Breaking up is hard to do

often occurs with some couples, there was a break. Those close to the two cannot understand what happened.

Oracle and one of its user groups – the Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG), can’t be “just friends”. Oracle users are left trying to sort out what went wrong. And as at the end of many break ups, they don’t want to have to choose sides.

Raman Batra would really like to see some compromise and a new kind of relationship bloom.

“I hope they find a compromise,” said Batra, IT manager with Austin, Tex.-based Legerity. “As an Oracle user, I would like Oracle to keep supporting the OAUG conferences in some way. I wish I could talk to Larry Ellison and make him see the value of a user group and a user conference.”

In February 2000, Oracle approached the OAUG with a proposal that would see the users’ group fold their North American, and eventually, their other conferences. Oracle would then sponsor its own applications conference – AppsWorld and the OAUG could provide speakers for 25 per cent of the sessions and have the last day to run as they please.

The OAUG board of directors decided to put this proposal to its members, according to OAUG President Jeremy Young. The results of this survey showed that more than 85 per cent of the users’ group membership did not wish to give up their conferences.

“We said we weren’t willing to give up our conference, although we wanted to find a compromise. They organized AppsWorld,” Young said.

He said the OAUG responded to Oracle’s request by offering to fold their spring conference, which would have run near the same time as AppsWorld, and asked Oracle to take part in their fall conference – in a more limited fashion, which would cut down on the resources Oracle had to spend.

“We thought that was pretty reasonable, but they told us they were unable to support the fall conference because they didn’t have the capacity to do that – which we were disappointed by,” Young said.

Batra cannot understand why this compromise can’t work.

“The relationship between Oracle and the IOUG (International Oracle Users Group) is very healthy. They make sure their conferences are scheduled around each other. In a way they have reached a middle ground where you can go to OpenWorld in the fall and get the look ahead and words of wisdom from Oracle and their road map; and if you want to see how problems are being solved by real users, you can go to IOUG conferences.”

He said these are the same reasons people would want to attend two different conferences on the applications side – to get an Oracle view, and then independently, to get a user view.

Cliff Billingsley, a controller for the Metropolitan Transit authority of Houston, said he originally chose an Oracle solution because of the close relationship between the vendor and its user group.

“We were very impressed with the OAUG and how they worked with Oracle. We felt that that working relationship was something we were very interested in, because we felt like if we wanted enhancements or we wanted something done to the product we had someone we could send that message through and get Oracle to listen to us,” Billingsley said.

He called Oracle’s decision to pull its support from the OAUG conferences “tragic.”

Young said the OAUG is a not-for-profit organization that never received financial support from Oracle.

“The support Oracle gave in the past would include providing a number of speakers. These were things they wanted to do, not acts of charity,” he stated. “They considered that the OAUG was a good way to reach users. So we gave them sessions where they would speak to the direction they saw the applications going and product sessions, where they would have the opportunity to get into those details for the various different application modules.”

Oracle also sponsored Q&A sessions where they would meet with knowledgeable customers to find out what the customers were doing and what they wanted, according to Young.

In the past, Oracle wanted more session time at the OAUG conferences, but that the users’ group was trying to stay true their mandate of providing education, he said.

“We tried to keep a high number of user sessions. With applications in particular, the users have found inventive ways of dealing with business problems using those applications,” he said.

Young said Oracle also provided a demonstration area and education sessions.

He added that by withdrawing all of these opportunities from OAUG conference attendees, Oracle may be alienating their users.

“During the course of our discussions with Oracle, we’ve been asking our members for feedback. It’s been overwhelmingly positive. The negatives have been, ‘They’re so big, they’ll get their way eventually, why are you fighting them?’ We’ve had a lot of support from members and users,” Young said.

Batra isn’t sure users will feel alienated. “The value of a group like OAUG is that it bonds the users together. People never had that with Oracle, that community feel – they never expected Oracle to provide it and they still won’t.”

Whereas Billingsley was sure users would be alienated.

“There are a lot of satisfied Oracle customers who use this system and have used it and benefited for years,” he said. “I know the OAUG has made several suggestions to Oracle and they seem reasonable, so why is Oracle digging their heels in and saying, ‘It’s our ball and we’re going to take it away.'”

If he could only go to one conference it would be the OAUG conference, he said. “I think AppsWorld is something I would send someone to every two or three years because they talk about the future and I think that’s a worthwhile thing to participate in. But for me, the OAUG is the one to go to – we’ve had the product for a while, they keep putting in new features and I can’t keep up. Am I using all the product? No, at best I’m using about 60 per cent of its capability, so I’m really interested in finding ways to effectively use what is already out there, and for me going to OAUG is the way you do that.”

Oracle and Oracle Canada will not comment on the situation while the two groups are in talks.