Thursday, 15 July 2010

Strategy Planning at UKOUG

July is always a busy month for UKOUG, as well as a board meeting we also have our volunteers meeting, the main way we capture and share ideas. Luckily in NI we have 2 public holidays (12 & 13) which I can swap to take these 2 days off from Fujitsu.

This year the calendar was packed, I arrived back from Washington and the ODTUG conference on the Saturday, met up with Lisa Dobson my fellow director and went off to a 40th birthday party for James Morle, a fellow ACE Diretor and member of the OakTable and a great speaker for UKOUG. It is a measure of the friends you make in this circle that Graham Wood flew over from the US for the party and whilst he was over spoke at the UNIX SIG for UKOUG. Then Lisa and I went to Birmingham Sunday evening to ready ourselves for the strategy meeting that started early the next day.

To start, we revisited our Mission & Vision Statements and Values and what changed from the last time full review, about 4 years ago. The emphasis is on the Oracle Community and who is a member of that, what we decided was:

   - Those who use Oracle Products
   - Those who provide Products and Services around Oracle
   - Oracle themselves

Our Mission remains - Serving the Oracle Community and our vision is changing slightly to reflect the emphasis on this community member to:
To be the association in which everyone in the Oracle community engages.

We did not finish the next stage which is a full evaluation of our own customers and products so this may not be the final draft.

We had a facilitator to keep us on track and although we did get sidetracked occasionally we did make progress. As a board we need to decide what we can do with what we have. There is lots more to do and we took a lot more information from the volunteers the next day which will be an important part of our analysis.

There was a board dinner that evening which was a good time to get to know the new director Graham Spicer a bit better and then I went off for a relatively early night.

The next day we had a standard board meeting at 8.15. We are our own company in UKOUG and not outsourced to an operating company so there are statutory things we must cover. This and setting our next actions on the strategy process took us till 9.30 when the volunteers started to arrive.......

Thinking About The Internet and Branding

I wrote before about my thoughts on the Internet and especially around marketing. It is a great way to build a brand and what better brand to sell than yourself.

I don’t easily articulate my brand but do embrace the Internet as part of it. I was slow to get into blog posts, face book and twitter and when I did there was trepidation, how should I segment them?

As well as the ‘who would I invite to my house’ decision for face book (and there are one or two who need to be removed), I have the same 'work or leisure' issue around the blog. In fact I have 3 blogs and may well start a forth soon. This blog it about my professional life, about the work I do in the Oracle Eco-system, it started as just what does a UKOUG director get up to and it is that, I am still a director, but I also talk about the ACE program of which I am so proud to be a member, presenting at Oracle user group events, User Groups themselves, my work with Fujitsu and other things I think my be interesting to the people I meet through work.

A have a 2nd blog which is more personal, more about my thoughts, although if you look at the frequency of posts I don’t have many of them. Time is the killer, I need more time. My third blog is about Stanley, my (but don’t tell him - or my boss) imaginary friend.

Twitter I love, 140 characters to get your point across, although I can be a bit of a 'twitterbox' ('DebraLilley). In the UK it is not used anywhere near as much as in the US, except by celebrities and organisations who have recognised its power. For me it came into its own during the Volcano crisis when you could follow your airline and get fast, immediate information. I think of twitter as a flat portal. Each ‘Tweeple’ I follow is a portlet giving me the picture of the world I want, from news, to travel to friends and organisations. UKOUG has several accounts, Ronan has UKOUG_Chair and he is great at this, we have UKOUG run by the office, myself and many others who then use the tag #UKOUG. Using a twitter service such as TweetDeck means you can easily organise the information in the best way for you. The best use of twitter in my world is for the conference, give it a simple tag and encourage people to tweet. It brings a real buzz to the event and includes people who can't be there and is a great way of buying them in for next year. How much better is live feedback than a post event review. A tweet feed display is a must so that people can follow. I have been unable to attend a few UKOUG conference series events recently but have been able to follow and send wishes via twitter, it make me feel part of it.

My employer Fujitsu encourages me to use twitter which I suppose means I self police it, and have at times found myself encouraging Stanley (yes he has his own Stanley_ACED) to tweet instead of me. The Oracle Practice page of Fujitsu gives a link to my account so I need to be a bit careful, although I do apologise to anyone who followed me during the World Cup Final, and I really did want Holland to win.

So has the Internet helped my brand? I hope so. I am sure I don’t always get it right and I don’t get a lot of posted comments. I recently got divorced and thought about changing my name, however Debra Lilley is my brand and anything else would almost be like starting again. Although I quite like ‘Miss Debra’.

Fusion Applications; a window on technology.

I have made no secret of the fact that I love Fusion Applications and can't wait for them to be released later this year. They will be released this year, Larry said so last Open World and he wouldn’t let us down would he?

If you look at the OOW Agenda for 2010 there are lots of sessions showcasing Oracle Fusion and I am expecting to hear from early adopters who should be a fair way through their implementation projects by the time the conference gets underway.

I talked about Fusion Apps to my ACE Director peers and it was great to be able to talk about the technology and how it hangs together. These people are using the components today and each are the experts in their area. No way can I teach them anything about the components but I can talk about how they will come together.

I have said before that Fusion Apps are about the vision and the user experience and during the presentation I thought, release 1 is not just a showcase for the application it is also a window on the technology. All of the technology (except the BI and that is imminent ) is available today.

So my presentations about the Fusion vision will actually come to life, the product will showcase the bringing together of all the Fusion Middleware and Database products, and show how well they are integrated (I will resist the temptation to say Complete and Open).

As in other presentations there was a discussion about pricing. As yet there is no news except that for processes it will be like for like, I.e. if you have the same processes in Fusion Apps as you have today in Applications Unlimited there will be no extra cost providing the matrix has not changed (no of users etc). Technology pricing I don’t know about and hope Oracle get it right, a lot of customers have started to invest in the technology but if you have to buy all of it, few people will be able to afford the step up.

Mohan Dutt gives a daily countdown to OOW, I think of this as my countdown to Fusion. I doubt it will actually be Generally Available at Open World but everyone will get to see it.

ACE Director Day in Washington

As part of the ACE Director Program there are two briefings available each year, one directly before Oracle Open World at HQ and the other before ODTUG Kaleidescope. Each ACE Director is encouraged to attend at least one of these briefings.

Normally one of the comments from a briefing is that there is not enough time for the ACE Directors to discuss ‘all things Oracle’ between themselves, but at the recent ODTUG Kaleidoscope conference in Washington DC, we had plenty of time with several presenting to their peers. It was actually a little disappointing that there was so little Oracle presence. One of the things Oracle does well in the briefings before OOW is give a heads up on some of the products about to be launched, we are all under Non Disclosure. A week after ODTUG, OBIEE11g was launched and I was hoping for a peek at that.

It was a very long day especially for those of us who had a long journey, but there was lots covered. There were roadmap sessions for JDev and a great look at APEX from David Peak. If you are involved in APEX release 4.0 had been available just a few days and it was good for me an interested outsider to see what it now delivers.

What the extra ACE time meant was we could have a lot of discussion. Actual practitioners giving Oracle and each other feedback about the products in the field. How is user adoption, what are the concerns and needs of the customer.One area that came up a lot was licensing. There are always going to be concerns that prices are too high but sometimes it is just how a product is licensed that puts the customers off. ACE Directors have the ear of Oracle and I hope the information taken back into HQ makes someone think. Oracle are often slated in the press for being arrogant and this is a good opportunity for them to reconsider. Virtualisation and SOA licensing models were the main discussion areas.

I spoke about Fusion Apps, a bit daunting as the ACE Director program is almost exclusively technology but more about that in a later post.

My favourite session of the day was the last one. Frans Thamura who talked about his program in Indonesia to teach Java to the majority of university students, ensuring that in the future it wont be restricted to the few who then leave the country for high paid jobs, and that it will also bring work to the country. Unfortunately Frans is very difficult to understand, which is a pity as his English is phenomenally better than my Indonesian, but his slides and enthusiasm made up for it.

Thanks again Vikki and Duncan for a great day.