Oracle OpenWorld 2019

Note: this blog post was previously live blogged from the conference and is now complete. This post is very lengthy, as an entire week of activities is captured. I’ve done my best to create sub-sections so you can skip the parts you don’t want to read.

Day -1 (Friday)

Yesterday, after a super long travel day, I finally converged on San Francisco. For anyone attempting to arrive into SFO airport any time during September from a domestic flight (and most likely from somewhere in California), just know that the airport is in the process of resurfacing their runways so this is causing absolute madness for these types of flights. Note that international folks seem to be fine and those I’ve spoken to encountered no issues.

My original flight was actually cancelled the afternoon before it was supposed to depart, so I made the decision to rebook through Oakland. It was a wise choice – I had zero issues. However, to get on a non-stop flight I had to rebook at a super early time, which means that I was a zombie for most of the day.

As this was a travel day, not much really happened. I arrived and immediately got back to work.

We did hear one piece of news that was appropriately timed for Oracle’s annual event…their website got a facelift! Personally, I like the artwork behind this refresh and it’s being used in all of the Oracle slide decks that we’ve seen so far. But, it’s clear from initial reactions that I’ve heard that the jury is still out on the new design.

Once my emails were settled and answered, I went to lunch. I have a tradition every time I come to San Francisco and that is to find and eat dungeness crab. I made the super long trek from my hotel to Pier 39, in what ended up being 90 degree Fahrenheit weather, ate crab like it was going out of style, and then trekked back.

I did take one detour to Chinatown and spent a few minutes waiting for Chinese egg custard tarts at my favorite bakery for this, Golden Gate Bakery. However, I was told that they were only selling moon cakes that day. After grabbing some supplies from the nearby convenient store, I returned to my hotel and went back to work.

Later that night, my buddy Tony Scalese and I ate a super fancy dinner. We’re both big foodies and we try to find a Michelin-starred restaurant to eat at once a year when we happen to both be speaking at the same conference (in a city with a Michelin-rated restaurant). The last time we did this was in Chicago for ODTUG Kscope16 and we went to Grace.

We had a nice 3.5 hour dinner at Quince. It was full of very interesting courses and great conversation.

I had been up for 21 hours by the time I finally went to sleep. I slept like a walrus.

Day 0 (Saturday)

…and then I was woken up at 5am. Gotta love big cities!

All day Saturday is the infamous Oracle ACE Director briefing. It was my very first time attending one at HQ (I’ve attended at least one at other conferences, since these briefings are now mobile and rotate with the notable Oracle conferences). Although I can’t share specifics, I will say that the briefing here at OOW is very different from the others I’ve attended. The agenda is influenced by the ACEs and Groundbreakers in attendance, but it focuses on a wide variety of products, so we’re getting information outside of our comfort zones. There has been a clear theme in the sessions that we’ve heard so far, and there will be a number of interesting announcements this week.

Now that I’ve gotten this blog post started, I’m going to stop and pay attention to the rest of the briefing. I’ll be back later.

The Oracle ACE Director briefing is now fully over and I’ve had the night to process it. Since I can’t violate the terms of our NDA, I’ll keep this vague. The briefing taught me a few things:

  • How small the Oracle EPM world is, comparatively. There are only six (?) Oracle EPM ACE Directors in the world. Most folks in the ACE program belong to Database, APEX, ERP, and/or other Oracle technologies. Five of us Oracle EPM Directors were present at the briefing today and we formed our own little team in the back of the main room. Because our group is small, it impacts what we’re going to hear at this HQ briefing since the agenda is largely determined by the full ACE Director group. We did not hear much of anything about EPM. This does not mean that nothing is happening with EPM – it just means that we’ve been outvoted.
  • There’s a lot that us EPM ACE Directors don’t understand about the other Oracle technologies. (Well, except for Gary Crisci. He clearly understands a lot about a lot of things Oracle. I asked him today how he hasn’t been an ACE Director longer, given the wealth of rich product knowledge in his brain.) Product terms from other Oracle solutions are interesting and foreign to us. For instance, “sharding”. Our little group nearly lost it during a database discussion about sharding. We laughed so hard that we each turned red in the face. That term is too closely aligned with another American term (which is something I won’t go into on a work blog). Surely, this is a long-running joke in the database world?
  • What’s just as important as what is said is what isn’t said. I’ll just leave it at that.
  • Oracle continues to innovate their products at a rapid pace. There are going to be tons of announcements this week.
  • I really enjoy meeting people in the ACE program – they are so welcoming and helpful, and so many have had such a long history together that the number of inside jokes is endless. I saw a handful of ACE friends from social media who I never really get a chance to talk to, like Tim Hall, Brendan Tierney, Holger Friedrich, Francesco Tisiot, Biju Thomas, Erik Benner, and Edelweiss Kammermann.
  • Oracle + gaming console. I’ll just leave it at that.

After the briefing, a few of us who are also in the Analytics/BI world popped over to the Oracle Analytics partner reception. This was put on by the Oracle Analytics team and the guest list was reserved for partners. If you ever have the chance to attend an Oracle Analytics reception (this is my second in the past 3 months), definitely go at least for the food. The hors d’oeuvres are always top notch. I said hi to the Oracle product management and development team members, met some new folks in that group, caught up with some industry friends, and then left.

Glenn Schwartzberg and I grabbed some Thai food for dinner at a nearby interRel favorite location.

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As I’ve gotten older, one of the lessons that I wished I learned earlier in life is how valuable time is. It’s so cliche, but I truly believe this is a human’s most precious gift. I look for moments like tonight during conferences – when I can just have meaningful conversations with friends. Glenn and I heard some devastating news from a dear friend tonight and we were both quite shook. Enjoy every moment, because you never know when your life may be turned upside down.

Over dinner Glenn and I talked shop, discussed our concerns about things that we heard today, and then he regaled stories of how he and Edward Roske met, how he found his way to interRel, and what his career has been like over the past 10 years. Good times.

One of the best things about Oracle OpenWorld is having the backdrop of San Francisco. San Francisco is the shadow character of the conference. A lot happens all over the city, but especially O’Farrell St, which is the street my hotel window faces. As I write this, there is a party going on outside (it is Saturday night, after all), and for some reason a large number of cops are eating dinner together (?) on the corner below me.

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I forgot to mention this earlier, but yesterday I was treated to a demonstration outside my window:

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This city both cracks me up and astounds me every day.

Going to bed. The annual Golden Gate Bridge run is bright and early in the morning!

Day 1 (Sunday)

Oof, it’s been a rough blogging day. I haven’t had access to WiFi anywhere that I’ve gone, so I’m trying to cram in an update before I depart for the Oracle ACE dinner.

My day started off with me trying to fight off my body’s inclination to wake up at 5am. My body won. Jet lag is a serious problem for me, which is why I don’t travel well. Unfortunately, I didn’t do a single productive thing while waiting for my alarm to go off at 6:30am for the annual OOW Golden Gate Bridge run. At least I woke up in advance of the crazy woman screaming outside my window, 15 minutes later.

I was told by a friend that the weather was going to be cold. Yes, it was cold. Here was what we were looking at:

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Luckily, I dressed in my warm Director jacket, which I only needed at first. After I started running, I warmed up pretty quickly. It was a decent group this year with folks representing Database, EPM, and APEX. We took off at our own pace. Here’s what it looks like from the bridge:

After the run, I quickly headed back to my hotel room, got ready for the day. and then took off for breakfast.

One of my other favorite eating spots in San Francisco is a place called Samovar. It’s a local chain and they serve a wide variety of teas and food. I love their masala chai. For breakfast, I grabbed a duck congee and masala chai (of course!). It was delicious!

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Then I took off to Moscone South to get my badge. On the way, I noticed that Oracle had done some redecoration of the buildings:

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Unfortunately, it was not a good time to register. I got there when registration first opened and the line was all the way around the corner, as well as wound around multiple times near the entrance and inside the building. Lesson learned – next time I’ll wait at least 2 hours after opening.

It was a humid day. Next, I went back to the hotel (I was definitely sweaty by this point) and continued to tweak my presentation (#perfectionist) and practice it. Then I went back to the Moscone Center to test everything out in the speaker ready room, as well as get a lesson on the new “open air” presenter audio setup. “Open air” is when both the attendees and the speaker are given headsets to communicate due to thin walls between session rooms. Luckily, everything tested out fine. For the past couple of conferences, I’ve been doing this thing where I present from my iPad Pro instead of a full laptop – it’s less weight to lug around. I use a Logitech Spotlight Presentation Remote (which does the basic advancing and rewinding of slides with an iPad Pro) which connects via Bluetooth. I use a standard USB-C adapter that has HDMI, VGA, and other useful ports to connect to the projector. LOVE this set up!

Side note: I seem to be accumulating name badges and OOW hasn’t really started yet. Now I have three.

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Next was the Oracle EPM Partner Advisory Council, which was an afternoon meeting set up by the Oracle EPM Product Management team. As usual, they showed up in full force and we heard from Matt and Hari, as well as pretty much every product manager in EPM. A lot of the information was a review of what was announced at ODTUG Kscope19, but it was good to ensure that all partners were on the same page and had a forum to ask questions. What I do like about these meetings (which I’ve mentioned oodles of times before), is these are truly set up with two-way communication. The Oracle EPM team is listening, and they also have something to say. It’s a great exchange and I still can’t believe how much Matt and Hari invest into these partner meetings.

In case you haven’t heard the latest, on-prem release v11.2 is supposedly coming out in October 2019 now (#safeharbor), but Matt did mention that there is a small chance that it will get delayed again.

In addition, in case you missed it, Oracle (EPM) was recently announced in August 2019 as the leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions.

Some Nerdy Oracle trivia: as told to us by Hari, Oracle coined the term “EPM” (Enterprise Performance Management). Remember back in the early 2000’s when it was called CPM and BPM? Oracle changed it to EPM, so that term is theirs to celebrate.

Although many topics were repeats from ODTUG Kscope, I did learn a couple of new things and tweeted out the new “news”:

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I also learned that in the new Enterprise licensing for Oracle EPM Cloud, freeform planning will support web forms. So for those of you looking to convert standalone on-prem Essbase to the new freeform planning offering, you will be able to leverage some planning features.

Related to reporting, the Oracle EPM Product Management team is now finally talking about the sunsetting of Financial Reporting (FR). Note that this will happen in Cloud only and will not impact on-prem (neither the current releases nor v11.2, which will all stay on FR). We are talking single digit years, people, before FR is sunset in Oracle EPM Cloud. My guess is 1-3 years at this point. Once the new “Reports” (a lite version of Management Reporting) hits EPM Cloud applications, customers are expected to start migrating from FR to MR. Full parity does not exist yet between the two reporting tools, but it’s coming fast. Nearly all major feature gaps between FR and MR will be closed in full-feature Narrative Reporting, with those features slowly being added to the new “Reports” over time.

Finally, OPNCC (the learning path Oracle site for partners) is being replaced by PREP – Partner Readiness Enablement Platform. Navigate to prep.oracle.com for more. They have a number of initiatives they’re rolling out with this. Essentially, they’re looking to support partners with better quality training. They will also eventually take a look at the EPM Cloud certifications offered today and determine where they will go with them.

To round out the night, I attended the Oracle ACE dinner. This was the first one I’ve been to at HQ. And wow, what a nice surprise! Jennifer and team went all out for us ACEs! First we took the obligatory fun set of photos. Here we are, gathering around the photo spot:

The spread included a seafood bar, a hot menu buffet, and a dessert bar. The best part for me? Unlimited raw oysters!

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There was a nice view of the water. Here is a pic of the infamous sea lions from our table:

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We were in the last room – the whole place eventually filled up with ACEs. It was a grand time catching up with those I haven’t seen since ODTUG Kscope (or earlier) and marveling at the good food and fun times.

I checked out early with some other EPM ACEs. It’s been a looooong weekend and I need to try to catch some sleep.

However, before I sign off (because my first speaking session this week is in the morning), I’m sure you are curious about what crazy thing happened outside of my window tonight. A woman, half nude, was screaming at no one in particular as she stood in the middle of the street. Good night!

Day 2 (Monday)

And I finally got some sleep! No waking up to someone screaming outside my window (that happened closer to 7:30am), nor my evil body clock deciding not to adjust to the timezone difference. Over 7 hours of sleep – a record! Time to finally start the conference and true live blogging.

Session: “Customers Present: Narrative Reporting With Oracle EPM Cloud [PAN5561]”

Al Marciante and Toufic Wakim get to brag on the Narrative Reporting solution (formerly EPRCS) with customers this morning. Customers CERN and Ralph Lauren will relay their experiences.

Narrative Reporting, one of the first Cloud tools to be released in the Oracle EPM Cloud suite, is becoming a more significant solution now that the EPM Cloud licensing has changed to include it in all tiers. I imagine the world of Oracle EPM Cloud will start to see more case studies in the next couple of years. Guess what has 2 thumbs and is excited about this? THIS GAL!

Al is giving an introduction of what Narrative Reporting is. His refreshed slides discuss the different data sources (updated to include OCI), new features released this year, and the upcoming emerging tech features that will be included in the future: intelligent narrative generation with EPM’s venture into IPA (<— super exciting). He’s also being transparent about how the branding and naming has changed of this product, yet both names will be used in the slide deck.

CERN is up first. Nerd segue: CERN hosts the world’s large particle physics laboratory, including the large Hadron Collider. They provide information to 14,000 particle physicists all over the world. It was also the birthplace of the World Wide Web at the end of the 1980s. They include 114 nationalities within their organization. They have 4 cathedral size underground caverns hosting huge detectors, and they are exploring new energy frontiers.

Core planning activities at CERN: medium term plan (overall, underlying strategies for the next 5 years, including an overlook for the next 10 years) and final budget. They do revenues and expenses. Expenses are broken down by activities/projects, organic units, funding, and more.

Controlling activities include ensuring internal budget allocations, coordinating all budget issues, and monitoring personnel and materials expenses. From a reporting stand point, they have internal monthly reports that forecast expenses and compare to the budget. They also have an annual progress report that is an official document submitted fo the Council’s approval. It has a lot of variance analysis. They are very busy from  February to June due to the important documents they have to present.

They have a multi-user editorial process with multiple sub-processes, and multiple data sources with up to 40 actors within each sub-process. Their previous practice was error prone: they had too many manual processes and interactions. There was no automated QA document control. They had performance issues due to the complex Excel tables. And of course, everything was time consuming. They also ran into a number of process constraints, with tight and hard deadlines and an expectation of no error margins due to the high visibility of the output by the CERN Council. However, the team was extremely vigilant and dedicated, which is what led to the outstanding quality of produced documents.

They started in March of 2018 by doing a tools evaluation. Then Oracle did some adoption workshops with them on the EPRCS product in the Jul-Oct 2018 timeframe. Their implementation started in Dec 2018 and it lasted 3 weeks. They went live at the end of Dec and they delivered the first document in Jan 2019.

They did staged approaches for the long-term project and distributed the workload over several moths. They also included a limited number of users at first, before rolling out to all users due to time constraints on training. In phase 2 they implemented single sign-on and rolled out the tool to the entire team.

Challenges include some performance issues with the Smart View extension, but this was mitigated by a new release by Oracle. There was also a learning curve regarding best practices working with Word and Excel. External links in Excel files – they had to use a workaround. They also had some minor issues embedding Excel tables and understanding the preview vs. final result outputs.

Achievements after 6 months in production: you can download the new documents from their website, as they are fully live now on 2 of their 4 main documents. In general, they also believe the tool improved efficiency and productivity in many ways. The CERN team highly appreciates the review cycle functionality. They are a fan of the automated version control and backups, as well as the ability for multiple people working on the same report at the same time.

Key factors contributing to the success factors of this project: embracing change, stakeholder management, hands-on training sessions, and the in-house expertise that already existed relating to software implementation projects. They also received great support from Oracle, the customer success manager, and the EPRCS Product Management/Development teams.

And now we’re hearing from the Ralph Lauren consultant team. This is a very different EPRCS case study.  They implemented EPRCS in tandem with a OAC Essbase and Planning migration from on-prem in more of a static reporting (vs. narrative reporting) use case. This was a 4 month project with an August 2019 Go Live. Ralph Lauren wanted to standardize their reporting and analytics, with enhanced visualization capability (using DV), and collaboration and approval capabilities (using EPRCS). They used MR in conjunction with NR in order to be able to achieve “book” functionality, approvals, and email distribution. Books was a feature not ready for MR at that time within EPRCS (although it was just released this month).

Benefits and key wins for Ralph Lauren related to reporting included: one reporting solution, effective variance reporting, improved integration with Office, email distribution of reporting, and review and commentary.

Tips and tricks regarding EPRCS: using NR to fill gaps with MR, MR reports are restricted to 80 characters, the importance of font files, the importance of the style guide, the version of Office being used can impact the presentation of the reports (so regression testing is recommended).

Al is talking about how for many customers, EPRCS was their gateway solution to the Cloud. He’s also summarizing the new books feature released to MR this month.

From the audience questions, people are interested in how to keep Smart View routinely updated and how much productivity was gained. CERN realized this through having multiple users working on the same document.

Next up, my session on important considerations when moving from Oracle EPM on-prem to Cloud, on-prem 11.2, or hosted! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Session: “Moment of Truth: Should you stay (on-prem) or go?”

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(courtesy of Twitter)

So the session went really well. The open air audience listening system needs some kinks to be worked out, but I had a full room with people standing in the back and I appreciated attendance by members of the ODTUG community. I was able to present this session because ODTUG selected it under the user group submissions, so I’m very grateful for that.

Thank you to everyone who attended my session and to those who asked questions!

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(courtesy of Tim Faitsch)

Afterwards, I ate lunch with my interRel team across the street at the Metreon food court. I love the diverse options available with fast food here in San Francisco. Today I had Korean food for lunch!

Session: Demystifying Total Cost of Ownership in the Cloud

This session is not specific to Oracle EPM and Analytics Cloud, but it’s always good to get a wide range of perspectives on how customers perceive total cost of ownership and how they can best justify their migration to the Cloud. The irony I see here is that we won’t even be talking about this topic in 10+ years – most Oracle customers will (probably) have moved completely to the Cloud by then – the term “on-prem” will go away.

They are talking about how customers compare different cloud offerings like AWS, Oracle, and more. The recommendation here is to focus on space, power, and cooling. Here are some good slides from this session, which might help those looking to go hosted with Oracle EPM Cloud:

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Customers IdenTV and Transmute (startup firms) spoke honestly about comparing and contrasting the different costs and features from each provider. It’s clear that the Oracle partnership with Microsoft has been important for Transmute. In addition, switching to containers has given Transmute a 30% boost in speed, as well as assisted with scale. They have been playing a lot with emerging technologies. IdenTV spoke about the Oracle program for startups and how helpful it’s been for their customer solutions.

Video interview for Oracle.com

For ODTUG Kscope18 and Kscope19, our conference committee made the conscious decision to invest in the Oracle chatbot (now called “digital assistant”) technology. AuraPlayer approached us and told us they could build an intelligent chatbot and integrate it directly into our conference mobile app. At that time, the ODTUG Board was heavily interested in investing in emerging technologies and they asked that we create a mini track at Kscope. Based on AuraPlayer’s offer, we also decided to take that a step further by allowing our conference attendees to work directly with the chatbot solution. We called her “KBot” and she was used as an information resource for our conference attendees. KBot was created to help attendees navigate the logistics of the conference (location, events, food, parking, etc.), as well as quickly access session information.

As one of my parting actions from my Conference Chair role, I wrote up a quote for AuraPlayer, which made its way to Oracle’s Digital Assistant product management team. They asked that we both do a video interview for oracle.com. That’s a little bit of a long story, but explains how I got to this point.

This was a fun interview and it was completely legit with makeup and a clapboard! We’ll see what ends up getting published.

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Oracle EPM – Planning Cloud Product Team Meeting

Next, Glenn and I met with several of the Product Managers/Developers for Planning Cloud. I wasn’t exactly sure what the meeting was about, but now that it’s over I can’t talk about it. Many partner-only items were communicated and there was much candid discussion. I’m glad the Oracle EPM product managers make time for our company and the thought leadership we bring to the table.

Fun time at the Groundbreakers Hub

Originally I wanted to attend Larry’s keynote, but the line was super long (and outside in the sun). Look at this:

So instead, I got to spend some time in the awesome Groundbreakers Hub. This is the super large lounge where the Groundbreakers, Java One coders, and Oracle ACEs are hanging out. It’s in Moscone South down one level behind the main escalators. They have an unbelievable high number of nerdy (yet fun) activities here, including an arcade, 2 escape rooms, an augmented reality chess challenge, and other super cool techie stuff.

While down here, an Oracle friend hooked me up with an arduino-based badge using eInk technology. He taught me how to play around with. We can write ANYTHING we want on it. I think I’ll take advantage of that later this week LOL.

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interRel Customer Event

interRel received some amazing news today. We not only won the North American Analytics Partner of the Year Excellence award, but that allowed us to contend for the Global award, which we also won! Yippee! I am proud to have played a pivotal role on the customer project whose migration story led to our win.

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(courtesy of Edward Roske)

Tonight is when interRel did their customer event. It was a super nice dinner and I enjoyed my conversations tonight thoroughly with customers.

On the way back from dinner I saw this random greeting in a window for Wilkes Bashford Townhouse. I don’t fully understand the significance of the connection, but I think it’s cool.

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And guess what folks? We’ve gone an entire day without anyone screaming outside my window. Perhaps that is an activity only reserved for the weekends. Good night, all!

Day 3 (Tuesday)

Well, back to our regularly scheduled program…crazy man screaming outside my window at 6:30am this morning. Due to a resurgence of jet lag, I was already awake.

Today I decided to get up super early to make the line for this morning’s Keynote. Safra Catz is speaking and I’m dying to see her in person. What happens when you arrive 1 hour before the keynote starts? You actually get to sit in the front section (unreserved section)! Woot woot!

Session: Keynote (one of many at OOW)

They hav really set up everything for the grand show!

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They even have a DJ!

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And she’s on stage!

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And now Annette Ripert (sp?) from Accenture takes the stage. Accenture is the diamond sponsor of OOW.

Loving all of these strong women leaders front and center! Annette started her career as an Oracle DBA. She’s been in the Oracle space for a long time.

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She’s talking about the “why” of her career. She loves technology.

Accenture has done some extensive research about disruption. What they’ve uncovered is that a vast majority of businesses are being significantly disrupted. She’s now talking about incremental change and how that doesn’t help overcome disruption – instead, she says that companies need breakthrough.

Now we’re going into a case study about a company that was doing well, but then became disrupted. They supercharged their core business with automation, then generated cash that they used on acquisitions. She calls this the “wise pivot”. This enables breakthrough in 3 key areas: innovation, investment, and people.

The innovation pivot – we’re learning a lot at OOW this week – how are we going to use that innovation? The investment pivot is key to fueling the investment needed for innovation. The people pivot is about how a company positions their people to create world-class leaders and an innovative culture.

Examples of companies that are enabling their breakthroughs using Oracle technology:

  • West Midlands Police (in the UK) – they’re using the Oracle Service Cloud portal. Their response time dropped from 11 hours to only minutes. They’re also saving money. (innovation pivot)
  • Seur (in Spain) – they using the Autonomous Database in the Cloud to process near-real time shipping data (innovation pivot)
  • Hearst – they’ve acquired over 300 companies and have used Oracle technologies to assist their journey (investment pivot)
  • Texas state government – migrated their ERP to the Cloud. Other state governments are following. (investment pivot)
  • True Blue – construction, manufacturing, and logistics in over 70 countries. They are using a workforce composed of digital, native millennials. They are known as “the people” company. Their goal was to have less friction and be more human. They streamlined more than 20 technology systems to manage headcount and budgeting via Cloud technology. They created a simple and elegant front end to help their staff understand their work tasks. They also invested in AI to match their new hire candidates to the right kind of work. (people pivot)
  • Enbridge – crude oil business. They went on a transformation journey and put people at the core of that agenda. They brought their businesses together on Oracle ERP Cloud. They wanted to create a more nimble culture in their organization. They wanted to simplify the day to day work of the business and reduce manual inputs. (people pivot)

Annette reveals the company she was talking about at the beginning: Accenture. And she ends with this quote:

Bold captains are required for perilous seas.

-Winston Churchill

Safra Catz is back on stage. She’s talking about Autonomous Cloud and why it’s unlike any other Cloud in the world: Oracle Cloud has been uniquely engineered to be secure and autonomous from the start. She’s excited to introduce the second generation Cloud architecture, told through the various Product Executives.

Next up is Clay Magouyrk, Sr. Vice President of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. He states that Cloud is made up of many layers. Infrastructure is the base layer and it must meet a minimum set of requirements in order to support every other layer. The next layer is database. Oracle has made special investments in database that other vendors just can’t compete with. Moving up the stack, applications and analytics make up the next layer. And then security spans all of the layers. They call this “truly integrated cloud”.

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He’s now talking about the strategic partnership between Oracle and Microsoft. The Vice President of Azure Apps and Infrastructure, Merrie Williamson, appears to speak. They do a selfie with the audience for the Twittersphere. They’re talking about the strategic relationship between Azure and OCI.

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They are excited to launch their 2.0 Cloud infrastructure in the OCI Marketplace.

Now they’re focused on VMWare. John Gilmartin, Sr. Vice President and GM of Hyperconverged Infrastructure takes the stage. They are also taking a selfie on stage. (? I’m not sure if this is some kind of joke leading to a punchline)

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They are talking about the recent announcement of Oracle Cloud now fully supporting virtualized environments (through VMWare). They also mention Oracle running on VSphere, with mutual support through Oracle and VMWare. This gives customers a  greater level of choice and flexibility.

Juan Loaiza (Executive Vice President), mission-critical database technologies, takes the stage and talks about the Oracle database multi-tenant technology and the impact on next generation SaaS applications.

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He’s now talking about structured and unstructured data, as well as blockchain technology and how they’ve recently added a blockchain table into the Oracle database technology. This move enables highly secure, blockchain-based databases that can also leverage native database features.

Microservices can be created by developers using logically separate pluggable databases.

Analytics can now run 10x faster due to in-memory columnar formats and columnar processing within the database technology.

Machine learning is the hottest area today. Apps can now easily add ML-based predictions. These can be used directly with database technology. Python and R can be used to extend in-database algorithms. In the future they’ll have “auto Machine Learning”.

Oracle database is now seamlessly extended to include data in data lakes.

Finally, next generation allows for “simple app development”. There is no longer a need to deploy dozens of databases to run a single application. I don’t fully understand what is being said here, but it sounds very flexible.

Andy Mendelsohn (Executive Vice President), Oracle database server technologies, comes out to speak. He fully believes that Oracle is the leading database provider today and will continue to be 10 years from now. He’s talking about how to get more productivity by augmenting the workforce and automation with AI. And the rate of data increases at high rates, so we’re needing to do more with more. Oracle believes they are helping customers to solve this problem through their Autonomous Database solution.

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The future vision is the autonomous data platform, which will provide a unified data tier across public cloud, local cloud, and on-premises.

Wow – he mentions APEX, too, and how it is a low-code development tool. I just saw a tweet by Joel Kallman yesterday stating that, after 20 years of working in the Oracle space, Larry Ellison finally talked about APEX on stage for the first time. Oracle Analytics Cloud is also mentioned, specifically the features “spontaneous insights” and “automatic narratives”.

Steve Miranda (Executive Vice President), applications product development, makes an appearance. He speaks often about Oracle’s SaaS application offerings.

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Finally, T.K. Anand (Sr. Vice President), takes the stage. He’s talking about the need for AI and business analytics and how the Oracle Analytics platform enables this.

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T.K. is excited about the announcement of Oracle Analytics for SaaS apps, powered by the Autonomous database.

And it’s a wrap! They ran a little late, but I’m glad I finally got to attend a keynote and hear the updates first hand.

Session: OPN: Modernized Oracle Partner Network Overview

This year, Oracle has maximized their space and number of sessions. As a previous conference planning chair, I find all of this really fascinating. There are “theaters” everywhere, even stuffed into large ballrooms with curtains separating the rooms. They have headsets for the attendees for these sessions. For this session, I found myself in the middle of the main exhibit hall in Moscone South.

I came to this session because I had a little time to kill before my lunch hour. In addition, we were given the heads up that the Oracle Partner Network was going to be changing soon. The speaker (Michael Core?) is relating the modernization effort the OPN program is going through to the keynote speech this morning and the concepts of innovation, investment, and people.

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For those of you who are not partners, this might be of interest to you so you understand the labels that partners use to identify their relationship with Oracle. Oracle is removing all of the metal tiers for OPN. All of us partners are “members” now and there will be no such thing as Gold, Platinum, etc. We will be aligned based on how we interact with customers. This all goes into effect on December 1, 2019.

Lunch

I had a quick hour before attending the next session, so I ran back over to Samovar (how can I not? When in Rome…) and grabbed my favorite tea: masala chai and lunch: butternut squash potstickers and almond butter with banana toast. Love the food there!

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Session: The Next Big Things: Cloud Platform for Digital Business

Ashish Mohindroo, Vice President of Oracle Cloud, is talking about cool, upcoming features for Oracle Cloud. He has promised to also show demos and use cases for these new features. I’m excited – let’s begin.

First up, some stats about AI:

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Dave Ingram (also Oracle) has been invited to speak about specific use cases of AI to enable the business. The first use case relates to the marketing organization and delivering personalized content. He demonstrates a product called Oracle Content and Experience Cloud. He’s able to search unstructured data (pictures) that is not tagged. He provides a search criteria of “car tire” and pictures of car tires are returning. There are also a number of suggested images. The tool seems to understand what’s in the images.

Next, he creates a blog post through this Oracle Content and Experience Cloud app. Based on the description that he types into the blog post, the image feature auto-searches the bank and returns matches based on the text description.

Now he’s showing a proof of concept which is similar in principle to the photo search, but searches videos. He’s looking for a clip of car tires and 2 videos return. When he goes to play one of the videos, instead of showing the entire video, the product jumps to the part of the video that applies to car tires. This product seems to understand moving images.

They’re moving ahead to digital assistants (chatbots). This is an area near and dear to my heart since my ODTUG Kscope18 and Kscope19 conference committees worked with a company called AuraPlayer to develop a digital assistant as an information resource for Kscope conference attendees.

Francisco Stasi (CEO of Jatana & BotSupply) shows a demo of how his company uses digital assistants. This is a Scandinavian company and they’re talking about some of the language challenges they have with technology. He talks about how difficult it is to build a chatbot “that doesn’t suck.” They built a chatbot that understands 36 different languages. They also use Oracle Service Cloud to automate customer support emails.

Francisco shows a demo where he’s pretending to be a customer sending a support inquiry. He fills out the form, then goes over to Oracle Service Cloud to view the support email. With the push of a button, a response gets composed and…it’s pretty good and even human sounding.

He also shows a demo of a chatbot assistant built into a webpage. This chatbot speaks Italian. Francisco types in that he wants to speak to an agent. The chatbot shows a button that he can press to chat with an agent.

And now Blockchain is up. The word “security” is often used in tandem with Blockchain. Here are some stats on Blockchain:

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Now Doug Johnson-Poensgen (CEO of Circulor) is going to speak on how they use Blockchain across the globe. They use blockchain in a supply chain scenario. Specifically, they use it to trace the source of conflict minerals (for example, cobalt, an essential component of lithium-iron batteries comes from the Africa’s Republic of the Congo, which is a high risk area for conflict minerals). They wanted to know with absolute certainty the exact source of their minerals.

Doug shows a demo via his mobile phone. He talks about the typical end user who doesn’t care about how all of this technology is built behind the scenes. The purpose of the app is to allow you to register users and scan materials. They use facial recognition to log into the app. They use plastic tags with QR codes which are used for scanning. The tag is completely worthless to anyone, so this makes the tags low risk for theft. The app has geolocation security as well (ensuring that you’re supposed to be in the area that you are really in vs. spoofing your location). Then he scans the tag. Unfortunately, technical difficulties forced him to move forward in the demo. I believe it’s supposed to take in the data from the scan and send it into the Cloud.

Wow. He’s now showing the data in Oracle Analytics Cloud, specifically data visualization. I wasn’t expecting that. The scans are showing in a data table and there are graphs built on top of that data that show the volume of material passing through the supply chain, anomalies, and more.

Now Simon Nicholson (Sr. Director of Oracle Product Management) has taken the stage. He’s talking about the versatility of Blockchain beyond the typical use cases (ledgers, contracts, and cryptography). He’s excited about Blockchain’s newly realized use cases in supply chain, warranty and usage tracking, and chain monitoring (e.g. tracing back products marked as unsafe, like when there’s a bad batch of over the counter medicine).

Simon is now showing a demo of Oracle Intelligent Track and Trace, which combines BlockChain, IoT, and AI. We’re seeing a dashboard of sorts that uses color coding to indicate an issue with an example product order. Visuals of the product’s history as well as geolocation tracking are shown. The product can also show you the exact location of the product within each step of the process, by date and time. This allows customers to trace back to exactly when and where a problem occurred.

Next up is IoT. Diego is from Booster Fuels (“you park, we pump”). It’s a company that brings fuel to people. They’re using enterprise-grade IoT and cloud native services. The company was founded just 5 short years ago. They are disrupting the traditional fuel supply chain. They use IoT sensors and specially made fuel trucks that can hold up to 1,200 gallons of fuel. These trucks are also equipped with iPads to help direct and manage them. They use a cloud-native technology stack, and almost everything is running inside of Kubernetes inside of OCI. Their consumer experience runs out of a mobile app. Customers request a “boost” and a delivery time. Customers can also add on other services. Then, upon confirmation, someone from Booster Fuels comes and supplies the customer fuel.

Ashish wraps up (we’re over time) and mentions that everything mentioned is available as part of the new Always Free tier.

Session: The F Words: Founder, Female, and Future

I’ve been looking forward to attending a WIT (women in technology) or DIT (diversity in technology) session all week. There have been several, but I haven’t been able to attend them. Today, we have some strong folks representing on this panel today:

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The first topic is about the progress of gender equality. The panel seems to agree the momentum has picked up over the years and the progress made is positive, yet the pace seems to have slowed recently.

The number of women in Fortune 500 Executive roles has actually decreased in recent years.

It’s also agreed that women need more role models in executive leadership.

There is an acknowledgement that the diversity in today’s session is representative of what we’re seeing in society. There actually is decent representation by gender and diversity compared to years past.

Some quotes from the panel that resonated with me, personally:

Women now earn 57% of Bachelor’s Degrees, so this is the majority. There isn’t a supply issue in the workforce.

It’s important to put diversity goals directly into the business.

Men have been the greatest beneficiaries of this problem, therefore, we need to be the biggest champions of change.

The stories that we tell are gender imbalanced. Men have a responsibility to set a stage that is equal.

Jenny Griffiths, who hires a lot of engineers, finds challenges in hiring female engineers. She has expanded her search for female candidates by proactively advertising her company’s hiring needs in non-traditional channels.

Rahim talks about the gender journey that his company has faced. One example is the happy hour events they used to host. Women were not able to attend because they had to leave work early to pick up their kids, and/or some did not feel safe in an evening environment that involved alcohol consumption. He’s learned to be more cognizant of these unconscious biases.

Rupal discusses Oracle’s approach to diversity and inclusion. Their programs are comprehensive and include multiple audiences: interns, college recruiting, and career progression. In addition, they have great employee resource groups, which bring communities together and cater to the needs of each unique community. They have a professional Asian leaders organization, for example.

The biggest gender gap is entry level to promotion.

Jenny recalls a story from her early career where a male colleague was promoted over her. When she challenged HR on it, they mentioned that the decision was based on age perception – she looked too young. If there is a young talent in an organization who is progressing beyond their age, how do you nurture this?

Rupal believes that, if companies want to move forward with true diversity and inclusion, there should be measurements within KPIs that are about retaining, nurturing, and progressing.

It’s about sponsorship and mentorship: getting it and giving it.

There are differences between mentorship and sponsorship. It’s important to understand who your sponsors are and, as a sponsor, to give tough love.

Only 30 years ago, women weren’t allowed to secure business loans without a male signature.

As a female founder, fund raising is the biggest challenge that Jenny has faced. She has handled this in the past by calling people out. She believes that very few women get funded. Rahim believes that men can drive change in this area by tying diversity to business goals. In addition, he firmly believes that women can find allies out there who can assist them with funding.

Session: The Changing World of Analytics – What’s Happening in the Real World

This was Edward Roske’s session, so I attended to support him. I’ve heard a flavor of this presentation before (or at least the technical version of it). This session is about the history of Analytics, how Analytics are impacting businesses, use cases of how Analytics are being used in the real world, and predictions.

I won’t go into all of the details of this session (there’s a version of it on our webcast replay website). Instead, I will comment on the fact that it’s clear that many large customers are still not informed on what has changed regarding Essbase and the Oracle Analytics suite. I’m surprised that we’re already in mid-Sept and the information announced during ODTUG Kscope19 back at the end of June has still not been fully disseminated to all of the customers directly impacted by it.

Session: Connect the Dots – Delivering Successful Analytics Across the Cloud and On-Premises

This session was presented by Alan Lee, who’s on the Oracle Analytics Product Management team. If you didn’t hear the news (which I alluded to in the previous session notes), this past June, Oracle Analytics Cloud split itself. Essbase is no longer included within it – Essbase is going to a standalone product. In addition, Oracle Analytics is now available as Cloud (Oracle Analytics Cloud) or on-prem with Oracle Analytics Server. There’s even another option called Applications, but that is not the focus of this session. Therefore, note that the following session notes refer to the Oracle Analytics tools that are available to license now, and *does not* include Essbase any more.

The Oracle Analytics Server availability ETA is now December 2019 (#safeharbor). It’s available as a free upgrade for existing OBIEE customers and it’s fully compatible with Oracle Analytics Cloud. Current feature capabilities of Oracle Analytics:

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Deployment options for Oracle Analytics – Oracle is offering much flexibility so that customers can choose if they want to be on-prem, Cloud, mixed:

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On-prem will be fully portable to the Cloud. There will be migration utilities from Oracle Analytics Server to Cloud. There will also be migration utilities to move OBIEE to Oracle Analytics.

I’ve always liked the theory of this feature – “connect to anything” – and Oracle has made it clear that they mean this, as they connect to rival vendor data sources:

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Data Gateway is a new feature that has only recently been added. It allows connectivity to data sources that are not publicly accessible (i.e. behind a firewall).

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Remote Data Connector is the legacy version of this new tool, and it has since been sunset. There were challenges with that product and a cumbersome architecture, which is why it was replaced with Data Gateway.

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If you’re an on-prem OBIEE customer, you’ll still use the RPD and lift it to the Cloud using the Data Gateway with the “Use Remote Data Connector” option checked.

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Session: The New Face of Oracle Analytics

This session is being presented by my friend, Stewart Bryson, who is always a great speaker and a guru on Analytics. I decided to stay in this room (that I haven’t left for 3 sessions) to support him.

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One of the strengths of Stewart’s presentations is his supporting visuals. Low text, strong graphics, and great connection with the audience.

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Stewart is giving us a lesson in legacy mentality as it relates to relational databases, data structures, total cost of ownership, platform, and implementation approaches. Stewart is selling us on a philosophy and not necessarily a product.

One of the biggest takeaways from this session is getting out of the consolidation mentality – keeping all data in a single location and holding off on innovation because of this need to consolidate. Other notes:

Oracle Analytics Cloud makes it easy to spin off a new instance.

It doesn’t make sense any more not to leverage the Cloud to enable the business. It might lead to silos and users calculating things on their own.

If a user needs answers, they will find them.

“Undifferentiated heavy lifting” – a term coined by Amazon. If you’re spending time on heavy lifting that doesn’t give you any value, stop doing it. Have the technology do it for you.

Stewart is demo’ing two different use cases for Oracle Analytics: one for an IT manager which leverages a typical, centralized, relational database. Stewart shows how to spin up a sandbox environment for that group that allows them to “play” without risk to the main data container.

The second use case is for a Sales manager who uses their own analytics tool. He demos how to spin up an autonomous database that they can leverage with their own tool. Stewart makes the case that it’s OK to have people not use a centralized, enterprise data container – let them do their own thing because the technology allows for this so easily now and the advantage of the new analytics is more valuable.

Start saying yes.

Nightly Activities

This night was my latest by far, and pretty tame in comparison to past years. I started the night by going over to the ODTUG meetup at Johnny Foley’s, a piano bar. It’s the best after hours party at Oracle Open World. I could only be there for an hour before leaving for a celebratory dinner with interRel. So I left before the pianos got started.

The dinner with interRel was short and sweet – we did a quick hurrah for winning our esteemed Oracle awards at a bar down the street and then took off for our respective nightly activities.

When I got back to Foley’s the ODTUG party was in full swing. People were dancing, the drinks were flowing, and it was a grand time. We danced until we got kicked out. The Oracle Analytics product team showed off their moves, as usual.

I got back to my room (across the street) just after midnight and got some sleep.

Day 4 (Wednesday)

The morning started with crazy people screaming outside my window at random times. The first was probably close to 2am. Then at 5am. Then right after I got up. I guess city folks just get used to this.

I got ready and raced over to Moscone West for a video interview with AuraPlayer. This was another video about the ODTUG Kscope18 and Kscope19 chatbot, but for AuraPlayer’s website.

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Taly, my AuraPlayer video coordinator, and I then took turns taking pictures in Oracle’s “big swing” in Moscone West.

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Session: Reimagining Finance and Operations at Oracle

Hosted by Chris Kite, the VP of the Global Business Strategy and Analytics at Oracle facilitated an executive panel with Winston Wang (VP of UX ERP), Matt Bradley (SVP, Product Development for EPM), Ivgen Gunner (Sr. VP, Global Business Finance), and Stefan Schmitz (VP Product Management for Analytics Applications).

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They first gave their top 5 predictions for Finance 2025 and we voted on which one we thought would come true:

  1. People and machine work together in new ways
  2. ERP becomes agile
  3. Operating models are upended
  4. New finance talent models emerge
  5. Real-time reporting becomes the norm

They then each discussed how their role has been changing as a result of these emerging technologies and business disruptions.

They also talked about the relationship between the business and product development and how Oracle themselves is one of their biggest business partners.

Matt Bradley talked a bit about machine learning and how it’s very much follows the practice of “garbage in, garbage out”, so the cleansing of the data is very important. In addition, that these emerging technologies are not about replacing humans, but enabling humans.

Stefan talks about a world of analytics where the technology not only reports and analyzes on important KPI’s but also determines for customers which KPI’s are critical. Also, it generates a narrative that highlights key trends, outliers, and more.

They also talk a lot about “Project Pythia”. All members of this panel are sponsors of this project at Oracle. Rondy Ng, a guest executive speaker, makes a special appearance to talk about the genesis of Project Pythia, which is based on a simple conversation between Ivgen and Rondy. Rondy also talks about making ERP easier to use, and the concept of continuous close.

An audience member keenly asks about if it’s possible to remove the congestion of Excel.

We’re never going to eliminate, completely, the use of Excel

-Stefan Schmitz

Another audience member asks how to achieve continuous close today. Rondy says much of this comes from the ability to standardize and simplify and automate. He then goes onto how Cloud can help enable the technical processes related to the business processes.

Session: Alpha Girls – How Women Win

This is another female empowerment session. The author of the book Alpha Girls, Julian Guthrie, is the presenter of this session. Unfortunately, I arrived late due to a lengthy Starbucks line. Here is an excerpt from her book:

An unforgettable story of four women who, through grit and ingenuity, became stars in the cutthroat, high-stakes, male dominated world of venture capital in Silicon Valley, and helped build some of the foremost companies of our time.

In Alpha Girls, award-winning journalist Julian Guthrie takes readers behind the closed doors of venture capital, an industry that transforms economies and shapes how we live. We follow the lives and careers of four women who were largely written out of history – until now.

Julian talks about important 5 lessons from these “alpha girls” and goes into each woman’s story:

  1. Humor works wonders (based on MJ Elmore’s story)
  2. Don’t sit on the sidelines (based on Sonja Perkins’ story)
  3. Make male allies (based on Theresia Gouw’s story)
  4. Be your own champion (based on Magdalena Yesil‘s story)
  5. Your family doesn’t need you every second (also based on Magdalena‘s story)

Groundbreaker’s Diversity Power Hour Event

Jennifer Nicholson expanded the WIT concept to a diversity in technology concept and hosted a “diversity power hour” event in the Groundbreaker’s Hub. It was a nice event with networking, food, and drinks. Thanks to Jennifer for celebrating  our unique differences!

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Session: Thought Leader: The Future of Human-Robot Interaction

This session was hosted by Dr. Kate Darling, who studies the robot-human interaction at MIT.

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I think it’s always funny how these sessions discuss how humans project human characteristics onto robots and respond in very human ways in response to robots. Dr. Darling talks about why these interactions matter. For instance, there was research done on autistic children and robots, and it was discovered that autistic children engage more easily with robots over humans. There was another story about a baby seal robot (called Aparo?) that is used in nursing homes as an effective alternative to medication in calming patients. They’ve found that in cases where real animals can’t be used (due to hygiene, safety, etc.) people will often treat these robots like real animals.

Here’s a demo of a really cute little robot (called Plio) that mimics distress when you mistreat it.

The question she asks is “can we change people’s empathy using robots?” And, “could it be desensitizing to humans to be violent to robots?” There are a lot of interesting moral questions here.

Groundbreaker’s Hub: Volunteer Duty at the Escape Room!

Oracle ACE Directors & Groundbreaker Ambassadors can volunteer to run one of the activities at the Oracle Groundbreakers Hub. As I love escape rooms and have experience with them, I chose this activity, and Stewart Bryson partnered with me. There were 2 different escape rooms, one more challenging than the other.

It was fun and popular – at one point we had 5 teams deep waiting for one of the escape rooms. Good times!

On the way to a fast lunch, I stopped by the booth with the puppy lounge. I miss my own furry babies at home, so this puppy therapy helped.

Session: Embedding a Culture of Innovation into Everyone’s DNA

One of the “thought leader” sessions, this was presented by Duncan Wardle who is the Head of Innovation & Creativity at Disney. And in a world where everyone is constantly looking at their smart phones and oblivious to everything else, our first activity included meeting our neighbors and impersonating roles designed by Duncan.

Common barriers to creativity:

  • Perceived lack of time
  • We’re risk averse
  • You

Definition of creativity: the habit of continuously doing new things in different ways to make a positive difference to our working lives.

Duncan then talks about how adults and children think differently.

Children think expansive…adults think reductive.

Reductionism is the concept of oppressing creative ideas, like telling someone that an idea won’t work because of A, B, or C. One way to stop thinking in a reductionist way is to reframe through a nurturing response.

Stop answering with “No, because…” Instead, start responses with “Yes! And…” This response transfers the power of “my” idea to “our” idea.

Mindfulness is also important.

Our brains are 13% conscious and 87% subconscious.

Rivers of thinking often hold us back from ourselves. One of the best questions to ask in this situation is “what if?” What if all of the barriers were removed? Naive experts are people who don’t work for you and don’t work in your industry. They can help you get out of your river of thinking.

Diversity is undervalued by every company on the planet because they don’t understand the value of it.

This was a very engaging session – Duncan often asked for volunteers to participate in experiments, or asked us to interact with our neighbors in short bursts. It kept the audience lively and awake (which is a challenging feat at this time of day and this far into the conference).

Session: The Washington Post Implements Oracle EPBCS

And for my second and final session of the week, I helped facilitate the second half of the Washington Post EPBCS case study session. This was an interRel project that I was not a part of, so I helped the team craft a presentation flow that would make sense for the Oracle OpenWorld attendees, while adding in a creative way to give context to the Cloud migration experience.

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Nightly Activities

After that last session, Glenn and I took off for dinner and went to a restaurant based on a friend’s recommendation. Burmese food! It was a first for both of us and we found it to be very tasty. The restaurant was packed!

Then we went off to the Oracle concert, featuring John Mayer and Flo Rida.

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By this time, the somewhat late nights, jet lag, and disrupted sleep finally caught up to me. I was exhausted. Glenn had no interest in staying late. Therefore, we trekked to the Oracle ACE Director section and watched John Mayer for a little while. They were serving typical stadium fare (hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, popcorn, soft pretzels, etc.) so we were glad we ate a solid dinner first.

There was a strange moment during John Mayer’s concert where they turned on all of the lights. I’m not sure why (I think it was an accident). I took advantage of those 10 seconds to capture the crowd. I was surprised at how many people showed up for this event.

We were told that John Mayer would be funny, sarcastic, and witty. He did not disappoint.

I’d heard that some folks attended to see the new stadium. I agree that it looked brand new and modern.

We happened to catch Karen Cannell as she was making her way into the ACED section. We watched a bit more with her and then we all left together (Karen had a midnight trans-American flight to catch). I had to get up just after 4am, so it was an early night for me. Too bad – I was really hoping to catch Flo Rida (not realizing that he would take the stage later in the night). Based on Twitter feeds, it sounded like he put on a great set.

Day 5 (Thursday)

I was awoken at 2am by some crazy man screaming outside my window. I tried to go back to sleep, knowing that I was going to be getting up in just a couple of hours. I will have to catch up on sleep upon my return to my nice, comfy bed.

After a series of disappointing misses with ride sharing (I tweeted my story), I finally made it to the airport. So thankful I rebooked through Oakland – no issues with my flight. I am so looking forward to getting back home, seeing my family, and sleeping in my bed back on Central time – I swear my body is still not acclimated to Pacific time, even after a week.

Conclusion

Now that my personal Oracle OpenWorld (OOW) experience is over, here are my summary thoughts.

What OOW19 Got Right

  • This is going to sound completely hypocritical since I’ve run an Oracle conference in the past, but, as a speaker, I love the fact that there are no deadlines for my slide deck, nor anyone checking my slides. However, I will caveat this hypocrisy with one important note: I’m a serious speaker who puts a lot of time and effort into my presentations. I’m not a slacker who will somehow game the system, nor take advantage of it. I follow rules when they’re presented, and I treat my presenter role with respect.
  • Groundbreakers/ACE program experience. The ACED briefing, dinner, swag, Groundbreaker’s Hub, activities, and community are all top notch. This is what will keep me attempting to return to OOW year after year. I even enjoyed my “booth duty” of handling the Escape Rooms – I met some new people and helped guide them through the Escape Room experience!
  • Concert event. Although I’m not a huge fan of John Mayer, the event that is put on the Wednesday night of the conference is well done. It’s always at a comfortable venue with free food and drinks, and people get into it even if they don’t recognize the music.
  • Direct contact with the Oracle product management and development teams. They always show up in good numbers and have as many sessions as OOW will allow so you can reach out to them, connect, and talk shop.
  • The variety of Oracle products showcased. EPM is a very small part of OOW, so it’s an opportunity to branch out and see what other products look like, as well as hear Oracle’s strategies at an enterprise-wide level.
  • The mini triathlon experience set up by the Oracle database team. Jeff Smith and Connor McDonald were part of the team that hosted 3 events this year (run, swim, bike), that, when put together, make up a mini triathlon. This event is not only for Oracle database folks – all Oracle people are welcome. They are very passionate about this mini triathlon, have continued the tradition over the years, and I always look out for it when I can attend OOW.
  • The non-technical content. I don’t come to OOW to learn technical stuff – that’s handled very well by the Oracle EPM and Analytics teams via webcasts between conferences. Therefore, I appreciate the content focused on soft skills and other topics impacting the technology world, like diversity and inclusion, cultivating innovation, and more.
  • Not directly under control of OOW, but deserves a mention: the annual ODTUG OOW meetup event. This happens the Tuesday night of OOW at Johnny Foley’s, which is a basement piano bar. I love my ODTUG community, and I love that we can bond over music, drinks, and fun.
  • The backdrop of San Francisco. Don’t get me wrong – it has its pros and cons, but I can expect good weather, a variety of activities to experience, excellent food, and character.

What OOW19 Could do Better

  • Crowd management. It was the most bizarre thing watching security draw silly lines around the building entrances and escalators, often bottlenecking flow for what seemed like no good reason. We could only enter the door halfway down the street because the door closest to 4th street was blocked off for reasons no one could understand. Only Keynote attendees could go down this escalator – the rest of the folks had to go to the other side of the building instead. It created a lot of inefficiencies and confusion, and I’m still not sure why.
  • OpenAir has a lot of kinks to work out. A new OpenAir audio system was rolled out this year. It was for areas of the conference where the session “rooms” (curtain-separated spaces that were used to divide large spaces like ballrooms into 10+ small session rooms) had thin walls. The attendees were asked to wear headphones to hear the speaker, and the speaker was asked to also wear headphones to hear audience questions. This created several issues:
    • While wearing the headphones, the speaker could hear themselves speak and it was very loud. I asked my session attendees to hold all questions until the end because I couldn’t present well with the headphones on due to this distraction.
    • Natural conversation in each room was not possible, which disrupted the organic nature of presentations. Audience members couldn’t hear each other – mics were required or questions had to be repeated.
    • If any random mics were left on in the room, the feedback from them disrupted the audio that everyone heard, making it actually more difficult to hear the presentation.
    • While wearing my headphones to hear audience Q&A, every time I stepped outside of some invisible line, my headphones would cut out completely and I couldn’t hear a thing. It forced me to present from a very small area, which also disrupts the natural flow of presentations.
    • The number of audience members was limited by the number of audience headphones. Once they were out, you didn’t want to stay for the session because you just couldn’t hear anything naturally.
    • I’m not sure if this is really what was happening, but I didn’t see the headphones being wiped or cleaned in any way between sessions.
  • The main crosswalks between Moscone North and South were not cordoned off. Many of my seasoned OOW friends mentioned this. This created more pedestrian congestion between the buildings. In years past, Oracle used to halt traffic in this area so that attendees could walk unimpeded between 2 of the 3 main Moscone buildings.
  • The search feature in the mobile app was pretty useless. If I searched on part of a speaker’s name in the scheduler it wouldn’t bring up any sessions. Even a full speaker’s name (and correctly spelled) didn’t yield any sessions. I had to go into the Speaker option and fully and correctly spell their name there to find them.
  • I had this complaint the first time I came to OOW. I wish there were a better way to communicate all of the events and sessions. OOW is just so large and overwhelming and there is so much that doesn’t apply to my industry. With only 45 minute sessions and so many new makeshift session rooms, they have probably thousands of sessions. It’s easy to get lost. There are also so many keynotes – I still don’t know what I should be attending and what I’ve missed.

About the Many Oracle Announcements

There were quite a few announcements made about a large range of Oracle products. Unfortunately, none of the ones I heard impact the EPM industry in a huge way at this point. I’ll have to do some catching up later to see if I missed anything.

OOW is a wrap! Thank you to ODTUG and Oracle for allowing me to present/co-present on 2 total sessions. And thank you to the folks who attended our interRel sessions.

I am very energized by all of the ACE folks I finally got to meet in person. Next year, I hope to do this all over again.

Until next time!

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