Friday 28 February 2014

OTN Yathra 2014 - Horns - Not Just My Paranoia

I have mentioned many times in this series of posts that Indian Traffic and especially the use of horns is becoming my nemesis. I have been very open about it at the sessions and had the audiences laughing with me at what is recognised by all Indians as a national identifier.

It isn't just me, even Tim has commented on how much the noise has been a factor on this tour and his total lack of sleep in Hyderabad..

On arrival in Bangalore I was told they even have No Honking Mondays although everyone says it is very ineffective.

When looking at the internet for a suitable link I also found this irreverent and made up article which captures the mood exactly.

When shopping I was asked what souvenir I would want from India, and a car horn would be the most appropriate.

So I am laughing, I love India


OTN Yathra 2014 - Bangalore

For our penultimate event we moved South to Bangalore. The drive to the airport was horrendous, for once the road was clear but our driver decided that meant he could drive at 120km/h even when taking bends, I have laughed at my inability to accept this traffic but on this occasion I was actually in tears, thanks to Tim and Hans for keeping me sane (just).

The flight was uneventful except it was a very hard landing at Bangalore airport in a small propeller plane.

The journey to the hotel was pretty much the best journey we have had, a new modern highway, a very good car and driver from our hotel; however he then asked us if we were doing any shopping and we told him we planned to go into the city the next evening, he said there was now a new branch of that shop (general souvenirs) on this side of town and it would be better if we went that evening. We knew it was a scam, but what the hell, eyes wide open we went into the new shop (about 50 years old) and haggled our way through to a decent price (remember I am being assertive on this trip). The roads to this new shop were not roads but tracks, and interestingly despite an area to park we found our taxi hemmed in as we left the shop and he had to go in to get the other driver to move his car, if I was cynical I could suggest the situation was manipulated for him to go in and get his cut. I share this story because I found it quite amusing, but it is not characteristic of the people we have met, the politeness we have come across in India has been lovely.

Anyway we stayed at the Marriott which is a wonderful hotel and has a beautiful pool, I like to swim in hotel pools but so far had not managed it. The pool had a water feature which drowned out traffic noise. The water was much colder than I expected but it was lovely.

Originally I was not staying for Bangalore and Chennai but things changed, I have sessions in Chennai but there were none available for Bangalore, the local AIOUG team had managed to source several local speakers, which is so important for user groups. I did still however go along to support.

At the start of each event we talk about the importance of OTN, The ACE Program and User Group membership, and when it was my turn I said I was not speaking but was available all day if anyone wanted to talk Apps. It was brilliant, I had people come to me during most sessions to ask questions, most were about the tech stack but a few were from people who follow my blog etc, and were surprised to find me at this event as it had obviously not be advertised. I felt great, and worthy of my place on the tour.

Hans left us after this event, and today Tim and I travel to the last venue Chennai, were they tell us the food is most spicy and the weather the hottest.


OTN Yathra 2014 - Hyderabad

This was the 5th of the 7th events on Yathra and the one I was looking forward to most, as it had a dedicated Applications track.

Hyderabad is the home of Oracle Applications development in India, and most global partners who have offices in India, do so here. Oracle HQ in Redwood Shores is known for its Canadian Geese who patrol the campus but here in Hyderabad it is ducks that rule.

There were also a lot of attendees from end users including GE who sent a big team to learn from AIOUG. I was meant to have 3 sessions and started with Mobile in Fusion Applications and then the next speaker had cancelled so I got an extra hour. We looked at the design principles and had a really good discussion on the best practices for modern applications, the Simplified UI in the latest release of Fusion Applications and how people practically co-exist.

At lunch time I had the honour of meeting with Murali Subramanian GVP responsible for both CRM on Demand and Applications Development in India. Murali was our keynote speaker at UKOUG in 2006 and we bump into each other at Open World most years so making time to meet up whilst at his office made sense. We had a great discussion on how user group members see the Oracle Applications Strategy. Oracle look to user groups for feedback and UKOUG count this influence as one of their most important services.

In the afternoon, I did my BI & EPM presentation and following on from Hans Forbrich and his presentation on how to use Cloud Control with Applications, I finished off with my favourite Consolidation to the Cloud presentation; a comparism of Enterprise consolidation and the benefits to my personal adoption of a smartphone.

This was my favourite stop on the tour, I had a large, engaged and eager to learn audience and I got to talk all day about my favourite subject.


OTN Yathra 2014 - Pune

For a Sunday the turnout was not bad, again I talked about both BI and Mobile in Fusion Applications, and whilst I did not have the biggest audiences, I had people who were really interested.

Again it was a an Oracle Financial Services building and we were well looked after.

I have morphed my sessions a bit, people wanted to go back to the basics of Fusion Applications, drill into the design principles and understand how Oracle have approached this. The sessions have become much more interactive and I am in my element, able to explain to people how the technology is being used. I may not be technical but articulating its benefits is my niche.

One more night in Pune which included pearl shopping and it was off to Hyderabad, but Raj left us at this point and it was sad to see him go, you make such good friends on these tours.

OTN Yathra 2014 - The Journey to Pune

Mumbai was a Saturday and it is quite normal for people in India to give up Saturday to learn if the subject is correct, but in order to ensure as many cities as possible were included in OTN Yathra, Pune was held on a Sunday, the very next day after Mumbai.

The distance is 96 miles, which does not seem a long way, and too short for a flight, so we drove in a convoy of 4 taxis, straight from the event at Mumbai. You will have gathered by now I was not looking forward to the journey but not just because it was by road but also because Tim Hall has me paranoid about Mosquitos.

I have said before corporate travel agents give you travel advice that tends to err on terrifying, and for India a lot is about the health risks. Tim and I both looked to the Great British National Health Service for advice and Malaria was the top problem. My other vaccinations were up to date but poor Tim had to have a few in his trip preparations

So according to Tim's research we were in real trouble in Hyderabad and during this road journey, add this paranoia to my driving fears and it is amazing Tim and Raj agreed to be my companions. I owe these two a lot, and later in the tour Hans as my way of dealing with the my fear was to talk non stop and this journey was 4 hours plus!!

Tim and I were covered in Mosquito propellant and must have stunk, Raj commented but graciously put up with us. We had one stop at which I stayed in the taxi (with all doors locked, and practiced my breathing techniques).

We arrived at our hotel but needed dinner, it was very late and I although I simply needed to relax and hopefully sleep when I got to my room there appeared to be a pop concert or something happening outside. The hotel backs onto an enormous sports complex, The Balewadi. Anyway the noise was loud, the stage had some kind of laser light show and I was not too hopeful of getting any sleep.

Turns out it was a wedding (do I feel bad), and actually once the ceremony was over about 1am the noise was fine. I did then wish I could just creep out and gate-crash, it would have been lovely to have experienced this. The proceedings were also on large screens and I was able to take photos from my hotel window. Best wishes to them, whoever they are.


Wednesday 26 February 2014

OTN Yathra 2014 - Mumbai

Both my mother and my grandmother were born in Bombay, or rather Mumbai as it is known today, so I was very excited about visiting this city. However let me be honest, I saw nothing except traffic, as in most cities we arrived in the dark, presented the next day, and then it was time to move on, in fact in Mumbai we only had a single night in the hotel.

When Oracle bought iFlex they acquired many beautiful buildings in India which are now Oracle Financial Services India and they generously allowed AIOUG access to their buildings for two of the events. I really do have to thank Vijay Sehgal from Oracle Financial Services, who not only was a local speaker but that made all the arrangements for us and was so helpful. Mumbai was on a Saturday and it was great to see that people felt Yathra worth giving up their valuable free time to attend.

My talks had small audiences but that is often the case for applications, but those I did really enjoyed it. Raj and I had discovered my Mobile and Fusion Apps talk dove tailed nicely with his APEX mobile, and that helped give more flow to our talks.

The only problem with Mumbai was that when it was all over we were going by car to Pune, a long drive, in the dark, and in traffic...........

OTN Yathra 2014 - Sharda University Noida

Having missed the first stop of the Yathra, my first event was at Sharda University. Sharda is the goddess of enlightenment and it was a big university with a large engineering faculty. We met with the various Deans who wanted to see how being party of OTN could help students with their search for jobs in the future, and we talked about OTN being for individuals and how the AIOUG could help the university as an organisation.

They had a lamp lighting ceremony which is traditional for a special event and we were treated as very honoured guests, but it was me who was honoured, honoured to address young people who want to enter this profession and wanted to learn from us. We all had to taper our presentations to the audience who didn't have as much exposure to Oracle as our normal audiences do, but that was fine, we do this a lot, and with a lot of coaxing we did get questions from them.

 The dean addressed the audience and said that the university was an oracle user as they have PeopleSoft campus solutions, although they do have a few issues and suffer from a lack of expertise in India. I talked to them about being members of HEUG and reach out to other institutions around the globe.

I spoke about BI in Fusion Apps and about Mobile Design Patterns based on the User Experience research done for Fusion Apps. I am giving these two talks at each of the events I am speaking at on this tour.

Lunch was wonderful, I love spicy food and the idea of curry three times a day is my idea of heaven.

In my first session there was a lot of talking happening but it was just before a very late lunch, I did ask if the problem was they didn't understand and they assured me they did but not much appeared to change.

At the start of my second session it seemed to me that everyone was talking the background noise was high, and I was also slightly irked that I was asked to cut short my session as although we all kept to time the event kicked off late because of traffic issues; however once it was explained that most students had a bus to catch to accommodation and the driver was only willing to delay this 15 minutes I appreciated the need. So I started with an assertive request for them to be quiet and to be fair they did, not one person talked, however the background noise did not completely disappear and within a few minutes I had to apologise, it appears we could hear the lecture theatre next door.

Anyway we ended with an open discussion and I felt everyone had a good day, I certainly got asked good questions both from the floor an afterwards which is my litmus test.  The dean gave us some gifts which was very generous, but we had travel the next day so were unable to take the flowers they gave us during the opening ceremony. I gave them to girls in the audience and asked only that they enjoy the flowers.

One thing that happened to me was during my session a gentleman came on stage with a tray of tea cups and offered me one..........mid sentence. wow did that throw me for a bit.

OTN Yathra 2014 - The Taj Mahal

This was the only free day of the tour for sightseeing, and Murali, Hans, Raj and myself set off for the Taj Mahal; just 3 hours late because our taxi went to the Crowne Plaza in Delhi not Noida!

This journey was great, a toll road with a set speed limit, which it appears we broke constantly, and the road was littered with signs saying 'speeding invites prosecution' and other witty suggestions. Then we reached Agra and I experienced village traffic. I can't describe all of it, as my eyes were closed, a lot!

The Taj Mahal was everything I expected plus more, it was beautiful. locals pay less to enter than tourists which i approve off in principle, but actually we paid 37.5 times the price, however we did get a free bottle of water and shoe covers! Another advantage was the 'High Value' queues which was a kind of priority line, even better was the 'High Value Ladies' queue, another good reason to be a Woman.

As I said the monument was fantastic and I am so honoured to have visited, I had the obligatory Lady Di photo shot and soaked up the history from our guide. Our guide was another scam, but in this case turned out very knowledgeable. the taxi driver stopped a little way before the Taj Mahal and phoned somebody, 5 minutes later this guy turns up on the back of a motor bike and tells us he is our complimentary guide (who incidentally expects a good tip) - so we negotiate what a good tip is going to be and off we go. he was good and in retrospect I am pleased, but do wish people were simply up front.

Afterwards Raj the guide tells us honestly that Agra fort we wanted to visit is being restored and most of it is closed to visitors. Since we started so late and want to get back we simply take photos from the van and side of the road where the driver simply stopped mid traffic. then he stops at a marble warehouse, as we will find this very interesting to see how the marble in the Taj Mahal was worked. there is no charge we are assured but obviously an opportunity to buy goods, and yes I did but it was all very reminiscent of the government mandated trip to a jade warehouse on our visit to the Great Wall a few years back in China.

By now the sound of horns blaring is being ignored by my brain which is too busy clenching every muscle in my body through abject fear of the traffic, we did however experience a wonderful sunset, and in balance it was still an awesome day.

I know I am paranoid of the traffic in India and it is a big part of my story but remember it is irrational, and I am working on my 10 worst journeys blog, which includes many other places I have visited. 


OTN Yathra 2014 - Start of the Journey - Not my Best

I was planning to go to the Philippines on vacation and would join the tour at the 2nd stop Noida (near Delhi) on the 19th February, however when Murali said we would have a trip to the Taj Mahal on that day I changed my mind and flew into Delhi a day early.

In the Philippines I was reminded of my hatred of bad traffic and the journey to the airport for the return leg to Singapore had been a nightmare, but that is a relative term, once I experienced Delhi traffic it paled into insignificance! But lets go back a bit, I have family in Singapore so was using this as my base, I flew from there to my holiday and then spent just long enough there to swap my luggage and head off for the 5 hour flight to Delhi. Murali gave us great instructions, about what taxi company to use, how much to expect to pay and what the journey time would be, I felt quite relaxed. You may laugh but it you have ever read the travel warnings provided by corporate travel agents you would never travel anywhere and I am a nervous traveller on the road at anytime. (And a even worse driver, ask Cary Millsap).

I collected my luggage and went to find the appointed taxi company, and told them where I wanted to go, at this point a man appeared who said come with me, I looked at the taxi co-ordinator man and he nodded his head in agreement, so I let him take my suitcase and followed him at break neck speed through a series of underpasses towards long term parking. then his mobile phone rang, he answered it, let go off my suitcase and ran up a ramp. I tried to follow but he said stay there, I will be back. I guessed it was to do with getting a better signal, so just waited........and waited then after 15 minutes, I walked back to the taxi stand, and very assertively (which may be the tone for the tour), I pointed out that I was using their company because I was told they could be trusted, and their man had abandoned me in the middle of Delhi Airport! At this point the guy says, he was not their man and that he had called out my name to stop me going but I had ignored him. again, assertively i pointed out he did not know my name and I suggested we stopped the charade and start again.

Having got into an official taxi with a driver in uniform, a meter turned on and what appeared to be a receipt printer machine with a lit light, I settled down for what I knew to be a 2 hour drive. Murali warned me the first 90 minutes would be bumper to bumper, and in my naivety I thought that meant rush hour type traffic. It is amazing how the mind suppresses images of motorcycles, oxen, taxis , cars and lorries synonymous with Indian folklore, and you will laugh when I say it came as a surprise to find anything I had heard was simply the tip of the iceberg. 90 minutes later, 90 minutes I will never get back and probably took 90 days off my life expectancy; we cleared the Delhi traffic and I relaxed for the last and furthest part of the journey on a relatively empty highway.
One thing I did like about the traffic was Delhi number plates start DL and I quite liked this one which I would have taken as a personalised plate for myself (not that I would ever drive here).
Murali who knows what a nervous passenger I am (he was on the Columbian Boat trip), had said not to worry about speed the car's computer would tell the driver to slow down. I forgot to mention the computer, when I got in the car, it asked me to fasten my seat belt, but the driver simply told me there weren't any! So why was I surprised he then ignored it when it told him to slow down.........every time, every time. I was sick of her voice by the time we stopped at a gas station, she should learn to be more assertive. The gas station was also unnerving as I was told I had to get out of the car whilst they filled up with LPG, I wasn't too sure this wasn't another scam but it turned out to be true. What I did forget to mention was the first time he stopped, in Delhi traffic and simply took his jumper off. I was very nervous then as I had had experiences with taxi drivers abandoning me in Beijing!

Eventually we arrived at the hotel, in one piece a had a great nights sleep.

At breakfast the next day I met Hans Forbarch who I have done several tours with and he told me about his taxi experience. Apparently the same happened to him but he got into a taxi with the 'wrong man' and ended up paying almost double. So mine was not a one off and I guess the taxi co-ordinator was on some sort of a commission back hander. Seems I had a lucky escape.
Hans, Murali and I were to be joined by Tim Hall and Raj Mattamal, who had done the first leg of the tour, but you can read about their unbelievable taxi journey in Tim's blog; Tim needed sleep so badly he skipped the trip.  

OTN Yathra 2014 - Setting the scene

As ever I am late with my blog postings and that swot Tim Hall has been posting his daily and getting all the credit from OTN so I need to get a move on. This post will keep being linked from as I post the various parts.

The opportunity to travel to India with OTN is something I have really wanted to do, my grandmother grew up in India and my mother was born there; I have ever visited and in a way it feels like a pilgrimage. Murali Vallath, invited me at the last ACE Directors briefing during OOW. Murali and I have done a few tours together and we had talked about it before and now it was real.

The tour is called OTN Yathra, which simply means journey and there is certainly some miles being covered here. The event was organised by AIOUG the All India Oracle User Group.
Start of the Journey - Not my best

The Taj Mahal

Noida - Sharda University

The Journey to Pune




The Car Horns of India


Know Your Audience

Living with Fame

Final Thoughts


Friday 14 February 2014

What Have I Been Up To?

In October I announced I was leaving Fujitsu, and I guess I have been quite quiet since then, so what have I been up to?

At first my intention was to look for another corporate employer but every time I talked to friends the same discussion happened, people thought I should be working for myself as an independent consultant on where Oracle could help an organisation achieve its strategy.

 I thought about it a lot, 25 years with one employer is a long time and it is amazing how much you take that for granted, but at the same time I have a unique set of skills which the ACE program, my old employer and UKOUG have helped me to hone and customers need advice to make the right decisions. As an individual I won't be implementing and am therefore not tied in any way to a specific solution; I can truly be that independent advisor. The more I thought about it, the more I realised this is really what I want to do, so I have spent a few months with a wonderful business advisor Lorna from Ledcom (as part of Invest NI business start program) and I start trading on March 1st.

 I never realised just how much was involved, I had everything from my old employer and have had to start from scratch, even the telephone and broadband at home needed new contracts, then everything from new phone, tablet, PC, bank accounts, stationery, website, email, UKOUG membership and even VAT registration! So I promise you it has not just been watching Jeremy Kyle (awful daytime tv) in my onesie!

 In the meantime I have had some minor surgery, taken advice of friends and had a break, diving in Egypt and catching up with friends over new year, and as I type this I am onboard an aircraft to the Philippines for more diving. I have been very busy with UKOUG leading the Ireland and AppsTransformation event teams and the most exciting for me Next Generation.

And I am posting this on my birthday via a scheduler as I intend to be at the bottom of the sea.

 So look out for my posting early march when the new me is revealed.


Wednesday 12 February 2014


In my last post I talked about presentations I am doing this year and I realise that one of my main drives is talking about what Oracle call AppAdvantage which was launched at Oracle Open World.

This concept is the understanding of what business issues can be delivered using Fusion Middleware, something that I am really interested in, because Fusion Applications are the ultimate incarnation of this.

I haven't written much about AppAdvantage on this blog because I am actually a guest blogger for Oracle on the subject but I really should be linking the two. So here are the articles I have written so far.
Look out for the next one which I think is published on 20th Feb. And if you want to know more about AppAdvantage come to the UKOUG Apps Transformation event 18th March.

Monday 10 February 2014

Please Use Your Vote For UKOUG

It's the annual voting for UKOUG and as a director I urge you to vote, but as Debra Lilley I want you to vote for me.

Times have been hard at UKOUG, a lot of change as we get the right model for the community and as previously shared it is constantly difficult to achieve everything we do within the financial challenges we have.

 At UKOUG we rely on volunteers and because life changes sometimes those volunteers have to stop volunteering and UKOUG have to adapt. Last January we had the situation where we needed 3 new board members at one time, and Fiona Martin, Peter Robson and others stepped up to help and more importantly keep us legal. Then in July as part of Project Evolution we streamlined the organisation and the board was made up of James of 3 executive directors, plus David Warburton-Broadhurst our President, Fiona Martin our Member Chairman and myself as Member Advocate.

Fiona and I are up for re-election now and I urge you to re-elect us both, change is difficult and doesn't happen overnight, please give us another term to finish what we have started and turn around the challenges we face.
UKOUG has successfully introduced working groups that deliver our special events and conferences which is a model working well. We lead these groups of committed active volunteers alongside the office and it is a great way for volunteers who want a one off project to commit to rather than an ongoing role. In the last year I have led Ireland and Applications and am currently working again on Ireland, our New Applications Transformation event in March and the very exciting Next Generation project. Fiona has delivered Strategy and Tech Conference and the Licensing event coming up in March.

We won't walk away from UKOUG but there is no better motivation than to know you are appreciated and you can show that by voting for us. Please do, and if you are not the voting person in your membership, please lobby for us to them.

Thank you.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Conference Speaking First Half 2014

Thanks to Roel Hartman and his latest post 'Where'sWally' I have been motivated to list my speaking calendar for the first half of 2014, and as Markus Eisele (@myfear) recently tweeted 'My 2013 conference calendar:… quite impressive year for it being "just a hobby" :)'

My first conference is in Nodia on 19th February, near Delhi which is the 2nd stop of the #otnyathra ACE tour. We visit several cities working west to East, North to South of India and I am so excited. I have never been to India before. In each city I will be talking about Mobile & UX and How BI works in Fusion Applications.

 Then I return to the UK and within days it is my local conference OUG_IRE in Dublin  on 11th March where I will be talking about AppAdvantage and Mobile & UX with Oracle.
Just a few days later on the 18th March and it is the UKOUG AppsTransformation event in London where I will again be talking about AppAdvantage.
These two events are very important to me as they are both UKOUG and I am leading the working groups for these as well as Next Generation (more about this in a later blog).

On April 3rd I set sail with OUGN, and whilst I really enjoyed the last time I did this conference it finished with the Ash Cloud and an eventful two weeks. I will be speaking here on AppAdvantage again.
Immediately after OUGN is it back to the US for Collaborate in Las Vegas where I will again be talking about AppAdvantage, this time jointly with Oracle. Collaborate is the biggest apps event of the user group calendar and I hope to be able to catch up on what is happening in each of the applications unlimited products as well as friends from all over.

 As May begins I will be in Israel for iLOUG which is very exciting and here again the subject is AppAdvantage and Fusion UX.

 Most important for me in May is the UKOUG initiative Next Generation which we hope will have 3 small events, and where I will give a quick run down of all things Oracle to those just starting out on their Oracle careers, again more about this in a later blog.

 And I finish the half year at Kscope in Seattle June 22, I am not speaking this year but ODTUG it is a conference I love and a chance to educate myself more on how people are using the FMW I am positioning in AppAdvantage.