Friday, August 01, 2008

Software Configuration Manager

I learned that Oracle Support has a couple Oracle blogs up:

I think I was just checking on them when I noticed that the supportPortal was being a little more aggressive looking for more feedback. Over the years, I have participated in many of the Survey's that Oracle sends you after you close an SR, and have made no small number of comments (both good and bad) to a growing number of contacts I have established within Oracle, so this seemed like yet another opportunity to voice my opinion. I think I do that much more when I get the impression Oracle is actually listening; I don't share the same thoughts here because, well.... I highly doubt Oracle is reading this. =) No offense.

So let me blur the lines a little. First, I think Oracle is doing a much better job at collecting client feedback. However, the more critical part is what they are doing with that feedback. Unfortunately, for us end users, those comments seem to disappear into a black box, never to surface again (much like Enhancement Requests). I chatted with some really nice folks at Oracle (Kristal and Cherryl) and they both reassured me that Oracle is taking our comments seriously, and in fact hinted that the ongoing evolution of Metalink 3 is largely due to user feedback, and even newer things are coming down the pike.

Taking the invitation from the SupportPortal blog seriously, I called up for an appointment and got hooked up right away. I think the lady running the feedback session was working at home (heard a small child in the background), and she had some setup work to accomplish before we got down to it. But 90 minutes later I had made numerous observations about many aspects of the Software Configuration Manager and Metalink 3 in general. It was refreshing (and exhausting) to not only state some things I either liked or did not, but also to demonstrate via a recorded web session. Very satisfying; I recommend this to anyone who deals with metalink on a frequent basis.

So, what did I say? In general, I like the eye-candy of the new interface, but it is also a little slow and sometimes downright confusing. For instance, there is no way to bookmark bugs. The options to configure the layout are a nice thought, but still a little limited; it reminds me of how limited blogger is compared to WordPress, if that helps at all. Don't get me wrong, I think it is quite handy to configure the layout, but I really look forward to improvements. The key point, Software Configuration Manager, is a great concept. Unfortunately, I have some political roadblocks to fully utilizing SCM with my employer, which makes it a little frustrating when attempting to comment on the SCM because it is not SCM's fault at all. =) We require that we either have separate CSI numbers, or implement some sort of access to control such that not all our end-users have equal access to a site-wide license. But if we ignore that for a little while, I think SCM is awesome and has a lot of potential. Just the fact that it helps speed up SRs significantly is a big bonus. I have heard some misgivings about allowing Oracle to retrieve information in such a fashion, even if only passively, but I personally do not have an issue with it.

I do not like how some of the questions are completely inane. For instance, 99% of my SRs are for the Oracle Server - Enterprise Edition. 99% of the time I forget what exactly my "Product" is called and have to hunt for it amongst a list of several hundred product options, most of which we are not even licensed for. Why? What about a list of 10 most recent products for my CSI? What about a list that only contains products I am licensed for? And when attempting to find a category that somewhat matches the subject of an SR, I hate having to select one from the list of 30 or so. I want a searchable list. And a fast search at that; the LOVs in the patch pages really suck.

I concluded by saying that it would be vitally important to me see how Oracle is using this feedback. I have repeated this message to my Oracle contacts and with nearly all feedback I give to Oracle. I long to see what difference I make. Don't you?

Kudos to the teams involved in the feedback gathering operations. And BIG PROPS to Cheryl, Joey and Kristal (all of Oracle).

1 comment:

Yong Huang said...

Charles, I wrote a note about how to search SRs you opened on Metalink, and other small tips. It's at

Yong Huang