Sunday 24 April 2016

I Love My Job But Time to Move

When I joined Certus Solutions in Sept 2014, I loved that it was a small organisation where the owners Mark Sweeny and Tim Warner were betting everything on Fusion Apps. They believed in the Cloud and that there was a gap in the market for a niche partner.

They started weigh a few other industry experts and the first few years as told in Mark's own blog was a hard struggle, but by the time I arrived they had won the hearts and minds of both Oracle Development and a handful of customers, when most other partners were struggling to even start the move.

There were just over 20 people in Certus when I joined. Originally they had an associate model but over that year had moved to an employee model. Success was coming regularly and the team get growing, and last year they bought a small partner in Australia to grow there as well. 

The New Office and Cakes to Celebrate
Now Certus is over 60 people and we had simply out grown the office. You never get everyone in, many people work from home or on customer sites but even for a single project meeting it was hard to find space. So in the middle of last year they started to look for bigger premisses and last Friday we moved. Not far, we used to be at the back of Guildford station and now we are at the front.

The new office is lovely, lots of space, lots of light and lots of meeting areas. We had a company meeting and Maria, who along with some help from Dodie, Charlene and Megan had worked flat out on the process, provided a small celebration, and we didn't have enough chairs!

Congratulations to Certus, it is a great team to be part of and I really can say 'I love my job'.

C16LV - Having Fun in Vegas

As I mentioned in one of the other postings I don't actually like Vegas, however once I arrive and meet up with my friends it is fun.

This year as ever I managed to catch up with most, but the community I miss is EBS, as I move further and further away from here I see less of the team. I do see Nadia Bendjedou at a lot of events around the world, but very few of the others. However I did see most whilst pacing the show grounds or sessions, no one missing their step count at Collaborate. I also met Steven Chan in an elevator on the last day and it was great to catch up with him. 

I attended the IOUG first networking party to see Deiby Gomez received his Select Journal Award, this young man is our future in user groups, we need more like him. I was also pleased to see Alex Gorbachev thanked for his contribution. Well done to all the winners.

Then I popped along to the Quest Kickoff. I am not a JDE or PeopleSoft user but their Oracle Product Executives support Quest and UKOUG and over the years have become friends. I love the customer intimacy that Quest has for their members.

I was speaking for OAUG and their kick off party looked amazing although having attended the other two events I was too tired to join the very long queue to get into the nightclub.

Monday evening I has the ACE Dinner and Tuesday was all the vendor parties. Wednesday was the party and I had a great time. Thursday evening when the event was over I spent time first with Dan Norris (Oracle Exadata but more importantly the man who persuaded me to try diving) and his wife Ann. Later I met up with Daniel Strassberg and his wife Sharon from Sydney and several other Quest people.

I did manage a couple of hours by the pool but to be honest the weather wasn't too good this year and it was quite cool. Sadly I broke a flipflop, no big deal except these were flipflop my daughter bought me many years ago and I loved dearly. I did manage a temporary fix with a delegate pin badge and it was so successful I felt like MacGyver!

Then all too soon it was time to go again. 

I have over the years made many friends in the user group community and I could spend the entire week catching up without actually attending anything at conference, so if I missed anyone I really apologise.

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C16LV - User Group Focus

As at last year's event, user groups from around the world took the opportunity to get together and talk with Oracle. Jeb DaSteel and he gave us an update on initiatives started last year and shared with us a few ideas Global Customer Programs have for the coming year.

One of those initiatives will have a bearing on my own role in the day job, so whilst I can't share the details yet I can tell you they are very positive and look forward to them.

May 31st or Oracle Year End always sees changes in organisations within Oracle and this year there will be some in the User Group Team, it will be interesting to see exactly what that means, and change is a good thing.

The Oracle team arranged some special sessions for user group leaders, small Q&A sessions with a few key Oracle speakers. 

Prior to the event there was a combined survey across the users' groups on people's attitude towards Cloud and Digital Adoption and this was discussed in the first keynote Trends & Technologies Shaping Your Future. One of the top concerns was security, so I was really pleased that I was able to attend the User Group Q&A on security with Ben Nelson

This is an example of how Oracle facilitate networks with key parts of their organisation and the user groups, so that your leaders can have access to briefings and are able to ask questions you the members need answering.

Michelle Malcher past President of IOUG has just written a book on User Group Leadership and I was honoured to be given a signed copy. For anyone thinking about getting involved or understanding more I would certainly recommend it.

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C16LV - The Mobile App

Conferences need mobile apps, but I am yet to see the perfect one, and that includes UKOUG. In a tech world you think we could just write one but and if there is someone out there with nothing to do and doesn't need to earn any money, let me know.

Anyway there was a Collaborate16 App and it was one of the best I have seen.

Multiple Session Selection

It did allow you to select more than one session in any time slot. As a delegate this is important because there may be two or more you fancy seeing and if the app only allows you to only select one then if that turns out to be the wrong one, you need to start looking for an alternative.

However it may cause problems for event organisers who are trying to allocate rooms based on interest, although that is unlikely to be a problem in Vegas. Also speakers were able to see the interest in their sessions which didn't match up to the actual numbers who showed up.

But the delegate experience must come first, so this was good.
Log in screen

Missing - Personal Time

Conferences are brilliant for networking and for meeting up with people so a MUST is to be able to enter your own meetings, which we couldn't do on this app.

Twitter Feed

This was brilliant, as long as you had correct tag it worked, that is what we want, you dint have to tweet from within the app so if you use tools for scheduling etc they still worked.

Best and Most Annoying Feature

The Collaborate App was keep up to date and was really good, the best feature for me was where rooms were linked to a map. Not everyone attends Collaborate every year, I do and it still takes me to Thursday each year to remember where every room is and how to get there quickly.

The worst feature was the delay each time you opened it, whilst it 'logged on'!

However much better than many I have seen and the wifi at Collaborate was awesome. Well done Folks.

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C16LV - Celebration of Motivational, Strong Women

As is traditional at every IT conference now, Women in IT was featured at Collaborate.

At the WIT lunch session Heli Helsakyo gave an impassioned story of success in a country that the very next day was shown to be in the top countries for women on IT (all 4 at the top are scandinavian). It was very inspiring. So many people came up to her afterwards and throughout the rest of the event, saying thank you and sharing their POSITIVE stories. The lunch she spoke at was over subscribed and had a good number of men attended.

Michelle spots her name in print
The Women in IT panel was hosted by Michelle Malcher and she was a fantastic host, she kicked off the event by telling the audience to celebrate what they had achieved so far. She then led a panel of strong women, Helene Abrams, Janis Griffin, Megan Rae and Laura Ramsey, who shared experience, tactics to achieve more success and obvious passion. When it came to question time Michelle showed her skills to moderate fairly and never once took over the answers for herself, letting many from the considerable audience add their experience.

Some amazing women
Both these sessions were so positive and the attendees were motivated and energised. Well done Collaborate, and throughout the event many people were recognised for their contributions and many of those were women, so I was really disappointed when all that work appeared to over-shadowed by discussions around the suitability of a few dancers at the event party.

As a user group leader myself I know just how difficult it is to pull off an event that pleases everybody within the venue and budget constraints you have. At my first Las Vegas Collaborate the event was a pool party, and the weather let them down, although as a european I thought it was great, a nice breeze and a break from the incessant air conditioning. Coming indoors the only option is the keynote room which is basically almost an aircraft hanger so you are limited.

Vegas is a show town and I think looking back they have had many events looking back at different eras, the 80s, the 70s and this year it was Vegas now and then. I thought it was authentic and the dancing go-go girls would have been part of the era.

Having Fun at the party 
I didn't see a mass exodus, I did see a lot of women go to the dance floor and dance to the band, and enjoy themselves. I myself danced on a podium with a friend and someone from OAUG Japan I don't know, and it was fun. 

I attended along with Heli a private gathering with a number of SIG leaders after Collaborate finished. It was mainly women, and their discussion was about the positivity and not one comment about the party. 

Coincidentally I was offended at the event but by an individual delegate not by the dancers.

But I want to suggest there is a double standard here. It is no secret that I don't really like Vegas, I don't gamble and hate the fact I am in an overly expensive hotel that forces me and every other guest including children to walk through the casino to go anywhere. When the rest of the world has moved on from smoking in public here it is encouraged. And the women providing drinks, hosting the tables, selling the cigars are all dressed with far more intent to titivate than the gogo dancers that started this debate. I have always personally found Vegas uncomfortable, but Vegas is the conference capital of the world and events from all industries are regularly held there.

I don't blame the Collaborate organisers for being in Vegas and certainly not for the party. The event itself delivered the networking, education and encouragement required to a lot of delegates; their talk on the last day was all about the content and new networks.

At the Wednesday keynote Boris Brott spoke and played the audience as an orchestra, and that was the best Collaboration I have ever had at any conference. Let's remember that a fully inclusive exercise is doing something together.

Please don't let this debate overlook the good work the user groups did here.

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C16LV - Best Collaborate Ever

Collaborate is a conference held by 3 user groups however apart from the party and plenary keynotes the sessions and activities are separate. 

You are welcome to attend most of the sessions but some and events are limited to who you registered through. As a user group leader I wish there was a ribbon or badge that allowed me to move between them. 

Anyway Boris Brott was the motivational or re-energise speaker on the Wednesday a plenary keynote with a difference. 

It was billed as 'Internationally renowned symphony conductor Boris Brott draws analogies between performances in an orchestra and performance in business: creativity, process, communication and achievement'.

The session started slowly and I thought it was too manufactured as he read highly scripted analogies with Collaborate from the auto cue however after about 10 minutes he switched up a gear to his own well practiced content.

Then he had a surprise for us, under each seat was a tone bar. There was a few thousand people in the room divided into 5 groups and each group had a different note. Then he conducted us to play music, real music.

Now I am looking for a recording of the event but as yet no one has posted anything, but I found this one on youtube from 2008 and it is almost 'word for word' the same. If you start at 7:30 minutes and ignore the fashion of the day it could have been us.

It was amazing and I have to say the best Collaboration I have ever seen at this event over many years. This was brilliant. Well done the organisers.

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C16LV - Oracle ACE Community

This was the first big event since Vikki Lira left the OTN team so it was a little sad, although we haven't lost Vikki she has gone to the User Experience Team and I do so much with that team I expect to do even more with Vikki.

I actually flew to Vegas via San Francisco (don't ask) and Jennifer who looks after us ACEs was on the same flight, so I felt 'on duty' from the word go. 

There was a wonderful ACE dinner on Monday night hosted by Roland Smart who runs OTN and a great chance to catch up with friends old and new.

Michelle Malcher doing her interview with Laura Ramsay
On Tuesday after the WIT session, Laura Ramsay interviewed me for her OTN video collection, and that will appear on the youtube channel in due course. I talk about Cloud Readiness. Over the last 18 months the PaaS stable has gone from 2 products to over 32 and people ask if it is ready, can Oracle cope, is it stable etc? I don't know all the answers, but I can tell you as someone who has worked in Cloud Apps for over 3 years that they work. Yes there have been challenges but all have been overcome and the continuous innovation really does mean you can get the most out of your investment all the time. Oracle do need to ensure that as they scale out the customers the Cloud Service function scales as well but I am confident they can do it, after all they have bet everything on this.

On Monday I did an interview with IT Central Station, who Wall Street Journal calls 'The Yelp for Enterprise Technology' and I look forward to that too being posting.

This wasn't an ACE event, but thank you OTN for all your support and looking forward to the Cloud event in June.

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C16LV - Cloud Especially Apps

You will not be surprised to hear that this year Cloud was the main theme and it is certainly the Oracle mantra. When did exadata, engineered systems stop being the answer to everything?

This year Cloud Apps, my area, have I think reached maturity and I am really pleased to say I heard less presentations that added to any confusion, and in the main the name Fusion was unused. 

In the past few years I was very disappointed in the number of vendors who were suggesting Cloud was not the right answer and that you should (stay with them, the vendor and) remain on premise. EBS, PeopleSoft, JDE etc may be the right answer for you, because you have a specific reason to stay but there is no generic reason why now organisations shouldn't at least be evaluating it. The sessions I did see seemed to have more clarity and less spin from both sides of the argument, that pleased me.

As you would expect all the Oracle sessions were Cloud focused and there were lots of cloud customers in attendance as well. 

I gave a presentation entitled 'What's the Weather Like Where You Are? Are Cloud Apps the Same Around the World' - talking about localisations, regional challenges and translations, hygiene and motivational issues. I wanted to talk about the challenges we have had with global implementations and how the configurability of Cloud means they can be overcome. 

Tim Warner
The COO of Certus, fellow ACE Tim Warner talked about how you can enhance Cloud in a number of ways using standard functionality. After both sessions people came to talk to us and I was saddened by the number of Cloud users who are not getting the most out of their systems. 

Getting more out of the applications is what we love about what we do.

There is a push from Oracle for partners to have a fixed price offering. The problem with this is to be competitive you have a fixed delivery, and that means you deliver the basics only. One of the users who spoke to us said his implementer had 'simply switched the lights on' and nothing else.

This saddens me, people deserve to get the most out of their investment, and that is what user groups are all about, but we in the leadership roles need to make sure we are delivering content not just for users moving to Cloud but also those who have already made the move.

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Collaborate 2016

Finally getting around to making my comments about Collaborate 2016 and I've started by reading my summary of 2015.

This year a lot of things had moved on, there was more clarity around Oracle's strategy in Apps and in General, if you weren't there don't worry it is easy to understand the main message; It is Cloud.
See you next year - Same place April 2 - 6th 2017