Thursday 14 April 2011

Thank You Oracle

The Fusion Applications UX Advocates program is excellent. I moan that Fusion Apps have not yet been released but people want to see it and with permission we can demo via a viewlet 13 minutes of the look and feel of Fusion. More than enough to show why this user experience is so superior.

I gave the first demo in Denver at RMOUG, and did my 2nd demo in Dublin last week. I shared the stage with Liam Nolan of Applications Dev and I loved it. Ultan O'Broin from the UX team who is based locally wrote about it in their blog, and said such nice things about it.

The demo will be given 3 times at collaborate this week, by colleagues of mine from the program and then Wednesday I will be doing it at MOW in Denmark to the most technical audience ever. A few weeks later again in Germany as part of their apps day.

We are looking to expand the group amongst the ACE Program and this is yet another example of how the Oracle philosophy of empowering their most active and inspiring community members pays off. I have spoken go colleagues who are Microsoft MVP or the SAP equivalent and those schemes are not as powerful as the ACE Program. Well done Oracle for your thinking.

Top Gear For Geeks

Three great database gurus from Oracle, Tom Kyte, Andrew Holdsworth and Graham Wood have been giving a tour in the US with IOUG under the title, 'A Day of Real World Performance'. A tour where they talk about all things database, and inspire everyone to get more out of their databases.

UKOUG are really pleased to bring them to the UK on 17th May , but I want to call it something else. I recently heard another great Oracle technologist, Andy Sutherland call them 'Top Gear For Geeks'.

This event has a small cost £95 & VAT, but so easy to justify, teachers of this calibre can charge 10 times this for a days content.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Do I upgrade or Do I wait For Fusion?

Do I upgrade or Do I wait For Fusion?

This is the most common question of the moment, and one I got asked before, during and after my sessions at Collaborate.

As a reader of my blog you know my answer, but at Collaborate I got more of an understanding as to the passion behind the question.

The answer is still 'it depends' and I think people get it has to be a business decision for them specifically and not a simple yes or no.  Normally you talk to them about, if they were not an early adopter of R12 why would they be or even desire to be an early adopter of Fusion? And this is still true for the majority but some articulated a very good point.

If they don't upgrade to R12 because they want to wait and see Fusion first, they will have to pay the Extended Support premium from December. If you remember you used to get 5 years of support for any release and then you had to upgrade. Not uncommon or unreasonable in software, and everyone knew that when they bought the product. Like looking at a menu and seeing the prices.

Oracle announced lifetime support back in 2006' and offered you an additional 3 years Extended Support for a premium. For an additional 10% . First point that is 10% of your support fee, not 10% of licence fee as some believe. However 2 years ago at Collaborate Oracle announced they would waive that uplift for the first year. We are well into that year now, with the 2nd year starting in December. For some people that is a substantial amount of money to pay, but upgrading isn't cheap either.

My first thoughts are, when they entered the restaurant they were given the menu with the prices on it, they shouldn't be surprised that they are being asked to pay that amount. I am not commenting on what support costs, just that it isn't or shouldn't be a surprise.

But what was being articulated by some here, was that when Charles Phillips announced Lifetime support, he said that Fusion would be available before the end of Premium support and people could decide to upgrade or go straight to Fusion.

In other words, he said, here is your menu, but before dessert I will give you new options. The waiter is now pressuring then into accepting the original menu and the new menu won't be available until after coffee.

So is that fair? Should Oracle have released Fusion as promised? I am sure Charles had the Safe Harbour slide up when he said this, and again you know my thoughts on the date, frustrated it hasn't happened but want it to be the right time.

But if, some customers, have pushed their life on 11.5.10 to the limit, waiting to assess the options side by side, they are now between a rock and a hard place. It is too late now to upgrade before the additional cost comes in December, and if they do upgrade and then find Fusion was right for them, it is a second upgrade, and they aren't free.

I am not pushing people to move to Fusion, I really do believe most should upgrade to R12, but I do always say you need to know all the information to make the right decision for your organisation.

Oracle risk customers going elsewhere for support, and I don't think that is the right answer either. Perhaps Oracle, you should waive year two of the extended support fee. Not because people haven't upgraded, but because you have not given them the product in time for them to make the choices you gave them.

Back to my analogy, send the waiter away until the promised new dessert menu is printed.

I have talked about EBS throughout this but it is similar for other products.

Monday 11 April 2011

A Very Special Event

You could be forgiven for thinking Oracle only has Fusion Apps if you read my blog; but of course they don't. Fusion is my area, and there is a lot to educate the members about, but there are other 'hot areas' and we do a lot to help bring that knowledge to our community as well.

Lisa Dobson is leading the Exadata event on 18 April, a number of people had been looking to make this happen and I suggested this date as I knew some excellent speakers were in Europe for MOW. They jumped at the chance to be part of it and then Tanel Poder who has publicly said he is cutting back on public appearances contacted Lisa begging to be part of it. Tanel  is publishing two of the first books on exadata and is an excellent speaker.

Alex Gorbachev and his company Pthyian are one of the most active partners with exadata, they support many of the early adopters of this and have a great case study to give. At the time of posting, Alex has a visa delay ,and may have to have a colleague ore sent on his behalf but he will be there in spirit.

Dan Norris is an actual X Man, one of a team of experts inside Oracle who help customers make exadata the success it is. Dan joined Oracle especially for this, but before was a very active user group volunteer and ACE Director. He ran the hugely successful RAC SIG in the US. 

Having these speakers come to the UK for our members is a great coup. We also have David Henderson and Stewart Bryson, two local experts on the agenda.

Come along and see what it is all about. Find out more about the event.

Saturday 9 April 2011

The Value of User Groups - A Modern Parable

User groups have to constantly define their value to their membership and one factor that is always near the top, is the  being part of a big voice.

Let me tell you about something that happened to me recently that describes this perfectly.

As you all know I am great friends with Mogens Nørgaard, who lives in Denmark. I quite often text him and this has been my preferred communication method for many years. We often speak at the same conferences now as ACE Directors and text is the most cost efficient way to communicate. Last year, his company Miracle changed their telecoms provider. Not long afterwards I had an argument with him, as he was ignoring a lot of my texts. He denied it, and it was almost true he did respond to some but a lot were ignored. He however was definite he hadn't ignored me.

A few weeks later he had reason to text another friend in UK several times and then was annoyed he wasn't being answered. His friend (James Morle, fellow founder member of the OakTable) had responded to each text but Mogens had not received them. He then said 'you know, Debra has been saying this for weeks'!!

I investigated and discovered that James was on 02, as was my personal iPhone. My work mobile was another provider and that worked, hence I wasn't being ignored all the time. I rang 02 and eventually they accepted there was a problem but said it was about contracts between the two providers and they couldn't do anything about it. Eventually they did agree to refund the cost of the texts sent but that was all.

Six months later, my company Fujitsu switched to 02, I emailed them before the change over and asked if I would have this issue and they promptly responded , there would be no problem. However, guess what? It didn't work. So I contacted their corporate account help desk, and after about 2 weeks they had it sorted, they got the contracts in place between the two providers. Not only do I have the ability to text Mogens, but so can James on his personal 02 account, and any other 02 friend Mogens may have.

The moral of this story, the corporate account, the big guy was listened to. And belonging to a user group makes you part of the big guy, when we talk to Oracle. Not only do they listen, but the results arethen for the benefit of all.    

My First Public Outing - Well Almost

Now I am Chairman of UKOUG, it all seems much more personal. Not that I ever took the role of deputy lightly, but this is a big responsibility.

My first outing or duty as Chairman was to speak at the Oracle Customer Awards and it felt great, but the first outing with the members was the OUG Ireland Conference. Very apt, because if you don't know I live in Ireland, in the North, above Belfast. We have a strategy in UKOUG to try and cater for regions that are physically far from the South where most events happen. We have worked hard to do this with our Irish and Scottish Conferences and put SIGs into other locations were practical. It doesn't always work, Ireland has had lost its way a bit the last few years.

Jonathan Lewis and Mogens Norgaard
As a User Group, we have to be in tune with our members, and we do that through many surveys but mainly through our volunteers, the community committees who tell us what they want. Ireland have some good communities but not as vibrant or as many as we needed, so this year we started planning earlier and worked with a committee made up from the communities and Ireland. Everyone wanted it to be successful and we planned an agenda grid with what we thought would be of interest to the audience, then we set about finding the right speakers, a mixture of local talent, Global Experts (via the ACE Program) and solid Oracle.

We opted to go to the Aviva Stadium, the old Landsdown Road. That was a great choice, and the number of delegates was really up over last year. We need more exhibitors to make it work better financially, but I am sure next year will be easier now we have had such a successful event.

As ever we have things to learn, when Aimee the project manager from UKOUG and I went to visit the stadium many months ago, we used a different entrance than on the day, we have learnt more about the importance of signage, and one break out area was via another which was bad, we need to work with the Aviva on that, but these teething issues are common for new venues.

Paul O'Riordan, head of Oracle in Ireland, gave a great keynote and made it very relevant, a good trick that as normally it is just a standard corporate presentation. He talked about one of the recent acquisition ATG and how there big development centre is in Belfast. 

People loved the event, For Apps we had Oracle Strategy, Fusion Apps, Upgrade Presentations,  Oracle's fantastic Nadia Bendjedou answering all the questions, Jonathan Lewis had an extended session on the database and upgrades and for BI we had a fantastic stream with people like Mark Rittman and Anthony Heljula. Local customers like Irish Life and Ingersol Rand spoke. Mark Simpson  was one of the Middleware speakers, and we had local stars, like Hillary Farrell for APEX, Barry McGillan for SQL Devleoper, and we had Grant Ronald and Doug Burns over (both Celtic even if from Scotland).

We ran out of speaking slots but had our popular round tables for people to ask questions, Paul Logan from Pthyian Belfast was part of the exadata table, we also had Oracle Licencing, Support, IBM and Ultan O'Broin (another local) from User Experience.

And then by special request we had 'The mad Danish guy who talks about the database' - well we got Mogens Nørgaard but apparently he talked about Chickens!

Everyone had a great day, but we need volunteers from those of you who went to build our Irish Communities and make us successful, not only next year but all year round.

Enabling the ACEs

The Fusion UX Advocates program is excellent. I moan that Fusion Apps have not yet been released but people want to see it and with permission those in the ACE Program who have been trainned can demo via a viewlet, 13 minutes of the look and feel of Fusion. More than enough to show why this user experience is so superior.

I gave the first demo in Denver at RMOUG, and did my 2nd demo in Dublin last week. I shared the stage with Liam Nolan of Apps Dev and I loved it. Ultan o'Broin from the UX team who is based locally wrote about it in their blog, and said such nice things about the demo.

The demo will be given 3 times at collaborate this week, by colleagues of mine from the program and then Wednesday I will be doing it at Miracle Open World in Denmark to the most technical audience ever. A few weeks later again in Germany as part of their apps day.

We are looking to expand the group amongst the ACE Program and this is yet another example of how the Oracle philosophy of empowering their most active and inspiring community members pays off. I have spoken to friends who are Microsoft MVP and looked at the SAP Mentors program and those schemes are not as powerful as the ACE Program. Well done Oracle for your wider thinking.

So close and yet so far!

In case you haven't realized I am a great fan of Oracle Fusion Applications. I did think they would be out by now, but no still no date. I read tweets and blogs from people I admire who are criticizing Oracle over this and part of me is annoyed. I didn't really mind when it came out, as long as it is proven and works.

The delays in development have been handled well, and the one thing Larry did brilliantly at OOW was to articulate the fact that when they knew what they wanted Fusion Apps to do, the technology wouldn't support it, so they had to develop Fusion Middleware first. But what is the delay now?

Larry said at OOW first quarter of this calendar year. That has gone. Please just release it or tell us when? I want people to be looking at it, and enjoying seeing what Fusion Middleware can actually do rather than moaning about some arbitrary date in a calendar, but the only people who can stop that is you Oracle.

The apps roadshow in Europe reached London last week and I was honoured to be on the panel for Q&A. Andrew Sutherland did a great presentation on the Middleware benefits, BT talked about what it had meant for them and like at OOW last year, having people talk about application choices from one stage, takes a lot of the either / or issues out of the equation, and they really pitched the co-existence message across. 

I love being able go help people understand these options and thank Oracle for giving me that knowledge. This is what user groups are about, helping you to understand.

Chairman, not Chairwoman

Chairman, not Chairwoman, or even Chair, I am Chairman of UKOUG and very, very proud. I have even created a policy stating I am chairman.

Not Chairwoman, I am the first lady chairman of UKOUG as this press article tells, but that doesn't worry me, or even make me proud. I am not someone who believes being a woman has held me back and I am virulently against positive discrimination.

Definitely not Chair, my great friend and new Deputy Chairman Lisa Dobson, called me the new chair on Twitter and was spammed by IKEA for days.

So I don't want or even approve of special rights for women. In Parts of Scandinavia there is a required number of women required on a board, and that is simply wrong, you need to be there because of the value you bring an organization, not because of your gender. And for the record UKOUG has 4 out of 12 women on our board, all there through merit.

Is there an issue for women in IT, I don't normally think about it, but on Woman's Day I was in an Oracle Office and was given a rose, by their OWL program (Oracle Women Leadership), but is such a group necessary? And I have just been invited to join the WITS NI (Women in Technology and Science), need to know more about it before I join.

I am at a conference this week that has a Woman in IT event, and I will go and probably enjoy it. If the speaker talks about juggling everything to get to the top, then fine, if it is about the adversity, I find that is more discouraging to woman. What I do think there is a need for is to encourage girls to study IT, and to join the industry. I would love to talk to girls at school about my career. I think there is no barrier for women in IT, once they actually take part.

When people ask me what is is like being in the minority in IT, I point out it is great, no queues for the restrooms at any conference. But is it a problem? In Oracle itself woman hold a lot of top jobs, Safra Catz, Judy Sim, Mary Ann Davidson to name but a few. So no barrier there.

In my employer, Fujitsu, I have never had a problem and in fact, I joined my local authority (Gloucester County Council) prior to transfer via outsourcing, and they had a recruitment drive for woman returnees in 1989 when the industry had a severe skills shortage. The program 'woman hold up half the sky' was to encourage woman who had left IT to have families to come back. They offered very flexible packages which were certainly not the normal then. I didn't want part-time, term-time, whatever, just the recognition I was a working mum. I never took advantage, or had time off except when my daughter had salmonella and I was allowed to work evenings for 6 weeks ( no remote access and home working then), but I hope they would have been just as flexible to a man if they had the need.

What I do hate though is people who tell me IT is male dominated, as if we are simply tolerated. I went to two Oracle award events recently where they appeared to have a two for one offer on the comedian. He told the same jokes both nights. He had worked out that everybody had a 1 in 4 chance of winning an award but only a 1 in 10 chance of 'picking up a girl'.

So no moans from me about being a woman, and as for the men in IT, I have worked with some of the best and very proud to have done so.

A Tough Act To Follow

I like a challenge, and this is a big one, stepping into the shoes of Ronan Miles as Chairman of UKOUG.

Ronan receives his Oracle UK and Ireland Award
Ronan has been Chairman for 11 years and on the board for 13, but he wants this change to be about the future and not looking back at the past, so I have promised not to talk about what he has achieved, except read this.

I am proud because the members vote me on to the board, and there my peers have elected me their Chairman. I hope I can do that faith justice. I am proud because I work for an organisation who see the value in being active in the community in which they operate, and allow me to do what I do.

I have been active in the User Group Scene for 9 years and Deputy to Ronan for 7, very active in the International Oracle User-group Community, and know most of their Presidents, so for me it is an easier transition. My new deputy, Lisa Dobson has a much bigger learning curve, but she will do brilliantly. Lisa is known for her passion initially for newbies, and I know as the newbie herself now she will reach out to the network of support we both have, our fellow board members, our staff and our volunteers. 

I am amazed and humbled by all the messages of support I have received from everybody. Thank you, each and every one of you, who took the time to say congratulations, and I hope I can live up to the honour.