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.