Monday 20 April 2015

Collaborate 2015 - Final Thoughts

Last year after Collaborate 2014, I titled my blog, A Rainbow of Emotions, and that could easily have been the same this year.

The other blogs in this series talk about the great things at Collaborate, here I am having a little moan about the things that could be better. I have included all in my feedback because if you don't give feedback your user group can't improve.

This year I had 5 papers selected over OAUG and Quest, which in itself causes problems, you should only need 1 registration, but if as a speaker you get invited to a reception, you can only attend if you are registered with that user group. If you register with more than one you have to pay $200 because each hotel booking is linked to a specific user group and there is a levy if you don’t have a preferred hotel booking, or linked to the right group. It is good that you can attend sessions across all 3-user groups but there are still too many divisions.

The mobile app still had issues, I couldn't get it to sync my comments with my twitter account, I did report it to the App Desk, but it was an API issue unlikely to be resolved during the life of the event. I still wish we could have had private meetings that we were able to enter online in the mobile app, and finally I couldn't even have my own session in my agenda it had an error. But persevere Collaborate, mobile apps are wanted and appreciated.

This year Collaborate was back at the Mandalay Bay which is a the furthest end of Las Vegas but I did go down all the way to Fremont doing the tourist bit, but nothing I saw has changed my mind about Vegas. I don’t feel comfortable there. At the high end there are people who enjoy the shows and gamble responsibly, but there is also desperation, exploitation and misery.

Cloud or Fusion Apps are still a concern, it was fantastic to speak to so many users but there is still a lot of education needed. Remember not everyone has the luxury of hearing the message everyday. I spent time with the OAUG Japan contingent and they had lots of questions, but checked with the local Oracle office who have more information planned and there is an IOUC Asia meeting in Taipei soon.

The exhibition was very busy with lots of companies old and new represented. Some traditional companies were missing, it seems Collaborate has the same challenges as UKOUG.

These are the little things I mention, but the big things about Collaborate is the networking, the education, and the chance to meet old friends and make new ones. You can't fail to enjoy Collaborate, there is so much going on, and a final word, I think my feet have still to recover although my doctor would be proud of my daily step count!

Collaborate 2015 - Happy Birthday to Quest & OAUG

OAUG are celebrating 25 years and Quest 20 years, both took time to party at Collaborate.

OAUG held their members reception in the Light nightclub, which has a cirque du soleil theme

Quest had a phenomenal cake and champagne toast in the exhibition.

        HAPPY BIRTHDAYS to them both

Well done to both, who continue, like IOUG and ourselves at UKOUG, along with all user groups to serve their members.

Return to main Collaborate post

Collaborate 2015 - Networking

All conferences are about networking and it is always what scores highest on delegate feedback forms. Some of it is formal sessions like the welcome parties and others are amongst friends.

On Sunday I attended the overseas delegates lunch, and then both the OAUG and Quest receptions in the evening. At the Quest session it was great to catch up with John Schiff who is such a great supporter of UKOUG.

Monday I attended the WIT lunch and met a great number of interested ladies in IT. I also attended a session on using twitter, and won myself a gift card, thank you IOUG.

At the main exhibition drinks it was great to just wander around and meet people, and help Kerry out with the UKOUG stand.

Later it was the ACE reception and thank you Vikki for all you do for us. I didn't stay too late as I was speaking early the next day.

Tuesday was the IOUC dinner, and more exhibition time where Quest cut their birthday cake.

Wednesday I took part in a meerkat streaming session with Faun DeHenry, this is new to me but fun.

With Daniel from Quest

The Collaborate appreciation event was a Groovy 60s night and I got to dress up in a long wig, it was amazing how many people didn't recognise me. Including my colleague Ian but then I didn't recognise him either.

As is now traditional, I went with the Cenovus crowd and we were last to leave after the party.

On Thursday as the day progresses it gets quieter, I even went to a session on planning with IOUG and one of the things they talked about was the importance of knowing exactly what is meant by a time. I suggested Redwood time, as every Oracle user knows where they are relative to PST.

I went to a fantastic restaurant Hugh's Cellar under the 4 Queens Casino in Fremont with friends and it was a dining experience. I was so full after the salad which was made personally at the table, i couldn't eat my duck, let along the chocolate dipped fruit. so i took it back, however Mandalay Bay doesn't have cutlery in the rooms (or you could get the spoon out of the coffee cup for $4), so I ate cold duck in a fabulous orange sauce using ice tongs for my breakfast Friday.

Then Friday before I left I was able to tick off something from my bucket list, I got to go to In-n_out burgers for the first time. We walked which was an adventure, it was amazing how many people arrived fro their $6 meal in taxis.

One off the List, my first trip to In-n-out
I liked it, I also liked that they pay good wages, and I liked that the company's christian principles are included but not pushed. It si very clever just to put a bible reference on the packaging, everyone wants to know what it is. I have 'an app for that', so was able to help out.

So another great conference, lots of old and new friends.

Return to main Collaborate post

Collaborate 2015 - Certus Presentations

I had 5 sessions accepted at Collaborate, the first was about User Groups and Communities and the other 4 were Certus presentations.

I did a presentation on AppAdvantage, an updated repeat of Oracle Open World presentation I did with Rick Beers, this time just on my own. It was a small audience so I was able to speak directly about their companies.

I did a presentation on 'DO Cloud Applications Stack Up?' which as always creates good questions. This is getting more and more popular as companies are seriously starting to consider, even if not for the immediate future.

My favourite sessions were the two on PaaS4SaaS which was the story of our journey so far. This was a joint presentation with my colleague Ian Carline and we were joined by Julian Orr from the Oracle UX team, who was part of our workshop back in January. There is a white paper for this presentation which I will get loaded and linked to.

The proof of concept that we carried out, has given us so much exposure, it is amazing how many people haven't done their own thinking around this, and we are happy to share our learnings. We did find a few examples of people using PaaS in simple use cases and it is great to see these small steps towards adoption in the Oracle SaaS world.

I also took part in some more UX usability sessions looking at future ideas for expenses which in my role would make life much easier. Certus, not only myself have a long tradition in taking part in these sessions, the ability to see ideas being worked on and to be a real part of the input considered.

Return to main Collaborate post

Collaborate 2015 - Motivational Speaker and is WIT like Art?

Eric Wahl is according to his website, a graffiti artist. He said he didn’t use his skills until well into his 30s when he was made redundant from a corporate job during the bust. 

He told his story whilst painting, painting a phenominal picture of Bono. He talked about us all being artists, although afraid to do anything about it. He asked the audience how many were artists, with only 1 or 2 hands going up, yet he said if he asked a class of 11 year olds it would be perhaps 20% and if he asked a class of 5 year olds it would be everyone. Why do children stop believing they can paint? What do we do to turn off that creativity?

He also said we have to take a chance in life, be brave to achieve, which he demonstrated by having someone in the audience, who caught a ball he threw out, think he was going to be challenged to do something scary (based on a US TV program called Fear Factor). Actually what he did was give him an envelope with the challenge inside which said he would own the painting.

He did 2 more paintings, Steve Jobs and Einstein, both of which were raffled later in the week.

The question of when do we stop believing in ourselves, and what makes that happen, really stayed with me. Is it something we teach 'out' of children, 'condition' them for corporate life?

Is this what stops girls looking for a career in technology? When you see a room full of 5 year olds there is nothing to differentiate the exploring minds that will make them iPad experts (if they aren't already). 

Do we teach 'out' technology in girls?

Return to main Collaborate post

Collaborate 2015 - Quest Executive Forum

Every year Quest hold a very successful Executive Forum at Collaborate, and this year I wanted to attend to see how UKOUG could learn from them, we are always looking to increase our senior attendees and I wanted to learn what Quest do differently.

First invitations are sent to anyone with an executive job title already registered for the conference, which means that these executives, or their management team were attending anyway, There is quite good content on professional development, but most content is similar to any other user group, a mixture of customer and vendor presentations on upgrades, special features and oracle roadmap sessions.

The Oracle product team, Lyle Edkdal and John Schiff have great passion for their customers, are very open and encourage dialogue both at group and individual level; but so do most product teams, yet UKOUG are not alone in wanting to reach more at the top of an organisation. So why does this user group have such a thriving executive forum?

The day kicked off with talk from Colonel Anthony Wood who talked about his experiences in the Marines at the Fall of Saigon. The story he told was to about 'Being a commanding leader, regardless - and in some cases in spite of - the situation' and in the weeks after Collaborate as the world started to mark the 40th anniversary of the Fall, I thought more and more about what he had to say.

The next session was from Nigel Fenwick from Forrester who talked about CIOs Accelerate Business Technology, and this was a great look at how, when a CIO embraces Digital Change the right way, an organisation can take advantage of it rather than be left behind. I found this summary which talks a bit more about it. 

The next speaker was Mark Sunday, Oracle's own CIO who as I mentioned before is the ultimate Oracle user and it is always fascinating to listen to their internal story.

I had to leave after lunch as I had sessions of my own to deliver, but it was a great morning, and I want to say thank you to Quest for the invitation and especially Jesse for the talk over lunch about how this works.

The things that stood out for me were:

  • Most of the Executives attending are from the JDE community, and have been on board with the user group from the beginning of their JDE journey.
  • JDE has a high percentage of mid market customers and the CIOs are closer to the product, more engaged with the challenges, more personally interested in the products.
  • The CIOs brought their top management with them, or perhaps the top management who are those engaged with Quest bring their CIOs to the event. 
  • Sponsors are happy to engage because they know the success in bringing this rich community together.

This has given me and UKOUG lots to think about, but top of my list and something I hadn't thought about before was that we have a new community of mid market customers emerging, those net new customers for Cloud Applications, and this is something we in user groups need to start thinking about, quickly.

Return to main Collaborate post

Collaborate 2015 - User Group Thoughts

There is not normally many IOUC official meetings at Collaborate as the 3 user groups hosting, IOUG, QUEST and OAUG are too busy to take part but they all try to include Usergroup leaders in invitations to their receptions.

This year however there was an international delegates lunch on the Sunday with a 100 or so guests and EOUC had a good representation, interestingly the biggest contingents came from Iceland.

This was followed by my first session that was on understanding communities and how user groups fit in. I had also written an article for OTech magazine that was published in the lead up to collaborate.

Mary Lou Dopart who runs the IOUC on behalf of Global Customer Programs, did have a user group leaders dinner on the Tuesday evening that I was invited to. There were not too many in attendance about 20, but it was good to catch up. Mary Lou had invited Mark Sunday who had been the first Oracle keynote speaker and who had also spoken at the Quest Executive Forum and I was privileged to sit with him for a while. He was happy to answer questions all evening and truly understands the value of user groups.

As Mark Hurd was scheduled to be the main keynote speaker on Wednesday, Mary Lou had arranged an audience for user group leaders, and we had met a few times over the phone and in person in preparation for the meeting.

On Wednesday John Fowler head of Engineering met with Usergroup leaders and I had a question for him from our infrastructure SIG,, as we discussed this John said ‘something like a wizard?’, which I agreed would be ideal. He said he couldn’t promise that but we talked towards him sharing some of the education they give sales, through adapted webinars for Usergroup leaders and some sharing or rather highlighting of solution guides.

Unfortunatly Mark Hurd did not make Collaborate so we took the opportunity to meet with Jeb DeSteel instead, Jeb heads up GCP.

Most user groups have the same core challenges, how to attract and maintain members in a world that is constantly changing and presenting new challenges and threats them. Mark Hurd has said that he wants Usergroup membership to grow, as there is evidence that user group members are happier customers.

The number one ask from all user groups is always to help reach customers that are unknown to them. Data privacy means Oracle cannot simply share the data, and it seems that the simple answer would be to just reach out to all new customers and tell them, but the problem is, the independence of user groups means that there are overlapping product, industry and geographical groups all wanting the same. Oracle can do more to point customers at users groups generically but in turn we must create content for a site that explains and guides customers in their choices. It has been agreed that the IOUC will create a task force to do this, and in turn Oracle will look at ways to do more when we are ready.

Another big request from users groups to be keep informed of Oracle events which normally being free to attend and funded by Oracle, can be competition especially when landed at short notice. The answer is always good communication between the local players and this is something UKOUG and Oracle UK constantly strive to achieve.

I also started a conversation about the new type of users that Cloud Applications are introducing. Midsize companies are disrupting Oracle both as consumers of apps and as a sales challenge. JDEdwards traditionally has a lot of midsize customers, and I think we, both UKOUG and Oracle can learn from this community.

GCP took notes throughout the event, at all these formal and not so formal meetings and UKOUG will play a big part in the follow up.

Return to main Collaborate post

Collaborate 2015 - Keynotes

Collaborate had done really well with keynote lineups this year, although I struggled with understanding the competitive sponsor session from IBM. It was very well delivered and some great generic statements but it was direct competition to Oracle’s offerings.

Mark Sunday, who is Oracle CIO, is the ultimate Oracle user, we had him speak at UKOUG in 2011 and he was great then as well.

Mark Sunday talked about how having access to everything Oracle produces, constantly being an early adopter and also being the best promoter of products. Oracle doesn’t just run IT for its internal business, as a cloud provider it is also running IT for thousands of customers. They have 13,000 engineered systems alone. This is where Oracle is transforming itself and enabling digital disruption, but also reminded us that cloud is subscription and customer experience is paramount for renewals

Collaborate had secured Mark Hurd as a keynote speaker and his presence was keenly anticipated by everyone, not least myself as there was to be a users group leaders meeting directly afterwards.

Vegas is simply surrounded by desert, and any strong wind causes dust to be a problem. Tuesday night was really bad and although the airport was less than half a mile away, and normally very easily seen from my hotel window, it was completely hidden. Many flights were cancelled and those that did make it in had uncomfortable journeys. Wednesday the worst was over, but flights were still affected, especially private planes and the Oracle company jet was a casualty. I understand that the flight was delayed taking off until the airport thought it would be able to land, but when it arrived they had it circling for so long they eventually gave up and flew back to California.

Jeb Dasteel, SVP, GCP
The organisers were informed that Mark was delayed but thought he would arrive, so the keynote was not cancelled, and as predicted the room was full. Then the three sets of leaders along with GCP, the part of Oracle responsible for users groups could be seen in a huddle by the stage. It was obvious there was a problem, Lissa English, President of OAUG took to the stage and announced that Mark was delayed but expected in 10 – 15 minutes. No one seemed too worried at this point. The huddle, although I am not sure of the collective term for very nervous user group leaders, perhaps ‘panic’, got more animated and eventually Jeb Dasteel the SVP of GCP got up on stage and explained that whilst Mark was still trying to get there it was going to be too late for him to make the keynote.

Jeb did an excellent job of addressing the crowd, underling Oracle’s commitment to the user group concept and talked about some of the changes going on with Cloud. The keynote was then officially over and most people were disappointed but accepted the situation, there were a few tweets even joking about ‘Larry being the pilot’. It did not make the event any less successful.

Return to main Collaborate post

Collaborate 2015 - Very Varied Vegas

Collaborate 2015 was held last week, and as it is frequently, it was held in Vegas.

So much to say, so as is my norm I have broken it down to a series of shorter posts:

I was attending Collaborate with Certus-Solutions, my employer, but as always represent UKOUG, who did have a stand in the exhibition hall, manned by Kerry Stuart.

It was a great event and I will see you all again in 2016.

Yes It's Election Time; UKOUG Need You To Vote

Currently it seems everywhere you turn someone is giving you advice as to how to vote, well I am no exception. This is a personal plea for the UKOUG elections that opened today.

I am asking you to vote for Fiona Martin as Member Advocate Chair and Linda Barker as President.

Last year I asked you to return Fiona Martin and myself as member advocates. As these were new roles, and we wanted to ensure future maturity on the board, my role was for two years, and Fiona stood for a single year. Thank you for voting for us.

It is great that we have a choice of candidates, and all can serve UKOUG in volunteer roles but I would like to give my recommendations:

Fiona is now standing for re-election and I urge that you vote for her. UKOUG has gone through a lot of changes, and more to come. Fiona has been instrumental in working with communities and project managers to ensure we have been able to deliver, the strategy she worked with volunteers to produce. She is also key in our relationship with Oracle.

Currently our board has 6 members, 3 appointed who have operational responsibilities and 3 voted for to represent the members.

David Rowntree is the longest serving member on the current board who is responsible for Finance, he was joined by Bryan Foss in November and Pauline Drummond who recently took up the role of Interim CEO when James Haslam left UKOUG after 19 years.

This means we have two appointed board members with less than 6 months experience, and will have a new new president. I want the board to be able to support them from a position of experience; returning Fiona to the board means she can continue the work she has done and together she and I can support a new President, the appointed board members and in time our new CEO.

I also urge you to vote for Linda as President, she is want UKOUG aspire towards; an end user President. The outgoing President David Warburton-Broadhurst was appointed President (we didn't elect this role at that time) because he was an end user and it was welcomed by UKOUG and Oracle.

Linda has the excellent pedigree of having been an active member of UKOUG and experience in a wide portfolio of products, and I am confident will bring fresh ideas to the table. She also has director experience and will be able to be effective immediately.

Voting for Fiona and Linda gives a mix of experience and new ideas - the right mix being important to the board

Please vote, and if you are not the voting person in your membership, please lobby for us to them.

Webinar on why HCM Cloud?

Cloud is not only a disruptive technology for existing Oracle customers but is making enterprise systems available to a much wider group of people.

I wrote about this recently in Oracle Scene , was previously interviewed by HR Aspects Magazine. "How can Cloud HCM Transform your Business?" and was discussing with senior executives in Oracle at Collaborate last week.

Listen to what I believe as Certus Solutions hold a free 30 minute webinar "How Oracle HCM be affordable but yet the best breed of HCM Solution" on April 24th or 6th May - please join us

Tuesday 7 April 2015

Certus-Solutions, Six Months In

Six months ago in September I joined Certus. They got ‘Cloud’ and had great ideas and success that I wanted to be part off.

I guess most of what I do comes under the title of enablement.

Get the Certus name more widely known, and yes I am speaking, blogging, tweeting and simply being known as working for Certus but it their success with customers that makes them stand out.

They retained, gold for UKOUG partner awards for Training and moved from silver to gold for Fusion, no small feat and much appreciated these are customer voted for awards. In the Oracle partner awards they were short listed for both Cloud Applications and Specialized partner, which for a company that does not resell, and 3 years ago were unheard of, is amazing.

Certus stated they wanted to move into the world of PaaS toprovide extensions to SaaS where it was the right thing to do. This was a major exercise just separating the reality from the marketing in the run up to Oracle Open World, and then digging deep into it. I have spoken at length about where we are on this journey, and you can follow it on my guest posts for Oracle as well as my own and of course on the Certus webpage. Winning a partner award, the first partner award for Cloud at the Fusion Middleware Community Forum was unexpected but much appreciated. Certus does believe that sharing our knowledge is the right thing to do, yes perhaps it does help competitors but it also gives us leads and partnering opportunities.

I am also working on references with our customers and this is so interesting. I came from a world of mainly large public sector and now I am working in all sectors and several mid market organisations that would never of considered Oracle in the past. This is an area I really enjoy, it is so easy just to remember the challenges of a project, but when you look back at what has been achieved you can be really proud.

I come from an EBS Financials background and Certus have depth in HCM so I have been doing a lot of learning, but as I have been a manager for many years I did at least understand what HCM processes were.

As Certus builds its profile that means the website as well and I have been helping marketing with content that helps visitors understand a typical Cloud Journey, and how we have helped others.

When I started on September 1st, one of our customers had not even signed a contractJT, formerly Jersey Telecom, needed a system that could support them today, including all their acquired companies who were not yet integrated, but also support them as they grow. Their people are key to their success and an enterprise HCM system was needed to underpin that. Roll on 5 months and the first two phases are live and I am working with them on submissions to Oracle Open World. They have a great story to tell. Oracle have already asked them to be on the customer panel for the HCM ModernApplications Day, recognising what a great achievement this has been.

JT took us into Australia and we have set up a satellite offering there, training initially but want to work with local partners as they start their journeys to the Cloud.

I love teaching and started with Certus delivering UX education on behalf of Oracle, and hope to do more of that. Certus deliver all the HCM Cloud training for both Alliance & Channels, and Oracle University and we are hoping to do more ERP training as well.

Working with customers at the start of their journey, when they haven't even made a decision to go yet, but want to understand options and strategies, this is the bit I love most. I have worked with a number of potential Cloud customers around ERP as well as HCM.

I have also done some authoring, a bit unexpected but one customer needed very specific training in compensation management, this normally only happens once a year so they wanted to ensure it was captured at a very detailed level to ensure they could do this next year without help. I loved doing it.

I have got involved in a number of partner forums with Oracle, not just FMW but also Cloud and PaaS, Oracle need field feedback and in return you get access to product management who will give you heads up on what is coming, and help you with your ambitions.

Certus also get involved with beta testing of Cloud Applications, which for us is a constant role as there is an upgrade every 6 months. Being asked is an honour and being asked again shows that you are valuable to them.

Certus not only implements Cloud Applications we have an Engage Business Support Services, a wrapper to help customers with coexistence and through upgrades, not because they are difficult, they are not, but to help them understand and decide what new features to implement or use. Our customers trust us to be alongside them as they make each step in the Cloud.

My contract with Certus recognises the need for investment to stay a thought leader and the support from them is phenomenal. Being an ACE director takes effort and time but the rewards outweigh that, the network into development and product management, time and time again pay off, but I have seen so many supported to reach ACE Director but then get swallowed up and loose it a few years later.

Certus is the leading HCM Cloud implementer in the UK and wants to move towards that in ERP. I want to be part of that journey and after 6 months can defiantly say I made the right choice.

Friday 3 April 2015

Benelux User Group OBUG - Experience 2015 - 24th March

Experience 2015, was held at Evoluon which used to be a science museum owned by Phillips Electrical which practically owned Eindhoven, the town were it is located. The centre is no longer a museum but a great conference venue.

The exhibition was fantastic, Oracle were out in force and and Jeremy Ashley had bought over 6 people from the UX team, including Vlad Babu (@vladbabu), who had been drafted in for Budapest. All the major partners from the Benelux region were also in attendance and the Customer Experience team had their journey mapping workshops available. We had these at UKOUG in December and they are a fantastic way to understand where you need to concentrate / enhance your solutions. What I don’t understand is why are they being limited to the CX product family, I can see value in what they do for HCM and ERP, less so I agree but still valuable.

My first session was my now properly prepared ‘Are Cloud Applications Ready?’ and it was a lunchtime session so I expected a small audience but actually I was happy with the number, and later I did ‘PaaS4SaaS’ and had an equally good number.

The keynote at the start of the day was Jeremy Ashley (VP) and Andrew Sutherland (SVP) who had never worked together before but it just flowed. They had made a videobefore and another compelation after which just shows how much value they bought to the audience. At the end of the day the final keynote was Matthew Banks from the CX team, and my, did he command the stage and make everyone sit up and listen. I need to get him to UKOUG.

The delegate numbers could have been higher and I know from personal experience how disappointing that can be, you put so much passion and personal effort into an event, you get the venue, the exhibition and the sessions and the keynotes right so why not the audience? We at UKOUG have had the same issues around what is coming, members traditionally look at what they are doing today and how to get more out of it, and expect that anything about the future is for their boss or will be simply marketing. It isn’t just marketing, and for your personal development it is important to understand what is next.

At UKOUG we are working hard with our conference and SIG committees to try and get the balance right, but we don’t have the magic formula either, perhaps this is something to discuss at the next EOUC meeting, lets see if another Usergroup has solved the problem?

But OBUG, it was a fantastic event and you should be really proud.