Thursday 20 May 2010

Leveraging The Web

When I was at school, I remember a specific class about learning and revision; it finally sank in that we all learn in different ways. Some of us learn stuff by heart, others have to visualise information, for me I have to break it down to its most simple and then build it back up again. I hope that is how I present as well.

When I revise I make lots of notes, and then reduce them to bullet points and then repeatably write them out until I remember them. When I took my Company Direction Diploma a few years back for my IOD Chartered Director, I had a whole year's work down to 4 sides of A4 paper, albeit typed and small font, but those two laminated pages where what got me through the exams.

Today's students, and we are all students of something, have many ways to take in information. The web has opened up a whole new world. I love the podcast although I don't use it as much as I should. I once was told I was recording a podcast on AIA for Oracle, and knew very little about it, so I downloaded two podcasts on the subject and listened to them for an entire 3 hour flight to Redwood, only to find when I got there I was recording on upgrading Oracle E Business Suite, something I knew a little more about.

In UKOUG our magazine Oracle Scene is available in both printed and electronic media. There have been moves to make it electronic only but I continue to fight that. Only one thing makes me prouder than to see the magazine in an Oracle Office Customer or Training Centre, and that is to see someone flicking through the pages.

We have too much email today, but for some it is how they get information. If you are a UKOUG member make sure your profile matches what you are so you only get targeted information, and for a great summary of what we have to offer, sign up for our e Bulletin. One email every other week.

I love Facebook, possibly too much, and had to invest in an iPhone so I could have a sneak preview at lunchtime or at coffee. Perhaps Facebook has seen its peak, to be replaced by twitter. Only today a friend tweeted 'Bang bang you're dead #facebook account'. I love twitter, especially the way you create a 'buzz' at an event and have even learnt thanks to wise advice from Cary Millsap to ensure I only update Facebook with non Oracle tweets, if I want to keep non Oracle friends.

I like LinkedIn and do use their forums. It appears I do it all, I have an OracleCommunity Account and Oracle Mix. Obviously I also blog. The reason my 'elevator' incident ranked so high in the Oracle Open World review for 2008 was because it showcased all the elements of 'Web 2.0'.

As an aside, how do I decide who to accept as 'friends'? A friend on Facebook once said, 'if you would have someone home for dinner', that is my bar. Sometimes I meet someone just for an hour, and it may be in a workplace setting, but if they intrigue me and I want to know more about them, share things with them, then I want them to be friends on Facebook.

We see many, many more webcasts nowadays and I like them for adding extra content for an existing community, I don't think they replace face to face meetings like our Special Interest Groups or conferences.

One medium I love is the video, and it is a great way to get a quick message across. I like the idea of it being used to advertise events, or to tell a quick story. The Miracle Channel concept is not unique but by far the most mature use of video in the Oracle world.

You see I want to reach a wide audience and everyone has their own way of learning. So when you want to get your message across remember the people you want to reach may use a different media than you. Personally I use what ever 'google' returns first. The web is only limited by our imagination.

Wednesday 5 May 2010

User experience comes to EMEA

Over the past few years you will have heard many people including myself talk about user experience and the great work oracle are doing in this area.

Lulit Bezuayehu from Oracle UX and Debra Lilley Almost two years ago they set up a usability advisory board in N. America which has met several times. Just before Oracle Open World 2009,I met with Anna Wichansky who runs this but was unable to actually attend their session at OOW. She told me she intended to set up an EMEA advisory board this year, well it has arrived, we met in TVP (Oracle's UK Head Office) today. I was proud, along with my colleague Lena Ward-Stewart to represent Fujitsu, both as an SI and a customer organsation.

There were 12 companies represented and I must commend Anna on the breadth of geographical coverage, range of industries and organisation types, there was both diversity and yet synergy. Each of the organisations gave a pitch about their org, their oracle use and their biggest usability issues. The advisory board is only successful if the members maintains confidentiality between them, Oracle and each other, so I can't share their stories but it was amazing to hear how similar things are, albeit with different business implications.

To demonstrate that Oracle really do listen Clive Swan, SVP Product Development responsible for HCM in Fusion, gave a keynote around Fusion Applications. He, as ever spoke passionately about where they are going but also an incredibly powerful pitch for Apps Unlimited, there was no confusion in his presentation, lesson here - talking about Fusion Apps and Apps Unlimited should and can be done together.
Clive talked about how usability is key to Fusion Apps but is also important to the Apps Unlimited development teams. This c level presentation was worthy of the big stage at OOW.

His Fusion Apps presentation today obviously had a slant on usability. In general usability will not be the biggest business driver, although the more I look at it the more I disagree with that statement that I first heard from Oracle Fusion Apps development themselves. Self service is one of the quickest ROI areas and if the user experience is powerful enough for users, their take up will be quicker. Also if your professional users can do their job faster and with less hassle it is more difficult to articulate the ROI but it is no less valuable. Oracle use KLM, Keystroke Level Modelling to compare Fusion Apps and Apps Unlimited and this industry recognised method shows improvements from a few percent to > 80, with an average of around 35%.

Clive clearly explained why usability is beyond just the screen look, he gave the example of the watch list, simple technology but really improves the user experience. Most importantly he stressed that usability was not a point in time investment by Oracle and that currently there is a push on mobile device usability.

The presentation started with the structure, the services, the processes and the role based user experience, this has been covered in public sessions by Oracle, but this was a very uncluttered, intelligent and straight forward look at the design. He talked about taking the Best of the Best processes, enhanced infused with next generation technology including web 2.0, SOA and Business Intelligence.

He talked through Oracle's strategy of Next generation Productivity, Adaptability and Manageability, focusing on productivity as that is the usability area.

Examples such as the watchlists which cover 'What do I need to know?' and 'What I need to do?' , the hierarchy viewer and contextual actions such as calendars for date fields and linking of locations with maps. Activity Guides for long processes such as on-boarding the 'How to get it done?'.

I keep saying it but some of the best speakers in Oracle work outside Redwood.

The advisory board finished after a very long day, that also included a celebratory cake, a tour of the usability labs in TVP, and an agreement to meet again, both virtually and in person. New friendships were made and I expect some will be comparing notes well before the next official event.

Photos show me with Lulit Bezuayehu, Principal Usability Engineer, and Anna Wichansky, Senior Director with Alisa Hamai, Senior Usability Engineer.

Monday 3 May 2010

Collaborate 2010 Roundup

The UKOUG Partner Forum had an Oracle Open World Highlights webcast for those who did not make it to OOW, and we planned to have another for after Collaborate 2010. We are still novices at this technology and after several successful webcasts recently, got a little ahead of ourselves. We tried to run two at the same time and the service we were using failed to allow this. Luckily my employer has a webcast service and we were able to quickly switch. Apologies to the few who had registered but did not get the alternative details in time.

It wasn't my first update for Collaborate, I had had the honour of taking part in an ACE Director Webcast the evening before arranged by Floyd Teter of OAUG.

The first thing I would say is twitter is a great way to take notes in real time. FMTSystems who hosted the OAUG webcast tweeted as we went along, these tweets as well as those that happened during the event can we found by searching twitter for '#C10', not just updates of the content from Collaborate but also the thoughts and buzz of the conference.

Back to UKOUG and our webcast, Suzanne our Marketing Manager went first and talked about the Keynotes. Charles Philips gave his via videolink and talked about the new Oracle post Sun and what that would give customers. I think this was predictable and in a way disappointing. For the past 3 / 4 years Oracle have used Collaborate as a second place after Open World to give big announcements and there was little of that this year.

Thomas Kurian was there in person and talked in a lot more detail. His entire presentation is available as a video, worth a listen if you haven't heard the current Oracle Presentation.

IBM had a keynote and Suzanne had attended and thought their topic of Governance and Compliance and how too much data can compromise that was a very good compliment to the event.

The Product keynotes were very good, with the executives giving up to the minute information on their product development.

But what did we learn from Collaborate? Numbers were up, both delegates and exhibitors, and the value of delegates was still good. We saw last year that people have to justify their attendance and this is still going on.

What are customers doing? In the EBS world, they are a lot upgrading or starting to and it was good to see so many upgrade sessions, but a lot are staying still. Economic or business reasons are forcing this and they need to know they won't be left out in the cold. Steven Chan gave an excellent presentation on the technology stack roadmap. Floyd is writing a book on the reasons for upgrading and hopes to have this ready by OOW.

The same is true of the database, a lot of people are just looking now at 11g. IOUG held an excellent debate on 'to upgrade or not' with people putting both sides of the argument across.

The conference co-incided with a live webcast of 11g Grid Control OEM which was streamed into the conference.

On the Sunday there was a Fusion 'Soup to Nuts' day similar to what we held in the UKOUG conference series TEBS event, but without the applications demos. This was very well received with a lot of questions and debate. Again it showed how many people are not yet using the new technology, e.g. BI publisher which has now been around for several years.

Some presenters were affected by the volcano but not too many delegates. IOUG managed to stream some of the missing presenters like our own Carl Dudley, and many were able to have friends present their papers for them. A few like me went for the low tech approach and used skype.

Floyd mentioned in his roundup the debate around the CFO replacing the CIO. I haven't read the article but have seen this myself recently, the roles are being combined especially in organisations who want out of running IT themselves, especially the hardware. So plenty of opportunity for outsourcing or cloud services.

Finally I want to mention support, there are a lot of things that Oracle Support have done to make running your systems easier but getting the message ac cross is not easy, their reputation has been badly damaged over the My Oracle Support issues. However as I said in a previous post I am saying nothing bad about Support at the moment, they came to my rescue after the volcano.

Sunday 2 May 2010

Welcome ACE and Sun Java Champion Programs to UKOUG

The wonderful thing about Oracle User Groups is that we are independent. It also means that each user group has a different model. Some have individual and some corporate membership. Some charge for that membership and others give it for free but charge for events.

UKOUG has a membership model where in general an organisation has corporate membership which entitles them to generous attendance at SIGs and Conference. But we cannot stand still, the world is changing and the way our members want and need to consume information is changing, and we constantly look at the way we 'Serve the Oracle Community'.

We also continuously look at what makes us successful and the quality of our events. Our conference series attracts the best speakers worldwide and many of those are recognised by the ACE Program. To recognise this UKOUG has given corporate membership to the ACE Program, meaning that every ACE can have access to our extensive library and online presence.

We are also extending this to the Sun Java Champion Program.

If you are a member of either of these programs and have not yet signed up to UKOUG then check out the instructions on Facebook or contact Lillian direct.

Welcome to UKOUG. The best Oracle User Group in the World.

Collaborate 2010

This time last week I was recovering from Collaborate 2010 and it seems so long ago.

As I said in my last post I was late getting to Vegas which is a pity as there were user group meetings I would like to have attended on behalf of UKOUG. It is always a good event to catch up with other user group leaders and collaboration between user groups goes way beyond just this event.

Apart for the Fusion Q&A that I took part in remotely via skype, I had two sessions on 'Thinking of upgrading or supporting Fusion Apps', on in the Quest Education Sessions and one in OAUG. Why, not because the tracks are closed to delegates outside the track, but because people do want to be amongst like minded people when they attend sessions. It can be very off putting to hear about the journey to Fusion for you as a JDE customer when the presenter is talking only about E Business Suite.

The OAUG session should have been Monday morning but I had postponed this to Thursday. The last day (as Thursday was) is always a difficult day for a session but I had 11am which is not a bad slot. I don't worry about when I have a slot, if you are a new presenter you can't expect to get a top slot, and if you are experienced and known then the slot has less of an issue. However the session was very badly attended because there was simply very poor advertising or communication or re-arranged sessions.

I did tweet, but not sure how many people were actually using twitter, a lot of presenters were but not sure how delegates. The organisers had an online agenda and an email went out each night referring to it for amendments. There were no printed changes or notice boards on site and whilst that works for a lot of people, it didn't for a lot, lot more. Never mind, the small audience enjoyed it and I had good questions.

The reason I was not disappointed was because the same session the day before had over 110 attendees. It was awesome.

I have been giving this presentation and derivatives for about 18 months and each time there is a little bit more information so getting it to fit in is always a challenge. I know I have too many slides, I don't use all of them but hopefully the attendees get more from the extra slides. I suppose it is a lazy way of not always having a white paper to go with them.

Back to the presentation, I always start by going back to basics, how did we get to the Applications' strategy that Oracle have today? If you aren't aware of all the stages of the evolution it could look as if they don't have a plan and that would undermine the confidence we need to have in our software vendor.

It is good that I can now actually show a few screenshots of Fusion Apps to whet appetites but the presentation is about understanding what is behind the apps rather than the apps themselves. I give my analogy for SOA which I am still astonished at how well it comes across but I continue to et great feedback so will continue to use it.

Having talked about the Fusion Vision I go back to Fusion Applications and how and when I think we will get there. As ever the number one question is 'Should I upgrade or should I wait for Fusion?'

At this session there was another question 'Why aren't Oracle telling us this?' The delegate said the presentation was great but that it should come from Oracle. I had not had the question direct before and was actually very proud of the reasons for my answer.

Oracle have a very strict interpretation of their Revenue Recognition rules, and whilst we might not agree with them, they are very consistent and they won't talk about a product coming up for release. I on the other hand do not work for Oracle and as long as you know it is my interpretation but based on unprecedented access to the teams and supported by the Oracle ACE Program I am able along with a few others such as Floyd Teter to give these presentations.

I have another presentation I am starting to give, where will we be in 5 - 10 years? Even though I love the Fusion Applications and can't wait to see them released, I know based on past trends, economic constraints and business needs it will be a long, long time until Fusion Applications take over. That is not a bad thing, Oracle have given us the ability to grow into Fusion Applications. I think I will come back to this topic in a later post.

But Collaborate is more than just giving presentations, I was able to meet up with other speakers, hear what they are talking about and learn from them. Here you can see me at dinner with Elke Phelps (co author of Oracle Applications DBA Field Guide) and Steven Chan of Oracle.