Sunday, September 14, 2014

Simple Solutions Do Not Equal Easy Builds

Am I the only one that often tries to make solutions far more difficult than needed?  My first approach to any challenge is likely the most complicated thing I could create.  For example, I was working on something with Oracle Apex last week.  Came up with what I thought was a nifty new feature and started building.  After the equivalent of several hundred lines of code, I had something that worked...just not as well as I hoped.

After sitting back and letting things percolate...with a bit of cussing and fussing...I wound up deleting everything I'd built for that nifty new feature.  Replaced it with about two minutes of work.  The replacement was probably the equivalent of 25 or 30 lines of code.  And now the feature worked exactly as I hoped.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure I could complicate a ball bearing if given the opportunity to go off and running with the first ideas that pop into my head.

My point in all this...simple solutions do not equal easy builds, at least when it comes to building solutions.  It takes brain power to refine ideas and initial concepts into simple, elegant solutions.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Full Disclosure

Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing plenty of information relating to Oracle OpenWorld.  Mostly on this blog or via my Twitter account (@fteter).  As always, I try to share information in an accurate and a positive way.  I'm an Oracle fan, but I always try to balance that with accuracy and honesty.  In that spirit, it's important for me to make some disclosures about my attendance at OOW14.

I'm attending on "The King's Shilling".  Oracle generously covers travel costs for Oracle ACE Directors attending OOW and JavaOne, and I'm fortunate enough to be included in that community.  In addition, I've received a complimentary press pass to both OOW and JavaOne.  Yes, I am very appreciative - I freely admit that I'm a lucky guy in this regard.

Does Oracle's magnanimous funding of my OOW attendance buy them influence in regards to my opinions?  No.  And, so far as I can tell, Oracle has no expectations of influencing my opinions with their funding.  In fact, it's usually just the opposite - they've encouraged me to be honest in my opinions.  Frankly, I think they'd boot my big bottom out of the conference and ACE Director program if I were anything but honest in my opinions.

So I'll continue to be honest in sharing information relating to OOW14.  But, in the interests of transparency and fairness, I thought ya'all should be aware of the relationship.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Nobody Bunts With Two Strikes

Once upon a time, I coached a young women's fast pitch softball team.  Big adventure, as most of my coaching experience is with baseball, and I really enjoyed it.  One game, the opposing team's catcher was hitting with two outs and two strikes.  I shouted out to my team to stop covering the bunt - nobody bunts with two strikes (because a foul ball off a bunt attempt is strike three).  So my team's infield draw back.  Then the catcher bunts, laughing at me all as she jogs down to first base with a clean infield hit.  Yeah, I ate some serious humble pie.  And I learned to never bet on the past as an absolute limitation on possibilities for the present and future.

Today I know enterprise application developers who take the attitude that they've never had to worry about the user before, so why start now?  Hold that thought for a moment...

I've really enjoyed the unfolding story at Infor.  Their tag line is "Beautiful business software for your business processes."  Infor has baked the concept of beautiful design into their corporate culture, even so far as to invest in design firm Hook and Loop to drive design as a part of their corporate culture.  Infor actually considers design as a product and corporate differentiator.  Seems to be working for them.  $3B in annual revenue growing at a 40%+ clip is nothing to sneeze at.  And I suspect a bit of that success comes from the emphasis on User Experience design brought to Infor by CEO and Oracle alum Charles Phillips.

Oracle?  Yup.  The UX team at Oracle has proven that user experience design is a differentiating factor in the marketplace.  Simplified UI has played well with potential Fusion/Cloud customers.  So well, in fact, that the E-Business Suite is now adopting Simplified UI.  And the PeopleTools team seems to have enabled the adoption of many Simplified UI design patterns with the 8.54 release.  And that UX team continues to innovate with improved user experiences (which is much more than just UI) utilizing Fusion Middleware.

Oracle, Infor, Workday, SAP...they've all embraced the concept (admittedly, some more than others) that beautiful design sells while not-so-beautiful design is a competitive hinderance.

Now, let's consider that thought again.  "I've never had to worry about the user before, so why start now?"  Yeah, and nobody bunts with two strikes.

Thoughts? Opinions?  Find the comments.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

OpenWorld - Absorb and Adapt

It's September.  Which means the marketing and sales nirvana that is Oracle OpenWorld is upon us.

OOW is a big person simply cannot take it all in.  You have to "pick your spots".

In the spirit of my previous blog post, my focus at OOW this year is on absorbing and adapting.  I'm up to my eyeballs in a new market with Higher Education, and I'm still learning about those customers.  So that's my overall filter going into OOW - soaking up the information relevant to Higher Ed.  Means I'll be spend quite a bit of time at the Marriott Marquis, as that's where the Higher Ed events are taking place.  I'm specifically checking for news and messaging on:
  • Oracle's upcoming Student Cloud and Higher Education Cloud offerings - especially news on the post-award Grants Management functionality under development for Oracle's Fusion Project Portfolio Management applications suite.
  • How Simplified UI will be applied to Student Cloud
  • Oracle Business Intelligence, especially Student Information Analytics
  • The future, if any, for Informatica and Oracle BI - because so many colleges and universities use Informatica with Oracle BI today
  • The upcoming release of Campus Solutions 9.2
  • Mobile, especially in regards to the future direction of Campus Solutions Mobile and Oracle's Mobile Applications Foundation
I'll likely do some digging into some favorite areas as well, such as the EBS tech stack and new developments with Oracle ADF.  Might even do some digging into the latest info on the Oracle BPM Suite if the opportunity arises.

What I learn at OOW will probably set my direction for research, presentations, etc. for the coming year...that's the "adapt" part.

Only one presentation for me this year.  So I'll put in a plug for it right now.  I'm sitting on a panel for:

General Session: Oracle’s Future in Higher Education (GEN7628)
Tuesday, Sep. 30, 10:15-11:45 AM – Marriott Marquis – Golden Gate C3

Swing by and introduce yourself if you get a chance, especially if you're a customer or have an interest in Higher Ed.

One last thing:  I'm always interested in how others manage their time at OOW.  So find the comments and let us know what you're hoping to gain from OOW this year.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Adapt - Learn New Things

Nothing lasts forever.  Sand-piles crumble.  Companies rise and fall.  Relationships change.  Markets come and go.  It’s just the nature of things.  Adapt or die.  Personally, I like this feature of life…can’t imagine anything worse than stagnation.  There’s nothing better to me than exploring and learning new things.

As Oracle continues their push into cloud-based enterprise applications, we’re seeing some of that fundamental change play out in the partner community; with both partner companies and with the individuals who make up the partners.  This is especially true with the technology-based services partners.  Companies have merged or faded away.  Individuals, many of whom have stellar reputations within the partner and customer communities, have accepted direct employment with Oracle or moved into other technology eco-systems.

Why the big change?  Frankly, it’s because the cloud doesn’t leave much room for the traditional offerings of those technology-based services partners.  As we shift from on-premise to cloud, the need for those traditional offerings are drying up.  Traditional installations, patching, heavy custom development…all those things seem headed the way of the buggy-whip in the enterprise applications space.  It’s time to adapt.

As a guy involved in providing services and complimentary products myself, I’ve watched this change unfold over the past few years with more than a little self-interest and excitement - hey, ya gotta pay the bills, right?  As a result, I’ve identified three adaptation paths for individuals involved with services in the Oracle technology-based eco-system:

1.  Leave.  Find another market where your skills transfer well and take the leap.  This isn’t a bad option at all, especially if you’ve developed leadership and/or “soft skills”.  Believe it or not, there’s a big world outside the Oracle eco-system.

2.  Play the long tail.  The base of traditional, on-premise work will not disappear over night.  It’s shrinking, granted, but it’s a huge base even while shrinking.  I also think there will be a big uptick in small, lightweight projects with traditional footprints that will compliment large cloud-based enterprise application systems (for further information, see “Oracle Apex”).

3.  Learn new things.  Apply your background to build skills in new technologies.  If you’re an Oracle DBA or systems administrator (two skillets that are rapidly merging into one), dig into Oracle Enterprise Manager…and remember that private clouds will continue to flourish with Oracle’s larger customers.  If you’re a developer, begin building skills in middle-tier integration - connecting cloud offerings in new and creative ways is very much an in-demand skill.  Or get smart with building light-weight complimentary applications (ADF, BPM, SOA) - especially mobile (MAF).  If you’re a business analyst or functional type, get familiar with Functional Setup Manager and the Oracle Composers.  Maybe get a solid understanding of User Experience and how you can apply UX in your job.  As a solution architect, I’ve spent a great deal of time learning how the various Oracle Cloud solutions work together from data, integration, business process, and information perspectives…and if I can do it, so can you!

Obviously, my approach has been to explore and learn new things relevant to the market changes.  The opportunities I saw for myself consisted of connecting things together and adding value around the edges.  It’s been a hoot so far and I’m nowhere near done yet.  YMMV.

With Oracle OpenWorld coming up as a huge opportunity to learn new things, it seemed timely to share these thoughts now.  So there you have it.  My worm’s eye view of how the Oracle partner market (or at least the Oracle technology-based services partner market) is changing.  Maybe I nailed it.  Maybe I’m all wet.  Either way, let me know what you think.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Blame It On The Drugs

Bronchitis.  I catch it a lot.  Rotten experience.  It's like an invisible elephant is sitting on your chest.  And the drugs are mind-numbing.  Got it now.  Shivering under a blanket in 90 degree weather.  But, it'll pass.  And, in the meantime, if I write something weird...well, let's blame it on the drugs, OK?

Had a chat with a dear old friend this week.  Middle-manager for a Fortune 500 corporation.  Big Oracle customer.  Lots of excitement brewing in his neck of the woods over all the money they'll save moving to "the cloud".  I thought it would be interesting to explore this further, so we did some very rough calculations on the back of a napkin.  Over the long run, those savings went out the window.  Have to admit, I knew how the conversation would turn out.  And I didn't mean to rain on his parade. Blame it on the drugs.

Big companies don't move to the cloud for long-term savings.  They move to increase agility in the face of rapidly-changing markets.  They move in order to refocus internal resources on profit centers rather than cost centers.  They move in order to complement existing systems without causing huge operational upset.  Smaller companies also move to cloud because the financial barriers to entry are lower - less of an upfront cost to get the same tools the big enterprises are using.  But long-term dollar-for-dollar savings...yeah, those numbers don't seem to play out.

So we wrapped up the conversation on cost savings with the tried-and-true "well, they've already made the decision that it will save us money, so we're moving ahead."  So I let that slide and we moved on to his excitement in learning something new (this will be his first cloud project).  So I asked the question:  "What kind of cloud?  Private, hosted, SaaS, hybrid...what are ya'all doing?"

Crickets.  Nothing.  Silence.  Now, I didn't mean to throw the guy another curveball.  I mean, he's my friend.  Compassion has to play in here somewhere, right?  But it happened.  Silence...maybe with a little edge of frustration.  Sorry.  Blame it on the drugs.

I get a little nervous when customers announce a commitment to "going to the cloud" without really understanding the benefits they can expect or how they plan to achieve those benefits.  It's putting the cart before the horse and wondering why things don't move forward.  Just makes no sense to me.

Don't get me wrong.  I think many enterprises have much to gain from considering a cloud approach for their enterprise IT.  I just think they should understand the basic concepts and know why they're taking the leap before they jump.  Different enterprises will come to different conclusions.

But I see it more and more as time goes by...people buying into the hype without really knowing why.  Then again, maybe it's my perspective that's off?  If so, blame it on the drugs.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

A Quick Trip To The Mother Ship

The title of this post notwithstanding, I was not abducted by aliens last week.  Take off your tin-foil hat, it's all cool.  I spent a few days last week a few different teams at Oracle HQ, mostly digging into the progress of some cool new work in progress.  Thought I'd share what I learned.

One caveat before I start sharing.  My agreement with Oracle prevents me from talking about specific details and delivery dates.  Personally, I don't have much of a problem with that - product development news on Oracle's products is Oracle's news to share, if and when they decide to share it. Now that we're clear about that, let's get to the good stuff.

I was fortunate enough to have a good chunk of the brain trust from the Sierra-Cedar Oracle Higher Education Practice (that's the former Io Consulting group) with me:  Steve Kish, Elizabeth Malmborg, Anastasia Metros and Ted Simpson (yes, he of HEUG fame).  It was cool to watch them consider the new things coming for the Higher Education marketplace.  Gave me a measure of how the Higher Ed marketplace will respond.

Most of day one was spent with the leadership of the Oracle Higher Education development team, reviewing their progress in building the new Oracle Student Cloud product.  They're further along in the development lifecycle than I'd expected, which was a pleasant surprise.  And one thing became very clear to me as a result of the review:  planning to throw away PeopleSoft Campus Solutions should not be a part of anyone's short-term game plan.   Oracle Student Cloud is focused on offering a solution for managing continuing education.  Expectations are that early adopters of Oracle Student Cloud will be using the product as a value-added enhancement to the Campus Solutions product.

Don't get confused here.  Oracle has both the Oracle Student Cloud and the Oracle Higher Education Cloud in their development pipeline.  But we talking about two different products here with two different sets of target customers, development life cycles and different release dates.  The latter product will have a much larger focus than the former.

So, what's the best strategy for a higher ed institution that preserves their investment and offers maximum flexibility going forward?  Get to the latest release of whatever you're currently using, whether it's an Oracle product or not.  Make sure you're up to date - it's the best platform for moving forward.  And yes, there are other elements to the strategy as well, but that's not my main purpose for writing this particular post.

Day two was spent with the Oracle User Experience team.  Great stuff as usual.  A special thanks to Oracle's Michael LaDuke for putting the day together.  And it was fun to see the understanding of UX take shape in the minds of the Sierra-Cedar leadership team, especially during a discussion around wire framing practices.  We also some soon-to-be-released incremental progress with Simplified UI.  And, finally, we saw some cool new products in the works.  On this final note, it's pretty obvious that the UX team is now focused on innovating by applying Fusion Middleware technology to mobile use cases (both tablet and phone).  Saw some pretty good stuff with the potential for adding some high value to day-to-day business processing (both in terms of automation and collecting business intelligence).

I only got two days this trip...wasn't nearly enough.  The upshot?  Lots of cool stuff on the horizon.