March 18, 2008

Best Essbase Conference Ever?

Life is funny sometimes. Just when you think you know what's going to happen, you suddenly find yourself dragged in an entirely new direction.

If you read my post from February, I basically advised everyone to attend Collaborate because it was, frankly, bigger than the Oracle Developer Tool Users Group Kaleidoscope conference. There's no way, I said, that a conference with fewer than 10 presentations [note: I was off by a factor of 3] on Hyperion could do justice to all the products that Hyperion historically produced (60+). Mike Riley from ODTUG wrote me back (and commented on my blog entry) and he disagreed with my point that variety equals quality. To quote him exactly, "From an individual attendee's perspective, if I only had 17 sessions that I could attend, and each of those sessions had 10 tracks, does that mean I could see 170 presentations? No, I'm still limited to 17 presentations."

My e-mailed response to him started off with "You make a good point: if I had to choose from 150 mediocre presentations or 10 good ones, I would definitely choose quality over quantity." I then went on to say that his conference would need some serious help to achieve the quality that would make me go to it instead of a larger conference. I said that Kaleidoscope would have to have top-notch keynotes from the top Oracle brass, panels from recognized Hyperion gurus and developers, information packed presentations (not those horrible hour long infomercials) on topics people really wanted to learn about, and most importantly, a narrowed focus so that one product could be handled well rather than multiple products handled inadequately. I suggested they focus just on Essbase and leave Hyperion Planning, Hyperion Financial Management and the rest for another year.

I have to admit that I was being rather vocal to Mike about what I feel he should do with his conference, and I was pretty sure he was going to punch me (or the 21st century equivalent: flame me in a blog comment) for stepping on his turf. Mike turned out to be a much bigger individual than I am. He came back to me and said, basically, "you made some good points, so how would you like to head up the Hyperion track at Kaleidoscope?" In other words, "put your money where your mouth is, buddy, and let's see if you can really make something out of this!"

Well, I semi-accepted the challenge. Knowing that chairing an entire track was more than one man could handle, I volunteered my good friend, Tim Tow, to be co-chair along with me (although I'm pretty sure that Tim will no longer be my good friend once this is all over). Our first decision was to focus exclusively on Essbase this year since it's the most developer-oriented tool that Hyperion makes (that's widely used) although we briefly entertained the possibility of two Hyperion tracks (Essbase in one track and the Hyperion apps in the other).

The next 4+ weeks were hell. Putting together an entire track in less than a month is always difficult, and we weren't just aiming for a pretty good track (or even a "Hyperion Solutions conference" quality track). Proving that dreamers are alive and well in the Hyperion world, we decided to create "the greatest Essbase conference in the history of the world." If you're going to dream, dream big. We'll let history decide if we succeeded, but here are the basic facts:
  • Keynotes. We wanted to have a headliner to kick the week off. We have two: John Kopcke and Robert Gersten (both SVPs from Oracle in the BI/EPM areas) will both be delivering keynotes.
  • Presentations. We wanted to have at least as many hours of presentations as Solutions (timeslots, not total quantities of presentations). We ended up with 30+ hours of content starting on Sunday morning at 8AM and going until noon on Thursday. Some days have presentations until 6PM at night. 30 hours is more than double the number of hours that Solutions used to offer.
  • Quality of presenters. Instead of waiting for the speakers we wanted to come to us, we went to them. We didn't see a single presentation submitted by Essbase developers, so we invited them to attend and they said yes. We asked the leaders from some of the Essbase forums (like Jeff McAhren from Health Markets) to attend and they said yes. We asked the top people at the largest Hyperion partners to speak, and they said yes. Of all of the people we invited to speak, only three declined the invitation.
  • Themes. We wanted each day to be not just a high-level hitting of topics but rather a deep-dive on one key area of focus. As such, we have entire days devoted to optimization, the future of Essbase, programming, and more.
  • Panels. We have panels with the Essbase development team, panels with Essbase optimization gurus, panels with large-scale implementation customers, and more. We have more panels than I've seen at all the Hyperion Solutions conferences in the last 5 years put together.

Have a look at the final agenda at http://www.odtugkaleidoscope.com/hyperion.html. Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? Is it practically perfect in every way? Well, there is one disconcerting issue. The current ballroom that's hosting the Hyperion Essbase track at Kaleidoscope can only hold 150 people. Based on the expected demand for the track above, they're expecting more than 150 people. While they're actively looking to get a bigger room for us, they may be limiting attendees to the first 150 people to register. My advice is not to delay or you might be told that all spaces in the Hyperion track are full.

If you're responsible for multiple products and you can only afford to go to one conference this year, you might want to consider Collaborate. If your job is to build or maintain Essbase cubes, though, you want to be a part of Kaleidoscope. Who knows if we'll ever be able to pull this off again? Early bird registration is up on March 25, so get over to the Kaleidoscope site and register now to get the cheaper rate (and guarantee your space).

Keep reading this blog for further updates as we get closer to the start of the Kaleidoscope conference. See you June 15-19 in New Orleans!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad this was posted mere days after the 100% refund deadline for Collaborate has passed. I smell a conspiracy.

Edward R. said...

I only wish I was smart enough to organize a conspiracy. :)

Edward R. said...

The early-bird deadline has been extended to at least April 7. Go here for the updated blog post:
http://looksmarter.blogspot.com/2008/04/kaleidoscope-conference-early-bird.html