Sunday 20 July 2008

UKOUG Special Events

This week the UKOUG had a special event - Archive and Purge These are meetings that fall outside of the standard Special Interest Groups (SIGS) and I thought it would be interesting to explain how a special event comes to happen.

After each user group meeting members are asked what else they would like to be covered, volunteers are also asked at their meetings and then at each board meeting (there are 6 a year) the directors talk about ideas that have been put forward and determine if they meet the current strategy. If they do a director must sponsor the idea and it goes onto the ideas stack. I was sponsor for Archive and Purge.

The ideas stack is reviewed at each board meeting and one or two are moved into the next stage, here the office do some market research to see that there is a big enough audience and sufficient sponsors to make the day a success both in terms of value to the members and economically.

Then the agenda needs to be drawn up, hopefully there is an obvious volunteer to help, and in this case Anthony Ross from the Projects SIG offered to help. It was decided early on to have two streams, one functional / business focused and the other technical. It was difficult to pull together an agenda and fellow director David Kurtz and myself had to work with Karen Smith in the office to create an agenda we thought would be of value to the audience. Only then does an ‘idea’ go into production. Anthony was also involved in the Process SIG for Acquire to Retire and so we co-located the two events in London.

I wanted the Archive and Purge Day to start with discussions about why people archive, what they have tried and what worked or didn’t? Normally discussions come later in the day but I wanted them up front so that the audience could see who was similar to them so they could speak to them in the breaks. It also gives presenters the opportunity to ensure their presentations cover what people are after. Unfortunately Anthony could not make it on the day, very frustrating but volunteers do have day jobs, and I want to take this opportunity to say a big THANK YOU to Raj Patel Deputy Chair of the Application Server and Middleware SIG who stepped in at the last minute and facilitated the technical stream whilst I looked after the functional side. The discussions were very interesting and backed up the theory that there is no simple answer. There were presentations from sponsors who have tools that deal with the requirement in different ways and from organisations that have actually been through archiving.

We had about 120 delegates and I haven’t seen the official feedback but from what I heard from delegates they all found the day very helpful.

Sunday 13 July 2008

UKOUG Paper Selection Day

UKOUG is a conference I am incredibly proud of, however it doesn’t just happen…

Last week was paper selection day, great fun but a great challenge. Large grids are placed on the walls with the number of streams available and what they are for across each day. Every submission is on a small slip of paper, with a reference number that relates to the extract and the judges comments which are held in binders. These were handed out to the 5 sets of people there for the day, EBS, Business & Strategy, BI, Server tech and Development. PeopleSoft, Siebel and BEA will be done later and our JD Edwards Community has their conference content on

So for the 5 streams we were selecting for submissions had been made from sometime in March and this year we had 694 submissions up 12% on last year. Then 189 Judges (thank you to all who took part in the judging), across all the different streams graded and commented on them. If you submitted a paper and are not successful it is more likely to be because there is simply not enough room on the agenda than because of the quality. Offer to present at the relevant SIG and get your name and ability known with the judges.

Although each submission has been graded, we have to look at getting a balance of papers, not too many from any one source, plenty of end user stories, established presenters who have their own following, new speakers we have seen at SIGs or other conferences and a balance of actual content which we feel covers what the members want to hear about. The people who take part in paper selection day tend to be SIG chairs and directors and as usual we are kept in line by James and the staff. Aimee was in charge this year and she is as scary as Rachael who was also there so we were kept on our toes.

The biggest issue is always the number of available slots, but we cannot add anymore into the ICC. In the UK this is the only real exhibition centre suitable for us and we have simply outgrown it. With every Oracle acquisition we stretch it even further; we are already looking at different options about how we can cater for everyone next year… any ideas?

So back to paper selection, the grids are populated with the little slips (lots of blue tack) and then each group does a sanity check for their streams, checking for clashes, flow of content and value to each group of attendees they represent. Then when all groups have finished we check again for clashes and flow, some really great speakers have submissions in multiple streams and we need to make sure they have not been doubled booked. Last job of the day for the volunteers is to write the introduction to their streams highlighting key presentations.

Then the staff transcribe the grids on the wall into the conference application, and begin the job of informing people they have been accepted or held in reserve. Some presentations have been selected with conditions, i.e. change of stream or title, two presentations combined etc and this too needs to be communicated. You will hear by the end of July if your submissions have been sucessful.

I was on the Business & Strategy group which includes Fusion Applications. Fusion Technology is now ‘business as usual’ so we will be highlighting any technology papers that are Fusion relevant.

It is very tempting to wander over to other groups and find out if your own, or colleagues or friends submissions have been accepted but I managed to hold off until after it was finished, I didn’t want to influence decisions.

So is that it all done now – NO there is a lot more to be done by the office and they will be busy all the way up to the conference. We kick off on the Sunday with meetings for volunteers and board members and by the time it finishes Friday we will all be exhausted. But then we have to start planning for next year immediately afterwards.

No rest for the wicked.

Tuesday 8 July 2008

Update on Lovemarks

We made it! The Oracle ACE brand is officially a lovemark.

Give Oracle a chance with BEA

This article from The Register talks about how the BEA acquisition could lead to very unhappy customers.

They refer to the Thomas Kurian and Charles Phillips webcast (which you can download here if you didn’t hear it), saying that under Applications Unlimited people could continue to use whatever they currently have. The article goes onto say that this wanting to please everyone is a risky strategy and they need to talk to the customers frequently.

If the article was about the PeopleSoft acquisition I could understand it, that was the first major acquisition and nobody really knew what Oracle would do, but with each acquisition the process of engaging with customers and partners has improved. Applications Unlimited is pretty well proven with all the acquired products to date continuing in development.

Communication is pretty good as well, user group leaders are briefed within about 48 hours of an acquisition happening and users of the acquired products are either steered towards the relevant user group who have the existing infrastructure and connections to work effectively with Oracle, or where there is a strong independent user group it is encouraged to join the user group community. I previously blogged about how Essbase and Hyperion were covered by ODTUG and UKOUG where both the user groups and Oracle through their ACE program identified the current trusted users in the Essbase community and gave them the opportunity and information to communicate with the wider community who already trust them.

Just hours after the webcast user group leaders were briefed in confidence on how it will affect Fusion applications and as soon as we can we will share this information with our members.

Where the article does not cover well is the communication with existing Oracle users who may be affected by any future strategy influenced by the BEA and other acquisitions, and we in the IOUC have recommended an acquisitions portal for information. We are independent and if we think there is missing communication we will say so, but to help the users - not simply to knock Oracle.
I think saying Oracle needs to communicate more just 3 days after the webcast is a bit rich. Ask JD Edwards customers who communicated more with them PeopleSoft or Oracle?

Sunday 6 July 2008

What Makes Me Proud

In my day job I run the BI Team within Fujitsu Services. Prior to the Oracle acquisitions there were about 8 people who implemented and supported Discoverer and to a lesser extent Business Objects for all our EBS customers. A few customers also had OFA and DBI.

The acquisitions of Siebel and Hyperion changed all that and I put forward a business case to grow the team to include these skills which I could see were going to be very popular. We brought in some graduates and experienced support people to take on the Discoverer work and a few people with existing Hyperion or Siebel skills, and went through a private boot camp with Oracle University to get OBIEE skills. The partner program has also helped with additional training and we are now busy delivering. In the case of Hyperion we have a commercial relationship with an existing Hyperion partner to combine relevant skills.

The team has doubled in size and will aim to grow by the same number again this year. We have achieved Certified Advantage Partner status in BI technology and are working on BI applications although the program is still in development and not quite relevant currently.

I am proud that we are implementing OBIA and Hyperion with EBS where we have many years experience as a systems implementer. But what makes me more proud? - Job satisfaction from my team. One of them who has been working with OFA, FSG and Discoverer on EBS for many years sent me this email last week:

Just to say I am finding OBIA excellent at the core basic EBS functions that every enterprise uses – EG – AR Aging – AP payments performance – Trial Balances etc! To get this functionality up and running in OBIA takes very little time – less than Disco – however to customize is what takes the time.

I therefore am coming out strongly on the side of OBIA with the realistic view that you need to invest time and effort and money in customization while having an excellent foundation of OBIA to build on – the resulting solution is best in market! I think that’s how we should sell!

And if you want to know more about OBIA check out a series of articles from Mark Rittman

Saturday 5 July 2008

Lovemarks and Oracle

Bit worried about the title, and initially i was worried about putting lovemarks into goggle, but it is a proper term.

Lovemarks is a concept created by Saatchi and Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts and the idea behind his books that lovemarks transcend brands, owned by the people.

At this years Institute of Directors annual convention in London I was privileged to hear Kevin speak, he is so passionate about this that Saatchi and Saatchi have patented the lovemarks concept and host a website where people can nominate lovemarks that have the criteria suggested in their lovemarks profile

So am I going to nominate Oracle as a lovemark? No even I am not that sad but I think the Oracle ACE program is an excellent example of a lovemark.

At ODTUG when Oracle ACEs were asked what made them want to be part of it, the answers were all about passion, respect, access to Oracle to learn more and sharing their experiences with others. One suggested attribute I could not attribute to the ACE program was intimacy but then I haven’t met all the ACEs!

So I have nominated the program, lets see if Saatchi and Saatchi think this qualifies.