The flight back from Europe is a long one.. Granted, not as far as coming back from Asia!
The time on the plane does give a person an excuse to think...
It's been a while since I've written anything here, so I thought, what the heck, let me express my thoughts on the plane in written form... Here..
My thinking was all about where the CWG has been, my somewhat warped perception of where we are now, and my even more warped perception of what I'd like to see us do in the future..
I've been doing this CWG conference thing for a while now... Given my fair share of presentations as well... And I've certainly noticed a few trends over the years. But I'm going to pick on the Prague conference to try and make my point.
Here is my count of presentations given at Prague;
SAP gave a total of 11 presentations;
- 6 of which were on the topic of CPQ\SSC
- 2 specific to the IPC
- 1 specific to the PMEVC
- 1 on Hana
- 1 from SAP consulting (an implementation solution)
Customers gave 10 presentations on various topics
Partners gave a total of 8 presentations
- 7 of which I term sales presentations
- 1 of which was educational (VC101)
Then there were 2 that fall into the category of CWG Administrative type stuff.
My first impressions?
- Why did the customers give fewer presentations than SAP? In fact, less than 50% of the overall presentations?
- Why were there so many SAP presentations on the topic of SSC\CPQ?
- Why were there so many "sales" presentations from partners?
Please don't get me wrong. For those that stood up and presented, I give you all the credit in the world...
I'd like to address your attention to the bylaws of the CWG a minute. Those bylaws call out 3 goals;
- Partnership-based coordination of interests and cooperation between users of the product configuration software and SAP with the aim of expanding and improving the software.
- • Influencing the development policy and orientation of SAP in the interests of SAP users in relation to the development of new products, and the further development of existing products, services and guidelines, particularly in connection with product configuration.
- • Promoting the more effect utilization of the product configuration software developed and marketed by SAP by means of a mutual exchange and the passing on of information and knowledge.
When I read those 3 primary goals, and then compare the presentations given to them, it makes me wonder...
On the "Partnership-based coordination of interests and cooperation between users of the product configuration software and SAP with the aim of expanding and improving the software" topic;
Nowhere in there does it talk about being "sold" software from SAP... No offense, but in my opinion the SSC\CPQ presentations fall (for a large part) into that category. We used almost 25% of the agenda on that??? I don't like it. I understand why, but the reality is, the vast majority of the customer base DON'T USE those products. They use LO-VC.. Will they switch to those products? Maybe.. But if experience with the same types of presentations around the IPC over the years are any benchmark, the answer is... Probably not. They will stick with LO-VC.
What about "Influencing the development policy and orientation of SAP in the interests of SAP users in relation to the development of new products, and the further development of existing products, services and guidelines, particularly in connection with product configuration."?
On the influence front, I can't fault anybody. SAP has been pretty open in the last few years on this topic. Pretty darn responsive as well. Want proof? Just take a look at the PMEVC... Granted, one could argue that SAP is looking for help on the SSC\CPQ front... Personally, I wouldn't say that, given the nature of the presentations.. However, if we were all influencing, I would expect to see more than 1 presentation around that topic.
The last bullet up there.. You know the one that says "Promoting the more effect utilization of the product configuration software developed and marketed by SAP by means of a mutual exchange and the passing on of information and knowledge."
This is where the customers should REALLY be coming into play. And to be honest, I'm fairly depressed that they don't... I mean, lets be real. Customer presentations made up LESS THAN 50% of the agenda.
And I do have a beef with what I do see take up a solid 25% of the agenda.. Those partner presentations that I deem to be "selling things"... I don't see anything in the bylaws that say we should be looking at vendor products. Losing 25% of the agenda to vendor products instead of customer stories seems to me to defeat the purpose of what the CWG was formed for.
In my opinion, the only partner presentations we should have are those that are done with a customer describing an implementation, or educational stories based on the partners direct experience implementing the software.
I know many of you won't agree with me. Others are saying "if you don't like it, get on the Board and change it"... I'd love to... Except my company won't let me.. In fact, based on what I'm seeing, I'm seriously thinking about recommending my company no longer participate in the conferences.. Influence activities? Certainly we still want to participate. But the conferences are getting harder and harder to justify based on content.
And I don't think I'm alone. There is a reason we don't have the high retention rates at conferences. If we were providing the value to our user base, we would have seen MUCH higher attendance numbers growing year over year. Instead, we stay stagnant... People come and go and yes, there is a core group... But it's almost like that discussion club of yore...
How can this change? It's all up to the members... Yeah YOU.... The reality is, your presentation abstracts DRIVE the agenda... If the presentation committee only has 10 customer abstracts, what do you EXPECT them to do to fill 3 days of content??
So, if you care about the quality of YOUR CWG conference, my suggestion is to get up on stage and tell your story. If you have a message to tell about how you achieved something, or need help with a problem, tell the program committee TODAY...
Only YOU can change what the CWG is...
Oh, by the way... Fell free to comment away... Note that I will NOT respond to emails on this topic... Any discussion on this topic should be in a public forum.. In the comments of this post.