The first Microsoft BI Conference has just finished, so how did it go? Hmm, well, let’s say it’s a typical Microsoft version 1.0. There were a lot of good features, several things which could have been much much better but overall everyone was very enthusiastic for the future. I certainly enjoyed myself a lot and will be coming back next year.
First of all, let’s talk about the positives. There were 2800 people there so this was a fairly big conference, much bigger than I (and I suspect the organisers) were expecting. Almost everyone who is anyone in the world of Microsoft BI was there and that made it a great opportunity for networking and gossiping. I finally had the chance to meet a whole bunch of people who I’ve only ever had contact with via email plus many others who read this blog and just wanted to say hello. The only downside to this was that I spent so much time hanging out and talking to people that I didn’t get a chance to look round all the exhibition stands and didn’t, for example, get to see many of the third party tools (eg Panorama) in the kind of detail I’d been wanting to. The facilities were very good and last night’s party at the Experience Music Project was lots of fun too; there’ll be at least one picture from that event I’ll be posting up next week. In terms of content there were a couple of excellent sessions of the kind you could only have at a dedicated BI conference, and I learned a lot from them.
The negatives? I got the distinct impression that the organisers had initially expected to run a business-focused conference and then found that the majority of people attending were technical. The agenda was published way too late and there were way too many breakout sessions that were simply an excuse for other customers and consultancy firms to blather on about how successful their project had been. Many of the technical breakout sessions were uninspiring walk-throughs, there seemed to be a lot of repeated content for example on PerformancePoint, and there were a few sessions that had been given at conferences before over the last year or so and where the content was already familiar. I heard a lot of people complaining they wanted a much greater level of technical detail and at the same time I came across a lot of people in technical sessions who were out of their depth; perhaps the tracks should have been more clearly defined and the content of each session thought through better? For me, though, the chalk talks made it all worthwhile, although it was a pity that the chalk talk theatres didn’t have enough space and that they were so noisy. I found most of the keynotes pretty dull, with Steve Ballmer shaming all of the other keynote speakers with a masterclass in how to hold an audience’s attention.
Other bloggers who covered the conference in much greater depth than I have done are Patrice Truong and Mike Diehl.