Thursday 10 December 2009

How Proud am I

At UKOUG TEBS (technology and E Business Suite) conference we had a fantastic agenda for Applications with a keynote from Cliff Godwin talking about EBS and the first public Fusion Application demos outside the US. Not only did Cliff give an excellent keynote but he then met with two groups of SIG leaders to answer their questions and then joined them in a two hour open question time. From start to finish of the day he talked with users, answered questions and gave insight into the future of EBS. I received an email from him a few days later where he said “Congratulations on organizing a successful conference. I was pleased with the meetings I had and the opportunity for the extensive Q&A interaction with customers.”

On the Tuesday the Fusion Apps session was over subscribed and some people had to be turned away, a great success for us but I wish everyone could have seen it. On the Wednesday we had a special Fusion Applications stream that started with a two hour session that included the first demos, and as I introduced them, I talked about how we UKOUG got to where we are today and I realised just how hard we had worked at getting there.

In 2005 when Oracle first announced Project Fusion, and remember at that time they said we would all be on Fusion by 2013, UKOUG knew that it would become very important to our members.

So I proposed to our board that we should create a Fusion Forum to look at what our members wanted. This was agreed and James and I worked on a project plan one lunch time in Texas (during Collaborate 05).

The strategy was to create 5 groups of 8 members each containing a cross section of all application users, public and private sector and partners. The split was created after a survey of the members and the groups covered Financials, Supply Chain / Manufacturing, CFM, HR / Payroll and Applications Technology. Each Group had at least 1 user from each of EBS, PeopleSoft, JDE (remember this is before the Siebel acquisition), no more than 2 partners and at least one public sector member.

These groups had a set life of one year, launched at our conference that year with a thank you dinner the following year; in between they canvassed members and wrote white papers on what they found. The response from Oracle was mixed, the HCM white paper never seemed to find the right person in Oracle but the Financials Group were asked to comment further. They found that no existing product line had the right process for encumbrance accounting, and Oracle asked what the right process should be. It is interesting that the first release of Fusion Applications does not include any public sector functionality so we will have to wait until release 2 to see how they actually deal with the functionality.

In the International Oracle Community we UKOUG were held up as best practice, "We appreciate the effort that the UKOUG Fusion Focus groups have invested in the white papers that have been submitted to Oracle. It's obvious that the participating customers devoted considerable time to write these papers. This type of detailed input is extremely valuable and timely, as we finalize requirements and begin designing Oracle Fusion.”

By this time the IOUC had created a committee to hold the Fusion Channel and UKOUG Strategy was that I should stand as chair to ensure our input. I was voted in, and 2 years later when it was up for grabs again, I stood unopposed and intend to stay until at least Fusion Applications are on General Availability. The Product Development Committee or PDC looks after more than Fusion Applications but it was our main interest until the announcement of Applications Unlimited.

As a result of the work I did and continue to do with the PDC I was nominated to be one of the first Oracle ACEs for Applications, and then named User Group Evangelist of the Year 2008, as well as gaining ACE Director status. Each quarter we have a Q&Q session with Oracle Development and the questions can be found in the library.

During this time Fusion Applications have been under wraps and I have been under non disclosure but despite that I have tried to keep people as informed as possible, presenting at SIGs, our own conferences and thanks to the ACE program at other events further afield.

And back to conference, this was planned well before Oracle Open World but with no advertising as we were not 100% sure that Larry Ellison would talk about Fusion Applications, but he did and the non disclosure was lifted and we fire ahead with the planned stream.

Clive Swan SVP Product Development responsible for HCM in Fusion along with Jeremy Ashley VP responsible for User Experience assisted by Aylin Uysal gave us a valuable insight into the Applications, and several demos.

I was then able to give feedback on the Customer Validation sessions I had attended; again supported by the ACE program, and then we had a great Q&A session. This event was another first for UKOUG, this session had its own tea & coffee delivered to ensure we wasted no time.

After lunch Nadia Bendjedou from EBS Applications Technology gave her fantastic ’10 Steps to Fusion’ presentation which now has much more Fusion Applications positioning in it. It is really worth hearing or downloading this paper as the magic behind Fusion Applications is a combination of the technology and User Experience and most of that is available to you today, and in the latest releases of Applications Unlimited you can see a lot of the technology has already been introduced.

Nadia has also worked with the PDC to create a little Oracle Applications Planning Tool which you can download to help you have the conversation in your organisation as to how you are or could adopt some of this technology.

Then there was a choice, a deeper dive into the User Experience with Ashley or the Technology with Duncan Mills.

Quite interesting that whilst Ashley and Duncan came over from Redwood, they are both British, as is Clive. Nadia works in the Oracle Paris Office and although Algerian by birth has a British passport and studied at Aston University in Birmingham. So don’t think Fusion Applications is just the next product out of Redwood, they couldn’t have done it without us Brits.

So you can see that the UKOUG board has a strategy around Fusion and has worked hard to make sure you are the most educated User Group in the world with the best access.

We are not ready for a Fusion Applications SIG but we do have a Fusion Community on

A colleague's Thoughts on Fusion

I love the UKOUG conference in Birmingham and I have lots to write, unfortunately I have to catch up on the day job first. I hope to get a chance this weekend but in the meantime here are some thoughts on Fusion from a colleague Amrito Chaube who attended the Fusion Apps demo at UKOUG.

The main reason why I wanted to attend the OUG this time was to have a preview of the Fusion Application, though the OUG, also gives you a feel of the competition and also a chance to Network.

Anyway, this is my impression and I hope the others who have seen the demonstration will be able to provide their inputs.

I think the focus of the presentation was on user experience, and the result was WOW. The interface is web2.0 based, smooth and sexy. I saw some technology bits which I thought I recognised.

The home page had a worklist with various items. This was a cross between the UWQ and outlook. The good thing was that it had my work items, i.e. things that I have to action, and a separate section for things that I need to be aware of, i.e. my leave approval request etc.

There was a secure search, from the Stellent Secure enterprise search, which is sensitive to the position in the organisation hierarchy of the individual. This will not show the bosses salary but will show the subordinates.

There was a visual org chart with a communication interface to help you chat, call (VOIP), IM (aka messenger), which I think is a part of Oracle Beehive.

The screens seemed to have a Siebel like characteristics with view applets and list applets, and show more and show less buttons on each screen. The user can save queries or used globally saved queries like in Siebel.

We saw the HR product first and the most impressive component seemed to be a People tool, which had a social network capability, and this may be true of the entire application. This seemed to come from the People tool in Peoplesoft and had a lot of flexibility, in terms of drilling down to people, looking at their connections, and then starting a HR case/transaction, like promotion. It was very impressive from a presentation perspective, and maybe used to create virtual teams.

We also saw a viewlet form the financial application, which was also quite impressive and was excellent from usability perspective.

My impression was that the usability perspective has rubbed off on Oracle from Siebel or other Product groups that Oracle has acquired! As I have never seen a focus on it earlier. That is very good and provides any application with an edge. The other encouraging signs were the integration points. The Fusion App can integrate with older version of EBS, Peoplesoft or Siebel. 'Seamlessly'? That remains to be seen, however that probably means a lot of work for the SIs.

There was also a lot of focus on embedded BI, to help decision making. This is another sexy feature and I think this is an area where SIs can provide immense valued ads, as the intelligence will have to be based on data stores based on legacy applications in the immediate future.

Finally, as a value Proposition, Oracle believes that the implementation of this would be cheaper, as there would be a lot of configuration that can be done by Business Users. I would like to believe that this meant more Business Analyst type activities and less configuration. The techstack seemed to be Java, however there seems to be a high dependence on AIA and middleware. Though the speaker thought that customisations could be done using cheap Java resources, I disagree, and think that this is a space where first movers will have a lot of advantage in terms of technical skills.

Finally, there was yet no mention of functionality included in comparison to the existing ERPs. This needs to be evaluated as there are more product announcements. This used to be the traditional selling point and was noticeable by its absence, but maybe that's just me! It is an eye catching product and hopefully will help us get out of this current lull. What I am unsure of is how this would impact customer's investment decisions in the near future.