Thursday, 20 October 2016

Congratulations to Certus - Thank you to everyone who Voted

Back in August I asked for your vote in The UKOUG Partner Awards. I always say how important these are because they are voted for by end users.

It is a hard process for me, I am not allowed to do anything for PYA by UKOUG because I am a partner and there has to be a total separation. Most people understand that but my boss rang me 3 times on the day asking if we had won something and I just didn't know! Even during rehearsal in the afternoon they wouldn't let me near the boxes of trophies in case I saw anything.

photo from ukoug

Linda Barker, UKOUG President was unable to be at the event due to ill health and that meant I was asked to step in and host the night, but even then I wasn't allowed to hand out the prizes; again total separation.

I say all this because I know most people understand but I want to make it clear if anything being UKOUG counts against me.

Certus submitted in 6 categories this year, simply because we thought we had a story to share in each of them. We were then shortlisted for 5 which was a shock as the submissions this year were up 25% with some really strong competition. All of the management team in Certus asked people to vote,  through our customer relationships, and through linkedin to the wider community. If you read ANY of the Linkedin posts you will have read the passion for what we do; that is Certus, and why people want to work with us.

On the evening Richard Atkins arrived early, which on its own was impressive. Shortly before OOW, Richard moved into a new flat then flew out to San Francisco and then onto Australia where we have our APAC offices. He arrived back at 4pm on Thursday, rushed to a shop to buy a tux, rushed home and couldn't find any shoes! Hence he arrived at the Cafe de Paris looking reasonably smart, if not tired but with brown shoes. A fact the comedian, Chris Hunter (who was excellent)  mentioned several times. However when most people felt tired after midnight Richard was just waking up, jet lag has its advantages.

Richard was joined by Maria our Marketing Executive, and Charlene who runs our HR. I was sat on a different table.

photo from ukoug

Certus wanted most the Cloud Applications Award. In 2013, in the very early days of Certus, this was the Fusion Award and they won Silver. In 2014 and 2015 they had won the Gold Award. The company has grown, and now has 26 Cloud Customers (not including Australia which is also growing) and very proud of everything they have achieved.

The evening started well, we won Gold for a new category of Digital Transformation, helped by ONS who talked in a video about Digital Transformation in Government and how we are helping them achieve it, and England Rugby who talked about their Digital Transformation in Sport at Oracle Open World.

Then we won Gold for Middleware, this was a shock. We have been very, very open about our PaaS4SaaS work, it will be crucial for SaaS customers, especially those moving from EBS with many customisations. I did feel a little guilty, PaaS is one of the current buzz words and there are other partners doing amazing things with traditional middleware, but then we are sharing our findings as we go along and hopefully these help other end users. Last year we won bronze for this in the emerging technology category.

Interestingly Peter Care from FXLoader who was co-author to me in the latest Oracle Scene won Gold for ISV Innovative Service Partner with his APEX PaaS4SaaS application. People are really interested in what can be done in this area.

With two Golds under our belt it was really nerve wracking when it came to the Could Applications Category, this really was the big one for us. I so wanted to get on stage with Richard to collect it but as UKOUG I couldn't.

Mark Sweeny our CEO was at home following us with WhatsApp (no phone reception in the venue), but Tim Warner our COO is cleverer and he was following on Periscope, (thank you Mark from BPI on Demand). Even better the next morning we were all able to watch the ceremony and laugh again at Richard's shoes.

Three Golds was amazing and we still had 2 more nominations in the running. SME and Training. Again two important parts of what we do. I love working with SME customers the difference you can make is really powerful and quite fast, and Certus started by training and that was the first thing I did when I joined them. We won bronze in both these categories which we are really pleased with.

I had arrived at the venue at 4pm for a rehearsal in my UKOUG role. I had a small suitcase with my dress, makeup etc as travelling on the tube in black tie is fine for a man, but not a woman in broad daylight. This turned out to be a great thing as it meant I was able to carry our haul away no problem, and then deliver them to our office in Guildford the next day.

Mark and Tim were so happy, and we all watched the awards, laughed at Richard (again) and then cleaned the new and old awards. Mark joked abut the cost of cabinets but it was just how pleased he was. Mark and Tim started Certus when they were first movers on Fusion (Cloud Apps). The disruption in the partner market meant there was no niche partner willing to concentrate on just this. They started really small and have built the business up, working with development all the way. The investment has been tremendous, everyone has to be in learn mode constantly and there are always challenges, what we strive on that, and have customers happy to tell you that.

So the UKOUG partner awards, voted for by customers, are really important to Certus, and on the evening I was really touched by all the genuine congratulations from our peers. Thank you everyone for voting for us.

Thank you to all the UKOUG staff for the great night and Congratulations to all the other winners.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

My Rock Star Life

I recently posted about not going on the APAC OTN Tour. My motivation for doing so was to explain just once, why not, hopefully to crush the rumours and debate as to why.

Actually for my UK friends, it was a bit like Will Young leaving Strictly Come Dancing, if you don't say why, people simply make up their own mind.

Anyway, I posted the blog and received great messages of support both publicly and privately, but one response to the blog was simply evil.

My blog requires me to authorise comments, and I could simply have deleted it. I often get comments that say 'well written, thank you for sharing, let me tell you what I sell' etc that I simply mark as spam and delete; but after consideration I thought I would let this one stay.

Anonymous is obviously under the illusion that I am self opinionated and living the life on Oracle's dime. Something that gets brought up from time to time and those of us who do have the opportunity to do this, do sometimes feel personally attacked for it. Most of the time it is friendly banter 'can I carry your bag?, 'I want your job'; but sometimes it is nasty.

Tim Hall, who I have travelled with a lot, has responded with his glamorous life videos, to show you that whilst most of it is great, that is not always the case. I have also posted about bad days.

Yesterday Martin Widlake who is quite new to OTN tours, tweeted about his travel schedule and a response came saying 'Rock Star Life' and I though YES that is exactly what it is.

A Rock Star life, at the beginning of their career.

The endless travel, never knowing where you are when you wake up, but knowing after a very long day you will pack up and do it all over again.

I love presenting, I love sharing the stories of what I do with Oracle software for my customers. I love my job.

But an OTN tour is not glamorous. It is fun, the people you travel with and the people you meet make it fun. Oracle cover travel, and accommodation costs for the night before and conference days. So at weekends and in gaps, we are paying our own way. We pay for our food and we pay for our entertainment between events. I am lucky and have been able to combine touring with having even more fun, having often dived before and after tours and that ill fated trip to Machu Picchu.

So yes, I lead a Rock Star's Life, and I love it. Next Gig the DOAG and I hope to see you all at the best one UKOUG2016.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

OTN Appreciation Day : That wonderful no-cost option - APEX

When I first read Tim's post  for this initiative, I had no idea what to write about, but I am sure none of you expected it to be APEX.

Yes I am a Cloud Apps girl, and for development to extend that (with PaaS4SaaS) I use ADF, and am looking at the non-technical ABCS (made just for me), but I don't discount APEX.

The reason I have chosen APEX as my favourite feature is because people who buy Oracle have found it hard to see value in a product with no associated cost. APEX is a no cost option within the database. That means you don't pay extra, it doesn't mean it is free; it is part of the base bundle.

Nobody says Oracle is cheap (well perhaps Larry did at this yea'r Open World), in fact did you know Oracle spelt backwards in Spanish means:

What this meant was that people decided that if Oracle was not charging extra for it, there could be little value. I used to work for a very large Systems Integrator and when APEX arrived (then called HTML DB) it took me years to persuade our development team to use it for customers. Now some of the best systems are written in APEX. 


But once the development community realised just what a gem this was, and their product managers started to evangelise , all that changed. 

As ever for some unfathomable reason, that small area of Europe known as the Netherlands have more APEX expertise per capita than anywhere else in the world, and they lead the OTN and ACE community in this area.

So I have chosen APEX as my favourite features, even if I don't use it myself much.

Happy OTN Appreciation Day

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Why Am I Not Travelling to Australia? Putting the Record Straight

I am a proud member of the OTN ACE Director Community. I hope I always give them credit for the opportunities they open up to me, to speak at conferences, in some of the most wonderful places I have had the pleasure of travelling to.

But it is also very easy to criticise when things don't go the way you want them to, and like any human community there can be disruptive forces. If you follow me on Twitter you will know I am not backward in coming forward when things go wrong. The social media executives in British Airways and Hilton know me on first name terms.

Earlier this year, I applied to take part in the APAC OTN Tour, then over the summer the shape of my involvement changed, and then in the run up to OOW it started to fall apart, and then just afterwards was cancelled completely.

People knew I was going, my name and extracts had appeared in flyers and on websites for the events. So inevitably people have asked why? Several people had their own theories before asking and as you would expect, they had a huge range of ideas, all equally incorrect, and all in the main looking for someone to blame.

  • The APAC OTN Tour as arranged by Francisco Alvarez covered NZ (2 dates), Australia (2 dates), China (2 dates) and Sangham in India. I submitted for all these dates.
  • I subsequently discovered that the week before this tour started Quest International had a JDE conference in Australia, so I also applied and was accepted for that event.
  • I was also approached by regional leaders of AUSOUG who have a very large applications community, they are holding their Australia events during the time of China and India on the APAC tour that would be more technically focused. I therefore contacted both OTN and Francisco and asked to swap those dates 
  • I then expected, subject to funding to be speaking for Quest, APAC NZ, APAC Australia and then AUSOUG
  • My papers were selected by all the groups including China and India, but I had by then dropped out of those legs of the tour.
  • Unfortunately because of perceived conflicts AUSOUG then asked me to choose between their events and APAC Australia. I did not want to choose, I am only interested in the community but even with intervention from OTN, no compromise was reached and I had to reluctantly drop out of AUSOUG.
  • OTN came under budget constraints, as this tour was suddenly much in excess of the original agreed budget, and they told me that they couldn't support the QUEST leg. Luckily I work for a great company who were able to make up that shortfall
  • Then QUEST who focus purely on the JDE community had a revision of the objectives and priorities for their agenda, and my 'Cloud Journey' content no longer fitted. 
  • I was verbally approved for the remaining APAC tour NZ and Australia but unfortunately the budget constraints did not have anywhere to go and OTN and Francisco had to make very hard decisions, and I was one of the casualties.
This was not any single decision, but rather a conspiracy of bad luck. Yes I am very disappointed but am getting over it. Am I angry? No, OTN support me brilliantly, and I don't envy them or any of the other players in this drama their need to make hard decisions.

I am more disappointed for those I have let down. My favourite quotation is about Commitment. I committed to those events. Initially subject to funding, but even after verbal approval that was eventually rescinded. All for the right reasons but I still feel I have let them down. 

This week there are lots of events in Eastern Europe I would love to have taken part in, but did not apply as it was too much along side this APAC tour, and now I wish I was there. But I will get other opportunities.

I wish everyone on the tour the best and know it will be amazing. 

If you are an end user in this region, one of the events will be great for you, please sign up.

And finally bring me back some TamTams Tim and all will be forgiven.

Monday, 26 September 2016

My OOW16 - My Thoughts and Those From The Analysts I Follow

There is always post Open World conversations about what was it all about and what does that mean to Oracle customers. Some of these conversations are formal and many more are informal, in the street around Moscone, at the airport and with everyone you meet when you get back.

On the Thursday morning I was at an Analyst breakfast and I was quite buoyant about SaaS, there were more customers than Oracle speaking on HCM and lots of examples of ERP customers. I think Cloud @ Customer will be a great option for those who want Cloud Applications but are not able to take their solution off site.

In the PaaS world, there are a lot of unknowns and a lot is still marketing but there are signs of small adoption. I am hopeful that the success we now see in SaaS will over time be mirrored in PaaS.

Ray Wang and I in a very quick selfie
Alex Gorbachev who is more the infrastructure and database side felt that Oracle taking on AWS for those who have already moved their Oracle there will be almost impossible, but that Oracle have a chance to win those who have yet to move; if they get it right.

I try and keep up with what the analysts have to say and I got to say a very quick hallo to one of my two favourites Ray Wang. 

Ray Wang was recording a video with Cube, so I got to hear his thoughts live. 

My other favourite analyst Den Howlett was there for 2 days but we missed each other. I was watching his twitter feed and reading his thoughts on the conference messages and his apps preview, I love how Den doesn't mince his words, and I was really pleased he called out the UX as a great feature in the apps.

All the blogs from Diginomica can be found here.

Other commentary I have read and found interesting are:

Ray's colleague Chris Kanaracus at Constellation wrote a great piece on customers at OOW, the ultimate measure of Oracles's success. 

Tech Target focused on the IaaS push.

Also a great write up from UKOUG President Linda Barker

The Cloud First idea, is not new to me, UKOUG sent two members to beta test 12.2 and at that time under NDA we were told this would happen. I think it gives people the opportunity to have a go at 12.2 before doing an on premise upgrade and for Oracle to sort out any issues before releases the on premise version. Tim Hall explains this much better than me.

I will be following up on the PaaS releases, especially the Low Code Project Visual Code suite, and look forward to Certus testing release 12 of HCM & ERP as there were a lot of exciting enhancements talked about I want to see.

I also want to follow up the Managed Service Provider Program with Alliance & Channels and Cloud @ Customer to see how they fit into our services at Certus.

Back to my main OOW16 page:

My OOW16 - The Off Piste Fun

Oracle Open World is busy, it is hard work, but it is also great fun. To me there is very little difference between the fun and the work, but in this post I want to concentrate on all the great things I had a chance to do.

I meet so many people at Oracle events and yet I am useless at remembering names. I am more likely to remember something silly you have done, a dress you have worn or a hairstyle than your name. I think that is why I hate people who have an avatar or no picture on their profiles. How am I meant to know who you are?

Amongst all the thousands of people I have had the privilege to meet there are those I get to call friends, and OOW is a chance to meet up and have fun.

As I said in the main OOW16 post I met with Oracle friends at HQ on my first day, and then had dinner with Misha Vaughan from the UX team. If we don't plan this time in our diaries, it simply doesn't happen.

Tim and his dad
The ACE Director briefings are such fun, these are people I have travelled with on OTN tours and such special people. There is also the chance for my Oracle Family to reunite.

I have posted separately about my OOW triathlon, but that isn't the end of the physical exercise, simply being at OOW ensures you meet your step count each day, especially when the sessions I want are spread out over several locations.

When we moved into the city I bought flowers, or rather my friend Dina did for me. Flowers in my hotel room (or home) means I am there for more than 4 nights. I am really good at taking a large water bottle and creating a vase for them.

For Larry's keynote the ACEs got together and made a video welcoming everyone to OOW. Thank you Linda our President from UKOUG for catching it on video  (you need to turn the mute off).

Alexis & I
Then we had our ACE dinner on Pier 39, where I was able to introduce Alexis to some of the middleware ACEs he has only been able to follow on their blogs. This is again an example of the community helping each other, and thanks especially to Luc Bors.

Mark Hurd & Billie Jean King
Monday I attended the Oracle Women's Leadership in the Executive Forum where the keynote was Billie Jean King. She gave us a great speech and then she was interviewed by Mark Hurd. I found the interview a little odd, it was obvious Mark had not been there for her speech as he asked a couple of questions where the answers had been covered in her talk. She handled it very well but I would not have been so polite.

I popped into Oak Table World first thing on Tuesday but only had time to taste the wonderful doughnuts.

I also had a little bit of time to visit the exhibition later and took the opportunity to have a caracture done, which actually I am not sure about at all. 

I caught up with old colleagues from Fujitsu US on their stand and other friends around the hall.

The bloggers meetup was Wednesday sponsored by Pythian and a great opportunity to watch up with other friends but all too soon that was over as Wednesday is also the appreciation party day. 

This year it was very different. Firstly it was in AT&T Park and not Treasure Island. That meant we could walk there, all the ACEs and Java Champions had reserved seating, so we walked together. The set up was great just like a game, but with all concessions free. 

I loved the concert, Gwen Stefani was great and I loved Sting. I saw my first Police concert 36 years ago when I lived in Brixton and they played a free concert on Streatham Common. The best part of the concert was Gwen singing a duet with Sting. 

Me, Alex, Jennifer & Roel
Walking home was also fun and then several of us finished the night with a cocktail in the SkyBar on the 47th floor of our hotel.

Once the conference was over I headed to North Beach with John King, Alex Nuijten and Tim Hall to visit the best pizza place in San Francisco, although that also meat we had to wait. However we then were joined by Mark Boback and ate outside. The pizza was worth waiting for.

Whilst we were waiting we found a private detective agency and think that is somewhere we could all work once our roles have been replaced by the Cloud.

Friday morning I had breakfast with the left over contingent from Holland and then did a little shopping. 

Then just as I was leaving to get my car to the airport I met Oliver Vom Deich who used to be my partner manager, and he travelled with me to the airport.

Then in the BA lounge I met Mark Rittman and had a great catchup with him. After our last flight together in June I was pleased he didn't get an upgrade.

A very busy 10 days, lots of friends caught up with but many more not. So I leave the last words to Rene who summed it up so well

Back to my main OOW16 page:

My OOW16 - User Experience

User Experience is my favourite team in Oracle. How successfully we use the applications is what we are all striving to do and how easy and intuitive they are is a big part of that success. This is the UX.

The day before the Oracle ACE Director briefings is now traditionally the Applications UX Day, where they share their roadmap and what they are up to. For me this is another not to be missed day.

The actual day had changed the format a bit, gone back to a smaller but deeper audience and I liked that. We heard from Jeremy Ashley the GVP on their direction and then we drilled into a number of projects. Tim Hall works for an organisation who are implementing Cloud Applications so he came along, and it was really interesting to get his take on the day

Misha & Jake
My only wish it that all product development worked closely with UX. Where they do the output is great.

They shared with us what they are doing mid term, this is the under NDA bit but I can tell you there are several things I am looking forward to in the Apps, and in Cloud we get this really quickly, we don't have to wait until customers chose to upgrade. 

Jake & the Smart Office
Then there is the futures, the work that Jake Kumamoto and his team do. He and Misha Vaughan who is responsible for this day, took us on a tour of what they are upto. My favourite is the smart office and how our working lives are developing.

Thanks also to the UX team for a great evening and dinner.

AT OOW itself the UX team have an expo, where invited people can come and see what they are upto. Last year Lonneke Dikmans and I demonstrated our #PaaS4SaaS PoC and this year we were back to show what we are doing with our first app for an Immunisation Program. This is what we also presented on the Sunday in the first day of OOW.

Lonneke and I at the Expo
We arrived early and had the change to see what our fellow ACE Director Basheer Khan was showing. He has a customer who has moved to cloud from EBS and there is a small but key piece of functionality not yet available. Basheer has recreated that functionality in PaaS and it looks great. I was very keen on understanding exactly how he had done it, and he talked through the challenges. I was very relieved he had found the same ones as us; but we all agreed that things are moving forward to address these challenges in the future.

I also popped along to the UX Usability Labs, where you can sign up to take part in studies. I love this team and it is always a great way to see what they are working on and be a small part of their research. This year I took part in an artificial intelligence study. 

Did you now the UX team have been coming to UKOUG for a decade? And they will be there again this year at Apps16, and make sure you sign up to take part when you register.

Back to my main OOW16 page: