Thursday, 23 December 2021

Look Back at Covid Years as a Presenter

I haven't blogged much the last two years - I do write more on Linkedin but I enjoy blogging - normally. I guess my blog has been very tied to my presenting and Covid has put paid to that.

I haven't stopped presenting, just most of it has been remote. 2 dimensional, just me and the screen.

In fact before you read the rest of my blog, which is wordy, watch this video from Connor MacDonald , he says it so much better than me.

When I am asked what an ACE Director is, I explain it is about sharing information, educating. If I think about how I used to decide what to talk about I would attend Oracle Open World, look at what they were launching in my world of Oracle Applications, and think about what interested me. Then I would submit for Collaborate, the biggest Applications event, normally in April in Las Vegas. That way I had about 5 months to investigate, learn more and think about the difference it could be make.

Like chatbots, at first I was sceptical but I did a couple of Proof Of Concepts with Oracle Product Management and then gave several different presentations and followed up with blog posts.

In a similar way the development of VBCS and how we can use that to extend SaaS. This has taken longer than I expected but I see more and more use cases everyday and now you can use it within SaaS to change screens and to extend Journeys. We haven't heard the last of this.

My learning doesn't stop at Oracle Open World, or even the POCs. My first presentation will throw up questions. Most I will know the answer to and it simply means adjusting the presentation, but the best questions are the ones I don't know the answer to that I will investigate and learn more.

As the year goes on, I get the opportunity to give the sessions again, and as time goes by, discus with customers and other end users and they develop further.

Covid has stopped that. I get even more opportunity to present, but virtually. I know that without technology we would not have survived, work has continued in our industry and made such a difference in so many ways. Some of my colleagues love virtual presenting, and it has given more opportunities to new speakers, but I don't enjoy it as much.

I want to present, I want to support the communities that welcomed me in person. They need to feed their membership and I want to be part of that, but it isn't the same. I find that I rarely get questions and little feedback and so my presentation doesn't progress. I don't know if it has any value.

Last year I did formal Solution Architecture training at work (virtually, hated it), and we explored the balance between the ideal solution and what was commercially viable. I had seen this quandary mainly with Oracle Integration Cloud and decided to put together a presentation on that. I gave it internally so did get some feedback but since then with only one exception (more about that later), I have had no questions, no feedback from 5 outings.

A few weeks ago, between Covid restrictions UKOUG had an in person event, UKOUG Together and I was so excited. To be really honest, to be with people rather than any content I would be delivering. A few other conferences had hybrid events but for me they were not viable in person. I live in N Ireland and our restrictions have been more severe than even England.

At the start of Covid, someone said they thought as an extrovert I would struggle with lockdown, Working from Home. I said that actually I wasn't as much of an extrovert as they thought. I will happily stand on a stage and speak in front of hundreds, rather than work a room of people. They said I had the wrong definition, an extrovert gets their energy from people and that absolutely is me. So the thought of an in person event was so exciting to me.

I had a presentation with a colleague on creating PaaS extensions at an industrial scale. This is based on work Inoapps, my new employer has done using APEX and it created a lot of interest. Oracle themselves wanted to see if I was promoting this over VBCS and I'm not, but I am admitting APEX can do amazing things at scale. It was a debate, questions, thinking and answers, follow up learning and I loved it!

I also got to stand in for a colleague for our sponsored slot kicking off the keynote on sustainability. I loved that, I had to learn what we have done and how along with what Oracle does with cloud, how it affects our customers. Again lots of followup conversations and I felt so invigorated.

Lots of my ACE peers were also speakers and it was great seeing them and catching up. Well to be honest, hugging them. UKOUG had a range of COVID measures and whilst I felt some could have been stricter they had a great system whereby you expressed your thoughts on social distancing via a button badge. Red for 'keep your distance', Amber for 'I'm OK but be careful' and Green for happy to shake hands, hug etc. I went for Green and wrote on it 'I NEED HUGS'. 

A few days later I did my last virtual session of the year for AIOUG at their Sangam event. After the high of UKOUG I expected this to be the same as all the other virtual events, but I was wrong. I should have known. Sai, who was at UKOUG in person (he lives in UK), who leads AIOUG really understands how user groups work. To encourage his vast community to get the most out of sessions, they asked speakers to identify the best questions for spot prizes, and once the questions started, they flowed. I got several questions I could answer and one I couldn't - what a result. I was very happy.

Covid hasn't finished, and as I write this I am expecting even more restrictions. I will keep presenting virtually, supporting user groups which I really believe in, but hope that in person will be the norm again soon. I am not silly enough to believe events will go back to how they were, things will have to find a new normal, but I am hopeful. I start 2022 on the board of ODTUG, a new and exciting opportunity and a stream lead for Kscope22, which I pray will be in person and a great success.

Monday, 25 October 2021

Daniel Bozzolo

I don't like that for the 2nd time in two weeks we are recognising the far too early death of an Oracle Community Member.

Daniel Bozzolo was a quiet man, passionate about Oracle and the user community in Uruguay. I had met him many times and he has always been friendly, hospitable and a true gentleman. 

My favourite memory is 2015, the first leg of the Latin America Users-group Tour. As it was the first city, I had arrived early and Daniel met me at the airport. his english was never brilliant but it didn't stop him being an amazing host.

I love Montevideo, and we met up with other friends and wandered enjoying the sunshine before spending the evening with Edelweiss and Nelson.

Then Pablo and Daniel took Ronald, Cindy and myself to a beautiful town of Colonia. We had a wonderful day, Which, like Daniel, I will always remember.



Monday, 11 October 2021

Joel, You Would Love this #JoelKallmanDay

Today is  #JoelKallmanDay

Joel  was front and centre of the Oracle Community. When he left us, too soon, I shared this post that I wrote back in 2015 about his passion.

One line says "I believe people don't use APEX because they struggle to believe a 'no cost' option has value. Well Joel has launched his #LetsWreckThisTogether twitter campaign to get the message across and he is winning."

I joined Inoapps last month and quickly blogged about how I was now an end user of Oracle SaaS but that isn't the only Oracle used inhouse.

As a startup company Inoapps had used a lot of APEX and over a period of time created a company portal that houses a lot of their specific applications. Today the portal gives access to bespoke APEX applications, Oracle SaaS and Analytics Cloud that combines the data. 

A no-cost option with no value - definitely NOT!

Doesn't Scale - Rubbish!

Not suitable for corporate systems - Wrong!

Joel's legacy remains #LetsWreckThisTogether and together means community. 

Monday, 6 September 2021

A Not Unexpected but Under Estimated Bonus to Celebrate at Inoapps

Yes I have moved to Inoapps. I have shared why on LinkedIn but wanted to share my first excitement.

I've been involved in over 100 implementations of Oracle SaaS (Fusion), however small my involvement I share with everyone involved the excitement of go-live. 

Often there is great debate as to what is actually go-live, first user, first journal, first payroll run, each organisation and user has their own milestone to CELEBRATE. This is a really important word to me, no implementation comes without challenges and a system that is constantly evolving, even during the implementation is not for the faint hearted. Once a system has gone live, and after that initially sit back and relax, there are 2 things you need to do:

  • Remember Oracle SaaS will continue to evolve and if you don't plan for that and embrace it, then your system will go stale.
  • Celebrate. Look back and see how far you have come, what have you learnt about your organisation and the product. I like to share that story and am very proud of how many times I have encouraged or actually taken an organisation to Oracle Open World or UKOUG to share their story.
I knew Inoapps had implemented Oracle and are proud to be one of the first in UK. I didn't know how extensive that implementation was and what they had done since, but I was excited to become an end user. Many years ago I was an end user of E Business Suite and often drew from that in my early usergroup sessions. Oracle always talk about them drinking their own champagne.

My recruitment process for Inoapps was not direct so I wasn't surprised that I didn't touch Oracle Recruitment, but I did hope my onboarding would start in the system. I wasn't disappointed, not only are all the HR processes for collecting data and documents automated and self service but the information I need to absorb is in Oracle Learning. 

Oracle Recruitment went live recently which is great because there are big plans to grow the organisation and the systems are in place to make that as smooth and consistent as possible. 

Go Live is really important but being live is the end goal and I am now live as an end user at Inoapps.

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Thank you to Accenture

Today is my last day at Accenture and I want to say an enormous thank you.

I joined Accenture as part of the Certus acquisition. I really agreed with the reasons why Accenture was chosen as the buyer when Tim Warner and Mark Sweeny sold (and yes there were many offers).

Accenture gave deep industry knowledge and change management; areas I have gained a lot of experience in. I have benefited from their rigorous processes, even when they frustrated me. I actually enjoyed the challenge of Quality Assurance and a big thank you to Szymon Lahutta and Kurt Hjelmeland.

My main masters were Sergis Peris  and Andreas Rømming who helped guide me in the early days, Szymon Wdowiak and Brandon Johnson, who trusted me and allowed me to do what I do.

A big thank-you to Andrea Cesarini who gave me the opportunity to create and lead the HCM practice in Europe; a fantastic community of great people.

Mentors headed by my great friend Julian Dontcheff along with Francesc MasJemma Ingham, Lucia Jarret, Fiona Clark, Carrie BrennanJennifer Bowman and Manon Bosma

Thank you to the Mental Health faculty who trusted me to join them; you will never know how much leading those sessions helped me personally in lockdown.

I also have to say thank you to Hayley Dobson, Ian Staff and Clark Kho who listened to me with my innovation tech ideas and helped make them a reality with Oracle Development.

To those I mentored, it was a privilege. 

Many, many more people to thank.

Almost 3 years on, I have acquired a lot more skills and ready to move to my next chapter next week. And yes it will still be Oracle.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Celebrating 25 Years working with Oracle Applications

I believe we should all stop from time to time and look back. I work in IT and there are always challenges but we need to look back and see how far we have come. Celebrate what we have achieved and learn from those challenges. This is why I love when organisations share their stories, through presentations, articles, award nominations, however they do it, the preparation makes them reflect on the achievement and hopefully thank all those who made it happen.

Time for my big look back.

Last week I had the privilege of mentoring young people being assessed for this year's Accenture Graduates intake. All of them were not born when I started working with Oracle Applications. I am officially old.

On April 1st 1996, I started one of the most exhilarating journeys of my life and I wouldn't change any of it.

It has been bumpy, in fact on that first day I was almost arrested. I don't exaggerate and I'll come back to that later.

I was working for CFM in Gloucester, which later was part of ICL becoming Fujitsu. I was looking for my next challenge and was offered several opportunities with promotion, but all closer to London which my family didn't want. Then I heard about a new practice in N Ireland that needed a support manager. I knew one person there David who had been on secondment in Gloucester, and he encouraged me. Then main motivation was my then husband, who was from N Ireland, so it wasn't such a left field idea.

The N Ireland Civil Service were one of Oracle's first E Business Suite customers in the UK and this practice was set up to support them, many having been TUPEd over from NICS.

The idea was I spent 4 weeks at Oracle doing a broad range of applications and technical training and then move to N Ireland and take up the role.

On that first day I drove to the Oracle Training Centre that was housed in Bracknell. I was not a confident driver and certainly not that close to London, but successfully got onto the 'Ring' and counted exits as my instructions were 3rd exit. In rush hour traffic I committed to the turn and then realised it wasn't actually a road going anywhere, but an actual EXIT. I had driven the wrong way into a oneway street! Oh dear, nothing I could do but continue until I could turn around.

 Then coming towards me was a car - a police car! Panic came over me, there was no way he could pass me and I couldn't reverse onto the main road, he would have to reverse. But he didn't, he stopped, got out his car, put on his cap and walked over to me. He tapped on the window and I lowered it. 'Good morning' he said 'Do you know what you have done?, he asked. Then he asked If I knew where I was? I had driven into the exit of the Thanes Valley Police Force! He went onto lecture me about how he and his colleagues couldn't get out to do their job and how those who had finished their shift couldn't get home. I had effectively brought the Police Force to a standstill. He said he would reverse, I could follow him and then we would have another little chat. I did as I was told, got out the car and waited for the next episode. Then he said 'I take it this is your first visit to Bracknell, have a nice day'. He may have found that funny but all I could think about was that my own car and not the hire car I was in, had new N Ireland number plates and if I had been in that, the Policeman would not have seen the funny side, It would have been seen as a possible terrorist incident back then in 1996.

So after that interesting start, I have had roles running support, upgrading the many instances several times, setting up and delivering training in Discoverer and Desktop Integrator, moving to being a Financials Consultant (despite being told by a colleague I couldn't do it as I wasn't a certified accountant), getting involved in User Groups, Fusion, Certus and now Accenture. In fact one of my last posts was about how did I end up here. I look back at the Debra Lilley on that first day, out of her depth and no idea what would be next. 

25 years is a long time, however I know many people whose Oracle career, even in applications, (Fiona Martin), started earlier.

It has sure been a journey with lots of bumps and challenges, and I'm not very good at journeys despite loving travel (My 10 Worst journeys) but one that has given me so many opportunities to grow and help others grow.

But I also look back at Oracle Applications. One of the first customers I supported was NI Water on release 9.4.1 of E Business Suite. Then I worked on one of the first to move to 2 Tier computing, although I can still chant backslash navigate commands in my head and if you know what I am talking about you too are old. I have often spoken about the Fusion Apps story and today Oracle leads in SaaS adding more all the time. How many other organisations had led from the front for that long?

Whatever you are doing, stop and look at how far you have come. 

Finally I want to end by saying thank you to everyone I have met on my journey so far. The ones who have helped me learn, the ones I have taught and I am so proud of what they have achieved and even the ones who have stood in my way; finding a route past them has made me a better person.

And here is to the next part of the journey, wherever that may be. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Exciting New Role - How Did I End Up Here?

Yesterday I updated my Linkedin profile with my new role and the amount of comments and likes just amazed me. Perhaps everyone has more time to read Linkedin during COVID19 but I was very touched by the comments.

Taking this role was not a simple decision because I didn't particularly label myself HCM. But then I realised I was hung up on historical job roles and not my actual skills.

Last March I posted about dropping the comment 'I'm not technical' - and how it was important to acknowledge my skills rather than talk about what I wasn't.

Since I joined Accenture, everyone assumed I was HCM, and I got lots of opportunities to add value to HCM projects but I found myself saying quietly "I'm not really HCM'.

Let me explain.

I left school at 16, as early as I could, and my first job was as a procurement officer for Crown Agents. Later I did international banking with them and studied part time to get some banking qualifications.

Accidentally I got into programming, and worked for a government department covering agriculture, but didn't enjoy it as much I expected as I didn't have the customer contact I wanted.

I moved into IT operations at a time when autonomous had never even been considered. The second mainframe I worked on, an ICL 2900 series, still needed a punchcard to set the system each day (we didn't run it 24 hours).

Then I moved to analyst programmer in Berlin for the army and worked on logistics systems.

When I came back to the UK, I worked for my local council on their Finance System and I felt at home, looking after their procurement processes, combining my technical and business skills.

I stayed with these functional themes, but went through a number of technologies, range Cobol, FoxPro, MS Access, Ingres and eventually Oracle.

I then ran a support team in Fujitsu for Oracle E Business Suite for a couple of years and the functional knowledge widened. I love understanding how the technology supports the business.

When I moved into consultancy the obvious thing for me was Finance. Although I remember overhearing two consultants talking and saying I shouldn't be in Finance as I wasn't an accountant. That knocked my confidence for a long time, but I took on the Procure to Pay process and succeeded.

My first end to end implementation was in the South of Ireland where the travel there was the biggest challenge, but I worked with Paulo Soromenho who was brilliant (at Oracle not travel, he drives too fast!!) He increased my knowledge to include Inventory and Fixed Assets and after 6 months there and another project running in parallel. I have always said if you are valuable you can shape your own role and I did. My success was finding people who believed in me and who would help me to learn.

I still dabbled in technology, and the DBAs let me do little things (dab hand at ADPATCH). This was were I realised I wanted to be the technical linguist, the person who understood both sides.  I felt pretty confident and became the first person in EMEA to be certified in the new Applications IT Professional as an Oracle Master which required you to be proficient in Apps and underlying technology.

I have talked about my Fusion journey many times, and the opportunities it gave me and the first customer I worked with was finance but it was very early, and the market had not taken off.

I did a lot of speaking about Fusion, explaining how it worked, and again both technical and functional. I appeared in an early Oracle montage video, saying I thought they had made GL sexy, although Steve Miranda did later question my definition of 'sexy'. I delivered a lot of training, especially round their approach to User Experience and both the database (thank you Cary)  and analytics community (thankyou Mark) invited me to talk about the underlying design.

I joined Certus, Cloud was new, Tim Warner and Mark Sweeny had taken the risk and setup as a fusion or rather SaaS only company. At the time HCM was what people were buying in UK. The co-owners Tim Warner and Mark Sweeny I remember that one thing we discussed was the need to get ready for, and win their first Finance implementation. So to start with I did a bit of HCM, then a bit more. My first hands on job was to write a compensation guide for a luxury goods company (thanks Ian for the opportunity and patience). I was able to draw on my experience as an employee, a manager and a very protracted employee dispute I was witness to previously that resulted in many months at a tribunal. At the need of the first year we won two Finance or rather Finance and HCM projects and I was knee deep in cost centres and transactions again.

As PaaS took off I got more and more involved in how we could extend SaaS and as the customer population grew I did more and more of what I love most, how can we ensure their organisations get even more of the value they were promised? Most extensions have been in HCM as well so POCs I have carried out with Oracle, ADF, VBCS and more recently chatbots have all been based on HCM processes.

When we moved to Accenture, I was still delivering the value whilst finding the right role but people assumed that I was HCM. Despite my insistence I wasn't really HCM, I was doing lots and soon became a 'go-to' person. Tim was European HCM Lead and we did lots of work together.

Last year I even co-wrote some white papers with colleagues in the US, took part in HCM Talk Radio and guest blog for Oracle, all on HCM.

In 2019, Tim and I were part of the Accenture HCM Keynote at OOWLON, talking about Oracle Digital Assistant in HCM (PaaS4SaaS), and this year we were asked to do it again and I was responsible for my favourite thing ever. Encouraging customers to talk about the difference this has made to their business. At this year's event, I said to someone 'I'm not really HCM' and it was pointed out to me that 'I'm not really HCM' had replaced 'I'm not technical' - oops!

Tim retired last week, and there is nothing I can add to this great post from Mark Sweeny. When Tim asked me if I was interested in taking over his role, he said he would give me his full backing, that was enough. No better support than that.

I do some STEM advocacy in schools, and the students are always being told, the jobs they will have might not even exist today. Lifelong learning is key. Our CEO, recently talked to the half a million people in Accenture about the importance of new skills and them being accelerated when based on previous skills and experience.

I know I can do this. I'm excited to do this and actually I am HCM with added Financial and Technical skills. A pretty good allrounder!