Sunday, January 25, 2009


What does a "would & could attend" IT conference look like?

Noted Industry Analyst, Brenda Michelson asks What does a must-attend event for enterprise architects look like?. I hope that the likes of James Tarbell, Chris Swan, Todd Biske, Scott Mark and others in the blogosphere will share their thoughts...

I care most about compelling topics more than the credentials of the presenter. Way too many conferences focus on those who have excelled at Toastmasters but otherwise don't convey much useful information (Gartner conferences come to mind). I rate peer interaction as a second consideration in that I tend to like to hear what others are up to directly from them vs hearing some analyst tell the story on their behalf.

Analysts are high profile but aren't very credible. Of course there are exceptions such as Brenda Michelson, the guys from Redmonk, the folks over at Burton Group, Nemeretes, The 451 Group and Entiva but otherwise this holds true. Doc Searls once asked: Which story is easier to tell? The story told by a well-dressed person who has a marketing budget and all the wonderful things they do for their clients or the story of a lowly developer and all the wonderful things he does for his employer but due to media relations constraints isn't allowed to talk about it. I would rather hear from the later as the easier is easy to hear without spending money.

I don't care about the CIO title or other figureheads where I might care about those whose are lower on the foodchain who actually get the job done. I guess I am not interested in best practice Gartner style handwaving and posturing. I want to learn something.

Interested yes, able to attend, probably not. Remember, we are constrained with worst practices. The challenge with an unconference is that my boss (figuratively speaking) can't proactively heist his leg and tell me what sessions to attend. It would require enterprises to treat their employees like professionals.

Enterprise architects have many painpoints. Imagine a conference where they could learn how to exert more influence over enterprise software vendors such as encouraging Documentum to include full SAML support without having to procure additional products or how to Microsoft to implement XACML libraries as part of .NET. Enterprise architects for the most part have risen from a technical background and the introductory topics related to process and metrics is somewhat boring, so I think depth is important. Imagine a scenario where there was a session entitled: The Hot Seat, where you can grill enterprise architects on any question related to their enterprise and they could only disclaim things that are considered intellectual property. While it wouldn't be so structured, it would afford opportunities to truly learn from each other. Yes, I would entertain volunteering to be grilled by others in the industry in a public setting without knowing the questions in advance.

I am fine with sponsor pitches but the follow-on conversations are problematic. Do I want to pay money to attend a conference and use it to speak with a sales guy? I can do that for free. This also begs the question of who schedules the conversation? There is merit in me scheduling it with others, but in all honesty, if I have to be coerced into listening to a pitch, It will not provide value for either party.

Well, this at some level feels a lot like OWASP where conferences are only $400 instead of thousands as they have cut out lots of the frills. Likewise, they also offer local chapter meetings which are free to attend. If someone wanted to organize a gathering of enterprise architects and can provide Pizza, I would most certainly help out with space...

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