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!

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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Friday, 27 September 2019

2019 Oracle Open World - The Messages Important to Me

Gosh, there are so many OOW blogs where do you start, and will I just regurgitate everyone else?

For me my top tip would be to take Oracle's advice and watch the keynotes which are all online:

Then look at Analyst write-ups, these are my go to ones:

Den Howlett Diginomica specifically about Steve Miranda's content

Other Diginomica OOW Blogs - also fun to read and this one from Brian Sommer

Ray Wang and Holger Mueller from ConstellionR, now their blogs on OOW aren't online yet but look at their tweets from the event (#OOW19)

And some articles, this is my favourite CIO Magazine with lots more links to detail.

Over the Partner Forum, ACE Director Briefing and Open World itself I heard most of the announcements and had a little time to digest and ask questions, but have certainly started to rewatch and consider 'what next?', how does this affect me, my colleague and most importantly my customers?

Technically, the top announcement for me was the Always Free Autonomous Database Offering because people like to try things out and although Oracle have free trials for most of their Cloud Technology offerings this goes a long way to match the old 'SE' version of the database but give so much of the innovation of autonomous. The ability to build something with this and use it, will inspire the old and new to Oracle alike. I would also like to call out the APEX team, this is the obvious use of the offering and is a great testament to the product and their community, something I have mentioned before.

At the ACE Director Briefings I met a Java Champion who chose to accept an invitation to join us. I asked him 'why?', and he said he creates lots of little apps using lots of technology but Oracle's latest database options gives him the possibility of bringing them all together using the Oracle Cloud Container Kubernetes Service (OKE). I loved this, new meets old innovation.

The analytics for Fusion are very important for me, I don't think they have a wide enough coverage for everyone yet, but the roadmap looks great and cloud means it is delivered as soon as it is ready.

Applications is my area and so much is going into them, not least the new branding - the 'Redwood' shared by Steve Miranda and Hilell Cooperman 


Steve Miranda and Hilell Cooperman
Actually the branding has blown me away, and missing my one-to-one with Hilell, thanks to my travel woes saddens me. Since he started at Oracle he told me to expect big things but that he couldn't discus until it was ready to share and not just in the apps. Well this was not expected.

Here Hilell shares his thoughts and Steve Miranda's synopsis of OOW.

To me it isn't just about a fresh, exciting look at the Apps, although I can't wait to see it released. 

The brand is also about the company, perhaps removing Oracle itself from the brand. Making it more customer centric. When I went to register I was really shocked, Howard Street was not closed as it has been for every of the 15 previous Open World's I have attended. To be fair the changes to the Moscone Centre itself means it is much easier to move from North to South , but that as well as no boat in the closed area, meant it wasn't the traditional look. The branding itself is more subtle, no BIG RED ORACLE, and completely different colours. No big banners on buildings and much less intrusive flags on poles.

Everyone I spoke to noticed the change, it was not only at the event but in the presentations and will make its way into the offerings. This is something I am excited to see happen and hope that we see this developing over time.

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2019 OOW Code One Session

I also got the opportunity to facilitate a session at Code One on “Embracing Constant Technical Innovation in Our Daily Life”

I had a great panel: Gustavo Gonzalez, Francisco Munoz Alvarez, Sven Bernhardt and Tim Hall.

Not sure why I need to write a blog about it as obviously 'sleep-is-under-rated-when-I-have-a-blog-to-write' Tim, has already published a great synopsis and lots of links. And check out this awesome Oracle Magazine article where Tim shares his secret to being Tim!

However I would like to add everyone thought it needed to be part of our working lives and not an extra to ensure it gets done. I myself, submit papers for things I want to learn about, no excuse then if I get accepted!

Share, nothing makes you check as much as peer sharing, and share in whatever medium suits you, tweets, blogs, Linkedin, articles, books, videos, presentations. We all learn different ways and your content will appeal to different people so don't worry if there are already 50 APEX bloggers out there, share your knowledge (but don't plagiarise them).

Francisco and Gustavo are both great user group leaders and respectively lead the Latin America and Asia Pacific Groundbreakers' Tours. Bringing people together to learn is a fantastic way to keep up with new technology.

Sven (the youngster of the group) lists his top 3 here:

  • Community and growing your own network is important
  • Knowledge sharing is good, sharing experience is better
  • Learning through failing (Of course failing was not an option years ago, because technology was different; but with all modern technologies / platforms, failing is an option) -> Fail fast! Although this needs a mindset change that failures are allowed and ok which can be difficult to establish in mature organisations

Gustavo covered the session on linkedin

Thanks again to Code One for the opportunity, I love these sessions that help you as individuals a great Segway from the more technical sessions. Something to make you think.

What are your tips? Add to the comments, perhaps we can repeat next year and include them.

2019 Oracle Open World Presenting

My OOW session was selected by the user group leaders in EMEA, thank you.

This was my 'Should I Move to Oracle Cloud Applications?' presentation based on the UKOUG Oracle Scene Article I wrote back in 2017 and my most requested presentation ever.

The premise is that having the discussion on whether to stay with on premise application, host that on the cloud or move to the Cloud Applications, is often not a single conversation with Oracle. I wanted a framework that would start a discussion. The flowchart does just that, well normally.........

This year Oracle trialed a new room type, curtains to create room in unused space in Moscone, and headphones for the delegates and speakers. Each room did have AV people dedicated and looked very professional.

The room didn't have as many chairs as its capacity, although there were plenty of headphones, so we did have people standing. I was really impressed with the audience, the majority were end users and I got to speak to each of them before we started as I walked around with the chocolate tub. I wish I had realised at that point you could scan their QR code on their badge and get their name 'well sort of'.

First problem was wearing headphones yourself, I hate listening to me, and that took some getting used to.

I gave the presentation with Tim Warner and we shared a lecture mike as the AV people said lapel mikes were not as effective. The problem with the microphone was that it was TOO effective, and as our 'room' was closest to the corridor and almost directly opposite was an open area with the APEX hands on labs, we could hear their session as well. As a hands-on-lab it wasn't constant talking but if you know David Peake who was delivering it, you would have recognised the dulcet Australian accent, and the opportunity to learn APEX in parallel.

The biggest problem though was it isn't conducive to interaction. The audience are in 'listen' mode and don't ask questions. Or rather they wait till afterwards and line up to ask, I wish it had been as designed and everyone heard the questions. However it gave Tim and I extra time to share more customer examples.

I loved this session, had great feedback with people stopping me all week to say how useful they found it and will use it back in their own organisations.

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2019 OOW Fun

'Work Hard, Play Hard', that is defiantly the the mantra I like to follow at Oracle Open World.

On the Saturday night Roel and I went as guests along with Tim and Alex who have both celebrated 50th birthdays over the summer, a visit to Graham Wood and his partner Katie who treated us to the most amazing dinner at their home in Half Moon Bay.  The journey out was along the coast and was great to see the sea at its best with the surf rolling along with the Californian beaches on the way back I got to experience just how fast an Uber driver can drive, something which is not the thrill I seek.

In the past I would have included my annual triathlon but with the ACE Director briefings moving to Saturday I haven’t done the bridge cycle ride for a few years. However I was up for the bridge Run walk on Sunday morning. I travelled up to the bridge with Maria Colgan and Roel Hartman, but Roel is a real runner and not only did he run the bridge and back but also all the way back to the hotel, as part of his upcoming Chicago Marathon training. Maria and I walked the bridge with Barry McGillin who doesn’t live that far from me back home, but that I only ever see at events.  Three people from the island of Ireland on the bridge having fun. We start earlier than the runners so at least we got to wave at them in both directions. Thanks to Jeff Smith for organising

Monday morning is the traditional Swim in the Bay originally started by Chet Justice and now kept going by Connor McDonald and renamed 'dash & splash'. It was a damp misty morning and despite best ever registrations the turnout was not high but those of us that swam loved it and thank you Aylin Uysal for the lift back the hotel and especially thanks to Hellion's and Jennifer who were waiting with coffee and doughnuts when we left the water.

I registration on Sunday Oracle gave out tickets to the baseball at the newly renamed Oracle Park to see the San Francisco Giants Play the Miami Marlins. Thanks to Andrew Bohnet from innovatetax, he gave me his tickets as well so I was able to enjoy the baseball on my only free afternoon. However I had not anticipated the strength of the sun and despite not removing my jumper and wearing the baseball cap I was also given, I still managed to burn my neck and face. I can’t pretend to have understood the rules of the game but loved the atmosphere. 

I did see that someone had tweeted their steps for the conference I had a look at mine but although they are probably inaccurate for it appears I did almost 15 km on Wednesday, my travel day and 14 ½ of which I know where actually knitting!

I didn't have much time for the Exhibition but I did do the Scavenger Hunt with Alex Nuijten, I think we should have won a special award for the fastest complete. It was a whirlwind run around the show floor and definitely fun!

This year the Oracle appreciation event was at the Chase Centre Home of the San Francisco Warriors basketball team. This is only been open a couple of weeks and it was a great honour to be able to attend and what an amazing building it is. The first act was John Mayer, who as Linda Barker shared, he appeared to have been coached very well on Autonomous Database which gave everyone a smile. I really enjoyed his music but thought of it as almost background music. As an old lady I had intended not to stay for the second act but was persuaded to give it ago by Alex and Roel. Flo Rida took to the stage and was absolutely amazing he had everybody moving gave great energy and for the first time in many many years. I stayed until we were removed from the appreciation event with everybody leaving at the same time we decided to walk back, after all you can never have too many steps.

I always feel guilty about talking about the fun at Open World, I am such I lucky little old lady who gets these opportunities but most of all what I love is catching up with old friends and making new ones. Graham has retired from Oracle and it was lovely to see him and I also got to catch up Mogens and James Morle.

Michelle Malcher now works for Oracle and although was not at open world was that hate you on the Friday, she came into the city before a late flight were we managed to have dinner with a couple of friends.

Dina Blaschczok knows how I love to have flowers in my hotel when away for a few days and these beautiful roses delivered

I have learnt that If you want to catch up with people at this event you have to actually make appointments, and most days I had one or two breakfast meetings following pre-breakfast meetings and a full diary however it is so well worth it both professionally and with people I can truly call friends.

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2019 OOW Travel

I am a creature of habit.

I normally attend Partner Advisory Boards on the Friday before OOW and arrange individual meetings at headquarters for the Thursday, I also like to have a day upfront to ensure I haven’t forgotten anything and that my presentations are ready to go. Therefore I traditionally travel out to San Francisco the Tuesday before the conference starts.

But, It seems, I am also doomed to travel issues, my airline decided to have its first pilots' strike in history and my original flight was cancelled two weeks before travel. I wasn’t too concerned as I thought that I could use my contingency day and simply move my flight to the Wednesday. 

I left my house at 0500 for a 0645 flight to London. Everything seemed to be okay until we were told are that as the plane had been sat on the apron for three days since before the strike, when they started it up two monitors in the cockpit failed. Apparently they can fly with only one working but not with two out. The plan was to wait for the incoming flight from London and borrow one of theirs, however when it arrived it only had one functioning. 

Plan B was to borrow one from another airline in Dublin, they would send the monitor up to Belfast and all would be fine. This put my 1130 connection at risk but there was another flight about 1400. There were no alternative flights to London with any airline as the strike it meant all flights were full.

After a couple of hours, (it takes two hours to drive from Dublin to Belfast), the engineer chased the part only to be told that they were waiting for a specialist courier and it hadn’t yet left. 

Later, once sure it was on its way, the pilot told us that he expected to leave about 1430 if it worked. Just before 1400 we saw the engineer run down to the plane with part but just a few minutes later at exactly 1400 we all got a text to tell us there was still an issue and the next information with bit 4pm. No more than five minutes later the pilot came into the lounge and told us we were good to go everything was working we were ready to board however when we left at 1500 several people had to have their luggage offloaded as although the flight was ready to go they could not be found. So sad, many hours delayed and then to miss the flight.

At London I was offered the next available direct flight which was the next morning. I asked about connecting flights and was offered one to New York but then I would only get to San Francisco 2 hours earlier and with runway issues there causing many delays and cancellations I decided to stay put.

When am I travelling long-distance I try to take some knitting with me, it allows me to feel I’ve achieved something during long journeys and is good for de-stressing delays. However I hadn’t expected to complete this jumper on this journey. Guess I should be thankful for small mercies.

They put me up in a nice hotel at the terminal and my flight the following day went without incident but it did mean I missed my individual meetings at Redwood Shores on the Thursday, one with Hilell Cooperman who was to share with me the excitement around the new Oracle branding, Stefan Schmitz who is responsible for the OTB I use within Fusion and most importantly my annual catch up with Steve Miranda who owns apps development.

I always take chocolate to conferences, and this was no exception, but I also had vouchers for food during the delay and spent that on large bars of chocolate, all of which I had to explain on my arrival in San Francisco.

In contrast my flight home was without incident and the connection to Belfast was actually 25 minutes early but that doesn’t actually cancel out the 9 ½ hours delay on my original flight and out this could be my last European Union flight delay claim (another Brexit casualty).

As ever my faithful taxi driver was waiting for me at the airport I was soon home with another Oracle Open World under my belt.

That should have been the end of it, but I seemed overly tired. Sunday morning I was due to dive and I cancelled which is not like me, and then the next day I woke up with a full head cold, so spent my second day in bed. My excuse for how late these blogs are.

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