Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oracle Application Express and the Corporate IT Architect - Part I

A few weeks ago, I attended an event in Columbus, Ohio called "IT Martini Hour 10: Agile of All Trades", sponsored by IT Martini. It's a very well organized event, gathering a few hundred people from the local IT community. I also was interested in going because a friend of mine from Pacejet was part of a discussion panel, hosted by Amazon Web Services. We've had such smashing success with Amazon Web Services in the hosting of, I just simply wanted to meet them and thank them.

During this event, I ran into a gentleman I worked with 20 years ago, where he and I were both in the same product development organization. This gentleman, "Mr. G", was a smart guy 20 years ago and is a smart guy today. Today, "Mr. G" works for a large financial institution where he is an architect for corporate IT. After glancing at my name tag which said "Oracle", he asked what I was doing and I gave him the 20-second story of Oracle Application Express. I even went so far as to say that his own company is running over 100 internal applications, all built with Oracle Application Express. I was expecting a positive reaction. That's not what I got.

In a rather abrupt and candid response, "Mr. G" said that he learned of Application Express just a couple weeks ago. He said it was stupid. It's RAD and RAD is bad. It's for "quick and dirty applications that don't scale". When I told him what organization was a primary user of APEX in his company, he referred to them as "the business users", and of course they'd use APEX. He wasn't surprised. They tend to use one of everything, whether or not it's the IT standard. He went on - a problem with APEX, like other frameworks, it's that it's a black box, and when there's a problem with the black box, you're stuck. Of course, I asked him if he doesn't use any framework, since presumably all frameworks are bad - but of course they do.

Another problem he had - he said I'd be surprised if I looked at what crappy systems the "business users" run these systems on. Then, when they fail, it becomes an IT problem. I had to point out that this wasn't a criticism of Application Express but a flaw within their organization.

So I asked him what alternatives are provided by "corporate IT". He said they have a bundle of software, some of it open-source, that is the official development platform distributed amongst the various businesses, which corporate IT can support. When I asked him if this can be used by the "business users", of course he said no. To which I concluded that he'd rather have the business users not solve their problems.

This went on for a few more minutes until the beer and testosterone kicked in. I finally blurted out how he was arriving at conclusions based upon no knowledge or experience. Surprisingly, "Mr. G." agreed. I offered to come to his place of business and give him a personal demonstration, being as honest and forthcoming as I can be about the positioning of Application Express and its strengths and weaknesses.

When the dust of Oracle Application Express 4.0 settles, I'll be visiting him.


oraclenerd said...

What a joy!

I've had similar discussions in the past many of which involve APEX, you know, it's not Enterprisey like Java or .Net.


I know (or can guess) where he's coming from, it's the "professional" vs the power user (business) mentality. I suffer from it at times myself.

Ultimately though, IT must provide a way for business users to solve their own problems. APEX is perfect for that.

This is how I try to sell it...
1. Now it's in a central location (off a shared drive) and backed up on a regular basis
2. It's Oracle and PL/SQL - when either IT gets the resources or the business gets the money to pay for said resources, moving it to the IT domain is relatively easy (Excel and all those "linked" files?)

I haven't been all to successful, but I keep trying.

Ultimately, IT needs to get off its high horse and empower the business users.

Patrick Wolf said...

Looking forward to part 2!

Raymond said...

By the end of your blog, I was already getting frustrated as I found my self a few times in the same position. There will be quite a few more APEX builders like you, "oraclenerd" and me who have that experience. I got a lot "it is only for micky mouse applications" or simple MS Access applications.

Well that is until you show them an Apex application which was a rewrite of a big Java application....

Or we show our SAAS for the building industry. That was an eye opener and jaw dropper. But these "corporate architects" are hard nuts to crack.

Admittedly our SAAS application is an application a "power user" can't put together. But many parts can be done by business user who are interested. Now if you let IT do some of the more complex functions you create a lot more goodwill and then both parties will have ownership and be a lot happier.

Jason D. Aughenbaugh said...

You know, Joel, this is one of those topics that always catches my eye. I've had those exact battles in the past at my, now former, company.
When I hear that IT can't support APEX I have to sit back and ask "Are you Serious?"
I was IT supporting more than 50 separate development efforts on one APEX server stack. (1 DB, 1 App Server) 10 of those projects were my own. I had a DBA that did 'care and feeding' on my system but that was it. I'll tell you now that APEX wasn't even a major part of what I supported at the time (maybe 5%). I really don't need to tell you what it takes to support an APEX system but I hope it get through to others.
When IT says they can't support a technology like APEX, it has been my experience that, they are either too lazy to try or haven't been made knowledgable in what APEX is and how it can be made to benefit them as well as the business users.
Doing nothing about the Business users' issues just gets them mad at IT for lack of flexibility and desire to provide service, as a service organization.

:: Off my soapbox, for now :") ::

Seconding PW comment: Can't wait to hear about Pt 2.