Tuesday, 26 May 2015

OTN EMEA - Jordan


Stop two was Amman in Jordan, and a lesson in preconceptions and assumptions.

First we had to get there and it was two flights, one to Istanbul and then onto Jordan, both on Turkish Airways. We should have had just 2 hours in Istanbul but the 2nd flight was delayed which gave us another few hours to enjoy what must be on of the world's nicest lounges. 

It wasn't my best journey, I was given a great seat at an emergency exit on the first plane but some dutch person decided he would spend almost an hour stood in front of me. Now I understand they need the leg room they are so tall, but it doesn't need to be my legroom! I was on the verge of air rage but being British never said anything. I also had a guy in the row in front who kept trying to take selfies with me in them. So I kept ducking my head, again I never said anything, I was frightened of losing my temper. Bjoern, sat across the aisle form me just couldn't stop laughing.

Then Bjoern had a bad few hours, lack of sleep, lack of food and lack of decision making, just got to him. So OTN Tour Tip #1, ensure you include a dictator or selfish person. 4 people traveling who are all polite means 'nobody minds' and no decisions are taken quickly. Alternatively we need a random generated decision maker app. However wonderful food, coffee and a Skype lesson from his wife on how ignore Bjoern, everything was OK again. 

I then tried my hardest to get us thrown out the lounge by reaching out to a stack of coffee mugs, grabbing one and turning it up the right way.  Problem was I had grabbed a jug of milk in error and then poured it over not only the floor and myself but the stack of at least 42 mugs. Wish I could understand turkish, I bet they had some colourful things to say about me.

Once we finally took off for Amman, that flight was fine, the only issue being that we didn't arrive until 2.30am. Our host from the local, Jordan Amman Oracle User Group was fellow ACE Director Osama Mustafa and he was waiting for us at the airport, now that is dedication. We actually arrived at our hotel at 4am, just as the call for morning prayers was starting.

Just a few hours later it was time to go to the venue Princess Sumaya University for Technology , a beautiful venue. AJOUG had a decent registration, a mix of local professionals and many students interested in Oracle. Unfortunately it was graduation day for students and somehow this meant we lost our student delegates. I think there had been a misunderstanding in that those not graduating had been told to stay away from the University, and that our event had not been identified as an exception. This was disappointing for AJOUG but hopefully, the connection has been made with these students and they will be able to continue with that, and we have all offered to do a webcast if it helps later.

graduates celebrating
What I learnt was that when you graduate in Jordan it is a big thing. There was a party on the campus with lots of noise and dancing, and in the evening they all drove around the city with balloons and students hanging out of windows and honking of horns. Looked great fun.

The audience was now very technical and they loved the sessions deep down in the database, and that combined with a very late start, a combination of local culture plus time spent looking for our students, and the university cutting short our access to the venue, meant I decided to drop my sessions for this event. I had good conversations with individuals about Cloud Applications and adoption, so I didn't feel too bad, and for the audience it made sense.

After the event we were treated to an amazing local lunch including the most amazing sweets. Discussions over lunch were really interesting, understanding what people are doing and what they are interested in, and this discussion led to the offer from Bjoern to do a session on Solaris that evening. Then we had a couple of hours to sleep off the lunch (by the pool) and try and get some of the lost sleep back from the travel. 

Osama was late picking us up (no surprise) but we got to watch people arriving at the hotel for a family party. One of my assumptions was that Jordan was an Arab state and that the dress code especially for women would be very conservative. Osama had told us they were a very 'open' country but it was still a shock. The dresses were often traditional but the shoes were amazing. I was worried about showing my ankles and wrists and yet here they were being giving centre stage.

Then Osama met us again and drove us to a Shisha cafe to have even more to eat ( a definite trend on this trip). In this cafe I had my first taste of Shisha, which was quite entertaining and I totally failed to even inhale yet alone taste it. 

Again the evening had many great talks and sharing of stories about using Oracle, what community is all about. Bjoern as promised gave the Solaris presentation and a new SIG was born.

Another great evening and another culinary highlight was this amazing hot chocolate drink.

1st Jordanian Solaris SIG

 We managed a late start on the Sunday, before being collected again by the wonderful Osama and taken to the airport, where we had time for a foot massage (again an Osama treat) before flying on to South Africa.















OTN EMEA - First Stop Portugal


My part in OTNEMEA was all too quickly apon us. I arrived in Lisbon at about 6pm, having worked on the 2 hour flight, and still had a conference call to take part in. Luckily Heli Helskyaho was expected at 7.30 so I was happy to find a quiet corner and get on with it.



Luis and Nuno from the Portuguese Oracle User Group came by to collect us and although Heli's flight was delayed an hour it didn't seem to matter that we didn't join the boys,  until 9pm; they eat late in Portugal. In fact when we left restaurant at 11:30 people were still arriving. It was a fantastic meal and I really pleased that whilst the national dishes are mainly fish they also had some great meats for me (I don't do fish).



My hotel was a wonderful surprise a beautiful room but with a bath simply in the middle of it, complete with remote control mood lighting! 


The next morning we walked to the university where the event was held, and I was really pleased for the Portuguese User Group who had got 60 -65 people signed up for the event. It started a little late, which is normal culture but for 3 europeans and an american being corralled by a german, it is scary! Still once we got going all flowed well, nobody overran and the audience had a great day.


My "Do Oracle Applications Stack Up?' was my first session and I had some great questions including from very technical people who recognise Cloud is here. Later in the day I had my more technical "AppAdvantage" presentation where I did talk a little about PaaS.


OUGPT is a relatively new user group and it was wonderful to be part of their growth. Luis and Nuno from the user group were such wonderful hosts and after the event we went down to the Tagus River and for a flight on the sky lift, gondolas that travel 30 metres above the river in the evening sunshine. Then we walked back along the river and a wonderful evening meal, then taking the metro back to our hotels.


Luis & Tariq
Bjoern, Me & Heli

As always with these tours, next morning it was off to the next location, two flights via Istanbul to Amman.









Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Off On The Road (Again)


I saw a tweet linking to Heli's blog today, talking about the OTN EMEA tour we start tomorrow.

I think I am getting blasé about travel, I packed my suitcase on Sunday and have been in London since yesterday, and whilst I know I am flying to Portugal tomorrow, it doesn't seem that imminent.

As Heli said we have had an issue with our flights, how rescheduling flights by days is acceptable I don't understand, but even more worrying is the travel agent didn't point it out either. Anyway that is now sorted.

I remember after one long OTN tour in South America saying to the organiser that the itinerary needed to have cities with direct flights, as travel is tiring. Bjoern who has arranged this trip obviously never got the memo. Portugal to Jordan is via Istanbul (Turkey) and Jordan to South Africa was to be via Cairo but now via Dubai. However I will shut up now, I know just how much he has put into setting this up and it is very appreciated.

Earlier today I had another little panic, I checked the visa requirements; Bjoern did tell us it was all OK but I have been caught out before when speakers from different countries had varying visa requirements.

My phone app said I needed a Visa for Jordan, NOT GOOD when I leave UK in < 24 hours, but when I went to their website, it said I could get it on arrival. phew!

I am actually quite prepared for my sessions. Over the three conferences in Portugal, Jordan and South Africa, I have 3 different presentations all of which I have given before.

I am really proud of my PaaS4SaaS presentation, it talks about our Proof of Concept and has led to us working even closer with Oracle Development and whilst it is semi technical I love discussing what you can do technically and why?

My AppAdvantage presentation is based on a joint presentation I did with Oracle at last year's Open World, and I have updated it to include a bit on PaaS.

The third presentation on 'Do Oracle Applications Stack up' has been updated to include the story of JT Global, a Certus Customer who just today has been making an Oracle Customer Success video after being the first live implementation of Oracle Cloud Time & Labor globally.

As with each OTN tour I am looking forward to sharing with the local user groups and learning myself from the discussions. Making new friends and hopefully seeing a tiny bit of the places we get to visit.

Tours are hard work, lots of travel, and we still have to juggle the day job, but our world of Oracle Technology is in an amazing transformation and I am so honoured to be part of it.

Thank you OTN ACE program, Bjoern and the 3 user groups for making this happen.








Saturday, 16 May 2015

Self Appraisal - It's Not Very British



I am frequently asked to help people with their ACE nominations. First I am very honoured, the value of the program to me is peer recognition for what I do, but I do ask myself why do you come to me when your area of expertise is not the same as mine? I am not technical, OK, I am not a technical practitioner, but I am a knowledge sharer, and that is what the program is about. Their technical peers, and at ACE Director level Oracle, will judge their technical ability, but they also need to demonstrate how they give that knowledge back to the community. This means they need to articulate in their nomination what they do; they need to sell themselves.

I am very proud of being an Oracle ACE Director. When I first achieved this, the announcement called it Software Evangelist, a term coined by Apple. I hate it because I am British and we don't like to sell ourselves this way, and I hate it even more because I am a woman and apparently we are even worse at it. Anyway when the announcement was made my HR Director rang me and after congratulating me, said he had amended my title in the system. I am not very quick with humour and didn't understand, so he laughed and told me he had amended my title to read The Reverend Debra Lilley.

Actually I'm quite comfortable to stand up and 'preach' about product, project and people, I'm a very passionate person who when I believe in something, you will find it hard to shut me up.

But I'm still not comfortable will putting myself on a pedestal, which if you know me will sound daft as I love to talk about myself, but not about how wonderful I am. Until social media came along I only had to do this in my CV, and even then I had the same employer for 25 years so it wasn't that important. My delivery of my job was what mattered.

I have had to write a manifesto a few times, mainly for UKOUG, and I had three nerve wracking experiences to get Professional qualifications, the reviews of my portfolios for Chartered Director, Chartered IT Professional and Chartered Engineer (software).

Now we live in a world where self appraisal is important we have to learn to sell ourselves.However today, more and more we are asked to do this, and in a global world it means we British, or any other culture who doesn't do it naturally, needs to step up.

Every year the ACE program reviews the Directors and if they have not continue to share knowledge at the level expected they are asked to step down to ACE or even become Alumni. This does not mean they are no longer technical enough, it may simply be that a new job or project at work means they don't have the time to share as much. It may mean they have family commitments that change what they can do, or they have moved into a different area of technology. It is sad, I miss them but it is fair, the program can't get too big at the top or it looses it differentiation, but at the same time it must not become a closed shop, like a golf club where you can only get in when someone dies. So the annual self appraisal is so important. I know people who have been challenged because they didn't list all their achievements, because they were uncomfortable saying so.

I guess that is why I quite like to do the 'we did this' blog. It is a diary of the amazing opportunities I get, a light hearted look at the awesome times with friends (and family) and recognition of what the ACE program delivers. Technical Knowledge to communities who sometimes struggle to get speakers. Then when it is time to do my annual return it is quite easy.

So when a prospective member of the ACE community comes to me and asks for help, I am happy to do so, to help with what they say, pull out areas they may not have recognised themselves and then coach them in area that they need to work on.

Sometimes I am asked to help with an application I don't believe is just and that is really hard, but I have to be honest to myself and say so. Most often that is where someone is trying to progress through the levels and I believe is not yet at that stage. It isn't my job to judge someone and I have no right and wouldn't tell them not to apply, but I must share my reasons why I don't support it. Remember if I put my name to something Oracle will speak to me direct and I have to justify what I had written, and I can't lie.

The worst thing for is when I think someone should make be included, and they are turned down.  Thankfully the ACE team at OTN will give thorough feedback, and then it is my duty to mentor the  candidate. Obviously they and I are disappointed but one thing us British do have in our favour is that we can go and have a cup of tea to make things feel better.


And remember if it was easy it wouldn't be valuable.


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Thinking About The Disruptive Cloud and The Oracle Eco-System


We hear about digital disruption all the time, frequently quoted is the impact of something like Uber or Airbnb. How technology like mobile allows us to completely transform how we do things, and in many cases, change it forever.



I follow analyst like Ray Wang author of Disrupting Digital Business and Dennis Howlett and everyday there are articles about how it is changing the world we live in.

Technology has always changed, at a recent Oracle Modern Business Day, I heard  about technology in accounting, the introduction of the calculator, the telex machine, the fax, the computer and the PC, but all these technology changes were static machines. Price points changed, adoption was quick but it was always a direct purchase. 

Cloud is a game changer in so many different ways, it allows us to consume technology rather than own it, and it is accessibility, you only need a device and wifi, which means it has simply become a commodity. 

I work in the applications space, and this article is about Software as a Service, applications cloud, but a lot of it is relevant to all cloud.

Cloud is driving disruption in the market, organisations want to take advantage of the newer technology because their customers demand it, and those that go quickly have a first mover advantage. Where the technology changes how they do business, replacing legacy systems and practices gives them another advantage, or rather removes the disadvantages they had when new entrants with no legacy ,move into the market. Think about online only banks, they are popular because they are easy to use and have lower costs. This is because they have no high street branches and legacy systems to maintain. The bigger banks have caught up with mobile and online banking, have reduced their high street presence but still have legacy to deliver to those loyal customers who don’t want change.

Disruption is not just for the consumer, it is also for the provider. Look at how the big vendors are clambering for market share of cloud. There is no doubt cloud is here, now, the just talking about it is over; the move to cloud marches quickly on. Cloud is not just about hosting, and I believe there is a lot of deliberate confusion and clever use of words from all the vendors, and each have their own definition of what makes a ‘real’ cloud, but what is true to all, is that cloud matters. 

Oracle has, just like the example of the banks, a need to offer cloud and satisfy its traditional customer. New entrants to Cloud, claim they are growing rapidly, and when you start at zero, that is easy claim to make, but are they delivering happy customers and shareholders? Oracle has embraced cloud, it took a while to get the Fusion product set out the door, but they recognised what consumers wanted and got their development tool set completed, through enormous internal R&D and acquisitions. This toolset enabled Fusion to deliver the modern technology the market was starting to demand, and this included a move to a cloud deployment model. The markets have really welcomed this move, Forbes recently reiterating what Oracle have been telling us for a while, they ARE a Cloud company. Oracle do have an enormous pre cloud or on-premsie customer base, who need value for their support costs; Oracle promised Apps Unlimited and have delivered. Their customer base has on premise, hybrid (cloud co-exisitance), and cloud customers, the later group including a sizeable net new customer base.

Cloud as a subscription model means that enterprise software is available to a much wider market, including those organisations making the most of the wider digital disruption and are themselves growing rapidly. These organisations are adopting Oracle Cloud as net new customers, and this is disrupting Oracle itself. It changes the way Oracle sell, many of their acquisitions have had mid market customers but Oracle Applications traditionally did not and it has resulted in changes to the Oracle Sales function. They cannot spend as much time in the sales process for a mid market customer as they do a very large organisation. Oracle Direct, who traditionally did smaller technology sales, has to morph into a function that can work smaller deals effectively, and here the disruption, or change, is from Oracle’s own CX Sales Cloud; the new technology allowing them to be much smarter at identifying and qualifying leads.

Cloud means a much shorter implementation project, a much shorter Time to Value, and this is disrupting the Partner Community. As Oracle moves from an upfront licence buying model to subscription, this affects the traditional Systems Integrator, who had bigger, longer projects and possibly continuous revenue as a Managed Service provider. This has opened the partner market up to new entrants who in their own way have no legacy business model to convert, who can deliver just cloud, cheaply and effectively. This is an exciting time in the Partner Community where niche players are shining as first movers, new alliances are being formed, new business offerings developing and larger partners reacting to the change at a slower pace. All of this disruption is good for the customer.

The implementation team is also changing, less technical resources and even functional consultants need to be more business orientated rather than how to looking to be an analyst for the next customisation. Configuration or extension to SaaS require innovative thinking when you can’t just add a custom object. 

Cloud means a new customer profile, traditionally Oracle sold to IT, Cloud tends to be sold to the line of Business, and this is bringing disruption to user groups, who have new prospective members who are net new, possibly mid market, or the same organisations but different people, and less apps technology. User groups have to change to address this whilst supporting their traditional members. I personally am waking up to the customer intimacy of the mid market, and look to the JDE community who have been successful at this. User Groups need to understand the disruption to all parts of the Oracle ecosystem, to understand what it means and how, it in turn it disrupts us.

Lets go back to my first statement, digital disruption is changing the way we do things, and user groups are not immune from this. Our members want mobile, and most conferences have mobile apps, but we need to do more, our systems are out dated, our communications not social enough, and our members not engaged as much as they could be outside events. A simple example cloud has enabled ‘meetups’ which if we work with can encourage membership but that at first glance could be a threat. Similarly Google is quicker to find answers than our rich library content.

Digital Disruption, led by Cloud is exciting, and I personally am loving the challenge and the possibilities. 



Friday, 8 May 2015

THANKYOU


In other election news today, UKOUG announced Linda Baker as our new president and the re-election of Fiona Martin as our Member Advocate Chair.

This was what I asked for, when as an individual I reached out you my readers last month.

I am so pleased to have Fiona continued, she works tirelessly for our community and I am very excited to have Linda on board.

Those who were not elected, stay with us, next year we will need more people to stand, and we always need volunteers. I wasn't successful in my first election and it would have been easy to walk away, but I was encouraged to get involved and have done so ever since.

If you voted, or influenced a vote, thank you.





Monday, 4 May 2015

What does the Fall of Saigon Tell us about IT & Leadership and what does it have to do with Rugby?


Like me you have probably seen this picture many times this week, as people mark 40 years since the Fall of Saigon.




I am not American, a history major or even old enough to have remembered this first hand (although I was 13 at the time and only interested in the Bay City Rollers, so not sure what that says about me), but this was a major event in history and something that should be remembered, and never repeated again.

But what is important, about every event, is we learn what to and what not to, repeat.

At the Quest Executive Forum, Colonel Anthony A Wood who was a leading part of the evacuation of Saigon, told his story, and how what he learnt there had helped him in the IT business many years later.

He also talked about the value and experience people from different industries can bring to our own. Personally this is important to me as I have a daughter whose own army career will I hope give her the soft skills for another successful career when the time comes.

On a much smaller scale I have become interested in a scheme between IRUPA, The Irish Rugby Union Players’ Association and IOD, the Institute of Directors of which I am a member. Here business people are helping current professional rugby players to learn business soft skills like networking and speaking, and linking them with businesses in the industry they may want to move into when their sporting careers decline. 

It is all about the nurturing of those soft skills which can be transferred.