinner and again I had been replaced as the organiser, by the local Brendan Tierney and he did a great job. We were back at our favourite restaurant and it was a lovely evening. Tim Hall and I left before the real drinking started, I'm simply too old to party when there is more work to be done.

On the second day I had a 'Back to Basics' session. This was my original Fusion architecture presentation almost 8 years ago and revised on behalf of hroug last year.
Again I think it was well received.


We also had some Irish students who were here as guests of Oracle Academy, thanks again Brendan for arranging. 

Since it was a Friday, I was finished my sessions, apps was over and Dublin is only 3 hours by bus home and no flight. I took the opportunity to leave a little early and started my great adventure home. Bus from outside the hotel and it was trouble and stress free.

I hope I'll be back again next year, as both a volunteer and a speaker. Ireland was my first event I sponsor when I joined the board originally, and it is my home event.




Wednesday, 21 March 2018

2018 PaaSForum Budapest - The Content


I'm a member of several advocate communities within Oracle and the leaders are a special breed, ensuring we had the product access we need to be up todate and to keep us motivated. I'd like to call out Jennifer Nicholson and Lori Lorusso in the ACE Program and Misha Vaughan in the Apps UX Advocate Program.

Normally these roles don't extend to the sales side of the business, but there is an exception, Juergen Kress who runs the EMEA A&C PaaS Community. Every year for his partner community Juergen holds two events; his spring Forum and summer Boot Camps.


The Boot Camps are full on training and not relevant to my role but the Forum is a 'not to be missed event'. The week is divided into 3 parts. The first day is partner case studies; what have they done with their customers. The next two days are product and program updates which are the key to what I need to know. I need that 'how' not just 'what' around the ever increasing product portfolio. Then the last two days are the hands-on labs. Normally these are too technical for me but the VBCS and Chatbot sessions were a must for what I am talking to customers about. More important than all this I have the chance to speak face to face to product managers.

This year the Forum was back in Budapest. We were there 3 years ago when #PaaS4SaaS was only DaaS and JCS with a promise of SOA and BPM to come. Certus had recently announced we would work with customers when the time came on the #PaaS4SaaS concept, and along with our development partners eProseed had just completed a PoC with Oracle on what was possible. Jurgen gave Lonneke and I an award for taking this on and sharing it with the community.

This year, to our surprise, Lonneke and I were called up to the stage again, and given another community award this time for SOA CS with SaaS. This is a project we are well into, with a global customer who is integrating all their employee data from their existing portfolio into a new instance of Cloud HCM with the business moving into using the system when it suits them. It is a complex integration but will give business value much quicker to the customer. For us it was great to be recognised, it took quite a while for customers to actually want #PaaS4SaaS up front but is now becoming more widespread.

There was more business content this year at the forum and one I really appreciated was the session on Universal Credit licensing. Not so much about what it costs today but about how we can help customers who have existing investment and the best way to move them forward.

From the Oracle A Team Deepak Arora gave us several sessions on #PaaS4SaaS adoption models and what they are seeing in presales engagements. Deepak talked about architectural changes between R12 and R13 which affect the way PaaS consumes data from SaaS which isn't immediately obvious. He also talked about future plans. Well worth the visit alone.

I have a chatbot I have had lots of help building by the OMCE product team, so was very interested in their sessions and was brave enough to divert from the script and set up my own messages.

John Ceccarelli from VBCS Product Management had a few sessions based on the soon to be released V2. There are some great enhancements to the product although some of the simple wizardry that suited people like me is rather hidden now, but I'll comment again later once I've had a chance to play with it more. I also attended a UX session on future ideas for VBCS and am very keen to see them get into production.

There was a 2 day integrate and extend SaaS workshop but I didnt attend that. It was very CX centric and very technical but I did sit down with the lead Wolfgang Herdtle and he went through a couple of Finance and HCM use cases.

Once everyone had left I spent an hour with Nicolas Damonte looking at Process Cloud and their ideas for exposing complexity via wizard driven templates. I am absolutely sure I have described that wrong, but I liked the user experience.

For a few years I have been looking at how to extend SaaS with little applications that co-exisit with the applications. Some of the constraints are still there but when you can see the roadmap and where both tools and applications development are working together, there is a lot to be excited about.

I have a session at Collaborate on how can you build these extensions. Not how to code, but how to approach them. This includes what to me is one of the best initiatives, Universal Credits, which allows users to consume what they need, even if what they need changes.

I was videoed talking about my thoughts for Oracle sound bites.



Thank you Juergen for another amazing PaaSForum, for the award, and for a great time in a wonderful venue. See you next year.




Saturday, 10 March 2018

Can Ireland Continue to Win?



I've just watched Ireland win the 6 Nations, next week is Cheltenham, St Patricks Day, England v Ireland at Twickenham for the Grand Slam; can anything top that?

Well they will all rush back for the 
annual OUG Ireland Event held  22-23 March at The Gresham Hotel, Dublin.



As ever there is a great agenda, and I'm kicking off the Apps stream with a look at selecting the right cloud solution for your applications. It's weird really, I've spoken at hundreds of events, but never as community kickoff. I'm very excited because the rest of the stream will be drilling into more detail as the event progresses.

For the technical audiences there are again many old faces, local heroes and new speakers. If you use Oracle and can get to Dublin .....

Make sure you will be there.




Monday, 5 March 2018

The Legacy of A Great Friend


John Schiff died at the weekend. It was expected, he had found out he had leukaemia last October and he spent his last weeks at home with his family and hospice care. 


John was head of JD Edwards World product and a great friend to both UKOUG and me personally.

From the time Oracle purchased PeopleSoft and therefore JD Edwards, John worked with UKOUG to ensure his customers had a user group to support them in the UK. He supported them becoming members and even at a difficult meeting a few years back supported JD Edwards being part of the wider applications community.

He brokered the relationship between UKOUG and QUEST which has always been for the benefit of our members.

He cared so passionately for the customers who used the product he had invested so much of his career to.

But John was also my friend. I travelled for several years to Denver for the RMOUG conference each spring and John invited me and my daughter to his home. His family were so welcoming. He and his wife Eileen took me to their local restaurants and we shared many glasses of good wine and stories of our families and faith.

I raise a glass to you John. 










Sunday, 28 January 2018

The Excitement (and challenge) of Continuous Innovation


Part of my role at Certus, is to understand what is happening in the Oracle World and make sure if we need to be part of it we are ready to be so at the right time. Another part is understanding the strategy of our customers and how these things can brought together.

I recently attended a chatbot training course, and like all the others on the course followed a script and now have a working example on facebook.

Great, but how do I make that relevant in our world of Cloud users? Well that challenge isn't new, it is something we need work at all the time, and part of that is identifying the gap between marketing and customer adoption.

Oracle have helped, the move to universal credits for #PaaS4SaaS means that customers can trial ideas, in a more agile way, using all of the available development tools, without committing to one specific product. You can try things out, fail fast and move on to the next idea until you have a valuable solution for your organisation.

We have a major customer who has a cloud first strategy and looked at Integration Cloud, for you guessed it, integration. However working with our partners eProseed the answer for their specific need was SOA Cloud. This may change and it may be a combination but being able to work through the options without commercial implications is a new and powerful offering.

Another customer who is implementing HCM Cloud self service alongside their global E Business Suite systems, had specific needs around security. Having quickly demonstrated that we had the right approach to challenges, we worked together on a small proof of concept, and then they were able to purchase the required licences confident of their investment.

Part of this confidence and desire to do more than a simple implementation comes from our strategy of not only being aware but of investing cautiously in actually trying things out. If you have followed our #PaaS4SaaS story, we did our first proof of concept with eProseed when it was simply Java Cloud Service on offer. We took a small scenario from a case management tool and replicated the process within PaaS and integrated it as a seamless addition to Cloud HCM. We have demonstrated this around the world and used it as a way to articulate how everything actually works together. Everyone can understand the use case; the need to follow a company policy for absences.

As #PaaS4SaaS has evolved there are no so many more technical options, and again we have explored them, like the low code options within ABCS (now VBCS) and shared those findings.

Which brings me back to chatbots. Tim Warner and I have committed to taking about chatbots with HCM Cloud at Collaborate in April, so the race to bring all the components together is on. The actual technology development is simple enough, the harder part is identifying use cases that the current APIs support. #PaaS4SaaS has encouraged the Cloud applications development team to provide more and more APIs and I am promised there are more to come.

Sometimes the solution does not need to be that complex and in fact as the saying goes, the best ideas as the simplest ones. An integrated solution could simply be the user experience being joined up, so we don't have to wait.

Oracle has a team in the UK around digital innovation and Certus was asked to be involved. There approach was to have innovation workshops with customers to see the art of the possible around mobile. The outcome was combining both Oracle Cloud Apps and other applications used by the organisation into a simple app that combined in a single user experience ways to overcome today's challenges. We held a workshop with a number of government clients and came up with two great prototypes.

This approach means when the customers are ready, we are ready and has made Certus stand out. It also makes my job very exciting. I love my job!