Monday, March 30, 2009
Tonight my team the Remax All Stars plays our Championship game. Our chances are very good this week to beat our opponents but we also know that we would need to be at our best. I believe in my team and I believe that we will win. There is a quiet confidence that has been growing all season and people where playing “playoff” quality hockey. We are a truly cohesive unit and best of friends. These are 12 of the best people you will ever meet and I would do anything for as I expect they would do for me. Now enter my bad lower back. It has still not fully recovered from Friday so I will not be playing this evening and this causes me the feeling that I am abandoning the team, and this really bothers me. I have worked hard as the rest of team has to get here, but now I can’t be part of it on the ice. I know I have to do what is best for the team and I will help by ensuring that the beer is cold and that we stay focused during the game. I have been given the responsibility of coaching the herd of cats that is my team, but I will not be able to affect the game’s outcome directly. As the goalie I know and accept the accountability for my team and to be a defensive foundation. I and my defensemen (Marshall, Jimmy, Terry and Kevin) are a solid unit; we know what to expect of each of us and how to best use it to help the team. It will be difficult to watch them play without me, but for me it will be more difficult to talk about game afterwards. The time when we get the cold beer and reminisce about the game and with some luck the victory that was, this is what I will miss most. I will have been an observer; a fan. I will be the outsider looking in.
I know that this is what I will try not to take away from tonight. I am there for my team. We are here in some way based on what I had done up until this unfortunate and untimely injury. What I will do is that I will bring the lock for the dressing room door. I will provide insight to the team as the game progresses and will not dwell on what could have been. Myself and another injured player, Shep, will support the team and provide the motivation when they need it. Although we won’t be contributing directly on the ice, we will do our part. The past few weeks the team feels a sort of destiny to this season, which is one of a reaffirmation of our passion for the game. Good luck boys! One more win and we can complete what we all started.
As with my team; the passion for the user community was reaffirmed to me again on Friday (The Day The Back Went Out). The IOUG, OAUG and Quest Presidents got together to discuss the status of IOUG Forum and the rest of COLLABORATE09, and it was such a cooperative experience. We are a team that is working towards the greater good of the user community. Considering the fact that the economy is beginning a slow recovery we must be ready to pounce upon opportunity to be the best and most innovative people in our chosen Oracle specialty. This event is one that should not be missed; your future may depend on it.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
The scenario is one that organizations are facing. I had a client who needed their data warehouse to attain much higher performance then their existing platform. As a result of this need they purchased and implemented a Netezza data warehouse appliance solution. It was a successful implementation and achieved the information goals that they had identified. This happened 2 years ago and if the same requirement occurred today would their approach have been the same? Today we have options from database vendors that compete directly in this marketplace. So would the organization have chosen the Oracle Database Machine if the option was available then?
This raises the question of what and when to buy. Generally I would recommend that people look at how the industry is developing and future direction of products. When selecting products to support your organization you will consider how well it meets your needs of today but how well will the product develop in the future to changing approaches and architectures. These factors must weigh into your decision and why we generally look to the vendors to define their product roadmaps. These roadmaps will aid your decision to ensure that both your vision and the product can be supported. Think about anyone who purchased the Red Brick database, where are they now?
This is another reason to attend the IOUG Forum at COLLABORATE09 this coming May. You must know what the Oracle product set can deliver today and what you will be able to achieve in the future.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The game was one that required us to drive to the end. It was an overtime win that was needed after a goal by the opposition late in the game. The team could have folded under the pressure of the late 3rd period score, but we did not we gathered ourselves up and with the help of the goalpost during the overtime period we were able to score during the sudden-death frame.
What can we learn from this? I look at it as a way that I work every day. I am very results oriented. I like to work to a goal and achieve it as well and as efficiently as possible. I draw on my experience to help drive the right solution at the right time, while considering the big picture. I find that we often focus on what happens at the end of a project. The hours of development, the hours of testing and the hours of fixing and changing things is often the focus of a project, but I feel that we need to put those hours in at the start to ensure that a project works to a solid standard and builds for the future. If we better understand what the business wants and more importantly what they need we can develop better solutions. Technology provides us with the ability to solve many business issues, but we also have to be proactive to surround people with an ecosystem that allows them to explore new directions in information and ultimately the organization.
You need to understand where you want to get to and how to get there. I look at learning from my experiences and those of my network of colleagues to solve and exceed expectations. The IOUG is my conduit to this network and I encourage you to be part of this and learn from experience by attending COLLABORATE09 in Orlando.
Ultimately the team, the entire team needs to drive from start to finish of a project. Just like my hockey team’s win last night, we could not have done it if we didn’t come together as a team.
Monday, March 23, 2009
The first person on this year's slate is Judi Doolittle, Judi is the current EVP of the IOUG and bring a strong technical and managerial leadership to the group. She continues to provide the group with leadership from an Oracle customer perspective. New to the Board is will be John Matelski, Todd Sheetz and Jon Wolfe. Many of you will have already have met some or all of the three new candidates. They have been long time and active volunteers in the IOUG and great Oracle community. John Matelski comes to us after a recent stint of leading the International Oracle User Council (IOUC) and works as the CIO for Gwinnett County in Georgia. He will provide the IOUG membership with strong strategic leadership and will aid us in working with Oracle to represent the user community. Todd Sheetz is a hands-on Oracle technologist; he has recently been leading the IOUG Best Practices SIG and has been an important part of the growth and expansion of the community. Finally is Jon Wolfe. Jon has been the technical session chair for the past few COLLABORATE conferences, under his guidance he has worked with the Conference Committee to provide education that improves each and every year. Education and networking are the core values of the user community and Jon is an integral part of these offerings.
These are great people who have seen the value to be involved in the user community. User group members are statistically more knowledgeable, happier and richer than non-members. In these times of uncertainty, it’s time to get involved just like Judi, John, Todd and Jon.
Friday, March 20, 2009
I work in teams all the time and I find it my most rewarding work and personal experiences. I think that being part of teams is critical for our success. I think of all the great teams I get to work with and each has its own dynamic and provide different value to me.
The IOUG is one of those great teams. We work with a great group of staff and volunteers. Each contributes a different component to the success of the user community. The volunteer Board provide strategic direction, as Mark Thorsby who advises the IOUG says, we are the front wheel of the bicycle and must steer the bike, the back wheel provides the power. This power for the IOUG comes from Carol McGury who provides great support and is a great advocate of the community. Carol along with the staff provides the IOUG with a great and powerful back wheel and are part of the greater IOUG team.
My company Thoughtcorp is another example of team work. We are a consulting company, but we work in a very cooperative way. We support each other and provide expertise in situations that complement each other’s skills. We work together on projects as well as on the growth of the company. They say there is no “I” in team, but I say that a team is a bunch of “I” each with their own skill which must be leveraged.
And finally how the IOUG and Oracle work together is another team example. We provide each other support to help each achieve our goals. I know that my discussions with Mark Townsend and Willie Hardie, who both a very senior and very smart people at Oracle in server technology, have worked with the IOUG to help to get out the word on COLLABORATE09 and the user community, to the greater customer base. So the next time you call support and they mention that a user group may provide you some benefits to learn more about Oracle, you will know that the IOUG and the Oracle teams worked together to evangelise the user community.
A team break down can happen quickly so you always need to be on your toes. You need to encourage communication and dialogue within the team. When people stop talking they tend to stop working as part of the team. Being part of a team is hard work, but is also the best way to ensure your success.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I have been part of a few acquisitions in my time. Some go well and others end in failure. Generally the success of any acquisition is in the way that the you incorporate the companies values into your own. Realizing the reasons you bought someone in the first place. I look at Oracle and how it has acquired some many companies that complemented their own. They always tried to by best of breed products and have integrated their technologies very successfully into their own. Consider the acquisition of companies like Hyperion, BEA, Peoplesoft, Stellent, Sunopsis among others, that have truly changed the products that Oracle provides. And the IOUG has helped these communities become integrated into the greater Oracle technology communities.
So how does the IBM and Sun combination work out? Consolidation is very in these days, so this would be some sort of consolidation. We can be sure that they would love to increase the bottom-line and the Sun server business is significant and has a solid reputation. The acquisition of mySQL by Sun was questioned at the time of how a company with revenues at the time of $70 million can be worth $1 billion. It has provided Sun with a great low-end database and has continued its growth, so this is a big pick up fo IBM. As for applications; sure Sun has developed a few open source applications but I have yet to see it take hold. It does reduce IBM’s competitors and solidifies them in the hardware industry as well as bringing them up to the leader level in open source, and all for only $6.5 billion. It will be interesting to see where this goes and I wonder what IBM will look like in 6 months from now. I'm just not sure that I truly see the benefits that IBM will garner from this relationship.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
So why do I bring this up. It is generally because most people think they know more than they really do and those are the cases when your project can get derailed. I once worked at a government agency here in Toronto, we worked for a Project Authority who did not understand data warehousing but insisted that they did; these are the most dangerous users. I provided a robust design that had great dimensional strength, but the suggestion from this person was to provide the same table as the users use today. Of course this was short-sighted but it was the direction that we were mandated. This person was also the same one who asked right afterwards the difference between a fact and dimension. So you can see that education even to those who are experienced can provided significant value to projects as well individuals. The more you know the more you can do. This is the basis of what we do in the user community. We provide experienced based training providing best practices and cost savings approaches. That is why you need to be part of COLLABORATE09.
As I often say; there are two kinds of people; winners and losers. Which one do you want to be?
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
We often focus our security on perimeter defences but this is not always enough. We need to also secure our data within our database. As you can see by the news of today that hackers have found a new way to into your data and they are exploiting database access via the middleware. This is why the IOUG Forum at Collaborate is hosting a SANS institute session on security. The session covers these security topics and provides guidance on how best to implement security and help you in understanding why you need to take better care of your data. This is also another reason for you to keep your software up to date and install security patches as required.
I am not sure that a SQL Injection hurts or not, but I know that the results of a security breach can last for a significant amount of time after it occurs.
Monday, March 16, 2009
The user community is similar in your Oracle economy. The IOUG user group and the COLLABORATE09 event are the places to spend your limited funds to get the greatest return on investment. From other experienced Oracle technology professionals you get the chance to learn from the past. You are generally not the first person to experience challenges with your Oracle investments, learning from what others have done can save you time, money and productivity. And at a time like this it is more important than ever to reach for those goals.
Get ready for the economic turn around and make sure you have the skills you will need in the coming years.....it’s going to be a challenge.
Friday, March 13, 2009
I find what people put into their Facebook status very interesting. Some people put down things about where they are while other put down something profound. Not sure how people get these statements, but I like them.
Have you noticed that Facebook changed the format of the page again? Not sure I like the changes but we could start a campaign to get them to change again...already done.
So what are my friends saying? Here are some samples:
- John wonders why when all is said and done, more is said than done.
- Debra is going for 3rd hotel this week – Solihull
- John - Hey! Heard you have cheese for Thursday! Cheese is goooood.
- Ari said hi to Al Roker - 2nd time this week already.
- Dan - Me: "What did you learn today?" My 5yo daughter: "Vultures pee on themselves to cool off." Love public school :)
- Susan - joined Twitter. Not sure I need to update my status as no one is watching. But I'm watching John Mayer and I feel like I'm part of his life! :O
- Peter is just sending out the email to the Ottawa Oracle User Group about our meeting on March 25th. Also getting a plug in for the COLLABORATE09 conference.
Social networking is emerging and we are trying to get the community involved. The IOUG is actively involved in utilizing the social networking scene to mobilize the Oracle technology population to attend the great IOUG Forum this May 3-7 in Orlando it is a great event.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Recently I have been talking about security, business intelligence, the economic downturn and its impact and the upcoming event. Generally in these interviews we have talked about the current risk that organizations are exposed to due to a lack of database and application security. We have talked about how BI is one if the technologies that organization’s can use to lower costs by identifying issues before they become problems and identify trends in advance of the competition. A recent IDC report showed that BI spending in the next year would be one of the few that will see an increase. I have discussed how people in user groups a generally more skilled and more effective employees and ultimately at a time of economic turmoil you need to be the best you can be, in order to stay in front of the competitors for your job. Finally we discuss the upcoming Collaborate event. We talk about the benefits and the value that attendees will get from being part of the conference. This is where you need to be to learn from the best and be the best Oracle technology professional you can be.
Generally, the press is looking for a new angle, so that they can tell a new and better story. I have to be agile and ensure that we keep to the message to represent the community in a meaningful way while continuing to promote the group to continue it’s growth.
If you get the chance to talk to the press some day, I would encourage you to take the opportunity. The key is talk about what you know, and don’t guess. You either know or you don’t, the press can turn a guess into something else, so keep to what you know.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Last night we had our monthly IOUG Board conference call. On the calls we deal with strategic direction, operational matters and then general user community issues. We discuss SIGs and RUGs, Select magazine, the IOUG website, the Collaborate conference among other topics. So last night was much like any of the calls. We had people from all over the continent on the call. Attendance last night was almost complete, as we approach COLLABORATE 09 we have a lot to get done.
The call starts with a review of the recommendation from the IOUG Election Committee. The committee was mandated based on direction from the Board to provide us with a recommendation of the people they feel will best represent the membership as well as providing strategic direction. The candidates this year were awesome. Each of them would have been a great Board member. I will tell you later this week who they are, but I figure I should tell each “in person” before the blogasphere. So stay tuned.
We then discussed the Volunteer of the Year Award or the Chris Wooldridge Award. This goes to an outstanding volunteer who exhibits the values of the IOUG, is a VERY active volunteer, and some who has worked tirelessly over the past years. Again we had a number of great nominees that came in from the various Board members and of course, I can’t tell you who won. You will to come to the COLLABORATE 09 event and find out.
Finally we discussed the conference. The conference is our biggest activity of the year and drives much of the other offerings that we provide each year. Our focus was on getting the word out to everyone we know. I feel that the value of what you get the COLLABORATE 09 event will provide you with the knowledge to keep ahead of your peers and keep your job as you are asked to take on more work and you need to do it more efficiently. Now is the time to KNOW best practices, not just read about them. This is what I expect people will need to keep their jobs in the evermore competitive marketplace. This is what an in-person event like ours provides and we will work to get this message out. We also had a discussion around coffee at the conference, and let me tell you coffee is surprising not a small cost when you are serving 7,000 people. We discussing the hotels and I would encourage all members to stay at one of the conference hotels. It provides you with better access to the conference as well you helping the IOUG.
So another monthly call was done. We have many more items that we are working on the coming month, including more SIG news and the ever nearing COLLABORATE 09. I hope this little window into what we do as a Board helps you understand how the IOUG works on a daily basis.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The basic answer is; it depends. If you think about your everyday activities at your job you are often placed in new situations that you may have never encountered before. At times you are asked to take your game to another level and show leadership in the activity. Each of these situations will require you to ask for help. Whether you ask from a mentor or more senior person who you can ask how they would approach the scenario. There is a lot to be said about learned from others. As a member of the team it is all important to know when you can look to your team to help. You can provide the motivation and the direction, and the team can them rally behind you. Just like the goalie (me) that makes the big stop at the right time, I still need the help of the rest of the team to win. Which we did last night...so on to the semi-finals!
The IOUG helps you by enabling you to network with the best Oracle minds in the world. This is an cooperative environment and I encourage people to reach out and become a part of the IOUG. At some point everyone needs help that is independent and very knowledgeable; this is where we can reach out to the community to solve issues.
Over the past few months Oracle has been launching the new support platform My Oracle Support. This platform provides customers with a single interface for all supported products. Oracle expects it to help solve problems by providing more sharing between customers and Oracle. We have been told that it will be rolling out in a staged approach so products and technologies will be added. Sorry but I don’t have the exact timetable, but the IOUG will be sending out notices when we this will be happening for database and middleware. It does look like an exciting facility. Oracle is also running some support seminars around the world that will help you in your transition.
So know when to ask for help. Nobody likes a know-it-all, unless they know something you don’t.
Monday, March 9, 2009
We talk of the world that was, and we remember simpler times. People reminisce about times when you could understand how to operate your TV; today our remote controls require advanced degrees. Times when a vacation meant going to the cottage in St. Agathe, outside of Montreal; today we plan multi-country tours of Europe and Asia. Mainframes seemed so complicated back then, these computers would simplify our lives and in many ways they have. Consider computers of today and how much more complex they are then the originals; we look back at these computers and consider how simple they were. We have gained power and have added to the complexity. In many ways the Internet exists to help solve issues with computers.
Today life is complex. We have so many demands on ourselves from those around us at work at home and at the hockey rink. We think that we simplify things, but we don’t. We end up with a blackberry and a filled outlook schedule. Meant to simplify things; but really it is enabling the over-complication of life. So we use technology to simplify our lives but all we are doing is adding to the load.
So how can you deal with all of this? How can you bring simplicity to your life? My wife tells me to simply do less, I over complicate things. Our boss tells us to deal with it and find a way to get it all done. So how do we say no and learn to get done less but get it done better? We need to make decisions and realize that we will not satisfy all the people all of the time. We need to determine the right balance. It is about being decisive and balancing all aspects while not over committing ourselves.
Data warehousing is a technology that I often say makes the complex simple, but often I see warehouses where the previous designers made the simple complex. Or DBA’s that have created such a complex database environments that they are the only ones who can maintain it. If you don’t want to get caught up in the complexity of the Oracle world I would encourage you to attend COLLABORATE 09 where we will take the complexity out and bring the simple in.
Friday, March 6, 2009
We need to be agile and ready to roll with the punches. Today I read that unemployment was at it’s highest in 25 years. I lived through the last recession and I remember the gas crisis. At the end things will be alright. We will figure things out, but how can you deal with things now? You need to be ready to change at a moment’s notice. You need to have vision for the bigger picture. You need to be sure that your skills are current. You need to understand what are the new skills that you will need to keep ahead of the curve and be an economic survivor. As I discussed yesterday, this will make you different; because too many people are too complacent in their skills. So go out and get ahead of the curve. Last night I borrowed a jersey and some socks and was able to get back in rhythm. I made a lot of great saves, but unfortunately making 50 saves was not enough. Good thing it wasn’t the playoffs!
So I would tell you stay ready and stay current. COLLABORATE 09 is coming up and you better be ready if you want to be an Oracle survivor.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Over the next few days I will be conducting interviews for my company Thoughtcorp. We are looking for some new ETL developers. We are looking to expand our staff in this area and a number of candidates are on their way in to meet with us. I feel that I have some high standards when I am interviewing candidates. I expect them to be honest; if you don’t know something, then say you don’t. If you think you have a thoughtful guess, then go ahead. I look at people who have intelligence and a knack for problem-solving. Of course I look for solid technical knowledge or the ability to acquire solid technical experience. So what do you think? I think this sounds like about a million ETL coders out there. So how do I make a choice?
I look at what makes them different? Have you written a book? Have you written an article? Have you written a white paper? Have you attended a conference? Have you presented at a conference? Have you presented something at your office? Do you play golf? Do you coach a team? Do you lead people? Are you ready to be a leader one day? These are the things I want to know. I often have interviews that are conversations and we come to the end and they may ask me why I didn’t ask any technical questions? Generally in the conversation I had, but these people are people who I know have good experience, so it becomes more about the rest of the package. I usually tell them that they could probably answer any question I have. I usually through a hardball out there with a good deep question, which of course they answer. It is about what makes them different.
How do you become different? You need to become active. In the new Web 2.0 world you can start a Blog, get active on line in the discussion group of interest, become part of LinkedIn, start to Twitter. Of course in the People 1.0 world, you may chose to go to your local user group, but don’t just go, volunteer. Ask how you can help. Most local groups always need some help. Or attend COLLABORATE 09, this going to be a great event with lots of amazing content. Here is the place you can start to make yourself different and better. Being part of a user group has shown that we are more satisfied at work, we are happier and we are richer. At a time like this can you afford to be just another face in the crowd?
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
We often see in this open-source world that we live in and tendency to build something and put it out there for consumption...after all this is the Web 2.0 era. We often bypass process for an arrow that may or may not hit the target. Understand that there must be a process or methodology behind your approach for you to increase your chances to hit the target.
For years I have been designing and building data warehouses. I like to thing that I have always built with the best interest of the customer and designed it to allow for expandability and is robust enough to change with the changing business. I have been able to deliver by understanding the process and the steps that must be taken in order to be successful. In addition working with some great developers didn’t hurt. Developer’s are to an Architect what Goal Posts are to a Goalie. They make you look good.
So on a day when I deliver to my client , it will be in 30 minutes or less and it will provide them with a roadmap that focuses their energy on the task at hand ands provides them with a plan for creating an environment that will support their business as it changes and expands over the coming years. It is about focus and best practices and use of Web 2.0 for good. We will help them with best practices and our experience.
Finally on my way to my delivery I will let you know that these are the types of things that we learn being part of an organization like the IOUG. I really encourage everyone to attend COLLABORATE 09, this is where we learn for the best of the best and allow us to be more valuable to our organizations so that we all can be delivering in 30 minutes or less!
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Last night my hockey team started the playoffs and we came away with a 4-0 victory. As I talked about pressure in the Blog yesterday; it was great to see us manage the pressure as the team rose to the occasion with a solid win. Although with my shutout; I think I may have risen a little higher than the rest as I provided the team with the necessary foundation that allowed us all to succeed. Ultimately it was a victory for the team and our work is not done and we will need to win one more before we move on.
Rising to meet the challenge is something we need do every day. There is constant pressure on us to deliver our best in an efficient and effective way. We all have skills that can help us achieve this goal of doing a great job and alleviating the pressure. If you don’t know how then you need to ask, you need to reach out; you need to look to your team. The team is an important key to success. We often here that there is no “I” in team, I think the team is a bunch of “I’s” who each bring a special skill to the benefit of the greater whole. It is about seeing the big picture and understanding how we fit into our current ecosystem.
Consider our Oracle knowledge and how we use a network of people to help us solve the unsolvable problem. I can tell you that when I encounter an odd error in Oracle how do I go about solving the problem? First I do my research, then I may move on to raising a Trouble report with Oracle and then I tie into my network of friends who I met with the help of the IOUG. This was why I became a member of the IOUG. It was about the network to help me solve challenges and to expend the experience base. I call these friends of mine and I would say that almost 90% of the time they help me solve the problem before Oracle support has even called back. This value is that my organization and my clients benefit from by being part of the IOUG. I would suggest you add the user community to your team. You don’t want to be the team that gets shutout; you need to be part of the team that has the best chance of success.
Monday, March 2, 2009
So how do we manage pressure? In all of the cases above I can tell you that the team is the solution. For my customer deliverable, I have a great team of DW and BI architects that are thought leaders and understand what the client needs and how to get them there. We have done some good investigative work and we carefully prepare our message to be valuable to our client and provide them with a manageable roadmap to gain incremental improvements in data and analysis. For my hockey team tonight, I will act as a foundation, it will be up to me to keep the team in the game and then leave it to them to score often enough to keep ahead of the other team. The pressure for me is to stop each shot, no easy task sometimes, but it is about effort and not taking a play off. We need to work hard every play and use the pressure as a driver to put the pressure on the other team. By being assertive we can channel the negative pressure into positive energy.
Finally consider the pressure that is on our databases today. The recent survey shows that our databases are under threat and we can do something about it. It surprised me was just how few people are diligent in their implementation of Oracle Critical Patch Updates. We think that are data is secure, but we leave known security gaps in our software. We need to do a better job minding the store. If you need to do more with less and this pressure cooker environment, then one item we must all be considering is how to get our organizations to put in a process that allows for installation of CPUs would take some pressure off the DBAs and CIOs to lower their pressure.
The pressure is all around us to deliver. The pressure is to do what you do and do it well. It’s how we manage pressure that will influence success. So welcome the challenges and be the goalie to your team, your database, your organization and be that solid foundation.