Ronan Miles earlier this month stepped down from his long-standing role as chairman of the UK Oracle User Group (UKOUG), and leaves behind an independent organisation that continues to grow in size, but more importantly, in influence.
His succesor, Debra Lilley, said that a strong indication of Miles’ influence in Oracle was the fact that he was asked to provide evidence as an industry expert to the EU Competition Commission on Oracle’s acquisition of Sun in December 2009.
“He still made concerns known, but Oracle trusted him to give an objective and independent view,” Lilley says.
Miles, who is director of collaboration services at BT, was chairman of the UKOUG for 11 years, and during his time has overseen sizeable transformation in the group.
For instance, when he became chairman, the group was running just 20 event days a year. He has grown this to more than 100 days a year.
“Now, the user group is very important to Oracle,” says Miles.
However, he does not deny that there were challenges in building up the group’s stance with Oracle, particularly when it came to Oracle’s appetite for acquisitions.
“A significant part of the culture has changed,” he says.
“New communities were handed to us on a plate, and we had to plan to support them. They all have different needs, and it was important that we actually supported that.”
This is the UKOUG’s view regardless of whether or not an Oracle acquisition is hostile, which was the case with PeopleSoft, for example.
“We are independent, so if hostile or not, they want to speak to someone who has got experience of Oracle,” says Miles.
In fact, because Oracle runs a “very closed communication”, he says, it is harder to engage if there is no user group representative in an acquired company. The BEA Systems acquisition, which took place three years ago, was an example of where the UK presence had “evaporated”.
According to Miles, people join user groups for three main reasons.
Firstly, it allows people to network with peers and to share knowledge with colleagues who are doing the same thing, and secondly, it allows a two-way interaction between the supplier and customers.
But thirdly, Miles says that people join the user group to have influence and a stronger engagement with the supplier, so that the products and services that Oracle provides are aligned with what customers actually want.
Both Miles and Lilley agree that this has been the case with Oracle’s long-awaited Fusion Apps, on which the UKOUG has been able to give feedback throughout the product’s six-year development lifecycle.
Oracle, meanwhile, has also come to realise the benefits of supporting user groups.
“It’s a cost-effective way for them to reach swathes of audience,” says Miles. “The value proposition has been much more clearly understood between the parties.”
“Members of the user group are more likely to be on the latest release, and more satisfied with their Oracle investment than non-members,” he adds.
Although he will still be chairing the e-skills UK Employer Board for Wales, after investing so much of his free time in running the UKOUG, Miles is now looking forward to some leisure time.
“My youngest daughter goes to university in September, and me and my wife will have a few of those holidays we promised ourselves – and I will have a bit of me time.”