Be sure to read Douglas McDowell’s excellent write up on the Microsoft BI Conference in the most recent SQLMag Update e-newsletter. As Douglas points out, BI has long been relegated to the side-lines of big conferences and that, at last, Microsoft has put strong, top-level attention onto BI. Many of the Microsoft honchos came out to speak to the crowd of 2500 and one, Jeff Raikes, even gave a lot of details about the coming a lot of details on the upcoming release of SQL Server called “Katmai”. You can find more details about Jeff's speech in the press release at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2007/may07/05-09BINewDayPR.mspx. Microsoft also provided a press release regarding "Katmai" details; check it out at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2007/may07/05-09KatmaiPR.mspx.
An interesting element that Douglas mentions is his discussions with attendees and exhibitors and the variety of reactions that they’d expressed about the event. The scuttlebutt that I’m getting from the attendees and exhibitors is rather uniform, and less complimentary. Attendees have been whispering that the event was strongly geared toward managers and provided lots of great information to steer their purchasing decisions (read: marketing). But if you were a techie looking to implement that latest technology, the event was woefully short on technical presentations and in-the-trenches know-how.
Similarly, the word on the street from the exhibitors is that the exhibit hall was quite chaotic without enough emphasis on bringing attendees in to see the third-party offerings. Exhibitors experienced a lot of issues with booths, assigned locations, and lagging attendance. Now, I’m not disagreeing with Douglas’s perception of the exhibitor experience, since it mostly revolved around their thoughts on the attendees. I’m sure that the crowd was the highest concentration of BI-centric people in one place and that they had great enthusiasm for the event. But the exhibitors weren’t thrilled with the performance of the conference organizers (those responsible for managing their conference experience) from what I can tell.
However, if that’s all the complaints that I hear about the event, then I’d rate it as a good first-year event. I know from first hand experience how hard it is to do a large event. It ain’t easy! And experiences that helped you pull off an award winning show often don’t translate when used with a different audience. So, the team is learning and will have much more to offer next time.
In the meanwhile, be sure to look for more information on the conference resource page, Live at the Business Intelligence Conference, where you can find keynote videos, news releases, and lots more resources.
My conclusion is similar to Douglas’, but more expansive. It’s a good event and well worth attending next year. If you're on the BI track or are looking for BI information at technical conferences, keep your eyes open for details about the next Microsoft BI Conference--attending will be well worth your time. However, don’t forget that the upcoming Microsoft TechEd event will have lots of BI sessions as will SQL Connections, which also includes a lot of great developer tracks. And the biggest SQL Server conference of the year, the PASS Community Summit, has a full track dedicated to back-end BI (e.g. Analysis Services and Reporting Services) and plan another for front-end BI (visualization tools, Proclarity, and OfficeBI).