A member of the Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG) since 1992, Mark C. Clark recently took over as president of the organization. He spoke with DBTA about what's in store for members at the annual Oracle users conference COLLABORATE as well as for the year ahead. Helping members prepare for an upgrade to Oracle Applications Release 12, providing additional smaller, more targeted regional events, and a continued emphasis on a return to the basics with networking and education are at the top of his to-do list for 2011.
DBTA: You just became president of the OAUG in January, but you have been a member since 1992?
Clark: Yes, as both a board member and a volunteer.
DBTA: Is there a theme that will characterize your presidency?
Clark: One of the volunteer roles that I had as a board member was chair of the membership committee and, for the last couple of years, we had been surveying members to see what they most value with their membership. It consistently comes back to the networking opportunities and the ability to have influence with Oracle through the various councils that we have, as well as the educational opportunities. With that information, I wanted make sure that the OAUG really gets back to the basics and focuses on those key areas. We have been working with our committees and the volunteers that make up those committees to make sure our focus is in those areas.
DBTA: The Oracle ecosystem is constantly expanding. How is the OAUG expanding along with it?
Clark: Because of the acquisitions, we have been working with Oracle and even some of the other user groups to make sure that we have special interest groups put together to help support those folks who have been recently inducted into the Oracle community, and may not have experience working with Oracle. We are working to get special interest groups put together to support them. For example, we are working with some of the old Hyperion customers on an EPM (enterprise performance management) SIG, and we actually put on two events last year for them. We are also working with Oracle and some of the other user groups on getting a Primavera SIG up to speed. The Primavera SIG is still in the bootstrapping stage. We are working with other user groups, as well as Oracle, the product managers, and a team of volunteers to get that SIG going.
DBTA: Do customers find it overwhelming to be thrust into is often described as the Oracle "ecosystem"?
Clark: What we have found is that, with some of these organizations when they were not associated with Oracle, the vendor really drove everything. Here, we really rely on volunteers and an independence from Oracle in driving SIGs and the user groups.
DBTA: What else is the OAUG working on this year to support members?
Clark: Another, more tactical initiative this year is to work with Oracle and our user members who haven't yet upgraded to R12. We are putting together educational sessions and networking opportunities, that will allow folks to be better prepared for that R12 upgrade project. We will have a big event July 12-13 in Chicago all around the R12 theme.
DBTA: The smaller, regional Connection Point events were launched last year as a way to include people who have difficulty with the cost of travel or with taking an extended period away from the business. Is that continuing this year?
Clark: Yes, there is an OAUG Connection Point event being held March 16-17 in Dubai, UAE. The conference will be presented by the OAUG, the OAUG Middle East, and Oracle. That conference is tailored towards users of Oracle's E-Business Suite, exploring new features of Release 12, upgrade best practices, enterprise performance management, applications technology and Oracle hardware.
There is also an OAUG Connection Point - Release 12.1 event being held July 12-13 in Chicago, Illinois, and that conference is being presented by the OAUG, the North Central Oracle Apps User Group (NCOAUG), and the OAUG Upgrade SIG. The conference is aimed at helping members plan to implement, upgrade, or re-implement to Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.
In addition, there are two additional OAUG Connection Point - Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) conferences planned for 2011. The dates and locations are being finalized, but the conferences are projected for Seattle in July and Atlanta in November. Information about all of our OAUG Connection Point events is available here.
DBTA: There are many related issues that organizations need to address when considering an upgrade. Is it the OAUG's goal to help ease the upgrade path to R12 with these events?
Clark: Yes, the support is kind of waning for R11i and Oracle can only support so many releases of software, as well, so they are trying to encourage customers to move to 12.1. Even the folks who are on12.0 are being encouraged to look at 12.1. We are trying to help them be best prepared to do that maintenance effort.
DBTA: An upgrade can be a daunting proposition.
Clark: It can be a big project. Folks have to prepare and get staff and budget and involve the business as well as the IT side of the house. OAUG wants to get that educational message out there and help them make those upgrades less painful.
DBTA: The OAUG recently released its 2011 data security study, produced by Unisphere Research and sponsored by Application Security, Inc. The research produced some troubling findings. What was your take-away?
Clark: IT organizations are big and there are a lot of different stakeholders that represent different parts of the organization. I think the biggest thing was that many folks weren't necessarily aware of what security measures were or were not being taken by their particular organizations.
DBTA: That lack of knowledge was notable?
Clark: Yes. You always think someone else is taking care of it.
DBTA: Will security issues be explored at the OAUG sessions at COLLABORATE?
Clark: At COLLABORATE 11, there will be more than 60 sessions related to security that will be presented. The co-presenters of COLLABORATE 11 (Quest, the OAUG and IOUG) represent Oracle database and technology users as well as Oracle Applications users, all of whom have an interest in data security. But each group's focus in that area may be a little different. The security-related sessions at COLLABORATE 11 explore a wide range of topics, including basic and advanced best practices for DBAs, integrating applications in the cloud, PeopleSoft security audits, disaster recovery, vulnerabilities in Web applications, and much more.
Plus, COLLABORATE 11 has several in-depth boot camp training sessions on the schedule as well as several security panel discussions where attendees can ask the experts and exchange information with peers. There is quite a bit on the topic of security to explore at COLLABORATE 11. The entire COLLABORATE11 session catalog of sessions presented by all three organizations is available here.
DBTA: Will online sessions also be provided from COLLABORATE this year?
Clark: In the summer, the OAUG will offer online sessions featuring the Best of COLLABORATE 11. We will also present Oracle Fusion Architecture: "Soup to Nuts" Online - Part 2 around July or August.
DBTA: There are signs that the economy is improving. Are you getting a sense that budget restrictions are loosening up to make it easier for people to attend an educational and networking conference such as COLLABORATE?
Clark: Yes, I think so. We had a lot of submissions in our call for papers and we are seeing travel budgets eased a little bit as are training budgets, which sometimes support these trips to COLLABORATE, as well. Overall, there is a lot more optimism and we are seeing our user members embark on projects that include implementing new modules or hardware upgrades or database upgrades, or even application upgrades.
Visit the OAUG website.