Tag Archives: Conversations

Conversation with the Team from PPM Energy

PPM Energy LogoLast fall, I had an opportunity to spend some time in beautiful Portland, OR, assisting a talented group at PPM Energy with their calendar changes in Oracle Applications. PPM energy builds and manages wind turbines and sells alternative energy. I invited two of their key Oracle users – Lori Thibodeaux, a financial systems manager, and Kevin Kosub, a senior business systems analyst, to a have conversation about their lives with Oracle. Read on for few excerpts below.

Marian: Let me start by asking what Oracle products/applications does PPME currently use?

Lori: We use the full Financials suite, including iExpense and iProcurement, Inventory, Enterprise Asset Mgt (EAM), Project Costing and HR. We are also using Discoverer for adhoc reporting.

Were you involved in picking Oracle EBS? Why was Oracle chosen over other ERP solutions?

I came on board after the selection of Oracle was done. However, I do know it was picked over other solutions because of the ease of implementation. We implemented Oracle in about six months.

How would you describe the original implementation? What were your main lessons learned?

I would describe the implementation as fast and “vanilla”! We did not have time for any customizations. The lessons learned were we wish we had a better grip on our business processes before configuring the system. We have made quite a few changes and enhancements to configuration post implementation.

Did you take the same approach to all applications? Were some applications or processes easier to implement than others?

Project Costing was the hardest to implement.

You did not have to think too long about that one…

Mostly because of all the set up decisions that need to be made.

If you had three recommendations for other people implementing Oracle EBS, what would they be?

Make sure you have a good executive sponsor for the project. One who has the authority to set down expectations and resolve disputes.

Make sure the business users are invested and integrated into the project. If their days jobs can be backfilled, even better.

Get a good consulting partner with expertise across the Oracle apps. It is best to have people who understand the processes from cradle to grave and how they flow through Oracle.

Speaking about users, how did they accept the new system and the change in general?

In our case they didn’t have a choice. Our parent company sold off the division that hosted the applications we were using.

Kevin: Users were learning the business processes as well as the system.

The EBS applications are sometimes criticized for being overly complex and not very intuitive. How did you make sure people learned the new tools quickly?

Lots of training and as much documentation as we could put together in the short time we had.

We had some cases where we didn’t have enough business insight to our new processes to drive the configuration appropriately upon initial set up. Later once the insights were gained we had to make tweaks to configuration, which were easy in some instances and painful in others.

Which processes or functions posed the biggest challenges?

We are still suffering from the lack of user training, especially in Projects and procurement. Projects has been problematic because we do not have a [ready process in place] real system savvy super user.

Procurement has been problematic because of some bad configuration decisions at the time of implementation. We were initially set up to accrue upon receipt for expense items – a bad decision!!! This has created a reconciliation nightmare! We changed over to accrue at month end about a year ago.

Additionally we had users who were wearing two hats for configuration responsibilities, as well as performing normal operations.

One pain point I have is the procurement hierarchy maintenance. Our hierarchy is based on HR Positions. Unfortunately, it is policy in our HR to change positions fairly frequently. When they do this, the old position stays in the hierarchy without a person attached. I have to go re-add the new position to the hierarchy to fix it.
I have been told, and I believe it, this issue has been addressed in R12.

Kevin, I know you have some experience with SAP too. How would you compare it to Oracle?

There are both positives and negatives with both of those ERP systems. All of the SAP environments I was a part of were heavily customized. There were a lot of changes to custom development and SAP had sophisticated tools for migration between development environments. SAP seemed to have better out of the box reporting capabilities as well.

On the other hand, SAP can be overly engineered and be difficult to configure.
Oracle is relatively simple with the user interface and out of the box configuration, which is a positive for a mid-size company Security administration is also much simpler in Oracle.

Are you planning to stay on 11i, upgrade to R12, or wait for Fusion?

I like some of the changes I see in R12, like the SLA engine. Not having to log into each operating unit separately is very nice! I also like that they are getting rid of the client version of ADI. It is high maintenance! I also like the look and feel of R12.

I would like to start planning for an upgrade to R12. However, our new parent company is running SAP. We may be forced onto SAP in the next couple of years. Fusion is probably not in the picture for us. From what I have seen, Fusion isn’t a viable option for anyone in the near future. I think it is years away.

I see a lot of positive changes with R12. It would nice to simplify our sub-ledger configuration and maintenance as well as enhance some reporting capabilities.

Are you referring to BI Publisher? Or reporting in general?

We are currently using XML Publisher for report output. I look forward to expanding our use of this tool.

Well that is an option but a lot of existing DBI-like dashboards are standard with R12. We are also considering other tools like Noetix to supplement our reporting options.

Let’s switch gears just a little. I know you are very active participants in the local OAUG activities. What can we do better as a user community?

I try to go to activities as they seem appropriate. I like the NWOUG conferences. It is a good networking event.

I am relatively new to the OAUG. From what I have seen, it is a positive experience

What Oracle resources (Metalink, oracle.com, podcasts, conferences, etc.) best provide you with the information you need?

Metalink is a good resource, however, the search capabilities could be improved.

Metalink is a staple. It takes some time to figure out how to maneuver through all the info out there. [Our colleague] Keith has had 10 years of experience with it, so he is pretty good at finding things.

Sometimes I spend more time searching than reading relevant information on my issue.

I am still learning. As a manager in my previous jobs, I didn’t search Metalink very much. Now I need to and I find it a little challenging to get to the right information. I have used Google as a search tool and sometimes have better luck there.

Oracle University classes are also a good resource for learning new products.

Oracle.com is a sales site. I don’t go there for hard information. I haven’t ever used podcasts. I went to Oracle World last November. In my opinion it was way too big. I ended up networking only with people from Portland, which I didn’t have to travel [to San Francisco] to do.

Yes, I agree. Oracle University’s training is very good! We have had trainers come up to Portland to put on classes just for PPM employees. This worked out very well!

Thank you so much for your time and opinions! This was fun!

Thanks.

Thank you, bye!

Interview with Randy Egger, the Father of Oracle Projects

Let me introduce Mr. Randy Egger, one of the original creators of Oracle Projects, and the president and CEO of Projects Partners. We spoke over the phone about his company and its role in the Oracle ecosystem. Below are few excerpts from our conversation.

How did you end up an Oracle professional?

Back in the early 80′s, I was involved with the selection of a relational database that my firm could use in conjunction with application development. We selected Oracle and at that time the RDMBs level was at V3. I had studied and taken classes from CJ Date and Ted Cod.

When you were used to coding in assembly language using a b-tree structure for data management, Oracle was a godsend! I joined Oracle in 1986 (employee number 2048!), and was part of the 50 person professional services group. After one year of that, I ran the IT group for Sales when it turned a billion dollars, and then ultimately landed in Application Development where I spearheaded Project Accounting [now Oracle Projects] development.

Ten and a half years ago, I started Project Partners where we specialize in the implementation of Oracle Projects as well as provide supplemental products to expand its usage.

What are your current role and responsibilities?

I am a president and CEO of Project Partners LLC.

Do you get to do a lot of selling?

I am involved in ALL areas of the business.

Tell us about the beginnings of Project Partners. When did you know the firm “has made it”?

Project Partners Logo

I started the firm out of my house 10+ years ago. Since I was the Product Director for Oracle Projects, I knew that the marketplace needed quality consulting services for Project centric firms. I also knew that Oracle Projects could use some extra features that would facilitate its usage. Knowing that EVERY company is a project company, and most companies just didn’t know it yet, motivated me into this market. I never ponder on whether this company ‘has made it’ or not.

So it is journey, not a destination.

Exactly. We simply put our best foot forward and work very hard at making companies successful with their usage of Oracle Projects. Success breeds success. We now have worked with close to 300 clients and the list is growing very rapidly. We work with about an average of 30-40 clients at any point in time. We have a wealth of information at our disposal.

I assume you speak with many Oracle customers. What do you see as their main concerns and needs these days?

A lot of companies are adopting a Project Management approach to running projects but have little practical experience with the discipline. We are helping companies to formally become project-centric, i.e. help with establishing a PMO office, processes, etc.

Another big concern surrounds usability. Oracle Projects is VERY feature rich and most business problems faced by project centric firms can be solved using the software. The problem is simply with the amount of steps, screens, and processes it takes to accomplish a specific business need. We are trying to help people to simplify the product to fit their business needs. It is about taking a complex product with many features and making it easy to use.

User experience is an issue with Oracle applications. Specific industries have specific terminology and processes. Software built around specific industries were successful and well adopted by the users.

I also believe, from a user experience perspective, it hurt Oracle to be anti-Microsoft back in the 90s.

Yes, if Microsoft did something, Oracle had to do the opposite.

And companies that adopted Microsoft standards became standards; like SAP for instance. The [Oracle] applications look and feel different and it takes time for new and old users to use them properly.

But it changed with the acquisitions. They made Oracle much better in the application space….

What kind of products and services does Project Partners offer? What distinguishes you from other consulting firms?

We offer EXPERT Oracle Projects consultants that have lots of industry experience. Since our company focus is in Projects, we work collaboratively to insure that all of our clients can benefit from our collective knowledge. We are NOT a body shop … the company cares about the success of our Oracle Projects implementations. Ninety nine percent of our clients can be referenced.

We also develop products that help serve the Oracle Projects community. We current have 4 products that satisfy Projects needs:

  • OP3 – Integration with Primavera Project Schedules
  • PIC Reporting – A comprehensive Project based reporting tool
  • PIC Invoicing – Simplifies invoice formats as well as Invoice Consolidation
  • PIC UI – A simplified user interface to Oracle Projects and other modules using spreadsheets

A lot of people still do not understand the integration between Oracle Projects and Primavera. They think they can do it themselves then find it more complex than it seems. We put a lot of time and effort into the integration. And we are doing a lot of work getting ready for the next generation Oracle Applications.

PIC Reporting and Invoicing are our best known secrets.

People assume it is in the core product.

When people buy Oracle E-Business Suite applications, they get an almost complete solution. Partner solutions are acquired by clients once they know enough about the core products to identify those areas in which gaps remain between their business needs and the core software. The Oracle ecosystem is a healthy one, in which Oracle delivers more than 80% of the fit, and partners deliver the rest.

PIC User Interface is our new product that will be formally launched later this year. We are taking Microsoft Excel and integrating it with Oracle [Project Management and Resource Management]. There will be workbooks working two-way between Excel and Oracle forms. Using PIC User Interface we consolidated 12 Oracle screens into one. This will revolutionalize the industry. We are getting some tremendous feedback. We have focused on two industries so far – Professional Services organizations and Engineering and Construction…

As an Oracle partner, you are filling gaps in Oracle’s product offering. Let’s take PIC with its reporting and invoicing enhancements, for example. Why is it that Oracle can’t deliver this fundamental functionality in its core products?

I believe that a lot the issues will be resolved within Fusion. Oracle Projects is a VERY complex application that crosses many industries. A project (or job) is a cultural thing to many companies. Project Managers have their own way of managing a project, and in this, they closely mirror artists. It is that creative power that can make or break a project (or project manager). You need tools that can help this process. You can have many many different types of projects within one organization and yet another set of project types in another organization within the same company. This is a tough problem to solve when you want one consolidated view that shows the health of a company that is made up of projects.

Which Oracle releases are your products currently compatible with?

We are compatible with most releases, specifically 11, 11i, 12.

How are you getting ready for Fusion?

We are currently studying the underlying technology. Our next generation Project Management integration software will be based on Fusion technology.

What is the best way for users to become familiar with your products?

By going to our website, attending the Oracle OpenWorld and OAUG COLLABORATE conferences, and requesting real-time demos. We also plan to offer webinars.

I guess that’s one of the reasons we are talking today.

Absolutely.

What do people not know about Projects Partners but should?

We operate globally; we now have operations in India and plan to expand into the Middle East and Europe. We have experts in technology as well as the complex FP-M data model. Our core competency is ORACLE PROJECTS (both functionally and technically). We manage full eBusiness Suite implementations for project centric companies. We handle small, medium, and large implementations.

Our best known secrets are probably PIC Invoicing and PIC UI. We believe that PIC UI will make Oracle Projects implementations VERY successful, especially for those companies that are trying to “field enable” Projects.

A couple of your associates recently started a company blog. Why?

Blogs will serve as an easier way of getting informal information out to our user base faster. It is a part of our knowledge transfer. One of our goals is to educate current and potential users on the benefits and the best ways to use the Oracle Projects products. Everything we do is geared towards this goal – including the Blog, access to our experts for quick questions, meeting with people formally and informally at conferences, etc… It’s this desire to share our knowledge that led us to sponsor the Center for Projects Excellence at the OAUG annual conferences. We staff the conference booth with our very experienced consultants, so that customers can come by and ask us their toughest questions, and get answers at no cost. We enjoy the open question and answer exchange – it’s one of the ways we prove that we are indeed The Experts in Oracle Projects!

Oracle Intercompany Inside Out – Conversation with David Haimes from Oracle

David: Hi Marian

Marian: Hello there! Thank you for checking in. Are you ready to chat for a while?

Yes; I even closed down Twitter!

Happy new year! Hope you had wonderful holidays!

Thanks. I enjoyed the holidays and am looking forward to 2008.

Well, let me start with a traditional question and ask about your Oracle beginnings.

I joined Oracle UK in 1997 as an Apps Engineer. Oracle was and still is a very attractive employer in the UK because it has a significant amount of development there. I think back then working in a global team was maybe not so common but we worked as part of a team based in the UK and US building the Financials features. It was a very strong team; I was interviewed by Terrance Wampler, now VP of Strategy and I coached Tim Dexter, who at that time was a Financials engineer but is now of BI Publisher Fame. There is still a lot of application and middleware development in the UK. Many UK IT jobs are consulting or support and Oracle has one of the biggest UK development centers I am aware of.

I went to Bracknell a couple of times while working for Oracle Central Europe in mid 90s…

I started in the Bracknell ‘Ring’ Office…

I understand you live in SFO now. What are you currently responsible at Oracle?

I moved to San Francisco in early 2000. Oracle was kind enough to transfer me. I am currently responsible for the development of a couple of Financials features/products, specifically Legal Entity and Intercompany. They are part of the Financials architecture, so I get good insight into other products and work with many other development teams, which I enjoy.

I understand the legal entity and intercompany underwent pretty significant changes in R12, isn’t it right?

Yes, they were pulled out and each made into their own product in R12. Intercompany, or Advanced Global Intercompany System (AGIS), takes some features from GL in 11i and builds them out into a pretty nice product. Legal Entity was really only implied in Financials in 11i, now it is very explicit and we can use that to drive tax calculation and reporting (via eTax) and fiscal reporting, which are both very big deals for our customers.

OK, let’s pretend I am a typical R11i customer using the intra-company segment in GL. What are the key advantages of upgrading to the new R12 functionality?

So let’s assume you are in a single set of books and the balancing segments value (BSV aka Company Code) represents your LE. I am leaving aside Legal Entity for now and talking about Intercompany.

OK.

In 11i, if your transactions in the sub-ledger are out of balance by BSV, they can be balanced automatically when they hit the GL, but that makes it pretty difficult to reconcile Intercompany as the balancing only happens after transfer to GL (which might be summarized) and posting. So you really don’t know what transactions generated those intercompany journal lines you see in GL.

In R12 you get balancing of your transactions at the transaction level, when SLA accounts them. So I can go into AP for example look at a payables invoice and see the Intercompany accounting lines right there on the invoice, as you can imagine that will make reconciliation of my Intercompany somewhat easier.

That is something that comes ‘for free’ out of the box, you need no extra set up etc. We also built a very nice BI Publisher based online reporting tool. It looks at the GL balances in your Intercompany accounts and right there in the UI you can click on the balances and drill all the way to the transactions.

I am sure many of my friends who are responsible for reconciling GL to sub-ledgers will be thrilled to hear that.

I have done a blog post about that and there is one due with more detail on how we did it technically with more details of the reports… When I did a demo of this functionality to some Oracle sales consultants and partners, I got a round of applause that felt pretty good. I never had that before during a demo…

Good for you! Let me get to your blog a little later. How about the Legal Entity? As far as I know, that concept was only present in HR organizations when you defined legal entities and operating units. What are the main functionality differences in R12?

In 11i, the Legal Entity was only defined in HR organizations, and many times in Financials, that Legal entity was entered as a dummy value. There were a lot of other disparate places, such as in set up for globalization features where more detailed Legal Information was stored.

What we have done in R12 is pull the Operating Unit and Legal Entity apart, so you can have many Legal Entities in a single operating unit if you choose. You can create your LE in an all new user interface, which is part of the Accounting Set Up Manager. You can also define where these LE are registered, maybe for a number of different state taxes, etc., which is going to drive calculation of taxes.

When you enter a transaction you can pick the owning LE of that transaction (or default it based on a set of rules rules) and the owning LE will determine the sales tax due, maybe the accounting and certainly the fiscal reports the transaction appears in. What we also do is allow you to map these real world Legal Entities to an accounting structure, such as my Ledgers and BSV, which will drive Intercompany

It sounds like the legal entity functionality is much more robust and flexible in R12, comparing to its “quasi” deployment in R11i. The Subledger Accounting, Legal Entity Configurator, Advanced Global Intercompany System, and E-Business Tax are all new products in R12. Could you please describe the process of how these new products got incepted? I am mostly curious about when and how the input from users and partners was incorporated…

This goes back a long time in history, Steve Miranda started these many years ago after a lot of discussion with customers. I was first involved in Intercompany when we had a Focus Group in 2003. We got some interested customers on board and asked them about what they were looking for, what problems we needed to solve, there were Focus groups for the other initiatives too.

To give you an idea how much work went into this, we had the focus group come and test Intercompany alpha in spring 2004. They came for a week, looked at what we had so far and we got input on what we needed to change and priorities for new features. So a week of in depth on site working with customers gave us a good idea of the problems they face. We have also pushed out our designs to the Focus and had web conferences or live meetings on a regular basis.

I always find it ironic when Oracle asks customers not to customize the applications. We all hate the customizations but are often forced to do them when standard functionality is either not available or is not good enough. People planning their implementation projects are often in an information vacuum because the new functionality is often not known until a new release is actually publicaly released. The scope of R12 finalized few years ago, but only last year people actually started figuring out what is in it and why it would be beneficial to upgrade. What would be your advice to people who want to get involved in the design of the next Oracle release, i.e. Fusion?

Firstly, we don’t say do not customize, we provide a number of pretty neat ways for you to customize. The key is not to be invasive. Use flexfields, custom library, business events and workflows etc. It is fair to say though that we cannot always publicly detail features, for legal and other reasons. Also, we have a number of customer programs, advisory boards and Focus groups run by our strategy organization that [customers] can request to join. I’m not sure of the exact criteria to join, but I know one is active participation. So get in touch with Oracle Strategy about that. I believe they also have a blog. The benefit of this program is you will sign all the non disclosure agreements, so there is more that can be shared.

All new R12 products we mentioned here today are documented in the R12 Financials Content Documents, User Guides and other sources. Where can users find out more about these products and features and gain best possible knowledge to implement and use them?

These days there are more touch points with Oracle Development than ever before. I encourage feedback and questions on my blog and I have taken some of those discussions offline if there was information about the business that the poster did not want to post publicly. The reason I started the blog was that even though the Oracle Open World is a great way to come and talk to the people who built the product, it happens just once a year.

That’s where I was going with my next question…

There are a lot more bloggers now at Oracle and a lot of development and strategy people are on Oracle Mix. I think we need to do a better job of letting the Oracle community know where to find us. Jake and the AppsLab team are doing a great job, but we still have some way to go.

I guess the main message to the community is: be pro-active and get involved… What are your plans for your Intercompany blog in 2008?

I wasn’t really sure where it was going when I started it just after the OOW. I wanted to see the response. In 2008 I want to take some time to write detailed posts with explanations of new features in R12, maybe with more depth or color than in some of the documentation available. I’ll be starting with Intercompany, LE and might move on to GL and SLA and other products as I get time. That is one part. If I can get a repository of useful posts up there and give readers a chance to ask questions and add comments and opinions then that alone I will see as a success.

And THANK YOU for that. For a product manager, a blog seems like a great way to have an ongoing discussion with your user community.

I’ll keep posting on technology, Oracle news and general items too, but I won’t be offended if people skip those ones. I agree – blogs are very powerful, I would point to Tim Dexter’s BI Publisher blog as a good example of this.

Good luck with all your good intentions. It seems like all bloggers reach some kind of blogging fatigue at some point… You have already mentioned some blogs today, what are your other favorite blogs in your reader?

Thank you. One thing I have enjoyed since starting my blog is reading the great stuff written on blogs such as yours. There is a lot of great information out there that I honestly was not aware of. So this is a pat on the back to all Oracle application bloggers out there. Check out the blogs I listed on my blogroll and also look at who I follow on Twitter to get an idea of what I am reading at the moment.

To be honest, I still feel like the blogs are only followed by small community of “geeks” who read and comment on each others’ posts. Others stumble upon them only when searching for something specific… But that’s all right. It is a move forward from newsletters received by email.

I think the community is growing and there are a lot of lurkers out there who read and never comment. People like to stay current.

Well, that’s all questions I had. What else would you like to talk about? We did not mention Mix or your SIG much…

Oracle Mix is a great opportunity for me to learn and hopefully for customers to get better information and influence direction. Right now, I don’t think anyone is sure how it will work out, but that’s also very exciting for me.

Thank you very much David.

It’s been great chatting with you!

Same here. Thank you for your time and best of luck to you in 2008, especially with those two small babies at home you mentioned in your post

Interview with Luke Kowalski from Oracle

I had a privilege to talk with Luke Kowalski, an Oracle Corporate User Interface Architect. Mr. Kowalski and the User Experience teams are making sure that the applications are as functional and great value to their customers as they are usable, eye-pleasing and intuitive to their users. Read on for the excerpts from our online chat. You can join the conversation by providing your questions as comments to this post.

I appreciate you are doing this. Please tell us how you got started with Oracle.

I came from a couple of stints at startups. One was bought by Netscape, where I worked in server UI for a couple of years, and the other was almost bought by Microsoft. I have been at Oracle since late 1998. I worked on e-commerce applications, back when being on the team got you an invite to Larry’s house in San Francisco. I then managed the server UI group and subsequently transitioned to an architect position.

What are you responsible now?

I now bridge the User Experience groups at Oracle. I work on partnerships, policy, UI technology, usability, and a number of marketing efforts around User Experience. Most of my time is spent helping either the Apps Middleware team (Thomas Kurian), or the VP of Applications User Experience, Jeremy Ashley.

Will you be so kind and describe the design process? How do those different groups work together?

We have had human factors folks here for the last 14 years. It is an engineering driven bus, but the executives have made considerable investments in user experience. This tends to show in our applications, servers, and the tools UIs.

As with any user centered design process we start by talking to the end user. They help us gather requirements. We then validate those against existing or new marketing data. We transition to low fidelity prototypes and we show them to user groups and in the usability lab. The next step involves a technical validation. As in: “Can we build it?” We repeat, just like the shampoo bottle says: design, get feedback, iterate, test, etc.

The silver bullet in the design process is the idea that we get to embed design patterns (UI building blocks) into the developer tool (JDEV). Before…we had guidelines and a police force…it did not work.

In the When Design Is Not a Problem white paper you co-authored you talked about “overcoming barriers in technology, organizational structure, legal, marketing, documentation and quality assurance (QA), and development tools” to have a design impact. What barriers do you see ahead of you as you design Fusion Applications?

Very few. John Wookey bet a lot on user experience. It is one of the key differentiators and exit criteria for any team in the apps division. UX works very closely with Jesper’s strategy, Fusion Middleware, and other stakeholders to ensure that we deliver the right applications, of the right quality. Have you heard about our Design Partner Program? This is where we involve Peoplesoft, Oracle, Siebel and other customers early in the development process. They tell us what they need!

No, not really. Tell me how do you define a user? Is that a CIO or people who would use the software?

Decision makers are not always the same as the end users. They often have different needs. We cater to the end user (productivity), while keeping the business/financial prerogatives in mind.

You also mentioned the marketing barriers. I totally agree when you say that “business requirements can often be at odds with those articulated by the end users. CIOs making purchase decisions have very different needs from the employees actually using the software”.

Oracle has recently spent a lot of energy articulating its Fusion strategy to its customer base (CEOs and CIOs). What do you think is the best way to get end users passionate about the future releases?

Allowing users to participate in the design process has been motivating for us and the companies we work with. We usually get positive reviews when we invite folks over to the lab to see the new software, or we often go to them (contextual inquiry method).

I agree that nobody cares if a piece of software is usable, if it cannot be implemented or sold. But it also goes the other way: how do we avoid selling software that sells, looks great on datasheets but is unusable, or unfriendly to the users? How do you make sure bad design does not “fall through the cracks”?

Every product goes through concept/prototype/final reviews. That is the process in the applications division. Design patterns will save some labor, of course. IOW, there are only 3-4 ways to do a Master/Detail, or a wizard flow, or whatever. Most important review is the conceptual one.

It is often too late to change anything when we see the finished product in the lab the only thing possible then is “lipstick on a pig”. Information architecture, feature set, and flows have to be right first. Layouts, widget choices, Look and Feel are almost secondary when it comes to usability, efficiency, or having the right tool for the task.

The devil is in details. When users do encounter bad, unintuitive design, what is their best chance to get it corected? And I do not mean software bugs that can be resolved through Metalink SRs, but mostly bad features that work “as designed”.

We mined Metalink for usability issues…not that successful. The best way is to sign up for the design partner program! We do work with account reps and I have dived in on a few usability fires one via Larry, for a Fortune 50 company. That was fun.

It seems like the design discussions happen at too high of a level. On the other hand, it takes very passionate and committed users to spend time documenting and requesting improvements.

But usability issues are bugs. We file them as such internally and get them resolved.

They are not bugs; they are “features”! Now we are getting somewhere…

User groups are an excellent venue. We work closely with OAUG.

The OAUG provides many good tools to users with the Enhancement Request System, Forums, etc. to communicate their needs to Oracle.

Out of the 4 main applications suites now owned by Oracle (Oracle EBS, Peoplesoft, JD Edwards and Siebel) which one you think is best designed? How are you choosing the best features? That must be a lot of fun!

We use cold and hard facts. Siebel and Peoplesoft have had a bit more of a design mindshare. Now we are creating the perfect blend.

And you do not have to wait till Fusion. We are making incremental improvements, adopting a new look and feel for R12, leveraging all the cool things that the application server will get us (declarative UIs, skinning, composite application, Workplace UI shell). A lot of things are possible with 10.1.3. Not that 11g will not kill the competition…

Seeing few R12 screens, they looked “Peoplesoftized”. Where can people see some “sneak peeks”?

We will be showing lots of cool, new stuff at Open World. We are also showing some stuff to early adopters, companies in the design partner program, testing with target users, etc. We have done previews for user groups, at conferences, and just showed a whole bunch of stuff to analysts.

We have a couple of screenshots on the User Experience web site.

Interview with Steven Chan from Oracle

I logged on for a virtual chat with Steven Chan, an Oracle Technology Adoption Programs Director and author behind the new Oracle eBusiness Suite Technology blog. We talked about his dream job, customer relationships, Fusion, blogs and other topics. Read on for more details below.

Let me start by asking about your Oracle beginnings.

I started with Oracle in 1998. Prior to Oracle, I’ve held management consulting positions with Deloitte Consulting and development positions with a variety of firms including IBM.

What are you responsible for now?

I’m a Director in the Applications Technology Group, the group that owns the technology stack for the E-Business Suite. My formal title is Director, Technology Adoption Programs, which means that I manage Early Adopter Programs for certain E-Business Suite technology stack components. I also participate in the general development process for some of our technology integrations.

So are you in Development or Support?

The Applications Technology Group is a development group, so I’m in Development. I get the opportunity to work across a broad variety of areas. This includes product development, working directly with customers via our Early Adopter Programs, and speaking at various conferences. I consider this my dream job.

Sounds like it. Have you always been involved with the applications? You seem to have a technology background…

I started as a Development Manager in Oracle’s Consumer Packaged Goods group, a systems integration product suite that has since been superseded. I have also held development and release management responsibilities for a variety of other products, including the Business Intelligence System (BIS), the Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW), Product Lifecycle management (PLM), and others. The Applications Technology Group is the central group that owns all of the E-Business Suite integrations with Oracle technology, so I was extremely lucky to find a role within this group. I’ve been with ATG since 2001.

I am familiar with some of those products. I assisted with implementing BIS for Financials and Projects a couple of times. As consultant, you learn what your customers buy and use.

How did the environment at Oracle change since all the acquisitions, in particular Peoplesoft? Are you playing nice with all your cousins?

From my limited perspective, we’ve had new staff from the acquisitions join our team. They uniformly have terrific skills and we’ve been learning a tremendous amount from each other.

I find it interesting that all of our respective organizations have been working on similar “Next Generation” ERP suites in parallel. Fusion is an exciting opportunity to pool our shared expertise and ideas. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much energy and the sheer volume of new ideas since joining Oracle.

The amount of development activity underway right now is staggering. Keeping up with all of the new developments that occur on a daily basis can sometimes be challenging. I’m trying to give glimpses of that in my new blog, but there’s so much new information, it’s sometimes difficult to determine what’s stable vs. what’s newsworthy at this stage.

Speaking about Fusion and developing next generation ERP, Ray Lane said in his key note at the Software 2006 conference: “…We [ERP vendors] made a mistake in the 90s of developing applications for their buyers, not users“. I realize he might have been playing to the crowd. But, not trying to put you on a spot here, how would you respond to people who agree with Mr. Lane?

As with all generalizations, there’s probably a kernel of truth in that, but I don’t have the perspective to comment on the general ERP industry’s strategy.

I don’t personally work with the functional side of our Applications, but as an end-user of certain modules like iExpenses and Self-Service Human Resources, I can see design aspects that could be improved. There’s always room for refining a user interface and functional flows.

From the Apps DBA perspective, we have a lot of very strong system architects who are trying to provide tools to make systems administrators’ lives easier. The challenge for us is prioritizing all of our ideas and hearing from Oracle customers and users about real-world use-case scenarios.

This is one of my goals of our new E-Business Suite Technology Stack blog – to open up dialogues with other Apps DBAs.

And God bless you for that. I love your blog and wish all Oracle product managers had one.

One of the themes that I repeatedly touch on when speaking at conferences like OpenWorld and the OAUG Collaboration Conference is that a handful of committed and vocal E-Business Suite users can have a profound effect on our product development directions.

The important thing, as a customer, is to make your voice heard via enhancement requests, customer advisory boards, direct emails, customer visits to Oracle HQ, personal conversations with us at conferences, and even blog comments.

We take all of these things into account when prioritizing new features or changes to existing technology stack functionality.

Being a “techno-functional” consultant I wish that we [Oracle applications users] had a better communication about the functionality, not just technology of the applications.

Now that Oracle has officially given the green light for blogs, our functional product teams have an opportunity to open up their own dialogues with their customers. I hope that others will follow in my footsteps.

There are a large number of “pure” Oracle technology blogs out there now, and my colleagues in the Server Technologies Division are passionate about getting the word out. I hope to see more Applications bloggers join the bandwagon eventually.

As for enhancements, it is very difficult to get excited about requesting enhancements to functionality you needed 6 months ago that only might be available two years from now…

I agree. Enhancement requests have as long a development cycle as internally-generated new feature requests, sometimes longer. What helps accelerate the process is hearing from a large number of customers who urgently need a particular feature or configuration. Hence the importance of logging Metalink Service Requests or getting your feedback to us somehow.

Here’s an illustrative example: We originally released Oracle E-Business Suite Release 11i without turnkey instructions for setting up Demilitarized Zones or reverse-proxies.

Our Oracle field staff – our Sales Consultants and [Delivery] Consultants – started implementing Release 11i for customers. It quickly became clear that firewall, DMZ, and reverse-proxy support was an urgent architectural requirement for our enterprise customers.

So, we moved that to the top of the priority list, which triggered development on AutoConfig, new profile options, new server-based hierarchies, and so on. This cloud of interrelated dependencies coalesced into what we now have documented officially in Note 287176.1 (Metalink Login Required).

Although it took a while to get there as a certified, supported solution, we were pleased to get this configuration out at last. So, the [customer] feedback does make a difference… eventually.

The development cycle is not just Oracle’s problem. It is a challenge for any proprietary software vendor. At least, it is now easier for Oracle Applications users to submit their enhancement requests at the OAUG web site. But I wonder how many passionate hands-on users actually know about it and have access to it. Judging from a number of currently submitted Fusion requests, not many.

We’re eager to get as much customer feedback as we can on existing and new functionality. It would be wonderful if we could get the user community excited about participating in these discussions.

What I find curious is the relatively small number of end-user websites on the E-Business Suite. There are a few blogs, including yours, but they’re hard to find and few and far between.

I absolutely agree that feedback from customers and users is critical. The ways to provide it are not always obvious though. I also feel for customers who are early adapters of new solutions. They have to spend a lot of their own time and resources to first figure out what is even wrong and then work with Oracle to get it fixed.

Our Early Adopter Programs are extremely valuable for getting customer feedback.

The last Early Adopter Program I ran was for the integration of Oracle Application Server 10g with the E-Business Suite. This was a two-year program with over 260 customer participants. Their feedback dramatically reshaped the end solution that we eventually made Generally Available.

I’d love to see more of our Applications product teams running Early Adopter Programs, too. They’re very expensive to run but the benefits can be extraordinary.

OK, let’s talk about blogs. I see them as another way to communicate. You have already touched on some of the reasons why you blog. Why do you blog?

I get the opportunity to speak with a lot of customers and partners on a regular basis. I can’t help but come away with the nagging sense that we can do a better job of getting high-quality information into your hands. This information can range from announcements about new features, sneak previews of things in the pipeline, and technical tips for Apps DBAs.

There’s a lot of information on Metalink and various discussion groups, but it’s scattered. Worse yet, Metalink is behind Oracle’s firewall, so all of that priceless content is invisible to search engines like Google.

In a perfect world, blogs would be unnecessary. My hope is that my new blog will provide another way of getting information out to our customers, and getting feedback on our directions in return.

And, there’s another selfish reason. I get a huge volume of email daily. A lot of this email addresses the same general questions. I also maintain an extremely popular E-Business Suite Technology Stack FAQ: Note 186981.1. I’ve found that investment in the FAQ reduces my email volumes. I’m now finding that investment in the blog has the same effect with the added benefit that I have a useful repository of information for my own reference purposes, too.

And one other thing: There’s a certain degree of professional reserve that limits how we can communicate via “official” channels like Installation Guides, Metalink Notes, and so on. That’s a byproduct of the need to produce formal documentation. The blogging medium allows for a more informal, freewheeling style, which is much more personal.

That’s the beauty of blogs. It is good to see that after the blogging hype of 2005, blogs are being used more and more for productive purposes… Taking a quick glance at Oracle Blogs, there are over 100 technology blogs, two applications blogs (excluding yours) and no application blog by an Oracle employee.

In fact, besides mine, there exists one Applications blog today: Martin Millmore’s iRecruitment Blog. I hope that others will be joining us soon.

Sorry, my mistake. What I am getting at is a general perception that the applications have always been a secondary product line to Oracle (to increase the database sales). Fusion has brought a lot of attention to the applications. John Wookey talked about “the need to change the mindset of the company to act more like an application vendor, not technology one”. Do you see a change in the company’s culture/mindset?

I don’t think I’m able to assess the company’s mindset effectively. We’ve certainly seen changes in the Applications Technology Group following our acquisitions. These changes have a lot of potential to improve the scope and feature-richness of our products. I’m very optimistic about our upcoming releases.

Do you have any favorite blogs?

I currently use Bloglines to track a massive number of blogs and website feeds, so it’s gotten to the point where I don’t really distinguish between blogs and “official” news sources any more. This certainly supports the recent Supreme Court ruling on Apple vs. bloggers – the notion that there are no viable means of differentiating between credentialed journalists for conventional print media and bloggers.

The few E-Business Suite-related blogs that exist are on my blogroll, including yours, Richard Byrom’s, Eddie Awad’s, and the OAUG Customizations Special Interest Group. But actual E-Business Suite-related posts are relatively scarce, even on those.

For general technology topics and just pure fun, I also read sites like Slashdot, Engadget, Gizmodo, Digg, Wired, CNET, and many others.

I better be careful what I blog about. Somebody actually reads it! :-) I wish I had more time and energy to write about everything I want to.

How is Larry doing these days? Do you ever see him in person?

Like many Development staff, I get to see Larry primarily at conferences and via internal and external webcasts. From what I can see, he’s doing very well… :-)

Our conversation wouldn’t be complete without my asking about Web 2.0. How do you see new web tools like wikis, blogs, mashups, online communities, etc changing the enterprise? Can you imagine the OAUG web site being an “online space” for Oracle Applications users, or Metalink Knowledge Base being updatable through wikis?

The “Web 2.0″ name is useful shorthand for new web technologies, but I have had reservations about the implication that there’s an overall web architect overseeing “versions” of the net.

That said I’m extremely encouraged by interactive features that make the web more like dynamic conversations and information-pooling spaces. For all the controversy around Wikipedia, it represents the ideal of a collectively-managed, ever-growing pool of information. The collective anarchy of MySpace (whose nova-like popularity is starting to fade, even now), and sites like Slashdot and Digg show the power of the net to highlight interesting topics and drive collaborative action. Witness the recent case where the blogosphere revealed the shady New York online camera scams.

On the other hand, the hysterical scrum that followed the O’Reilly “Web 2.0″ service mark incident illustrates that there certainly is room for improvement. That’s just a result of the relative youth of this technology; like all communities, the conventions, mores, and formal and informal rules will evolve in time to reflect the purer journalistic standards.

As for [Oracle] technology, I hope that Metalink and OAUG will continue to evolve to take advantage of the latest mashup, AJAX, dynamic and collaborative technologies. They should exist in parallel, with vigorous participation of our user communities in both spaces.

I agree. Conferences and personal relationships are still important but they should be supplemented by new web tools. I love one quote from a Business Week article: “The divide between the publishers and the public is collapsing. This turns mass media upside down and creates media of the masses…” There is always room for good content and information on the internet.

Quite true. This is starting to emerge even in inchoate form in my own small part of the blogosphere. For example, one of the recent comments posted by a blog reader pointed out the implication of HP’s Tru64 de-support for E-Business Suite system architects considering Release 12. This is the purest form of collaborative customer-corporate discussions that end up providing really useful information to people struggling with real-life practical decisions.

Marian, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks for your support, and I look forward to our continued dialogues online.

I really appreciate your time and opinions, Steven. I really enjoyed it. We have to do it again sometimes. Talk to you later. Take care.

If you would like to join the dialogue with Steven, submit your questions as comments in this post, or at Steven’s blog. Find this and related items in Conversations.

10 Questions for Richard Byrom from OracleAppsBlog

I am pleased to publish another segment in the series of interviews with interesting Oracle Applications professionals and introduce to you Richard Byrom, an author and creator of the original OracleAppsBlog. Let’s get right to it:

1. How did you get involved with Oracle Applications?

My original profession was that of an Accountant and Auditor with Deloitte & Touche in Zimbabwe. I then got involved in developing Executive Information Systems (EIS) with the Microsoft Office Suite of Products with the Business Development Services (BDS) side of Deloittes. After Deloittes I moved to PricewaterhouseCoopers where I joined them as a BaaN consultant. With the collapse of BaaN, PwC decided to turn all BaaN consultants into Oracle consultants and I got sent on an Oracle Bootcamp at RPC Data in Botswana. I did pretty well on the Bootcamp and six months later ended up getting a job offer by the company that trained us. I’ve been implementing Oracle E-Business Suite ever since April 2001, 5 years now.

2. How are you involved with the applications now?

I’m implementing internally for Thales, a large defence company where I head up the Financials Team. We’re rolling out across the group and trying to come up with a standard implementation methodology as well configuration for all companies within the organisation.

3. What applications or functionality have you implemented recently?

All of the Financials modules really and I’m getting the chance to make use of some of the more advanced features which is pretty much why I came to the UK in the first place.

4. What is your favorite application or feature?

Probably Oracle Financial Analyzer which I haven’t touched in some time. It’s being replaced by Enterprise Planning and Budgeting (EPB) but I haven’t had the chance to implement EPB yet or play with it that much.

5. If you could change one thing about the applications, what would it be?

I think it would be standardisation between how the different modules work. When you use the different modules you get the feeling they were all developed by different people who weren’t talking to each other (which is probably the case anyway). For example, lets say your are running the interface to General Ledger in Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable, or maintaining a Customer or Supplier in these modules, they are both done in completely different ways and the interface for performing these operations is different. I think there’s a lot more room to give various components of the application a consistent look and feel. I guess this will happen over time but considering all the acquisitions that Oracle is going through as well as what’s happening with Project Fusion it does make the whole exercise a little difficult.

6. What inspired you to start blogging about Oracle Applications?

Originally I started up RichardByrom.com to share tips and tricks about Oracle as well as just get more exposure as at that time I was working in Africa and considering a move to the United Kingdom or United States. I soon found that my site wasn’t getting as much traffic as expected and through trial and error discovered the secret to having a really good web site and getting more visitors was to have good content that changed on a frequent basis. I discovered Mark Rittman’s blog and realised that this would be a good way to build up some really good content and at the same time document solutions to problems encountered at work. The thing about having a blog is that the site administration side is a lot easier. With my first site I found that I spent more time administering all the pages and trying to optimise it for searches than actually getting around to building content. After investigating all the options of what I could use to blog and trying out a lot of different software and service providers I eventually decided to use ExpressionEngine, which I believe is the best blogging software about.

Blogging has enabled me to share what I am learning through implementation experience with a global audience as well as given me the ability to publicly document these learnings. I try as much as possible to use my blog as a knowledge management tool.

7. What are some of your favorite blogs (Oracle or otherwise)?

I read a couple of the main stream blogs and also have an Oracle Blogroll and Personal Blogroll that I read using FeedDemon, another excellent software product. The main blogs I read, apart from yours are:

8. Are there any special topics or issues that you enjoy covering?

I like to blog about things I’m learning at work or how I solved a particular problem at work. I also like keeping track of any new products coming out so that I can understand the potential impact this will have on our customers and learn the new product as soon as possible.

9. How does blogging fit into your job or your business?

It’s helped me to connect with more people that I can obtain advice from or ask questions as well as provided an effective way of documenting everything I’m doing.

10. Where do see business blogging in three years from now? How will the Web 2.0 infiltrate the enterprise?

I think we’ll see more internal blogs by large software and IT companies such as Oracle, SAP and Microsoft as a means of documenting employee conversations as well as more blogs aimed at enhancing relationships with customers i.e. bringing in that element of a two way conversation with customers. Essentially organisations are going to have to be more open and engage with customers at earlier stages of product development.

From a consulting point of view they provide a very effective mechanism for sharing knowledge with customers as well as showing them that you have the knowledge in the first place. I’m sure we’re going to see more consultants using these as a medium for demonstrating, managing and sharing their knowledge.

10 Questions for Mark Rittman

I am very excited to publish an interview with an Oracle blogging pioneer and enthusiast Mark Rittman. Mark’s weblog has been around for a LONG time as he had seen the benefits of this media for professional purposes way before the rest of us did. To me, Mark’s blog is an ultimate bizlog. A very nice job, Mark! One can tell you do presentations for living.

How did come to learn Oracle?

I first came across the Oracle database when I worked in product marketing at the Woolwich Building Society, a mortgage lender in the UK. We used Oracle for our first “customer profitability” data warehouse and I joined the project as a business analyst, using Oracle Discoverer/2000 and Designer/2000. Over the years I moved more into data warehouse design and ran my first data warehousing project whilst working for Toyota in London. After working at Toyota, I moved into the world of consultancy, starting at SolStonePlus in Brighton where I headed up their new Oracle data warehousing practice. Over the following years, I’ve worked with tools such as Oracle Warehouse Builder, Oracle Express Server and Oracle OLAP, Oracle Discoverer, Reports and Portal as well as the various releases of the database and application server.

How are you involved currently?

I lead a team of consultants who work with the various Oracle BI and data warehousing tools. Generally I’d work out the architecture for a project, perhaps get involved in the presales effort, do various short engagements performing tuning around the tools, application server and database, as well as doing the odd two or three month engagement where I’d be either the lead developer or perhaps the development DBA.

What inspired you to start blogging?

Back in 2002 I used to read blogs by the likes of Raymond Chen, Robert Scoble, Joel Spolsky and Joshua Allen and whilst they were good, I thought it’d be interesting to read something about Oracle as opposed to Microsoft. I’d had a homepage for several years prior to this, where I’d posted presentations, articles I’d written and bits of code, but I started the blog proper back in June 2003 and I’ve kept it going since then. For the first 18 months or so I was pretty much the sole Oracle blogger, then people like Niall Litchfield, Tom Kyte, Howard Rogers and others came along, and now there must be 50 or so Oracle bloggers out there writing about their experiences.

Are there any special topics or issues that you enjoy covering?

When I first started out, I posted about everything and anything that came up in the Oracle world – the latest article by Jonathan Lewis, an interesting article on AskTom, bits of news about Oracle Corporation and any new products that came out. Over the years I’ve changed the focus somewhat as people like Tom and the various Oracle product managers all have their own blogs now, and I write more in-depth articles on new products I’ve worked with, projects I’ve been involved in and opinions I’ve got on the industry. I guess my postings are split 50/50 between what you’d call traditional server tech postings – which is what I get up to in my spare time – and ones about business intelligence, which reflects the work I do day to day with clients.

What have you done to personalize your blog?

Apart from when I first started with Radio Userland’s blogging software, I’ve always built my own template rather than use the default ones that come with the blogging software. I also host the software and site myself so I’ve got a bit more flexibility when it comes to upgrading, site layout and so on. The site has been through various redesigns over the years, and most recently I’ve expanded it to contain links to other articles that I’ve found useful, a forum for posing technical questions, and some commentary and write-up on the various Oracle business intelligence products.

Do you have any favorite posts?

Probably the ones that have generated the most comments and feedbacks, such as The Cost Of Database Independence where I talked about a project where the customer refused to implement any Oracle-specific functionality; Is Oracle A Legacy Technology? where I looked at a recent article in Oracle Scene by Mogens Norgaard, Tracing Parallel Execution which actually got cited by Doug Burns as good bit of work around Parallel Query, and Being Too Clever For Your Own Good where I owned up to perhaps over-complicating a bit of database tuning I was asked to do.

What are some of your favorite blogs (Oracle or otherwise)?

Well the Oracle ones that I generally check on a daily basis are those by Tom Kyte, Howard Rogers, Tim Hall, Peter Scott, Doug Burns, Andrew Clarke and Abhinav Agarwal. Outside of Oracle, I check out Eric Sink, Adam Barr, Paul Thurrott, Andy Hayler and Raymond Chen more or less every day,

What tools do you find most helpful in putting together your blog?

Just textpad, Paint Shop Pro and Frontpage. All the templating and so on is done by the Moveable Type blogging software.

How does blogging fit into your job or your business?

I’m pretty lucky actually in that my employers are pretty supportive of my blogging. They “sponsor” the site, in that they cover my hosting fees, but they don’t have any say in the content I post, it’s not edited by them or in any way approved. I can put a blog posting together in work if I get a spare moment, but the vast majority of the work I do on it is in the evenings or when I’m traveling somewhere.

What do you think business blogging will look like 3 years from now?

No idea. I suspect it won’t be around in exactly the same way, because nothing stays the same on the internet and interests and focuses change. I don’t even know if I’ll be blogging in three years time, it’s certainly quite demanding of my time and my family (my wife and two young children) obviously come first. I’m trying to encourage a few of my colleagues at work to start a blog (and of course Lisa Dobson‘s joining us in a couple of weeks) so maybe I’ll be able to hand things over to someone else in time.

You can find this and similar articles in Conversations.

10 Questions for Eddie Awad from Eddie Awad’s Blog

We continue in our 10 Questions series with Oracle users, consultants, and bloggers with ten questions for Eddie Awad, an Oracle programmer, active Oracle blogger and a creator of the Oracle News Aggregator, which aggregates all Oracle-related blogs and news into one convenient super-blog. Thank you Eddie!

How did come to learn Oracle?

Eddie AwadIt was in 1994. I was a COBOL programmer working in Saudi Arabia. The IT management decided to replace COBOL with Oracle. So, I had to learn SQL, PL/SQL, Oracle forms and reports. If I remember correctly, it was Oracle version 7 running on VAX/VMS. I have been developing Oracle applications since then and I do not regret it at all.

How are you involved with Oracle currently?

Currently, I work as a senior application developer. My main focus is Oracle SQL and PL/SQL in addition to web development and E-commerce using Macromedia ColdFusion and Microsoft BizTalk. No matter what tool I use, Oracle is always the backend database. We are also a big Oracle E-business suite customer, so I’m involved a little bit with that as well.

What inspired you to start blogging?

At first, I started a personal blog to share thoughts and pictures with my family and friends. After trying it for a while on a personal level, I felt that I would have a lot more topics to talk about that are related to what I do on a daily basis, and a lot more people to share my daily work experiences with. So, I moved my focus from personal to professional/technical blogging. I do, however, blog about anything I find interesting, which may or may not relate to Oracle.

Are there any special topics or issues that you enjoy covering?

Primarily, everything related to Oracle, specifically SQL and PL/SQL tips, tricks and, most importantly, forgotten features as well as new features. Usually my blog posts are a result of something I read in a book, stumbled on a website, blog or a forum, or something I researched at work or was the result of my own experiences.

What have you done to personalize your blog?

My blog’s title is Eddie Awad’s Blog. That’s the first personalization and the most obvious one. I use many plugins to personalize the look of my blog. I use plugins to fight spam, display related posts, give the ability to subscribe to comments and offer many other functions; Even the display theme of my blog is a plugin.

Do you have any favorite posts?

All my posts are my favorites, otherwise I won’t write them. However, if by favorite you mean the post that generated the most comments, that would be Char or Car. If by favorite you mean the post that generated the most inbound links, that would be the Oracle Firefox search plugin and Oracle Docs Firefox Extension.

What are some of your favorite blogs (Oracle or otherwise)?

I have created OraNA to keep track of all my favorite Oracle Blogs. They are too many to list here. For non-Oracle I read lifehacker.com, 43folders.com, and Creating Passionate Users among others.

What tools/websites do you find most helpful in putting together your blog?

My blog is powered by WorPress. I love WordPress. It is highly and easily customizable using themes and plugins found on wordpress.org and elsewhere on the net. As far as blog tips and tricks, I have found the following two blogs very helpful: problogger.net and performancing.com.

How does blogging fit into your job or your business?

Blogging does not actually fit into my job, rather it is the other way around, my job fits into my blogging. What I do for a living is often the subject matter of my blog.

What do you think business blogging will look like 3 years from now?

Just recently, Oracle officially launched blogs.oracle.com to host Oracle employees blogs. A lot of other companies, especially big ones, are trying to formalize the blogging activities of their employees and put procedures and policies in place to basically control what gets blogged about by employees. I believe that “business” blogging is still growing and will play a greater role in establishing a company’s image.

Thank you very much for your time, Eddie!

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10 Questions for Garet Keller from Connect Consulting

I am pleased to introduce to you my good friend Garet Keller. Garet has been an Oracle Applications consultant for over 10 years now. He is very passonate about the aplications, their proper use and deployment. He cares about his customers and users a lot. Recently, Garet has become a blogger by posting his first post at this blog.

How did you get involved with Oracle Applications?

I was lucky I guess. When I graduated from college I had hard time finding a job so I went to the local temp agencies in Seattle and I asked them for any entry level job at any new ‘Tech’ company in town. This was 1995 and before .com, the internet etc. I didn’t even have an e-mail address. The company placed me at Nextel communications which used Oracle and my first project was to work on a System Conversion between two Oracle systems both running Oracle 9.4. I joke about luck because in hindsight they could have placed me at Amazon.com too ;-)

What applications or functionality have you implemented recently?

Oracle Archiving using Applimation’s Informia Archive Solution, read about it in How High Can You Get article.

What is your favorite application or feature?

My favorite unused/unknown featly about Oracle Application is the File Export feature available on any form that uses Oracle “Folders”. This feature allows the end user to become and ad hoc reporting guru. They can select whatever data they want using the find window the then format and export the data to their desktop using Oracle Folders and File Export. I love teaching new users about this functionality. And they love to use it too.

What resources do you use to learn about the applications functionality and resolve problems?

For resolving problems, Metalink is a huge resource but I also use Google from time to time to get a different answer base. The best resource for application functionality is through friends and colleagues. I see blogs becoming a huge resource of information someday.

If you could change one thing about the applications, what would it be?

I think the Applications became so robust that it’s scares off some potential buyers and users of the system. It would be nice to see the system be easily implemented for smaller installs. Like Microsoft’s Small Business Account 2006.

If you could ask anyone from Oracle one question, whom and what would you ask?

I would ask Larry Ellison about Oracle Applications an upcoming release 12. I’m curious about how the top people at Oracle feel about the product and its potential impact to the company’s bottom line. Will in generate new customers and opportunities as 11i did?

Do you participate in the OAUG or other Oracle user group events?

Not really, I do go to the NWOUG (Northwest Oracle Users Conference) once in awhile but only when it’s local.

How do you market your services, how can people find you?

The web, www.connectconsultingllc.com

How does blogging fit into your job or your business?

I’m hoping blogs will be a place to learn about new application functionality and to interact with peers.

Do you have any favorite blogs (Oracle or otherwise)?

Not yet. It’s a Feature! is quickly becoming my favorite. :-)

Thank you very much for your time.

Interview with Joan Marshall from F5

I met with my long-time friend Joan Marshall to se how she was doing and ask her a few questions about her experiences with Oracle Applications. Joan is a Business Applications Manager at f5, an internet management company in Seattle, WA.

I am glad I finally managed to convince you to do this interview. Let’s get right to it. How did come to learn Oracle Applications?

I was working as an Accounting Manager in a company where we implemented Oracle Appplications. This was my first exposure to an enterprise software implementation and I enjoyed it so much that I made a career move into Consulting.

What applications are used at F5? What have you implemented recently?

We have used only the FinApps modules since 2001, but we are currently implementing Order Management, Service Contracts, Advanced Pricing, BOM, Configurator etc.

What would be your words of wisdom to other Oracle users who are implementing and using Oracle Applications?

Our biggest pain point has been Oracle On Demand (Oracle Applications hosting service). We are hosted and they are not responsive to the needs of a large implementation.

What resources are you using to implement new applications or resolve problems?

We are using Hitachi Consulting as our primary contractor on the current implementation.

Do you use Metalink? How do you like it?

I don’t like having to log in every time, since the new release. Otherwise, I do find answers there (after digging awhile). The search engine is weak so you have to dig to find the gems.

How do you solve your Oracle staffing needs? Where do you find the right Oracle people?

Our HR department surfs the primary career web sites looking for candidates. Then they forward resumes to me.

I understand you currently have some Oracle positions open?

That’s right, we are currently looking for a Senior Oracle Financials Systems Analyst with a strong financials background.

Are you an OAUG member? How about AppsWorld? Have you ever been to an OAUG conference?

We (F5) are members of the OAUG. I personally have only attended the AppsWorld.

Have you heard of Oracle Fusion – the effort to integrate Oracle with Peoplesoft and the other acquired companies?

Only heard of it.

What are your favorite Oracle Applications features?

This one is difficult to answer. For the most part, I think the Financial Apps are very functional. It is the integration with say, Service Contracts that falls short. I have more negative than positive to say about Oracle’s Enhancement process. I mean, once something gets labeled an ‘enhancement request’ you might as well write your own custom solution.

Thank you so much for your time!