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Oracle’s first meeting of its Applications User Group was held last year to great success. Imthishan Giado finds out if the second year can live up to the first.

Tags: BahrainKamal Osman JamjoomOracle Middle EastSAPUnited Arab Emirates
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Version 2.0 SINGH: To the best of my knowledge, there is no Oracle forum or any user group in Bahrain.
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By  Imthishan Giado Published  April 12, 2010 Channel Middle East Logo

Whether it’s a pop song or a hit film, sequels are always a tricky business. For every megahit Terminator 2, there’s an Analyze That lurking in the background.

It’s the same story with large-scale events. No one would claim that it’s easy to set up and successfully organise a meeting of enterprise users from every corner of the GCC – and then have to repeat that performance every year in perpetuity, but only with the pressure of drawing even greater numbers.

If it is indeed a difficult burden, then Kamal Osman Jamjoom’s group IT manager Mohammed Thameem Rizvon seems to bearing it without any visible signs of distress. In many ways, the public face of the nascent Oracle Applications User Group, he’s been working with a team of dedicated individuals from both the enterprise community and Oracle to build a worthy followup to the first event held at Dubai’s Dhow Palace in March 2009.

Fortunately, it seemed to pay off. On the first day, the expanded meeting at the JW Marriott drew more than 158 attendees, and delivered 92 on the second. It’s a significant improvement from 2009, says Rizvon, because people now know the event is definitely here to stay.

“The biggest difference we’re seeing is a wider participation. In terms of the attendees, we have 60% more attendees and a larger presence from Saudi Arabia which is the largest Oracle user base. Last year was the first. Many people have since come to know about it. There was a realisation that it’s perhaps a one-off event. This year when we ran it for the second time, some of the people were convinced that this is going to be sustained,” he believes.

Price is also somewhat a factor in determining attendance to events of this nature. Last year, the Connection Point-branded event cost $795 – a hefty sum in these trying times. The fees dropped to $495 for this year, which made it more palatable for IT teams which wished to visit but had to justify the cost. As a result, Rizvon says, you tended to see a lot more CIOs at the event, people who had more freedom to move around.

Nevertheless, he strongly intends to keep cutting the cost of entry:  “We’re going to work towards it. Money is not the issue, because the sponsors are there to support us if we need it. What is the purpose of this event? It’s primarily about learning, sharing and networking. If you tell a sponsor paying ‘x’ dollar and tell him you have a wider audience, they are ready to share.

“These events shouldn’t be run at a loss. Once we know our total budget, our strategy in the next event would be to shift the majority of that to our sponsors and tax our endusers less. In the Middle East we have run all the events for free. When it’s a paid event, only the niche come and our objective is for it to not remain niche. We want everyone from the programmer to the DBA to the systems analyst to come. That’s where people will ask questions,” he adds.

Unlike arch-rivals SAP, Oracle is not deeply involved in the day-to-day running of the user group – and as far as Rizvon is concerned, that’s absolutely fine.

“As a user group, we’ve got a very clear rule. We need Oracle’s support in terms of content, the speakers, and logistics support. What we will never agree to take from Oracle is direct financial assistance or to let them drive the agenda. So far it’s been exciting and they’ve been exceptionally supportive, having given us the volunteers and speakers like Cliff Godwin,” he declares.

But while Connection Point 2010 is already being hailed as a success, Rizvon notes the need for more CIOs to get on board if the event is to avoid the fate of its predecessors.

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