Sunday 29 June 2008

BPEL as explained by John King

Last blog from ODTUG Kaleidoscope in New Orleans

This is a new direction for me talking about something so technical, but then that is what John King was trying to do. Take the subject down to basics and build it back up to a good understanding of the concepts.

I have known John for a number of years as he is an avid fan of UKOUG and our conference visiting each year with his wife Peggy who is a board member of RMOUG.

So back to BPEL, John explained its importance to SOA and that whilst most told portray it graphically and you don’t actually need to know XML, XML is at the heart of the technology and a basic knowledge would go a long way in helping you debug or extend.

Download his presentaion and in the photo John is the third of the three wise ODTUG monkeys (Mike Riley, John Jeunnette and John King)

He talked a lot about best practices and how the utopia of re-use is of no-use if your registry has no governance. Not just relevant for BPEL, any coding you want to re-use needs to be well structured, stored and maintained.

Tuesday 24 June 2008

BI Publisher and my favourite moan

Oracle ACE Director Eric Marcoux (note the ACE beads around his neck) gave a presentation at ODTUG on BI Publisher as an enterprise solution. It was an excellent presentation that compared the embedded BI Publisher which is free with the applications to the full version. What he noted was his two PeopleSoft instances are at different versions of BI publisher from each other and the stand alone version is higher. This is my favourite moan, please, please Oracle reduce the time between great technology being available, and it being available to your apps users.

But back to Eric’s presentation, I pointed out that the embedded BI Publisher is a restricted use licence and cannot be used on any bespoke. Mike Donahue the product manager corrected me and said that was only true in the case of EBS, not sure that is fair either.

But for reporting this tool is fantastic, it is probably one of the oldest fusion tools and started its life as XML Publisher in EBS. The product manager there Tim Dexter is really passionate about BI Publisher and his blog is well worth a read.

Within Fujitsu we have a lot of historic data around invoices and purchase orders from when we had many different business units all using different stationary, now when we run a report to produce a duplicate document, not only can it say duplicate across it, but the BI Publisher template can determine the logo and style from the org-id and date.

Oh and another moan, who comes up with names in Oracle? XML Publisher, no sorry BI Publisher will be called.........guess...........
Fusion Publisher in the next release

I am an Orcale ACE for my work with Fusion and I'm not knocking the concept or the product just the name

Monday 23 June 2008

Welcome Hyperion Users

What a great week for Hyperion users. At ODTUG in New Orleans there was an entire stream over 5 days on Essbase with close to 150 people attending (a guess really if you know better let me know) and UKOUG hosted a Hyperion event with 299 attending. (If you registered and didn’t turn up, shame on you - 300 sounds much better).

I attended a roadmap presentation from Robin Hazel, Senior Director at Oracle, it was to have been John Kopcke SVP but he was torn between the two events and headed out to London, unfortunately he had 2 flights cancelled on him and was unable to make either event. He is however very much behind user communities and wrote the forward in the Essbase book Look Smarter Than you Are with Essbase System 9 – Edward Roske and Tracy McMullen, given to all attendees at ODTUG.

One of the ‘futures’ Robin talked about that really excited me was the intention to allow drilldown from Essbase into an OLTP database, the technical reasoning is that fact data can still be stored in OLTP and simply dimensions and aggregates in Essbase and is known as XOLAP. I am not really technical but my mind went into overdrive, what if OBIA went onto use Essbase in this way as its data warehouse, with full drill down back into the applications? I do hope this is where it will go eventually.

The Essbase track was jointly led by Edward the author and his blog is an excellent combination of wit and technological insight, he appears to have captured all the content and IS technical so read on. I wish I had seen him with the shopping cart but I think I was drinking with Oracle at the time. Edward was kept in check by Tim Tow

Back at UKOUG the Hyperion event was a great success with thanks to Alison Adams and her committee. The next event with is 17th September followed by their track at our annual conference in December.

The Oracle User Community is a thriving, inclusive and fun place to be. Welcome Hyperion users.

Sunday 22 June 2008

The Big Yellow School Buzz

Having blogged about my BIG yellow school bus and how I was so disappointed about not having my own bus but getting to go on a total unrelated big yellow bus, my friends at ODTUG decided to go one better.

I knew something was up when Mogens Nørgaard asked me if I liked bananas, and I had guessed it was going to be a cocktail s New Orleans does seem to be famous for them. I had a hurricane but gave the hand grenade cocktail as miss.

Anyway at the Fat Tuesday on Wednesday ODTUG party I was presented with my very own Big Yellow Bus Cocktail, a little sweet but it went down easily enough. Mogens then renamed the cocktail The Big yellow Buzz, I think I like that and will keep the name.

Parties are for fun, and the whole conference was fun, I met up with a lot of old friends, made a lot of new friends and still had time to learn.

Thanks to John and the ODTUG board and to Kathleen and all at YCC. A brilliant conference, see you soon

The BIG Yellow School Bus

I've just returned from ODTUG in New Orleans and I will tell you all about it after the weekend, but I have promised to tell all about my personal crusade.

One thing I’ve has always wanted to do is ride in a Big Yellow School Bus. My daughter grew up watching a lot of US television and you always see the buses but we don’t have them. So when ODTUG said there would be a community day before their conference and we would travel on a Big Yellow School Bus I was so excited.

Then I realised my flight would not get into New Orleans in time to get the bus so I emailed Kathleen at ODTUG and she assured me there would be a later pick up. Oh I was ecstatic and told all my friends, but an American friend told me to be careful I wasn’t being sent on a ‘Short Bus’, so back to Kathleen, ‘No it will be a big yellow bus, just as I wanted’

When I arrived in New Orleans I got ready for my big adventure, went down for the bus and…. There was no bus, well a little biddy white bus but I wanted a BIG YELLOW SCHOOL BUS. There had been a mix up with the schools department and as it was a Saturday they were closed and we couldn’t sort out the issue. The main group 60+ had to go on public transport, who at least in New Orleans insist on taking exact change, poor Kathleen she needed 60 dollar bills and 60 quarters!

So in dampened spirits off I went to the school, but all was soon forgotten it was amazing, one of the benefits you get from conferences is making new friends, and that is not difficult when you all share the same blue paint in your hair. If it didn’t move you painted it, including I believe in one room the roaches. I hope the children enjoy what we did to their school as much as we enjoyed doing it.

Back to my yellow bus, on Sunday the ODTUG photographer did a photographic walk of New Orleans and one thing he told us was if you want to photograph someone just ask, so when I was out for breakfast yesterday I saw – in a car park – a Big Yellow School Bus, at first I just took a photo from the other side of the road but I got brave, I am an Englishman abroad so we are expected to be mad, so I went and asked. Not only did they let me on board, but sit in the driver’s seat and pretend to drive it. The children definitely thought I was mad, but all that matters is I got to go on a BIG YELLOW SCHOOL BUS

Meeting Michael Armstrong-Smith

Everyone in my team lives by the oracle Discoverer handbook by Michael & Darlene Armstrong-Smith, so it was a great honour to speak to him at ODTUG in New Orleans.

Remember if you are a UKOUG member you can get 30% off this and many other Oracle books

Michael gave a great presentation on manipulating dates but gave away other tips as well. The one I learnt most from was querying on outer joins, and the best way to explain it is to let Michael explain it himself in his own blog

He also talked about setting up master business areas as a way to keep everything tidy, his presentation can also be downloaded

OBIEE is a fantastic BI tool and a lot is being put into it by Oracle, but Discoverer will continue to be the main tool for users for a long time. One worry I do have is that as users listen to the messaging around OBIEE is that they understand the need for better BI a long time before they understand the need for a Enterprise BI tool. Requests I receive for Discoverer reports are getting more and more complicated and it is very frustrating when you know that they really need to be investing in an enterprise tool.

It is a pity this was the only Discoverer presentation at the conference
as Discoverer still has a long life. I am still growing this part of my team along side the OBIEE Plus skills.

Tuesday 17 June 2008

The Day Job..

If you are reading this blog you are probably interested in Oracle or UKOUG. But contrary to popular belief I have a day job and I thought I would tell you a little bit about that.

I work for Fujitsu Services, and have done since my daughter was 6 months old – she is now finishing her first year at university! I was based in Gloucester my home town but when Fujitsu started their Oracle Practice I moved to Belfast to join that in 1996. I still get lost in the City but now call it home.

I used to attend UKOUG meetings but was disappointed in Fujitsu’s involvement and would moan about it to colleagues, one year when UKOUG were looking for board nominations, one of my colleagues told me to put my name forward and ‘put my money were my mouth is’, the rest as they say is history.

So in December 2001 I found myself a UKOUG director. Fujitsu has a professional body membership policy and have always been supportive. They give me time to attend board meetings and the annual UKOUG, Collaborate and Oracle Open World conferences. One of the benefits of having been there for so long is I have 33 days holiday a year so I can top up my envolvement.

So back to Fujitsu, we have a very large Oracle Practice, 400 in UK on of the largest Applications SI and there are 1000s in our global family. I lead the EMEA Business Intelligence Capability, a challenge in itself with the recently expanded Oracle offerings, but we are up for it.

BI used to be my full time job, but then Oracle introduced Fusion. From the start this has been fascinating for me and the evolving strategy changes everything we do with Oracle. I believe Fusion = Choice and for partners that means understanding Fusion both for ourselves and for our customers. Each Certified Advantage SI Partner was encouraged to appoint a Fusion Champion and I was an obvious choice within Fujitsu. This role is all about education, being educated and then educating Fujitsu and customers. SO now I would say my job is about 50/50 BI & Fusion, problem is both take 100% of my time.

I don’t want this blog entry to be an advertisement for Fujitsu - I hope and believe I am respected in the user group community for my integrity but I do want to publicly thank them for their support and flexibility, and to prove that I do have a day job.

Sunday 15 June 2008

UKOUG Volunteers Day

The purpose of this blog was initially to let UKOUG members know what the UKOUG board get up to between my diary entries in our magazine Oracle Scene. If you are a UKOUG member you can read this online now.

UKOUG like all user groups relies heavily on volunteers. We have over 30 Special Interest Groups meeting 3 times a year, covering product, industry and geographical groups each with their own committee and an army of speakers and volunteers for our 2 regional and flagship annual conferences, 200+. These are backed up by a board of more volunteers and an excellent staff of 20.

Twice a year we get volunteers together to reflect and plan and two weeks ago we meet in Birmingham, home of our legendary conference for this summers meeting.
We try and mix business with pleasure and start the day with lots of short updates about what we are getting up to. UKOUG is unique, we represent ALL Oracle users in the UK and this ever changing landscape is a real challenge. Please Oracle a bit more notice would be nice.

Some SIGs overlap but in general this meeting is also a chance for the volunteers to get to know each other. Rachael one of our longest serving staff had us seated in mixed groups and gave us a quiz about what are the most important things if you are marooned at sea. It was quite a quiz and the answers really puzzling especially as the RHA (Royal Yachting Association) who set the quiz did not give reasons. Anyway the internet is a wonderful thing and I have since found this document that sort of explains it.

Back to work, we split into various groups and had breakout sessions to plan for the next year. Each SIG has at least one Oracle Liaison and they attend the day as important ingredients to our successful SIG recipe. Each year there is feedback which needs to be addressed, some of it is simple and easy to implement but some takes a lot longer and we have to constantly try harder.

There was a lot of debate over our annual conference, not too long ago it was a 3 day event, this year it will be five days. Unlike the US the UK has a very limited number of conference centres and the only one really suitable for us is the ICC in Birmingham. We have simply outgrown it so need 5 days, but the intention is that most attendees will have content for a part of the week and not expected to attend the whole time.

As I have said before this year we are celebrating 25 years of ‘Serving the Oracle Community’ at UKOUG so expect some special touches this year. I am so immensely proud of what we achieve.

Back to volunteer’s day, we finish with a few well deserved drinks, a private dinner to say thank you and then an overnight stay. Most of the volunteers give up their own time to work for UKOUG and had taken holiday to attend, if you are a UKOUG volunteer Thank You.

Oracle User Group Finland Conference

I mentioned the Oracle User Group Finland Conference and Heli their President asked if I would say a bit more…

Put a user group on a boat and they can’t go anywhere, so it is a good way to ensure maximum attendance. When the boat sails between two beautiful archipelago, the thousands of Islands that make up Helsinki Finland and Stockholm Sweden the setting is beautiful, sail in May when the sun shines 20+ hours a day and it is almost heaven, and when the boat is a cruise that stops at an offshore island for just 20 minutes to give it tax free status it IS utopia. The bars did close but although I never partook I understand the Oak Table hosted their own complete with Miracle beer.

The conference (yes there was a serious point to this), was a meeting of minds. The Swedish User Group started their conference on the Tuesday morning in Stockholm, where the boat sailed from early evening arriving in Helsinki the following morning. The Finish User Group then started their conference, the Wednesday being a joint agenda for both groups. We set sail again early evening arriving back in Stockholm Thursday morning to return those originating there. I actually left the conference for a few hours to take in Stockholm and did a bus tour of the city, I would have liked a water tour of the archipelago BUT the tourist boats were on strike! That evening we sailed again for Helsinki. What a way to celebrate 20 years!

The conference agenda had a number of tracks and each session had a flag denoting the language in the printed program. UKOUG had a number of speakers take part on various legs, Jonathan Lewis, Mark Rittman, Peter Robson, Julian Dyke to name but a few. Jonathan and Julian are Oak Table members and they were there in force including Mogens Nørgaard. Speakers such as the great Chris Date and Daniel Fink had travelled from the US. So with such great company I was amazed to get one of the highest scores.

I talked about the evolution of the Fusion Strategy from Oracle. I have given the presentation a number of times but normally to an all apps audience, but on this occasion there were many technology people present, I often say ‘I’m not techie’ so I was really conscious of their presence, but I shouldn’t have worried. We overran and I then had several individual conversations with people about what Oracle’s strategy means to the way they will work in the future.

I made lots of friends and had the best time. Happy Birthday OUGF

Saturday 14 June 2008

EOUC Presidents Meeting

Oracle has over 400 Users Groups, many as a result of the many acquisitions they seem so keen on. Talking to that number is just not possible on a global level, so they have a number of communities that group them together. There is APOUC for Asia Pacific and EOUC here in EMEA, both of which are consolidated globally in the International Community IOUC.

The EOUC is still evolving but includes meetings where Presidents come together to learn from Oracle and each other. So in May Ronan (Miles the Chairman of UKOUG) and I travelled to Munich for an EOUC Presidents Meeting. We have been to Munich before, in fact the meetings seem to alternate between Brussels and Munich, they are easy to travel to but if I am taking holiday to attend I would like a little more variety.

The meeting was held in the airport hotel and thanks to legendary German efficiency we did not need to go outside from touch down to take off. However recognising that UKOUG is the best user group on the planet the hotel had arranged very nice upgrades for both Ronan and I in the hotel (why did I need 2 bathrooms?).

The first day was all updates from Oracle Executives. As well as strategy we also learnt a little about reorganisation within Oracle. This is always useful as user groups need relationships within Oracle to function well. The second day was more about sharing best practice amongst user groups. There used to be an EOUC board but it simply required more effort from already overworked volunteers so now there is a much leaner approach, with 2 spokes people who will change every two years representing EOUC with the IOUC. Currently the spokespeople are the presidents of OUGF (Finland) and OBUG (Benelux).

There will be an EOUC stand in the user group booth at Oracle Open World in September with a number of presidents again giving their own time to man it whilst attending the conference.

UKOUG is a mature and very successful user group and are committed to helping other emerging and smaller groups. One way we do this is to encourage our speaker community to present at their conferences; another way is that we recognise any user group membership for our annual conference.

Monday 2 June 2008

If you can't beat them....

For the last few years I have chaired the Product Development Committee of the International Oracle Usergroup Community IOUC and one of our main focuses has been on Fusion.

To begin with Fusion was just for Applications, and technical Oracle folk were completely turned off. But we could quickly see that it was about the technology it would be written in. Getting this message out was a big challenge and one we undertook by getting the applications community to look at the technology. Initiatives like the Oracle Excellence Awards at last years Open World look to showcase Application Customers who have embraced Fusion technology, and bloggers such as Floyd Teter OAUG go a long way towards this.

But what about the technical community not aligned to Oracle Applications? One of our members George Trujillo from IOUG had raised concerns that the technical community managers don't understand Fusion and what it means and therefore they are not investing in the training required.

My own contribution is to give user group presentations on the evolution of the Fusion message, so that people can see its relevance. The audience has almost always been applications and it has been well received.

My last outing was the OUGF (Finland) http:// 20th anniversary conference last month. This conference was held on a boat sailing between Helsinki and Stockholm, idyllic. The applications stream was very small and I did not expect many to show up but I was pleasantly surprised, a fair number of the technical people turned up to see what it was about, and I got very positive feedback including some from Oracle themselves.

So the moral of the story? Talk to techies, they are not all that bad :)

Here Goes

When I started my diary in UKOUG Oracle Scene I said that as a non techie it was as close to a blog I would get, but now I can see that people in an immediate world, want immediate updates and this does seem to be the way to do it.

I have been thinking about starting a blog for a while and have read an awful lot, my pre-conception was that some are too 'diary' like so the first thing I have done is change the name to Debra's Thoughts, I have had 'Debbie does Oracle' suggested and although I have no idea what that means :) I think Oracle may object.

The best blogs I have read are the ones where the business thoughts are separate from the personal thoughts and if this works that is what I intend to do.