by Aaron Lazenby, June 2014
In April, Profit’s editor-in-chief Aaron Lazenby caught up with President Alyssa Johnson at Collaborate 2014, Oracle’s largest user group, to learn more about her vision for the Oracle Applications User Group (OAUG).
Johnson, a practice director at IT solution provider Rolta Americas, had already been an active member of the OAUG for more than a decade when she became president for 2014. Here, she talks about new innovations she’s driving to make it easy for members to communicate with Oracle, and the coming technology that she’s most excited about.
Profit: What do you hope to achieve during your year as president of the OAUG?
Johnson: Our mission continues to be around the education of our members, providing networking opportunities, and maintaining influence with Oracle. But this year, I am emphasizing innovation. I want to focus on innovative ways of delivering our benefits and engaging members.
When we say networking, it's more than just having a drink at the bar. Users really want to talk to peers that have had their same problems, because that’s the quickest way to the solution.
For example, we have reorganized our content database, and used new technology to make the database more easily searchable, keyword-driven, and exposed to Google. We've also just announced a refresh of our website, which will make our content more accessible to members and non-members as well.
At Collaborate, we normally use theater seating for our member meetings, but this year we moved to to rounds, and were very encouraged about the amount of networking we had going on. And our Collaborate app had 101,000 hits on just one day of the conference. These are little things, but you don't have to change the world to be innovative.
Profit: How do you facilitate user concerns, expectations and desires back to Oracle?
Johnson: Our customer support council is very active, and has been working with our geographical user groups and special interest groups to enhance the way users relay requests to Oracle. Before, users could use My Oracle Support to log an enhancement request. But users couldn’t see what requests other companies were making, or the status of those requests.
The OAUG has worked with Oracle to create a pilot with the procurement module. Now, you can log into My Oracle Support, visit the enhancement request area, and rate which ones you think are most important. And development is also telling the users in the community what the status is: We've accepted it, but we haven't started working on it yet; we're working on it; we've delivered, etc. It’s been very successful.
Profit: How else do you work with users to help them get the most out of their Oracle investment?
Johnson: Typically, OAUG users want to see a roadmap for planning purposes, but just as important to them is answering the question, “How do I do my job today?” Or tomorrow, if something’s coming in terms of an upgrade. I do like to try to keep them focused out a little further than that. I try to tell to look at their implementation as a journey. When you go live with a system, that’s not the end. That’s really the beginning, because there's innovation and there's opportunity after that.
When you go live, you never take advantage of every capability of a system. When I go see clients, they're often just using a small percentage of what's available. The company’s made a big investment in this ERP, or in this particular module, and I can help them to use what's there – not all 2,500 features, but at least a selection based on what will give them the biggest bang for their buck. Think what benefit they will get from that.
Profit: How does the OAUG network help users enhance their Oracle investment?
Alyssa Johnson is a practice director at Rolta Americas and 2014 President of OAUG.
Johnson: I think that’s one of the things that’s really great about the educational content we have. In the OAUG, we have so many users that have been there, done that. Now they can come back and tell other users about where they found the biggest benefits.
When we say networking, it's more than just having a drink at the bar. Users really want to talk to peers that have had their same problems, because that’s the quickest way to the solution. If you can have a mentor that’s already solved that problem, it's so much easier. And also it helps you to build a business case, because sometimes you have a tough time convincing executives what you need to do to get to a solution.
Profit: Looking ahead, what technology are you most excited about?
Johnson: I get enthused every time I go to the Oracle Usability Labs. There, you see what's coming in the future, and how much research has been done on the usability of the application. And when Oracle invests that much time and energy and money into the usability, you know at the end of the day there's going to be something exciting coming out on the other end.
When it comes to mobile, usability is critical. Today, most people still use their laptops at work, but my kids are not going to do that in 20 years. We’re going to see more and more become available for the tablet, including the ability to do analysis and make good business decisions based on the information exposed there. You could have the cleanest data with all the best information, but it’s useless unless you can get it into a way that lets you make a business decision about it — and you can’t do that from an Excel spreadsheet of numbers, I can tell you that.
Aaron Lazenby is editor in chief of Profit.