Conferences are back! Although we’re not out of the woods yet for COVID-19, it’s clear that we’ve rounded the corner for quarantine. I felt this very strongly at Oracle’s first in-person, global conference since 2019. I was not the only one who was pleasantly surprised by the turnout.
My first indication of the pleasant events to come was the KPMG banner waiting above my baggage claim when I arrived at the Las Vegas airport.
This was just the first of many expensive displays throughout Oracle’s grand event. More greeted me throughout Cesar’s Forum and the Venetian, where Oracle was hosting the conference.
Given what we’ve all been through the past 2-3 years and the lack of in-person anything, this conference was quite spectacular. It goes to show you what a conference looks like when the host and the sponsors have deep pockets.
Monday was a non-event day. I arrived on Monday afternoon and chose to pick up my badge at Cesar’s Forum. We had 2 locations where we could register. As I suspected, there was no wait at the location I chose. No fan fare, either, compared to what I heard was happening at the Venetian registration area.
But I didn’t care. I had errands to run so I was happy to get through this check-in process efficiently. Oracle made it easy, too, by sending you a QR code in an email that you just had to scan.
Security was an obvious change this year compared to past years. Roughly 1-2 weeks prior to the conference start, a random stabbing had occurred on the Vegas strip outside of the Wynn. I’m guessing this was one reason why security was stepped up.
For example, I had to go through metal detectors anytime I stepped foot inside the conference areas. This created a bit of a delay at times, but the serious-looking tall men in dark suits with sniffer dogs helped me feel secure at Oracle’s new location of choice.
Side note: Oracle has done events in Vegas before. However, many of us are used to the big shindig (previously known as Oracle Open World) happening all over San Francisco and not Las Vegas. One of the main reasons why I wanted to attend this year was to see how Oracle scattered itself across the Vegas strip.
After grabbing my badge, I got settled in. I was staying at the Linq, which I will now affectionately call the Spirit Airlines of Vegas strip hotels. With no food or beverages (or a fridge) in sight in my small hotel room, I needed to grab some provisions and catch up on project work. So I got down to business, then took a shower, and joined some of my EPMI friends for dinner.
Vegas has amazing food. I could eat somewhere different every day of the year and not run out of new places to try. And it is almost guaranteed to be tasty food no matter where I go. I met up with the EPMI team and some of EPMI’s customers at Mott 32 and the food was divine. Focused time with customers is always a good thing – it’s nice to get to know the people behind the virtual meeting faces.
I then turned in before midnight and was glad to catch some Z’s early on in my conferencing.
Tuesday was the start of sessions for me. However, my first scheduled session wasn’t until right before lunch. Therefore, I started my day like many intelligent foodies do on the Vegas strip. I went to one of the most popular breakfast places, Eggslut.
I walked a ways over to the Cosmopolitan, waited in the crazy long line for my super yummy egg sandwich and truffle hashbrowns, then went back to my hotel to eat. After working for a few hours, I went to my first session.
One of the issues that was immediately noticeable was the attendance limit for sessions. I was smart enough to download the Oracle Events app 1-2 weeks in advance and sign up for sessions early. I did not realize this would be an important detail for my experience at Oracle Cloud World. Due to reasons I can only guess at now (fire hazards, security, etc.), there was a maximum number of attendees allowed in each session room. Once the app registered that limit, everyone else was forced to be waitlisted.
Although I was sharp enough to book my sessions in advance, I made the dumb move of canceling many while attempting to switch them last minute. This caused me to lose my “reservation” and have to be waitlisted. On Tuesday, the first good day of sessions for EPM, it wasn’t an issue to be waitlisted. You could show up to the session room, stand in a waitlist line (shown below), then get into a session room a few minutes before it started. There were many available seats on Tuesday.
However, the jig was up by Wednesday. Attendees realized what was happening and started actually showing up for their reserved sessions. Waitlist lines became a waste of time.
The first session I went to that morning was about diversity. Diversity in Tech is a very important topic to me. Basically, we need more of it. The amazing Carla Harris gave a thought provoking presentation about diversity, inclusion, and leadership. She was the best orator I saw at the conference and I thoroughly enjoyed her session.
Next, I decided to test out the OCW22 lunch.
For those of you who used to attend the Oracle Open world event in San Francisco, I know what expression you have on your face right now. But you would be wrong. I thought the same thing and I was wrong, too.
Back in the pre-COVID days, Oracle put on a dismal lunch at Open World every year. Like, a cold, tasteless, avoid-at-all-costs box lunch. But if you really thought about it, you couldn’t blame them. In their hey day, Oracle was feeding 40,000-60,000 attendees.
Times have changed. At Oracle Cloud World, food was unlimited and lunch was a hot buffet. Breakfast was cold. Coffee, juice, and hot tea were served with it. Lunch was always hot and served with iced tea, coffee, and soda. There was a variety of food options for various types of diets.
The lunch I had on Tuesday at the Venetian (one of 2 locations for lunch) was the BEST conference lunch I’ve ever had. (Note that I eat just about everything, however, and do not follow a special diet.)
I’m not kidding. I didn’t think anything could top the hot, seated lunch I had at RMOUG many years ago. And no, I wasn’t suffering from some contact high from my 12-minute walk from the Linq to the Venetian.
This picture doesn’t do it justice, but my lunch was superb. Remember that I had eaten the very best of Eggslut just a few hours before, so hangriness wasn’t even clouding my judgment.
What you see here on my plate is a mixture of *sea bass*, various fresh and scrumptious salads, vegetable lasagne, a tasty bread roll, and a near perfect key lime dessert. They also served *cans* of soda. Cans, people! Do you know how expensive those are? If you’ve never run a conference before, your jaw would drop if you knew what hotels charged for each individual can.
But I digress. I must be hungry. Let’s just say I was shocked at how good the food was.
Next, I explored the rest of the convention hall and surrounding areas. I grew increasingly excited, eyes wide, as I perused the large displays and thrummed in rhythm to the DJ playing in the lobby outside of the convention hall.
Yes, Oracle hired a DJ, and he played music all day long, every day, at the Venetian registration area, right out side of the exhibit hall.
In addition, there were probably several dozen helpers spread all over the conference locations. Good move, Oracle. Not only did you create a bunch of jobs for your event, but some of these folks were super kind and cool. For those of you who attended, did any of you spy that one helper who was jamming out to the DJ every single day? Dance party, right there in the registration lobby. They were loving life.
Here are some images and videos to give you an idea of what the experience was like. Note that most of these photos were taken before the crowds entered, as I was early to lunch on Tuesday and this was when the convention hall first opened to the public.
Next, I took the opportunity to grab my Oracle Cloud World swag. I was impressed. This included a metal water bottle (with many notices distributed around the conference promoting the filling of your water bottle to reduce waste). It also included a thin zip hoodie. I’m using both items as I write this. The hoodie is great for slightly chilly days and the water bottle is the perfect size for my gym workouts.
Then, I wandered over to the Oracle ACE lounge. I had volunteered for booth duty that day.
I was very fortunate to be able to attend Oracle Cloud World with no registration cost because the ACE program gave me a free pass. I was not expected to do anything directly in return. So when Jennifer Nicholson asked me and some other female Oracle ACE Directors to pass out ACE swag, we didn’t hesitate to jump in and help. It was a big task, and it was fun. There were something like 50+ ACES onsite at this premiere event.
We were spoiled again this year by the ACE program. ACE Directors and ACE Pros received a plush hoodie, a polo shirt, a keychain, and a luggage tag. And all ACES got formally printed certificates and laptop stickers showing our ACE achievement.
The Oracle ACE family is a special lot. They are always present at Oracle conferences, so you have a guaranteed friend when you need one. This is how I met some of my longer-term work friends. Now that I’m on my own in an independent consultant lifestyle, my Oracle ACE family is a comfortable home I can hang out in at events. I appreciate the many friends I’ve made in this program.
Afterward, one of my Oracle conference besties, Mia Urman, CEO of AuraPlayer and an all around kickass woman, decided to treat me and her employees to dinner. Mia’s company did some work for me and the ODTUG Kscope conference committee in the past and we’ve been conference besties ever since. We went to the very snazzy Wakuda, where the chef was rumored to be a Michelin-star winner in Japan.
Surprisingly, the food experience there was subpar, and we did not enjoy much of our meal. But we had a grand time laughing together. And Mia even took a business meeting over dessert. I got to witness her powerhouse self in action first hand!
After dinner, Mia and I attended the Argano party at Tao Night club. It was wild.
If you ever attended the crazy CSS parties at Collaborate and watched the Conference Room Pilots band play live, then you know what I’m talking about. CSS joined the Argano conglomerate and their past Collaborate party essentially got bigger at this event. It was a great time.
I stayed for a short bit with Mia and then we left. I don’t handle travel nor time zone changes well, so I was running on fumes by that point.
And yet…Mia had other plans. Do you know those places in the mall where they have neck and shoulder massages right there in the middle of the floor? Mia had been in Vegas for a number of days before me and her body wasn’t adjusting well. The next thing I know she screamed “MASSAGES!” and then we were heading to our own massage chairs.
Right there in the middle of the Forum Shops at Cesar’s Palace.
With people bustling all around us.
Yes, we were those people for a half hour. And it was amazing. And I wished we had chosen full hour massages instead.
Finally, sometime in the middle of the night I made it back to my room. And fell right asleep.
Since I had figured out the session thing by Wednesday, I had a full day of EPM sessions that day. I attended multiple panels on: moving from on-prem or from an Oracle competitor to Oracle Cloud EPM, practical rollouts of EDM, and multiple customer stories on Planning & Forecasting. I’ll share my EPM observations in a bit.
First, breakfast! It was going to be my first breakfast at OCW, and, after the previous day’s lunch, I was excited. Breakfast, as mentioned before, was expected to be cold. On this morning, it was in the form of protein boxes. I love me a good protein box (especially from Starbucks), and this one did not disappoint.
I was sufficiently full after my breakfast and went off to the Oracle ACE lounge to catch up with some Oracle and Oracle ACE friends I missed at Kscope. I also did a quick on-camera interview for the Oracle ACE program. Then I marched off to sessions.
The EPM customer panels were well run this year. They were mostly one hour long and uber efficient. Most had 3 customers from various sized companies and they each presented only the pertinent bullet points: why they moved to Oracle Cloud EPM, their final architecture, and benefits realized. It was great information condensed down to a small handful of slides. I hope Oracle and Oracle user groups continue this format at future conferences.
After several sessions, I went off to lunch. Sadly, Wednesday’s lunch was not as stellar as Tuesday’s, but it was still a hot feast of options…and it was still better than most of the conference lunches I’ve had.
After lunch, I attended the ACE “chocolate tasting” event. This started several years ago. I missed the past ones and was determined to skip a session this year to attend.
The way this works is ACEs bring chocolates and other sweets from their home country. Then we share them. I actually forgot to bring mine, so Mia handed me her sweets since she had to cancel due to a customer meeting. There was an amazing buffet of chocolates and other sweets from all over the world and I enjoyed my fill.
I hung out there for a while. Then I went to go have a quick drink with my buddy Alix Lascola. We got into a discussion about “good people.” He’s one of those for sure, as are many in the Oracle EPM world. I always have great discussions with Alix and we love to laugh and just enjoy life and talk about both shop and personal things. Good times.
Then, Wednesday night was the Oracle ACE dinner. The entire onsite ACE group got in a few nice photos together. The ACE ladies followed with our own group picture, below:
Jennifer and the ACE program treated us to a wonderful Italian meal and our ACE group took up an entire room. It was multiple courses. And I couldn’t help myself.
Since there are very few EPM folks in the ACE program now, I sat at a table filled with Database folks, half of whom I already knew. Most of them live in Dallas. It was a good conversation. I was so full…and tired.
Wednesday night was the special Oracle event.
In years past in San Francisco, this event was always in the form of a musical concert held offsite. Surprisingly, Oracle hosted this year’s in the Venetian, right where the pivotal Oracle keynotes were presented. Since I had prioritized EPM sessions, I wasn’t able to attend any keynotes.
The special event space was way bigger than I expected. They had drinks and snacks everywhere. I really enjoyed the decor.
And the performance was like a real concert you’d pay money to see. It was standing room only (and packed).
As the Steve Miller Band isn’t in my favorite genre of music, I stayed for a few songs and then left. I’m glad I attended, however.
Thursday was technically the last day of the conference and the whole event formally ended at 2pm. However, due to the need to be in a quiet space to run customer meetings, I had to stay one more night.
I chose work over breakfast, then went to sessions, said my goodbyes at the Oracle ACE lounge, and concluded my conference week at Oracle’s final lunch.
On this last day it was a DIY box lunch. I groaned with PTSD and put together what I wanted. Then I went back to my hotel room and opened it.
For whatever reason, my sandwich was in a section labeled “chicken”. However, it was not a chicken sandwich. It was some kind of Italian cold cut with chow. And it was AMAZEBALLS! I’ve never had a sandwich quite like it and I ate every bite with a bag of my favorite chips, 2 large cookies, and a soda.
I rounded out the work day with more customer calls and then put work away.
Thursday night I hung out with a non-work friend who is temporarily living on the Vegas strip. We had a fantastic seafood meal at Milos. We walked around the Vegas strip talking for hours and catching up, and then I went to bed while the night was young so I could catch an early Friday morning flight. Luckily, there were no delays and my trip home went smoothly.
It took me a full 3 days to recover from Oracle Cloud World! I’m getting old…
Let’s Take a Moment to Appreciate Awesome Conference Swag
For the record, I’m not the kind of person who likes to go around collecting swag at conferences. The last thing I need in my house is more tchotchkes collecting dust.
From what I was told, the best swag at this conference consisted of 3 categories of things: clothing (socks and shirts), bags for carrying swag, and super unique items.
And the winner for the best conference swag goes to a company called Arcion. Take a look at these amazing freebies. Not only did they offer the sexiest clear, rainbow bag to carry all your swag in (very few bags were being handed out), but they also had these fascinating light up screens that you could write on with the included chalk marker. I love mine and use it every day – I put motivational quotes on it. Thanks, Arcion!
Oracle EPM Observations
As promised, I noted my observations about the EPM sessions I attended. Although the world of Oracle Cloud EPM hasn’t changed significantly during quarantine, what I would say is the customer experience has evolved and continues to evolve.
- In places like Las Vegas, experienced EPM talent can be a rare find. Cloud technology enables remote workers, which is a must in places where local talent runs low. Oracle has been saying this for years (and so have I), but now customers are really seeing the value proposition because quarantine forced it. This message was echoed several times throughout multiple sessions.
- If I may, a direct quote from a customer panelist: “change management is critical.” I can tell customers this until I’m blue in the face but very few seem to earmark dollars for true change management. Pro tip for any customer implementing new software at their organization: change management – just do it. If you’d like tips on strategies that have worked, attend a conference. Many consulting firms can give you advice. Stop me at one – I’d love to have a conversation with you about this very topic!
- If I may, another direct quote from a customer panelist: “listen to your system implementors.” Cloud EPM has now been around for over 8 years. That’s not a lifetime in software, but it’s a wealth of experience to know what works and what doesn’t. Budget for change management. Budget for that management reporting cube you didn’t realize you needed until your implementor told you. And if I may, don’t skimp on reporting, either. 😉
- Remember when “Cloud” was the bad guy? Who could trust Cloud when Oracle EPM first moved there? Was data secure in the Cloud? Now that the early adopters have vetted the software, being in the Cloud is now listed in the benefits column. This was a common theme in the presentations I saw. A number of my Cloud customers, past and present, come from industries that you’d think would be the last to trust the Cloud. They weren’t risk-takers, they were smart. It’s no longer a matter of “when”, but “we want to be there yesterday“.
- Some customers are measuring their direct ROI by going to the Cloud. Designer Brands saved half of their processing time by switching from manual to Cloud. Half! And Precision Castparts Corporation reduced their close time by 3-5 business days.
- And yet, many customers are still on-prem, even if the software is end-of-life. I attended a packed session where more than half of the room was still on-prem, mostly HFM. They were quite eager to get more information about moving to Oracle Cloud EPM and the generally fast implementation times. There is much opportunity here for system implementors.
- Multiple customers mentioned they did an evaluation against SAP’s Business Planning & Consolidation (BPC) and chose Oracle Cloud EPM. I was surprised how much this came up.
- Finally, it seemed like every customer chosen to speak did multi-application implementations. They really leveraged their Oracle Cloud EPM footprint. Sometimes this took months to implement and sometimes it took years. The common products implemented included: FCC, ARC, PCM, Planning, and/or EDM.
I have a few other observations from this conference as well.
- Society has demanded the end of quarantine. There were tens of thousands of attendees at OCW (I was given real numbers by several Oracle employees) and hardly anyone was masking. I started my travel journey with a mask but ended up shedding it once I got to my hotel. There were reports that some attendees had to leave early or could not attend due to COVID, so I imagine this could have been a spreader event. However, no one in my friend circles reported getting it. Conferences are back, Baby!
- As I lunched and breakfasted with complete strangers in the convention hall, I took a moment to talk to them about their experience at this conference. None of them happened to be in EPM, and, based on the small sampling of the population I spoke to, most of them of were customers. Most went only to Oracle’s conference each year and hadn’t heard of conferences put on by user groups. I find that super interesting. I’m not sure what that means for the Oracle user groups that have taken notable hits during quarantine.
- The convention hall was enormous and deep. Unfortunately, EPM was not formally recognized there. You had to look for EPM vendors in the ERP section. Oracle moved EPM under ERP years ago, so this was somewhat expected. I don’t think this means anything significant. I didn’t see formal spaces for Analytics, APEX, and Essbase, either. I only cried a little about it. 😩
- I didn’t see many Oracle EPM product managers at OCW, but an Oracle employee told me it was difficult to get travel funded to the event unless you met certain criteria for customers, sessions, etc. Competition across Oracle’s entire ecosphere was high. To me, all this means is EPM content is more technical and more prevalant at user group conferences. And, at the end of the day, that probably makes sense.
If I had to do it all over again and pay travel money out of my own pocket again to attend, would I? Yes! Although these Oracle-hosted conferences are generally geared towards Sales & Marketing and wining & dining customers and decision-makers, this Cloud Vegas version is an interesting take.
So how does Oracle’s conference rank now that it’s in Las Vegas? On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the lowest rating and 10 being the highest, I give them a solid 7. I was pleasantly surprised at the turnout and execution. Honestly, I think it only gets better from here. If 2022 has proven anything, it’s that IN-PERSON CONFERENCES ARE BACK, and I, for one, am super excited!
Oracle has already started advertising next year’s conference. Oracle Cloud World will be in Las Vegas September 18-21, 2023.
Maybe I’ll see you there? 🙂
9 thoughts on “Oracle Does Vegas: A Recap of Oracle Cloud World 2022 #OCW22”
Awesome recap, Opal. Thanks for sharing your experience.
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Thank you for your kind words, as always. Hope all is well with you!
Awesome stuff, Opal!
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Thank you! Appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.
Thanks so much Opal for the Recap. I would have loved to attend this new version in Vegas. It made me want to go back
Thank you for your kind remarks!
Can you believe the year they decide us “public sector”
Employees can’t be in the ACE program anymore, is the year I get to MISS this. 😦
Your conference recaps always make me feel like I was right there with you, Opal!
Thank you so much! I didn’t realize public sector employees couldn’t be in ACE. 😩
Awesome write up and very nice summary at the end highlighting customer successes with Cloud EPM.
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