OAUG president targets Oracle customer support, young members

The new OAUG president had a good first experience with Oracle support. But there's always room for improvement, and she has since worked to take Oracle support from phone to online.

Dr. Patricia Dues, the Oracle Applications Users Group's new president, has two goals: continued improvement of Oracle customer support and better relationships with newer, younger OAUG members.

When Dues was a new OAUG board member, she joined the OAUG Customer Support Council, a group that at the time was just getting off the ground, but since has grown to become a global collaboration. The Support Council is comprised of OAUG board members, users and Oracle representatives who work together to ensure Oracle customer support is correctly addressing the needs of users.

Dues joined the Support Council while she was working as the enterprise program manager for the City of Las Vegas. Later, she took on the role of information technologies portfolio and application manager. While working for the city, Dues learned that Oracle users in the public sector had specific needs that were different from the private sector. She joined the Support Council as a way to ensure Oracle customer support was meeting the needs of the public sector.

The OAUG Customer Support Council

Dues said that when she joined the Support Council in 2001, it was "a very challenging time for support." Oracle was in the process of ending support for the 10.7 release of its business applications in favor of Oracle E-Business Suite 11i. This was the first time companies were transitioning to Web-based applications, and Dues said it was a "big change for companies." On top of that, Dues described 11i as "rocky," and the upgrade was a particularly difficult one. As a result, a lot of companies wanted more time to complete their upgrades and to move to 11i only after problems were sorted out.

Because Dues worked in the public sector, she needed to address specific problems before migrating the City of Las Vegas from 10.7 to 11i. Dues explained that, for most public sector entities, budgeting and bookkeeping work differently than in the private sector, which means that changes to applications that don't affect the private sector could still have a big effect on the public sector. Some pieces of the applications the city used for budgeting didn't work as well for its purposes in 11i as they had in 10.7, and Dues didn't want to upgrade until everything worked properly. "We want to see that the upgrade is stable and then set an upgrade path," she said.

Dues worked through the Support Council to convince Oracle to give users more time to migrate to 11i. Furthermore, at the time, Oracle customer support was handled entirely by a call center. Dues and the Support Council worked to improve communication and convinced Oracle to post online answers to questions received repeatedly in the call center. The Support Council used this as a springing off point. "Now Oracle has an absolutely incredible support website," Dues said.

The OAUG Customer Support Council also worked with Oracle to develop an online forum that lets users suggest changes to Oracle. Oracle developers review the requests and decide whether to make the changes. Dues explained that what started as a way to voice problems "evolved into 'let's be proactive and help Oracle.'"

Dues chaired the Support Council from 2008 to 2009. During that time, she expanded the council to include other user groups, including the Independent Oracle Users Group, Quest International Users Group and the Oracle HCM Users Group. She was chair of the International Oracle Users Council Global Support Committee from 2011 to 2015, only stepping down recently to take on the role of OAUG president.

The Young Professionals Forum

While chairing the Global Support Committee, Dues received her doctorate in organization leadership in information systems and technology from the University of Phoenix, a for-profit school that's based in Arizona and offers classes online and at more than 100 campus locations nationwide. Since 2000, she has taught business, IT and project management classes at the university as an associate faculty member for its parent company, Apollo Education Group Inc., which focuses primarily on education and career training for people already in the workforce.

Now, Dues is bringing her experience as a professor to the goal of better supporting the OAUG's younger members. She noticed that the OAUG board was comprised mostly of people in their forties and fifties -- people who managed Millennials, but not Millennials themselves. "How can we help them?" she asked herself. "How can we groom them? Because they are our future."

Dues founded the Young Professionals Forum in 2014 to help younger Oracle professionals network and learn. "It took off," she said.

Dues wants to provide better support for young professionals in the OAUG. She is interested not only in teaching young professionals, but also in learning from them. "The way they learn is different," she said. "That's helping us evolve our organization."

The OAUG has added webinars to its repertoire, rather than relying only on face-to-face interaction. Dues said that, in the past, it sometimes felt like members were waiting for the group's conferences to share information.  However, she said, "With the Millenials, they want the information now. We just have to be quicker." To meet this need, the OAUG has improved its website to provide faster access to information.

The OAUG is also in the process of partnering with universities and community colleges to help bring students into the industry. Dues said the young students "are so bright and you can see so much of a future for them, and I didn't want to lose them. We saw them as our future board members."

Next Steps

Dr. Patricia Dues shares her experiences with a business intelligence project for the City of Las Vegas

Former OAUG president Melissa English talks about learning from other OAUG members

IOUG president Maria Anderson calls for greater resilience in IT

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