Thursday, 20 October 2016

Congratulations to Certus - Thank you to everyone who Voted

Back in August I asked for your vote in The UKOUG Partner Awards. I always say how important these are because they are voted for by end users.

It is a hard process for me, I am not allowed to do anything for PYA by UKOUG because I am a partner and there has to be a total separation. Most people understand that but my boss rang me 3 times on the day asking if we had won something and I just didn't know! Even during rehearsal in the afternoon they wouldn't let me near the boxes of trophies in case I saw anything.

photo from ukoug

Linda Barker, UKOUG President was unable to be at the event due to ill health and that meant I was asked to step in and host the night, but even then I wasn't allowed to hand out the prizes; again total separation.

I say all this because I know most people understand but I want to make it clear if anything being UKOUG counts against me.

Certus submitted in 6 categories this year, simply because we thought we had a story to share in each of them. We were then shortlisted for 5 which was a shock as the submissions this year were up 25% with some really strong competition. All of the management team in Certus asked people to vote,  through our customer relationships, and through linkedin to the wider community. If you read ANY of the Linkedin posts you will have read the passion for what we do; that is Certus, and why people want to work with us.

On the evening Richard Atkins arrived early, which on its own was impressive. Shortly before OOW, Richard moved into a new flat then flew out to San Francisco and then onto Australia where we have our APAC offices. He arrived back at 4pm on Thursday, rushed to a shop to buy a tux, rushed home and couldn't find any shoes! Hence he arrived at the Cafe de Paris looking reasonably smart, if not tired but with brown shoes. A fact the comedian, Chris Hunter (who was excellent)  mentioned several times. However when most people felt tired after midnight Richard was just waking up, jet lag has its advantages.

Richard was joined by Maria our Marketing Executive, and Charlene who runs our HR. I was sat on a different table.

photo from ukoug

Certus wanted most the Cloud Applications Award. In 2013, in the very early days of Certus, this was the Fusion Award and they won Silver. In 2014 and 2015 they had won the Gold Award. The company has grown, and now has 26 Cloud Customers (not including Australia which is also growing) and very proud of everything they have achieved.

The evening started well, we won Gold for a new category of Digital Transformation, helped by ONS who talked in a video about Digital Transformation in Government and how we are helping them achieve it, and England Rugby who talked about their Digital Transformation in Sport at Oracle Open World.

Then we won Gold for Middleware, this was a shock. We have been very, very open about our PaaS4SaaS work, it will be crucial for SaaS customers, especially those moving from EBS with many customisations. I did feel a little guilty, PaaS is one of the current buzz words and there are other partners doing amazing things with traditional middleware, but then we are sharing our findings as we go along and hopefully these help other end users. Last year we won bronze for this in the emerging technology category.

Interestingly Peter Care from FXLoader who was co-author to me in the latest Oracle Scene won Gold for ISV Innovative Service Partner with his APEX PaaS4SaaS application. People are really interested in what can be done in this area.

With two Golds under our belt it was really nerve wracking when it came to the Could Applications Category, this really was the big one for us. I so wanted to get on stage with Richard to collect it but as UKOUG I couldn't.

Mark Sweeny our CEO was at home following us with WhatsApp (no phone reception in the venue), but Tim Warner our COO is cleverer and he was following on Periscope, (thank you Mark from BPI on Demand). Even better the next morning we were all able to watch the ceremony and laugh again at Richard's shoes.

Three Golds was amazing and we still had 2 more nominations in the running. SME and Training. Again two important parts of what we do. I love working with SME customers the difference you can make is really powerful and quite fast, and Certus started by training and that was the first thing I did when I joined them. We won bronze in both these categories which we are really pleased with.

I had arrived at the venue at 4pm for a rehearsal in my UKOUG role. I had a small suitcase with my dress, makeup etc as travelling on the tube in black tie is fine for a man, but not a woman in broad daylight. This turned out to be a great thing as it meant I was able to carry our haul away no problem, and then deliver them to our office in Guildford the next day.

Mark and Tim were so happy, and we all watched the awards, laughed at Richard (again) and then cleaned the new and old awards. Mark joked abut the cost of cabinets but it was just how pleased he was. Mark and Tim started Certus when they were first movers on Fusion (Cloud Apps). The disruption in the partner market meant there was no niche partner willing to concentrate on just this. They started really small and have built the business up, working with development all the way. The investment has been tremendous, everyone has to be in learn mode constantly and there are always challenges, what we strive on that, and have customers happy to tell you that.

So the UKOUG partner awards, voted for by customers, are really important to Certus, and on the evening I was really touched by all the genuine congratulations from our peers. Thank you everyone for voting for us.

Thank you to all the UKOUG staff for the great night and Congratulations to all the other winners.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

My Rock Star Life

I recently posted about not going on the APAC OTN Tour. My motivation for doing so was to explain just once, why not, hopefully to crush the rumours and debate as to why.

Actually for my UK friends, it was a bit like Will Young leaving Strictly Come Dancing, if you don't say why, people simply make up their own mind.

Anyway, I posted the blog and received great messages of support both publicly and privately, but one response to the blog was simply evil.

My blog requires me to authorise comments, and I could simply have deleted it. I often get comments that say 'well written, thank you for sharing, let me tell you what I sell' etc that I simply mark as spam and delete; but after consideration I thought I would let this one stay.

Anonymous is obviously under the illusion that I am self opinionated and living the life on Oracle's dime. Something that gets brought up from time to time and those of us who do have the opportunity to do this, do sometimes feel personally attacked for it. Most of the time it is friendly banter 'can I carry your bag?, 'I want your job'; but sometimes it is nasty.

Tim Hall, who I have travelled with a lot, has responded with his glamorous life videos, to show you that whilst most of it is great, that is not always the case. I have also posted about bad days.

Yesterday Martin Widlake who is quite new to OTN tours, tweeted about his travel schedule and a response came saying 'Rock Star Life' and I though YES that is exactly what it is.

A Rock Star life, at the beginning of their career.

The endless travel, never knowing where you are when you wake up, but knowing after a very long day you will pack up and do it all over again.

I love presenting, I love sharing the stories of what I do with Oracle software for my customers. I love my job.

But an OTN tour is not glamorous. It is fun, the people you travel with and the people you meet make it fun. Oracle cover travel, and accommodation costs for the night before and conference days. So at weekends and in gaps, we are paying our own way. We pay for our food and we pay for our entertainment between events. I am lucky and have been able to combine touring with having even more fun, having often dived before and after tours and that ill fated trip to Machu Picchu.

So yes, I lead a Rock Star's Life, and I love it. Next Gig the DOAG and I hope to see you all at the best one UKOUG2016.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

OTN Appreciation Day : That wonderful no-cost option - APEX

When I first read Tim's post  for this initiative, I had no idea what to write about, but I am sure none of you expected it to be APEX.

Yes I am a Cloud Apps girl, and for development to extend that (with PaaS4SaaS) I use ADF, and am looking at the non-technical ABCS (made just for me), but I don't discount APEX.

The reason I have chosen APEX as my favourite feature is because people who buy Oracle have found it hard to see value in a product with no associated cost. APEX is a no cost option within the database. That means you don't pay extra, it doesn't mean it is free; it is part of the base bundle.

Nobody says Oracle is cheap (well perhaps Larry did at this yea'r Open World), in fact did you know Oracle spelt backwards in Spanish means:

What this meant was that people decided that if Oracle was not charging extra for it, there could be little value. I used to work for a very large Systems Integrator and when APEX arrived (then called HTML DB) it took me years to persuade our development team to use it for customers. Now some of the best systems are written in APEX. 


But once the development community realised just what a gem this was, and their product managers started to evangelise , all that changed. 

As ever for some unfathomable reason, that small area of Europe known as the Netherlands have more APEX expertise per capita than anywhere else in the world, and they lead the OTN and ACE community in this area.

So I have chosen APEX as my favourite features, even if I don't use it myself much.

Happy OTN Appreciation Day

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Why Am I Not Travelling to Australia? Putting the Record Straight

I am a proud member of the OTN ACE Director Community. I hope I always give them credit for the opportunities they open up to me, to speak at conferences, in some of the most wonderful places I have had the pleasure of travelling to.

But it is also very easy to criticise when things don't go the way you want them to, and like any human community there can be disruptive forces. If you follow me on Twitter you will know I am not backward in coming forward when things go wrong. The social media executives in British Airways and Hilton know me on first name terms.

Earlier this year, I applied to take part in the APAC OTN Tour, then over the summer the shape of my involvement changed, and then in the run up to OOW it started to fall apart, and then just afterwards was cancelled completely.

People knew I was going, my name and extracts had appeared in flyers and on websites for the events. So inevitably people have asked why? Several people had their own theories before asking and as you would expect, they had a huge range of ideas, all equally incorrect, and all in the main looking for someone to blame.

  • The APAC OTN Tour as arranged by Francisco Alvarez covered NZ (2 dates), Australia (2 dates), China (2 dates) and Sangham in India. I submitted for all these dates.
  • I subsequently discovered that the week before this tour started Quest International had a JDE conference in Australia, so I also applied and was accepted for that event.
  • I was also approached by regional leaders of AUSOUG who have a very large applications community, they are holding their Australia events during the time of China and India on the APAC tour that would be more technically focused. I therefore contacted both OTN and Francisco and asked to swap those dates 
  • I then expected, subject to funding to be speaking for Quest, APAC NZ, APAC Australia and then AUSOUG
  • My papers were selected by all the groups including China and India, but I had by then dropped out of those legs of the tour.
  • Unfortunately because of perceived conflicts AUSOUG then asked me to choose between their events and APAC Australia. I did not want to choose, I am only interested in the community but even with intervention from OTN, no compromise was reached and I had to reluctantly drop out of AUSOUG.
  • OTN came under budget constraints, as this tour was suddenly much in excess of the original agreed budget, and they told me that they couldn't support the QUEST leg. Luckily I work for a great company who were able to make up that shortfall
  • Then QUEST who focus purely on the JDE community had a revision of the objectives and priorities for their agenda, and my 'Cloud Journey' content no longer fitted. 
  • I was verbally approved for the remaining APAC tour NZ and Australia but unfortunately the budget constraints did not have anywhere to go and OTN and Francisco had to make very hard decisions, and I was one of the casualties.
This was not any single decision, but rather a conspiracy of bad luck. Yes I am very disappointed but am getting over it. Am I angry? No, OTN support me brilliantly, and I don't envy them or any of the other players in this drama their need to make hard decisions.

I am more disappointed for those I have let down. My favourite quotation is about Commitment. I committed to those events. Initially subject to funding, but even after verbal approval that was eventually rescinded. All for the right reasons but I still feel I have let them down. 

This week there are lots of events in Eastern Europe I would love to have taken part in, but did not apply as it was too much along side this APAC tour, and now I wish I was there. But I will get other opportunities.

I wish everyone on the tour the best and know it will be amazing. 

If you are an end user in this region, one of the events will be great for you, please sign up.

And finally bring me back some TamTams Tim and all will be forgiven.