Saturday 21 December 2019

2019 Sangam - My Thoughts on the conference

My third trip to India and the best yet. Thank you Super Sai for inviting me and the ACE program for the sponsorship.

Sai asked me to speak at Sangam, and told me he wanted something different. He wanted me to cover to SaaS announcements from Oracle Open World and after some discussion we agreed on 'What I had learnt from SaaS customers'.

I travelled to Sangam with Alex Nuijten and Roel Hartman, direct from UKOUG Techfest. It was a good journey although we arrived very early in Hyderabad, which was good for the traffic.

The conference centre was amazing, I loved these mixed use venues. Next to us were several weddings over the 3 days and if you have never seen the excitement of an Indian wedding, make that your resolution for 2020.

Traffic is bad in India, I may have said that before, and is one of the reasons the days are so long at the conference. They pack 3 days of content into two 12 hour days.

I started this with a mention of 'Super Sai' - Sai Penumuru,  he is unbelievable. for the past couple of years he has been living in the UK and yet still runs this growing community like clockwork. he doesn't do it on his own, he has an army of volunteers, but you need a great leader, and he fits that bill perfectly.

The event is well supported with speakers from both Oracle and the ACE Program and Sai certainly makes us work for our supper (and boy, is the food good). There were several panel sessions I took part in and even facilitated the same session as at Code One“Embracing Constant Technical Innovation in Our Daily Life”.

My session on OOW was really just a pathfinder session, what I found important and lots of links to videos and based on my blog at the time.

What I learnt from customers was more interactive and I loved it. Just before the event when I was trying to make sense of my thoughts Martin Widlake blogged about how presentations shouldn't be based on a formula, a challenge I felt so organised my presentation as a list of 'C's'. It was great, lots of questions and validation of what a lot of people were thinking.

Jim Grisanzio from Oracle recorded my thoughts on this and the ACE program, quite long but I think worth a watch.

A big objective this year was to encourage the local Oracle community to engage with the ACE community, or rather step up and be part fo it. There are great knowledge sharers in India who just need some encouragement. We had a full room of people who wanted to know more about the program so I hope this will bear fruit.

I also attended their WIT session with Jenny Tsai from Oracle. It was great to hear both men and women encouraging each other.

The All India Oracle User Group is excellent, and they have posted a video of memories. It was such fun. I have every intention of going again.

After the event Sai had arranged some sight seeing and we had the great Rao as our tour guide and photographer. We got to see Golconda Fort, Qutb Shahi Tombs and Charminar in Hyderabad City.

All too soon it was over and the three of us left for our return journey.

All Change at the Top

The last 15 months have been full of change on the board at Oracle.

Thomas Kurian, who I much admire, left to go to Google.

Mark Hurd, after a long illness, sadly passed away in October.

Larry Ellison hinted that a replacement would be an internal appointment but I was hoping for an external hire and was pleased to see the announcement of Vishal Sikka being appointed.

Latest is Safra Catz being confirmed as the sole CEO, (she previously shared this with Mark).

There will be lots of changes, there is no point changing your board for everything to stay the same.

So I look forward to 2020 to see what it brings in the Oracle world, although I'm not a fan of moving Oracle Open World.

Monday 18 November 2019

2019 SAOUG - Next Generation

I have always been interested in the Next Generation for our industry.

I love what Oracle do in their Academy, and with UKOUG tried a few initiatives, including free student places at this year's techfest and early this year tried something really different with a university in Australia.

This week at SAOUG I came across another initiative for the next generation and I loved it.

The Oracle cloud graduate program within South Africa gives graduates the opportunity to do oracle training and find a placement with a partner who gives them real work to do.

Ahmed from Edge, The Graduates and Sean Amm from SAOUG

The SAOUG worked with one of those partners, Edge to bring 6 of their placements to the conference.

What an amazing initiative.

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2019 SAOUG - The Location

This year SAOUG was in Vanderbijlpark, at the Emerald House resort.

With Dina's mum
When they first announced the location, I recognised it as somewhere I had been with my friend Dina, it was were she lived and I had visited several times before. However Dina has now emigrated to Canada but it seemed too good an opportunity to miss out on. I spoke to Dina and her son picked me up at the airport and we spent the day with her mother. It was so nice to be able to give back to a friend.

The resort itself is small, not a Sin City at all, but a small rural resort. I chose to be in a bush lodge for two reasons, first it sounded so 'African' and secondly I wanted to be as far from any casino as possible. To be fair, I only saw the casino on the way in and out but the bush lodge was the right decision. It was amazing. There were deer outside the door, what a wonderful way to wake up.

On the first evening there was a boat down the river Vaal, so lovely, sunset, cocktails and friends.

On the last evening we had a braai, a South African BBQ and it was amazing, each bush lodge had a braai area so this was an easy event to pull off. Not too many people just SAOUG committee and a few speakers, sponsors and delegates.

They also had a small zoo and animal park. On the last day I did the game drive which was tame by South African standards, there were no creditors but lots of animals to see really close up. I was a bit perturbed before I went to the resort as they treat over 50s as old, with special casino offers but it also meant I got a pensioners' rate in the zoo. I was also the only guest on my game drive so had the ranger to myself, she was very knowledgeable and it was a great hour spent well before the journey home.

Wolfgang took me back to Johannesburg and then it was a long overnight flight back to London. 

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2019 SAOUG - South Africa

This is one of my favourite events, SAOUG, this year held in Vanderbijlpark.

The organiser, Wolfgang, asked me to come back, speak more on cloud but make it more personal to the majority of members who had no intention of moving to Cloud.

But don't under estimate the Difference A Cloud Makes, Oracle announced a data centre coming to South Africa in the next 12 months, and they were really excited by it.

The first key note was from Jan Jaap Dekker who is responsible for Apps Unlimited sales in EMEA. Yes you read that correctly, there is a team that sells App Unlimited licences, they are not dead. I am really pleased about this because there was a period of time where we as partners joked the only way to get an extra licence was to be audited. There are customers who have real business reasons to extend their investment, normally through acquisitions.

My first presentation was the always popular ' Should I go to SaaS Cloud?'. The room was full, they needed more chairs and the conversation was excellent. Two large corporations sat with me during the event exploring this further and Jan gave me the feedback it was a very balanced presentation.

Wolfgang also asked me to talk about PaaS with an emphasis on using it with Apps Unlimited. People are already moving their extensions out of the applications and the most common tool is APEX, which I love. In my PaaS presentation no surprise chatbots was the most exciting tool.

I suggested to Wolfgang the conference finish with a Cloud Panel session to answer the unanswered questions. I did get the session, but it was a panel for one!! Again a full room and lots of questions I was able to answer with real life examples.

On the second day there was a keynote from a senior Oracle executive in South Africa. This is always a tricky ask, a user group wants a country leader, they want to know company strategy and they want a local angle; what they don't want is a sales pitch. Well they certainly hit the jackpot with Phakiso Mataitsane, he was engaging, motivating and talked at the very end about how the Oracle community and Oracle themselves can help South Africa. HIs presentation on Hope in South Africa, and how in some small way we are all part of that future, including Oracle, was hands down the most inspiring Oracle presentation I have heard. That doesn't mean none of the other's have been but, this wiped the floor

It was a great conference and I loved what they did for the Next Generation. Thanks to everyone and I hope to be back next year.

Friday 15 November 2019

2019 - Cloud Applications Experience Event

On 6th November UKOUG held their first Cloud Applications Experience Event in London.

I am very passionate about all UKOUG communities but my heart is in the apps. 

I'm not sure I personally agree with the decision to split the apps and tech conference, but I understand it was based on user feedback. Although the techies still get their techfest in December the Applications people as the better half, have to wait till next summer.

However all is not woe, there have been many events over the year and although my time on the board is well over, I am still supporting.

The Applications community can be split many, many ways, product, industry and many combinations but in general the main areas of concentration are:

  • Those using apps unlimited, EBS, JDE & PeopleSoft
  • Those moving or interested in moving to Cloud or SaaS applications
  • Those who are 'Living in the Cloud'
The last group, is really important to me, I have worried that when users move to SaaS we bleed them dry for their journey story, but what do we do for them? That is what this event was all about.

As with events, there is a committee and we were led by Phil Wilson from Inoapps, not too hard a task master but got us all to pull together and delivered along with the rest of the committee and the office, a great day.

What was special about the day was that most presentations were by end users. The morning looked at product pillars and the afternoon at a couple of industries. 

Phil Wilson kicking off the event

A colleague of mine attended the EPM track and shared this snippet from a presentation from Fruit of the Loom - their big issue was that 1 USD is about 23000 Vietnamese Dongs, and therefore the money fields weren’t big enough, and Oracle had to extend them in the core products to make them useable in Vietnam.

I facilitated the HCM track and that kicked off with a great presentation from Patrick Haston from Scottish Natural Heritage. Not only did they implement the full HCM portfolio but also Learning Cloud, when of the first in the UK.

Nigel Watson from DHL talked about how they have been early adopters of the Newsfeed UX. I loved this, I was involved in their original implementation and even shared the stage with Nigel at Oracle Open World 2017

Remember the idea of the event was to have something for those already in the cloud and these presentations hit the mark.

Then we had a round table to hear what the end users wanted from UKOUG and yes they want the community. 

In the afternoon I was looking after the Public Sector stream and had to stand in for West Midlands Police as due to an operational issue Dean Sweet was unable to present. I wasn't with Accenture when this was implemented but I just love the story and how they have extended their investment and am working with them now on their next chapter.

I also gave a presentation on 'switching on chatbots' within SaaS, one of the things this community can do next.

Thanks to Ian Hayman for photo
After the Public Sector Roundtable the day closed with networking drinks after a successful panel session.

UKOUG photo
The best thing about the day was Cloud customers talking to cloud customers and loved that 2 came from Denmark just for the networking.

Saturday 26 October 2019

My APEX and ATP Journey

The big message from OOW was the Always Free Autonomous Database. Not normally of interest to me but I thought, I love the APEX community, (they were my first call out on community appreciation day in 2016). Although for me, it isn't often used in my SaaS world, I might I might just give it a go.

Image result for learning

PHASE 1 - Action rather than just idea

Think about it and commit via twitter, if it's on the web it is real!

Outside of work my biggest love is Scuba Diving (read about it on this Kscope link)
I keep my scuba dive log on a spreadsheet (and in written logs) but would love an app. I tried with VBCS and had some success but not the wonderful app I wanted. 

When VBCS went less citizen developer I gave up, I don't have the time to spend working everything out and then a trial account expire. Now Oracle was offering a free cloud database, I thought I would try again and see if APEX is as easy as everyone says it is.

CHALLENGE 1 - where do I start?

Reach out for help. Thank you to all those of you who gave advice on twitter and for Roel Hartman who offered me a call.

PHASE 2 - Follow the awesome 10 step guide from Demetri Geilis 

CHALLENGE 2 - installing SQL Developer

Started well but then got this error

So stupid, foolish me believed the message meant Java 8 and above. I installed the latest Java for IOS and continued to get the same message.

Eventually this google search gave me a clue that actually it wants a specific version of Java. I have to say thank you to my colleague Ian Staff who helped me here.

Eventually with more help from Jeff Smith, who I may have blamed for the rubbish error message, I got SQL Developer working.

CHALLENGE 3 - connecting to database

So I followed the instructions in the Dimitri series but it simply appeared to hang 

After a few frustrating attempts to move on my wonderful colleague Julian Dontcheff explained that I wouldn't be able to do this whilst connected to work's VPN, unless it was whitelisted. Simples - now it was working. I even ran a little SQL query.

PHASE 3 - APEX Workspace

Creating an APEX workspace and project was simple enough although by now I had 3 usernames and passwords (each of which had different password rules) and slightly confused, but onwards I went.

PHASE 4 - Application

Dimitri suggests following  Oracle APEX Tutorial on YouTube by Caleb Curry which was really helpful.

CHALLENGE 4 - Loading Data

Using the 'create from file' method I tried to create my first table and failed, again I reached out the community and Lonneke came back, but by then I had tried again with the 'Cut & Paste' method.

First attempt had an error but helpful info so was able to amend and retry:

Amazing, I had my first table application. Using interactive reporting I did some graphs.

As you can see I have a data issue with 'Uk' and 'UK' dives and to be correct that should say 'GB' but simple enough to fix.'

LOVE IT!!!! and I have it on my mobile.

PHASE 5 - Lookup Tables

This is how far I got with VBCS. A single table app. It worked well and I was able to create web app and enter data, but what I really wanted was lookup tables. I did try once with Susan Duncan to try creating the lookups and replacing my data with IDs but failed, although I never pursued it any further.

Within APEX, Roel told me it would suggest lookup tables and it did. 

So I tried my first lookup table and although that appeared to work I then got a numeric error on the main table. 

I have deleted that app and got back to where I was. As I am using the Always Free ATP, this can wait till I have more time (or more likely when at a conference with APEX experts - you are warned).  So come back for the next episode.


In this offering you have to use the database once a quarter to keep it, but I also learnt if it isn't used in a 7 day period the database is stopped, but pressing the start button on the cloud console sorts that. Funny story, when I first started working with Oracle back in 1996 I had to bribe DBAs, normally with chocolate to do things like this for me. now it is AUTONOMOUS! But on Wednesday I was sharing this with the technical teams inside Accenture and discovered one of those DBAs now works for Accenture in Toronto. A small world.

Now I'm off diving to add a few more records to the table!


This was then covered in Forbes Magazine

Thursday 10 October 2019

OGB Appreciation Day : Oracle Digital Assistant PoC

I wasn't sure what to write here so I looked back at what I have written in the past 

2018 Oracle Chatbots, my first PoC getting the platform up

2017 VBCS PoC

2016 APEX community

They were all product related, with the 'human twist' Tim asked for, so I thought I would try that recipe again.

I am a great advocate for Oracle products (hence why I am an ACE Director) and I gain a lot through collaboration with product management, which last year's post was all about, but sometimes in my role the bigger challenge is to get two separate product management teams to work together.

In a post earlier this year I talked about how the Oracle Digital Assistant was going to transform how we use SaaS, starting with HCM, but to be able to write that I needed to prove it internally, my role of directing the marketing into the reality.

I was still using my ACE Director instance (thank you Oracle), and I needed the HCM team to help with their delivered skills and the ODA team to help with the platform. Internally within Accenture I needed two people who had not worked together before to manage the SaaS instance and the ODA instance.

Without this co-operation or virtual community we would not have the knowledge we have today and I would have had nothing to talk about at OOW.

Thankyou Oracle Community and thankyou Tim for nudging us all each year.

Tuesday 1 October 2019

A Year At Accenture

On the 1st October 2018 I joined Accenture

It wasn't a surprise or even a difficult decision, Certus was acquired by Accenture earlier that year.

The period of time up to joining was really well planned, with lots of information in bite size chunks then on the first day we were given an on-boarding pack to work through. I was in the run up to Oracle Open World and everyone else was continuing on existing projects so finding the time to do the on-boarding was difficult, but it was comprehensive, and I thank the team behind the acquisition for including a lot more than the standard. I have worked with a few people who have joined since I did and they could have done with that pack.

Accenture is so big; no one knows everything! I pride myself on my knowledge of Oracle and state that if I don't know the answer I know someone who does. That network has taken me 20+ years to develop. Accenture is 10 times the size of Oracle and 12 months in, I still have so much to learn.

The work is hard but fun, I took a role outside of the UK practice where we first landed and work in a small European team assisting projects. I still get to do the things I love, helping customers with roadmaps and decisions, small technical PoCs with Oracle and the opportunity to continue my thought leadership, not just through the Oracle ACE Program but through Accenture themselves. I had the opportunity to speak at Oracle Open World London, their AOLC and contribute to 3 white papers.

I have really struggled with process. I am a worrier and the processes needed to support a company of 470K+ employees are staggering. I pride myself on being different but that means I don't fit the average employee straw man and at times I feel I have a personal objective to fail each process and policy, but as I have been able to demonstrate my value it has got a little bit easier. My Career Counsellor is also my great friend and fellow ACE Director Julian Dontcheff and he has helped me with the navigation within Accenture.

The customers are much bigger and more complex which I love and all the teams have made me feel welcome and I get so much satisfaction from being able to help find the answers they need.

If you think Oracle has a lot of acronyms try working at Accenture!

I also love the opportunity to learn, not just Oracle. I love the people programs, Inclusion and Diversity and Volunteering opportunities.

I miss Certus and the small company ethos, but we were getting big, however not big enough for the size of projects coming along and this was the obvious next step. It has been a steep learning curve and hasn't suited everyone, but I have survived and looking forward to the next 12 months.

Thankyou to everyone who has helped me.

Monday 30 September 2019

2019 OOW - Being Accenture

Last year at OOW I had been Accenture for less than 3 weeks and roll forward a year and I am part of the furniture, more relaxed about the organisation and OOW and instead of meeting everyone for the first time felt more of the team.

At OOW last year Accenture launched MyConcerto for Oracle, a totally new platform for engaging with customers about their Oracle offerings. I have posted about how much I love this platform and although I am not in a role that would use this everyday I am an internal ambassador and contribute content.

MyConcerto was the hub of the Accenture presence at OOW. Every presentation in the stand theatre area and demo stations was delivered that way and delegates could play the interactive, MyConcerto game, using a touch screen to conduct the MyConcerto them tune and score points with their speed and reaction. Obviously I had to have a go and scored terribly.

Here Samia Tarraf and Stephanie Brackhahn tell you more about it, it really was high energy and a popular place to be.

Of course, my personal itinerary meant I wasn't on the stand much, but I did try and pop along as often as possible to say hi to those people I am working with on global initiatives. I always feel knowing someone makes being part of a virtual team successful. As an exhibitor I did have the privilege of an early/late pass which meant I could go in before the exhibition started each day to make this happen, and I also watched the first keynote from the booth where our own Annette RippertSenior Managing Director - Technology, North America, talked about how we see this market and how customers are benefiting from Cloud. 

OOW is where Oracle recognise their customers and their partners in their annual awards. This press release shows not only awards that Accenture received but more importantly our customers, and I was honoured to be on stage with Illy who won a PaaS with SaaS award for their product using Oracle Digital Assistant with their SaaS implementation. 

Accenture also had a dedicated day for their customers alongside OOW in the Spin Lounge, just a few hundred yards from Moscone. Here customers could chill out, attend small sessions and meet others taking their Oracle journey with Accenture. Then it ended with a fun evening with everyone trying the table tennis (well not me).  

Here I had the opportunity to talk through how Oracle are delivering the Digital Assistant skills within HCM, based on the white paper we published earlier in the year. Other papers released were on Learning and Recruitment Clouds. 

I started my presentation with MyConcerto, told the story of the value and use cases and navigated the platform to a video of me showing a demo, and then switched to delivering it live. Sounds great, and it was finally, however in the 10 minutes before it was my worst demo experience ever as I managed to mistype a URL and lets just say I never want to do that again....

One of the best things about being Accenture is working with fellow ACE Director Julian Dontcheff, he is completely the other end of the technical spectrum to me but our worlds overlap more often than you think. He is part of Accenture Enkitec which also had a presence with a relaxed area in town and thank you to the team who granted me honorary membership for the week!

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