It’s the final countdown!

It’s Thursday evening and i’m approx 36 hours away from leaving to attend the Microsoft SharePoint conference in Anaheim, Los Angeles. Unfortunately I’m still in a hotel with one more day of client site work to get out the way before I can race home, finish packing and then leave for Heathrow.

The client I’m working with is quite interested in the conference and we were having a conversation today about exactly what I was intending to get out of the week ahead and exactly what benefits my attending the conference brings my business.

Well first and foremost there is a training element, The level 300/400 technical sessions available are some of the deepest dives into the technology that you can get and often go far beyond a training course session that you would see in a general SharePoint training course. In addition there is the ability to pick and choose the sessions that you attend over the course of the week, allowing me to tailor the ‘training’ aspect of the conference to my needs.

Now this approach to training would not suit everyone and I must admit if a client of mine was intending to attend a conference such as this or the Best Practices Conference in London, then I would caution them to attend a more structured course depending on their level of experience with SharePoint. However for a consultant like myself, this style of training is ideal, especially when you include the post-conference access to the recordings.

In my business case I calculated that a one week course with a well known training provider would cost approx £1650 for a non residential course. Averaging about 8 hours of training a day, this equated to about £41.25 per hour of training. The conference on the other hand provides access to around 241 hours of training (admittedly some of the sessions are of significantly less value to me than others) which after adding hotels and flights to the conference fee, worked out at less than £10 per hour of training.

But that’s a purely monetary analysis of the conference, in this day and age, certainly with SharePoint we’re being driven to notice the value add that comes from the Social side of computing. With the conference this aspect comes in the form of the events that surround the conference and the Social Network that evolves around it on networks such as Twitter and FaceBook. I know that after attending the 2009 conference, my SharePoint network had grown considerably and stretched across many international boundaries. I’m really looking forward to meeting those people again, sharing a Pint and generally catching up, and at the same time strengthening those ties that join us.

In addition to the personal relationships that we create, we gain exposure to third party vendors and the opportunity to strike up a relationship with those vendors. From a consultants point of view this can be invaluable as those contacts are great people to turn to when a client needs a recommendation or analysis of such tools.

Overall, it’s very difficult to come up with a value for the return on investment for all of the above, it’s easy to write up the cost of flights and a hotel, but how do you put a value on knowing there’s a friend in the business that you can fire off a question about the BDC (you know who you are!) at 3am when you’re stuck on a client issue? How can you put an ROI on a relationship?

I’m really looking forward to what the week ahead brings, I’ve got some hard choices to make about what sessions I finally attend, with some 2-3 choices for nearly every session. I do know hover that it’s going to be a cracking week with a lot of Social Networking thrown in. If you want to come say hi, watch out for the black twitter shirt with @cimares on it, I’ll be at the front of the Space Mountain queue,

Safe journey to all travelling and see you there!


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