Monday, November 10, 2014

Penguins and Conferences

I just came back from the East Coast Oracle User Group conference.  Good conference.  Lots of solid, technical knowledge being shared.  Being there got me to thinking...

Over the past few years, a big concern for people attending conferences is the need to justify their attendance.  It's a big deal.  And, in my own mine, the only real justification is what you bring back, share and apply post-conference.  Let me tell you a story (can you hear all of my children groaning in the background?).

All the penguins in my neighborhood get together for a little meeting every month.  They talk about the happenings around the neighborhood, complain about the weather, catch up with each other, share info on where the fish are, and all sorts of things.  It's just a little social gathering.  At least, it was until last month.

Last month, a new penguin stopped by.  He was on his way north, looking for better penguin weather.  And he was flying!  The local penguin crew was stunned because, as everybody knows, penguins can't fly.  But the new bird promised to teach them all to fly.  And, after about four hours of instruction and practice, all those penguins were flying.  Soaring.  Barrel rolls.  Loops.  Bomber dives.  Spins.  What a bunch of happy penguins, high-fiving each other and laughing about the new knowledge and skills they acquired.

After another four hours, those penguins were exhausted.  Huffing and puffing.  Soreness from muscles they didn't even know they had.  But they were exhilarated. They all agreed it was a spectacular day.

And then they all walked home...

You want to justify your attendance at a conference?  Be smarter than my local penguins.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Bringing Clarity To The Avalanche - Part II

You had to be hiding under a rock (with no cell or internet service) to miss out on the fact that Oracle was trumpeting cloud messages throughout OpenWorld.  Far too much news for one person to track. So I'd like to approach discussing this in a very different way.

Today, I'm simply putting up a link to the best Oracle press release on recent cloud announcements.  The release touts the six new platform services for Oracle Cloud.  You can find it here.  This is the "sneak peek", made especially for those of you who think I'm too slow about writing things.  Heck, I'm much faster than George RR Martin, but anything to keep ya'all happy...

UPDATE:  So the highlights for me all have to do with PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service)...30,000 devices, 400 pedabytes of storage, 19 data centers around the globe...whew.

I had the opportunity to work hands-on with the Mobile Cloud, which puts development, deployment and administration onto one user interface (yup, it's the Oracle Alta UI).  Built a mobile app in about 30 minutes.  More on that in a subsequent post.

The Integration Cloud also looks exciting.  Yes, there are other integration service providers (Boomi comes immediately to mind), but working on integration of Oracle products on an Oracle platform offers some pretty unique possibilities.

The Process Cloud looks promising, especially if we will eventually be able to extend Oracle packaged applications with custom, cloud-based business processes.

Those are my big three highlights.  How about you?

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Bringing Clarity To The Avalanche Part 1 - OOW14

Since the prior post here, I've had some people ask why I compared Oracle OpenWorld this year to an avalanche.  Well, to be honest, there are two reasons.  First, it was certainly an avalanche of news. You can check all the Oracle press releases related to the conference here (warning: it's pages and pages of information).  Second, I'm tired of using the analogy of sipping or drinking from a firehose...time to try something new.

So let's talk about some User Experience highlights from the conference.  Why am I starting with UX?  Because I like it and it's my blog ;)

Alta UI

OK, let's be clear.  Alta is more of a user interface standard than a full UX, as it focuses strictly on UI rather than the entire user experience.  That being said, it's pretty cool.  It's a very clean and simplified look, and applies many lessons learned through Oracle's (separate) UX efforts.  I could blab on and on about Oracle Alta, but you can learn about it for yourself here.

Beacons

We all love gadgets.  I had the opportunity to get a sneak peek at some of the "projects that aren't quite products yet" in the works at the Oracle UX Labs.  Beacons are a big part of that work.  Turns out that the work has already progress beyond mere gadgetry.  The beacons were used to help guide me from station to station within the event space - this booth is ready for you now.  The AppsLab team talks about beacons on a regular basis.  I'm much more sold now on the usefulness to beacon technology than I was before OOW.  This was one of the better applications I've seen at the intersection of Wearables and the Internet of Things.

Simplified UI

I like the concepts behind Simplified UI because well-designed UX drives user acceptance and increases productivity.  Simplified UI was originally introduced for Oracle Cloud Applications back when they were known as Fusion Applications.  But now we're seeing Simplified UI propagating out to other Oracle Applications.  We now see Simplified UI patterns applied to the E-Business Suite, JD Edwards and PeopleSoft.  Different underlying technology for each, but the same look and feel.  Very cool to see the understanding growing within Oracle development that user experience is not only important, but is a value-add product in and of itself.

Simplified UI Rapid Development Kit

Simplified UI is great for Oracle products, but what if I want to extend those products.  Or, even better, what if I want to custom-build products with the same look and feel?  Well, Oracle has made it easy for me to literally steal...in fact, they want me to steal...their secret sauce with the Simplified UI Rapid Development Kit.  Yeah, I'm cheating a bit.  This was actually released before OOW.  But most folks, especially Oracle partners, were unaware prior to the conference.  If I had a nickel for every time I saw a developer's eyes light up over this at OOW, I'd could buy my own yacht and race Larry across San Francisco Bay.  Worth checking out if you haven't already.

Student Cloud

I'll probably get hauled off to the special prison Oracle keeps for people who toy with the limits of their NDA for this, but it's too cool to keep to myself.  I had the opportunity to work hands-on with an early semi-functional prototype of the in-development Student Cloud application for managing Higher Education continuing education students.  The part that's cool:  you can see great UX design throughout the application.  Very few clicks, even fewer icons, a search-based navigation architecture, and very, very simple business processes for very specific use cases.  I can't wait to see and hear reactions when this app rolls out to the Higher Education market.

More cool stuff next post...

Monday, October 06, 2014

Clarity In The Avalanche

So I've spent the days since Oracle OpenWorld 14 decompressing...puttering in the garden, BBQing for family, running errands.  The idea was to give my mind time to process all the things I saw and heard at OOW this year.  Big year - it was like trying to take a sip from a firehose.  Developing any clarity around the avalanche of news has been tough.

If you average out all of Oracle's new product development, it comes to a rate of one new product release every working day of the year.  And I think they saved up bunches for OOW. It was difficult to keep up.

It was also difficult to physically keep up with things at OOW, as Oracle utilized the concept of product centers and spread things out over even more of downtown San Francisco this year. For example, Cloud ERP products were centered in the Westin on Market Street.  Cloud HCM was located at the Palace Hotel.  Sales Cloud took over the 2nd floor of Moscone West.  Higher Education focused around the Marriott Marquis. Anything UX, as well as many other hands-on labs, happened at the InterContinental Hotel.  And, of course, JavaOne took place at the Hilton on Union Square along with the surrounding area.  The geographical separation required even more in the way of making tough choices about where to be and when to be there.

With all that, I think I've figured out a way to organize my own take on the highlights from OOW - with a tip o' the hat to Oracle's Thomas Kurian.  Thomas sees Oracle as based around five product lines:  engineered systems, database, middleware, packaged applications, and cloud services. The more I consider this framework, the more it makes sense to me.  So my plan is to organize the news from OOW around these five product lines over the next few posts here.  We'll see if we can't find some clarity in the avalanche.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Good UX - Don't Leave Home Without It

There was a time when I asserted that User Experience would be a differentiator for Oracle in selling Fusion Applications.  Lots has changed since then, so I think it’s time to change my own thinking.  What’s changed?


  • Oracle has a cloud platform
  • Fusion Applications is now Cloud Application Services
  • We’re seeing well-designed user experiences throughout Oracle’s offerings: Simplified UI in moving into the Applications Unlimited products, and is also evident throughout Oracle’s cloud services offerings.
  • Other enterprise application software companies now see the value of a well-designed user experience.  Look at the transition at Infor.  Check ADP’s announcement from earlier today.  Even the brand-W company that cannot be named recently released software that is a straight clone of Oracle’s Simplified UI.

OpenWorld has only reinforced my opinion.  Everyone here - Oracle product teams, Oracle partners, 3rd-party product providers - everyone is talking about and offering an enhanced UX.

So, I don’t consider good user experience design as a differentiator anymore.  I now see it as a necessity.  Enterprise software applications vendors must offer well-design UI to even have a seat at the table.

But what about custom-developed applications?  Good user experience still required.  You can’t expect user adoption without it.  In fact, I see the tools that facilitate good user experience design to be value-added products in and of themselves.


Good UX.  Don’t leave home without it.

Plea For Tight Messages - OOW14

It’s so easy to lose track of time at Oracle OpenWorld.  I think I’m writing this on Tuesday, but can’t say for sure…

Lots of information being shared here:  incremental development of Simplified UI, a myriad of new cloud services announced (including a very cool Integration Cloud Service), new features for MySQL, new mobile applications for the E-Business Suite, Eloqua services for Higher Education, a visualization-oriented UI for OBIEE (and saw a very cool new visualization UI from the UX team, but I can’t talk about that yet), some interesting uses of Beacons…it’s like drinking from a firehose and darn near drowning in the attempt.  Info overload.

One of the cool things one gets to see at OOW: the rise of new third-party applications that improve and enhance Oracle products..  On Monday, I had the opportunity to sit down with the brain trust behind Xprtly!  What impressed me the most is the focus of their message - they’ve got it down to four slides (including a title).  Take a look and see if you get it.







So why do I bring this up?  Go back and read the second paragraph.  We’re all on information overload here.  The virtual noise level is incredible.  Tight, focused messages cut through the noise and get the point across.  Wish we saw more of this approach here…

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Best Question So Far

So I was in a session here at OOW14 on “User Group Sunday” when one of the attendees asked what I consider to be the best question I’ve heard in a long, long time.

If the Oracle Cloud is so wonderful, why haven’t all of Oracle customers moved to it already?

Great, great question.   Goes straight to the heart of one of Oracle’s primary messages.  The answer played out as something close to what follows:

1.  The cloud - services model is still relatively immature within the Oracle ecosystem.  Some elements of Oracle’s pricing and execution in the services model are still being worked out.  And that will take some time, mostly because human beings typically don’t change behavior at the drop of a hat…regardless of where they work.  It’s still a work in progress, so many customers are taking a “wait and see” approach while things work themselves out.

2.  Services revenue, while growing, only constitutes about five percent of Oracle’s revenue at the moment.  Cloud services are still a relatively new thing in the Oracle  world.  Not every customer is ready to be on the leading edge, especially in light of their own corporate culture.

3.  It’s tough to move customizations to the cloud.  There’s no secret sauce to make it easy.  Some heavily-customized customers have many customization to reconsider before they’ll be ready to take advantage of cloud services.  The same could be said for data - many customers have significant data clean-up efforts required to be cloud-ready.  Again, there’s no secret sauce for this.

4.  Lack of control, sometime expressed as a concern over data security.  In a public cloud in particular, a customer’s servers are no longer under their control.  Ditto for data storage.  While that makes some customers nervous, I’d suggest those concerns be balanced by two thoughts:  A) Oracle is probably better at protecting your data than you are.  Protecting data is part of their core business.  Most Oracle customers do not generate revenue or profits by protecting data; B) Citing Oracle’s Thomas Kurian:  “most customers would rather use enterprise applications than run enterprise applications.”  Moving to the new model requires customers to let go of running the applications - for most customers, the economics alone make that a good thing.


It’s a funny thing.  Cloud services offer some pretty significant benefits: relief from the maintenance associated with running enterprise applications, the capability to be more agile in development, the flexibility to quickly scale up and down as computing requirements change.  Lots of benefits available in cloud application services.  What’s holding customers back from getting those benefits for themselves comes down to two overarching theme:  1) challenges in their own mindset or corporate culture; 2) the state of their data or architecture.  That seems to be it, unless I’m missing something.  And, if I am, you can tell me in the comments.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Oracle Cloud - Keeping Your Perspective

The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.”
             - Douglas Adams, The Salamander of Doubt: Hitchhiking The Galaxy One Last Time

Oracle OpenWorld kicks off tomorrow.  My thoughts are with all the folks struggling through the mess that is the U.S. transportation system right now.  That mess in Chicago has really rippled throughout the country.  Hope ya'all keep your perspective and that things work out to get everyone here without too much trouble.

Many of the messages coming from Oracle over the next few days will have to do with the Oracle Cloud.  Oracle has strategically committed to darn near everything as a service (service offerings being a subset of most cloud definitions, but pretty synonymous with "Oracle Cloud" at the moment).  With Oracle adding a new offering at the rate of one per working day (yeah, really), it's easy to get lost in it all.  It's tough to keep things in perspective.

So I've got a nifty chart I found to help ya'all keep it all straight (wish I could remember where I found it so I could give proper credit...but, alas, as you age the memory is the first thing to go).  This should be a pretty spiffy reference too help keep things in perspective during OpenWorld and even thereafter.  Here ya go...