Saturday 31 December 2011

Looking Back on 2011, Forward to 2012

Professionally 2011 has been a great year for me.

January the Fusion UX Advocates Program kicked off after another successful IOUC meeting.

I then stayed in the US, working from home in Chicago until the RMOUG conference in Denver.

March we had the UKOUG elections and I was appointed Chairman and Lisa Dobson Vice Chairman. We had our Irish Conference .

In April it was Collaborate in Orlando, but I left early to speak at Miracle Open World in Denmark, which was followed by UKOUGs first Exadata event.

May, I spoke at the DOAG Apps Conference in Berlin and UKOUG was very busy working on its reorganisation.

June we had our Scottish Conference in the Oracle Linthithgow offices, Hyperion conference and Fusion Applications finally went on controlled release.

July is always busy at UKOUG, but first of all I was at Kaleidescope running the SOA Symposium, rushing back for the a UKOUG  board meeting, volunteers day with AGM and then paper selection day. This year even more important than ever because we proposed our re-organisation which was unanimously accepted and the first thing that happened was I stood down as Chairman, but then immediately appointed as President.

Then it was back across the pond in July to take part in the first of the two OTN Tours of 2011. This was South America and I loved it, despite it being a little colder than I expected.

August I was asked by Oracle to talk to their Marketing and Sales about what customers are saying about Fusion Applications. This is really important to me as my role within Fujitsu means I need to understand Oracle Strategy and help customers see the value to theirs, so being recognised by Oracle to have those skills is very reassuring. I was also very busy helping Fujitsu to reach Diamond Status in teh Oracle Partner Network.

September was all about preparation for Oracle Open World. UKOUG held a Security event in Bletchley Park, and I spoke at the Slovenian Oracle User group.

Oracle Open World was as ever really busy with Fusion Nation kicking off the General Release. Beforehand, like at Kaleidoscope there was also more UX training, and two days of ACE briefings.

October saw the 2nd of the OTN tours, this time to Asia, NZ and Australia, starting in Tokyo the home of Fujitsu. 

In November I was a keynote speaker for the 2nd time at the UK Oracle Application Days. Then it was all ready for UKOUG conference at the start of December.

Obviously a lot more goes on at UKOUG then I listed here, but it is a community effort and I can't attend all of them. I also spoke in the Netherlands for the Belgium User Group and met in Prague for the EOUC meetings. 2011 was a very busy year.

2012 will see more change in UKOUG as the reorganisation reaches its first annual cycle. I am up for re-election in March, and hope that I get everyone's backing and am re-elected by the user group to the council and then as President. I am not sure what speaking I will do, but as long as Fujitsu still give me the time, and OT continue to support I hope to uphold the ACE Director program and share my knowledge with others.

I hope everyone has a great 2012.

UKOUG 2011

Many people think of December as the run up to Christmas, I think of it as the UKOUG Conference.

This year was even more special for me as it was my first time at the helm, although it is my 9th conference all the rest were with Ronan Miles in charge. This reality didn't really hit me till just a few days before the conference, followed quickly by a lot of nerves.

The other thing that was very different was that previously I would have been very involved with the office right up till the event itself but with the new executive my involvement was quite limited, that also was quite stressful in its own way. Finally to add to the pressure, I had had to take over the arrangements for the Fujitsu stand in the exhibition in the run up to conference although I had passed over ownership during the actual event.

So I stupidly took on all that stress on myself, which was silly, UKOUG is about a professional staff, a great executive and almost 200 dedicated volunteers, and they did me and you proud. By the time Lisa and I left the stage after the kick off for the event I knew everything would be OK. I have always said I am proud of what UKOUG achieves but this years conference was excellent. As in every year we have a lot to learn, feedback to process, and I am expecting a lot more this year with the availability of the mobile app. We will always strive to get better and never be complacent but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and the conversations I had were full of praise.

You can see people enjoying themselves in the photos that Liesbeth took, and read plenty of blog entries and the press coverage we got during the event.

I loved Mark Sunday's main keynote it was great to hear a customer case study, especially when the customer is Oracle themselves. Our other two plenary keynotes were Cary Millsap who I wrote about before and his amazing and personal look at life, and Ray Wang who gave us an excellent analyst insight into Oracle and IT.

Our community keynotes were very well received and gave their communities the insight they needed. We are very popular with Oracle executives, product management and speakers both local and overseas, so the standard of presentations was as ever very high. The Oracle UX team were out in force as is now their custom, adding to to the Fusion Apps content. Also many of the community keynote speakers also hosted round tables were delegates got the chance to ask all their questions directly.

We had our IPA winners that I was not able to attend but Lisa did a great job handing out the prizes and thank you OTN for sponsoring these again along with the ACE dinner on the Sunday night. I wanted the community spirit to be lifted at conference and it was, the Focus Pubs were an opportunity to mix with your peers, the OakTable Sunday was a great success and their OakTalks were an unexpected bonus.

The exhibition had a great presence from Oracle and a lot of exhibitors who help Oracle customers get the most from their investment.

The masquerade ball was a great chance to let our hair down after 2 very long days and before the final but still packed Wednesday. Yes the days were long and those who did not stay in Broad Street, either commuting or just able to make a single day it was too long, but what do we do? This is were we really need you feedback, do we cut back on content or networking? Do we lengthen the conference, do we start main sessions Sunday? Tell us.

So yes, I was silly to worry, it was a great conference, I was proud of what UKOUG delivered and to be the President our your community.

Thursday 22 December 2011

"Unfortunately, your presentation was not accepted "

The words a regular presenter dreads to hear. Well it happened to me earlier this month when my papers submitted to OAUG for Collaborate were rejected.

It isn’t the first time I have had a rejection, I often submit 3 or 4 and expect to have perhaps 2 selected. It helps if the organisers can choose. On the OTN tours, we are asked to submit about 4 and then the individual user groups select the ones they want. Sometimes I am surprised at what they select, but they normally know their audience.

So having all my papers rejected was a big blow. I am motivated by peer recognition, that may make me shallow but it’s the truth. I want to be able to share what I know with others and I think I have a gift for it. I’m not the best presenter in the world, but I like to take a complex story and distil it down to the simplest analogy and build it up. I love enabling business people to understand technology and the reverse.

It was even more of a disappointment as Collaborate is the biggest Apps User Group gathering in the World, and I think I have something to give. If my papers were not good enough then is my message stale or no longer relevant? So I asked OAUG for feedback on why?

At UKOUG we have so many submissions for conference and our judging process is quite rigorous and the number of slots available means we also turn down lots of really good papers. Sometimes a fantastic paper is rejected simply because there are lots on the same subject, or we decide not to have that topic for some reason. I often get asked by people who have not been successful and during paper selection we do make notes on each rejected paper so that people who have taken the time to submit can have an answer if they ask.

OAUG arranged a call with me and we talked about it. I wasn't asking them to change their mind, that would be a misuse of my position, I just wanted to understand why. I had submitted three papers,  the 'Your Path to Understanding Fusion Apps' , ' Should I upgrade or go straight to Fusion Apps?' and 'Consolidation to the Cloud'  I gave all at OOW with good reviews, and subsequently on the Asia Pacific OTN tour and at UKOUG. OAUG explained to me that they did have a lot of Fusion papers with a limited stream and had decided that people would be more interested in ‘how to’ than ‘what is it’ or ‘why’ papers. I disagree, not because my papers were unsuccessful, but because people don’t all understand what Fusion is, and actually it is two different audiences. I have another presentation ‘What do Fusion Apps tell you about your own Enterprise?’ and when I gave that at UKOUG I discovered 90% of the audience hadn’t even seen Fusion Apps, we must remember that many conference attendees are at their first one. I also know people are only looking and asking when it is relevant to them. Should I upgrade was the #1 question I was asked at Collaborate last year.

OAUG run a great conference and there are fantastic sessions available to everyone and no-one will die without me. Next year I will submit more and talk with their team beforehand about what they are actually looking for. I will be speaking for OAUG in Dubai in March, we haven’t fallen out.

This incident made me think more about conference planning, for big conferences with many streams, they only way is through paper submission and selection, but for smaller events where sessions are limited you need to tell more of a story or stick to just one or two topics. For example in Ireland, we have a call for papers but decide on the streams, what we want to get across, she what has been submitted and then source the rest. What do you think about paper selection processes?

I will be at Collaborate,  Quest International took the ‘Your Path to Understanding Fusion Apps’ remember this is based on work done by all the user groups, and they have also asked me to take part in Upgrade and Fusion Panel Sessions.

Thursday 8 December 2011

The Courage And Value of Sharing

I have lots to write about UKOUG2011 but I need to comment on Cary Millsap's keynote on Monday Evening.

Many know Cary as a fantastic technical speaker but we invited him to UKOUG as also a motivational speaker. Cary mentioned to a group of friends in April he would like to do a talk 'beyond' IT, and I thought we and more importantly our members would like that too. What I really like about Cary is he is so really good at what he does and shares it. I know lots of people who do that, in fact the ACE Director Program has that as a requisite, so why is Cary so special? Cary makes every point simple common sense. I once blogged about presentation styles, and talked about how even I could understand his technical talks.

So after months of planning, the agenda was launched and Cary was to be our keynote speaker with the topic of "Learning about Life through Business and Software".

Often I have ideas and get carried away with them and then worry that it won't work out, but then I am a worrier so not really a surprise there, but I NEVER worried about this talk from Cary. (I did however worry about Mogens Nørgaard doing the introduction).

Cary was excellent, he shared life stories and how they help in Business, and business and science scenarios that help in Life. The presentation was videoed and I hope it will be available soon, because it was classic Cary. Witty, heartfelt and valuable.

When I thanked Cary, I said I would blog about the time Cary helped me personally through one of his technical talks. In the presentation that I mentioned in the referenced blog above, Cary gives many different reasons for performance issues. Whilst listening it reminded me of an incident that had happened to me. Once an applications customer was running a report every day, and each day the output grew. The problem was simple, the job always started from day one, it simply needed the start date parameter to change. I sent the example to Cary, and he blogged about it, not simply giving it as an example but taking the problem to a scientific or rather mathematical equation to explain the size of the problem.

When I read the blog, and saw the visualisation of the amount of wasted paper over time, I realised that when I worry (did I tell you I am a worrier?), that worrying about the past is of no value. That simple visualisation (the equation is wasted on me), makes a big difference to me.

The tweets I have seen since his presentation, and having spoken to him personally, I know how much everyone who attended love the talk. Thank you Cary, not just for presenting, but for sharing.

Monday 28 November 2011

EBS Extended Support

If you subscribe to UKOUG e Bulletin you would have read that Oracle have extended the payment waiver for Extended Support on EBS.

"The Extended Support fees for EBS 11i10 will be waived for the entire 3 year period of Extended Support, December 2010 – November 2013.  This is a two-year extension to the initial waiver that was set to expire the end of this month, December 2010-November 2011."

I asked for this in a post back in May and I am not arrogant enough to think I am responsible but they have listened to all those who have commented.

In my original post I was worried about the number of people who said they had been waiting to see Fusion Apps before they made their decision, and I didn't think they should be penalised because it wasn't available for them to compare. So now we have Fusion Applications on General Availability and the Extended Support waived. Everyone must now decide what they are going to do.

There is a third issue, after support cost, and availability, there is the big issue around the upgrade path. Oracle have always said that there would be an upgrade path from the latest two releases which at the time was 11.5.10 and 12.0, but now we also have 12.1 so there is only a path from 12.0 onwards. Is this fair, well I am not sure, in most cases I see the move to Fusion Apps as a replacement is not the best thing for an organisation, especially one who has not already moved to R12, so not having the option is not a problem. As a user group leader I don't want to fight for something that isn't really an issue. However we do not know how many people would like to do it so the Product Development Committee I run at the IOUC will be asking people to tell us if they do need an upgrade path.

I think a lot of people will take Fusion but in small steps, taking the co-existence route, after perhaps adopting some technology first, over time. 

It is a really exciting time for me, talking specifics with users and my customers. In another post I talked about speaking at another Oracle Applications Day which was this week just gone. And I have recently returned from the OTN Asia Trip.
 It is also very exciting to talk to customers who are on their journey to Fusion Apps.

And as Oracle said at the event last week, "If you need to know more then go to UKOUG", if you cant join us next week in Birmingham then make sure you engage with your user group and keep up with the news.

Note: at this time the waiver is for EBS only.

Monday 7 November 2011

OTN Asia Pacific

I was really honoured to be asked to take part in a second OTN Tour this year, this time Asia Pacific. Officially the tour started in Thailand but I actually started in Japan.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Last Stop Perth

The last stop on the OTN tour was Perth in Australia. Last year I took part in this conference remotely, but I don't really like webcasts in a conference, people have paid to attend in person and the speakers should do so as well.

What struck me about Perth was the country side, it was beautiful and I had many walks to appreciate it, thanks to my local guides, Chris Muir and Connor McDonald.
I also spent a day in Fujitsu with the Oracle team, just discussing where I think Oracle are and the business opportunities locally. Whenever I am near a local office I like to pop in, and put faces to the email addresses.

We also went to the beach and I had a conference call with the UK, they had wind and rain in Manchester and I had warmth and sunshine in Perth on the beach. Think I was the winner, and also saw the most colourful crabs on the rocks.

The conference itself was great except for the cost of Internet access, which I think is criminal. The venue charged $40 a day. I had three sessions and they seemed to go OK. I was tired it had been a long three weeks but well worth it.

This was our last stop but the first time I stayed in an apartment rather than a hotel. It was actually very good and peaceful. Might try it again.

Saturday 5 November 2011

OTN Tour - Auckland

The flight from Manila to Melbourne was simple enough and I even slept, which is good as it was an overnight flight and then onwards to Auckland was heaven, Air New Zealand gave me an upgrade to one of their spaceseats, I slept the whole way, the most comfortable seat short of a business class bed.

Francisco the tour organiser who lives in Auckland, collected me from the airport and I was soon checked into my room, which should have been great, as it with time changes and two flights meant it was early evening and I was tired; however it was not to be, it took almost 2 hours to sort out my room! It maybe because I have been travelling too long or because I had stayed in great hotels in the last two locations but this room was a dump. My first problem was finding a socket, there appeared to be just 3, two in use by the tv and broadband and the third, the otherside of the room by the bathroom, which even my super long cable did not reach. I rang reception to ask if there was one I couldn't find and they said they would come up and look. 30 minutes later using the socket for the TV still not help but now I couldn't get the Internet to connect. At this point I made the decision to move the
next morning, it may have been saying Oracle money, but at the expense of my sanity. I went downstairs and through gritted teeth, politely told them my woes, and asked if the person despatched half an hour ago had been found? The receptionist rang their IT to see if there was a problem their end, and informed me there wasn't but she would come and connect for me, she also bought along a power strip, which suggests they know there is an issue. She then managed to connect to the Internet immediately she tried and suggested I had done something wrong. I politely told her that I was an IT professional who stays in hotels 200+ nights a year and would she like to start the conversation again, based on the co-incidence that immediately after her call to IT everything worked. She then left me, 10 minutes later now that I could have the TV and PC plugged in at the same time, I tried the TV but that too was electronically challenged. To save the staff the opportunity to fob me off again, I returned to reception and suggested enough was enough. Again they offered to operate their equipment on my behalf and up she came to my room again, obviously I received this personal service as by now I was their favourite customer. After confirming I was actually right and not simply the normal idiotic class of customer stupid enough to stay in their hotel (name available on application), she accepted it was not working, and offered me another room. I suggested that now, 2 hours after my arrival that was not going to be enough and to her credit she did upgrade me. Once in the new room I decided the hotel would do, and apart from the questionable sanity of the cleaner assigned to my floor, there were no more problems until the obligatory 'discussion' around charges at checkout.

Oh dear the rants of a seasoned traveller.

Next day was Saturday and a dear friend who lives in NZ came unto to Auckland with her family including grand children and we had a great day at Auckland Zoo. I have to say it is a fantastic zoo, not the biggest in terms of numbers of animals but so much space for them, beautifully laid out. The family then went home but my friend stayed the night and we had a girly night out catching up.

Early Sunday morning we caught a boat over to Rangitoto island, which we were in great danger of missing as the plenty of time we gave ourselves to get to the ferry terminal did not factor crossing the road as the Auckland Marathon arriving there. Rangitoto is a volcanic island and although only 25 minutes by ferry, very isolated and no permanent inhabitants. We walked around for a couple of hours exploring some of the more hidden areas and then did a tour being pulled by tractor around the main track and unto the base of the volcanic crater from where we climbed to the summit and walked around before returning back to Auckland. My friend left to go home after our lunch and I had a quick rest before meeting up with very one else arriving for the conference for a cocktail party.

Although the conference was all day Monday and Tuesday I was not on until after lunch Monday so I took the opportunity to play truant in the morning and alongside Fred and Dave from Park Lane IT who I persuaded to join me, we did the Auckland Bridge Climb. I have to admit having a wobble on the transfer between the lower deck and the actual arch, but really enjoyed the experience and am proud of myself. It is linger than the Sydney Bridge but not as high. Perhaps I will do that on my next trip to Sydney.

Back to the conference I attended a session from Lynne O'Donoghue who I know from when she was NZOUG President. She lives in Christchurch and gave a presentation 'Shaken but not deterred' about how the health board she works for coped with the series of earthquakes. It was a fantastic presentation, full of statistics and photos that put everything in context and how she and her team coped, kept running and assisted in the crisis and all whilst her own home had been destroyed. It was quite a humbling story.

My presentation was immediately after hers and I felt 'how do I follow that?' Monday I presented 'Fusion Apps, what do they mean to you' and I got a great response. NZOUG hd two streams for apps plus a business stream and plus another 6 technical streams so people really wanted to be in the sessions, and I was really pleased with the feedback.

At the end of the day it was time for an NZOUG tradition I and been warned about, their audience participation dinner. Where you sat was dictated by them and I was sat near the front of the stage, dangerous. The MC was a local actor, who albeit not the most famous was known and recognised by New Zealanders. The idea was ( and remember this was 31 October, Halloween ) it was 10 years since he had been an MC at a wedding at this very hotel and the bride had been murdered. He was then joined by another actor, the ghost of the bride. Then they selected 6 audience members to be the suspects for the murder and spent the evening whittling down the suspects based on their audience popularity. So first to be selected from the audience was .......ME. I was Chantelle the hard drinking, loose morals, over the top, maid of honour. Not sure why they thought I would be a good fit, but ever the polite guest I gave it my best. The other participants were TIm Hall as the groom, Bambi Price ( who is APOUC spokesperson for IOUC), Chris Muir as Father o'grady the priest, and two Local Oracle members as the wedding singer and the Chilean Chef. After being introduced and plateful to the audience we went back to our tables for dinner. I was loving this, but small issue, it was 8pm and I had a conference call with the UK at 9pm. So having had a word with the MC it was arranged that I would we voted off at the first cut. I tell you this because people kept coming unto me and saying I thought the clapping for you was really loud, why did you get voted off so quickly? Still I had to do the day job and I was back in time for the final part were the groom and the chef admitted it was all over their new found live for each other and in fact the chef was the murderer. Well done NZOUG it was hysterical and a great crowd pleaser. It was also brilliant how they included the speakers in it, sometimes on these tours it is easy to just turn up, present and not really be an active part in the rest of the event.

Tuesday started early, but the turnout was good and I had my 2nd presentation, the old favourite '42 Real Life Examples of FMW with Apps', again a great turnout and feedback. Then just before lunch I had my final presentation, a packed room for 'Should I Upgrade or go to Fusion Applications?'. I loved NZOUG and the feedback I got was fantastic. I would go back anytime.

The most beautiful things I saw in Auckland were the trees just outside the conference, these are Pōhutukawa commonly known as New Zealand Christmas Trees as they have a beautful red flower at that ti,e. These trees were over 300 years old and were proped up in places but just amazing.

Then time to say goodbye, and off to the airport for my flight to Perth, grateful I am Star Alliance and therefore booked on Air New Zealand and not Qantas.

Friday 28 October 2011

OTN Tour - Manila

My first thoughts about the Philippines was that it was going to be expensive, Beijing was cheap despite the scams but our hotel in Manila where the conference was being held was very expensive. Anyway I supose it is swings and roundabouts through the tour and still less than what San Francisco was charging during OOW.

I had a hotel car pick me up from the airport and I must admit one thing I never tire of is being meet off a flight by someone holding up a sign with my name on it. During the journey there was in car wifi so time to catch up on my mail. Good thing because this event still had a 'fluid' agenda and a few gaps we needed to fill between us because someone had let the organisers down late in the process.

The first evening just had a cheese plate in the hotel which was wonderful albeit expensive and then retired to my fantastic room. My room rate included dry cleaning and as this was halfway through my trip I simply handed over most of my suitcase to the very attentive staff. It is the first time in a hotel I have been checked in, in my room. Breakfast was also fantastic, and I would compare it to the brunch at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, perhaps not quite as much choice but far too much and even in this hotel, less cost and yes Nadia they had Fois Gras.

I had only 1 free day here and Ronald, Edward, Melissa and I took a tour around old and new Manila. The most impressive dight was the American War Memorial. So moving and so well cared for, they only employ direct descendants of those buried there. We also visited Razal Park and Intramuros or the Walled City of Manila.

The whole of the Philippines was security mad, with dogs and guards on most buildings, a bit like Belfast in the good old days.
Manila has a lot of traffic, and the most unusal form of transport the Jeepney based on old US jeeps. However they look quite precarious and we saw a vehicle fire on the way back in the dark which we think was one of these.

I had three presentations at the conference, and at the start I also got the chance to say a little bit about OTN and the ACE program. Dinah who ran the show was the Philippines User Group president but they had had to close down because of legal restrctions in the Philippines. Her company was one of the sponsors for this event. There was a good turn out and I always love it when you need extra chairs at an event!
The morning was plenary sessions and mine was the Fusion Overview, then in the afternoon we had 3 streams. It was a big room and the divisions were little more than cubicles and at first I found it very off puttng but you soon got used to it. I had a good crowd and lots of interaction for my 42 real Life Examples of Fusion Middleware and then Consolidation to the Cloud.
Thank you Dinah and friends for another great conference.
 I then had the chance to meet with Rhine from Fujitsu Philippines and see what they are upto with Oracle.
All too soon it was time to leave and I raced off to the airport with Ronald
Bradford for our overnight flight to Melbourne and onward to Auckland. Mistake, you DO NOT need 3 hours at the airport in Manila, and in fact there is nothing to do for 3 minutes, let alone 3 hours and no WIFI. In fact the only thing to do is enjoy the 5 different security checkpoints, which you must enjoy because you paid an airport users tax as proof, which includes anti hijack tax, so at least you know you are safe.

OTN Tour - Hong Kong

In 1987 I completed a project in Hong Kong when it was under British rule, so visiting Hong Kong was high on my list of places to go back to. Also this event Quest Asia was not strictly part of the OTN tour but had been added whilst just at OOW when I discovered it would fit into my itinerary. Quest is the user group for JDEdwards and PeopleSoft and I did once before take part in 2006 in Singapore. I like Quest, they understand how important it is for their users to see what is coming, what is on the oracle horizon and have played an active part in the Product Development Committee from the outset. They also seem to like me and at Collaborate this year they awarded me a 'friend of Quest'.

I arrived in Hong Kong about 6pm after a trouble free flight from Beijing on Air Philippines. Just about 3 hours so not bad. I decided to treat myself and get a taxi to the hotel as I was tired and I wanted to maximise the time I had to spend with the Quest crew, all friends that I had had no time to spend with at OOW. The Langham hotel was beautiful, very colonial and luxurious, I loved it.

The event was single stream and I presented twice. All conferences rely on vendor sponsorship and as this was a free to attend event this sponsorship is even more important, but there is a line between a good vendor presentation and a straight sales pitch, not all vendors stay the right side if that line.

My first presentation was Fusion Apps architecture including the UX demo, which seemed to go down well and I got good feedback. One gentleman from china had travelled over just to see this presentation. I was followed by Sue Shaw a fellow ACE program member who presented on her company's upgrade plans and the features of the version of JDE they were moving to. Then at the end of the day I gave my new 'Consolidation to the Cloud' presentation, still no words on the slides and again it went down really well. This departure from the normal kind of slide deck is proving to be very popular especially at the end of a long conference.
That evening I went to dinner with the Quest crew and we found a lovely restaurant where the food was great except for the garnish on the plate of chicken! Then we walked down to the harbour for the Symphony of light laser show.

The next day they were visiting Macau but I had to fly onto Manila so could not join them, despite the constant but well placed badgering from Daniel Strassberg the Quest Asia President. I travelled with them by metro to Central, walked up to the Victoria Peak tram although the view from the peak was pretty poor due to the early morning fog. Then I travelled back down to Central in a little green minibus. I then took a bus to Stanley where I stayed all those years ago, walked around Stanley Market and then back to the harbour where I caught the Star Ferry (1st class) back to Kowloon and the hotel. I went back to the airport by shuttle bus only this was more luxurious than many business class seats I have been on inflight.

It was great being back in Hong Kong even if it was just a flying visit

Monday 24 October 2011

OTN Tour - Beijing, China

Great start to the trip to china, discovering that Air China is part of Star Alliance, so Ronald Bradford and I got a chance to use the lounge for breakfast before our flight and more importantly got a row to ourselves, as we both needed to work. The flight was about 4 hours. Luckily we were not the first to arrive in China so had been forewarned about taxi scams.

Taxi scams -I feel I could write a whole book on this, and yet as I type this on my flight out, I have newspaper telling me why taxi drivers have it so hard in china.

Having arrived at the hotel we encountered another scam, the mandatory upgrade -yes about 25% of the quoted price. Our host Shi or Marshall was at the front desk and said it was normal and OK. My 'upgraded' room was ok, but some speakers had filthy rooms and no air conditioning that worked, and several room changes later gave up and moved hotels. I however loved the pool.

I love travel and the cultures that I get to experience, and so I was pleased when Kuassi who had been a few times before, took us to the Laoshe Teahouse, for a show, which I can only describe as 'Beijing's Got Talent'. But I get ahead of myself; I met the best taxi driver of my trip at this point. There were to be 6 of us to go, so we called two taxis, then as we were getting in, someone was taken really ill so we were down to 4. We could have all got into one but felt guilty as the taxis had come out for us. Kuassi and I got into one and Murali and Francisco got into the other. I have learnt that many taxi drivers abroad drive in a way I find very disconcerting and this one was no different. His seat belts were non existent. I kept thinking we were having near misses and then would tell myself I was over reacting, until we were hit by another car. I saw the car come towards us, thought it had missed, breathed a sigh of relief, then it hit us, hard. Kuassi was sat by the side that was hit, and luckily he was ok. I put my hands out in front of me to take the force and my wrists both hurt but I was just really shook up. Enter the great taxi driver, the others were a few cars behind and their taxi driver saw the accident. He pulled over and the passengers who hadn't seen it were a bit concerned till he reappeared with us. I don't know if we gave him a tip I was still very upset, but he deserved one.

The tea house was a welcome sight and some of the acts were literally so foreign to me I found them difficult to understand, but there were also some good ones. A man who juggled and spun enormous pots was fantastic; a shadow puppet man who had created people singing was excellent (I just wish he finished his act at this point). I loved the face changing dance and the finale of the young marshal arts boys was brilliant.

The conference was two days, but Ronald and I missed the first Day to take part in Japan so next day was our day. I expected translators but Tim Hall explained that our slides has been translated and the audience would listen in English but see the slides in both; however not the case for me, it was decided as it was a business presentation most people would understand. We were also told that nowadays many people understand English much better than they speak it. Disappointingly my session was against one in Chinese and my audience was small, however I got a great question afterwards which proved he at least had understood and that made me feel great. In china I gave my 42Real life examples of Fusion Middleware with Apps presentation.

I was finished by lunchtime, and in the afternoon, Murali, Kuassi, Tim and I went off to find Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, we got a taxi from the hotel and paid the metered 17 Yuan fare. The square provokes memories if what we in west remember the square for, but other than that is simply a square but the Forbidden City was very impressive. One thing I did find funny in china, was that most translation seems to be courtesy of Google translate and with no additional checking. This great afternoon was spoilt though by trying to get home, it took over an hour to find us a taxi, and even then it was for a negotiated rate of 80Yuan, the battering for this was done on the dirt of his taxi. We had the right change having earlier discovering that you get 1Yuan change regardless of what you give them.

The next day we visited the Great Wall and this is what I was looking forward to most of all. Unfortunately the Smog, which never lifted since we got off the plan, meant visibility, was very poor, but it was a great experience, and I was very proud of myself climbing as far as we could in the time allowed. We then visited the Ming Tombs and our guide was really good telling us about the site and more importantly the legends. Again however it was another lesson in a different culture. The hotel offered a day tour for 800 Yuan each, but Kai who is native Chinese told us this sounded expensive and came back with an offer that eventually cost us 300 each. We were very pleased with the driver and guide and had the money ready to give them a tip which we were told is not expected in China, but to me she spoilt the day by asking for one when we got back to the hotel.

Then we went shopping which to me was a horrible experience, I don’t feel comfortable with hard sell or with bartering and in China they are experts at both. I am not saying they are wrong, this is China and their way of doing things but for me it was too uncomfortable. we did however venture onto the underground and although incredible packed, it was clean and efficient; Should have done that before.

My # 2 highlight was the wall, #3 was the hotel pool, no facebook and twitter was difficult, the scamming and battering I didn’t like; but my #1 highlight was being asked a question that showed my presentation was of value. Sharing is what makes this all worth while. Thank you, Marshall and your team for inviting us to Beijing.

InsightOut - Tokyo Japan

I have been to Japan before and I loved it, and this second visit did not disappoint.

I was travelling to Japan to take part in the InsightOut database symposium, but first I took the opportunity to visit Fujitsu HQ. I had the opportunity to talk through my ‘Upgrade or move to Fusion Applications’ presentation to our EBS team , and look at some Oracle / Fujitsu projects in Japan. Thank you to all my colleagues who as ever made me feel part of our global family.

At Oracle Open World I met Ryutaro Mori who is on the board of OAUG Japan and when I told him I was going to Tokyo he asked if I would meet with their board. Of course I would, it was an honour. OAUG Japan is always present on our IOUC PDC calls, and very keen to have applications information for their members. The board and their Oracle liaisons took me to a wonderful dinner on the 42nd floor of the Shiodome City centre Building (where Fujitsu is based)  and a fantastic view of the Tokyo skyline and their radio tour at night.

The conference itself wins hands sown as the best organised conference I have ever attended  It was run by Insight Technology - Hiroki-san (Mizo) and powered by the OakTable, a concept created when Mogens Nørgaard and Anjo Kolk visited Icharo Obata in Tokyo earlier this year. I had met Icharo-san when we were stranded in Denmark after the volcano last year. This conference had 3 days with 3 streams, one of which was streamed live on the internet (including mine).

Here I gave my ‘What does Fusion Applications mean to you’ presentation, which I previously gave at MOW. We each met with translators an hour before our presentation and went through what we were going to say. They were so good they spotted an error in my slides. The room was full of people interested in what I had to say, and 6 members of OAUG Japan and 2 from Oracle, paid to attend just for my session, including one from Oracle who is now to sell Oracle Applications. After the presentation we went to the office of one of the board, where we held a great Q&A session. This makes it all worthwhile; sharing my knowledge is what I love best about this role.

The hospitality of Insight was fantastic; on the first evening they took us on a walking tour of night market and Sensoji Temple, and to a great traditional meal. Apparently in Japan they continue to serve food until you tell them to stop. I don’t eat fish, which is a pity as it is the main food group here including these tiny crabs, but everyone made sure I was catered for, at this dinner, lunch during the event and the meal I went to on my last evening.

The event was for 3 days, but Ronald and I left early on the second day as we had to join the OTN tour in Beijing, having missed Thailand to take part in Tokyo. We loved the efficiency of the metro, the trains, the airport, everything ran smoothly.

Thank you InSight, Icharo-san for fitting me into your conference (I asked – rather cheeky of me), The OakTable for letting me hang out with you guys again, Mizo for the phenomenal organisation and Gerlinde for making sure I was fed. I will be back,

Thursday 20 October 2011

An Award for Being Betwixt and Between

I used to get into a lot of trouble for saying I was not technical, but nowadays I am not sure I am particularly functional either. I am Betwixt and Between - neither one thing or the other. I have found my niche as being the bridge between the two. Helping technical people understand the business reasons and business people understand the technology. I love this role and work with the best experts on every side to help me learn their areas, and that is why I love the ACE Program so much, not only do I get access to the experts that are my peers but also Product Management within Oracle.

On the downside I get the occasional crisis of confidence and wonder about the value I add. These posts are all written in the wrong order, and an example of this is having my sessions turned down for Collaborate.

However at Open World I was honoured to receive an SOA Community Award award for helping them  understand the business implications of SOA with Applications. The award was also for getting Fujitsu to be first SOA specialized partner and 32 specializations in total. My day job as Oracle Alliance Director for Fujitsu means that this is part of my remit.

The SOA Partner Community is run by Jürgen Kress and if every discipline had a community like this, specialization would be much easier. The Community is exactly what it says a place where people learn from each other, and from the training that Jürgen arranges.

Sunday 16 October 2011

OOW and Fusion Apps

Last year at OOW'10 I was really pleased with the soft launch of Fusion Applications. I talked about my thoughts last year and how we were working with Development to have a training program and this became the UX Fusion Applications Advocates program.

This year at OOW'11 we knew there was to be a hard launch with the Fusion Nation and it was great that this really was General Availability. I gave a quick update to say we had our vests, but what happened next? Well we all wore them all week, and some of us even bought red shoes!

The advocates program had a round table, to see how we were all getting on with the demo sessions, and what we wanted to learn next. It is amazing that this time last year this was just an idea. There are now over 15 people trained and out there sharing their knowledge with everyone. Thanks to Misha seen here standing, who made this happen. As well as the ACEs who make us this program, I also had another dozen Product Development members from the IOUC in red vests.

On the Wednesday Oracle worked to have photos taken of all the Fusion Nation, and wearing the jackets was great, a feeling of being part of something big. They had us meet up for breakfast and then line up on the main stairs.

Then we had front row seats for the actual keynote, where Larry gave an actual demo. I was quite impressed. Finally Development had there day. There were plenty of early adopter presentations at OOW but next year we should have a lot more, and more complex implementations. To me the best part of Fusion Nation was when Steve Miranda put on his vest during his keynote.

I have also worn my jacket since when presenting on the OTN Tour.

My OOW Sessions

I had 3 sessions at OOW'11:

'Your Path to Understanding Fusion Applications'
One of the first presentations of OOW'11 9am Sunday Morning

This was to be the launch of our roadmap project from the IOUC, but we had been pushed to the very last minute by Oracle and it wasn't ready, however we showed the concept to the audience and the feedback was great. Sten Vesterli was our cartographer and he showed the map as it was, and also created a website where people could register for information and give feedback.

Richard Bingham who wrote 'Managing Fusion Application' also spoke on how Oracle Support have geared up for the apps, and was proud to tell us how many SRs had been raised. That made me chuckle, he was pointing out that as the numbers of customers has ramped up, so too has the queries. Normally this would be the last thing Oracle would highlight.

'Should I upgrade or go to Fusion Applications' 

Trying to answer the question I am asked most - and based on an earlier blog. I didn't give them the answer, and in fact I stole from my friend the great Tom Kyte and simply said "It Depends". The real content was about all the things people should consider when making their assessment. This is quite an interactive session and I like those.

'Consolidation to the Cloud'

I have a lot of respect for technical presenters, they plan their presentations for months and rehearse prolifically. People like Cary Millsap and Connor McDonald put hundreds of hours into their presentations whereas mine are more about putting my thoughts into a presentation. I spend many, many hours thinking, and coming up with the simple analogies that I love, but the actual presentation is normally left very late. I often joke that I love OOW because I have the 11 hour flight to finish my presentations. This year I really needed it, my first presentation wasn't finished but this one wasn't even started. I had written an article for an Oracle UK magazine, and used the analogy of how my handbag and even my life is consolidated into my smartphone. However the flight flew by and I still hadn't started.
As ever the week before was busier than I expected and come Sunday I still hadn't started, but the presentation was due for Thursday lunchtime, and I told myself no-one would turn up anyway, so perhaps I could just take the few people that do turn up and give them a coffee somewhere. I tried to find out how many people had registered but this year it wasn't available online so I had to ring speaker services, and they told me it was over 100, so I had to do something.
I decided that I would keep to the analogy and just have photos for the presentation and hope I didn't short change them too much. When the session came along there were about 70 people, and quite a buzz. People are tired by the end of the conference but still going on adrenaline. The actual presentation went down really well, it was light hearted and people didn't have to think too much. The feedback was that it made so much sense, at first any IT project seems expensive, but you need to look at the value, and then how to get more out of it.
So OOW'11 went well, I was happy with my presentations and although very few people give feedback at OOW, I was happy with the scores.