Thursday, May 28, 2009


It seems like we are being overrun by surveys these days. I get calls every evening with people wanting to know what I think. I get emails everyday in my Inbox asking me to complete another survey. I understand to the people who sponsor the surveys the information is important for their planning and future direction, but at what point is too much.

The IOUG will be working on a few surveys this coming summer and I wonder how many people will respond. The information we plan to collect will be important not just to use but everyone involved in the Oracle community. We are planning to repeat our Salary Survey which provides great insight into what Oracle professionals earn. It will be interesting to see how our earning power has changed during these challenging times. In addition we are working with Oracle on providing them and us with a deeper understand that the user group provides to its members and how these members become better customers. This survey is one that many of the worldwide user community will be involved in and I expect that IOUG will once again show that they are the most satisfied Oracle customers and user community members.

So although we may be overwhelmed by the number of surveys, some of them are important. It is important sometimes to have your voice heard and often the manner in which we can easily take part is in a survey. You will always need to filter which surveys provide you with the most value, but if you can come to terms with that you can have your voice heard and make things happen.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Passing the Test!

The news of the day is that my daughter Baila has passed her driving exam! A new driver is now loose on the world.

Here she is with her temporary G2 Driver’s license!


So now the hope is that she now know enough to keep her out of trouble. As a father I am not looking forward to having the car out with my daughter, but I know I will get use to it. I think it is now time to put a curfew on the car, since Baila is too old to have one anymore.

What does a Test Mean?

I came to work wondering something. I wondered what the value of tests are. How does the act of taking a test evaluate how well you work or how well you could implement your knowledge? I think about this as someone in my household takes the all important test to become a driver, but we can discuss it at this point. This person understands how to drive and does a good job of basic driving skills. In some ways better than many drivers on the road today. The challenge is learning to deal with the things that are out of the ordinary, like a senior citizen who was slowly crossing the road on the red light and your stuck in the intersection. And the car behind you is honking and your light is now red. I am not sure if they covered that in the driver’s manual. The test provides the basic skill evaluation, but not the value of experience.

Today we put considerable stock in a degree or certification. In the Oracle community we have the Oracle Certification Program. I think it is a great opportunity for people to get validation of the knowledge that they have acquired, much like an exam in school. The missing component is the practical aspect. I think that hands-on real experience is the logical next step. This is where you have your hands deep in your hard drive and you worry about I/O in your sleep. This is the hands-on DBA who does more than back ups and the very occasional recovery. These are the people who use the database. So what does testing mean then?

The IOUG has often discussed whether or not to offer certification to our members. We have always said that the cost versus the benefit did not justify it. Or that Oracle has OCP; so why do we need to add a competing offering. Is OCP perfect? No. Would a certification from the IOUG be meaningful? These are the constant questions we ask in the Board and at this point we will not be offering another Oracle database/middleware/BI certification program.

As I said testing is great. With a test you have proven that you learned how to “correctly” operate and manage a database….of course we are talking OCP….or is that OCD….I digress. How good is a DBA that has never worked a day, but has certification? Look at tests as a start. Look at tests like a yardstick to measure how well you have acquired the information. Then take the information and turn it into knowledge but do not depend on your testing success.

So take your tests today, but look to the future when you can take these building blocks and use them together to solve challenges that will be new to you each day. A great man named Carl Dudley, a professor in the UK, told me that children who go to grade school are taught what to learn and that those in College and University are taught how to learn.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Feedback is Invaluable

We talk a lot and we create many things but do we really want to hear what people think of what we have done? Sure, we all may not want it but we all need it. Feedback provides us with insight and the information we need to improve. Feedback when given in an honest way can help people to improve and at the end of the day that is what we should all want.

How can we use feedback to improve? At the recent conference I gave a seminar in Master Data Management (MDM). It helped to give attendees an overview of what Master Data Management is and how to use it within an organization. In addition we discussed the process of defining customers, which generally is central to most MDM implementations. I hope that those that attended my session got some value. Well as part of every session at the conference we collect Session Evaluations. These evaluations provide the user group and speakers with insight into their session and how it was received…feedback. So I looked my evaluations over and no major comments, other than 2 attendees and both said basically the same thing; they really felt that they now had a great understanding of MDM. This for me was great satisfaction and meant that I had delivered my message effectively. Another seminar that I provided many years ago was in Las Vegas. It was a ½ day seminar on Oracle Data Warehousing. It tends to be a very technical deep dive into Oracle DW technology. I just so happened to mention to the audience at the beginning that I was tired from the previous evening in Las Vegas, as I got stuck at a very successful blackjack table. I always tend to make sure that my sessions are energetic and interactive. I thought I had done this successfully in Las Vegas, but when I got back my evaluations, they mentioned how tired I seemed. I took this as a lesson to me; never tell your audience any negative stuff about how you feel. People will pick up on this, so regardless of how tired I am I never say it, and people can then start my seminars without any preconceived notions.

The user group is the same and we truly appreciate feedback. I hope that everyone who took part in the event both in-person and virtually provide us with feedback. We hear from many people during the conference and afterwards and we use this to improve our event year after year.

So take the time to speak up. Tell people the truth and help them use it to improve themselves. Feedback is invaluable to making ourselves better.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Year Continues for Oracle Users

It is sometimes interesting how you react after a big event. Just like the adrenalin that we build towards that moment that we need to deliver. So whether its a hockey final or a big golf tournament or an annual conference, the feeling afterwards is always the same, it is a let down.

So here we are as we move on from the conclusion of the COLLABORATE09 event. It was great and I think everyone who was there and everyone who attended via our virtual conference offering. And now it is time to move on.

We begin our work of running a user group and helping our users maintain their networks and education all year long. We are working with Oracle on what we should be looking at to help our community. We are working with the community to provide content via webinars and other methods. Of course if you are a member you will be getting access to all of the conference content including podcasts of all sessions. Right now you need to hve attended the conference, but soon all full members will have access, so it will be time to sign up if you are not already a member. I think that it is time to see the value of being a member as just one tip from one of the world experts in the Oracle world will pay for your membership.

So it's time to get the momentum going again. I am looking forward to a great 2009 for the IOUG.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Now that life begins to return to normal. I come to look back at the IOUG Forum at COLLABORATE09 and consider its successes. The week was one where we had the opportunity to rub elbows with the greats of the Oracle world. It is a rare chance to meet with the users experts and the Oracle experts but last week was when it happened.

Orlando was a wonderful venue to hold this event. The event attracts people from all over the world and I expect from all 50 states and 11 provinces here in North America and if you remember this past winter, coming to a place like Orlando and the sun and heat was a great relief. You just needed to remember to stay hydrated.

The conference requires so many people who put time and effort into its success. I have the opportunity to see the planning and execution of the event and it is a labour of love for everyone. The feeling of triumph at the end of the event comes from those who had the chance to attend and were able to come away with value. When you tells us you learned something or met someone and it is going to help we need we have succeeded in our annual mission of COLLABORATE. The people who work behind the scenes are so numerous but I did want to mention a few people who really make this all happen. Alexis Bauer, Jon Wolfe, Julie Ferry, James Lui, Abbey Nystedt, Peggy King, Ellie Hurley, Carol McGury, someone I must have forgot, the entire IOUG Board, the conference committee, the SIG leaders, the speakers and on and on I can go. It takes close to 200 people who volunteer time and staff that truly keep us on track to put this event together and to them I thank you. I appreciate it from the perspective of another attendee and see the value that such an event provides. This is what it is all about and it shows us the strength and resiliency of the community. And I appreciate it from a leadership perspective. These people are good and the event reflects the quality at every turn. It is a constant pleasure to work with these teams.

I can’t wait until 2010 in Las Vegas for COLLABORATE10.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

COLLABORATE 09 Day 3 (Wednesday)

Finally, it’s hump day at the IOUG Forum at COLLABORATE09 and what a week it has been already. I have been able to meet with so many great people and so have already had a chance to learn some new methods and techniques for the Oracle technology user community.

Yesterday, I had a chance to sit in on a session all about Essbase. The technology is one that Oracle acquired as part of the Hyperion purchase. The product is a solid one with a long track record. The session really showed how easy it is to use the product, but as with most analytical tools, it requires an understanding of what business problems you want to solve and how to best dimensionally represent it. I also learn a little interesting tidbit that the name Essbase comes from Extended Spreadsheet Database.

I also had a day that truly represents the power of an event like this one. I recently was asked by some of the people at my company, if we could provide some support for Oracle’s Universal Content Management product. This is a great technology and one that has a strong user community. Coincidentally the UCM Special Interest Group of the IOUG had an event last night. It was one of those golden nuggets that provide one of those reasons to attend COLLABORATE. I had the chance to meet with the user leaders in this area and discuss what we were trying to achieve and the best practices around UCM and its various components. This is the real power of the in-person experience.

This morning which has already been quite busy. I had meetings with ODTUG, the Oracle developer user group about how we can work together in the coming months to bring more knowledge to our communities. The meeting was great and really is an illustration of how independent groups can work together to the betterment of the entire user community. In addition I had the chance to meet with Dan Goldstein from Oracle Field Marketing. He is a great person who appreciates how the user communities can complement the information that Oracle provides. As we already know customers who are members of user communities tend to be happier with their Oracle investments and do more with the technology investments that they have made. Another reason people need to get involved. We talked about how the IOUG can help Oracle and how Oracle can help the user community. I expect that you will see more user group presence at a number of Oracle technology events that will be coming in the next few months.

Next up is a meeting with the Fusion Applications folks who will tell us about the upcoming direction for Oracle. It should be great.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

COLLABORATE 09 Day 2 (Tuesday)

Day 2 of COLLABORATE. The conference looks to be a great event and the folks that were able to attend are really enjoying it. We have so many great sessions here this week. I wish I could get to all of them .

I moderated BI Panel yesterday on critical success factors for BI projects. The key factors really looked at making sure that you have business sponsor involved in a project. Generally when IT drives a BI project, the benefits can be limited. As well there was discussion on making queries run fast. So if you can’t return data back fast enough people will not want to use what you build. Another point was made that people need to work incrementally and not try to boil the ocean, but to focus on a project that will provide the best return in the shortest amount of time.

Right now I am in a meeting with some of the Regional User Group leaders. These are the folks that help to get the Oracle technology message to users on a local level. The IOUG helps these groups and works as a place where we can share best practices. There are people here from the Florida, Salt Lake City, Cincinnati, Up State New York and Tina Weiss from Oracle. It’s great to hear how each group is putting together events to serve their local constituents. These folks are great volunteers and put in so much time in organizing their events, and I feel that everyone should support their local Oracle group. You can’t undervalue of these local meetings for learning and networking. It’s always amazing to me when I attend a local meeting the people that I meet, this interaction is so important.

Party last night at the event was an IOUG “Tuning” party. This was an open mike and karaoke party and was awesome. It’s really amazing to see some of the hidden talents of some of the IOUG attendees. Who would ever think that James (an Oracle DBA) could belt out some classics from Les Miserables. Of course the networking opportunities were amazing and got to meet so many great people.

On with the show......

Monday, May 4, 2009

IOUG Forum at COLLABORATE09 (Day 1)

Wow...finally. The latest and greatest Oracle user event has finally started. It is amazing to see all of the folks that are here. There is nothing that truly replaces the face to face interaction that these types of events offer.

The conference kicked off with the general session that was delivered by Charles Phillips. Of course the Presidents of each user group (me for the IOUG, Ray Payne for OAUG and Sue Shaw for Quest) were all up there introducing Charles and thanking everyone for coming. Considering the reduction in business travel these days we appreciate the folks that were able to attend.

Charles Phillips opened the event by discussing numerous items including new release of Beehive (Oracle’s collaboration tool), BI Applications, more and free extended support of Oracle products and a new eBusiness Suite release. And Charles restated Oracle’s support of the user community and its shown by their active partnership at the event. The picture above are all the user group Presidents (courtesy of Peter Smith) doing our introductions.

In addition the IOUG is offering to all those individuals who could not attend in person the chance to be part the event. We are hosting 35 sessions that run throughout the conference to people in-person here and streaming it in an interactive manner to people in the virtual world. This is the first hybrid event and on day one it has been working great.

On to a BI Panel for the BIWA SIG. Later

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The New 2009-2010 IOUG Board of Directors

Today may be Saturday, but the user group is busily working and planning our future. The IOUG Forum at COLLABORATE09 will begin in earnest tomorrow. Today the IOUG is holding one of the Board meetings that we run each year. The meetings generally cover operational issues and of course plot our strategic direction to meet the coming challenges. With the economy changing on a daily basis so we need to put in place programs that provide members the most benefits possible to help them be their best and make membership an important part of every Oracle technology professional.

One other item that we covered this morning was the election of directors for the IOUG. As part of the election process the user community elects people to be Board members and then the Board internally votes on who will fill which Board positions.

So who is the new IOUG Board of Directors for the coming year:

  • President Ian Abramson
  • EVP Andy Flower
  • VP of Finance Kent Hinckley
  • Director of Education Jon Wolfe
  • Director of RUG/SIG Todd Sheetz
  • Director of Marketing Steve Lemme
  • Director of Advocacy John Matelski
  • Director of Content Judi Dolittle
  • Director of Membership Michelle Malchar
  • Director of Social Nets Andy Flower

I look forward to seeing where we go in the coming year. The challenges continue and I expect that we at the IOUG are ready to take it on with vigour.