Saturday 29 July 2017

Please Vote for Certus - I wish I could

Asking for your vote again, for the 2017 UKOUG Partner of the Year Awards.

Certus have been very successful in these awards, but not only do I think they deserve them, I think it tells their story. 

When Certus was born in 2012, the intent was to be a Cloud Applications partner. A new product, a new company, a new partnership and above all a new community of customers.

Their first year with UKOUG PYA gave them silver for Cloud and it was a great start but even better they got Gold for training. In 2013 there were hardly any Cloud customers and a lot of the work they did was training for and on behalf of Oracle. In fact when I joined in 2014 the first thing I did was deliver partner UX training for the partner enablement group.

The following year they won gold in both categories as their reputation grew and customers started to share their Certus stories. I remember hearing Lavendon talk at a UKOUG event before I joined.

The PYA portfolio grew and in 2015 there were a couple of new categories, we entered the emerging technology category to showcase what we had done with #PaaS4SaaS and won silver, again Certus stepped up early and deserved this. By then we were doing less training and our silver award reflected this. Another new category was SME PYA, most Oracle Cloud customers had been SME, and the shared stories from JT Group at UKOUG, Oracle UK and Open World events helped us to win this.

Last year it was almost an embarrassment of riches, England Rugby, ONS and Save the Children all talking about how Certus had delivered for them. It was great to win our third straight Cloud PYA award. #PaaS4SaaS gave us another Gold, and a third in the new category of digital transformation, helped by the very public ONS advocacy.

So now as we ask for your votes in 2017 is it just the same stories? No, this year we have delivered projects in HM Treasury, MHRA, Home office as well as starting a second phase at ONS. We are not simply public sector we have also delivered the Financials phase of England Rugby this year and one of our current other customers DHL will be sharing their story at Open World

Quite a surprise this year was to be given an Oracle UK Partner Award for HCM Cloud. A surprise because in the past Oracle awards were often linked to sales and Certus haven't traditionally been a reseller. But as Oracle have realised Cloud is about successful implementations and happy customers, we were really proud to be recognised this way.

It has been an incredibly busy but fun year in Certus, numbers are up again and there are so many people having fun with so many different clients and projects. They work hard, and it would be amazing if again, you would vote for Certus and the team that deserve these awards so much.

The awards this year are slightly different. Cloud is divided into the pillars and we have been shortlisted for both HCM & ERP. In the last 12 months we have had 3 of our own customers go live with combined HCM & ERP, ONS, HMT & England Rugby. We have assisted with several other projects and delivered more HCM implementations. These are the two awards that mean the most to us. We work with Oracle through development and testing, this year R12 beta testing was big investment for us, and then we deliver the results of that investment to our customers.

Training is a funny one, we don't deliver direct training outside of projects today, but we do deliver training to customer support teams, in many cases so they can continue the rollout of their phased implementations themselves. This knowledge sharing approach was key to ONS as they shared in this Oracle Scene article and what DHL will be talking about at Oracle Open World. The transformation from on premise to Cloud is something support teams worry will lose them their jobs. We believe it gives them more opportunities. 

The transformation is not just the system but the organisation something Save the Children were rewarded for in the Oracle Rubie awards this year. Our founder and CEO Mark Sweeny also wrote about this transformation in Government 

And the #PaaS4SaaS machine marches on, as we start to adopt the low code Application Builder Cloud Service I helped to launch at OOW last year, and through initiatives like the Digital Mission we ran jointly with Oracle for central government last month which again I hope to share more details with at OOW and UKOUG.

Working for Certus is fun, I love it, and the people here deserve your vote.

Someone asked me if Certus do so well in the UKOUG Partner Awards because I am on the board. I have to say the reverse is probably true. I have nothing to do with selecting the nominations, in fact as a partner I am allowed nothing to do with the process at all. My boss asks me if we are being shortlisted and I'm not convinced he believes me when I say I don't know. Voting is then overseen scrupulously again by no partner volunteers. 

Only customers can vote, but if you are one of our own customers, or have been impressed with the case stories we and our customers have shared, then please vote.

Sunday 9 July 2017

KSCOPE 17 - San Antonio, Texas

KSCOPE is an event I love, and an event I go to, to learn. Membership of ODTUG is something I choose to pay personally. It covers the technology behind the Cloud applications , and whilst we don’t have access to it, I want and need to know how it works. This year KSCOPE was in San Antonia in the JW Marriott resort.

As in previous years I have signed up before the agenda is ready, and although I wasn’t presenting this year, I was asked to facilitate a discussion on the value of user groups. The agenda when launched talked about the development tech being merged with the database but in reality there was not a lot of my content.

However having booked my ticket and knowing how much fun it would be I still went. I didn’t need to have worried; it was excellent.

Danny Bryant 
At the beginning of June, Danny Bryant and Opal Alapat, the conference organisers asked me to get involved in a little game they were playing. On the first evening they were organising a geek meet, and the idea was 4 community leads would prepare a very short but very technical presentation in their area and then they would draw lots to see which one they had to present. Danny and Opal wanted to throw in a curved ball and add a fifth; me. So whilst I didn’t present a PaaS4SaaS presentation I did write one. Keeping it a secret was the hard bit.

One of the things I love about Kscope is the community service day, held the day before the conference, where they try hard to give back to the place where it is held. This year was Haven for Hope, a campus for the homeless. Please read about it it is an amazing facility, the largest of its kind in the US. Almost 70 ODTUGers take part and my group painted the railings at the security hut. It was hot and humid but we did have shade. I was very impressed that the colour we painted was a great match to my nail polish. I was painting in a group with MariaColgan and we laughed all day.

The conference kicked off proper on the Sunday and by then I had been asked to facilitate another session, this time on re-examining project management for IT projects, so I spent part of the day preparing that.

In the evening was the geek game night and the secret was killing me. The 4 geeks were Edward Roske - EPM, Bjorn Rost - Database, Stuart Bryson -Business Analytics and Scott Spendolini -APEX. The first guy up Bjorn had my deck. He was really good, but by then Edward Roske had introduced a shot of bourbon between each of the 5 slides . I hope someone taped the event, as it was really funny. Once they had my deck, they were convinced Stuart had written it. By the time it came to reveal myself, there had been a lot of drinking, and I was worried for about 30 seconds I would be expected to drink, when Danny offered to do my turns. I didn’t score very well, I think they got upset when I said OBIEE was like Discoverer.

Monday the main sessions started and I signed up to be ambassador for the sessions I really wanted to see. Over the three days I attended a number of Essbase and ePBCS newbie sessions, which have given me the insight I need for Financial customers. Essbase is baked into the application and  more and more customers are buying ePBCS.I spoke to a lot of the partners in this area to understand how they approach these offerings.

I attended one session in ePBcS, from the Children's Colorado Hospital Foundation. I selected this one becase I have a friend who I sponsor for the Courage Classic Bike race in Denver which is their most important fund raiser of the year.

The project management session was really well attended for a last minute addition to the agenda. The panel was made up of Ron Moore, TopDown Consulting, Jessica Cordova, ArcEPM, Kent Graziano, Snowflake Computing and Rhonda Brigham, Starbucks.Whilst the discussion was good, the outcome was good project management hasn’t changed. The tasks may be different, but planning and communication are still the most important. I loved the discussion about meetings / emails; what is enough without being too much?

Alex sporting his ears
One of the sessions I was ambassador for was Alex Nuijten on 12c for Developers. Alex went on to win the best Database presentation. well one Alex and I am sure not letting people out of the room until they completed their feedback sheets had nothing to do with you winning.Or perhaps it was his Mickey Mouse ears? The ears were to advertise that the next KSCOPE18 will be in Orlando.

I was also ambassador for Shay Shmeltzer the PM for #PaaS4SaaS ABCS. Yet again more functionality has been added and this time I learnt more about using the native phone features for mobile apps, something I will be trying out straight away. This was the only ABCS session but well attended and made me think even more about the culling of the middleware track.

The panel on the Importance of User Groups was made up of Natalie Delamar - President ODTUG,  Mike Reily - secretary and Past President, Danny Bryant - Conference Chair and Jennifer Nicholson - OTN ACE Program. The discussion was around connecting, sharing stories, learning from oracle and volunteering, gain confidence, improve ability, personal and professional success. There is no limit to what people have achieved.

KSCOPE also has a 5km race, which Maria and I decided to walk. Maria had a session to deliver at 8.30am so we tried to start early, but it was a properly timed race and they wouldn't let us, so we had to walk a slightly different route and covered only 3 km, but did see the main race set off. We later found out they had a 2.5km route and official walk; wish it had been advertised. Still we got to see the dawn, a few deer and a rabbit, but not the threatened skunk which I was not sorry about. Jaz Ribeiro from the UK won the ladies race at her first ever KSCOPE, well done Jaz.

Jennifer Nicholson from OTN along with Lori Lorusso looked after us ACEs, with a dinner; a great chance to catch up with all our friends in the program. There were a few new ACEs and promotions, most notably for me Danny Bryant got ACE Director which was announced in the plenary session and Alan Arentsen made ACE. Well done to all.

KSCOPE always throws a good party but this was their 20th birthday so they went right out. I love the fact you get to dress up but this year there were 4 different themes and it was hard to choose. There was a beach theme were we were encouraged to bring out the white clothes from the Miami Beach Party a few years back and I was tempted but there was also a masquerade ball theme and any excuse for a long dress. So I combined the mauve wig from the beach party with my party frock and mask. Most people one who I was, but I did catch Darlene (Tim Tow's wife) out. Loved it. However I am getting old and was home at a reasonable time.

My WIT table
KSCOPE celebrate Women in IT with a lunch discussion and i was proud to be a facilitator. This year they had 'Dear Alice' questions for each table to discus. On my table I had 2 gentleman which was refreshing and our question was 'I am one of two architects on a project, with 6 developers, all men. Whenever they have a question they ask my male peer. He often refers them to me, when I am the best to answer but how do I get them to come to me first?' The discussion was about confidence, empathy and encouragement, and ways for her to demonstrate her ability and openness. There was quite a debate about cultures, geographical, age and religious, but everyone agreed it is possible. KSCOPE also launched a WIT magazine, to share stories and encourage.

The Alamo - San Antonio

Once the conference was over, I had a chance to do some whistlestop tourism and joined Alex Nuijten, Alan Arentsen and Roel Hartman for a trip downtown. Alan impressed me with his UKOUG Tech16 bag.

The two main attractions of San Antonio are The Alamo and The River Walk. It was far too hot and I simply overheated, but thanks to lots of water and rests I survived; just. Most people complain they sweat too much in the heat, but I simply don't which means I overheat, that combined with not being the fittest of old ladies means I really should know better. 

But it was a great afternoon, topped off with cooling down in the infinity pool back at the resort. A special thanks to Marc Sewtz for this amazing photo.

Then all too soon it was time to go home. I met up with Alan at the airport for a last lunch and a chance opportunity to say goodbye to Natalie and Danny. My first flight was to Chicago and had been rescheduled for an hour later which left me with 84 minutes to make my London flight in another terminal. Previous experiences of Chicago have not been good for me or my luggage, however British Airways who partner with American, had a shuttle bus from their domestic terminal to the international, and even better we didn't go landslide so there was no security to go through. Amazing, thank you, well done. The only sad thing was they had JUST stopped serving bacon butties in the lounge at Heathrow but it wasn't the end of the world, and I was home by 3pm.

Natalie said in the 'Value of User Groups' session that KSCOPE was a conference to be an experience' and it was. Excellent as always. Thank you.