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2007 Delaware Technology Conference

Leading the Way Forward...

"just show me the The PICTURES"

      The opening address by Gartner Research's Managing Vice President set the tone for the conference by not really setting a tone for the conference. Mr. Kost pointed out several areas of Information Technology where I.T. people have dropped the ball, or missed the point, or simply failed by... well... by succeeding.
      No, he didn't actually say that. But he seemed to have meant it.

      And it took the rest of the conference the rest of the day to underscore what the VP didn't say.

"Welcome to the...."

      As is the way of these things, the opening segment was a brief introduction and remarks by various persons including the chair of the committee that organized the conference. Then it opened with a speech from a gentleman that makes his living in the world of technology.

      Part of Mr. Kost's Keynote Address was that it is very easy for IT to become its own realm and forget that there is a purpose for the existence of all the really neat hardware and fancy software and cutting edge services, it is not all an end in and of itself.
      The idea is for the technology to serve people. And that includes all technology whatever it is and whatever it is supposed to be doing. You cannot simply turn raw technology loose on users and customers and expect everybody to be all sunshine and roses happy and not hold IT as the scapegoat because "all public sector employees are either corrupt or incompetent" as the man said.

      The gentleman made the point that most end users and customers are not overly technical. In fact, some are absolutely oblivious as to how it all works.
      This statement is absolutely true. And we're not just talking about a VoIP enabled PBX with converged messaging either. He meant stuff that is even more basic than that.
      Not only do they not understand how and why the technology works, they really and truly don't know nor do they understand all the ins and outs of everything from the corporations they deal with or the government that is supposed to be at their service. And, truth be told, They Don't Need To.
      If the hotel's Service Attendants who were bringing out the rolls and coffee knew every aspect of everything from their best options for a Roth IRA to the correct ID needed to apply for a concealed carry permit.
      Of course the average citizen Should Be at least minimally competent to handle their own affairs, but that is evidently a pipe dream in today's world. But even then, you can only go so far in the effort to make things simple. At some point a basic level of competence must be assumed.
      Ahhh, let's leave that right there and move on.

The Show

      The vendors at the conference supported the idea that technology had hurt itself with its own success as well.
      The Products that were all 'gee whiz' new two years ago are now old hat and in many cases, obsolete. But as they are intrinsic in the workplace, they must be supported. And Customer Service and Product Support is now the buzz words seen and heard at almost every booth.
      An ISP was touting their 24 by 7 live Local support. A hardware vendor pointed to how many certified technicians they had that were within an hour's drive of the hotel. Yet another pointed to language in their contract that included a No Fault failure clause that was good for the next five years, if it broke, they'd fix it.

      So what was the new 'gee whiz' thing this time?
      Which is new in and of itself.
      There were new and creative uses for existing technology, some refinements, a few new applications for different things. But as for the Next Big Thing. There really wasn't anything that stood out.
      But there was something new in the way there wasn't anything new.
      Things are changing. And they are doing so in two ways. Both simultaneously, and both totally at odds with each other: Convergence and Divergence.
      Some applications are specializing to the point of which they will be exceptionally good at doing one very specific task. Others are becoming so diverse and doing so many things pretty well, they may not be really excellent at doing anything in particular.
      It depends on what you are looking for and what you are going to do with it.

      Let's pick on cellular phones.
      If you want a simple cel phone, just a phone, one that makes calls and will send a text message once in awhile. You can get a really good phone. Just as you can get a really good game console, or camera, or stereo, or whatever.
      If you want one that takes a passable picture, plays descent quality of music, has pretty good games on board, has a basic web browser, and so on. You can get that too.
      But. You are NOT going to be the official photographer at a full high mass church wedding using a cel phone to take the pictures. Just as no Audiophile who has a full collection of the best of the London Symphony is ever going to spend a long weekend listening to their phone play it. And so on.
      It may do a lot of things pretty well, but it isn't outstanding at more than one or two.

Where were you for Project Management Week?

      Did you even know there was such a thing?
      Well, there wasn't, but there is now.
      At least in Delaware, Project Management Week begins with the last Sunday of October every year. In 2008 that will be the week of 26 October through 1 November. Make your plans now.

      Governor Minner of Delaware was at the conference to sign the proclamation that marked the week to underscore the importance of Project Management.
      Anybody who has ever worked with project managers knows two of the major points of project management without even thinking about it, and they are both about equally high profile. The first is that good project management is absolutely essential for a major change or implementation to keep everything on track and in the right order. And second- Even good and well done Project Management can be absolutely exasperating.
      The folks from the local edition of the Project Management Institute, who are all about good and well done PM were on hand to watch the governor sign the paper, then they all applauded. That project had been very well managed indeed.

      The lunchtime speaker was one who not only knew all about project management, he knew all about change, and customer service, and Information Technology and so on.
      Mr. Colin Nurse is a self described 'Englishman who is living the American Dream.' He draws a paycheck from the Microsoft Corporation as their National Technology Officer for State and Local Government.
      One of the things he emphasized is that IT cannot just be allowed to happen, it must be managed with the goal of serving both the ultimate clients and those that use the systems on a daily basis. Technology works for the users, not the other way around, and as such it is a service. If it is not living up to that role, then it has gotten out of control.
      Another point was that those that work inside the walls of the data center or systems office may lose sight of those whom they work for, especially in large companies and the government. At the end of the day, the 'customers' are who count. Where it is all to often that the actual consumers or citizens are the ones who are forgotten about and left out of the process when change is to be made. He suggested the absolutely radical and nearly heretical idea that the CUSTOMER and USER be brought into the change process early on and actually consulted and listened to as the project is being drawn up, instead of just told about it after the fact... "Oh, by the way, we changed everything you used to do to get whatever you were doing done."

Key Components of Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning

      The breakout sessions covered everything from the mundane to the fantastic. Well. Almost.
      They had Personnel and Technical and Security and of course 'Other' topics color coded on the program.
      The majority of the sessions involved specific applications which accomplished specific tasks. Both mobile and fixed technology was represented as well as the ways that various units talked to each other, whether by XML or wireless or TLS or some combination thereof. And most were surprisingly well attended even when the subject appeared to be so esoteric as to be of interest to only those immediately involved with that specific item or so broad as to cover half the world.
      Some classroom sessions covered other topics with a sole speaker who was an expert in the field or a small panel. Some had intricate visual presentations while others just seemed to stand and talk.
      The heading for this section was one session whose topic didn't exactly fit on the sign outside of the room. But nobody seemed to really mind.

And the winner is

      There were door prizes, and freebies, and raffles, and all the other things that people expect at these kinds of shows. And of course, since it was the day before Halloween, there was a lot of candy afoot as well.
      The prizes were plentiful and ranged from the almost trivial to the rather spectacular (a large flat screen TV) and a lot in between.

And thereby comes the rub
    (and a few observations and suggestions)

      There were only a couple of sore points for the entire conference.
      One was mentioned by several of the attendees, even without this writer mentioning it to gauge their opinion of the matter.

      OK. The food during the main feeding times was somewhere on the good to very good side of the ratings table. The dessert at lunch looked like the finale of an Iron Chef episode.
      But other than that, it was sorely lacking.
      Refreshment tables were set up in convenient locations and stocked with cups and napkins... but in one case, the container of water that should have been there, did not appear until late in the afternoon. At another location the jug ran dry, and when another attendee asked a hotel employee about it she looked at the jug and said there was no more water.
      When soft drinks were put out after lunch, there was no caffeine free option, only cola and diet cola, on the majority of the tables. And once those were gone in the high traffic area in the main hallway, they were never replenished.
      This writer absolutely requires coffee to function. The only place coffee was available without spending three dollars at the hotel's coffee shop was in the main banquet hall. And those pots were removed after lunch.

      Another point.
      There was one set of restrooms convenient to the main convention floor. After each break there was a lot of traffic in and out of them, and at several times, there was a line for the women's room. From direct observation of the men's room and by asking several of the ladies the best description of the two rooms for most of the day was 'deplorable'. Overflowing trash cans, empty paper dispensers, and so on.

      That and the previous point are indications that perhaps the hotel did not plan for the numbers of attendees that were registered for the conference, even though they were charging the organizing committee a good deal of money for each registrant. That is simply poor management, there is no other excuse.
      We shall note this here and now: this writer has no overall dig against the hotel, nor is it in the business of flaming anything just for its own sake. OK?

      A small point would be the PA system in the main ballroom. With the vendor booths open the whole time, with people coming and going, and eating, there were times when it was difficult to hear and understand the speaker. Mr. Kost even got a laugh out of it. This is something that would have to be addressed both by the facilities people at the Hotel as well as the committee itself. But it is solvable.

      One last.
      Part of this was a simple oversight by the committee, another part of it is the hotel's response.
      Directions to the main registration area from the various parking lots was lacking at best.
      Also several attendees didn't realize that a few of the sessions were in rooms some distance away from the main conference. That and the signs that explained where the rooms were didn't help a lot.
      More and better signs would have eliminated that problem with minimal expense.
      Maybe next year.

      In spite of the near rationing of coffee.... It was a success.
      A lot of information was to be had, there was a great diversity in the attendees, the vendors, the classroom topics. There were some neat toys and useful products and knowledgeable people to explain it all.
      Yeah. This year's Technology Conference "Leading the Way Forward..." was a success.
      As with our topic for this article. Now that it is a success let's hope that it is not ruined by succeeding.

To The Picture Page!

For Last Year's Article and Pictures, see: Delaware Tech Conference 2006 and 2005's article

The Desk's Tech Page
(note: the graphic may be the best part!)

[NOTE: Thanks to (in no particular order): The Delaware Technology Conference Committee and staff (this means you Charles). Mr Jarrett and The Delaware Department of Technology and Information. Verizon. Gartner. Microsoft. And the other assorted vendors and participants in the Conference. ]

[NOTE: The Desk Site Is NOT affiliated with any of the outside links listed above and said author DOES NOT SPEAK for either DTI or the State of Delaware, or for that matter, anybody else. Everything expressed is from the Desk and nobody and nothing else. Mention of a vendor or technology is NOT to be taken as an endorsement of the Desk by the Vendor or vise versa.Thank you ]

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