Conferences are like politics. They seethe with conflicting objectives and pressure groups. One group wants to listen to their peers, straining for the insight or nugget that will save them money, make them money or get them promoted. Another group wants to sell stuff to the first group who want to listen to their peers not have stuff sold to them. The analysts are in there pitching too, as are publications, information providers, vendors, partners, trade associations, educational institutions. It is a nightmare and like politics, a truly independent conference at which everyone is happy is well nigh impossible to produce.
The User Group conference, on the other hand, solves the problem. Completely counter intuitively, a vendor organized event provides at least as good a platform as an independent one. Why? The vendor knows who it wants to come – its customers. Therefore it is more happy to invest in this than an event over which it has no control. It can set the agenda, invite independent people – and its customers – to present independent content; and then not only take them all out to a very good dinner but also talk to them about their products and road maps without fear of anyone complaining.
I went to the Subex User Group conference last week, in Vienna (good choice) and there were some interesting, thought provoking presentations, there was some excellent debate about mobile money, the latest fraud threats – how secure is your Point of Sale by the way – NFC (I enjoyed that one) and about how analytics may be the answer but we need to figure out the question first. There were presentations – more honest than I think you would find at an ‘independent’ conference – on wholesale issues, partners and settlements, SIM box fraud, Revenue Assurance trends, and it left some questions hanging too – such as why is there no global, central or centrally accessible ‘black list’ of fraudsters and what needs to be done to get one in place?
There was a great mixture of operators there, from all corners of the world and they all seemed happy to be there, happy to discuss almost anything – and happy to be taken out to dinner. In fact, sitting in a room that was a concrete version of a very large beer barrel I think I found where the odd English phenomenon known as Morris Dancing came from – the hills of Austria.
The only thing that caused any conflict was the important question of where to hold next year’s event. Of course, being independent, I could not possibly try and influence the outcome of such a complex and fierce debate. But I have heard that The Maldives are at their very best at this time of year. Just saying.