Sunday, 22 March 2015

Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance - my tale of woe

Not really an excuse but when it is your conference, you don't have time in the run up to 'polish your slides', so my top tip, Never agree to a new presentation at you own event, stick to one you are happy with so you can simply switch on the projector and go.

Great advice, wish I had listened to it.

Thursday in Ireland I had two presentations, the first was a great slide deck, it was Jeremy Ashley's slide deck for Cloud User Experiences, Trends & Strategy first seen at OOW14. As an Oracle User Experience Advocate I had been asked on behalf of Jeremy's team to present this. Slides were great, I'm passionate about the subject and I think the session went well.

My second session however went less so. UKOUG have set up a Cloud Forum, to help members who are now Cloud Customers share their experiences of the Cloud, not so much the functionality but what it is like to be a Cloud Customer, and I submitted a paper on that. Great idea, I also do this in my day job, so lots of ideas, what could go wrong?

In the run up to Dublin, I had a conference in Norway, different sessions, blog postings to do for Oracle, Profit Magazine, Oracle Scene and O Tech articles to complete, the day job (which I love), and all the preparation for the Ireland event itself where I was project lead. So whilst the session was in my head it wasn't on slides. By Monday evening panic was setting in and all day Tuesday I was at the UKOUG Tech 15 kick off. This was down to the wire.

Then I remembered my boss had a presentation he had done at Apps 2014 in Liverpool, and the content in that would be a great start. I had the PDF version, decided which slides I wanted to keep, and when he sent it over, it was simply a cut & paste job. I told myself it would be fine, I knew what I wanted to say.

Roll forward to Thursday, brilliant event, great high and I'm the last session before the keynotes. I walked into the room, there was a good crowd but sat at the back were the two keynote speakers, both great friends, Nadia Bendjedou, EBS, and Maria Colgan, Database in-Memory. Their work actually overlaps a fair bit, Nadia works on that technology side of the house for Cliff Godwin, but they had never met. So I introduced them and got ready for my session. Nadia has seen me present before but I don't think Maria has.

I could say I was nervous, having two such luminaries in the room, but to be honest I wanted to impress them, that you can share valuable information with an audience without being technical. I like to wander along my script with stories from members and customers, share analogies they will understand and try and get it to be interactive.

It was a disaster. Not the content, not the stories, but my delivery of the slide deck. I hadn't run in through in view mode and it was full of screen building which I never use. I wonder around the room and don't use a 'clicker' either. it completely threw me. All my fault, as they say in the army, Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

I'm giving the same session in Holland on Tuesday so I hope I will do better, I must do better, the only person I let down was myself.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Learning Cloud 'Down Under'

I chose to go to Certus, because they are the leaders in Cloud HCM. It is now a little over 6 months since I started and they are living unto expectations.

In the UK everyone knows Certus lead here and in November we received two gold awards from UKOUG, best Fusion and best Training.

So we are bringing this to Australia, one of our global customers has just gone live including Australia and whilst we work on their next steps my colleague Richard will running training courses on Oracle E-Business \ PeopleSoft to HCM Cloud (3 days) and Implementing HCM Cloud (5 days) in Sydney/Melbourne in April and May 2015.

If you are an independent functional consultant looking to become a certified Oracle HCM Cloud implementation consultant this course is ideal for you. This course is delivered by Richard Atkins, a certified trainer who is also a certified and highly experienced HCM Cloud implementation consultant.   Richard has successfully implemented HCM Cloud across the globe for multiple clients, trained multiple customers and partners on behalf of Oracle University and privately.  Richard is well recognised in the industry as an expert in implementing in the cloud and has conducted expert seminars on the subject across Europe, and regularly presents at conferences.

Course details are provided below:

Oracle E-Business \ PeopleSoft to HCM Cloud:

Melbourne (3 days) 13th – 15th April 2015

Sydney (3 days) 20 – 23 April 2015

Melbourne (2 days – weekend) 25 – 26 April 2015 or 2 – 3 May 2015

Implementing Oracle HCM Cloud classroom course (5 days):

Melbourne (5 days) 13 – 17 April 2015

Sydney (5 days) 20 – 24 April 2015

If you are interested, please express your interest by sending an email to

Friday, 6 March 2015

Oracle Java Download Add Ons, My non technical rant

Yesterday my UKOUG board college Bryan Foss shared this article with me about Oracle including  Ask Toolbar Add ons with Java downloads on Macs.


I am new to the MAC and one thing I really liked the idea of was no viruses. IDIOT, they may not be attacked as often as PCs but just this morning Facebook presented me with the MAC Defender download option for what I now know is (I was crafty, I googled malware on Mac before pressing a button, so proud of myself).

Another thing I didn't know was that Microsoft make it very difficult for an Oracle Professional who needs to use their add ons for office products to do so on a MAC. For Cloud Apps, the add ons I need have to be Office for Windows, so I am now the proud owner of a MAC, with Office for MAC and a Windows Virtual Image running Office. I have Java in that image and I had to go through the Ask download dance, and although I am not technical I thought I was doing OK, but I still went through a period of time of other malware crap (not a technical term but it will do).

There is no excuse for people to just accept the Ask Toolbar, I would suggest that you read the  comments on the above article, people have given alternative ways to download Java, how to reinstall and point out that windows users have had this for over a decade, and also that the practice started with Sun.

I am not apologising for Oracle, I think this stinks, it is bad practice and I am not happy, but we need to be careful with everything we download. And when the computer asks me if I trust the source, the answer here is NO.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Social Media Rant : Influence, Reach and Gamification

A few facts first:

This is a rant:

  • I love Social Media
  • I love getting a mention on social media
  • The rant is about the gamification of social media, and why the term 'Top Influencers' is wrong
Two points of my view (is that the correct plural of My POV?)
  1. Influence is difficult to measure, reach is not.
  2. Social Media is an incredibly important platform for people who influence, especially those non traditional influencers. If you are a subject matter expert and talk about what you think, people will listen and what you say may influence them. 
I put myself in this last category, I think I am influential in the areas I talk about, and social media gives me a platform to share my views and be listened to.

This post is not aimed at any individual it is about how I feel about the terms used. If I don't like what people have to say I simply can unfollow.

Gamification is an excellent way to drive behaviour.

I recently read this blog from diginomica on a practical example of gamification to drive adoption of a new product internally in an organisation.

But you must ensure that the competition element mirrors what you are trying to drive, and that the competition doesn't become more important than the intended behaviour.

A very clever analyst Frank Bytendijk once told me that when people measure things we change our behaviour to influence these metrics.

His example for driving behaviour was that he used the technology in his running shoe to log how much he ran. This is not a bad thing, in fact it was a very good thing and had a very positive outcome that he lost weight and got fit. This is the positive side of gamification. However one day he started his run but came home after just 5 minutes, his wife asked why and he said the battery had died and there was no point running if it wasn't being tracked!

That is a funny example about gamification for an individual, but I see many examples for group behaviour where the game becomes the most important thing.

Dan Pink , who writes about gamification, has a great interview with another expert Kevin Werbach where Kevin says - 

"any time you create a game, someone will try to exploit the system" 

My own example for that is at a conference last year, the mobile app gave points for 'tweets'. It was intended to drive the traffic about the event and to create the buzz, excellent. It also gave points for assessing speakers, to drive the feedback, again an excellent idea but then some of those who were battling for a place on the leader board worked out you could assess sessions you hadn't attended and still score points. This completely invalidated the intent. 

Kevin went onto say - 

"That’s not necessarily a danger, though, if you anticipate it. Those are your most engaged players, and you can often redirect their energy in a positive way, such as giving rewards for finding bugs in the game."

In my example case of the mobile app, there is a very simple fix, limit the available points to the number of sessions that could be attended. I blogged about this at the time.

I can't remember who, (but if I work it out I will amend blog), but I heard a danish BI Analyst talk about the importance of measuring the right things, for the right reason.

Telecomms companies use data to determine what they need to change to drive more sales. They have lots of data and he once worked with one such company who had determined that females renew contracts 70% of the time whilst men only 40%. He asked them what value did that metric give them? They didn't know, and he asked what they would do about it, as a telecoms company you can't change men into women. Later on they realised that actually it did tell them something, money spent on advertising to the female population was better spent, as the probability to renew was higher.
So my point I am trying to make here is that data used has to show something very specific to be of value, or to be at so high a level it doesn't matter.

I like Klout, it is very generic, it doesn't care what I talk about and just says how active I am in social media. But at a more granular level 'the top ten influencers' in a specific field is factually incorrect. The data is pulled from an algorithm based on followers and reach. It does not determine how much of what is said is taken in and influences.

I follow Ray Wang, and he is going to be right up there at the top of any of these leaderboards every time, (actually I think there are clones of Ray if anyone like me wonders how he is so prolific). I know Ray is an influencer because I see his research quoted over and over in decision making processes.

Equally Larry Ellison is the top influencer at Oracle. He probably is, when he speaks, everyone listens, but in social media he has sent 1 tweet. Yes just one, but he has 50K followers and each of those have many 
followers and whatever the algorithm is it determines that his reach is the highest.

Even more annoying to me are the 'Thanks @debralilley for being the top influencer in my community this week' - or even worse 'the top contributor' when all I have done is responded to or re-tweeted twice - I know these are auto generated but honestly they drive me mad.

So again I reiterate:
  • I love Social Media
  • I love getting a mention on social media

Oddly I am not suggestion we stop the gamification, or even the league tables, apparently (and I apologise I don't have a reference), the bigger the pool the more indicative the data will be. 

But please, you can measure social media reach, which may be indicative of influence providing the gamification is not driving the wrong behaviour.

Rant over....

Saturday, 17 January 2015

UKOUG 2014 - What I like least about the UKOUG

I said in the summary blog, the problem with being passionate is you get defensive when challenged, well here is another of my rants:

Venues - yes we simply don't have the ones we need in the UK. Every venue we select for our annual conference is a carefully walked tightrope of compromise and never, ever perfect.

This week we had the review of 2014 and looked at feedback. Please never stop giving feedback it is the lifeblood of a user group how do we know what we get wrong if you don't tell us? But I also wish you would tell us what we do well more often, I would quite like to be motivated.

I travel to conferences all over the world and in most cases here myself thinking 'I'd love this venue in the UK'. I never thought I would write about hating UKOUG but I do wish it wasn't in the UK.

We need a plenary hall for keynotes, we need so many breakout rooms from small to almost keynote in size, and we need an exhibition hall. We would like seating and networking areas but getting the first three are hard enough. Devoxx who hold events for Java audiences use cinema complexes and venues with large but less rooms, that keeps the costs down but doesn't have the other things our audience want.

I read an article on google the other day about selecting conference venues and their advice resonated so much. Read the article to see what they said but let me get defensive on the points myself:

1. Accessibility: The UK does not have a great transport system but this is one area we need to get right. London to Liverpool was fine, as was Manchester but if you had to go cross country like I did from Gloucester it was not fun, and no body realised there was a peak train fare time from Liverpool which caused some people to leave early.

2. Lodging Accommodations: Liverpool rocked for this, so many hotels so close by, but some venues in the UK don't, they are great for day trips but not for people staying overnight. London can be difficult it has the hotels but not enough low cost for people paying their own way.

3. Availability: This sounds easy but with the UK having so few suitable venues they are booked up over a year in advance, it is so difficult to look and select one in the time slot we want.

4. Suitability: I'm not fussy, if it meets my criteria it is considered, oh to be able to worry about other things.

5. Costs: Again keeping costs down is paramount, but when there is little choice they don't need to negotiate. Moving from Birmingham as a permanent home means better rates from there are now available.

6. Staffing: Not a problem we normally have our own staff are very good at working with on site teams.

7. Facilities: For many years delegates and speakers have asked for sessions that are not staggered, so this year we didn't and we got great feedback, apart that is from the lack of toilet facilities at peak times.

8. Branding: I think UKOUG do really well at branding and this year's pennants were really great even if you couldn't see them in the wind.

9. Technical: Perennial problem, when you go to do a site visit the wifi always looks brilliant, when you stick 2,000 technical people in the building and encourage twitter not so. This year we even had a technical test for each room, no problem but the AV kit provided in the rooms off the exhibition were assumed to be the same as upstairs. they were not, I think they were borrowed from the Museum.

10. Food and Beverage: The problem we have in the UK is seating, no venue allows us to sit delegates teherfore it has to be buffet food. I would love to be an ODTUG where we can have 'birds of a feather' community tables, or use restaurants staggered when the delegate wants like at the DOAG. We simply don't have the venues available to us.

So again welcome to ideas but ones that would work, The Convention Centre in Dublin would work, but could we hold UKOUG there? I'd love to have the event in Belfast but it isn't really very accessible.

We can and will get better on the little details but unless there is someone reading this that wants to build the perfect venue we will always be limited in choice and have to make compromises.

WIT - A Self Fulfilling Prophecy?

Wikapedia says A Self fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behaviour.

First my own self fulfilling prophecy - this post will be controversial, but when I first started blogging that was the advice I got from my employer, if your blog is to make people think and you want people to keep coming back to your blog then it needs to be controversial.

Women in IT has been a popular topic at conferences for the past few years, I attend a lot and there are not many that don't have Women in Technology or Women in IT (as we call it at UKOUG) on the agenda. We had a brilliant session at the end of UKOUG. 

Our WIT Panel, Maria Colgan, Julie Stringfellow and Ana Perez 

I read and hear so much about what shouldn't happen, sessions that are full of people complaining that I believe this is a self fulfilling prophecy. If you just encourage people to talk about negatives then they will and it won't motivate change. That doesn't mean sweeping things under the carpet either. If there is a problem then state it, followed by a positive step for change, and that isn't 'just don't do it'.

At our session in Liverpool there was one comment about the social event not being aimed at a mixed audience, I am not sure I agree, I went to both and enjoyed them but if it discouraged some women then it needs addressing. We decided a positive way to address to to get more women to step up to volunteering to be part of organising committee. Left to the 'lads' what do you expect?

I've openly said that the people I admire are the role models as WIT and that is why I want more to come forward and share their stories. I wrote in Oracle Scene in the run up to UKOUG about how our speaker base was actually representative of the position in industry. That is what needs to change the number being encouraged and stepping up.

Kellyn Pot'Vin-Gorman who I really admire for putting WIT on the agenda in the Oracle World wrote a great piece recently about what the industry should stop doing, but even here several of the points are self fulfilling prophecies, I have never been asked about day care, or domestic arrangements except in WIT sessions! Someone said to me on reading it 'I feel left out, people only ask me about my job', and that is how it should be. 

There are things that need to change but no 1 is encouraging the right people be they male or female to step forward and join our industry, not put them off by underlining  issues. 

I am not saying there are not issues and they do need addressing but I have not been held back and most women I know in IT feel the same way. I have written about this before.

We can't change the representation today, but we can change some things and that is by getting everyone not just women to be aware of simple things, so next year UKOUG will look at putting the WIT on before sessions and open it up to everyone.

At UKOUG we want to talk about the positive things we can do to encourage women.

UKOUG 2014 - Last but Not Least - Who goes last?

The problem with being passionate about something is when things are then criticised you get very dis-heartened and in turn very defensive, so this set of posts are an honest, heart-on-sleeve rant of why things happen, not always perfectly but defiantly for the best of reasons.

Somewhere there is a scientific law that says if a conference finishes at xx o'clock people will leave early. It does not matter if it is a one day or 5 day event this holds true. For organisers that means you have to be especially careful to ensure you have your best sessions on at that time to try and mitigate.

All user groups talk about the difficulty of selecting papers from such a rich pool of content. The need to balance well known always popular with local talent, end users and first timers. I have written several posts on this but a great one I saw recently was this one from Oyvind Isene of the  Norwegian user group.

So should we put end users who are really nervous on at the end? Most I mentor want to get it out the way early so they can enjoy the event.

Do we put first timers on at the end? No again for the same reason.

One thing I often hear from those involved in the agenda planning is why don't we put sponsors on at the end? Absolutely not, all user groups work with partners for mutual benefit and rely on sponsorship to help fund events and keep costs down for delegates. Putting them on at the end makes the value diminish and most of them are at that time breaking down their stands as well.

So that leaves the community of well known, established speakers, the big hitters, the ones who will get an audience on the merit of their content. I myself am in this group and am often last thing, although I prefer Thursday afternoon i.e. last slot at Oracle Open World to first thing Thursday when the hangovers are visibly absent after the party.

We need to take being given the last slot as an honour, and ensure we bring fresh content to them so that those who look at the agenda don't think 'It's the same presentation as last year, or that was given at the last event which may not have been attended but will probably have been down loaded. A see that 'what I learnt from open World' is more popular than a related session given at Open World in a lot of cases, especially for that last slot.

And is being given the last slot worse than not getting a slot? Ask anyone that doesn't get selected, including me. I saw a lot more tweets about people not being selected than people moaning about the last slot. Agenda planning for a popular event is very very difficult, get involved, help, volunteer but please don't criticise for the things that can't be changed but we welcome ideas.

My dad used to say to me at dinner time when i was trying to avoid the vegetables, 'leave the best to last' so you had that to look forward to. It isn't the worst strategy.


Jeff Smith commented on this on Facebook and shared his recent post on this from the position of a speaker - it's brilliant and well worth a read