Friday, March 13, 2015

HEUG Alliance 15 - What Looks Good To Me

The Higher Education User Group's Alliance 15 software conference kicks off this Sunday, March 15, in Nashville, Tennessee.  You're going, right?

I'm flying early this weekend myself.  Just have a few conference things to do to get ready for my little role in this big Oracle user group conference.


Looks to be a great conference.  I'm personally planning to dive into five areas of focus:  


  1. increasing my depth of understanding about customers and processes in Higher Education; 
  2. learning and evangelizing about Oracle Cloud Application services within Higher Education; 
  3. joining the discussion around Oracle's PeopleSoft Campus Solutions Self Service Mobile (especially the new 5.0 release) and the Oracle Mobile Applications Framework; 
  4. learning more about the application of User Experience design patterns, guidelines and the like to the unique set of use cases presented within Higher Education; 
  5. getting updated with the latest news on Oracle's roadmaps for their various Higher Education products.

I suspect that an underlying theme about the need for higher levels of successful student engagement will encompass all five of these focus areas in one way or another.

I'll be presenting a few sessions of my own...special sessions not found in the Alliance Agenda Builder.  They're all in the Delta Island C room at the Gaylord Hotel and I can promise they'll be absolutely brilliant ;)

  1. Taleo Cloud Demo: Tuesday, March 17 12 noon-1 p.m.
  2. Financials Cloud Demo: Tuesday March 17, 2:00-3:00 p.m.
  3. HCM Cloud Demo: Wednesday, March 18, 7:45-8:45 a.m.


So, other than those sessions where I'm presenting, I looked over the catalog of sessions with my three areas of focus in mind. What follows is a list of the sessions that look good to me. I didn't include session times or locations, as you can get to those details via the Agenda Builder.  If you do look up my list, you'll see there are time conflicts involved - a sign of a good conference is that you have to make difficult choices about how to spend your time - so you won't be able to catch all of these sessions...these are just the sessions that piqued my interest.  Maybe you'll be interested too?


So that's what looks good to me at Alliance 15.  Let me know what looks good to you if you're going, and let me know how it really turned out for you after the conference...love those comments!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Nashville Cat

Nashville cats, play clean as country water
Nashville cats, play wild as mountain dew
Nashville cats, been playin' since they's babies
Nashville cats, get work before they're two

            - From the Lovin' Spoonful's Nashville Cats

I'm heading out to HEUG's Alliance this weekend.  Gonna be a Nashville Cat for a few days.  My big job is to host three workshop/demo sessions on Oracle Cloud Applications, all in Room Delta Island C at the Gaylord Hotel:

1.    Taleo Cloud Demo: Tuesday, March 17 12 noon-1 p.m.

2.     Financials Cloud Demo: Tuesday March 17, 2:00-3:00 p.m.

3.     HCM Cloud Demo: Wednesday, March 18, 7:45-8:45 a.m.

Almost everything will be "live drive", so you'll get some relief fromPowerPoint slides ;)  These are sponsored sessions (Thank you, Sierra Cedar), so you won't find them on the Alliance schedule.  Some of those special conference sessions that only get heard about by word of mouth or from some big-mouth blogger.

You want the straight scoop on Oracle's Cloud Applications, do come by so we can chat for a bit.

I'll also be in some private customers sessions, attending a few sessions, shaking hands and kissing babies.  So if you really have to miss all the workshops, track me down so we can talk.

The Best Thing

I'm spending the latter part of my week at the Utah Oracle User Group Training Days conference.  It's a nice regional conference for me to engage with...it's local to me here in Salt Lake City.  So I get to participate in the conference and still go home every night.  Pretty sweet.

But being local is not the best thing about this conference.  The best thing about this...or most user group conferences, for that matter...is the opportunity to exchange ideas with some very smart people.      When I get to listen in for a bit on conversations with the real brains in this business, I always come away with more knowledge...and often with a different point of view.  That's the really cool part.  And, yes, it's worth investing a couple of days of my time.

So far as the Utah Oracle User Group, we'll probably do another one of these this fall.  You really out to come out.  Who knows, you might learn something?  I know I always do.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Thoughts On Student Engagement

For those of us in the Higher Education portion of Oracle’s ecosystem, the big conference of the year - Alliance - is less than one week away.  But I already have a suspicion about the hot topic this year.  I’m betting on the subject of student engagement.

There was a time when student engagement was all about educational institutions reaching out to students and potential students.  But there were only a few ways to get that done:  advertising, public relations, events.  And the schools controlled the discussion.  Because it wasn’t really a discussion as much as a series of one-way broadcasts from the universities to the students.

But things have changed as new technologies have taken root in higher education. Social media, chat apps, mobile…now, not only can the students and potential students talk back to the universities, but they can also talk to each other.  So the schools no longer have control of the discussion.  While there are significant upsides to this turning of the tables, there’s also a downside…the schools, to a very great degree, are in the dark about the tastes, preferences, and habits of their students and potential students.  This is especially true in talking about “digital body language”.  What technology do those students and potential students use? What are their technology habits?  How can they be reached?  How can we learn more about what is important to them?  The real crux of successful student engagement is hidden in distracting complexities.

A real challenge in all this comes from a distraction over platforms.  There are lots of social and communication platforms out there coming and going:  Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Webchat…you get the idea.  Platforms come and go, and nobody has any idea of the next big thing.  But you can’t ignore them, because your students and potential students are already there.

Another clear shift is that the days of individual and isolated decision-making are gone.  People want to check in with the groups that are important to them and know what other people are doing before making a decision.  So we have different people, all with different needs and hot buttons, all interacting with each other in a variety of networks to influence individual decisions and choices.  So decision making is much more complex.

These complexities distract from the real point of student engagement - schools learning about and adapting to their constituencies by talking with and listening to students and potential students.

To eliminate the complexities and efficiently get to the crux of student engagement in today’s environment, schools need more analysis in order to get the planning, design, and execution of the education process matched with the needs and wants of their students and potential students.  In other words, you have to learn about digital body language without getting wrapped around the axle about platforms and social networks.  You have to be able to engage in the discussions with your students and potential students where they are, when they are there…while not getting bogged down by the platforms and networks yourself.  It’s a challenge.  I’m sure we’ll hear more at Alliance.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

I'm In Love With My Car

I'm in love with my car
Gotta feel for my automobile
Get a grip on my boy racer rollbar
Such a thrill when your radials squeal.
                    -- From Queen's I'm In Love With My Car

As is typical with Queen, citing the lyrics fail to do the song justice.  You can hear the song and watch the official video here.  C'mon back when you're done.


I learned everything I needed to know about life by listening to what is now called "Classic Rock".  So, yes, I do believe it's possible to fall in love with inanimate objects.  Especially those things with simple, yet elegant, designs.  For example, my daily driver is a 12-year-old Toyota Tundra pickup truck.  It's nothing special...no bluetooth, no OnStar, no time warp technology.  But it runs and looks like the day I took it off the showroom floor.  And it's a simple design.  I love that truck...hope we never part.

Lately, I've been reacquainting myself with an inanimate object (in this case a product) that I really love:  Taleo.  Loved Taleo well before it was assimilated by Oracle and, after recently becoming reacquainted, I've discovered that I still love it.  That love exists for one reason - simplicity:
  1. Taleo only does four things: recruit new talent, bring that new talent onboard, manage talent through performance goals, and manage your team's learning.  Four things, nothing more - simple.
  2. You won't find feature bloat from over-engineering in Taleo.  There is no attempt to address the exception to the exception to the rule.  Somebody put in great deals of thought about what to leave out of Taleo.  They got it right.
  3. The user interface is simple.  Easy to navigate.  Not ground-breaking by any means, but very intuitive.  Users like it.
  4. Taleo is only offered through the Oracle Cloud.  No hardware to buy.  Patching, upgrading, maintenance...Oracle does that.  A subscription fee, a browser and an Internet connection...that's all you need to get going.  Simple.
  5. Know what happens when you stick to simplicity for your business process scope, feature set, your UI and your underlying architecture?  You end up with an amazing user experience.  Users want to use your product.  Users love your product.
Simple really is the new cool.  I love it when I find it.  And I find it in Taleo.


Monday, February 02, 2015

If You Want It, Here It Is

If you want it
Here it is, come and get it
Mmmm, make your mind up fast
If you want it
Anytime, I can give it
But you better hurry
Cause it may not last
    - From "Come And Get It", written by Sir Paul McCartney and originally recorded by Badfinger

I'm watching changes in the SaaS world...some people are keeping up with the changes, and some people are not.  The approach is selling SaaS subscriptions is an area that stands out in my mind where the market players have not all quite wrapped their brains around a new reality.

In the old days of selling on-premise applications (also lovingly referred to now as "fat apps"), the initial sale was the key battleground between applications vendors in their quest for customers.  That's because switching on-premise apps was hard.  Ask anyone switching from Oracle to SAP for enterprise apps...a very tough, very expensive, and very long process.

In the SaaS world, switching is quicker, easier, and much less expensive.  No technology footprint to switch out.  Get my data from the current SaaS vendor, map and convert to the new SaaS applications, train my workforce, cut off the old SaaS vendor, start paying the new SaaS vendor.  While it's still not a small undertaking, it's a comparative drop in the bucket.

Oh, what about hybrid platforms?  Still easier to switch out the SaaS portion of your system.  And so far as integrations:  well, the commonly used integrations are fast becoming commodities.  That's what Cloud Integration platforms from providers like Oracle, Sierra-Cedar (yeah, that was a plug - pretty slick the way I slipped it in there, huh?), Boomi, Workday, etc...providing highly-reused application integrations as a managed cloud service.

So what does this mean?  It means that as SaaS becomes more prevalent in the enterprise applications world, it won't be about making the deal as much as it will be about keeping the customer while concurrently enticing other players customers to switch while concurrently hunting for customers just entering the enterprise applications customer space.  In other words, we'll soon see huge churning of accounts from Brand X to Brand Y.  And we'll also see vendors attempting to protect their own patch of accounts.  And, at the same time, we'll see more offerings geared toward the SMB space...because that's where the net new growth opportunities will exist.

We're entering a great time for buyers...vendor lock-in in the enterprise apps market will become a less predominant factor.  And, frankly, vendors will be treat each customer like the "belle of the ball".

Watch for SaaS vendors to begin singing Sir Paul's tune:  "If you want it, here it is..." - on very customer-favorable terms.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Patch Now!

So two guys walk into a bar.  They're both talking like pirates and dressed like pirates.  The bartender asks...




No, wait, that's not the kind of patch we're talking about today.  Sorry, folks.  We're talking about a patch for your software...a fix or an update for software you already have in place.  Did you know Oracle puts out Critical Patch Updates ("CPU"s) for all their project on a regular basis?  You can read about Oracle's CPUs here.  Clicking on the link for any CPU listed will give you more information about the contents of that patch.

Now there's one important point you need to know.  It's that word "Critical" that Oracle uses in the term "Critical Patch Update".  Folks, when Oracle says "Critical", they're not kidding around.  Both important and urgent.  Security improvements, bug fixes, compatibility upgrades, new functionality...any and all can show up in a CPU.  So, in terms of applying patches, time is of the essence.  This is especially true with security fixes.  Note Oracle's language on the subject:

Oracle has received specific reports of malicious exploitation of vulnerabilities for which Oracle has already released fixes. In some instances, it has been reported that malicious attackers have been successful because customers had failed to apply these Oracle patches. Oracle therefore strongly recommends that customers remain on actively-supported versions and apply Critical Patch Update fixes without delay.

Just yesterday, we saw a timely example demonstrating the urgency of applying a CPU as soon as it is released.  David Litchfield (@dlitchfield) is a pretty brilliant security researcher when he's not taking pictures of sharks.  He recently spotted a pretty significant security hole in the Oracle database.  Requires certain circumstances and certain versions of the database, but it's still pretty significant.  So...David turned his find into Oracle.  The fix was issued in the Oracle CPU released yesterday, January 20.  You can read David's analysis of his find and the fix, along with the 160+ other security patches in this latest CPU, here.  A great perspective in addition to the description Oracle provides.

Now, y'all have read or heard me say in the past that I consider the Oracle database to be the most rock-solid, reliable database available.  Period.  This recent incident does not change my opinion on that one iota.  At the same time, it reinforces my opinion that software is complex stuff that requires continual improvement...this is just another example of that.  In order to use the stuff, you have to stay current...at least on the CPUs.

If you use an Oracle database, you really should apply this CPU.  Like now.  Same rule applies to all Oracle CPUs. Patch now!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Enterprise Apps on SaaS

It's really, really early on a Monday morning as I write this:  "zero dark-thirty".  Some ideas just refuse to allow sleep until you share them.  So, while shivering in the pre-dawn cold, I offer the following for your consideration...

Picture if you will, just for a moment, the idea that your enterprise applications system is like an iceberg.  There are the system costs that you can see.  Then there are the costs below the water line, those that you can't quite see.  Well, at least those nobody talks about when selling you an enterprise system.

Hanging with the iceberg simile, this is your IT system:


This is your enterprise applications system on SaaS:


Any questions?