Sunday 18 November 2018

2018 South Africa Oracle User Group

This was an amazing conference from the South African User group.

I have spoken before in South Africa, the first time in 2013 there were several hundred attendees and then they went through some tough times, but the passion never left and a few people have resurrected the event. Last year was good and this year they have done it all themselves, no outsourcing, all themselves and they excelled themselves.

Wolfgang the Conference Organiser

The event kicked off with a WIT dinner. It was fantastic and it did create a lot of conversation between the 30+ women who attended. It was a dinner, a networking event but I think I would have liked men to be allowed. It was discussed and on balance decided that the conversation might not have been the same. There was a golf day as well and although it was not closed to women it was a mens' event.
WIT Dinner

The Oracle keynote talked about what it happening in South Africa, including showing this video about the Oracle School which is now 10 years old. I am very impressed with the technical school at Redwood Shores and didn't know they had one in South Africa. The stats 10 years on are very impressive.

Then there was 2 days of great content. About 160 delegates, across technology and apps and a pleasant surprise to me that apps was about 50% and shared between JDE and EBS.

My first session was on extending SaaS and the room was full. I was so pleased. I did arrive early for the event and did have to add to both this presentation and my second to update for OOW.

Amanda the President Opening the Event
My second session the following day was the chatbot session, now explaining how the new Digital Assistants work. Again a full house, including my hotel guest Sorell.

Well done everyone this was an amazing conference.

2018 SAOUG The Travel Blog

I flew out overnight from London arriving very early in Johannesburg. 

This was my first time in a 787 Dreamliner and I was not impressed. I paid myself for an upgrade to premium economy and although the space was OK the lack of restrooms in this cabin was a real letdown. In fact you had to walk all the way through economy to the very few shared facilities in the rear. The pilot said it was to be a smooth flight and then we roomily had 3 hours of 'fasten your seatbelt, no hot drinks will be served' and when we were finally OK the queues for the toilets was unbelievable. Then once we had landed the pilot informed us we had just been the first automatic landing, glad he didn't tell us in advance!

Once we arrived, I had to wait for Andy Haack to arrive as the conference was a 5 hour drive in Central Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal and he was going to be my driver. ( I hate driving in unknown places and I was very uneasy about SA).

Andy picked up on my nervousness and teased me a lot about it, but he was a good driver (most of the time) and it was an amazing drive for the last 2 hours as we made our way up to the mountains. We stopped overlooking a dam for lunch and had a really tasty meat curry.

When we arrived at the resort, the view that greeted up was fantastic. I had a little snooze to rest and then we met up with the organisers for dinner. But not before experiencing the first of the beautiful sunsets. South Africa is also known for its wine and it didn't disappoint!

The Sunday was a free day for me and after spending time updating my presentations whilst enjoying the resort, I noticed the staff putting out cups for tea. It turned out this was for Remembrance Day. I asked if they were having the silence at 11 and they advised there was actually a service, at their own memorial. This was run by the MOTH organisation. I am from a military family and this service was fantastic. I met lots of lovely people, with MOTHs and residents from the Tims Share part of the resort. One gentleman Sorel, asked me about the conference and asked if he could attend! Always after more attendees I was happy to invite him and he turned up to learn about chatbots. 

Sunday evening Andy and I drove uptown the national park and we did a small trail of about 5km. I was exhausted and he was in flip-flops! I love waterfalls so finding this was a real bonus. 

The first evening had a cocktail party in the exhibition area and then we all had dinner together. The second evening we had a braai or BBQ. For me it started too late and I had perhaps have enjoyed the local wine a little too much.

I tried to capture a sunset using time lapsed photography on the last night but we had a thunderstorm instead, however still happy with the video.

Sean one of the organisers gave me a lift back to the airport on Wednesday and the view if possible was even better on the way back. Sean's wife and Eric De Vos from JDE Mart were also great company. 

The flight home was an A380 and it was wonderful. Quick shower at Heathrow and into work for the day.

Monday 12 November 2018

Not a Natural Born Speaker - some Tips

I love presenting, but I believe it is my passion for the content that delivers it, not any natural born ability.

I am very lucky I don't suffer from nerves, well not about the actual speaking, more 'will anyone be interested in what I have to say?' I have taken to bribing at overseas conferences, bring a tub of quality street and everyone wants to hear your story. In America I have the added advantage of 'a lovely English accent' - I don't do too bad.

Today I was presenting in South Africa, and half way through I could see a couple in the audience who looked lost. I looked back at the screen to see I had skipped a slide and what I was saying had no correlation to the slide being projected. Flustered, I stopped, Told the audience I had messed up and went back. They still laughed at my awful jokes, so I was happy.

I follow a number of self improvement, motivational people, one of which is Andy Bounds. in the last month he has had two blogs about Presenting with his top 10 tips for a bulletproof presentation

The tip about links resonated with me. When I am switching between slides and a demo, I add a posit to the slide to say 'demo' - so I don't forget where I am

The top tip for me here was practice, I rarely present to my colleagues and I should do more, they will give more honest feedback. 

I thought it would be great to share them with those perhaps just starting their speaking career.

Sign up for Andy's newsletters there are lots more tips.

Then I thought I'd add a few of my own:

Make sure you have a backup on a USB stick
If there is a problem with your laptop or even more likely the connectivity with the venue AV, you may still be able to run from a USB on their equipment. I know that isn't possible if you are demoing something on your laptop, but it has been a lifesaver for me.
Also if you are using a cloud demo, include the links on the stick.

Setup your Powerpoint Slideshow in 'Browse by an individual (window mode)' 
This allows you to swap windows without coming out the presentation. I wish I had know this years ago, would have saved me lots of fiddling around in front of the audience.

Ask for feedback
Not just 'did you like it' or the conference feedback, although that is equally important. But ask someone you see later, what did they really like and was there any part they didn't understand?

Understand why you present, your USP
I'm not technical, but what I bring is an understanding of the technology to the business. I did think was one-way, but I often get technical people who attend and tell me afterwards I made them consider the business impact / considerations. There needs to be more dialogue between tech and business and I happy if I facilitate that. 
If I compared myself to great technical speakers in my area I would fail, but I am not trying to do the same thing.

And to finish with another comment from Andy:

"as Bob Monkhouse used to say, presentations are all about your ABC and XYZ – Always Be Confident, and Xamine Your Zipper!"

Thursday 8 November 2018

A busy Few Weeks Presenting............

With my trip to Oracle Open World over,  the 2nd of the two busy periods in the User Group Calendar is  upon us, (the other one being April / May).

However as this year's OOW was late it's now a jam-packed calendar for the rest of the year.

Obviously the biggest and best this time of year is UKOUG. I'm the Apps Lead again and really excited about this year. We are trying to not only cater for those looking to move to Cloud, but also those who are living in the Cloud, and just as importantly those who are happy where they are. For everyone, we hope to help them get more from their investments.

But I'm not just at UKOUG, before that I'm at the SAOUG and DOAG, and the day after UKOUG I'm off for a quick trip to India  for SANGAM.

I have spoken at SaOUG before both times in Johanesburg but this time it is in Drakensberg and  I am hoping to get a chance at the weekend to appreciate the setting.

I have spoken many times at the DOAG, and it always signals Christmas has started. The German approach to Christmas is so traditional and I love it. And how can you go wrong with a conference that serves Glühwein?

I have also been to India before for Yathra, however  I didn't enjoy the manic travel. I did promise I would be back for this one destination conference, and I am really pleased I will be there this year. 

I'll be presenting my Back to Basics on Fusion, How can you extend SaaS, Extending without Code and the Chatbot in various combinations across these. 

Very busy but it will be fun. Thank you to the ACE Program for the opportunity and to Accenture who continue to support what I do.

Friday 2 November 2018

My EMEA Short Talk - WhichInstance?

My contribution to the EMEA ACEs Short Talks is a very old story and could be about the time I stopped being Technical.

We are taking almost 20 years ago when I was an E Business Suite Support manager in Fujitsu.

A customer had a problem where one off payments were not generating cheques (that is the correct English spelling of check).

Despite raising a TAR (the old word for SR, a Technical Assistance Request) with Oracle, we had not found the answer.  

I was unable to replicate in the test system so the DBA created me a clone so I could play investigate in the system safely.

I dialled in (yep the story is that old), which connected me to the live instance which resided on sequent1 (sequent used to be Oracle hardware of choice). Then I had to 'telnet' to sequent 2 where the clone was hosted.

I worked on the problem for many hours and then had a breakthrough, the error was in a setting in a profile option (as far as I remember, the error is not really important to the story).

I created a new file with a one off payment and ran it through the system from start to finish. Brilliant it all worked. I disconnected and went off to bed believing I had great news to share with the customer Monday morning.

Not quite what happened though, the customer rang me to say I had successfully tested their fraud procedure and they had found the payment I had made myself and the cheque had been destroyed and not posted.

I was horrified, I had created a cheque or myself in Production!!!!!!!

What happened was I had dialled into sequent1 but failed to telnet successfully to sequet2. I didn't realise because as the DBA had not renamed the clone (why did he need to, they were on separate machines?).

So I wasn't in the clones Live, I was in the 'live' live. I had fixed the problem and generated a one off payment to myself. 

I was begging to panic as to what this would result in. A complaint or even loosing my job, but the customer laughed and said it was  obviously a well intentioned error. If I was really going to defraud them I would have made the payment for more than £100!

2018 OOW - EMEA ACEs Short Talks

I blogged about this year's planned session before OOW.

We had a great crowd and the laughter was infectious. 

Michelle Malcher was our timekeeper and did very well, most people were so scared of going over their 4 minutes they finished early, in fact all people except Simon Haslam who went for a double slot.

At the end Michelle claimed EMEA credentials as she used to work in Germany and closed the session we her own thoughts. I was expecting another mistake example but Michelle talked about the importance of teaching people, especially the next generation that we all make mistakes and we learn from them.

This year I asked all the speakers to blog about their mistakes, and that includes me. I will add the links as they post them. Prize for first one posted goes to Lonneke.

Tim Hall - Production Gone
Julian Dontcheff - Sunday
Christian Trieb - Deleteddatabasebackup
Lonneke Dikmans - Reuse
Simon Haslam  - Paste
Gurcan Orhan - AutoCommitDeletes
Ami Aharonovich - Decisions
Kiran Taylor - Truncate
Alex Nuijten - TableConstraints 
Debra Lilley - WhichInstance?

This is one of my favourite parts of OOW, it talks a lot to get it set up, but it is fun and educational. Please consider me for 2019.

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2018 OOW - Final Thoughts

I thought it was a great OOW. It seemed more joined up in the messages, across their entire portfolio.

I did think it was smaller but that its not a bad thing.

I loved Larry, he seemed less scripted than in recent years, it was Larry at his best. 

All parts of the conference, sessions, exhibitions, CodeOne, all were closer together and enabled delegates to move more easily between them.

I have a folder full of things to follow up on, and a brain full of content to process.

There is lots of commentary on the event but here are those from my favourite analysts at diginomica

And make up your own mind with the on demand content.

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2018 OOW - Off Piste Fun

Despite how busy OOW is, I love it. I try and pace myself to get through the week, and try to get to bed at a reasonable time each night.

The conference party at AT&T Park was great fun, as you can see from this video of Alex, Roel and Chris Saxon (AskTom). I like this venue, we can walk to and from it, and having a special ACE area is a lovely treat.

'The husband'
It was going to be a cold evening as there was a wind about. Michelle bought us hats and gloves but we needed another layer. Luckily the exhibition had a scavenger hunt so we dedicated 42 minutes (of course) to rush around and get our cards completed and claim our prizes of snuggly OOW fleeces. I loved that they were grey and actually wore mine on the flight home. Hides the crumbs much better than the traditional black.

I've said throughout all the posts how blessed I am to have so many friends through all these communities. I even had a chance to catch up with most of the conference family.

I went to the OakTable World and listened to Mogens give his unique take onGDPR which started a great discusion. His ability to make people learn by questioning themselves never disapoints.

I said in my pre OOW post that there was no time for the traditional triathlon this year. I really missed the swim, but on Friday morning when it as all over Michelle and I took an Uber up to the bridge and walked both ways across it. It was a lovely way to end the week.

Not a stock photo, just my iPhone

I love San Francisco.

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2018 - Women in Technology

My dream is that as a topic WIT or any diversity category will not warrant a posting in the future.

Signs were good this year at one point in the CodeOne Developers' lounge I had to queue in the Ladies restroom!

At Oracle HQ I met with one of my favourite ladies, Maria Colgan. She had some chocolate giveaways for her sessions. How cool when you have your own candy!

There are so any great female speakers at OOW and the ACE program announced that we have 12 female ACE directors > 10%  for the first time. Welcome Rita Nunez to the group.

At the Partner PaaS Council I received their first WIT sticker, I love it.

There was a diversity stream at OOW but this time I was simply not able to attend, disappointing but unavoidable.

The Groundbreakers Community had a WIT breakfast in the amazing setting of The View in the Marriott. 

There was a speaker from Technovation. They help disadvantaged girls to solve problems with technology. The program includes 12 weeks mentoring through the building of a mobile app and have helped over 20,000 girls in over 100 countries.

They told us about a group of deaf girls in Brazil who they helped write a sign language app. 

Lori Lorusso then talked about the ACE program and gave a great passionate pitch. 

It was a great way to start the day and catch up with friends and encourage each other. A special thanks to all the men who attended.

All the ACE ladies had scarves and then we got the opportunity to talk to  those who attended about how the program works.

ACE program ladies
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2018 OOW - Usergroups

This was my first year at OOW without being a usergroup leader, although I am still very much involved.

UKOUG did have a meetup but I wasn’t able to attend, hope it was fun. 

This year the usergroup area was in the centre of the exhibition which is such an improvement on other years. This year there were no EOUC people manning the stand but I did install a UKOUG virtual assistant! Actually, I just left one of the really clever vidipack on the stand. You can also see the content of it here.

Over the years I have made many friends in the community and OOW is always a great time to catch up. Communities in Oracle overlap a lot, many are in the ACE program or  are partners. Much of what I do, is because of the camaraderie. I am blessed.

I also got the chance to make a video for the Sangam conference in India where I will be immediately after apps18. If you look carefully you can see UKOUG's Brendan in the background.

Of course, I did my bit for EOUC, facilitating the ‘even ACES make Mistakes session’.

2018 OOW - #PaaS4SaaS Thoughts

I have always had an interest in #PaaS4SaaS, both the integration capabilities but especially the ability to extend the SaaS applications. Within Accenture I think I will be doing even more of this and I'm quite excited about this continuing opportunity. 

The partner advisory council before OOW, updates in the ACE briefing and the partner round table I attended on the Thursday, all enforced my belief we are at a tipping point.

All new Cloud SaaS implementations are at least considering PaaS. Universal credits have helped with the adoption and there are other initiatives available which I think will grow this even more. I am in no doubt that Oracle are doing all they can to deliver on their promise to be the best and widest coverage in Cloud. 

Chatbots are a fast growing area, perhaps the quickest marketing to production I have ever seen. The new Digital Assistant will be a differentiator and best news to me was the work planned between the Digital Assistant and SaaS development teams. 

VBCS is developing rapidly and less aimed at the citizen developer (me), but I'm working on that for an industry solution and again very exciting.

I would like to give a special thankyou to Jürgen Kress who runs the partner community for PaaS. It is a really active community and he uses the ACE directors in the community (his smurfs) to help with understanding what we need. 

2018 OOW - Certus part of Accenture

When OOW call for papers was on, I worked for Certus but just 3 weeks before the event we became part of Accenture. This was announced in May but as staff we didn't move until 1st October. Tim Warner and I were the only Certus people attending.

This meant a new logo as we are keeping the brand.

On the Sunday I went to my first Accenture meeting. This was an Alliance meeting and it was a great introduction into how they work with Oracle around the world. It was coincidence that OOW was in our first few weeks but the opportunity to meet the global team in person was invaluable and a major theme for me throughout the week.

Monday morning there was a kick off breakfast at 0630 for the over 200 Accenture people at OOW, and Tim and I were made so welcome by everyone. However we were asked to the stage to talk about the Home Office project. We were on stage with 5 other projects and as we finished we were told we would need to dance before we could leave. I can only say it was a ‘Theresa May’ moment for me. Obviously, this was soon on social media

Accenture were so welcoming and had a number of gifts of ties and scarfs made, which I brought back to UK (after buying bigger luggage). With their permission I have cut one scarf to make another cloud cushion for the office.

Simon and Matt preparing for session
Tuesday, I had a bit part in the SOA Cloud session based on a Skanska HCM implementation. Skanska's Matt Gilbride talked about their innovative way to approach a global SaaS implementation. Product Manager Scott Haaland  and fellow ACE director and our partner eProseed’s Simon Haslam did the technical bit. 

There were lots of questions as to SOA Cloud versus Integration Cloud, and as ever the answer is ‘it depends’, it depends on what you do today, and what you have already invested in. Very rarely does an organisation start with a completely blank page.

Back at Certus we are working on a VBCS PoC with Oracle product Management so it was good to meet with John Ceccarelli  in person, and discus next steps. I will post about this PoC soon.

I did a periscope session with Accenture on the Tuesday, promoting our chatbot session. It was great fun, I love these quick videos, such a simple way to get a message across. Even better the background was made just for me.

The stand was always busy, Accenture launched MyConcerto to help customers understand our offerings and there was lots of interest.

Last year there were no Oracle sessions on the Thursday, just workshops, but this year sessions went on till 2pm. Tim and I had our chatbot session in this slot. The very last of the conference.  However, my normal promise of English chocolate did the trick, we had a great audience. I love this session, and have given it many times since Collaborate

There is always the challenge of the WIFI, I am using HCM Cloud, APIs, Mobile and Facebook Messenger, so I need good WIFI. The advantage of being the last session was the conference WIFI was being shared amongst much fewer delegates and it all ran well.

John Cafolla from HCM Development arrived half way through the session, which always has a weird effect on me. When development give me positive feedback I feel great, but I always worry they will tell me I have it all wrong. He liked it.

This was a great way to finish the conference. Thankyou to everyone in Accenture for making us so welcome. In fact during OOW they announced another acquisition of Daz Systems and I spent a lot of time at the two stands in the exhibition talking to Daz employees about the process and our experience. 

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2018 OOW - ACE Director

The Oracle ACE Director briefings were on Saturday and they were really good. Whit they covered everything from database to development and each of them talked about the relevance to apps, so I was very happy. I love these sessions, not my normal topics, but I think it is important that we all have a wider understanding than our narrow field of expertise. 

Sunday evening, we had our community dinner out at Fisherman’s wharf. My favourite part of this is the photograph.  <>

Noel fixing the stand
The ACE program is part of the groundbreakers community and we all had shifts in the developer’s hub they ran at CodeOne.

They had blockchain beer and escape rooms and lots of fun.

Michelle and I did our main shift at the 360 video stand. This stand was inspired by the Matrix bullet scene. 60 cameras controlled with raspberry-pis in a circular rig that each take a photo at the same time. They are uploaded to the Integration Cloud and processed using Jet routines and returned as a very clever little video. Apparently I sounded quite technical when explaining this to delegates although I have to refute that allegation.

Obviously, Michelle and I had a go.

My best superwomen attempt.

Then Michelle even managed to get Duke involved without damaging the setup.

However our shift was cut short when an over excited delegate fell backwards and knocked the rig.  Over half the cameras were disconnected and they all had to be recalibrated manually, a 2-hour setup job..

If you had a go all videos can be found here 

There were other stands showing off technology and I loved the badges that Noel Portugal championed. Noel and his team were amazing, setting up the technology behind the stands and keeping them running for 3 days. I am exhausted just thinking about how hard they worked.

We also had photographs taken that we can use for conference bio’s etc. I love mine what do you think?

The EMEA ACEs had yet another excellent short talks session.

Thank you again to the program for making my OOW happen.

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2018 OOW - Fun in the City

I managed to get a lift into the city with the groundbreaker ambassadors who had their briefing at HQ.  Then it was 7 nights in a hotel. 

If I stay more than 5 nights anywhere (including home) I like to have flowers, and when I arrived there were beautiful flowers in my room from my friend Dina Blaschczok.

I shared my room with Michelle Malcher and we had an amazing room on the 28thfloor with an awesome view, San Francisco is such a beautiful city. This year we moved from the traditional Hilton in Union Square to Parc 55, another Hilton hotel just one block away, but it was actually 10 minutes closer to the conference centre.

We also (well Roel) found a new restaurant, it looked not much more than a café from the outside but once in, it opened up to a beautiful building with amazing food. So good we ate there twice.

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