Thousands of customers and partners have gathered this week at Oracle OpenWorld 2018 in San Francisco. No doubt, Oracle Founder Larry Ellison and the executive team will rally attendees toward cloud services and the company's latest applications. But what's top of mind for attendees -- particularly those who help companies to consume and manage Oracle's applications?
For answers and perspectives, we reached out to Oracle Applications Users Group President Christine Hipp. OAUG is an independent education, networking and advocacy forum. For industry observers like ChannelE2E, OAUG is a sort of digital nervous system for sensing and understanding how the Oracle ecosystem continues to evolve.
In an email-based interview, Hipp shared these perspectives with ChannelE2E.
ChannelE2E: Let’s start with your membership and focus for 2018. How has your membership been growing/evolving, and what have been OAUG’s major focus areas this year?
Hipp: The Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG) was formed in back in 1990 to help Oracle customers get the most from their product investments.
Fast forward to 2018: While Oracle products and technologies have changed over the years, the OAUG’s mission of facilitating networking and learning with peers and experts in the industry remains the same. Members are enthusiastic about exploring next-generation solutions – like cloud computing, blockchain and artificial intelligence – and learning from peers who have ventured into these new areas. And, the first-hand, real-world experiences of other members are often the richest destination for finding answers.
Today, we’re serving organizations that are running their business with legacy, on-premises applications, like Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) and EPM/Hyperion. We’re serving those who are implementing cloud solutions alongside their on-premises products. We’re serving those who are looking to optimize their use of cloud applications.
ChannelE2E: Are the members mostly IT professionals, or are Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) Specialized employees (VARs, MSPs, IT consulting firms, etc.) also involved in OAUG?
Hipp: It’s all of the above. Our users community is made up of a lot of technology pros but also includes professionals in functional areas, such as accounting or human resources, who aren’t necessarily technology specialists.
The OAUG’s Star Partners and other third-party vendor organizations are a vital part of the OAUG community. These organizations represent some of the most successful providers of services and solutions that complement Oracle products. They typically have deep knowledge of the challenges that end-user customers are facing. And, they are often among the first to learn about and get hands on with new technologies so they can turn that into support for their own customers.
Our partner organizations are also a big part of the annual COLLABORATE conferences. 98% of the 2018 conference attendees indicated that they visited the Exhibitor Showcase, and nearly half said they attended the conference to learn about new vendor products and services.
ChannelE2E: What type of ongoing relationship or interaction does OAUG have with Oracle itself; are you helping to shape Oracle’s R&D, product strategy, etc.?
Hupp: The OAUG has a very strong relationship with Oracle. For example, our Customer Support Council collects information from members and has a monthly conference call with employees from the Oracle Support organization to discuss needs or areas of concern and to evaluate new, support-related tools. Oracle listens very attentively to members’ feedback, which we very much appreciate. This partnership has led to the development of things like new diagnostic tools and approaches to patching, for example.
We also have a very close relationship with the Oracle EBS team. Again, Oracle listens to members’ feedback and keeps us up to date on product roadmaps.
ChannelE2E: How quickly are OAUG members extending beyond on-premises Oracle databases and applications, to embrace and understand Oracle Cloud in areas like IaaS, PaaS and SaaS?
Hipp: It’s mix across a continuum. What we’re hearing is that people with big on-premises installs can’t lift and shift quickly. But that doesn’t mean they’re not looking to see how they can take advantage of new technologies in a planned uptake. They want to hear specific stories in the context of their current state that help them in their own strategic planning. They are hungry for stories of companies with an on-premises install that are adding SaaS; they’re hungry for the stories of somebody who’s picked up and moved development workloads.
ChannelE2E: Looking ahead, OAUG’s own Collaborate 2019 conference is set for San Antonio, Texas. One of the key focus areas is Personal Growth & Leadership. What steps do you see OAUG members taking to ensure their own ongoing personal growth?
Hipp: I’m glad you mentioned this. I have a passion and a lot of energy for helping professionals in IT-related roles enhance their careers.
At the COLLABORATE conference in 2018, we did more around professional development because IT job roles are changing and demanding a broader, more diverse skill set. IT professional are, of course, expected to keep up with changes in technology and be able to embrace and adapt to new technology demands. But they are also expected to understand business process and strategy, possess strong communication skills and contribute effectively in team environments.
Professionals in today’s workplace need to be more well-rounded and agile than ever before. The OAUG wants to help people cultivate these capabilities.
Our education agenda for the COLLABORATE 19 – OAUG Forum includes an expanded Personal Growth and Leadership track takes a deep dive into some technology-specific topics but also address team building, management/leadership development, career planning and more.
In addition, our OAUG Emerging Leaders program has been in place for the past 4-5 years and is focused on helping people who are just beginning their careers with Oracle Applications or beginning their careers in general to learn and grow in their roles. As part of the Emerging Leaders activities, our formal Mentoring Program was introduced this year, and we just matched the first 2-3 mentor/mentee pairs. So more to come on that. But I think it is very exciting. I’ve had the privilege of working with a mentor in my organization, which has been invaluable for me both personally and professionally. Not everyone has that mentor in their workplace, so being able to extend the opportunity through the OAUG is such a great perk for those who participate.