I spent the past week at a conference in Orlando Florida like I have fifteen times prior. IBM Connect (Lotusphere until last year) is an IT conference that focuses on IBM software and technologies. It’s been a place where I’ve networked, met lifelong friends, learned all about the software that manages our business, engaged with IBM and had some fun along the way.
I think this might be the last time I’ll make the trip.
Don’t get me wrong, I thought the conference was great this year for the most part. Having a host (Jay Baer) run the keynotes helped keep things moving. Online a-lister Veronica Belmont hosted a bunch of events in the social cafe, and that was excellent as well. American Authors opened the show and rocked the house, Seth Meyers shared some laughs with us, and Scott Adams of Dilbert fame gave a great session as well. It wrapped up with a really inspiring session from NASA’s Dave Lavery and how the Mars Curiosity Rover came to be.
All of those things were awesome, but didn’t really speak to my business needs.
The opening general session showed a fake bank increase its fake profits with its fake website. And while for a demo that’s fine, I would have really liked to have seen something demoed from an actual customer. Call me crazy, but nothing ever works as well as the pie in the sky demos. Seeing real world use would have made me happier.
And you could tell the old time Notes and Domino crowd hungered for something more tangible. Hell, when the loudest cheers came for the brief time Ron Sebastian graced the screen, I don’t think that bodes well for your demo.
Next was yet another re-branding. We’ve been through this before, and I don’t have a huge problem with it, but I really wish IBM would pick an angle and stick with it. Changing Sametime’s name back in the day worked out so well, why don’t we try it again? So it will be Connections Chat, Connections Meetings, Connections Mail… and will Connections be Connections Connections? Is there a Connections Notes? A Connections Domino? It wasn’t as clear as it needed to be, and I bet downloading software from Partnerworld will now be so much easier right? Right?
Next, let’s get to the technical tracks. I saw a lot of really great stuff, and two of my team presented this year. That said, my staff could really teach a lot of the XPages classes themselves, so I’m not sure those help us that much when considering paying again for another year. I know I’m blessed with a particularly excellent team, so other companies probably get a lot more out of those classes.
In past years, almost every timeslot required a decision as to what session to attend. Sometimes you could find three or four you wanted to see. It was much easier last year to choose slots, and this year it was particularly trivial. Other than a few minor exceptions I only had one session that would really stand out to me. In fact there were several timeslots that didn’t require my attention at all. I’m just afraid that the technical classes will continue to dwindle, and the HR, marketing and other Kenexa type stuff will slowly take over. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.
One of the reasons I doubt it were rumors of long time folks responsible for the show stepping aside after this year. I also spoke to several speakers who said they were done as well. And these weren’t small name draws either. People whose sessions you may have attended for years might not make the trip next year. I just expect that after this year, there will be a precipitous drop off in the amount of things I want to see.
And you know what, that’s okay. Things change over time, and I’m not really that upset. Maybe it’s me growing up, the hair getting pointier, or simply getting old. But I had a great week, and it seems like a great time to move on.
It’s not that we are moving on from IBM Technologies. Far from it. We just put in Connections, and will look to roll that out by mid-summer. We already have Sametime 9 (Er, Connections Chat) in place. Our business runs on XPages apps on Domino. All of our mobile devices connect via Traveler. I’m really interested in the new IBM Connections mail that was shown off (as soon as it’s available on premises.) So we’re still very much an IBM shop, and that’s not likely to change any time soon.
All in all, I felt that is was a very nice IBM Connect. I learned a lot, was entertained and got to hang out with people who are genuinely like family to me. I love this community of people and always will, but the community isn’t tied to one event, or one location, or one week throughout the year. These friendships will survive whether or not we all migrate to Orlando once a year. With all the good memories I’ve had of this conference, I’m going out on a high note, and these sixteen years will always be an awesome memory.