August 28, 2008

The Art of Justification: Attending Oracle Openworld 2008

Most organizations are slashing travel and training budgets. These are the testing times when you would probably need to push your case and justify attending a conference. So here are some insights into the 'art' of justification.

Conferences are especially difficult to justify because sometimes they are viewed as perks and not the hard-working 16 hour day of attending sessions and networking that you experience at conferences. You need to prove that the conference value is many times the registration fee (or at least equal to it). Your blog editor has been fortunate to attend Oracle Openworld in various capacities over the last nine years and would like to share some tips to help you to convince your manager.

Looking at conference agenda and select the sessions that you think would add distinct value to you and your organization is the key. For example, if your organization is planning to roll out OBIEE or in the middle of R12 upgrade, the sessions that discuss these projects would provide 'priceless' information. Nowhere else would one get information about 'undocumented' features or implementation issues (perhaps only on a blog that you stumble upon) as well as 20/20 hindsight of lessons learned and how to do it a better way for your organization's implementation.

Since you would be the lucky one to go to the presentation, there may be some team members who might miss out. Apart from the usual conference freebies, there is more than you can share with them. Once you return from the conference, you can give a presentation to you co-workers on what you learned. If you have attended a hands-on session and got hold of great tutorials, share with your team so that they can also go through the same 'training'.

Always try to implement at least one learning you have gathered. It can be a performance enhancement of the system or implementing a new feature. Be sure to document the savings and emphasize that this saving would not have been realized if you had not attended the conference. In a previous organization, I helped to roll out a new functionality based on a conference session I had attended. This saved the company a few thousand dollars in consulting fees and perhaps justified at least five years of conference attendance.

Oracle Openworld is more than a trade show where vendors showcase their products and try to pitch their service offerings. It is a great education event. There are several deep-dive sessions, hands-on tutorials and workshops to attend. These sessions are all available at the conference venue and in a packed four day schedule. If one were to attend individual training sessions for each topic, then it would be month long road trip across multiple cities that would not only be prohibitively expensive but also impractical since there is a day job to done too. Think of the conference as an intensive education boot camp where you graduate with superior skills and confidence. Utilize this opportunity for your and your organization's transformation.

The exhibit floor should be a must visit area too. Seldom would you find so many Oracle partners at one place, ready with their presentations, demos and experts to answer your questions. It saves lot of time getting right to the meat of your requirements rather than sit through hours of webinars and tons of marketing collateral (not that I have anything against these form of marketing). The vendors and service providers can also gauge your level of interest and schedule follow-up discussions at the conference itself. So its a win-win scenario here.

Oracle Openworld (and Collaborate conferences) are the only forum where you get to have a face-to-face encounter with the Oracle product teams. Often they are showcasing their next release and experts are always around to answer your questions or guide you to the right source. This form of interaction can led to your participation in Customer Advisory Board and similar forums where your voice would be heard and feedback recognized for enhancements and new features.

Apart from the Oracle Corporation experts, the Who's Who of the Oracle ecosystem make their presence felt at Oracle Openworld. When you have overcome your initial awe after getting a signed copy of their latest book, hang around to listen to some of their gems of advice. Participate in Question and Answer sessions and other round table meetings and get these high value tips at no additional cost!

Oracle Openworld conference is your conference. It's an open conference. It's a global conference. Oracle users and implementers from all around the world attend the conference. Participate in birds-of-feather sessions where organizations using or implementing the same products or technologies meet and brainstorm. Another great forum to attend is the unConference where the mavericks among the gurus may present in a no-slde zone. All of these would certainly make you highly energized and ready to enjoy the rock concert night at the conference!

Editor's footnote: Now I have to get a blogger's registration for the conference. Would OOW'08 organizers send me a promo code please?

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