Sunday, 17 July 2016

2016 Kscope - What Did I Learn?

Oops! This has taken me two weeks to write, I got back to UK and was just so busy. I thought perhaps it was too late but I still have the same nail polish on I had done at the end of Kscope so I guess it is OK.

As a user group leader you miss out on a lot of the great education delivered by your own group, especially when you want to cover multiple streams. My main area is Cloud Apps but I am also very interested and need to know about the technology, so every year I try to go to KSCOPE the ODTUG conference, simply as a speaker / delegate.

This year the event was in Chicago, and I intended to arrive in time for their Community Service Day, but the travel gods were against me and I was delayed over a day. I was very vocal about the journey, on both twitter and in this blog, but I did eventually arrive Saturday evening and believe I have earnt enough good travel karma to get me through the next couple of years.

Jennifer from the ACE program took a few of us to dinner the first evening to a celebrated restaurant. They then went onto Navy Pier but I had had a long day and went back to the hotel for a good sleep.

Chi Gung Class
Next morning I started early, as I did every day and have done every event since Kent started his Chi Gung sessions. I still can't do it very well but it is a great start to the day.

Sunday is the Symposium and for me that means ADF. The day was dedicated to Oracle product managers giving updates on their products and I think they did brilliantly. The talked about the great range of PaaS products available and only said 'Cloud' about a dozen times.

The welcome event kicked off the evening and the major sponsors, Interrel had a photo booth, and I love a good photo booth

Me & Michelle Malcher

Alex Nuijten, Chris Saxon and Me

I attended many sessions about the new Application Builder Cloud Service for the Citizen Developer and am working with Sue Duncan back in the UK to see if we can duplicate our PaaS4SaaS proof of concept. This included taking part in a hands on lab session, which seems OK but didn't include integration with SaaS which is what I need to do. When Sue and I have finished I'll blog again.

My own session was on UX being the secret sauce in Cloud Applications, and how this is created with ADF. I was presenting to developers and sharing all the tips and help they can get from Oracle Development and their UX team.

one of the scavenger hunt tasks
Last year I came in the top 10 of the Scavenger Hunt, and we tried a version of it at UKOUG, although I think the american ability to openly encourage ridiculous things, plus not worrying about off site tasks means this is much better suited here. I didn't do too badly and won Google Chromcast and a Tile.  Read their side of the story here.

I also spent more time with Jennifer from OTN, she was encouraging people to take up a cloud trial, give it a go and see what you can do with it. I also made a two minute top tip with Bob Rhubart and a longer video for OTN with I am hoping they will be at UKOUG doing the same.

They certainly know how to party at Kscope and this year it was in the Museum of Science and Industry, a beautiful venue and the theme of the evening was the roaring 20s, another great opportunity to dress up. They used the scavenger hunt to encourage people to visit all areas of the venue, I looked in a submarine, went down a mine, became a lego master builder and looked into many aircraft.

I took part in the Women in IT event, as a table facilitator, there were a lot more men there this year and it was great to have discussion about challenges and opportunities.

On the last morning I took the opportunity to take a much recommended Architect Tour of the river, and it was amazing and much better than my last trip to Chicago which was in the winter.

I know it sounds like it was all fun, and it was, but I also learnt so much, spent time with several product managers learning about how their developments may shape the applications I work with, and just as importantly giving them feedback about this affects real customers.

I also got the chance to have a real slow weekend, just chilling out with Michelle Malcher and her family. Others came and went and it was BBQ most days. I felt very welcome in Michelle's church and they let me read (in my beautiful english accent).

Michelle & I
And finally, my journey home was great, British Airways gave me an upgrade, so much better than the way out.

I love Kscope, and next year it is in Texas, see you there.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Not a good day - so I am allowed to wallow in self pity - the final chapter

After parts I and II this is the final chapter.

I got to the airport hotel about 7pm, and just couldn't be bothered to eat. I should have done, I was entitled to British airways paying for it, but I was just too weary.

I also met people on the same flight as me from Belfast who were given £10 vouchers for outlets at the airport and no one offered me that. Probably they were simply stressed and too busy, they had also run out of overnight kits.

So I went to be at 10 it had been a very long day, I had a boarding card for a flight at 11:20 and I was resigned myself to having missed my plans for Friday evening and that I would miss the Kscope Community Service Day.

What did help was all the people on social media keeping my spirits up, and the idea of #fingerscrossedfordebra.

What didn't help was Mark Rittman, who by coincidence was always booked on the 11:20 and was contacted to be given an upgrade to club class. That's fine, and it reinforces a strong belief of mine that only men travelling on their own get upgrades but he does love to rub my nose in it.

Anyway roll through till the morning and I'm woken by a message to say my 7:45 am flight is still on time. And a twitter message from BA in response to my last message 8 hours previously to say, sorry we took so long to come back to you but we can see you have been booked on the 7:45.

So I went straight back to them who said, sometimes the syste doesnt tell us!! There was no way I was going to get ready and over to T2 for this flight and i still had a luggage tag and boarding card for the 11:20.

I went straight to customer services in T5 and they confirmed I was on it and my bag was actually loaded already. Then I made my way to the lounge, checked twitter and Mark is tweeting more pictures of his upgrade options. Others are telling me he is joking but I know he isn't.

I got to the lounge and the gentleman there said the boarding card was not valid. apparently it wasnt entered properly in the sysyem. so another 10 minutes before that was sorted.

And once I got to the gate for an on time departure, there is Mark with his upgrade. In fact he even tweeted as he left me waiting when they called Club Class. But I felt great relief when I was sat in my seat (in cattle class) ready to go. Then the pilot announced there would be a short delay when they found someone to remove the luggage trollies left behind the aircraft on their parking lot!!!!!

smug git in his seat
The journey was fine, Bryn Llewellyn was also on board, he had been moved over from a United flight that had been cancelled. I'd like to say everything else was ok but an elderly gentleman decided to open a luggage locker and hit me with a violin.

We landed, did immigration and collected luggage with no issue at all. Bryn and I shared a taxi to the hotel, and I was here, at Kscope16.

I'm not blaming any one person at British Airways, it was chaotic, but whoever is in charge of that software needs to accept here is a problem. I have had 7 different boarding cards to take 2 flights and you just couldn't make up the sequence of events.

But it is all over now and thank you to everyone who encouraged me past my sense of humour bypass, and the great welcome I have received once I arrived.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Not a good day - so I am allowed to wallow in self pity - Part II

So I wrote part 1 at lunchtime to vent my frustration and hoped it would be followed up with, "I've arrived"

Not so

After two hours in one lounge and another two in the BA lounge my 1325 flight was delayed ten, twenty, thirty minutes and finally we boarded the plane. With a following wind I might, just might make the 1600 flight.

Seated, belted and then an announcement from the pilot "we have a misunderstanding with air traffic control in Belgium, it appears we don't have a take off slot for another hour". 

official arrival time
Then later he says, 'the good news is they have reduced it by 5 minutes'. Finally took off at 3pm, that is 60 minutes before take off of my trans atlantic flight and a 75 minute flight between me and Heathrow.

At 4pm he announces a pretty common "it's busy at Heathrow and they've asked us to go around once more" - the views of London were beautiful but didn't really help. I did meet the most interesting guy on the plane and we talked about religion and its place in conflict resolution. The only good thing all day.

We landed at 16.13 but then we told "there is unfortunately no stand for us to park at", we finally got off the plane after 1700.

landed but another hour before we got to terminal

Then it was time to queue again for a reroute. Domestic T5 has no priority lane for connections and when it was finally my turn, I was offered American Airlines at 10am.

I eventually persuaded them British Airways at 1120 would do. Then came the hotel options, they had an IBIS (US equivalent Motel8) or a good hotel in Paddington. Those of you who know me in London know Paddington is my weekly home. Anyway finally went for a pay and claim back option and am in T4 Hilton.

The knock on effects at Heathrow included there being no overnight packs available, total confusion over what compensation or vouchers to hand out and very little information.

I had even managed to get an upgrade on the 2nd rebooking of the day and now I am back down to cattle class but at least it is an aisle and on a plane going to Chicago.

So I finally get to hotel, and spend the next hour phoning hotel in US to say I will be late please don't give away my room, only to be greater with not sorry to hear that, look forward to seeing you tomorrow but "you know you will still be charged?"

I had a dinner meeting this evening planned, I was taking part in the community service day tomorrow. Both cancelled. An entire day wasted and another one travelling to go. I travel a lot and normally I get annoyed but it doesn't out me off. This is becoming a nightmare, and remember this was caused by rain.

Then I start on this blog and the twitter fest I have been having with BA suddenly comes back to life. Worrying thing is A: they think I am on a different flight -

What does their IT system do?

And B: they think filling in a survey on customer service is going to make me feel better. It didn't.

Is it OK to swear on a survey?

Finally Chapter, part III

Not a good day - so I am allowed to wallow in self pity

I am a global person, I travel a lot, I work in a global market and I believe in the EU. So the UK Brexit has hit me hard. Like Tim, I am going through grief, but I have the perfect distraction:

Today, I am meant to, fly to Chicago for Kscope16.

When I booked my flight, which is one of the events that is funded by my employer, I selected a route London to Manchester and on to Chicago. Not a brilliant option but I was offsetting some of the cost with air miles, and this route was 50% cheaper.

Not too bad an option as I spend most weeks in London anyway.

Then it transpires I didn't have to be in London I was in Glasgow for OUG_Scotland, Tuesday and Wednesday. So I booked a flight to London from Belfast for this morning (Friday). A bit more of a nuisance but OK. I rang British Airways and had the two tickets linked, so at least I could check my luggage in at Belfast for full journey.

Then I needed to go to Birmingham at short notice on Thursday for the boss, I don't mind, it is my job and I love it. The meeting was in Birmingham because Oracle are remodelling their London office and have no meeting rooms available.

So I went by train from Glasgow to Birmingham. I asked British Airways if I could just join my itinerary from Manchester but they said if I didn't use the 1st 2 sectors on each ticket both the tickets would be cancelled.
Map of UK and my crisscrossing
So I left Birmingham which is less than an hour from Manchester, to fly home to Belfast, for an 11 hour layover in my own home. To add insult to injury it was on the most expensive domestic ticket I have ever used, apparently people wanted to get home and vote, so it drove up the price.

Useless fact - Do you know most airlines use 'essbase' technology for their pricing?

Just after I got home I had a text (from Tripit) to say my flight was cancelled. London has had horrendous thunderstorms, the runway was flooded and the last flight to Belfast cancelled and so no flight to take off at 7am, the one I was booked on.

And then a lovely email from BA to say they had rebooked me on a 3pm flight to London.

This wasn't going to work, my connection in London was 10.10am. 

But I still wasn't worried, I am a BA silver member and that should count for something. I rang the dedicated line, but it was closed.

I rang the main number, which costs extra money, so far on two 1 hour calls I have spent £40.

On a lighter note to some people, that would have been $60 yesterday, today it is closer to $50!

The lady I spoke to was very kind and tried hard to help, but couldn't fix the problem. The issue is that the flights are 'linked' and not on a single ticket. You can't see they are linked until you open the flight record, and when rebooking one of many thousand flights, it had been missed. They gave priority to those who had onward flights and mine was missed, hence why such a later flight was booked. Obviously nothing available earlier. She did however say I could have a flight direct from London on Saturday morning. Not ideal, I have to find a hotel and hope insurance pays, miss the dinner I have planned when I arrive and miss the community service which I really want to attend. But it would get me to Chicago.

I left it another hour and then went to try and see if there was anyway I could select a better seat.

Not so good either, but she did say if I could get to London earlier they could help me bring that flight forward.

I went to bed, relatively sure something would happen and woke up early today to find we had voted to leave EU. I am not in a good mood. I was confident we would JUST stay.

Then I get a text message to say flight to Manchester delayed!! Why, I have changed that flight? I go online and my account still shows original sectors. 

OK, get to airport ASAP and get this sorted.

Belfast 'George Best' City Airport (or rather Kyle Lafferty a temporary rename whilst Northern Ireland are still in the Euros), is small, and in one of two efforts to save money that I discovered today, British Airways no longer have a customer services desk. Luckily I can use priority lane and bypassed the 'hoards' of people trying to check in, only to discover that the very stressed staff can do nothing, yet, whilst they process everyone with tickets for the next flight at 9:10. 

"come back at 8:15 and we will see what we can do".

So I decide to use the time to ring their dedicated silver helpline and see what they could do. Another lovely person tried to help. He confirmed my ticket hadn't been changed, and 40 minutes later (still paying), he confided their new IT system couldn't handle the change for some reason, but he had put a note 'IN THE BOOKING' to say I wasn't a no show for Manchester and that a seat was held on the saturday early morning flight. He said once I got to London there would be customer service people who could help.

At 8:15 I re-presented myself to the checkin staff who under stress where still a long way from having everyone already flying processed so they asked me to wait. Another 25 minutes, and then they tried to help. They really tried, but, and I know so much about airline systems now, the flight was technically oversold, so they couldn't have put me on standby. If they had got in before the system automatically closed the flight they could have overruled it. If I had hand luggage only they might have been able to do something, but despite trying and trying, they couldn't. 

So a very full plane but with at least one seat available, not leaving for 40 minutes, was leaving without me.

And leave it did 
At this point I was near to tears. No flight till 1.40pm if they can get me on it, and then not enough time to get a seat on last flight to Chicago even if the ticket desk is empty and staffed by the nicest person on earth when I finally get to Heathrow. I would have to collect my luggage as well as they can't check it through without a confirmed flight.

Still, under EU law I can get compensation, according to sign I had been staring at for over an hour. 

But will they pay now we have voted to leave?

Still time to claim, I hope.
Now the queue had died down the nice lady at check in, and don't get me wrong, everyone has been nice, this is a combination of bad luck and a new IT system with bugs. Anyway I asked if I could get BA to change me to the 4pm flight from London to Chicago would she be able to get me on 1.40 flight? She tapped away for about 15 minutes and eventually said 'done it'. She had got me on both flights. And actually if this works, I will only be 3 hours late to Chicago, a better routing and even a slight upgrade from 'cattle' to 'special cattle class'. 

Now it all depends on the flight being on time as the connection is rather pushing it, but I can run and I have a change of clothes in my hand luggage as I was expecting to stay at Heathrow overnight.  

Just need to wait 4 hours now. I thought at least I can work in the lounge, but I was wrong, remember I said two BA cost cutting measures? Well the second is only to keep lounge open for two hours before flights. Luckily my IOD card got me into the other lounge, and there was one bacon roll left. Not all is lost! 

I'll update later to let you know if I make it, but to finish on a positive note, when I checked the Heathrow website to see if flights on time, I got this message.

 Obviously people are confused and these are the people who voted us into this #Brexit mess.

Read part II

Thursday, 23 June 2016

OUG Scotland - 22 June

When Scotland Events were first started they tended to be held in Edinburgh or Glasgow in hotels, the more traditional conference venue.

Then when Oracle bought Sun and that came with Linlithgow they wanted to show it off and invited us to hold the events there. But once they started to fill Llinithgo and convert it into one of the first Cloud Data Centres there was less and less room. As Dermot Murray said as event lead, "we will miss the Linlithgow bacon butties but it was right to look elsewhere".

I wonder if anyone stayed here?
 So we went to the Raddison in Glasgow, and I remember being there before. There used to be a sign outside for some sheltered housing named Fusion, and I used a photo of that in my slides for a couple of years. I felt like I was back at home.

We had 222 registrations which was fantastic. We had two Oracle VP keynotes, Penny Avril for technology, talking about the next generation of the database and Rob Harrison talking about Apps and Clouds. We did have one issue, we didn't have a single room big enough for everyone so there we two introductions, one before each keynote, Steve Gold the VP responsible for Scotland and Gordon Mackie the Scotland OUG Oracle liaison . Dermot introduced and hosted the tech stream whilst i had the pleaseure of the Apps and Cloud.

Steve Gold even did a session on the oracle stand, now that is sonmeone who wants to understand his customers, very impressed.

Nice to see Peter Robson

There were six streams and audience seemed pretty well across the board, there were great catering and lots of great networking opportunities.

The UKOUG staff did a great day and apart from some logistical issues with room keys the day was a great success. I had to leave mid afternoon as I had to get to BIrmngham but I was really impressed and everyone I spoke to had a great day.

My time with UKOUG goes back to when regional events were just an idea on a directors' strategy day, and now they are business as usual.

Thanks to everyone to planned, delivered, presented, sponsored, exhibited and most of all to those who attended. See you next year.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

UKOUG 2016 Agenda Planning Day

It's over, the milestone of Agenda planning Day has been reached, which for me means we have a conference for December.

I feel a bit guilty having said that, as the office have so much to do, check, checking, confirming speakers, reserves, letting people know if they were not selected, and chasing the volunteers for the sessions we still have to source.

But it really is a major achievement. Last Friday so many volunteers got together and after a pep talk from Fiona Martin we split into three groups JDE, Tech and Apps. Within Apps we are further split into EBS Financials, EBS HCM, Digital CX, PeopleSoft, Cloud and Apps Tech, along with generic apps based Business Analytics and Business & strategy.

EBS Team
We had a lot of papers submitted and selecting is hard, especially as we have to tell a story, make it compelling for people to take time away from work, make people want to be part of it.

There is a lot to do and we had some new volunteers which is excellent, they have a new lens on what we are trying to achieve.

The agenda we built is slightly different, we have process streams for EBS, product streams for PeopleSoft. Business Analytics have their own apps streams as well as being woven into the product and process streams. The biggest change is Cloud, we are not only providing education about the Journey but more so Life in the Cloud, by product and then a whole stream focused on Cloud Services as well as what you technically need for Apps in the Cloud.
Tech Team

After planning the agenda, we had our AGM and then we had a few drinks to say thank you to all the volunteers.

Agenda Planning Day is always a long, very busy, and very exhausting day, but the feeling of achievement is untouchable.

But the planning is not over, there is still so much to do.

Thank you to everyone who took part. It will be a great event.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

AMIS25 Beyond The Horizon

In the Hackathon blog I explained I had already been signed up for AMIS25. I only had one presentation on Digital Disruption in the Oracle World, and so was prepared to fund the trip myself, until the Hackathon came along; I knew it would be great.

I love the dutch ACEs. For some reason The Netherlands embrace technology ahead of the curve. If you look at the APEX or ADF masters there is a disproportionate number of Dutch people, so this promised to be a  great conference.

AMIS was celebrating their 25 annversary and have always been a great supporter of sharing knowledge so thought an event like this was an excellent way to do so. Watch their trailer.

Alex Nuijten talking in a 'Muffin'
AMIS started as the Aircraft Maintainence Information System so the location of an aircraft hanger seemed quite fitting. As a user group leader I am always looking at different locations and this one intrigued me. The lecture halls were a series of blow up muffins, or rather that is what they looked like, and is it wrong that I wanted to disconnect one and see what happened to the occupants?

As each theatre was the same size it ensured the audience were spread out. you may not have got your first choice but you may have learnt something you didn't expect. I was concerned about how it would be to present in one, and perhaps there needed to be a quick briefing, but as long as you used a microphone and looked at the audience it was fine. If you turned your head the walls would soak up your voice and no one could hear you.

My first session, on digital disruption was early on the first day and I was really pleased with the audience (although they probably had to come due to no room in their first choice). there was lots of interaction so I loved the session

I say first, because a few weeks ago, Lucas from AMIS asked me if I would give another presentation. I had submitted an new presentation idea on the reality of UX. I love what Oracle have done with the UX in cloud, but now there are lots of customers, I wanted to look at it from their perspective and what did that actually mean?

Now having said yes I had to write the presentation but actually it wasn't too bad, I knew what I wanted to say. Again I was really pleased with the size of the audience and loved the interaction. This was about why UX?, in a really practical way.

I loved this conference, there was a great vibe, great sessions and along with the Hackathon, a lot for me to have learnt as well. They had a great party with a band who said they played requests. Actually they were just brilliant at taking requests, singing as much as they knew and moving into a prepared list. But I was first up to ask and as a tribute to my youth when all parties started this way; requested Daydream Believer from the Monkees.

We always have fun at these events, and Bjorn was making more of his Basil Gin Smashes and Tim Hall, was being, well Tim Hall.

Another great thing about this conference is that Amsterdam is one of the few airports I can travelled direct to Belfast from; a real Treat.

Thank you AMIS for the invitation and OTN for the funding.