Most conferences I go to are not conferences in the classic sense; they’re really industry sales and marketing events with little conference-y bits around the edges. This is not to knock the industry sales/marketing events; everyone knows why they’re going (the vendors, to collect leads and cement relationships; the customers/prospects, to learn and make connections).
But Bruce Silver (@bpmswatch) and Nathaniel Palmer’s (@nathanielpalmer) bpmNEXT, which took place for the first time last week just outside Monterey, CA, is that it is quite close in format and intent to a conference in the classic sense. There was no explicit marketing of the event to technology purchasing prospects (though a couple did turn up); there was no goal of generating leads and so on. This was a meeting of BPM technology vendors and implementers who were looking to discuss developments, learn from each other, and so on.
I was unsure about the degree to which vendors would be open about sharing the things they’re currently developing; particularly because all speakers had to sign release forms (so it wasn’t a private event). But a big group of great speakers from vendors of all sizes did take the podium, and gave us all a solid indication of where technology is going to go in this particular space over the next couple of years.
Speakers showcased everything from modelling innovations (novel ways to discern the quality of models) to novel discovery and analysis tools, user interaction prototypes, developments in process analytics and real-time optimisation, adaptive case management – not forgetting a sprinking of mobile and social goodness too. There was real energy in the room and in side conversations – real passion and a desire to give and receive feedback.
My concern coming into the conference was that a lot of the ‘innovation’ on show might be gratuitous and not really connected to the real-world requirements that I know are out there; but I came away reassured that for the most part, the BPM technology vendor community has at least one eye on solving practical here-and-now problems for prospects and customers. I also came away with some validation of the topics I’m already focusing on, a handful of ideas about topics I should pick away at, and great face-to-face introductions to people I’d only previously chatted with on Twitter or via blog comments.
What was a little surprising to me was that the only industry analysts present were myself and Sandy Kemsley; none of the “big guns” from Gartner, Forrester etc were at the event. Maybe they’re only allowed to attend events they’re speaking at; maybe there’s a procedural block because casual conversations with vendors – though enlightening – should always be paid for and not done “for free”. Who knows. (Maybe a reader..?)
The feedback I got from other conference attendees was that bpmNEXT was as worthwhile an event for them as it was for me. If you’re a vendor in the BPM technology space, I’d advise you to book early for 2014. I’ll be there, for sure.
One last note: Paul Harmon, who keynoted the conference, has a great piece here that in particular highlights the relationships between the topics presented. Looks like he’ll be there in 2014, too..