Wednesday 18 September 2013

My Oracle Open World 2013

I am writing this at 30,000 feet as I fly to that annual jamboree Oracle Open World.

This year (as ever) I intended to work on a quieter OOW and only submitted 3 sessions; last year I gave 6. Initially I had no sessions accepted and at first I was really disappointed, but a lot of my peers are similar, and many of those who have got sessions are user group session and not so much the mainstream. I think that actually Oracle are deciding the topics and then sourcing more, and in reality that often works well. Anyway, I then got asked to give a session on behalf of Fujitsu as part of their Marquee Sponsorship and will be speaking about the process of making a decision about Fusion Applications, with a great case study.

Then Oracle have asked me to interview Jeremy Ashley VP Development about the user experience team’s work, I interviewed Jeremy at UKOUG last year and it was thought that would work for the Partner Exchange at OOW.

As I said Fujitsu are the Marquee sponsor and we have a very busy program and I will be meeting with Analyst and Key Customers with them, and our VIP program including the appreciation event.

Thanks to OPN I am attending as a blogger and missing out on the queues for keynotes is always well appreciated.

There are usergroup meetings and events and I hope to make a few of those, but then there are partner events and EMEA events and my dance card is as ever full. Apart from my own sessions I want of course to see some Fusion Applications, so excited that the Simplified UI is now available with release 7 which has just been released, but my roots are in E Business Suite and I am hoping that we finally get 12.2 and all it promises. The timelag between technical promise and it coming to fruition in apps had been drastically reduced but this has taken far too long.

I will be attending part of the Oracle Usability Advisory Board which is a great way to have influence and what is coming. I will try and get along to some of the SOA Partner Community which is the best of all the groups I find for working with partners to ensure success. One thing I am really looking forward to is learning more about AppsAdvantage, Oracle Application customers using more technology, and I will be blogging about that soon.

I have been asked to join the Women in IT panel at OakTable World which I am really looking forward to, not least because the line up of women is an excellent group of experts in their fields. Amazed I am still there after my WIT blog recently. Unfortunately my OPN Exchange session clashes with the 2nd session so I will only do the one. I will also be attending the Oracle Woman’s’ Leadership or OWL conference.

I am an guest of OTN and the ACE program and the briefings at Oracle HQ the week before are always excellent, and I honestly learn more there than at OOW.

And for fun I am swimming in the Bay Monday morning, as well as Chi Gung in Union Square as many mornings as possible, so if I don’t get a chance to say hallo don’t take it personally.

Monday 10am  OakTableWorld  WIT Panel

Tuesday 3:45 PM - 4:45 PM -         Marriott Marquis - Club Room  CON9817  
OPN Exchange Applications User Experiences in the Cloud: Tailoring, Trends, and Strategy

Wednesday 3pm – 4pm    MW2000  CON11164
Shaping Your Tomorrow: Planned Upgrade/Migration to Oracle Fusion Applications

Monday 9 September 2013

My Thoughts on WIT

There seems to be a lot of interest in Women in IT at the moment, I am not sure if it is fashionable or if there is a real grass roots movement to promote it but every conference at the moment has some kind of WIT content. So I thought I would share my thoughts, perhaps I am not radical enough as I always feel weird about this subject as it has never really affected me too badly. I don’t know about equal pay, I don’t know what my male colleagues earn and the equal pay issue is not IT specific, I haven’t been kept down because I am a woman, and I have had good and bad bosses both male and female.

I used to stay away from the subject but have I must admit used it to my advantage to get press coverage and even blogged once about how I have no issue about being a Woman in IT

I don’t want to be part of a movement that is about constantly moaning about our lot, perceived or real, and if I am on a panel and the conversation goes down the ‘how did I juggle child care and working’, I will get up and leave. Having children is a lifestyle choice and all choices need compromise, but compromise does not mean settling for less. I love to scuba dive, but I also fly a lot and you can’t fly within 24 hours after a dive. I am not discriminated on because I fly, it is my choice. If I want to dive more I need to change my working patterns. In the same way if you choose to have children you need to decide how you will balance your needs. This shouldn’t be just a woman issue, but often it is and that can be difficult but it is not a problem specific to IT. I must say I have worked for great employers who have flexible working conditions, and sometimes it is men who have chosen to take advantage of this. Many successful woman I know have house husbands and in my own case I had a husband who worked 9 to 5 and was happy to be the main carer when we decided I should move into consultancy to further my career. Our choice, our problem and not something that needs a whole movement behind it.

I also feel that way about roles within IT, you don’t have to be technical! I started as a COBOL programmer but chose different roles to suit me. When I got married and moved to be with my husband in Berlin there was an analyst / programmer role available there so I moved into that role, then when I had my daughter and moved back to the UK there was a role available in Unix and then to move to Ireland I took a role in support that allowed me to work when and where I wanted. As I said above I moved into consultancy when it suited us as a family. A project manager with a good IT understanding is a very important part of a team, choosing to do a non technical role is not a crime.

In the post I mentioned earlier I had just been asked to join a London based WIT group, and the first event was great all about Social Networking and building your online brand, however there was absolutely nothing about the evening that was for women only. But I am a member of two other groups, a Microsoft Group called the T Party which is excellent, such a blast, it is about women getting together and having a fun time whilst learning from other women. Yes the topic is usually about woman achieving but it is about encouraging women and their events are such fun but probably wouldn’t appeal to a man, An Alice in Wonderland Tea Party, a 40s street party, just such a giggle. And then there is OWL the Oracle Woman’s Leadership group, again the speakers are women and we have a lovely meal in a lovely setting and a real ‘ladies who lunch’ fun time. Once it deteriorated into 'a life after divorce' conversation but it was still an encouragement to all.

So why do I believe in WIT if I have so many concerns? Well the reason we are under represented in IT is nothing to do with today’s employers it is to do with career advice or even lack of it. In my daughter's school everyone was told they would be users of IT but only boys were encouraged to follow IT careers. Luckily she didn’t take any notice of sexist advice, she is now an officer in the British army with one very proud mum and being a woman has not held her back. To get more women in IT we need schools and universities to encourage girls.

There was recently an article in a business group I belong to in Belfast asking for help in bringing STEM to a wider audience and I volunteered, but all they wanted was for my company to spend money with this group, what I wanted to do was to talk to girls in schools and encourage them, but I think that was an isolated incident.

At UKOUG Apps2013 I am really pleased that we have two speakers about this, Oracle will talk about their programs for Children in Schools, ALICE and Greenfoot  and then the Chartered Institute for IT (formerly British Computer Society) will talk about their graduate programs.

I was asked to be on the WIT panel at RMOUG and it was really good, the questions were about mentoring and I am really pleased to see that the OakTableWorld WIT at Oracle Open World is already talking about this. I am honoured to have been asked to join the panel there although my own schedule means I can only do one of the two sessions (Monday) but I am really looking forward to being part of this.

And in the meantime I will enjoy the only positive thing about the low numbers of women in IT being low, the smaller queues for the restrooms at conferences.

Friday 6 September 2013

The Changing face of UKOUG

I wanted to write a blog about the upcoming Applications and Technical conferences but thought I really needed to step back first and talk about UKOUG.

The most read posting on my blog is the one that explains the relationship between Oracle and User Groups, and I find myself referring to it a lot. There have been a lot of changes in UKOUG over the past two years and I keep being asked about them so thought I would try and explain them as I see them. There is information on the website about how it is today but this is more about the journey.

UKOUG is a not for profit organisation, but unlike most usergroups we have our own staff, we do not outsource the running of the membership and delivery of our offering, events etc. This means we are also a business.
Originally we had a simple board structure. This was fine; the board were elected by the members and were able to balance the legal running of the company with representing members. Life was much simpler then, Oracle was the database, forms and reports and E Business Suite. There we many, many companies who wanted to sponsor and exhibit at conferences. Companies who provided solutions around what Oracle offered.  

Then Oracle started to change, they went shopping, over 70+ companies in the last 8 years. This has consolidated the market, what Oracle covers is much, much wider and there are actually less partners to work with and also over this period we have moved into a global economy where everyone is tightening their belts. The world of social also means that much of what usergroups did traditionally is now available freely.  This meant the traditional board had to represent a now very diverse community and run a business that was much more difficult and on a much bigger scale. The reality was we spent all our time running the company at the expense of truly being engaged with our members.
So in 2011 we worked on how we could address this, we knew it had to change. In the good times the usergroup had through good financial management built up a reserve for lean times, which now we needed but it won’t last for ever; we needed to evolve and change, and stay relevant to the members. The proposal that was accepted was to have a council that elected representatives sat on, that worked on what members wanted, and three of the council joining an executive of three on a new, much smaller board that would be the legal requirement directing UKOUG. The executive was made up of 3 people looking after HR, Finance and Commercial. They would work with our full time staff to run the business.
After a year it was obvious this was not the right model either. The council also struggled to fairly represent the members and was too big to efficiently drive initiatives forward as one and the office felt they now had to answer to both the executive and the council. The board found it difficult to bring the two sides together and a number of volunteers resigned. It wasn’t a complete disaster, there were some great examples of working groups led by council members that were able to deliver and the executive were making inroads into reversing financial fortunes and membership numbers. 

We didn’t have any problem with finding volunteers who wanted to be elected to help, but what we did find was that we didn’t have people who had both the skills and the time to carry out some of the roles needed. The council needed to elect a president, one who could not only represent us with Oracle but also influence them on behalf of our members. This led to us co-opting a volunteer to be our President who has those skills; someone Oracle will listen to.

We needed to further evolve the 2011 change, keep what worked and change what didn’t. The council knew this was going to be ‘turkeys voting for Christmas’ but one thing we all share is a passion for the community and no one wanted UKOUG to fail. The 2013 evolution, was voted on by members at the AGM, and this time passed by a higher majority than in 2011.

So what has changed? 

Council has gone and we have given community representation to the people who really know our members, our volunteers; the SIG leaders and their deputies. The business will be run by a CEO, James Haslam. And the staff will answer to him and will be accountable and empowered to deliver what is needed. 

The board is made up of the CEO - James, Graham Spicer – Commercial and David Rowntree – Finance and then balanced with 3 representing members; David Warburton-Broadhurst our President, Fiona Martin - Member Chair and myself as an additional elected member. These roles are being carefully scoped by an Appointments Group led by Liz Penny with Carl Dudley responsible for ensuring those who put themselves forward have the skills we need and the time to devote to UKOUG. They are looking at things like roles and responsibilities for all board and appointments group roles  and ensuring we have both a succession plans and most importantly a President Elect; we don’t want to need to co-opt, we want transparency and voted for officers on the board.

We will gather member and community input by running all our initiatives in the form of projects. Each project will have a board sponsor, and office Project Manager and representative volunteers working as part of the working group, much as Apps 2013 and Tech 2013 have done this year. Members will be more involved.

This new model should reduce overheads and bureaucracy from Council and Executive, empower James and the Office, but most importantly allow interested volunteers to step up and engage around projects which are important to them, without having to commit to a full 3 year elected position.
Working groups have to make decisions that are right for UKOUG which may not suit every single member or stakeholder but we can only make the best decision when all stakeholders are part of those groups. So please if you don’t like the direction or individual decisions don’t criticise, get involved and be part of the answer. 

Personally I have devoted 14 years to UKOUG and my motivation is not to be constantly moaned at by unhappy people; I want users of Oracle technology that I believe in to get more out of their investment, learn from others and have a say in its direction. To do that we need a UKOUG that can deliver with the resources at its disposal, both financial and more importantly the community.
And let’s start with really successful Apps and Tech conferences coming very soon