Floyd Teter

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Watching the current trends and future direction of Oracle's Applicationsfteterhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11221041028141787708noreply@blogger.comBlogger426125
Updated: 13 hours 50 min ago

All Good Things Must Come To An End

Tue, 2016-04-05 19:13
All good things must come to an end
           - Geoffrey Chaucer,  "Troilus and Criseyde", circa 1385

Time has proven repeatedly that Chaucer was right.  And, for this blog, the time has come to wrap it up and call it done.

When I decided to rejoin Oracle, I was well-aware of the risk that I might have to dial back or close down my professional presence on social media.  Oracle makes great effort to shape their messages, especially product-related messages, through all available channels...including social media.  And, for the most part, Oracle products are exactly what I've explored with my own social media accounts.

Over the eight months since I've rejoined Oracle, there have been times when the things I write here and on Twitter have "crossed wires" with Oracle's own messaging.  And it's now reached a point where it could distract from what we aiming to achieve as a team.  And we're talking about information related to Oracle's products and services.  Simply stated, as a member of the Oracle team, I adhere to the concept that Oracle has a right to control the messaging about Oracle's products and Oracle's services.

One more thing I'd like to clarify here in this last post:  there is nothing draconian working in the background here.  Nobody at Oracle has threatened my standing within the company if I fail to dial things back.  No slap on the wrist or anything like that.  Quite the opposite:  I'm a member of a team attempting to accomplish significant things, and my commentary on Oracle-related products and services is heading towards becoming a distraction...possibly even a detriment...to that effort.  So don't go there.  This is my decision and mine alone.

Now don't get the idea that I'm done blogging.  I still have some serious passion for user experience, business metrics, SaaS and smart approaches to software design & development.  So it's highly likely that you'll see me start something up on one or more of those subject.  It just won't have an Oracle-related context.  So I'm not done.  I'm just done with this.

So this is it for ORCLville.  This is also it for Oracle-related commentary on my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.  It's been both an educational and a fun ride for me.  Hope y'all got something out of it too.  Keep an eye out on my Twitter account (fetter) - you'll see new things from me in the near future.

UPDATE:  Be sure to check out my new, technology-agnostic blog The Enterprise Software Puzzle!

Customer Service Thinking

Mon, 2016-03-28 11:28
My definition of good customer service is pretty simple:  deliver what you promise.  Period.  You can over-deliver and still make me happy.  But other than that, it's pretty simple.  Tell me what you promise you'll do.  If I sign up for the service, then delivery that service:  on-time, at the price you promised, and make it as easy for me as you promised.  That's it.

Earlier this week, I encountered back-to-back customer service failures with my preferred airline.  The first fail took place when winter weather struck on the runway...waited in the plane on the runway for two hours because the airline failed to have the wing de-icers ready to go.  The second failure occurred when the plane failed a brake inspection prior to boarding; lost two hours and rebooked a later flight.

In both cases, the airline did quite well in providing details for the cause of the delays and expressed profound apologies.  But here is a tip for the airline:  that is not customer service.  You blew it when you failed to deliver your service on-time at the price you promised.  Providing details and status is about mitigating the damages from your failure to provide customer service...it's not good customer service.  In fact, the line defining a customer service failure has already been crossed.

One more customer experience failure this week; I went to my favorite hardware store to shop for a few tools and place a larger order for some building materials (more house remodeling).  The tool shopping went well, but it took two hours to place the order for materials.  The cause of the delay?  Not one of the five service representatives knew how to enter the order into the store's order entry system.  An utter failure of customer service due to a lack of effective training for the team that works with customers.

Now you may be thinking that I've just had a crummy week and I'm using this forum to vent.  On the contrary, it was a good week...because this experience got me to thinking.

You see, Software-as-a-Service is not just about software hosted on a public cloud.  It's about delivering a service.  Telling customers what you promise to do.  Then delivering on that promise.  Including provisioning, implementing, and support...all the activities and exchanges that go into the "Service".

We see too many service fails in the SaaS world.  All the time.  Every day.  Regardless of software vendor.  The industry is still working through the transition from thinking about providing software applications to providing a service...a much, much wider scope of responsibility to our customers.  We need to up the standard - quickly!

Thoughts?  Find the comments.

Tools vs Products

Mon, 2016-03-21 12:17
I have a garage full of neat tools.  Drill press, miter saw, band saw, table saw, power sander, Dremel, several Milwaukee power drills and portable hand saws, gauges, clamps, vise grips...yeah, the works. But I've learned something over the years; other than other people with a shared interest in nifty tools, nobody cares about the tools I have.  What they care about is the speed, quality and cost involved in making things with those tools.  I can own the niftiest hammer on the face of the planet, but few people will care; they care about the house I build, regardless of the coolness of the hammer.

This concept is not limited to traditional shop and construction tools.  Pull out your smartphone.  Take a look at the apps.  Nobody cares about what tools were used to build the app if it misses the mark on quality, speed, ease of use, or cost.

The same holds true for SaaS applications.  Customers don't care about the underlying platform...nor should they, when the idea is to make all that complexity transparent to them.  Customers care about care about speed, ease of implementation and use, quality (including reliability, depth of features and security), how well the application will perform their business process, and the information the application will provide about those executed transactions.

So, to put it bluntly, SaaS is not about the platform nor the development tools.  It's about ease of use, quality, and cost.  Let's stop talking about the technology and start talking about the things that matter.

Knowing Your Cloud From Your SaaS

Mon, 2016-02-29 11:23
I have recently spent far too much time in far too many conversations in which the terms "cloud" and "SaaS" are used interchangeably.  Let's be clear:  the two terms are not interchangeable as they describe very different concepts.

Cloud.  There are many definitions out there.  Marketers and sales people.  Engineers.  Industry analysts. The National Institute of Standard and Technology.  Frankly, most of those definitions are either wrong, or they're technically accurate while thoroughly useless.  So let's go with a simple definition: a computer in a different physical location attached to a network.  It's about physical architecture.  Think about it.  Play with it.  Hit the comments if you have a better definition.

SaaS.  Acronym for "Software as a Service".  Same set of folks attempting to define this idea with the same set of sad results.  Try this on for size:  Applications accessed via a browser, licensed on a subscription basis and delivered via Cloud.

So it's very possible to have Cloud (think hosting operations) without having SaaS.  But there is no SaaS without Cloud.  SaaS is a subset of Cloud.

In "Oracle speak", Fusion Applications (including Taleo), are SaaS.  As a customer, I could also opt to have my licensed E-Business, PeopleSoft, or JD Edwards applications on the cloud...but that is not SaaS, as those applications are not offered on a subscription basis.

So there ya go.  Simple set of definitions.  Yes, there are more nuances if you dig into the subject.  But this is a simple foundation to start.  If nothing else, the next time you're involved in a conversation, you can use this to know your Cloud from your SaaS...which will put you way ahead of the curve ;)


What Is This COE Thing?

Wed, 2016-02-17 12:32
Since joining Oracle, I've heard this same question repeatedly:  "This Oracle HCM Cloud Center Of Excellence team you've joined...what do they do?"  So I thought I'd attempt to answer that question here in the hopes that people may get some benefit from it.

Be aware that you can search the web and find many definitions regarding a Center of Excellence is and what it does.  Forget that stuff, most of it does not apply here.  We're creating an entirely different model.

Our team does not create any of the core elements of the Cloud HCM product: the software nor the service.  We focus on making all aspects of the product better.  At the risk of using language that is already overused in enterprise software, we work to make the customer experience better.  And the work is a mix of strategic initiatives and responses to current issues.

Some of our typical activities include:

  • Providing internal tools and processes for improved delivery of software services
  • Serving as functional and technical experts for strategic customers with unique challenges
  • Creating aids and solutions to help customers move from subscription to Go Live better, faster and cheaper
  • Give feedback to Product Development on wide-spread product issues that may lead to solutions within Cloud HCM products
  • Guiding strategic partners about products, methodologies, and current issues through regularly scheduled "cadence calls".
The upshot is that our team is located at the intersection of product development, delivery, and service.  We're a team of experts in all aspects of Oracle Cloud HCM and we apply that expertise wherever it's needed: internal Oracle teams, strategic partners, and customers.

So there you have it.  That's what we do.  And we're ready for you when you need us. So question answered...I hope...you can let me know in the comments.

Pareto Rocks!

Mon, 2016-02-01 17:55
I'm a big fan of Vifredo Pareto's work.  He observed the world around him and developed some very simple concepts to explain what he observed.  Pareto was ahead of his time.

Some of Dr. Pareto's work is based on the Pareto Principle:  the idea that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes.  In the real world, we continually see examples of the Pareto Principle.

I've been conducting one of my informal surveys lately...talking to lots of partners, customers and industry analysts about their experiences in implementing SaaS and the way it fits their business.  And I've found that, almost unanimously, the experience falls in line with the Pareto Principle.  Some sources vary the numbers a bit, but it generally plays out as follows:

  • Using the same SaaS footprint, 60% of any SaaS configuration is the same across all industries.  The configuration values and the data values may be different, but the overall scheme is the same.
  • Add another 20% for SaaS customers within the same vertical (healthcare, retail, higher education, public sector, etc.)..
  • Only about 20% of the configuration, business processes, and reporting/business intelligence is unique for the same SaaS footprint in the same industry sector between one customer and another.
Many of the customers I've spoken to in this context immediately place the qualifier: "but our business is different."  And they're right. In fact, for the sake of profitability and survival, their business must be different.  Every business needs differentiators.  But it's different within the scope of that 20% mentioned above.  That other 80% is common with everyone in their business sector.  And, when questioned, most customers agree with that idea.

This is what makes the business processes baked into SaaS so important; any business wants to burn their calories of effort on the differentiators rather than the processes that simply represent "the cost of being in business."  SaaS offers the opportunity to standardize the common 80%, allowing customers to focus their efforts on the unique 20%.  Pareto had it right.






Happy New Year: The Zode In The Road

Wed, 2016-01-06 10:31
Happy New Year!  No predictions from me for 2016...we've all seen how poorly that works out.  No resolutions either (although I may open a fitness gym called "Resolutions"...the place converts into a bar at the end of January).   Instead, I simply leave you with the wisdom of Dr. Seuss; something to consider as you kick off the new year.

The Zode In The Road 

Did I ever tell you about the young Zode,
Who came to two signs at the fork in the road?
One said to Place One, and the other, Place Two.
So the Zode had to make up his mind what to do.
Well...the Zode scratched his chin, and his head, and his pants.
And he said to himself, "I'll be taking a chance
If I go to Place One.  Now that place may be hot!
And so how do I know if I'll like it or not?
On the other hand though, I'll be sort of a fool
If I go to Place Two and I find it too cool.
In that case I may catch a chill and turn blue!
So, maybe Place One is the best, not Place Two,
But then again, what if Place One is too high?
I may catch a terrible earache and die.
So Place Two may be best.  On the other hand though...
What might happen to me if Place Two is too low?
I might get some very strange pain in my toe!
So Place One may be best", and he started to go.
Then he stopped, and he said, "On the other hand though... .
On the other hand... On the other hand... On the other hand though...
And for 36 hours and one half that poor Zode
Made starts and stops at the fork in the road
Saying "Don't take a chance! No! You may not be right."
Then he got an idea that was wonderfully bright!
"Play safe!" cried the Zode. "I'll play safe, I'm no dunce!
I'll simply start out for both places at once!"
And that's how the Zode who would not take a chance
Got no place at all with a split in his pants.

So make this the year you take a few chances...

More On Wearable Tech

Mon, 2015-12-14 14:04
I've been going through an amazing experience over the past month plus...purchased and began wearing an Apple iWatch.  Never really thought I would do so...kind of did it on the spur of the moment.  Plus a little push from my team lead at Oracle, who wears one and loves it.

Even after a month of wearing the iWatch, I can't really point at one particular feature that makes it worthwhile.  It's really more a collection of little things that add up to big value.

One example:  I have a reputation far and wide for being late for meetings (could be a Freudian thing, considering how much I detest meetings).  5 minutes before a meeting begins, my iWatch starts to vibrate on my wrist like a nano-jackhammer.  My punctuality for meetings is much improved now, much to the joy of my managers, peers and customers.

Another example:  I can take a phone call wherever I am, distraction free.  That's right, calling Dick Tracy.  Driving, taking a walk, whatever...we can talk now.

Notifications are wonderfully designed...much better than the iPhone or the iPad or the Mac or whatever.  I've actually turned on Notifications again, because they notify without being intrusive or distracting.

A few other dandies as well, like the idea of getting through the security line with the iWatch is a bit quicker than the iPhone or the much-improved implementation of Siri making voice-dictation for texting something I can now user reliably.

So its improved my productivity... not so much by hitting a home run in any particular area, but through lots of incremental little improvements.  Pretty cool wearable tech.

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Mon, 2015-11-23 19:36
Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

                     -- From Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'"


Spent some time with more really smart folks at Oracle last week.  Yeah, this people are really smart...I'm still wondering how they let me in the door.

During that time, I probably had three separate conversations with different people on how SaaS changes the consulting model.  Frankly, implementation is no longer a big money maker in the SaaS game.  The combination of reducing the technology overhead, reducing customizations, and a sharp focus on customer success is killing the IT consulting goose that lays the golden eggs:  application implementation.  You can see indications of it just in the average cycle times between subscription and go-live:  they're down to about 4.5 months and still on a down trend.  Bringing SaaS customers up in less than 30 days is something Oracle can see on the near horizon.  Unfortunately, as the cycle times for SaaS implementations shortens, it gets more difficult for an implementation partner to generate significant revenues and margins.  The entire model is built around 12-t0-24 month implementations - SaaS make those time frames a thing of the past.

So, if I were a SaaS implementation partner today, what would I do?  Frankly, I'd be switching to a relationship - retainer approach with my customers (not my idea...all those smart people I mentioned suggested it).  I'd dedicate teams that would implement SaaS, extend SaaS functionality, test new upgrades prior to rollout, and maintain your SaaS apps.  I'd build a relationship with those customers rather than simply attempt to sell implementation services.  The value to customers?  Your workforce focuses on the business rather than the software.  You need new reports or business intelligence?  Covered in our agreement.  Test this new release before we upgrade our production instance?  Covered in our agreement.  Some new fields on a user page or an add-on business process?  Covered in our agreement.  Something not working?  Let my team deal with Oracle Support...covered in our agreement.

Other ideas?  The comments await.

The times they are a-changin'...quickly.  Better start swimmin'.


Be Quick, But Don't Hurry

Tue, 2015-11-17 11:38
Over the month since I've joined Oracle, many people has asked about the work I'm doing here.  And, in all honesty, the work is so varied that I've had a difficult time describing it.

Yesterday, I was traveling from my home in Salt Lake to Oracle Corporate HQ in Redwood Shores.  Having landed in San Francisco, I was in a rush to get my rental car, make the drive to HQ, and get some productivity out of what was left of my day.

In San Francisco, you take a light rail to get from the airline terminals to the rental car building.  The rail lines run every 10 minutes.  As I was approaching the platform to pick up the light rail, one of those every-10-minute trains was just pulling into the station.  So I hefted my two carry-on bags and started a mad dash to the train.  And about four steps into that mad dash, I tripped and fell...luggaging flying, me on the ground, cussing up a storm.  Know why I tripped?  For the classic reason...my shoe lace was untied.

I was in such a hurry that I failed to check my shoelaces anywhere between leaving the plane and my failed attempt at breaking the Earth's gravitational pull.

My favorite basketball coach of all time, John Wooden, has a coach principle of "be quick, but don't hurry".  The idea was to have an efficient system and work with a sense of urgency within that system.  That's being quick.  When you step out of the boundaries to get something done as soon as possible, you're in a hurry...but at the risk of no longer being quick.  Your shoelaces come untied, you trip, and the mistake causes you to miss the light rail altogether.  You invest more time in waiting for the next opportunity...mission bjorked.

So one of the primary things I'm doing at Oracle?  Working on enabling those around me to be quick while discouraging them from being in a hurry.  That's a big chunk of what a good Center of Excellence does.

The SaaS Race

Mon, 2015-11-09 13:12
So I've been back at Oracle for about a month now.  I'd say the biggest change so far is my perspective on trends in SaaS and Cloud.  Prior to gaining that perspective from the inside, I really did not have a full appreciation for just how early in the game we are.  Not just Oracle, but everybody.

During my undergrad days, when remote learning was done with smoke signals (no Internet yet), I remember learning about Bruce Henderson's Growth-Share Matrix:

Cash Cows have high market share in a low growth industry.  Dogs have low market share in a slow-growth, mature industry.  Question Marks have low market share in a fast growing industry (this is where most companies start).  And Stars have high market share in a fast growing industry.

So apply those definitions in the SaaS market.  The market itself is fast-growing, so by definition we don't have any Cash Cows or Dogs.  But I'd also say that we don't have any SaaS providers with high market share yet...it's a pretty competitive market at the moment in terms of market share.  So, by process of elimination, all the providers are still Question Marks - relatively recent entries in a fast growing market, but none of those entries have achieved a dominant market share yet...mostly because the market itself is still now.

With that in mind, I read a lot of hooey in the press:  so-and-so will dominate/collapse/rise/die/excel/be eliminated...whatever the latest news cycle dictates.  Take all that stuff with a grain of salt...we're very, very early in what promises to be a very long race for market share with many players who have the resources to see the race through to the end.  We're just getting started.

Limitations

Wed, 2015-10-28 09:34
I've noticed a trend lately.  In working with various organizations in the early stages of evaluating SaaS, I'm hearing vigorous defense of limitations. "We can't go to the cloud because our business is so unique."  "We can't consider cloud because our data is too complex to migrate." "We can't entrust our data to a 3rd party."  While there are plenty of additional reasons, I'm sure you've noticed the two important words forming the trend:  "We can't".

One of my favorite authors is Richard Bach.  Yeah, the guy who wrote "Johnathan Livingston Seagull", "Illusions", and "Travels with Puff".  More evidence that I'm an old hippie at heart.  Bach deals with the metaphysical and the spiritual.  It can be some rather deep and mind-bending stuff.  But he also throws out some pearls that stick with the reader.  One of his pearls that stuck with me: "Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they're yours."  Meaning that those who vigorously defend their limitations rarely move forward in significant ways.  It's the opposing force to innovation, disruption and improvement.

If you're part of an organization considering a move to SaaS, the strategic factors to weigh involve elements like building value through improving the balance sheet and/or lowering operational costs; increasing product or service share and/or quality; increasing agility through reductions in business process or development cycle times.  In other words, "better faster cheaper".  If SaaS delivers for you in those areas, then the limitations simply become challenge to be dealt with on the road to achieving the value offered by SaaS.

"Argue for your limitation and, sure enough, they're yours."  When you begin to hear those two words, "We can't", that's exactly what you're doing.  Don't do it.  Step back and change your perspective.

About Bugs

Thu, 2015-10-15 16:53
Been a few weeks since I last checked in.  Onboarding with Oracle has been like drinking from a data firehose, so I've been a bit pressed for time...

As I write this, I'm sitting out on my backyard patio right around sundown.  It's been unseasonable warm here in Utah of late, so the flying bugs are out in abundance.  While they're a bit irritating, they're not the type of bugs I have on my mind this evening.  I'm thinking more about software bugs.

I design a software bug as a flaw that causes said software to perform differently than designed or intended.  Simple definition for my simple mind, I suppose.

One of the eye-opening insights in having an insider's perspective at Oracle has been looking at software bugs.  Not the volume of bugs so much as the type of bugs.  If I apply my simple definition of a software bug, over half the logged bugs are not really bugs at all.  The software is working as designed or intended, but we're not seeing the expected result.  Could be any one of a number of reasons:  applying the software incorrectly due to lack of knowledge, desire for features not provided, violation of business rules, data quality flaws in converted or interfaced data, errors in writing data...the list goes on and on.

Wading through this data, I see a couple of trends.  First, it's pretty obvious that enterprise software vendors could do a better job of educating and enabling customers and partners on how their software works...especially from a systems engineering perspective.  Second, the industry needs better tools for evaluating data quality prior to converting or interfacing data between data sources...a symptom of the old "garbage in, garbage out" rule.

If we could improve in this area, think of the reduced workload for application developers.  Keep in mind that most enterprise software application development teams are dealing with at least four application versions simultaneously:  the previously released version(s) in the field, the latest release in the field, the next release being built, and the design work for the release after the version currently being built.  Anything we can do to alleviate the bug resolution workload allows vendors to apply that extra bandwidth in ways that will shorten release cycle times...something everybody wants.

I'm sure there are more trends to add to the list.  You have a contribution to make?  The comments await.

Know What Ya Got

Fri, 2015-09-25 15:34
There are two extremely bad decisions commonly made with enterprise software, and I see both take place every day.

This doesn't work the way we expect.  File a bug.
Over the years, my own experience tells me that two-thirds of bugs filed aren't really bugs.  What we really have is a user who fails to understand how the software works.  And, yes, we can always respond with RTM (or worse), but the stream of bugs that aren't bugs continues to be filed.  Stop for a second and imagine all the software development productivity lost in addressing bugs that aren't bugs.  And we wonder why it takes so long to introduce new releases and features?

This doesn't work the way we expect.  We'll have to customize the software.

We're not talking about extensions or bolt-ons.  We're talking about changing the code delivered out of the box.  Seems like around 75 percent of Oracle enterprise applications customers customize delivered code in one way or another.  SaaS will cut this number way down, but it's still widely prevalent throughout the installed customer base of Oracle enterprise applications.

Why is customization bad?  First, it means a customer must have a team of developers to build and maintain the customization through it's lifecycle.  It's that maintenance part that gets really costly...each new update, each new release, each new expansion require testing and likely some change to the customized code.  And here comes the incredibly crazy part of customization:  I would confidently bet my lungs against yours that over two-thirds of those customizations are unnecessary to accomplish the purposes of the customer.  Because the software out of the box already has the functionality to achieve business goal in mind...but it's likely a new way of doing things, and many folks don't want to change.  Even when the change might be better.  So we customize the code.

What to do?

As a very young man, I spent some time as a Boy Scout.   I was a really lousy Boy Scout.  Nothing that I liked about the entire thing.  Later on, after I grew up, I developed a great appreciation for Scouting as a Scout Master.  Nevertheless, I was a lousy Scout and resented my folks for putting me through it.

My Scout Master was retired military.  Lots of gruffness at a time when I just wasn't ready for that. Only one thing he ever taught us stuck with me:  "when you realize you're lost, take a breath, know what ya got, and figure out how to use what you've got to get yourself unlost."

Years later, I got lost in the woods.  The advice from that Scout Master saved my life.  And it's been a great principle for me ever since, in many situations:  "know what ya got."

Most enterprise customers today don't know what they've got.  That knowledge gap leads to filing bugs that aren't really bugs and building customizations when existing functionality gets the job done.  And telling customers to RTM adds almost now value (heck, even most of the people building the software dread reading those things).  If those of us in the industry want our customers to succeed with our products, we have to help by showing and telling.  Which also means we have to earn the trust of our customers, because showing and telling achieves nothing if the audience fails to engage.

So you want to reduce the bogus bug filings?  Cut back on customizations that slow everyone down? Work with your customers.  Customer success starts there.

Here We Go Again

Thu, 2015-09-10 13:59
Yup, moving on one more time.  Hopefully for the last time.  I’m leaving Sierra-Cedar Inc. for a position as Sr. Director with Oracle's HCM Center of Excellence team.

As an enterprise software guy, I see the evolution of SaaS and Cloud as the significant drivers of change in the field.  I want to be involved, I want to contribute in a meaningful way, I want to learn more, and I want to be at the center of it all.  And there is no better place for all that than Oracle.  I had the opportunity to meet most of the folks I’ll be working alongside…knew many of them and met a few new faces.  And I’m excited to work with them. So when the opportunity presented itself, I was happy to follow through on it.

I’ll also freely admit that I’ve seen…and experienced…a pretty substantial amount of upheaval regarding Oracle services partners over the past several years.  Some are fighting the cloud-driven changes in the marketplace, others have accepted the change but have yet to adapt, a few are substantially shifting their business model to provide relevant services as the sand shifts under their feet.  Personally, I’ve had enough upheaval for a bit.

The first mission at Oracle:  develop tools and methods to meaningfully reduce lead time between customer subscript and customer go-live.  Pretty cool, as it lets me work on my #beat39 passion.  I’ll be starting with building tools to convert data from legacy HCM applications to HCM Cloud through the HCM Data Loader (“HDL”).


While I regret leaving a group of great people at SCI, I’m really looking forward to rejoining Oracle.  I kind of feel like a minion hitting the banana goldmine!

The Golden Path

Mon, 2015-08-31 12:07
Geek Warning:  The Golden Path is a term in Frank Herbert's fictional Dune universe referring to Leto II Atreides's strategy to prevent humanity's ultimate destruction.

Just back from a little "stay-cation".  My batteries were running a little low, so it was good to recharge for a bit.  The #Beat39 theme continued to roll around in my brain and I want to share a predominant line of thinking from that.

Back in the olden days when Oracle was first developing Fusion Applications, they made a big effort to discover common threads of business practices across a range of industries and organizations. Processing invoices, controlling inventory, managing employee performance reviews, completing projects, billing customers...it's a long list of common business practices and common activities.

The result of that effort was a set of common "best practices", by industry, that were baked into Fusion Applications.  That collection of best practices became known as the Oracle Business Process Model ("Oracle BPM").  You can see an example for the Project Portfolio Management Suite here.  As Fusion Applications have evolved into Oracle Cloud Application Services (Oracle's SaaS offerings), Oracle BPM has evolved right along with it.  You'll find the latest Oracle BPM in Oracle SaaS.

Back in the really olden days, customers and their implementation partners would generally follow a three-step implementing strategy:  1) understand the customer's current business process; 2) design the customer's future business process; 3) implement enterprise software to model the customer's future business process as closely as possible.

With today's SaaS applications, customers may be better served by following a different strategy: 1) configure a SaaS zone and test the "baked in" business processes with an eye toward utilizing those processes in your own organization; 2) address and resolve any business process gaps; 3) test and go live.  In short, maximize your use of enterprise software in the way the software was designed to be used, business processes and all.  Being open to business process change is the "Golden Path" to a successful SaaS implementation.

While this idea is nothing new, it's a pretty fundamental shift in perspective.  Thoughts?  Comments welcome.

Old Becomes New - Maker Stuff

Wed, 2015-08-05 13:23
A bit of a personal tangent for this post, as I've experienced an interesting development in life recently.  I’m taking another run at the “Maker” concept after taking a few months away from it. And I’m coming at it from an entirely different angle.  The combination of data, radio waves and networks has piqued my interest.  Some background:

My father was an amateur radio operator back in the day.  It was one of his passions…so much so that his radio call sign (K0RFS) is engraved on his tombstone.  Big radio, big amplified, big antenna tower with multiple antennas in the backyard, the best Morse code keys money could buy, etc.  He saw it as both a hobby and a way to render service to others (he used to patch up a local family of Argentine immigrants with their family back home on a regular basis).  Dad’s heyday in amateur radio started immediately after WWII and continued through his passing in 1990.

Amateur radio technology is generally very old school.  Marconi made the first wireless radio contact from Cape Cod into Europe in 1912 using Morse code.  Voice technology was added around 1921.  We’ve seen the additions of packet radio, APRS, RTTY, SSTV, PSK31, radio propagation beacons, radio satellites, and other interesting stuff.  But it all comes back around to the same old radio wave technology.

Except it’s not.  Amateur radio operators can communicate with radios across the internet utilizing the IRLP system.  Heck, you don’t really even need a radio to play anymore - EchoLink allows computer>radio, radio>computer, and even computer>computer communication.  And it’s the merging of old technology with more recent technology in new and interesting ways that has really gnawed at my imagination.

Becoming a licensed ham radio guy has been on my bucket list, mostly as a tip o the hat to the old man.  Years in coming, I finally passed the Technician’s exam here in the States and thus earned my license (call sign K1RFS…what else?).  And I’m planning on using my Tech privileges as a springboard into some interesting maker experiments.  Some of the things on my project backlog include:
  • Building a Yagi antenna from a metal tape measure and PVC - and using that antenna to talk with the ISS
  • Making an OS-agnostic communication logging program in Oracle APEX
  • Working with amateur radio frequency beacons to track objects in areas without internet or cell service - power generation here will be interesting - then creating RESTful services to display the tracking of  those locations
  • Building an HMSS mesh net in my home that can be accessed via radio wave technology - 2nd step includes reliability when the electrical grid is offline
  • Creating a permanent IRLP node with a Raspberry Pi
  • Leveraging a combination of an AMSAT satellite and a smart phone to send and receive amateur TV images wirelessly - my target audience is one of the science exploration stations in Antartica
  • Communicating via IRLP and Echolink through wearable hardware
Old becomes new.  This should be fun!

History Lesson

Mon, 2015-08-03 13:53
I'm a student of history.  There is so much to be learned from it.  Today's lesson comes from NASA and relates directly to enterprise software projects.

From 1992 to 1999, NASA launched 16 major missions under the umbrella of the "Faster, Better, Cheaper" or "FBC" program umbrella.  These unmanned space exploration missions included five trips to Mars, one to the Moon, four Earth-orbiting satellites and an asteroid rendezvous.  10 of the 15 missions were great successes, including:
  • The NEAR Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR)
  • The Pathfinder mission to Mars
  • The Stardust mission that collected, analyzed and returned comet tail particles to Earth
The nine successful FBC missions started with tight budgets, tight scopes, and tight schedules. They all delivered early and under budget.

So long as NASA stuck to the core principles of FBC, the program was a great success:  9 missions successfully executed in seven years.  By comparison the Cassini mission, while also very successful, took over 15 years to execute.  And all 10 successful missions were completed for a fraction of the cost of the Cassini mission.  The FBC program came to a grinding halt when NASA strayed from the core ideas that made the program work:  the failed Mars Polar Lander and the Mars Climate Observer came from the latter part of the FBC program.

Let's look at the core principles that made FBC successful:
  • Do it wrong:  Alexander Laufer and Edward Hoffman explained in a 1998 report entitled "Ninety-Nine Rules for Managing Faster, Better, Cheaper Projects" that in order to do things quickly and right, you have to be willing to do it wrong first.  Experience is the best teacher.
  • Reject good ideas:  NEAR project manager Thomas Coughlin had no shortage of well-meaning good ideas for features, parts and functions to add to the spacecraft.   Essentially all stayed on the cutting room floor.  Reject good ideas and stick to your original scope.
  • Simplify and accelerate everything:  the NEAR project used a 12-line project schedule for the entire mission.  That's right - 12 lines.  Progress reports were limited to three minutes.  If we can build spacecraft with a 12-line project schedule, tell me again why our enterprise project schedules run multiple pages?
  • Limit innovation by keeping it relevant.  While innovation is always cool, it's not relevant if it does not contribute meaningfully to your project's objectives.  Shipping something that actually does something well is much better than shipping something built on the newest technology that is complex to use or fails to perform reliably in a multitude of circumstances.
  • You can't inspect quality into the system.  NASA's failure to stick with this principle lead to the poor ending for the FBC program.  To a great degree, the Mars Pathfinder was a success at JPL because the project was so small that it flew under the radar - no significant administrative oversight.  When FBC oversight increased after 1999 at all NASA centers, the successes stopped coming.  You can put the clues together here, can't you?
Do you recognize the themes here?  Simplicity.  Restraint.  Freedom to act and take risks within tight constraints.  The combination led to some elegant and highly successful projects.

And, by the way, the recent New Horizons mission sending us pictures and data from Pluto?  Lots of heritage from FBC.  So, yes, these ideas still work...for missions much more complex than enterprise software.

So, you want to #beat39 with your enterprise software projects?  This history lesson is a great place to start.

Beat 39

Thu, 2015-07-16 18:00
Let's start today's thought with a tidbit from the Standish Group's 2013 Chaos Report.  In that report, the Standish Group cheerfully shares that IT project success came in at 39%...cheerful because that is an improvement.  In other words, 6 out of 10 IT projects are failing to meet schedule, cost and quality objectives and we're thinking that's good news.  Yikes!!!

If we look at the numbers in SaaS carefully - regardless of vendor - we see a pretty consistent gap between sales and "go live".  Guess how large the gap is?  Yeah, about 61%.  Arithmetic anybody?  Granted that my access to data is somewhat limited here but, even with my small sample size, it's one of those things that make me "stop and go hmmm".

The upshot?  In the developing space of SaaS, I think we may have all underestimated the level of difficulty in implementing those nifty SaaS applications.  At the very least, it seems like we're missing the boat on how to move from vision to achievement.

Enablement.  SaaS customers need tools that ease the implementation and use of the applications.  And preferably things that scale...inventing the tool every time you tackle the project buys nothing but headaches.  But I think good tools for enablement are the key if we're ever going to "Beat 39".

More on this in later posts.  I think I may be focusing on this for a bit.



Enterprise Software's Life Lessons

Mon, 2015-07-06 14:13
Well, I ain't always right but I've never been wrong.
Seldom turns out the way it does in a song.
Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right.
                               - From Jerry Garcia's "Scarlet Begonias"

Somebody asked the other day what I've learned from from 25-plus years of working with, implementing, and developing enterprise software applications.  Kind of a life's lessons thing.  A pretty innocent question, but one that got me thinking.  And the more I thought, the longer the list became. I've been shown the light several times, usually in the strangest places and when I least expected it.  So the list grew to the point that I thought it might be worth sharing.  The list is not organized into subject areas, importance, thought streams, or sand piles.  I just wrote 'em down as I thought of them.

One caveat:  you may get the impression that my perspective here is a little negative...dark even.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I love my job, I love being in this industry, and I love what I do and who I do it with...every day.  But, like much of what we learn, most of these ideas came from painful experiences.  I just wrote 'em the way I learned 'em.


So, without further delay:


  1. The Prime Directive: at no time shall anyone interfere with the natural progression of a project by introducing unnecessarily advanced technologies or over-engineered features.
  2. Nobody buys enterprise applications for the technology.  They buy for desired outcomes…end states.  Everything else is white noise.  The software vendor that best understands those desired outcomes and how to achieve them usually wins the business.  Enterprise software is a set of tools, not a finished house.
  3. If you’re in product management or product development, the most important word in the English language is “No”.
  4. If project success is measured by achieving the originally desired outcomes on time and within budget, enterprise applications projects (both developing and implementing) only succeed 39% of the time.  This stuff is hard.
  5. In the world of SaaS providers, 4 measures matter:  A) subscription revenue growth; B) subscription recurring revenue (often referred to in the negative sense as “churn”); C) percentage of subscription customers who have “gone live”; D) the time from original subscription to “go live” date.
  6. If you’re a consultant, your client will “vote you off the island” more often than not…usually at the next speed bump encountered.  It’s similar to being the manager of a sports team…the team manager’s reign usually ends with termination because something isn’t going right.  Don’t worry about it.  Be as good as you can be at doing what you do, be honest and transparent, and understand that it’s just the nature of the business.  So travel light.  You can’t please all of the people all of the time.
  7. In the SaaS market, good product gets you a seat at the table.  But good service keeps you there.
  8. Usable tools to compliment enterprise applications are just as important as the applications themselves.
  9. There will always be glitches at launch that did not appear in testing.  Keep cool, tune out the screaming, and work the issue.
  10. When estimating a project for internal or external customers, the required deadline is never negotiable.  Someone in leadership stuck that stick in the sand long before you learned about the need.  It’s not changing until it slips.
  11. When estimating a project for internal or external customers, the required budget is never negotiable.  Someone in leadership stuck that stick in the sand long before you learned about the need.  It’s not changing until the need for change is manifested.
  12. Fast, inexpensive, restrained (in scope) and elegant (simple but effective) projects with small teams are much more likely to succeed than projects with big scope, long schedules, bug budgets and big teams.
  13. If you find yourself speaking more than 20 percent of the time in any given exchange, you may want to consider shutting your yap and listening for a few minutes.
  14. If all of your stakeholders can’t describe your project in 30 seconds or less, you have organizational change managements issues to resolve before you can hope to deliver.
  15. Whenever your budget burn rate varies more than 15 percent (plus or minus), you have a problem that must be corrected before it grows worse.
  16. A great user experience is no longer a competitive advantage; it’s simply a requirement for entering the market.
  17. There is a “love cycle” in enterprise software implementation projects.  Early on, it’s a love fest.  The love fest shortly becomes an “us against them, but we’re stuck with each other” atmosphere.  Finally comes the “thank goodness this thing is over.”  The same cycle always applies, whether the project is successful or not.  It’s just a symptom of the stress that comes from taking the risks represented by the project itself.
  18. Packaged integrations out of the box don’t work.  They’ll need revising or rebuilding. Just build it into the plan up front.
  19. Be prepared.
  20. Always, always, always follow the money.
  21. Customizing packaged software is the most difficult and expensive choice.  Be sure you understand what you can accomplish within the functionality of the software before you decide to customize.
  22. Burn your calories where it matters.  Moving buttons on a screen does not change delivery of a desired outcome.  Tweaking a business process might.
  23. Ease of use trumps depth of features every time. Complexity is not a sign of sophistication.  The most important product and project decisions often revolve around what to leave out…minimalism generally breeds success.
  24. When you reveal innovation, you have about a 24-month window before a competitor does it better, faster or cheaper.
  25. When you feel like you’re out of the communication loop, it’s probably to late to do better with communicating - the vote of no confidence has already taken place and you’re on the way out.  So, right from the beginning of any effort, keep in mind that you can never over-communicate.  Listen and talk - it’s the key to gain the confidence of others.
  26. The customer is not always right.  Nevertheless, listen to, empathize with, and guide your customers (in that order)…regardless.
  27. Reporting and business intelligence are best planned earlier rather than later.  And information without context is just data.
  28. Mobile matters:  if you can’t offer productivity from a phone, it doesn’t much matter what else you offer.
  29. A project leader’s influence is inversely proportional to the size of the budget.
  30. If you’re fast because you’re quick, that’s good.  If you’re fast because you hurry, that’s bad.  The former indicates efficiency, while the latter just breeds mistakes.  As famed college basketball coach John Wooden often said:  "Be quick, but don’t hurry."
So, how about you?  Have some pearls of wisdom to share with the class?  Comment away!

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