Friday, December 30, 2005


Thoughts on 2006 IT Conferences

It has been a very interesting week for me in that within the last couple of days I have been an invited speaker to not one but four different prominent industry conferences. In looking back, I have spoke at a total of 20 different IT conferences in the last three years. I hope to speak at four to five conferences in 2006 and now have to figure out which conferences are most important to me. Sadly though, one community that I religiously support (Agile Software Development) has never extended an offer to me...

I have always been a big fan of conferences put on by Marcus Evans in that they have a unique value proposition for not only vendors but for us folks in corporate America as well. They don't make us folks spend our budgets listening to CTOs of software companies and their thinly veiled sales presentations. Likewise, we are forced to run from booth to booth getting our cards stamped so that we can enter drawings for televisions or other trinkets.

Marcus Evans instead limits their speakers to real-world end users. They do make a rare exception for consulting firms and will always allow as speakers prominent leaders of industry user groups but otherwise no vendors. This simple approach makes it the ideal conference for folks within corporate America to attend. While I speak at a lot of conferences throughout the year, I do have a hard time recommending my peers in the industry attending them, but I can say without reservation that conferences put on by Marcus Evans are worthy of corporate dollars.

Vendors have it twisted when they shell out lots of dough to present at conferences. Paying lots of loot for speaking is simply a waste of money. Marcus Evans has better value proposition for vendors. The real key for why vendors should pay attention is the fact that Marcus Evans arranges for each vendor an opportunity to talk one-on-one in a prescheduled manner attendees. For example, I will be speaking at the Boston TechCongress in February. Imagine the value proposition for each and every vendor in attendance getting the undivided attention of 200 different CIOs and Enterprise Architects who actually want to talk to you. A note to vendors that may be salivating, the key for vendors is us folks in the enterprise agree to this because we expect to talk with the CEO and CTO of your firm, not the local sales guy.

Another conference I will be presenting at will be an upcoming Gartner conference. Hopefully I will get the opportunity to serve on a panel with Gartner analyst Jess Thompson a second time. For the Siemen's CIO Summit, I had the opportunity to present along with him, David Lithicium and Jean Baker. There were many points in which we all agreed and many points where we were all diametrically opposed. The key point though is that in disagreement comes insight and that folks truly get to see the issues and critical thinking that goes into taking a particular stance not just the glossy stuff found elsewhere.

The one thing that I will need to work on though before presenting at a Gartner conference so as to not make too many folk feel uncomfortable is in getting Liferay Enterprise Portal and ServiceMix not only listed on the magic quadrants but prominently displayed in the leaders quadrant. Both products are 100% open source and in use in multiple Fortune 200 enterprises as well as the global 200. Getting the message out about the convergence between SOA and open source makes for a good enterprise architecture story that folks need to hear...

The other thing that I have to start thinking about is my own opinion on hype cycles. I hope that folks at Gartner don't object to me being candid in stating that hype cycles are only useful for measuring the buzz as well as the adoption rate of any given domain. The value of a hype cycle is very useful for venture capitalists and software vendors but not as useful to enterprise architects. Hype Cycles also do not necessarily correspond to the long-term utility or even predict success but rather measure phenomena which the blogosphere does equally well at.

In 2003, I spoke at the Enterprise Architect Summit on Service Oriented Architectures. The one thing that I still find interesting is that I could probably get away with not updating my Powerpoint and still keep audiences interested. The paradigm shift seems to be happening but slower than I expected. Maybe these folks who are interested in learning more about SOA should instead stay home, learn the basics by reading books such as Enterprise Service Oriented Architectures and coming to the conference armed with questions once they have developed a hunger to learn more.

Anyway, I have now committed to a total of six different conferences. Work will never give me this much time on the clock so a lot of this will ultimately occur on my own vacation time and more importantly on my own nickel. I like sharing what I know with others and figure that I shouldn't place arbitrary constraints on speaking and sharing. If you happen to be a conference chair of a conference and are seeking a keynote, I will gladly volunteer my services. I do have two constraints though. The first being that I ask that it be a conference on the East Coast (I really hate flying) and second that we work collectively to figure out how I can get to your location while minimizing the impact on my own personal wallet.

Sadly, the two conferences I would love to speak at would be Infoworld on enterprise perspectives around open source and the CIO Forum but sadly I am not on their radar. As far as Agile conferences, I guess the community itself will soon figure out that while there is value in talking with the founders of the agile manifesto (who happen to be consultants in sales mode) there is more value in talking with practitioners who work in large enterprises who have nothing to sell...

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