BIWA Summit 2008 Review

Well, BIWA Summit 2008 is over!  I survived being Conference Chairperson during the event.  Vlamis Software was well represented, with various technical presentations, hands-on lab presentations, and manning our vendor table.  Several people have asked for my impressions of the conference, so I thought I'd share my recap here.

Dan speaking at BIWA Summit 2008

I kicked off the conference and introduced Shyam Varan Nath, president of the BIWA SIG who gave some background on BIWA and how it is a special interest group of the Independent Oracle User Group focused on Business Intelligence, Data Warehousing and Analytics.  I continued with some logistics, including that the conference had attendees from 10 countries and 30 states.  Charlie Berger, Oracle Data Mining product manager, and one of the founders and BIWA’s biggest cheerleader then introduced our first keynote speaker, Jeanne Harris.

Keynotes set the stage for the conference with Jeanne Harris, co-author of Competing on Analytics.  She got us thinking about the importance of analytics in our own companies.  Usama Fayyad spoke about the challenges of working as Chief Data Officer at Yahoo! and before.  Oracle Vice Presidents, Ray Roccaforte and Jean Loaiza spoke about how the Oracle Database in general and the HP Oracle Database Machine and Exadata help solve the challenges of modern data warehouses.

In the lobby, vendors from BIWA Summit’s 13 sponsors, including Vlamis Software Solutions, manned tables throughout the event.  We presented 5-minute lightning round presentations about their firms before the Tuesday evening reception, hosted by the Platinum sponsor, IBM.  During the reception, Mark Hornick and Tony Jedlinksi were presented the Summit "Haydu Contributor Award" named after last year's inaugural Summit winner John Haydu for service above and beyond the call of duty, especially involving the whole paper selection and tracking process.  Their contributions continue to this day, allowing attendees to download presentations from the BIWA web site.

The meat of the conference was supplied by 66 technical talks and 10 hands-on labs supplied by prestigious Oracle professionals.  We also had an “all-star” panel discussion of Most Critical Success Factors for Successful BI, Warehousing and Analytics Customer Implementations, with Jeanne Harris, Usama Fayyad, Juan Loiza, Jacek Myczkowski and Joe Thomas.  A full list of the presentations can be found on the Session Abstracts tab of the Oracle BIWA web site.  Conference attendees can download presentations from the conference now.  In the future, BIWA plans to make the presentations available to all of its members.

Vlamis Software was out in full force at the conference, with technical presentations: Having Your Business Intelligence the Way You Want It!, Investment Research and Portfolio Management Analytics using Oracle OLAP, and hands-on presentations Hands on with Oracle OLAP 11g for Smarter and Faster Data Warehouses Hands on with Essbase, Smartview, and Hyperion Visual Explorer, and Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition Challenge To Go Virtual Appliance.  The latter presentation highlighted the BIC2G virtual machines used by many of the hands-on sessions and will be available to Oracle partners soon so they can run pre-configured virtual machines of Oracle’s BI and EPM software for themselves.  As usual, all presentations can be found on the Technical Papers tab of the Vlamis Software web site.

The conference site provided by Oracle was excellent, with great food and courteous service, free wifi services, everything you would expect from Oracle.  During Wednesday’s “Birds of a Feather” lunch, attendees were encouraged to network with peers at tables set aside for topics such as Hyperion, Oracle OLAP, Data Mining, and similar topical areas.
At the summit George Spofford, author of MDX Solutions: With Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services 2005 and Hyperion Essbase and Simba Technologies announced Simba’s solution for enabling Microsoft Excel to have direct access to Oracle OLAP cubes.   

I snuck away for an hour to be video interviewed by Jeff Erickson of Oracle Magazine for an upcoming “Community Up Close” article hopefully to appear in the March/April 2009 issue of Oracle Magazine.

I ran the closing session where we tried to gather feedback on what we did right and wrong, and how to improve the conference for next year.  The question of where and when the next BIWA conference is as of yet undecided.  Stay tuned to for announcements.

All in all, I very much enjoyed the conference.  I didn’t get to attend as many sessions as I personally would have liked to have, but I got to visit with many friends and meet a lot of people at the conference.  It was a great time.  I’m already looking forward to the next BIWA Summit!