Thursday, April 03, 2014

UX - No Time To Kill

There’s no time to kill between the cradle and the grave
Father Time still takes a toll on every minute that you save
Legal tenders never gonna change the number of your days
The highest cost of livin’s dyin’, that’s one everybody pays
So have it spent before you get the bill, there’s no time to kill
                                        —From Clint Black’s “There’s No Time To Kill”

Ha! A classic country music pull…who’d have thunk it, huh?

There’s no time to kill is an appropriate phrase for the past few weeks in the Oracle UX world.  Lots of cool stuff happening.  To whit:

-  The brilliant and versatile Ultan O’Broin (@ultan) and the Oracle Applications UX team have released a free ebook on Simplified User Experience Design Patterns for the Oracle Applications Cloud Service.  Yup, it’s written for the recent R8 release.

-  In conjunction with the ebook release, Amis(@amis_services) and Oracle recently partnered together in putting on a great Next Generation UX showcase event in the Nederlands (you may need a little help from Google Translate to get the gist of this summary).

-  If you’re a member of the Oracle Partner Network, there is a new Guided Learning Path and Specialization:  Oracle Fusion Applications User Experience Specialist.  Yes, of course I jumped right in and earned mine.  And Steve Bentz (@smb1650) was “johnny-on-the-spot” as well.  It’s a challenging cert, but well worth earning…I learned a few things in the process. And I'm grateful that the test was offered online - no trudging down to a PeasonVUE test center.  Hello, 21st Century!

- In working with Higher Education customers, I’ve found a very cool (and free) prototyping tool for PeopleSoft, including Campus Solutions.  And it’s built in PowerPoint.  You can get a copy yourself here.  Very cool for those of you working with PeopleTools.

Busy, busy, busy time in UX…gotta keep up.  No time to kill.  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Moving Forward

Seems to be quite a bit of buzz in the enterprise software user community these days about moving forward.  Budgets have loosened up, users want better experiences, in-house IT providers want to reduce maintenance and infrastructure investments, C-level officers want better and more timely information on strategic initiatives, and everybody wants to be agile (even though there are multiple visions of agile, we all want it).  So it seems the big question lately is "how do we move forward"?

Most of my posts lately sound like "blasts from the past"...you can probably add this post to that category.  I'd recommend four things you can begin with right now in preparing to move forward:

1.  Move To The Latest Applications Release


If you're not on the latest release of PeopleSoft, Campus Solutions, E-Business Suite, or whatever packaged products you're using, get there.  Doing so will assure that you have the best platform to move forward from, in addition to making most transitions substantially less complicated.

2.  Prepare A Business Roadmap For Moving Forward


Another way to state this is is develop a description, in well-defined behavioral terms, for where you want your enterprise to be.  Note that this is not a technical roadmap, but more of a business-oriented roadmap.  Some considerations for that business roadmap may include:








3.  Inventory Your Enterprise Assets


Understand what assets you have on-hand that may help or hinder your way forward.  Were it me, I'd want five categories of existing enterprise assets:
  • Business processes
  • Applications (custom and packaged)
  • Information (including both what we have and what we share with whom - they're different!)
  • Projects
  • Customizatons

4.  Reconsider your customizations


Customizations increase the cost of moving forward and extend the time required. That customizations list we built in step 3?  Why do we have those customizations?  Could we replace any of them with out-of-the-box functionality from shrink-wrapped applications?  What about an extension to a packaged application?  Do we still need the customization at all?  Should we rebuild the customization on a new technology platform?

So, there ya go.  Four things you can do today.  No consulting services or special tools required.  Just serious commitment on your part: get to the latest release of whatever you're using, describe your desired business end-state, catalog your enterprise assets and reconsider your customizations.  The discussion doesn't change, regardless of the tech platform you're currently using.

We'll talk soon about what comes next.  In the meantime, share your thoughts in the comments...and get busy!



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Deja Vu in Higher Education

And I feel like I've been here before
Feel like I've been here before

                  --From "Deja Vu" by Crosby, Stills & Nash

As I write this, I'm sitting in my hotel room resting up from another day at Alliance.  Sore feet, sore back, great conference.  I'm also having a Deja Vu experience:  Oracle made some product announcements here that hearken back to the early days of Fusion Applications (aka Oracle Cloud Application Services).

So, as you're probably heard, Oracle announced three new products directed specifically at the Higher Education marketplace:

  • Campus Solutions 9.2:  This new release of Campus Solutions, an upgrade from 9.0, rolls up of all the feature packs from 9.0.  It will also include the yet-to-be-released PeopleTools 8.54 and the PeopleSoft Upgrade Manager ("PUM").  The UI looks for similar to Simplified UI, but it's built on PeopleTools rather than ADF.
  • Student Cloud:  The first release will include services for continuing education, with later releases including functionality yet to be revealed.  The UI is Oracle's Simplified UI (which makes it pretty cool in and of itself).
  • Higher Education Cloud:  This will be a group of new features for Higher Education in Oracle's ERP and HCM clouds.  The features announced include Grants Management, Budgetary Control, Encumbrance Accounting (all in the ERP Cloud), Position Control Multiple Appointments and Collective Bargaining Agreements (in the HCM Cloud).
Some of the important points to remember in all of this:
  • These are not "either or" offerings.  The intent is to offer customers freedom of choice...including the ability to "mix and match".  For example, CS customers will be able to utilize features of the Higher Education Cloud to add value quickly, without additional infrastructure investment.
  • All the Oracle offerings in the Higher Education space will continue to evolve.  All three products will grow and develop according to the needs voiced by Higher Education customers.
  • For those worried about Oracle's commitment to the PeopleSoft and Campus Solutions products, my advice is to stop worrying.  This announcement represents a higher level of commitment to those products, not a death knell.
Now about that feeling of Deja Vu.  For those of you who recall the evolution of Fusion Applications, all this sounds mighty familiar...with one important exception.  Those in the Oracle ecosystem learned and improved quite a bit in the evolution Cloud Application Services up to this point.  Higher Ed customers will benefit from all that learning and improvement as the Oracle brings the opportunities of choice to the higher education space.

Campus Solutions 9.2, Student Cloud, Higher Education Cloud - this is going to be one fun ride...again.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Hanging With The HEUG

So I'm hanging with the Higher Education User Group this week in Las Vegas; Alliance 2014.  It's been a year or so since I've gotten to Alliance, so it's pretty cool to be back here.  I'm also excited in general about working with Higher Education customers.  I've only been here for a day so far, but I've noticed some very obvious things already:
  • The people here are almost desperate to provide their students with a 21st century experience.  They feel the need to have their student systems match the excellence found in their academics and research.
  • Many of the schools struggle to implement well.  And it's not that they don't understand the technology.  The common theme seems to be one of organizational change management.
  • While total cost of ownership is obviously a concern, system quality seems to be an even great concern with these folks...a positive in my book.
  • Prior point notwithstanding, a huge issue for many international schools seems to be infrastructure reliability.  Things many of us take for granted (dependable electricity, broadband internet connections, physical hardware security) are huge issues in some parts of the world.
I've already heard some of this from my involvement in strategy and road mapping efforts for Io Consulting customers, but this conference is reinforcing all these themes.  I'm absorbing so much, especially in terms of this unique set of Oracle users, that it feels a bit like drinking from a firehose.  Lots of interesting stuff happening here.  I'll post more as the conference progresses, especially in light of what is shaping up to be a really big Monday. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 07, 2014

A Crazy Game Of Poker, Verse 2

A few months ago, I announced my resignation from EiS Technologies ("A Crazy Game Of Poker").  Another one of those leaps of faith - agreeing to part months ahead of time, not quite knowing where I was going next.  It's a great approach to parting ways with an employer if all parties can step up to behaving like grown-ups.  It gives the employer time to find and train a replacement as well as picking your brain for knowledge transfer, and it gives the employee time to search for the next gig without facing huge financial pressures.  It works well as long as all parties are mature enough to refrain from any vindictive behavior.

Big kudos to the leadership at EiS for stepping up through this time period and making it all work well.  EiS is a special place with a special team...I miss every bit of it.

I started a new adventure with Io Consulting in February.  I like the social value of the company's mission:  100% Oracle, 100% Higher Education, 100% Customer Satisfaction.  Each and every one of those elements are important to me.  My role will be building up Fusion Middleware and Oracle Cloud Applications Services capabilities within the company. So I'll continue to be deeply involved in User Experience, ADF, and the overall Fusion/Cloud Applications architecture.  I'll likely get into some PeopleSoft & Campus Solutions areas as well...it's been awhile since I've been intimately involved in either, so it'll be nice to get back there again.  So I'm very excited to join the Io Consulting team and look forward to what lies ahead.

In some ways, it will be weird: no more Collaborate or KScope, a little less emphasis on EBS, a more narrowly focused customer set.  But I'll get to attend Alliance on a regular basis (rather than the sporadic attendance of the last five years) and I'll still be a regular at OOW.  And the new management team uses the word "cool" on a regular basis, so that's a good indicator.  And I get to work with Ted Simpson - it gets no better than that!

OK, I'm done being self-centered now.  The next post will take us back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Getting Lucky

Every once in awhile, I get lucky.  Out of the clear blue sky, life tosses me a bone…or a gold nugget…or a diamond.  We’re speaking figuratively, of course. I’m not much for bones unless it’s in the middle I’m BBQing.  Gold and diamonds…yeah, I’m not THAT lucky.  But I digress.

Aidan Duffy recently sent me an e-copy of his book, “The Oracle Opportunity: The Blueprint To Succeeding As An Oracle EBusiness Consultant.”  For those of you who don’t have the pleasure of knowing Aidan, he has been successfully delivering Oracle EBS implementation projects throughout Europe for the past 20 years.  Clients include Pfizer, General Electric, Canon, Alcatel-Lucent and Diageo.

Aidan’s book is not another “learn Oracle EBS” manual.  “The Oracle Opportunity” lays out a roadmap for becoming a successful EBS consultant, based on Aidan’s experiences.  For those of you who have wondered about making the transition from employee to consultant, this book is for you.  If you’re already in the EBS consulting field, this book is a great refresher for succeeding as a consultant.

In the book, Aidan explains how to build your own consulting career using four pillars:  Position Yourself, Package Your Experience, Promote Yourself and Partner With The Right People.  Aidan further explains how to build up your four pillars through a 12-step plan.  Well worth the read.

Had I possessed Aidan’s book 20 years ago, it would have saved boatloads of time and trouble.  Aidan captured many things I’ve had to learn from “The School of Hard Knocks”.  But it just wasn’t my time to get lucky.  But your time could be now…

You can find out more at www.iloveoracle.com or on Twitter @aidanjduffy.  Or you can grab the book off Amazon here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Could Oracle Cloud Trump Amazon Web Services?

OK, we all read or heard it recently in one form or another.  Oracle has told Amazon that it’s “game on” for leadership in the “commodity” Infrastructure as a Service (“IaaS”) market.  In other words, “we’ll beat you on price”.  Lots have folks have called the declaration crazy - Oracle can’t compete with Amazon on the basis of commodity pricing and never will.  Funny thing is, I think Oracle could actually pull it off.  Before you call the loony bin to have me hauled off, let me set some context and provide an explanation.


Context


I’m obviously an advocate of Oracle technology.  At the same time, I’m a big fan and user of Amazon Web Services.  Love ‘em both.  But I do think that their different approaches to providing cloud services could be a difference-maker.


Explanation


In July 2013, David Strauss wrote a very detailed comparison of Containers versus VMs for the Linux Journal.  Rather than plagiarizing or rewriting, I’ll just boil it down:  in today’s world, containers are require less overhead than VMs, scale better, are lower cost and are easier to use.

With the 12c database, Oracle’s made a serious commitment to the container approach.  I suspect we’ll seem them leverage the container concept throughout their IaaS offerings.  AWS, on the other hand, sells and rents VMs (EC2 AMIs, for example).  Containers = lower cost, quicker provisioning, easier administration, lower overhead.  If Oracle continues to adhere to the container architecture, unless Amazon makes some technology changes, big advantage Oracle.

Containers v. VMs is a difference that significantly impacts the business model.  So, yeah, the technology matters.  And that’s why I think Oracle Cloud could trump AWS…even on the basis of commodity pricing, assuming Oracle is willing to accept the paper-thin margins that go with commodity pricing (and they might, with the strategy of up-selling IaaS customers to higher-margin Platform as a Service offerings).  It’ll be interesting to see how Amazon (and Rackspace and Microsoft Azure and all the other IaaS players) respond to the challenge.

As always, comments and concerns about my sanity are welcome.