Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In search of My Oracle Support - Part 2

Continuing the search of the functionality of the new tool that Oracle Support has provided to the professional community, I think it's time to look at that Portal aspect of MOS. (In particular, I'm going to look at the dashboard.)

According to Wikipedia, "Portals provide a way for enterprises to provide a consistent look and feel with access control and procedures for multiple applications and databases, which otherwise would have been different entities altogether."

I'll try to work with this definition for now ...

Consistent look and feel? - Yup
Access control? - Yup (sort-of)
Procedures for multiple apps and database? - It's so consistent that I can't tell whether there are multiple apps and databases.

So that implies that MOS is a Portal.

It is kind-a cute, especially the way a message window slides across the upper right corner to tell me that 'I actually did what you asked me to do - please tell me to go away'. (For example, "region x removed from page - undo, hide".) Reminds me of Clippy.

But hopefully that portal should help me do my job. So let's look at that 'job' part for a bit.

The way I see it, the portal needs to address several classes of users:
  • manager and administrator (the ones who pay the bill)
  • casual tech (the majority)
  • expert in a focus area (the bread and butter folk)
and there are 3 major modes of operation
  • proactive
  • casual (search for information)
  • reactive/crisis
It is extremely obvious that My Oracle Support is oriented toward Proactive support. Heck, the I can't get rid of the 'very important alert' nag screen on the Flash dashboard that tells me to install OCM so I can get this system to provide me with Proactive Support for my single user Personal Edition licenses. (Come on - that's a bit overkill, isn't it????)

So let's look at the combinations and what simply logging in shows me.

When I log in, I am immediately taken to a Dashboard. That Dashboard gives me News which I can not remove. (In fact, I have 2 occurrences of the News, neither one will disappear.)

By it's very definition, News is very important. It is new. It is supposed to distract me into paying attention. And I have seen the 'News' - a 'Welcome to the new Metalink users' several times a day for the past week. (I am already inured to the news, so truly new News will likely be ignored. Which is bad for News.)

And so I get the News (twice) at whatever the bandwidth requirement is to get the region and to get that very important information that I am likely never to consciously see in the future.


Proactive & Casual Manager

Get OCM working and they can configure their Dashboard to show the targets, the general health check, bugs, and so on. They can even get high priority 'knowledge articles' such as the 'ALERT: Oracle Database 11gR2 Support status and Alerts' (which says it is 'under construction' and tells me that '11g R2 is available')

The dashboard appears to be useful for this role. GREAT!

Reactive Manager

It's Crisis time. As a manager in crisis, my people have been entering SRs. I can get status of my critical Service Requests.

Not bad at all.

We're covering management fairly well in terms of functionality.

Performance will be an issue, as a manager needs to get that information very quickly. That somewhat implies that the manager is expected to keep the portal open pretty much during the day.

Given the attention span that a manager can afford to provide (other than one specifically charged with support), I'm not sure that the page will be open very long and refresh time is critical. Given that the same manager possibly also has BAM and other dashboards open, and I'm thinking we may have a collision of priorities. (It may also explain why managers need the fastest CPUs and newest machines.)

Hopefully those dashboard regions are JSR 268 compliant ...

Proactive & Casual Tech

Pretty much the same as a proactive manager. Possibly not responsible for a lot of systems but at least can see the articles, and peruse the news (again and again). Could have the SR summary available on the dashboard, IF this person actually creates SRs.

Not bad!

Reactive Tech

It's crisis time, and this tech is not an expert. There are possibly 1/2 dozen windows open, each with a 'wait for me to get all sorts of information across the net' timeout. And the boss is coming down the hall, looking for answers. Remember that OCM is probably running and this tech has already had the opportunity to review recommended patches. Unless the 'SR summary' region is available to monitor other SRs, calling for help (by opening a SR) is still several clicks away.

We need to switch to the Knowledge Tab or the SR tab before anything can be done. Ouch!

So, not quite so good for the regular tech. Again, the biggie here is 'how much time will this person have the portal open'? Most admin techs I know are busy researching, scripting, glancing at health checks, checking mail, and so on - outside of Support. Can that person afford to have a window dedicated to a support portal?

And this is assuming the technical person is in the admin area. One whole class of potential users is missing and that is the class of developers. Not quite sure what is available here at all to the developer.


So let's look at the last of my categories - the 'expert'.

This is a relatively small group in count, but remember that the expert is hired specifically for the ability to get things done fast and accurately. This is the person everyone else turns to as a walking/talking library. This is the person who is called upon when the proverbial fan gets dirty.

This person is the front line of support. If this person is worried, management and the others are probably frightened.

Proactive Expert

The proactive expert may want the dashboard for the occasional glance. (But probably already has other tools up and running, such as Grid Control, HP OpenView, or the like AND personalized scripts.) Total time spent on the dashboard in a week, probably 1 hour, 45 minutes of which is in configuring it.

Over time, the expert may learn to be comfortable with OCM and the dashboard for health checks. I'm just concerned about the overhead of the dashboard page, time to access it if it;s not open, and the duplication of effort.

Still, not a bad possibility.

Casual Expert

It is my belief that one of the things that creates experts is the drive to see new situations, learn and research.

If that is true, the expert, in casual mode, will be wanting to research in the knowledge base. I honestly do not see anything at all in the dashboard that will be useful at this time in the quest to learn more.

So for the expert in casual mode, the 'dashboard' is a wasted interception. (Unless he wants to see that old News again.)

Reactive Expert

And in reactive mode the expert is driven to research. The key here is getting to the information source as quickly as possible. That, as far as I can tell, is safely tucked away on the knowledge tab, a click plus 5 seconds of screen refresh away from login.

Unless the expert is expected to have the portal open at all times. Perhaps in conjunction with the company portal. I wonder if that would be a good business case justification for dual monitor?


So far I can see the dashboard has it place. One place appears to be on the manager's desktop, open at all times. There are definitely some interesting aspects. (Although they appear to compete with Grid Control. Hmmm ...)

For me ... I'd prefer to have a few configuration tweaks: allow me to clean the dashboard totally (no region displayed at all), especially the old News and overkill alerts; let me select the page on which I land at opening - in my case, the Knowledge page.

I'm sure that when I grow up and have a few more systems to manage, or when I'm in a customer site that allows me to monitor the health of their systems, I'll find the various capabilities of the dashboard very useful.

Since I learned the trick of how to use, it the ideal Portal landing page has been the Oracle Tech Net page. Fast!

Definitely a first glance at the dashboard. As time goes on I'll need to review it again. But the next one - the MOS Knowledge tab ...

Totally aside, I have no idea why getting to the community pages requires 3 steps in Internet Explorer 7 & 8:

1) click on the MOS 'Community tab', which presents the 'welcome page' with a button;
2) click on the 'Go to community' button, after reading the 'welcome to the community' verbiage for the nth time;
3) click on the 'MOS Community' IE tab that is opened in response to the button.
(And then I click on the Discussions tab because the community opens on a totally static (and traffic heavy) welcome page which I've now read n-3 times.)

I have to admit, all this 'welcome' is very ... bandwidth intensive?


Niall said...


Very nice series of posts. good to see the positive as well as the critical (I sort of expected both from you)

Forbrich said...

Thanks Niall.

I'm trying very hard to give it a fair shake. There is a lot of skull-work that went into MOS and that needs to be ack'd.