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.