Tony Rockwell – Info

sharepoinTony@info – Cloud Computing adventures

SharePoint Conference “season” never ends

Posted by sharepoinTony on June 9, 2010

If your new to SharePoint, or have been working with it for awhile, you should notice that there are lots of conferences and events.  This is a good thing, actually it is a great thing for the community.  Variety and options are always good and in this case essential to bring information to the large and growing crowd of organizations using SharePoint.  If you are trying to choose a conference, often the options are overwhelming.  I know, I have been there.  I wanted to go to all of them and not miss a thing when I got started with SharePoint.

OK, to be honest, I still do…but that isn’t the point of this rambling article. I’ll get to the point soon, I promise.

Unless you are a SharePoint consultant or vendor you can’t attend all of these events due to budget and time constraints.  So don’t let it get you down, look at the volume of conferences and events as a great opportunity for YOU to work some of them into your schedule.  Think of it this way, what if there were only one SharePoint conference a year and you couldn’t attend because of some conflict?  Ouch!

As others have pointed out, choosing a conference depends on your needs and environment.  You have to decide what conference is best for you & your situation.  You have to look closely at the conference and the sessions offered to see what fits your needs.  My best tip is to review the session abstracts, do the work, and choose what works for your schedule and budget.

The bottom line is, I love SharePoint Conferences! I loved attending the Best Practices Conference last year & SPTechCon in San Fransisco earlier this year – and I got a lot out of useful information from both of them.  The SharePoint community is awesome and you get to experience that first-hand when you attend any one of the conferences or any of the other SharePoint events such as SharePoint Saturday (another awesome set of events!).  That is why I have a bone to pick with all of the conference organizers out there. [Ahh, now we are finally getting to the point.]

Here is the conflict as I see it…
  • SharePoint 2007 is huge, there is a very large user base, and many companies have invested in this platform.
  • Microsoft always pushes business to stay current and upgrade software.  With the huge 2007 base, they are eager to get everyone to move to SharePoint 2010.
  • Businesses always need to strech their investment, and they focus funds on strategic needs rather than constantly upgrading tools used to run their business.  Therefore, many, and I emphasize many, are not rushing to upgrade to SharePoint 2010.
  • Budget dollars are shrinking.  Training and conference spending is scrutinized more than ever before.  People have to justify going to conferences. If your company isn’t moving to SharePoint 2010 in the near-term you have a very hard time justifying your attendance at nearly any of the SharePoint conferences this year.

Conference organizers (and Microsoft) fail to recognize these points (IMO) and are making it hard for many (like me) to attend.  I know, I know, many of the conferences have some 2007 content.  But we are talking scrutinized justification here.   Would you pay for someone to go to a conference where only 25% of the conference was applicable to your company?  10%?  5%?  Business managers are looking for higher percentages than that.

Thousands are attending SharePoint Conferences and events, but that doesn’t mean businesses only want 2010 content. It means there are thousands who are new to SharePoint and want to start with the latest version.  It means that some businesses are ready to upgrade and are looking for the 2010 focus.  It means that the huge SharePoint 2007 community is left without a conference.

Will there be a conference with lots of topics around migrating to 2010 next year when many businesses are finally considering the upgrade?  What about 2007 topics for the next 2 years?

Companies feel like they are behind the curve often enough because software and hardware vendors continue to innovate and push those upgrades (a good thing).  That is why we need conference organizers to bridge the gap and provide content that leads them to the latest version.  We just need them to do it closer to the pace of most businesses internal software lifecycle.

The truth is that most companies don’t want to upgrade until after new release settles in – often after sp1.  Businesses approve attendance for conferences that help them deal with today’s challenges more often than they do for ‘preparing for next year’.  They want to know that something will be addressed in this quarter or next quarter because of what is gained at a conference.

So Conference Organizers, you are missing a whole segment of the market and leaving lots of potential customers behind.

That is my opinion.
Since the original posting of this rant, the organizers of SPTechCon and The Best Practices Conference have communicated and corrected some of my beliefs.  These specific conferences do in-fact have a significant amount of content either applicable to or directly focused on SharePoint 2007. Clarity in my message was needed and I am thankful for the input.
I still feel that the marketing and focus of some conferences are overly “2010”  and that feeds the hype created by Microsoft for the purpose of pushing upgrades on customers.   That said, I have to agree to the valid points made in the comments section of EndUserSharePoint by these organizers.  Their response is further evidence that this community is awesome and demonstrates another reason why I loved attending the above-mentioned conferences.  My Thanks to David Rubinstein and Bill English for your insights and efforts, we all appreciate how much you care about your attendees!

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