Examining the ongoing challenges of delivering high-quality, value-added ERP services in Higher Education.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Too many interests? (OOW13 Planning)

Perhaps I take pre-conference planning too seriously -- probably because of my project manager brain. The truth is that I never follow my plan to the letter once I'm at the venue; there are always serendipitous browsing and moments of laziness or inclement weather avoidance (can't I just go to another session here at Moscone South rather than walk all the way to Moscone West?)

Four conditions that make schedule-building easy:
1. Narrow and specific interests
2. Limited selection of activities that meet those interests
3. Logical and straight-forward conference program calendar (e.g., structured time for meetings)
4. Intuitive schedule building tools

Unfortunately, not a single one of those conditions holds for Oracle Open World, which starts in a week, and for which I'm ill-prepared. 

Specific Interests
Out of the 50K people attending this event next week, this is not a widespread problem. There are many attendees with straight-forward interests: I'm a DBA here to learn about Database 12c; I'm here to learn about APEX; we're evaluating engineered system; I run E-Business Suite and want to know about 12.2 and bit of fusion coexistence. 

When you've got myriad interests spanning industries, applications, and technology you have to prioritize. This is especially hard when something that would have been your top priority for years (in my case, Hyperion Planning / EPM and E-Business Suite -- my #1 topics for a decade) land at the bottom. How can I not go to a single roadmap session for those products? That just feels wrong!

Limited Selection
For the 1:15 slot on Wednesday afternoon, there are 92 sessions to choose from. Read that again. NINETY-TWO! Of those, twenty are directly relevant to my current or past portfolio (and level of tech savvy -- no database tuning, enterprise manager, or java for me), and ten are directly relevant to my current gig implementing PeopleSoft and OBIEE. 

Choosing among them is not easy. How can I skip the Exalytics customer panel when we're making a heavy investment there? But the session on UPK and testing automation is potentially more valuable. Other sessions I flag to remind myself to download the presentations later -- though I hardly ever remember to do so!

Logical Program Calendar
There is so much piled into one week, the confusing swirl of meetings on top of meetings (despite the fact that the schedule doesn't support it unless Oracle does it to you) is inevitable. But it is really hard. When to go shopping for iPad giveaway contests -- I mean, when to stroll the exhibit floor to meet interesting third-party vendors and partners? During the keynotes, perhaps? (Unless the floor is open then?) The time between sessions may be entirely consumed by escalators and commuting time. There are also parallel "off-agenda" activities, parallel official activities in Yerba Buena with different start/end times, plus trying to schedule 1:1 meetings with sales reps and product managers. 

There isn't really an answer to this challenge -- it is what it is -- but it makes planning a bit of a nightmare...

Intuitive Scheduling Tools
I'll just say it -- the scheduling tools Oracle provides are terrible -- here are a few things wrong, in case anybody is looking:
  • The search agenda results seem to be coming out in random order... (I just tweeted this: http://t.co/T4ApCpNT4B)
  • Despite having 90 sessions per hour, you a.) cannot pick a time when searching and b.) the search results only return the first 100 at a time! 
  • Conflicts are strictly forbidden and sessions can't be edited on your calendar -- so that 3.5 hour summit that you need to leave 30 minutes early for the conference session you're presenting? You can have or the other but not both. 
  • This holds true for personal time, too. So forget about squeezing in a conference call that overlaps with one of they keynotes!
  • And my favorite quirk -- let's say you added a session to your calendar. And now you are looking at your schedule and you click on that appointment, hoping to see the session description, etc. Nope -- your only option is to remove that session. So you have to find the session in question elsewhere in the tool to remember why you picked it!
But anyway, I've got a few days to get it right. And then I'll probably toss the whole schedule to the side once I get to San Francisco anyway!


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