Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Certus-Solutions, Six Months In

Six months ago in September I joined Certus. They got ‘Cloud’ and had great ideas and success that I wanted to be part off.

I guess most of what I do comes under the title of enablement.

Get the Certus name more widely known, and yes I am speaking, blogging, tweeting and simply being known as working for Certus but it their success with customers that makes them stand out.

They retained, gold for UKOUG partner awards for Training and moved from silver to gold for Fusion, no small feat and much appreciated these are customer voted for awards. In the Oracle partner awards they were short listed for both Cloud Applications and Specialized partner, which for a company that does not resell, and 3 years ago were unheard of, is amazing.

Certus stated they wanted to move into the world of PaaS toprovide extensions to SaaS where it was the right thing to do. This was a major exercise just separating the reality from the marketing in the run up to Oracle Open World, and then digging deep into it. I have spoken at length about where we are on this journey, and you can follow it on my guest posts for Oracle as well as my own and of course on the Certus webpage. Winning a partner award, the first partner award for Cloud at the Fusion Middleware Community Forum was unexpected but much appreciated. Certus does believe that sharing our knowledge is the right thing to do, yes perhaps it does help competitors but it also gives us leads and partnering opportunities.

I am also working on references with our customers and this is so interesting. I came from a world of mainly large public sector and now I am working in all sectors and several mid market organisations that would never of considered Oracle in the past. This is an area I really enjoy, it is so easy just to remember the challenges of a project, but when you look back at what has been achieved you can be really proud.

I come from an EBS Financials background and Certus have depth in HCM so I have been doing a lot of learning, but as I have been a manager for many years I did at least understand what HCM processes were.

As Certus builds its profile that means the website as well and I have been helping marketing with content that helps visitors understand a typical Cloud Journey, and how we have helped others.

When I started on September 1st, one of our customers had not even signed a contractJT, formerly Jersey Telecom, needed a system that could support them today, including all their acquired companies who were not yet integrated, but also support them as they grow. Their people are key to their success and an enterprise HCM system was needed to underpin that. Roll on 5 months and the first two phases are live and I am working with them on submissions to Oracle Open World. They have a great story to tell. Oracle have already asked them to be on the customer panel for the HCM ModernApplications Day, recognising what a great achievement this has been.

JT took us into Australia and we have set up a satellite offering there, training initially but want to work with local partners as they start their journeys to the Cloud.

I love teaching and started with Certus delivering UX education on behalf of Oracle, and hope to do more of that. Certus deliver all the HCM Cloud training for both Alliance & Channels, and Oracle University and we are hoping to do more ERP training as well.

Working with customers at the start of their journey, when they haven't even made a decision to go yet, but want to understand options and strategies, this is the bit I love most. I have worked with a number of potential Cloud customers around ERP as well as HCM.

I have also done some authoring, a bit unexpected but one customer needed very specific training in compensation management, this normally only happens once a year so they wanted to ensure it was captured at a very detailed level to ensure they could do this next year without help. I loved doing it.

I have got involved in a number of partner forums with Oracle, not just FMW but also Cloud and PaaS, Oracle need field feedback and in return you get access to product management who will give you heads up on what is coming, and help you with your ambitions.

Certus also get involved with beta testing of Cloud Applications, which for us is a constant role as there is an upgrade every 6 months. Being asked is an honour and being asked again shows that you are valuable to them.

Certus not only implements Cloud Applications we have an Engage Business Support Services, a wrapper to help customers with coexistence and through upgrades, not because they are difficult, they are not, but to help them understand and decide what new features to implement or use. Our customers trust us to be alongside them as they make each step in the Cloud.

My contract with Certus recognises the need for investment to stay a thought leader and the support from them is phenomenal. Being an ACE director takes effort and time but the rewards outweigh that, the network into development and product management, time and time again pay off, but I have seen so many supported to reach ACE Director but then get swallowed up and loose it a few years later.

Certus is the leading HCM Cloud implementer in the UK and wants to move towards that in ERP. I want to be part of that journey and after 6 months can defiantly say I made the right choice.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Benelux User Group OBUG - Experience 2015 - 24th March

Experience 2015, was held at Evoluon which used to be a science museum owned by Phillips Electrical which practically owned Eindhoven, the town were it is located. The centre is no longer a museum but a great conference venue.

The exhibition was fantastic, Oracle were out in force and and Jeremy Ashley had bought over 6 people from the UX team, including Vlad Babu (@vladbabu), who had been drafted in for Budapest. All the major partners from the Benelux region were also in attendance and the Customer Experience team had their journey mapping workshops available. We had these at UKOUG in December and they are a fantastic way to understand where you need to concentrate / enhance your solutions. What I don’t understand is why are they being limited to the CX product family, I can see value in what they do for HCM and ERP, less so I agree but still valuable.

My first session was my now properly prepared ‘Are Cloud Applications Ready?’ and it was a lunchtime session so I expected a small audience but actually I was happy with the number, and later I did ‘PaaS4SaaS’ and had an equally good number.

The keynote at the start of the day was Jeremy Ashley (VP) and Andrew Sutherland (SVP) who had never worked together before but it just flowed. They had made a videobefore and another compelation after which just shows how much value they bought to the audience. At the end of the day the final keynote was Matthew Banks from the CX team, and my, did he command the stage and make everyone sit up and listen. I need to get him to UKOUG.

The delegate numbers could have been higher and I know from personal experience how disappointing that can be, you put so much passion and personal effort into an event, you get the venue, the exhibition and the sessions and the keynotes right so why not the audience? We at UKOUG have had the same issues around what is coming, members traditionally look at what they are doing today and how to get more out of it, and expect that anything about the future is for their boss or will be simply marketing. It isn’t just marketing, and for your personal development it is important to understand what is next.

At UKOUG we are working hard with our conference and SIG committees to try and get the balance right, but we don’t have the magic formula either, perhaps this is something to discuss at the next EOUC meeting, lets see if another Usergroup has solved the problem?

But OBUG, it was a fantastic event and you should be really proud.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Be Careful What You Have Volunteered For

Straight after the Ireland conference I flew to Germany to visit my daughter, so my next event for the Benelux User Group was just a 4 hour train journey, no waiting around in an airport, which was two hours away anyway. 

The event for OBUG was in Eindhoven but first I had a favour to carry out for Alex Nuijten, who was to be my host for a few days.

Alex works for Ordina, a large IT company in the Netherlands with a big Oracle practice. They often have learning sessions on sight and in fact the week before Maria Colgan had been there at the invitation of MarcoGralike to talk about in-memory. Alex had asked me if I would speak to a few of his colleagues about Cloud Apps, and pleased to be able to do something for Alex after he had created from scratch a session on using APEX with EBS for me, I happily said yes.

When we were in Dublin, Alex casually mentioned that his ‘few colleagues’ looked to be about 50! I was shocked but then quite excited, if 50 turned up I would be on a par with Maria, and its not often Apps can compete with Database for audience size!

Alex met me off the train in Utrecht and we were going to go sightseeing, but I still felt groggy so we went for a coffee. I had been splicing different sessions together on the train so my slides ran as one and wanted to add something. When I opened the file it appeared I had not saved on the train so there I was polishing slides at the last minute. We raised a toast to the slide-polishing king, Doug Burns. Out of sight but not out of mind.

We did look around the cathedral, and walk through the canals, and ate icecream in the beautiful spring sunshine.

The session was from 6 – 9 pm and it was just me, so I was so excited, people who wanted to hear about Cloud Applications in their own time. Gerard, who had asked Alex if he could in anyway arrange this didn’t realise what great friends Alex and I are, and was genuinely excited to have me at Ordina, telling me that I was on the home page of their intranet and that 72 people had registered!

They had drinks and food to start with and then I began my story, how Oracle started the Fusion Path, Apps Unlimited, FMW, early adopters, UX and the move to Cloud Applications. A number of presentations I have given but strung into a 150 minutes. Then it was beer to finish with. There were lots of great questions and I felt it had been a good evening. Gerard said thankyou with the most enormous jar of traditional Dutch sweets and some wooden tulips, luckily I was flying home British Airways and have a good luggage allowance!

I stayed with Alex’s family, not for the first time, and they are so welcoming. It was almost like being in the RMOUG cabins from yester year, Alex heated traditional Dutch caramel wafers in his new fire place and I have to say they were yummy.

And then it was time for OBUG.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

OUG Ireland - My Home Conference

Favourite Conference in March was Ireland, this is my home conference, and this year we were back at Croke Park, a beautiful stadium that means so much to the Irish.

Faye Wood was the project manager and this is her last Ireland conference, and I want to say a big thank you to her, she is still working with the Irish community SIGS.

Roel Hartman
The evening before the event there was an ACE dinner funded by OTN where we invited the few local end users who were presenting. It was a lovely dinner and I should say, nice to catch up with people, although I had seen Alex, Roel and Brendan in Norway. Thankyou OTN.

Tim Hall
Tim Hall did put in an appearance but simply flew in and out the same day as did Jonathan Lewis, Tim is making the point that if you live in the midlands or further North a day trip to Dublin booked in advance is cheaper than the train to London.

My first presentation in Ireland was on behalf of Jeremy Ashley, the VP of User Experience. The UX team are great supporters of UKOUG but did not have a presenter available and I was honoured to be able to help as a OAUX.

My second presentation was about how being a Cloud Customer is different, and I was not well enough prepared. I have already written about this, but have learnt and did better the next time.

Alex Nuijten
Our keynote speaker was Jon Paul from Ireland telling us where Ireland fits into the wider Oracle story and there are some great customer stories emerging.  We also had Nadia Bendjedou who is another great supporter of UKOUG and always the one EBS users want to hear. On the tech side we had Maria Coglan, a local girl done good. Maria is originally from Dublin and we have tried many times to get her over from Oracle HQ, and in fact the date this year was driven by Maria’s availability.

Following on from last year’s success with a one-day master class from Tom Kyte the day after the event, Maria did the same for us. Thank you.

After the event those who were not flying straight out went for a meal and I suddenly felt very tired and unwell, I put it down to exhaustion from owning the Ireland event but by the next day knew I had an awful cold. I blamed it on Brendan Tierny who was ill when we arrived but clever people told me you are not contagious when you have the symptoms, but I would like to point out that Brendan was also in Norway with no symptoms. I wouldn’t normally mention this except it got worse over the weekend and when I arrived in Holland I was worried my voice would not hold out. I think however I then passed the germs to others as the Tierney lergy made its way around the ACE program.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Finally My PaaS4SaaS Workshop Blog

I know this posting is a bit late but at the end of January I took part in a proof of concept workshop for PaaS4Sass and it’s been a rollercoaster ride ever since.

When I was thinking about moving to Certus one of the things that attracted me was there intent to write extensions for Oracle’s CloudApplications using the just announced PaaS4SaaS solution.
I attended Oracle Open World with an open mind and trying to learn as much as I could about the solutions. The Larry Ellison demo was really impressive but then Oracle has always been a brilliant marketing company.

I came back to UK and set about validating what was available, some of the components Database and Java Cloud had been available for a while but I wanted or would want to also use the Process and Integration Cloud offerings.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am an OracleApplications User Experience advocate and am very committed to the user experience work that goes into Oracle Cloud Applications.  Extensions delivered by Certus will have this same user experience and I made this video on the half of Certus.

The user experience team have been given funding by Thomas Kurian who is personally committed to making PaaS4SaaS work, to carry out a number of proof of concept workshops with Oracle partners. The UX team asked Certus to be part of this. Certus have not been a development company and so in the same way customers come to us because we are the best at implementing cloud applications we looked for a partner to help us with development, and weselected eProseed who have the same commitment to UX as we do.

The workshop took place in London at the end of January with four people from each of Oracle UX, eProceed and Certus taking part. We work through a use-case taken from an existing Application from one of our customers who is considering modernising this and moving it to the cloud. In three days we were able to build a working application and prove to ourselves that when the customer says, “go” we will be able to deliver what they need.

Oracle UX team have in their blog already covered the workshop and I have also written about it in the AppAdvantage blog I am a guest author for. The following month I took part in the Partner SOA Community Forum in Budapest when we had the opportunity to work with product management teams of both the Process and Integration Cloud offerings and further validate our approach, understanding the possibilities and the constraints. The UX team also had a stand there.

I was very pleased on behalf off both Certus and eProceed to accept the first Community Cloud award. These awards are a bit like the Oscars and awarded to individuals Lonneke from eProseed and myself, however we had a similar thank you to all those involved in our acceptance speech.

The Community Leader Jurgen Kress said:
I awarded my first SOA Community Outstanding Contribution for Cloud to Debra Lilley of Certus Solutions and Lonneke Dikmanns of eProseed because they not only took on board the messaging of PaaS 4 SaaS from the last Oracle Open World, but also their collaboration between an Applications partner and a Middleware partner, sought out answers and training and with Oracle Development giving feedback and  validating their approach in this area. All good things but bringing that back to the community and sharing is the outstanding contribution.

I have written a White Paper, which will be published for Collaborate in a few weeks and Certus along with Oracle UX Will be presenting this twice both for  OAUG and Quest. I’ve also had an article published in this month’s Profit Magazine.

Thank you to the UX team and the SOA Community. I’m still not technical enough to do this but I am technical enough to understand that PaaS4SaaS is a game changer and will continue to be seeing more and more in our community.