I'm writing this entry while on the 7:45AM flight back to Dallas (although it won't be posted until I land at 1PM). The plane is packed with people returning from OpenWorld. Everyone has some form of Oracle logo on or with them, and everyone is completely exhausted. The lady in the middle seat next to me keeps falling asleep and leaning her head on my shoulder. She couldn't keep her eyes open if someone paid her.
After the last session yesterday, I had a few meetings with some of the leadership of the OAUG Hyperion SIG - by the way, Kristin Newman did an awesome job taking care of all of OAUG Hyperion SIG's logistics at OpenWorld - and some of the Oracle EPM sales team members. After meetings at various hotel bars, I ended up eating dinner at Greens in Ft. Mason overlooking the bay. It's a very upscale all-vegetarian menu. Dinner ended up being over $50 per person and none of us had alcohol. It was the best meal I've had all week.
Once I taxied back to my hotel, I packed and then took a quick nap before having to leave for the airport at 5:30AM. San Francisco looks different that early in the morning: you can appreciate the architecture far more when there aren't people standing in the way. There's something less hectic that allows you to take in the more serene side of San Francisco.
I've been thinking about some of the highlights and lowlights of the conference. Here are the good things about OpenWorld:
- What's New sessions. While I heard very little strikingly new information about Hyperion (or "Oracle EPM," which I may never get used to saying), a lot of rumors were confirmed by official people in official settings. It's nice to hear people go under the record (even though many did it after showing a disclaimer slide saying basically "don't hold me to anything I say, because I'm liable to change my mind in a New York minute").
- Positive Hyperion vibe. I'm not just talking about the vibe headed interRel's way from Oracle (thank you again for the awards, Mr. Ellison, sir). What I mean is that Hyperion, Essbase, and EPM were on a number of people's lips. Thomas Kurian couldn't stop saying Hyperion (and Rich Clayton couldn't stop demoing Hyperion) for the majority of the Middleware Keynote, for example. To paraphrase John Kopcke, it's not a question of how will Oracle change Hyperion, but rather, how will Hyperion change Oracle?
- Sense of Community. It's good to get together with fellow Hyperion customers, partners, and Oracle sales people and there were a number of them here. I kept running into the same people at various events (Hyperion sessions, user group meetings, the interRel reception, the Oracle/OAUG reception, the EPM think tank, exhibit halls, and more) which gave me the nice feeling that we were all in this together. That said, I think the Hyperion attendance was down from last year. I think a lot of clients are going to Collaborate or Kaleidoscope (more on this in a bit).
That's about it for the positives. Here are the negatives:
- Most of the stuff doesn't matter to Hyperion visitors. 95%+ of the content isn't relevant to the people here for Hyperion. That would be okay if it was a lot more obvious upfront which sessions were relevant and which ones weren't. Larry Ellison, God bless his soul, didn't say a thing that mattered to the EPM-only visitors to the conference. Can you imagine if the Hyperion Solutions conference had a time designated for a keynote where nothing else was happening... and the keynote was all about the price of car mufflers in China?
- Too much marketing. Yes, I know I've said in the past that OpenWorld is Oracle's chance to talk about Oracle, so why was I expecting anything but non-stop marketing? I guess I was hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. Collaborate has some marketing-level presentations (as did Hyperion Solutions conferences) but OpenWorld ratchets it up a few hundred notches. Imagine sitting through 5 straight days of sales pitches from your software vendor. Sound like fun? Then OpenWorld is for you!
- Not much information. With the exception of SOME of the What's New presentations, I didn't learn anything. This may just be me rehashing the last point. A lot of the presentations are marketing from beginning to end. Okay, so if it's going to be a non-stop product briefing (and not training, as many who have gone to Hyperion Solutions conferences in the past have come to expect), then don't charge people to attend. Those people who came expecting to go back to their companies with actionable tips on better ways to use Hyperion products were (with far and few between exceptions), went away disappointed.
- Too big. OpenWorld needs to be chopped up. There were relevant Hyperion (Oracle EPM, sorry) events at Moscone West, Moscone North, Moscone South, the Marriott, the Hilton, the Hyatt, and the Westin St. Francis. No, those places are not all next to each other. I've walked so much this week that I've lost 5 pounds. Split up the technology and the applications into two different conferences or come up with some other arbitrary breaking point. The only value of having the entire user base together at one event is that the appreciation party can afford higher end talent (Elvis Costello is no Billy Joel, though). Oh, and Ellison only has to speak once.
From an interRel standpoint, it was a great conference: we made friends, won some awards, got a few new clients, and drove our competitors bonkers. From an attendee standpoint, I was disappointed. I miss learning things.
My advice to the user community: if you like Hyperion Solutions conferences, stay away from OpenWorld. Go to Kaleidoscope if you're a developer/administrator of Hyperion products. Go to Collaborate if you're an end user of the products. Suggest that your CIO go to OpenWorld... so you don't have to.
This is my last entry for this year's OpenWorld. Thank you for following along, and I hope you weren't too terribly bored (even when I was). I will be coming back to OpenWorld next year, but until then, good bye, San Francisco. I'm going to sleep now. Wake me on Monday.