BI+A 2018 Wrap-up: Smaller is better

With a new location (Huntington Beach, CA) and calendar shift for the event (February), Eventful Conferences only had six months to plan the 2018 BI+A Conference. In its second year, has the event transformed from the conference formerly known as the SAP BusinessObjects User Conference? If it continues with the vibe from this year, then it may just have succeeded.

I could imagine that the six month turnaround between conference occurrences had an attendance effect. With employees working harder and harder to justify travel funding to conferences, going to the ‘same conference’ only six months later may have stifled repeat attendance. But I think that the smaller attendance completely changed the feel and vibe of the event in a good way.  I never felt hurried, while the venue was compact enough to allow folks quick transit between sessions. Those hallway conversations that happened between sessions and want to continue later? You were able to pick that person out of the ‘crowd’ at the next break and pick up where you left off. Session rooms were comfortably full and folks tended to stick around and chat amongst themselves and the presenter.

While there were a lot of jokes about liking the location (especially those from Northern climates), winter decided to show up in time for BI+A. The temperature in Philadelphia was warmer than Huntington Beach that week! The venue was great: enough space for sessions, not terribly spread out but with a big hall for keynotes (and a Healthcare panel). I appreciated coffee being available all the time and the menu made me eat healthy. The wifi was pretty steady. The ‘show floor’ was small, but inviting and I thought that the ‘expert help’ offering seemed to go underutilized. Which is a shame, because the SAP experts there to offer assistance were some of SAP’s best technical resources. Take note for next time: sign up and bring your questions!

The sessions that I attended were current, well-prepared and engaging. I didn’t feel like I was being lectured or the speaker was droning on. Questions asked were usually relevant and audience members adding their experiences seem to be encouraged by the speakers. I think that this became the event’s vibe: Share and Learn. For me, when I talked about my BI roadmap and rollout experiences, I quickly discovered that I was not alone and some folks even had some ‘creative’ solutions to my same questions.

Of course, things weren’t all candy and roses. The discussions around the updated SAP Analytics roadmap and the sunsetting of SAP Lumira Discovery were prominent. Some folks were definitely taking the news a bit harder than others.  Perhaps they had sweat equity in their company’s rollout or maybe they were just trying to impress others with their sweet, sweet Lumira knowledge. Either way, attendees were discussing the future of their analytics roadmap and where SAP Analytics Cloud would (or would not) fit.

I think that this conference might have hit it’s mark in 2018, even if it meant to do so unintentionally. With another SAP BI conference scheduled for the following week, I feel BI+A took a different tack in the wind and rewarded it’s attendees with a fresh breath of air. I think the 2019 SAP conference ecosystem would be well-served keeping this conference at the size, location and schedule build of 2018. We have enough big BI conferences that a smaller one like BI+A is a welcome respite.

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