Understanding User Group

and Oracle Programs



It is very easy to get confused with all the different community acronyms UKOUG, OTN, IOUC etc. and what they stand for isn’t much better, so how do you navigate around the user communities and which ones add value to you?


I’ll start with my own safe harbor statement, this is my understanding based on 20 years of active community service within the Oracle Community at large. I believe it to be accurate but will happily be corrected, but I am sure I have missed things, and again welcome help to expand my knowledge so I can in turn share back.



What is a Community?


According to Wikipedia a community is:


A social unit of any size that shares common values. Although embodied or face-to-face communities are usually small, larger or more extended communities such as a national community, international community and virtual community are also studied.


They go on to say:

Since the advent of the Internet, the concept of community has less geographical limitation, as people can now gather virtually in an online community and share common interests regardless of physical location. Prior to the Internet, virtual communities (like social or academic organizations) were far more limited by the constraints of available communication and transportation technologies.


So what communities are there in the Oracle World? First lets look at Oracle, who in general terms look at their eco-system as customers, potential customers, partners and practitioners. You can be in more than 1 category. There is a great introduction into their communities at



Customer communities are coordinated by Global Customer Programs. This organisation has responsibility for online forums like Customer Connect, through to CIO advisory boards, Customer & Industry advisory boards etc. GCP are also the group behind surveys and the Customer Reference Program. They also have a responsibility for the Usergroup community; not the end user, but the coming together of their user groups, a kind of user group for usergroups, if that makes sense. This is called the International Oracle Usergroup Community, IOUC, which I will come back to later in this paper.


Potential Customers; these you will not be surprised to learn are well catered for by sales and marketing. I may sound cynical but actually over the last number of years Oracle have made big leaps forward on their delivery of events. It is not simply Oracle Open World, which is an amazing event to hear where Oracle both as a company and their products, there are many more product, industry and regional events held, all free, but all educational and important.


Partners have the Oracle Partner Network, with a lot of online education and education delivered by the Platform Technology Services group within them. Fast, concentrated enablement is really important to partners who extend the reach of Oracle products. Within the partner organisation in Oracle, there are many product and regional communities, and I personally belong to what I believe is the best community, the most active and sharing community, The EMEA SOA community led by Jürgen Kress.


Practitioners, the people that use the products, have forums within My Oracle Support, and the technical practitioners have a fantastic community, the Oracle Technology Network, OTN. This is truly organic community; the forums are an amazing source of knowledge.


Oracle Technology Network is the world's largest community of developers, admins, and architects using industry-standard technologies in combination with Oracle products.

OTN is also the home of the ACE Program –to recognize expertise and contribution within the Oracle Community.


Oracle ACE recipients are chosen based on their significant contributions to, and activity in, their respective community. The program currently has three levels: Oracle ACE Associate, Oracle ACE, and Oracle ACE Director.





ACE Associate that recognizes those starting their outreach journey, those designated ACE are being recognized for a more experience and reach.


The higher level of ACE Director not only recognizes extreme contribution but also requires a commitment to keep learning through briefings and attendance at certain events, and continued sharing through presenting. In return ACE Directors can apply for funding for travel and accommodation only, for events where they present. This funding enables Usergroups to have access to some of the best presenters around. The ACE Program is not limited to Usergroup presenters, however there is an obvious overlap.  Usergroups are run by passionate people and provide a platform for these experts to share their knowledge.


To keep costs in check, there are budgets, a requirement that a speaker requesting funding has at least two presentations and where appropriate OTN works with regional Usergroups to run their in-country events in an arranged timeframe so that speakers can take part in several events in one OPN Tour (e.g. Latin America, EMEA Harmony, Asia, Nordic). I have been privileged to take part several of these and present at hundreds of events over the years around the globe, and you can follow them on my blog.


Are all these communities within Oracle not enough? Well whilst Oracle promotes feedback especially within advisory groups and through beta testing programs etc. the community wants a level of independence, and a collective voice to influence Oracle.

All Oracle Usergroups are:

     • INDEPENDENT of Oracle

     • Consequently, there is no single model

     • Usergroups are broadly scoped by product, geography or industry; or a combination






User Groups recognized by Oracle are legal entities representing a community.

With the Oracle acquisition strategy the number of user groups is ever growing, there are approximately 400 Java / MySQL User groups which are less formal, but no less effective than the more traditional user groups, which number about 450. The main difference with the traditional user groups is that they have a tighter relationship with Oracle, as they are representing Oracle products whereas Java / MySQL are open source under the ‘guardianship’ of Oracle.


Oracle cannot interact successfully with this number of user groups, so they have set up an umbrella hierarchy for this to happen. Global Customer Programs (GCP) runs the International Oracle Usergroup community, IOUC. An advantage of this structure is the coming together of user group leaders who can then share best practice, and is effectively a user group for user group leaders.

There is an IOUC summit year at Oracle HQ and then additionally each regional group has their own leaders’ summit at least once a year. At the summits especially the Global Summit, Oracle executives share their plans and thoughts for the next year with the leaders. These sessions are invaluable in understanding behind the marketing.


The individual user groups, as a measure of the value that the groups derive from coming together, fund their own attendance at these summits.


The IOUC has over the years had a number of Committees where Usergroups work together to achieve things with Oracle they can influence better as a global force. A notable example of an IOUC committee, and one of which I am very proud of is the Product Development Committee which worked with Oracle representing and educating members worldwide on all things Fusion through the development cycle. In recognition of this I was awarded the Oracle Magazine Usergroup Advocate of the year in 2008

GCP organize a Usergroup pavilion at Oracle Open World where attendees can find out about Usergroups. They also host a central web presence to help customers find the right Usergroup for them.

Most of the groups in the IOUC are North America based, albeit some have a global reach. There are regional groups representing EMEA, Asia Pacific and Latin America.



For my Usergroup this is the EMEA Oracle Usergroup Community – EOUC. Within EMEA this community is really about encouraging each other and working with Oracle in the region where appropriate. The interaction with Oracle tends to concentrate on campaigns Oracle are running.


At this point I will give a plug for my own usergroup, UKOUG is a big Usergroup, bigger than some of those recognized in the IOUC hierarchy above and we have argued we should have direct representation; however where would it stop? We are a regional Usergroup and are represented here by the EMEA Oracle Usergroup Community. And at IOUC Summits any Usergroup can attend and influence directly, which UKOUG does.

I have talked about communities run by Oracle and those recognized as formal communities under the IOUC umbrella, but there are many more communities that service the needs of their members. There are other communities that exist around partners, those who hold events such as Hotsos Symposium and the RittmanMead BI Forum, which generate continuous networking and discussion.


Others have started as more social communities with membership such as the OakTable, who say the OakTable network is a network for the Oracle scientist, who believes in better ways of administering and developing Oracle based systems. The network is an informal organisation, which will get together at various Oracle events. However it is also heard it described as a drinking club with a database problem, which I prefer. All joking apart, I have so many friends in the OakTable I will never be short of a database expert and have called upon them time and time again for advice.


There are also some ‘accidental’ communities, AskTom, Oraclebase and PLSQL challenge all started life as an individual’s blog and have grown community participation.


There are also changes in the way communities start and thrive, as I’ve already mentioned, Wikipedia talks about the introduction of the Internet changing the dynamics. Social media means we can ‘meet’ online, and this gives rise to other communities emerging and are in their own way perhaps a ‘disruptive technology’ for the more traditional Usergroup. Meetups are neighbors getting together to learn something, do something, share something…


I goggled meetups today as I wrote this, and I am currently visiting my daughter in Germany, and social media knows where I am and my interests, a discussion for another day; they suggested this meetup:



There are two very active meetups in the UK, OracleMidlands and Club Oracle London, and I am often asked if we see them as competition to Usergroups.


My UKOUG board colleague Fiona Martin compares them to Park Runs, an informal meet up of people who want to run round the park on Saturdays. They give networking, support and a localized grass roots solution, it may appear in competition with the more established running club that costs money, but actually if they motivate people to run, they will want to join the running club and train to run races, maybe even marathons.

Meetups promote Usergroup communities and we don’t try to stop or stand in their way. They add value and unless they put on an event in competition or those behind them decides to stop working with usergroups in the future then actually we support them.





I guess I haven’t answered the question, which one is right for you? You can be greedy like me and take them all, or just the ones that appeal to you. We are all, different and interact in different ways, but I urge everyone to be involved in some way and to try out your local Usergroup, we will welcome you.




OTECH MAGAZINE #7  spring 2015        copyright otech magazine 2015