Tuesday, 27 May 2014

EasyJet - Not That Bad

I travel a lot, an awful lot and people often say I should write a book, but I can't think who would want to read it? However in my blog when talking about the places I go to I do mention the travel, especially if it is an issue.

This post is different, it is about good service, good service with Easyjet. The reason I was motivated to write this is because the UKOUG Apps & Tech conferences are in Liverpool this year and people are on social media discussing travel options and there is a pre-conceived idea that Easyjet is not a 'real' airline.

I live in Belfast and that means that for most long haul I have to travel to London first, and actually I do a lot of work in London as well so most of my travel involves British Airway who provide a good service between the two cities. They often annoy me but I do enjoy frequent flier privileges but that is not the subject of this post.

For domestic travel to other airports I can choose between a number of airlines and my one of choice is Easyjet. Easyjet are not really low-cost, more no-frills and it certainly doesn't mean they are always the cheapest but in general are good value, large aircraft and I love the un-weighed hand luggage.

 I hated Easyjet when they had free seating, I hated the rush and the pushing. Allocated seating is good but I want to chose my seat so I would pay Speedy Boarding, although because I know I will do enough flights (anything over 5 returns in a year) it is better value for me to by an Easyjet Plus card which gives me this for a year regardless of how many flights. In addition to the seating it gives me a frequent flyer priority queue at check in, again suits my preferred experience of travel.

 In the last month I have travel a lot with Easyjet for both business and pleasure and thought I would explain the good and bad.

 I went to Egypt for Easter diving. My dive holiday agent uses both charter and Easyjet flights depending on cost, but I have flown on charter to Egypt and the five hours from London is horrendous on the over cramped charter flights, customer service is not as good and I have seen more delays. On my last trip a friend flying back to Manchester was delayed 28 hours! yes 28 hours. 
As I have the speedy boarding I get a seat at the front of the plane, because it is an add-on cost, if I select my must-have seat on the aisle in a row where the window is already gone I have a high chance of a spare seat in the middle. On this last occasion it was slightly more expensive than the charter flight, so I had to pay the difference to the holiday agent but not much.

 First though I had to fly from Belfast to Gatwick, again by Easyjet. I elected to fly the day before as I had a meeting in London but if it had been the same day then Gatwick have a through luggage system which would have been ideal.  Easyjet are very strict with hand luggage size but not weight. Charter airlines give another 5kg to qualified divers but only allow 5kg hand luggage. My guaranteed hand luggage (larger size again for speedy boarding), carried my PC, iPad, Underwater camera housing, Diving Regs and very heavy logbook which weighed almost 11kg. Now I know I am tall so fulfilling the 'you must be able to put into overhead luggage yourself' is easier for me.

Both these flight legs, to London and then Egypt landed ahead of schedule. Now it isn't always plain sailing they do have delays especially at the end of the day as the turnaround times are so fast any delays have a knock on effect so my #1 tip is travel early if possible. There is a lot of being held in queues but I am at the front so less stressful and if you have ever been in Hurghada airport on a Friday you will know how stressful that can be.

 There are no included refreshments but you can bring on-board or buy from them and certainly no more expensive than an airport cafĂ©, but my tip, a Boots Meal Deal. The return home meant an overnight stay at Gatwick and I was lucky I had enough hotel points for a free night but Easyjet airports tend to have much cheaper hotels than the high cost ones such as Heathrow.

Also on board there is no reclining seats, not much of an issue and does mean the seat in front of you does not push your laptop into your face but it does mean if you want any sleep you need to remember a neck cushion. No seat back movies either but then to be fair these are < 5 hour flights and we all have that kind of entertainment in our iPads etc.

 Last week I needed to be in Birmingham for the first UKOUG Next Generation Event so flew there Wednesday tea time and again no delays.

 Easyjet can be very low cost if you have flexibility and know a long time in advance. I flew to Tel Aviv for ilOUG conference and this was approved for funding through the ACE Director program  about 5 weeks out. Oracle travel priced my flights and it was over $1,000 which they would pay but I thought extortionate. Friday I was in Manchester and hoped I could get a flight from there but it was too early in the day and I was not flexible enough. However a quick train (booked in advance £26)  to Milton Keynes and it was only a £24 taxi to Luton.

 Did I mention my itinerary was a nightmare? Well I also had an EOUC meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria the following Tuesday, the day AFTER ilOUG. Direct flights from Tel Aviv to Sofia? No, well not quite true there is one on Mondays at 7am, no good, so then my options were via Frankfurt, Paris or London all with overnight stays. My fellow board member Fiona was also going to Sofia so I looked at Manchester and that worked. I landed back from Tel Aviv just before midnight Monday and flew out again at 7.30 the next morning with her to Sofia, again Easyjet. The flights to Tel Aviv plus the train and taxi was < $600, and the extra time was actually negligible.
Tel Aviv had a lightening baggage handlers strike and the Easyjet staff did their best to keep everyone informed. it didn't last too long but people get fractious and stressed. I was quite disappointed to discoverer that the most vocal of those being unreasonable were pilgrims to the Holy Land, not a good example.
At some destinations Easyjet are not at the central airport. This is because they select airports with lower taxes to keep costs down. At Tel Aviv this is a bit of a hybrid, it is the main airport but uses the domestic terminal and then bus you (a long way) to the international terminal. Not really a problem but not expected and added to travel stress. On this flight there was an Easyjet flight crew manager on board, she is land based but has to travel 2 flights a month to 'keep her hand in' and she was asking people about their travel expenses

 Now I know you have to pay extra for bags, but I have included that in my comparisons  and yes with BA I have lounge access but most airports allow you to purchase a one off visit an actually I am an IOD member and in most domestic airports that will give you lounge access.

 Friday I finished the epic few weeks by flying home from Stansted airport with Easyjet., this was the Friday before a bank holiday and the airport was packed, or 'bunged' as they say in Belfast. I was really depressed that Easyjet wouldn't open the flight until 2 hours before boarding but then I had the same issue in Norway last month with BA, and there didn't appear to be enough staff, but that seemed to be a Stansted issue, all areas, all check in, security, shops all seemed to be struggling with not enough staff. My flight took off on time and arrived early, despite being a late evening flight.
 So if you are coming to Liverpool, my advice is don't write off Easyjet, do the comparism and if it works, use them flying into either Liverpool or Manchester which is just 64 minutes away by direct train.
Oh and I have booked my flight for UKOUG, £72 including baggage.


Saturday, 17 May 2014

Thoughts on Liverpool for UKOUG

You will have seen all the buzz around call for papers for both #UKOUG_Tech14 and #UKOUG_Apps14 and today I was at the venue the ACC Liverpool to look at the space for myself.

 Fiona Martin who is leading tech and myself for Apps, arrived at the venue on what turned out to be a lovely spring day. Yes I know that come December it may not be as warm but I know the welcome will be.

The building is very modern which means it is purpose built and the space is very flexible.

The experience for our members is our top priority and I believe the teams will achieve this, there are so many things we can do here.

The ACC is located right next to the Albert Docks and the area is modern with history. To understand that you simply have to join us in December.

I live in Belfast and it is a short 45 minute flight from there with EasyJet although I did notice the ferry stops right outside the ACC, however that is an overnight journey so may give it a miss, especially in December!!

Within 5 minutes walk of the ACC we saw a dozen hotels ranging from basic like IBIS to high end, even a barge if you want.

The Docks are beautiful full of restaurants, bars and tourist shops, but not expensive. Liverpool doesn't seem to aim at high end costs, it caters for all but especially the lower cost. Fiona and I had brunch in a dinner and it certainly was not expensive. The docks just ooze atmosphere and if Larry would like to attend I am sure he can arrange parking his boat here now he has practiced at HQ.

In the area there is so much to do, obviously The Beatles Story is a must, but the TATE is also there, the Liverpool wheel is outside the ACC and they gave us a helpful and money saving delegate card with lots of discounts in the area. This one expires in November but there are plans for a new one covering our stay.

I travel a lot and always want to see as much as possible in the time available and my favourite way to do this is 'hop on, hop off' buses. The Liverpool service stops again right outside the ACC.

So hopefully I have persuaded you Liverpool will be fun. Start planning your adventure.

Did I mention the Beatles? Well in the docks we found a sweetshop and this picture is made of Jelly Beans.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Oracle EBS Support Timebomb - Not So Black and White

I was on vacation at Easter, diving in Egypt with no internet above or below the surface so did not see the ComputerWeekly article, "Businesses face Oracle applications support timebomb" until I returned.

I read the article by Cliff Saran who I have known for over 10 years many times, the sources, UKOUG who I am part off worked with Original Software on the EBS survey, I trust the data, Forrester and PwC are renowned companies and Ray Wang is a personal friend whose integrity I admire, there are no incorrect statements so why do I feel the need to reply?

In a recent blog about my thoughts on Collaborate, the biggest Oracle Users Conference in the US, I spoke about mis-information, this is not the case here, but the Computer Weekly article doesn’t go far enough, it isn’t the whole story.

Oracle E Business Suite is successful because it is flexible, and this flexibility and the harsh fact that many adopters customised the ‘hell’ out of it, means that no two organisations have the same install. Add to that that each organisation has a different overall portfolio of IT, from hardware, operating systems, and plethora of applications and technology, one size does not fit all.

Each organisation needs to look at their own situation, strategy and needs, and not simply take statistics and guidelines at face value.

E Business Suite release 11 is stable, has been for many years with very few new patches, customers still using it have low cost of ownership. Yes they have no new functionality and Oracle have kept their Applications Unlimited promise and have delivered lots of new functionality, and lots of opportunity to benefit from new technology, but if an organisation doesn’t need it, or can’t afford it then they may simply have decided to stay put.

I have a car, it isn’t key to my business, it is reliable, and is 7 years old. The cost of ownership is low, and it doesn’t matter how many times my dealer offers me a ‘great’ deal, or tells me it is cheaper to upgrade in my case it isn’t, I do less than 4,000 miles a year and I’m fine thank you.

Is it too late to upgrade? No and many people are still upgrading for sound business reasons.

Sustaining Support may be enough for organisations; in most cases, and again there will be a few exceptions, the legislative patches Oracle supplies are around payroll. If you don’t use payroll and the survey does not say how many of those not upgraded are payroll, then again you may not be worried.

So should these organisations that are sticking to Release 11 move to third party support? Personally I think their value proposition is only as an exit strategy. If you stop paying Oracle you lose the right to upgrade under your current contract, and they can and should charge you all sorts to reinstate. At that point I doubt you will have saved, but again you need to weigh up individual circumstances.

Are some organisations waiting to see if Fusion is the answer? Perhaps and yes a lot will have decided not to go early, or been put off by the challenges. My recent interviews with Dennis Howlett talk about these.

PwC remind us in the article that you need to be on R12 to migrate to Fusion directly, again this is correct, but let’s dig a little deeper. You migrate to Fusion, it is not an upgrade, and Oracle provide migration scripts from R12. If you are migrating a module that at data level looks the same or very similar to R12, then the script may well work or need a very small tweak. For most modules this is true, the really BIG exception is Financials, the table changes at R12 mean the migration scripts simply won’t work.

So does this mean a financials customer can’t go to Fusion? No it means there is no direct migration script available. A partner may have written some bespoke and I am sure if there is one, they will happily sell you the service (let me know). Equally when organisations adopted EBS for the first time they had no automatic migration of their existing data. You load balances as journals and open items for the sub modules, and how much data you bring over as historic is a business decision (that must be approved by your internal auditors). I am not saying this is easy, I am not saying it has no cost, you have historic data storage and retrieval to consider, but is it cheaper than an upgrade project to R12, which Ray Wang explains is no easy feat? – probably. Again it is a personal business decision for an organisation after weighing everything up.

Forrester are quoted as saying Fusion immaturity and Oracle’s lack of clarity of strategy as being barriers, and yes I agree they have been. Again my recent interviews talk about some of these, but my message is clear, Fusion is being adopted and Cloud makes that possible in a quicker timeframe with predictable costs. I wrote for Profit Magazine's 2014 Trends Report that this was something we would see more and more of, and Collaborate proved that for me. Adoption in the US has traditionally been quicker and UK has been slower to come out of recession, another important factor David Warburton-Broadhurst our UKOUG President spoke about in the article, but it is coming.

So it was a great article, factually correct but a general statement of the position, each organisation has many other factors to consider. This is what makes my role so interesting.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Getting to Mobile: Follow the User

Another article in Profit Magazine, this time on mobile

the link in the article is incorrect, I hope to have it fixed but it should be https://wikis.oracle.com/display/ADFMobileDesign/Home and also worth a look is Ultan's new ebook - it's really a browser-based tablet design guide https://apex.oracle.com/pls/apex/f?p=70974:1:113120968376914:::::i