You need a few basics to fashion a successful user group, says Jean-Jacques Camps of the Association of French-Speaking Oracle Users (l’Association des Utilisateurs Francophones d’Oracle, also known as AUFO). “You need common business practices, you need to be close enough to attend meetings, and you need a common language,” says Camps, a longtime AUFO president. So it makes perfect sense, he continues, for his Paris, France–based user group to draw contacts from Switzerland and Algeria.
“In northern Africa, we share common language and practices with much of the business community, and it’s just a couple of hours away by plane,” says Camps. AUFO has established active contacts in Algeria and is currently working with Moroccan and Tunisian businesses to activate new members there.A Valuable Resource
French-speaking Oracle users have many good reasons to join AUFO. The group hosts a range of special interest groups, runs contests to help users show off their Oracle-based projects, and provides as many as 30 miniconferences, called commissions, throughout the year. Each commission is formed around a single theme such as database monitoring, paperless invoices, or managing support services. AUFO invites an expert from Oracle or a consulting company to provide a lecture; the lecture is followed by testimonials from group members, which are then followed by an open debate. The member testimonials are key. “No testimony, no commission,” says Camps. “I don’t want these to be marketing events; they are to be an exchange of practices and lessons.”
The commissions seem to be a natural extension of Camps’ user group philosophy. “It’s about real life,” he says. “It’s about what works for you or doesn’t work, your failures, your ideas, the clever things you have done that you can show and use for networking.”
During his career, Camps has worked on projects that have pushed him to reach out to fellow AUFO members for help. His first Oracle E-Business Suite implementation, in 1996, encompassed 30 manufacturing plants in four countries using two languages. In 2003 Camps was elected to the AUFO board of directors. Later that year, he missed a board meeting and was elected president in his absence.“That was seven years ago, and I am still going,” says Camps, who adds that his leadership position helps him meet people and learn things he would not otherwise be exposed to. “Nothing beats firsthand knowledge from a fellow member,” he says. “I like to be in this user group world because real life is much more painful and much more clever than marketing materials. You learn more.” Camps’ current project for his employer makes the perfect case for user group involvement. He and his team are implementing a common instance of Oracle E-Business Suite at sites around the world using four languages: Chinese, English, French, and Japanese. “I used to think that Belgian fiscal laws were the world’s most complicated, but I am discovering that they are child’s play next to India’s,” he says.
Camps likes the creativity that technical and cultural challenges provoke. So AUFO designed a contest to allow its members to show off their projects. Called the Oracle Trophées, the contest is open to any Oracle technology or application but requires the technology to have been in production for more than three months. A jury made up of an industry journalist (if available), two university professors, three Oracle employees, three AUFO members, and the previous year’s winner judges the Oracle Trophées. “We bring people from the outside to give us a neutral view of the competitors,” says Camps. The competition is extremely popular and draws submissions from many French-speaking nations. “Helping members shine is an important function of our user group,” he says.
LEARN more about AUFO
WATCH the Up Close interview with Jean-Jacques Camps
Photography by Maxime Le Conte des Floris, Unsplash