Wednesday, 7 December 2016

UKOUG Conferences 2016 - it's a wrap

Another year of UKOUG conferences is over and both from my own perspective and from feedback I received, this year in Birmingham the 3 conferences, Apps16, Tech 16 and JDE16 were better than ever.  

Sunday evening before conference is always the time for Volunteers drinks. This social event is an important part of the agenda designed to thank all the people who work behind the scenes in a voluntary capacity to bring the annual conferences together. Our volunteers are at the heart of UKOUG and as well as event planning, they contribute in key roles throughout the year including governance, strategy and contributions to our publications.

Until I stepped into the President position last year I had no idea how many people were involved in selecting and organising the speaker sessions that happen every year in December. These people are the backbone of our conference and are committed to making sure the event is a success - we couldn't run it without them. I'd encourage anyone who may be interested in helping to plan next year's events, to join UKOUG as a volunteer. It's extremely rewarding and also quite fun. 

Monday's opening keynote from Neil Sholay, head of Digital for Oracle EMEA, was a big hit with everyone. Neil's talk was about Data Driven Business. Neil had some great insights on this topic, including telling us that fewer than 5% of businesses truly understand the value of their own data.
"Information is replacing technology as the most critical business asset"

We also announced the UKOUG speaker awards on Monday. These awards recognise the high calibre speakers that support UKOUG. The winners are decided by feedback given by delegates at the previous year’s conference combined with judges scores.  This is why we at UKOUG encourage all conference delegates to score the speaker sessions they attend; we want to identify the sessions that are of most value to attendees and also to reward the very best speakers.

As a member of the UKOUG Board I don’t get time to attend many sessions but I did manage to sneak in 2 or 3 each day and the sessions I attended were excellent; they included a talk on IoT and Industry 4.0, the 4th industrial revolution, Nationwide Building Society’s Oracle Cloud adoption and the JDE Keynote where Lyle Ekdahl, Gary Grieshaber and Bob Monahan announced a series of JD Edwards Digital Transformation Workshops to be held in the in the UK starting in January 2017.  Sadly, I missed the JDE Ideathon on Wednesday but I followed it on Twitter and it seemed like a great success. I’m looking forward to seeing the winning idea in a future JDE release.

On Tuesday morning we held a Women in IT breakfast which was very well attended and proved to be a worthy of an early start, both as a forum for discussing ideas and as another networking opportunity.

This round-table event lasted 45 minutes but everyone seemed to agree it could have been twice as long as the conversation was still going strong when the whistle blew for the 9am speaker sessions. Next year perhaps we should extend this session to allow us to continue the debate.

Tuesday night at conference is the big social event of the week where we all get a chance to network in a more relaxed, informal setting. 

This year the evening was complete with karaoke, virtual reality, casino, photo booth and a fantastic Blues singer, Miz Suzy D, aka Susan Duncan our very own UKOUG Oracle liaison.  

Those of us who serve on the UKOUG board are elected for a fixed term and my own term as President comes to an end in March 2017. It’s been an absolute pleasure representing Oracle customers in the UK and although I’ll be very sad to step down, I’m delighted that our members have voted Paul Fitton as my successor. Paul took to the stage on Monday morning and got to meet many of our members, volunteers and partners during the event so our handover is starting already and I couldn’t hope for anyone better to step into this position when I move on. I won’t be going far though and hope to be involved with UKOUG in a voluntary capacity for many more years to come.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Oracle OpenWorld 2016 - it's (almost) all about the customer

There seem to be two recurrent themes here at Oracle OpenWorld:

1) Oracle is superior to Amazon and
2) the customer experience is imperative

I feel I've heard enough now about the strengths of Oracle compared to Amazon, a theme that's carried over from last year. Looking at my Twitter feed as Larry Ellison spent the best part of his Tuesday keynote on that subject, others seemed to be enjoying the sparring so perhaps it'll continue into next year. Watch this space.

The customer experience theme hasn't been as prominent in the keynotes so far but it has come out strongly in meetings I've had with Oracle over the past two days. I met with the Oracle Global Customer Programs (GCP) team on both Monday and Tuesday and heard about the 'Guided Journey' that's being put together to provide advice to customers throughout each stage of the SaaS lifecycle from planning, through onboarding to adoption and expansion. 

I was invited to a focus group on Monday and amongst other things we discussed the content of this Guided Journey. The participants in the focus group will be given a link to the draft Guided Journey site and we'll have the opportunity to feed back and identify any gaps to ensure that it becomes the 'go to' site for customers moving through each phase of their SaaS project. The SaaS Guided Journey will be the first site to go live but more sites are planned for other cloud solutions.

We didn't just discuss the Guided Journey initiative in the focus group, the main driver for me attending was the opportunity to share real life customer experiences of Oracle cloud and ensure that customers voices are being heard . This is where membership of the UKOUG can make a real difference as being a significant Oracle community, representing around 1,000 Oracle customers, our views are listened to and we're provided the opportunity to influence that individual customers can't hope to achieve. 

I went into the meeting with a long list of feedback and as a group we were in general agreement about several areas where customers tell us that Oracle needs to improve its cloud offerings. I'm going to follow this up in writing to Oracle to make sure that all the points are captured but it was refreshing to have an honest and open debate with the people at Oracle who can make a real difference.

On Tuesday I dropped into see the UX team who are working with customers to improve the user experience of Oracle products. I recommend visiting the team if you get the opportunity as you get a real feel for the thought that Oracle are putting into their solutions and how they work with customers to do this. While I was there I completed a survey about the use of chatbots with the chance to see one working in practice. The Oracle UX team will be at the UKOUG conferences in December again this year so if you're not here at OpenWorld you can catch them at Apps16 in Birmingham.

Larry Ellison had also demonstrated chatbots in his Sunday keynote, using one to update his business cards to his new job title. Oracle are still working on this and gathering feedback about the ways that customers prefer to interact with a chatbot (e.g mobile, voice, PC, SMS etc). I'm looking forward to seeing chatbots in the live product , and seeing if the feedback I gave in my survey is taken into account.

Monday, 19 September 2016

OpenWorld 2016 - Days 1 & 2

Before I came out here to OpenWorld I said that I wanted to focus on hearing customer stories and, maybe Oracle were listening because I haven't been disappointed so far. Customer advocacy is on everyone's lips and customer stories have featured heavily in key notes and general sessions alike. Monday's keynote from Mark Hurd featured no less than 8 customer stories. 
Joanna Fielding
Joanna Fielding CFO of HSBC
I was interested to hear from Joanna Fielding, CFO of HSBC who told us how, in the past, HSBC had largely built its own technology. The strategy now is Lease/Buy/Build in that order. The legacy architecture at HSBC was inefficient for running back office processes so HSBC launched Project Velocity to replace it , selecting Oracle Cloud products.

HSBC have now implemented Oracle cloud ERP and EPM across half of their cost base with the 3 aims of increasing control, reducing costs and increasing cost transparency. 

One of the reasons that HSBC chose Oracle was that Oracle provided their 'A' team on the project but I was left wondering what the experience is like for smaller customers who may not get the 'A' team. With this in mind I had already put out a request to UKOUG members for their views on the Oracle Cloud experience, not just the success stories but the lessons learned including any feedback for Oracle that would help them understand customers' challenges. I didn't just ask because I'm interested but because Oracle genuinely want to hear a collective view from the global user groups. As I mentioned in my last blog, Oracle have invited me to a forum today to discuss just that. More about that next time.

Larry's keynote on Sunday started by focusing heavily on Oracle's position in the market compared to Amazon and Workday. I felt a sense of deja vu at this point as some of Larry's slides about competitors were the same as he used in 2015, though with over 70 slides in his presentation I suppose he could be forgiven for recycling a few. 

Larry did go on to talk about some new products that have been launched this year, including Oracle's Cloud@Customer service which is designed to help businesses who, due to regulatory or legislative restrictions, can't move their data into the public cloud.

Cloud@customer uses identical software and hardware as public cloud and has the same subscription pricing model, however it's managed by Oracle behind the customer's firewall on the customer's premises. Cloud@Customer was launched in March 2016. 

It'll be interesting to see how this service develops and what the take up is like.

Back to Mark Hurd's keynote and here he took the brave decision to ask the audience and anyone else who had logged on via  to take part in a number of live polls. I guess that Mark may have thought that, having told the audience repeatedly that Oracle is the fastest growing cloud company, asking the question in a poll would lead to a clear answer. It seems like the audience were out for a bit of fun though with 25% answering Amazon, or perhaps Amazon were logged into the poll too - who knows !

For the avoidance of doubt, here's the 'correct' answer:

I'm off to meet my fellow user group leaders from EMEA now followed by the feedback forum with Oracle. News about both next time

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Oracle Cloud ownership - don't miss this opportunity to influence Oracle

With one week to go until Oracle OpenWorld 2016 I've been organising my diary for 4 busy days in San Francisco. During OOW there are so many opportunities for meetings with Oracle customers, partners, other user group leaders and Oracle themselves that it can sometimes be a struggle to fit in many speaker sessions but this year I'm determined to try to see as many speakers as possible. I particularly value hearing customer stories so these are the sessions that I’ll focus on attending.

For anyone who can’t make it to San Francisco, I’ll be blogging from the event again this year so follow me here for news as it happens.

This year I’m particularly excited to have been invited to join Oracle executives in an exclusive roundtable to share the successes and challenges faced by our UKOUG members around their Cloud ownership experience. 

This open forum is an opportunity to candidly share feedback around the enablers and barriers impacting Cloud adoption and expansion, the key milestones used in accelerating value realisation, and other factors impacting successful transformations to the Cloud.  Only 15 participants have been invited to this roundtable from across the global Oracle user community so it is a great opportunity to feedback and influence Oracle’s Cloud strategy.

I’ve spoken to many UKOUG members since joining the UKOUG Board last year but I haven’t, yet, got around to meeting all our members and I want to make sure that all of your views are heard by Oracle. If you have any feedback on your Oracle Cloud experience, good or bad, whether you are just starting to think about a move to the Cloud, whether you’re mid transition or have been using Oracle Cloud for a while, I would love to hear from you. 

This is a unique opportunity to influence Oracle and as a significant Oracle Community we need to make the most of it. Please get in touch with me via this Blog, LinkedIn, Twitter (@LindaCBarker) or email me at I’d be happy to talk to any members or prospective members of UKOUG to hear your views and, with your permission, I’ll share them with Oracle, anonymously if you prefer. 

I will need to have received your feedback by Sunday 18th September.

This is your opportunity to influence Oracle – don’t miss it.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Oracle Open World 2015 - wrapping up with a UX tour

Oracle HQ at the Redwood Shores Campus
The last two days of Open World were as packed as the earlier part of the week and although some conference delegates were already leaving by Thursday morning, sessions continued throughout the day. 

I didn't attend any of the sessions on Thursday because I'd scheduled to go on a tour of the Usability Lab at Oracle's Redwood Shores HQ instead. 

The HQ offices are familiar to almost everyone who works with Oracle products, not least because they're designed to look like the symbol for a database, though, even if visitors don't notice that geeky in-joke, the buildings are still very impressive. 

On the tour we were shown some of the latest mobile apps developments and were given a chance to try them out for ourselves. We also saw a demonstration of eye tracking software used to test Oracle applications before release.
The Usability Lab at Oracle HQ
One of our party was asked to run through some questions about an Oracle application displayed on a screen in front of him. The software measured where his eyes landed on the page and how long it took him to find the information requested. When he was done, a heat map of his eye movements was displayed. This information is used to help inform Oracle about the usability of its new applications. It's good to know that such focus is being placed on the user experience (UX); something that traditional ERP systems are not known for. This, combined with the integrated just in time learning system 
announced at Open World earlier in the week, will, I'm sure, be welcome news to all users of Oracle applications

We had a bit of fun in the lab too with some futures that aren't in any products yet (as far as I know), including an EEG headset that allowed us to use brainwaves to control the movement of a ball through a maze. Having tried this for myself I shall eagerly await the brain-computer interface in an upcoming Oracle release.

Oracle users in the UK don't need to wait until Open World 2016 to take part in the design of future products because the Oracle Applications User Experience Team are going to be hosting an onsite UX testing lab for attendees of the UKOUG Apps15 conference in December. See you there!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Oracle Open World 2015 Day 2 & 3

Open World is such a busy week that I've hardly had time to stop since I arrived. Luckily, I'm still feeling slightly jet lagged so am finding time to catch up on emails and write this blog in the early hours of the morning. 

On Monday morning Mark Hurd delivered his keynote announcing Oracle's vision for digital transformation to 2025. He started by explaining that that the on-premise operating model is unsustainable, based on 20 year old applications that were built pre internet, pre mobile and pre cloud. The cost of maintaining these applications is rising, not least because of the expense of keeping them secure, with cybersecurity costs rising by 10% per year.

Mark went on to say that this is why cloud has been such an important shift in the industry; because it allows companies to run their applications from a lower cost base with easy , rapid innovation - a simple matter of economics.

Mark announced his predictions for the next 10 years which included Oracle being at the forefront of the transition to cloud. He went as far as to predict that by 2025 only two suite providers will dominate 80% of the SaaS market, with the remaining 20% made up of point solutions, rather than full enterprise suites, and of course, he does expect Oracle to be one of the two.

Eva Harström, CIO of Skanska Nordic took to the stage during Tuesday morning's keynote.
Eva Harström , Skanska
Eva spoke about how the digital shift is transforming what and how Skanska build, with the company move towards an automated construction site. Skanska are already re-thinking what is needed in order to deliver design and construction, with enterprise architects becoming a key part of the design of the built environment. 

This awareness within enterprises of the digital shift has been a recurrent theme of the conference this year. David Bartlett, CTO of GE Aviation explained the rapid move towards digital by telling us that GE had gone to bed as an industrial company and woke up as a software company.

Larry Ellison's keynote on Tuesday afternoon announced Oracle's Silicon Secured Memory, an 'always on' hardware-based memory protection which stops unintentional or malicious access of data in memory. Larry told us that if this had been around at the time of Heartbeat or Venom, it would have shut them down in real-time. 

One of the concerns that many organisations still have about the move to cloud is around the confidentiality of the data. Larry challenged us all to ask our SaaS providers if their technical people can see our data, suggesting that the answer will almost always be 'yes'. 

This, he went on to say , is where Oracle SaaS applications are different; they are all encrypted and only the customer holds the key. This level of security was demanded by financial institutions but is available to all Oracle customers.

I attended a lunch on Monday, hosted by Jeb Dasteel, Oracle's Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer, where user group representatives heard about a new community site that's about to be launched. Here, Oracle customers will be able to find a single portal into all the user group sites around the world. 

I'm sure this portal will be developed further over the coming months as more international groups come on board so will look forward to sharing more news as it happens via the UKOUG.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Oracle Open World 2015 day 1

I'm writing this on Monday morning in San Francisco and I can hardly believe I've only been at Oracle Open World (OOW) for one day. There's no time to rest for OOW attendees on Sunday as there were plenty of user group sessions lined up all day including 12 quickfire sessions from Oracle ACE Directors who shared their knowledge of database 12c. I tweeted earlier in the day that Moscone West was looking quiet but the session on 12c was packed and by the time Larry Ellison gave the opening keynote at 5pm, thousands of delegates had swarmed into the hall.

It's always impressive to see how OOW and Oracle branding takes over the streets of San Francisco during conference week and this morning on Fox News OOW is a big news story, showing what a huge event this is. It's clearly also a big hit with local businesses, with Uber drivers reporting takings up 100% higher than normal . 

The opening keynote on Sunday afternoon started with a live link to the Oracle ACE Directors who jumped into the massive ball pit that's been created here at Moscone to resemble a cloud. I haven't tried it yet but it looked like fun.

In the keynote Larry Ellison spoke about how the industry has changed significantly over the past 5 years. Not long ago, Oracle considered SAP and IBM to be its main competitors. Nowadays, Salesforce and Workday are Oracle's main cloud competitors, not SAP. 

In the platform space, Microsoft is the main competitor, not IBM and in the infrastructure space it's Amazon, not IBM or EMC.

Larry went on to say that Oracle are the only company working in all three layers of cloud, platform and infrastructure and in terms of the cloud he sees this as a major differentiator between Workday and Oracle.

We heard that Oracle is No1 in the ERP market with 1,300 customers today, expected to grow to 2,000 very soon. Oracle now have 5,000 HCM customers and although 4,000 of them came via the Taleo acquisition, that still leaves 1,000 core Fusion HCM customers.

One of the main announcements in Larry's keynote was two new modules in the Oracle cloud portfolio; Manufacturing and E-Commerce . With these two additions, Oracle now have more applications than any other cloud services provider.

Earlier in the day I dropped into a session called 'Mobile/Cloud Terminology for Dummies'. I wasn't sure what to expect, thinking that with all the technology experts in OOW this might not be the most popular session but it was a packed room and the speaker, Mia Urman from AuraPlayer was an engaging speaker who quickly captured the attention of the audience. 

Mia closed with a slide that I'm sure most of us have seen before, which compares SaaS, IaaS and PaaS with ordering a pizza. It's still a useful slide for explaining cloud to anyone who may still not get it so I make no apologies for sharing it here: 

So, now on to Monday; I'm meeting up with other user group representatives shortly to hear about the new community platform that's about to be launched. It sounds like it's going to be a great opportunity for customer collaboration so watch this space for more news on that.