Sunday 25 January 2009

Best Practice doesn’t stand still.

At the IOUC Summit , Oracle brings together the leaders and representatives of the many hundreds of users groups they have around the world. Examples were given of collaboration between the groups and of best practice. UKOUG is often quoted as best practice especially in the areas of Surveys, Conferences and Fusion Input. We are not however sitting on our laurels and also listen to other groups and see where we can collaborate and learn to give more value to our membership.

There was a lot of interest in our new conference series, and we met with the Oracle ACE Program to see how we can mutually benefit. We have a lot of ACE speakers who already find presenting at UKOUG rewarding but we want to expand this. But we also want new speakers, perhaps we should start a 'buddy' system and pair up experienced speakers with those who have yet to get started but have a story to tell?

All the user groups talked about economic pressures and the effect on members some of whom have already lost jobs and many others under threat. In these times we as User Groups must also tighten our belts but ensure we give the support and education needed to our members so that we can together survive. In the last difficult period the user groups actually flourished, in hard times the value proposition of the user group is more acute and provides great opportunities for people to learn from each there when more traditional education may not be an option and UKOUG does represent incredible value.

The problem with Choice

I have been at Oracle all week at the annual IOUC Summit, a lot to take in but a lot learnt and the chance to speak to peers. There were many conversations around Fusion (still under NDA but we can speak to each other) and we have also had the opportunity to speak with people within Oracle, and I think we in the users groups have been able to articulate our current frustration.

Fusion Applications are coming, but if we only talk about that are we doing a dis-service to Applications Unlimited? I hope not, we also had the chance to talk about what we will see in Release 12.1 and as a user of E Business Suite I want to look at that in more detail. But then if we just talk about Applications Unlimited then the temptation is to just wait till we see what is in that. Oracle is giving us choice but there is the temptation not to make a decision until we have all the facts.

However let us think about this more. I am not saying wait till we see Fusion before you decide what to do next. In fact don’t be driven by Oracle release strategy at all, look at what your business needs, then look at the Oracle options there are today and not just the actual applications but the middleware options, can Oracle meet your business needs better today? If yes then you have your answer. What we need to hear more about is the message that the Fusion technology is in the Applications Unlimited portfolio and any invested made in these areas now will not only give us the benefits today but will be protected investments because they are part of Fusion Roadmap.

I am a long time Applications user and consultant, on the functional and BI side. Under the ACE Director Program I this week also took part in their Fusion Middleware Initiative, where I learnt about SOA suite, not only did I learn how it works, I learnt to present it and left with everything I need to teach it to others. Two things I learnt:

• It is not difficult but are we training our technical resources in these Fusion skills?
• Not only is it firmly embedded in Fusion Applications but more and more used in Applications Unlimited

Listen to the Oracle messages, all sides and look at how it might help your organization. Best place to hear this, at your local user group of course. (Actually THE best place is UKOUG).

Sunday 4 January 2009

Fusion Applications - What I dont want

My great friend Floyd has written a blog entry 'mea maxima culpa' where he talks about his prediction that we would see Fusion applications in 2008.

I don't think Floyd should apologise and neither do I think Oracle should (even though they did say originally we would see the full suite in 2008) but I would like them to talk a little bit more about them. I don't want the suite made available just because it is a date, (although I would hold out to 31 January before I accepted it wasn't released in 2008), we don't want Fusion until it is ready. The quality of Oracle software has improved but a first release is always going to be a big risk and we want it as perfect as possible.

Floyd and I are very privileged and have seen what has been developed and were both blown away, unfortunately we can't say much more than that as it is still under non disclosure but Steve Miranda did demo some of it in a general session at open World and I believe he will repeat this at Collaborate .

I don't think there is anyone out there desperate to be on the Fusion Applications suite tomorrow but there are lots of people who want and feel they need to know what it contains so that they can make their short and mid term decisions based on what the longer term will bring. Knowing the technology means they can start to look at what skills they will need for maintenance and extending, they will then feel more confident around using these skills in the shorter term.

I have been talking to more technical people and we think this is a very important message and one I will be addressing at RMOUG in February.

UKOUG Round Up

I can't believe I didn't write anymore about the UKOUG conference, it is the best in the world! But then again I was so busy it was just a complete whirlwind with no time to take it all in let alone blog, then afterwards it was 'catch up' then 'clear the decks' for the day job and then the holiday season.

So how can I quickly summarise UKOUG? It was great, numbers were good and as ever we had lots of very happy attendees.

BUT, UKOUG has outgrown the ICC which is the only venue suitable in the UK. Yes there are lots of bigger exhibition centres but not with the number of breakout rooms we need. By trying to get everyone into one conference we have grown to five days, and cannot give everyone the level of detail they want, on top of all that the smaller communities feel lost and exhibitors cannot easily tell who is interested in what.It was still successful this year but down to the sheer hard work of everyone involved, speakers, staff and volunteers.

So what is the solution? Earlier this year we tried something different with the JD Edwards community and held a separate event for them under the same conference banner, this was great, they had 4 times the number of people they had at last years conference, some delegates had not been to a JD Edwards conference since before the PeopleSoft acquisition of them. And at the ICC we had a separate event for the PeopleSoft community.

On the Sunday before conference we have a SIG Chairs meeting and it was put to them that we should have a conference series, spread out over the year and finishing with the traditional event at the ICC but back to a more manageable 3 days. The feedback was that we should go for it and the details of the series can be found here.

One big advantage I can see is with keynotes, as a user group we have the reputation of being world class and this attracts high quality keynote speakers, but with the impossible task of shoehorning it all into the ICC we have had to have parallel keynotes for topics that should have plenary slots. Taking these communities out into their own event means we can give them what is deserved and continue to attract the best executives.