Connect 2014: My Thoughts

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Unlike previous years, it has taken me longer to process what I saw and heard at Connect in order to have an opinion of the conference. Until now, when asked, “How was the conference?” I answered “good.” It was all I had.

Now, I have a better answer.

“Transitional.”

I believe that you have to be in denial to not get the overall direction IBM is taking with this conference and their products. Last year, it was, for the most part, the same as in previous years. It was if IBM was gently placing their toes in the seas of change.

Not so this year.

This year, unless you were “all in” with Connections, WebSphere, and Sametime, there was very little problem scheduling sessions to meet your needs. Oh, there were Notes/Domino/XPages sessions, but the first two were in, IMHO, in short supply. Development (that’s XPages )? Yeah, those were there, but hold no interest for an Administrator like myself. Except in AdminBlast where I learn how to turn off that feature. 🙂

I am very fortunate.

First, I was able to attend Connect with friend and colleague Barb Skedel. Together, we were able to split appropriate sessions, eliminating the whole “which session should I attend at this time” conundrum. Talk about stress relief.

Second, and most importantly, I accepted a full-time position with a company that is installing and implementing Connections, WebSphere, and Sametime. Unlike past years, where I was totally focused on Notes and Domino, this year I transitioned to every appropriate session for those areas. And, if it wasn’t for Barb, I would have been very upset at missing several key sessions. This was for me, a conference exactly like the ones in the past. Full of technical content on software that I use on a daily basis; Connections, Sametime, WebSphere, and Docs. Even as an administrator, you would find me in every “Customizing Connections” session that was available. And I understood exactly what the speakers were presenting and demoing. Isn’t that scary?

That should give you all you need to know about my present and future.

Notes and Domino? Of course, they are my foundation and in my future. However, this conference, in those areas, is no longer the “must attend” event if you’re an administrator. [Author disclaimer: I am not disparaging those attendees or presenters who came to Orlando and spent their time and money on those sessions. Honestly, take a look at the sessions again and tell me that Connect is for you]. Take another look at MailNext. While IBM keeps telling us that it runs on Domino, most, if not all, of the features coming in that product will require a Connections environment in order to take full advantage of those features. And if they don’t with the first iteration, they most certainly will with subsequent releases.

From my standpoint, that is a good thing. I want mail to integrate with Connections. Myself and my teammates have spent a lot of time getting Connections up and running and I want to leverage that investment as much as I can. Because if it integrates with Connections, then everyone will be using Connections, whether they know it or not.

Win-win.

I was not at all disappointed in this conference; Connect hits everything that I am now and will be. If I were a Domino administrator, I don’t think that this conference would be for me. In fact, I would never return. There isn’t enough content to make the conference worth the time or money (seeing my friends, that is another matter entirely. I would still “attend,” I would fly down on Thursday or Friday, stay the weekend, and fly home on Sunday night). Domino development? I really don’t know enough about Domino development to make a judgement.

You can sling all the “IBM says” and “IBM is committed to” statements you want about Notes and Domino. I firmly believe that Notes and Domino are a cash cow for IBM, and is treated as such:

Since the business unit can maintain profits with little maintenance or investment, a cash cow can also be used to describe a profitable but complacent company or business unit.

The place where IBM wants you to go, is exactly where I am going. And I feel fine.

One of the side benefits to attending Connections/Sametime/WebSphere/Doc sessions is that everyone was a new speaker to me. One of the side benefits of not attending Notes and Domino sessions was that I did not have to see the same speakers I’ve seen at more Lotuspheres/Connects that I care to admit. Oh, there is no doubt that they are very good, excellent, in fact, however I’d like to see some new people present. No, I’ll go even further; I’d like to see all new speakers in every Domino session (administrator and developer). Don’t you think that seeing the same people present at the same conference year in and year out is getting tiresome? Want to not have my thought come as a shock to the system? Try this: co-present with the person that will replace you. Then, the following year, take a seat in the audience while your protégé runs the show.

While I wait for that, I’ll just continue to support the regional User Group conferences to see new speakers and topics.

I’ve transitioned from a Notes/Domino Administrator to a Connections/WebSphere/Sametime/Docs Administrator and quasi-developer (you need to customize Connections, after all). Lotusphere transitioned from Notes and Domino to Connect and Connections, Sametime, WebSphere, and Docs. Connect 2014 was exactly what I expected and wanted from IBM.  Even in the labs, with the exception of the MailNext in theDesign Lab, I spent all of my other time with the Connections, Sametime, and Docs people. I didn’t even stop by the Notes/Domino pedestals. Even in the Product Showcase, most of my time was with vendors who are investing in and developing applications for Connections and Sametime.

Like I said, “transitional.”

9 Responses to Connect 2014: My Thoughts

  1. Roy Rumaner says:

    “Even in the Product Showcase, most of my time was with vendors who are investing in and developing applications for Connections and Sametime.”

    Yeah, you never stopped by to see me at my booth. Now I know I no longer rate as a good enough friend for you to make that long trip to the back of the showcase.

    • Gregg Eldred says:

      I was back there and I think I visited you. No, I know I did, because I remember a conversation we had. Further, I believe you owe me either some pictures or a link. 🙂 See, I DO remember visiting you at the booth.

  2. Tom Duff says:

    Very nice post, Gregg… You are definitely the target that IBM is shooting for, and you have the right mindset for continuing with their platform. It’s often hard to make the decision to change, but once made, go for it.

  3. You nailed it Gregg. It is a transition. I started work day one out of Uni with two yellow boxes. One was Computer Based Training for this thing called Notes. And the other had a heaps of disks in it for installing Notes 3. I have lived my career around Notes/Domino. However 5-6 years back now we started investing in learning WebSphere and Portal. And then Connections come along. And what a great thing it has been. You have to move with the times and keep learning. Connections for me is where Notes 4-4.5 was way back when, a very exciting time, with great investment from IBM, and many possibilities. For me the Connect conference this year was the best Lotusphere/Connect I have ever been to and I really think the YellowSphere community is just as strong as it has ever been. We just are now a bit different – Connectors maybe.

  4. Giannandrea Schiavo says:

    Brilliant post !
    Thanks for writing and sharing your thoughts.

  5. Steve Breitenbach says:

    Since I am an admin, I’m kind of glad I didn’t waste my company’s money going, but wish I would have gone to see the Connections stuff.

  6. Stuart McIntyre says:

    Terrific post, Gregg. I agree with most of your comments.

    One thought is that the transition has been ongoing for years – after all Connections was announced at Lotusphere 2007, so this hasn’t happened overnight.

    The other is to agree that the speaker list needs to continue to change over time. We are seeing new speakers come in every year (and thanks to the LUGs for that), and I think we have a very strong group now, particularly when you consider some of the independent thought leaders that are now being invited to the conference. I do wonder whether speakers should be restricted to a maximum of 2 sessions (plus repeats) at each Connect though, just to mix it up a little more…

    • Gregg Eldred says:

      While the transition has been in the works for years, it wasn’t until late last year and early this year that it all fell into place for me. I guess you could say that I finally understood what IBM was selling and how it would benefit my organization. Sort of like when you understood Lotus Notes and Domino. After that, everything made sense.

      You understand what I hope to see at Connect, “mix it up a little more” is exactly right.

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