In the Field

Inspiration, Connection, and Community

UKOUG leaders pay it forward with full range of tech topics and support.

By Leslie Steere

May/June 2019

Brendan Tierney has what may be the most exhaustive personal library of Oracle Magazine issues, spanning from 1987 through the final print edition, in 2015, and he’s devoted to completing the collection, which he began in 1992 when he first started working with Oracle technology. That’s just one example of the commitment Tierney, a member advocate and board member of the UK Oracle User Group (UKOUG), has to Oracle, Oracle technologies, and the needs and insights of Oracle users. And it mirrors the ethos of UKOUG as an organization founded in 1983 as “a hub for connecting, learning, sharing, and shaping conversation for the benefit of the community.”

That user group ethos might have been simpler to follow 36 years ago, when Oracle was releasing version 3 of its single product—a relational database. Today, with Oracle providing a complete stack of cloud and on-premises technology, the challenge is a bit more expansive. “UKOUG now is a broad-based user group that covers many different sectors, from our apps community to our JD Edwards community [a separate user group that merged with UKOUG when Oracle acquired PeopleSoft, which had acquired JD Edwards] and also quite a large tech community,” says Tierney, who is also an Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassador and Oracle ACE Director.

Across those communities, the user group supports several horizontal and vertical communities. “We have people who are very vertically focused on perhaps a database technology,” says UKOUG Member Advocate Chair and fellow Oracle ACE Director Neil Chandler. “And then we’ve got the horizontal folks as well—like our higher education or public sector community—who want to talk about how they are using the cloud.”

On Emerging Technologies

“I like the machine learning within Oracle Database,” says Brendan Tierney, a member advocate and board member of UKOUG. “I think it’s a nice product, because the data is in the database. There’s no data movement—we can do the machine learning right on the spot. We can expose the machine learning by using some very simple commands through SQL, or we can REST-enable it for HTTP access.”

UKOUG’s business applications side has more of a cloud focus, because of SaaS, Chandler adds, “whereas the tech side is much more diverse: It’s got a huge on-premises focus. So we kind of package our members into three areas. We have what we call our traditionalists; and then we have the apps folks who are already fully in the cloud; and then we’ve got our transitioning members, who are in both camps—they may be moving totally to the cloud, or they may be moving to a hybrid solution.”

No Member Left Behind

With the Oracle Cloud push over the last couple of years, “our traditionalists feel a little ignored by Oracle,” says Chandler. “But I think Oracle is coming forward to recognize those customers and that the complexity of the systems they’re running might make them difficult to transition to the cloud and that it may take quite a long time.” These customers may not be ready to make the move at this point, Chandler adds, “but they still need looking after. And Oracle in the UK is coming to us to see if we can help with the husbandry of those people. It’s something we’ve started to see this year that is really positive.”

The charter for UKOUG, Tierney emphasizes, is to help its members, regardless of what stage they are in, by providing the support and education that help them work out what their next step should be. “We have a range of different types of events, from a big conference with multiple tracks that brings everybody together, to smaller free events such as regular meetups, to webinars,” he says, and UKOUG also is working toward having more online content with learning tracks that help members navigate through different stages of their career.

On Moving to the Cloud

“It’s about supporting our members where they are—understanding that not everyone, especially large corporations with incredibly complex systems, can just go to the cloud,” says UKOUG Member Advocate Chair Neil Chandler. “It’s very easy for startups. I mean, no startup in its right mind would do anything but go to the cloud. But for a large corporation with systems that are 10, 20, 30, or 40 years old, transitioning to the cloud is a substantially greater challenge.”

UKOUG member advocates meet with Oracle liaisons on a monthly or bimonthly basis to discuss the different technology trends and types of events planned, Tierney adds, “and particularly in more recent years, we discuss how we can work together more closely and help target the various kinds of users and give them the right content.”

“The JD Edwards community likes to all get into a room and talk,” Chandler explains. “They don’t want to see too many projectors. The technology community—they want projectors, and they want to be educated by experts and informed about real-world practices by their peers. The apps side is a more fragmented community and has some narrow industry-specific verticals. UKOUG will continue to provide special-interest days and meetups for those verticals, as well as broader conferences that span all Oracle offerings.”

In addition to a growing roster of events and webinars, UKOUG publishes a magazine three or four times a year that includes content from its various JD Edwards, business applications, and technology communities. “We get members very, very eager to contribute to #PTK [Pass the Knowledge, formally Oracle Scene],” says Tierney, “because people still like having their name in print and being able to share their knowledge—and like showing their mother they are published as an author. And we also get experts from around the world who are very willing to contribute.”

Next Steps

EXPLORE UKOUG’s upcoming events.

CHECK OUT #PTK (Pass the Knowledge).

SEE Brendan Tierney’s Oracle Magazine collection.

WATCH Brendan Tierney and Neil Chandler on video.

Photography by Oracle Digital Media Production