Thursday, September 22, 2005


Closing Call

No keynote today, so I spent the morning packing up my free t-shirts and checking out of the hotel. Because there were some key PeopleSoft sessions scheduled for later today, the plan was to checkout and let the bellman hold my bags until it was time to leave for the airport. The first session I had was at 9:30 on the
HR to Financials Interface for Sarbanes-Oxley
. It really offered nothing new over the earlier Sox session I attended. Then, after lunch, was the
PeopleSoft HCM Q&A
. It was an opportunity for anyone to get up and ask a team of PeopleSoft experts some questions. Many of the questions centered on desired upgrades to PeopleSoft, or concerns about insufficient training classes being offered. There was nothing that could be applied directly back in the office, but it did give me an opportunity to talk with Gretchen Alarcon, the speaker from yesterday's PeopleSoft 8.9 session and ask her to come speak in Chicago. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

With the final session wrapped up, and most of the conference already collapsed back into crates, it was all over at the Moscone Center. A couple of us were taking the red eye out at 11:30 PM (to make it back to the office on Friday. What were we thinking?) So we took a leisurely walk to what would be our last supper in San Francisco and then headed to the airport.

What a week!! Guess I'll just stretch out under my souvenier Oracle blanket, rest my head on some conference t-shirts, and catch a few zzz before the flight leaves. And so ends my first Open World Blog. Want more? Use this link to find some Oracle sanctioned Open World Blogs.


The End Is Near

Wednesday morning’s keynote was Chuck Rozwat Keynote, from Oracle. His topic was Fusion Middleware, but people were really more anxious for the afternoon keynote with Larry Ellison. My first session of the day was a
PeopleSoft HCM 8.9 Overview
. It was easily the best session I’ve attended so far. I must try and get these speakers to a MWRUG event, so everyone back home has an opportunity to see it. I’ll try and include my class notes in the link above.

For lunch I had a real treat. One of my co-workers had used his credentials to arrange for a press pass and invited me to lunch in the press room. It was an island of calm compared to the normal lunch time cattle calls. Plus it got me early entry into the afternoon keynote, while the other conference attendees lined up out the door and down the street. As I said, the speaker was Larry Ellison, the multi-millionaire CEO who grew up on the south side of Chicago. He seemed very uncomfortable with his prepared remarks, which really didn’t say anything new. It became much more interesting when he started fielding questions from the audience. He definitely doesn’t play the politician and has no problems answering a question with a simple "No". The biggest attention grabber for me was when someone asked him point blank if the Fusion product would support DB2. His answer was that they still hadn’t decided and if he had to give odds, they were about 50/50. Could that possibly be true???

After the keynote I had another session, "
Getting Back to Basics with Core HR and Self-Service HR
", which I was looking forward to. Unfortunately, it was all about the Oracle product, so again I cut out early and headed over to the exhibition floor for a few more passes at the different vendors. Before I knew it, it was time to head back to the hotel and get ready for the Oracle Appreciation Party.

On par with the PeopleSoft Connect Appreciation Parties of the past, Oracle’s party was huge. There were some negatives, like the fighting through impossible lines for food or drinks, and the fact that we were out on a pier, so temperatures were down right cold. (I can't imagine they'll use this location next year - when the conference is even later in the year.) But all in all, the music – by the Counting Crows – was really good, and the fireworks that preceded it impressed even me. I also amazingly some how rounded up the entire team again, to sit together in the bleachers for the concert. *Shout out to my new friend from Cinemark in Texas. You really are a movie star to me. Thanks for keeping me company.*

Some background on the Counting Crows: thier first album was August and Everything After. Released in 1994, the album was called "one of the best rock releases of the year" by Rolling Stone magazine, which earned them their first Grammy award, hit number four on the Billboard 200, and remained on the charts for an unbelievable 93 weeks. Listen to Counting Crows hit song Mr. Jones". If you want to learn the meaning of the song, Ask Straightdope.
Boy was (lead singer/song writer) Adam Duritz wasted for our show. First he took off his shoes, then he started rambling - remind me some time to share the joke he told about tic tacs - but it was a great show nonetheless. What a way to end the conference.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Let's Get It Started

There was some talk last night about turning this blog into a Lunch & Learn back at the office, or even adding it to the RUG web site, but I’m sure that will never happen… at least not with out a liberal amount of personal editing and some artistic license.

Last night’s events had kept me out a little late, so I decided to skip this morning's keynote by John Wookey from Oracle and Mark Hurd from HP - which promised to be just another corporate sales pitch. Instead I headed directly to my 9am class - titled The ROI of HCM. Believe me it was just as interesting as it sounds. Plus there's a second keynote this afternoon after lunch. At noon I caught up with our team, including my boss, for another box lunch. Still it's amazing that in a conference of over 35,000 people with attendees from over 120 countries, I'm able to continue connecting with people I know every day. Especially since I don't have that essential connectivity tool - a Blackberry. Today we had to eat on the grass, but the weather was okay and with the complimentary Oracle blankets it wasn't too bad. I even got a free blanket to take home. I wish I could bring home one of the huge bean bag chairs they have dropped all around the conference. I hear that they are free once the conference ends, but there's no chance it would fit in my luggage.

After lunch was a keynote speech by Scott McNeally, the Sun Microsystems CEO. He's always good for some laughs and an interesting perspective on today's technology and where it is heading. He’s definitely opinionated and doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to naming names. He started with a joke about what songs are on Larry Ellison's iPod. The later portion again degenerated into a Sun sales pitch, but I guess that's the cost of getting a CEO to speak for an hour and a half. Afterwards I attended a
Panel Discussion on the Future World of Work
, which touched on globalization, out-sourcing, demographic changes, the "Knowledge Economy" and advances in technology. This was followed by a Case Study session on extending the PS Application using MS Office, which I was wait listed for but never got in to. It seems that just about every session is standing room only, with really long lines to get in.

With our classes over, we all met up in the hotel lobby for dinner on Fisherman's wharf. The restaurant looked out on Pier 39, known for the dozens of Sea Lions that reside there. They’re a real hoot to watch and man are they loud. We sort of split up after that; some returned to their hotels, some walked the pier, some going on to the Deloitte Las Vegas Night event. I headed over to the Sound Factory where the Cedar/Crestone vendor party was being held. There was a really fantastic group playing called Busta Groove and they rocked the house all night long… as did an elite group of MWRUGers who shall remain nameless, but let me say that they sure can dance. Maybe the coolest part of the event was that to get everyone home safely when the party ended, they arraigned for limos to take us directly back to our hotels. And thus ended another fabulous night in SF.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Don't Hate Mondays

Today started with a Booth Training session at 8 AM. (I had promised to help man the MWRUG booth during my down time at the conference.) Then there was the keynote speaker at 8:30am. It was Charles Phillips, Executive Vice President of Oracle, who made a couple big announcements. The first was about lifetime product support. Of course this does not mean lifetime product updates or fixes, just that Oracle will continue providing user support. This could be a big deal for some users. For my company however, our product expiration timetables remain unchanged. He then spent quite a while describing, for the first time, the concept behind the new Oracle Fusion product. Basically the product is made up of many individual components. They promised to take the best of each product line and build something really great. At the same time, this component design would offer the user flexibility to allow mixing & matching with user’s existing products – including DB2 - or products from other vendors. This all sounded very good for us; I was sold. You can hear his entire 52 minute presentation, along with many others, online.

After about an hour of this useful information, he introduced Paul Otellini - the President of Intel, who basically did a one hour commercial for his company. There were some interesting bits about how the technology sector had recovered from the dot-net bubble burst a few years back, primarily due to the further growth in internet use. From there I rushed to the exhibit hall to meet up with some fellow MWRUGers and we headed to the park - with 14,000 others - to have box lunches. Today the weather was lovely, so lunch in the park was nice. We even got a table, which was extremely lucky; most were just sitting on Oracle blankets on the grass.

Following lunch there were three education sessions. One was on the new Sarbanes-Oxley regulations - which seemed to support our existing processes or planned implementations. It recommended using role based security, implementing automated workflow within transactions, developing a corporate Code of Conduct, and creating documented policies & procedures. All things we already do or are planning to do. Another session was on Benchmarking Human Resources, which dealt with developing an ROI for HR activities. For example, the average organization sees $1 in revenue for every 28¢ spent on compensation & benefits. (Almost always a companies number one expense.) A third session was on Oracle HCM – An Applications Road Map, which I quickly walked out on since my company will never be using the product they were describing. This taught me to avoid any sessions with Oracle in the title and stick to those strictly naming PeopleSoft. This gave me a little time to decompress in the hotel room before dinner and another reception.

The evening started with a meeting for the Public sector at the nearby California Academy of Sciences. It was billed as featuring a giant coral reef aquarium, but in comparison to Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, it was more like a store front pet shop. Most unusual was that the hors d’oeuvres they were serving were all Sushi and Salmon, so I felt a little barbaric eating fish in front of the tanks. Plus whenever I saw an empty tank, I wondered what happened to the fish. I decided to move on to the next event. My plan was to first hit the Emerging Solutions vendor reception at the XYZ Lounge in the W Hotel, since the vendor had provided the MWRUG with a lot of convention support, then head to the IBM party at Ruby Skye to meet up with some co-workers. But as the night progressed, I never did leave the Hotel W.

The XYZ Lounge is very chic. The bottled water costs $6 apiece. (Luckily it was an open bar.) It is also very dark in there. The only lights in the place came from the glowing Lucite bar top and two huge egg shaped orbs at either end. Eventually a number of my co-workers ended up at the W too, so there was no sense in leaving. The moral: Don't hate Mondays if the hangover doesn't come until Tuesday. More to come...

Monday, September 19, 2005


Sunday Replay

So I figured out why I start sweating after walking only a few blocks.... this whole darn town is on a hill. (Duh!) But what I don't understand is why I always seem to be walking up hill. The weather here is certainly pleasant by Midwest standards, though you should always carry a coat since it can go from sunny to chilly very quickly. Unfortunately, you wear a coat out of the hotel, get two blocks and you're sweating from the climb, so you take off the coat and then get chilly again. The coat is constantly coming on and off. Of course if you're standing still the weather is perfect.

To wrap up my Sunday report, in the afternoon I had to go to the exhibition hall - still under construction, and try to find those missing MWRUG brochures. They were needed at the Oracle User Group Pavilion. No brochures were found.
With a few hours to kill before the kick-off keynote speaker, I discovered that there was a rare Peter Max exhibit at a gallery up the street. And Peter Max was actually there in person to sign autographs. Unfortunately his works started at just under $6000 and went up to over $60,000 so I guess I won't be going home with anything new to hang on the wall.

Soon it was time for the kick-off event. As I said, the guest speaker was Dana Carvey. Some of his jokes I’d heard before, but someone must have fed him info on Oracle, because his jokes about the millionaire CEO and ex-Chicago South-sider, Larry Ellison, went over pretty big. My favorite was his imagined phone call between Ellison and the German firm SAP (Oracle’s biggest remaining competitor, since their purchase of PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, and Siebel.) "Vee already told you vee is not interested in zelling." "Okay," says Larry "I’ll call again tomorrow." Carvey also kept making fun of the Oracle executive who introduced him - her name is Safra Catz - for having the greatest stage name he'd ever heard. The keynoted lasted until about 7pm, then we all (14,000 of us) went en mass to a welcome party in Yerba Buena Park.

Here are some Carvey characters from SNL. On the left is the Church Lady and on the right is Garth of Wayne's World:

And here's a picture of us afterward moving as a mob to the park next door:

The original plan for the office contingent – there were about twelve of us coming from different corporate offices - was to meet up at 6pm (the originally scheduled start time of the party) at the front gate to the park. But since the keynote ended an hour late, the crowd was massive, and I was starving, I decided to just take my chances and head into the park. As luck would have it I actually did find everyone in practically no time. As we stood around listening to the various Jazz bands, I got a soda and what were either fish sticks or chicken fingers. It was hard to tell under all the breading, but I hardly cared at that point. Then we decided to head out and grab some real dinner. By the time we finished eating it was around 10pm (though my body was thinking it was midnight based on Chicago time) so we were happy to call it a night and head back to our respective hotels. Tomorrow my first session starts at 8 AM.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Sunday in SF

It’s Sunday morning and my body clock played a little trick on me this morning. Thinking it was still Central Standard Time; I woke up at 4am and couldn't get back to sleep. So I started charting my agenda for the week. Then I walked the conference venues to get my bearings and learn where everything is located. Tonight is the welcome reception and keynote speaker. I hear Dana Carvey will be there.

It’s not even noon yet and I think I’ve already logged another several miles this morning just getting familiar with the lay of the land. I heard there are shuttle busses running from the hotel to the conference site, but the weather is nice and the walk is only about five blocks, so I doubt I’ll be taking the shuttles much. Well that’s all for now… since I have to stand to use these conference computers and I really need to sit down. More later.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


Hitting the Ground Running

Well I'm in San Francisco now. I made it here safely. It's been less than a day and I'm already worn out. The flight arrived a half hour late, landing at 1pm, and I had a presentation to give at 2pm. So I took a taxi right from the airport to the Moscone Center, where I was speaking. I was to give a lecture about the MWRUG (Midwest Regional Users Group - a group of PeopleSoft & JD Edwards users). Of course there was no computer for my
PowerPoint presentation
and the MWRUG brochures had not been delivered, so I just winged it. I was dripping sweat from all the running around, but being rushed probably kept me from having time to be get nervous. In the end, I think the presentation went pretty well. Fortunately, there were only a dozen people in attendance as the conference doesn't officially start until tomorrow. The weekend was dedicated to special Oracle training classes and user groups.

Before heading to SF, I had gone online and purchased tickets to see Alcatraz. The last boat available left at 4pm. So with my presentation over, I ran with my bags five blocks to the hotel, got checked in, dropped the bags in the room, and ran to catch a cable car to the pier. Needless to say, by the time the cable car reached the end of the line, I was running for the boat. Luckily, I just barely made it and enjoyed a really neat audio tour of the prison. What I wasn't prepared for was the walk from the prison dock to the prison itself. While a gradual incline, they say it is the equivalent of a thirteen story climb. Follow that with an hour walking tour and another walk back down to the boat. I must have lost five pounds today. Tomorrow is the Open World’s official opening and then the work really begins.

Alcatraz and the SF skyline:

Friday, September 16, 2005


Packed with Anticipation

Tomorrow I leave for Oracle Open World 2005. It’s been a few years since I last attended PeopleSoft Connect. That was long before Oracle bought out PeopleSoft. This will be the first combined conference. These conferences are a great opportunity to learn, share, and network. Every morning starts with a keynote speaker (usually a CEO from a major vendor) followed by a full day of learning sessions, and ending with a reception to meet with other users and vendors.
The biggest thing we’ll all probably be listening for is what Oracle has planned for PeopleSoft users. Personally, I also want to learn more about what to expect with PeopleSoft version 8.9, especially including possible enhancements to self service and portal. I’m bringing my digital camera, so hopefully I’ll have some good snapshots that I can immediately upload with these posts.

Editor's Note: Any similarities between real persons or events and those menrtioned in this blog are purely coincidental. Many of the pictures and links provided are courtesy of Oracle.

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