To start, I must apologize to Paul Robichaux. Last week in my pre-conference list, one of the things I mentioned that I was looking forward to at Exchange Connections this week in Las Vegas was the opportunity to finally meet Paul in person after working with him for many years remotely. Well, I should have known that was like someone saying "Yes, I'm sure it's really dead this time" in the middle of a horror movie: It was an invitation for something to go wrong. So, in this case, Paul got sick with a stomach flu on the morning of his flight—so bad he didn't even feel up to playing Halo!—and was unable to make it to the conference.
However, even without the redoubtable Robichaux, I would have to count the event as a great success. I spoke with many vendors in the messaging space as well as IT pros attending the conference—although not as many of either as I wanted to or thought I'd be able to. There just aren't enough hours in the day, and there's something going on all the time! And although Paul was a no-show, I did finally meet another long-time author, our Outlook Tips & Techniques columnist, William Lefkovics. In fact, William did a great service to this ex-California boy and got me out of the hotel for a trip to In-N-Out Burger—can't thank you enough, William!
As always, the amount of technical content available in the sessions and keynotes was truly amazing. The message from Microsoft was all about Windows Phone 7 and Microsoft Lync 2010, which I've already written about. One of the other major themes, as presented in Mark Minasi's keynote, was what do IT pros do about this thing we call the cloud. The takeaway for me here is how important it is for IT pros to really know and understand the business side of what they do—how much it costs per mailbox to run their in-house messaging system, for instance. Only by having a grasp of the internal numbers can you intelligently talk to your C-level execs about whether outsourcing systems to the cloud makes long-term financial sense for your company.
This message was repeated in the session on "Making Good IT Business Decisions while Cloud Proofing Your Career." Originally scheduled as a team effort, Jim McBee presented solo in Robichaux's absence. McBee's message, which echoed some of what Minasi had to say, is that IT departments can no longer afford to allow themselves to be seen as the stereotypical tech geeks who openly scorn the end users—think of that old SNL skit. IT personnel who add value to the organization, who do more than just make other users productive—these are the winners who the business will want or need to keep on board even if outsourcing of some systems becomes necessary. As McBee said, some industries might "never" outsource messaging to the cloud; but in the tech world, "never" could change in six months, or a year.
Here's a few more fond—or not so fond—memories of the conference for me:
- The email from a colleague that said, "Please forget what I said last night. I was drunk." (And to the rest of my coworkers, don't every try to find out who it was.)
- The hideously long walk from the Mandalay Bay Hotel to the convention area. I looked out my hotel room window one afternoon, across the pools, and saw where the Convention Center was located. And I realized I would never make it to the appointment I had scheduled in 10 minutes.
- The fun, yet extremely difficult, task of interviewing finalists and determining winners in the Best of Connections Awards.
- And the Best Gaffe Award goes to . . . During Joe Belfiore's opening keynote about Windows Phone 7, Belfiore showed off how you could pin individual contacts to the phone's Start screen as Live Tiles. He used his wife as an example, which led him to say, "If I'm interested in my wife, I can just touch my wife." He was talking pretty fast and I don't think he realized himself what he'd said, but I wasn't the only one in the audience chuckling. Of course, maybe it wasn't a gaffe; perhaps he was just giving good advice to all husbands. But you just might want to make sure she's in the mood first, and I'm not sure if that's information conveyed by Windows Phone 7.
Well, that's going to be a wrap. If you made it to Connections, why don't you chime in with some of your best moments—or let us know what didn't work out so well for you. And keep in mind, we'll get to do it all over again next March in Orlando! I'm looking forward to it. How about you?