The Case for MicroStrategy World

MicroStrategy World is the annual user group conference hosted by MicroStrategy.  MicroStrategy 2012 will be the 6th conference I’ve attended and it remains to be the highlight of my year.  There are incredible opportunities for education and networking, as well as whetting your appetite for future MicroStrategy enhancements.  I’ll discuss some of the many benefits of the conference to help convince you to attend if you’ve never been, and help unearth some annual gems of the show if you’ve been in the past and aren’t sure if there’s anything more for you.  I learn an incredible amount every year, and some would say I’m already pretty knowledgable in all things MicroStrategy.

MicroStrategy World has something for everyone, from the manager to the data analyst to anyone who has any job function directly related to MicroStrategy.  The first 2 days of the conference start with a general assembly keynote presentation, including the kickoff keynote by MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor that sets the tone for MicroStrategy’s direction in the coming years.  Major customers also present during the keynote to provide some insight on how they’re already working closely with MicroStrategy on technologies related to this future.  Recent presentations have included early Mobile and Social adopters.  In the final keynote, SVP Mark LaRow will take Saylor’s keynote into more detail to show what MicroStrategy has either just released or on the verge of releasing from a technology standpoint.

The keynotes are exciting as you get a taste of the direction of MicroStrategy for the coming year(s) and a first glimpse at some new technology.

The meat of the conference are the sessions.  These are mostly presented by Product/Program Managers and MicroStrategy Engineers, the very people building and designing the tools we use every day.  These sessions range from “How to Build a Dashboard” to “Advanced Customization Techniques” and “High Performance Tuning”.  These always provide valuable training whether it’s already your day to day job function or something you want to start working more with.

If you think you know everything there is to know about the vanilla tool, there are additional sessions presented by customers (I’ve done three myself!).  These sessions show how individual customers are using MicroStrategy in a unique way.  You can learn some truly amazing things about what can be done with the product.

Finally there are Partner Sessions, which are presented by sponsoring 3rd Party companies.  If you’re thinking of switching database platforms, interested in some heavy duty external plugins (Maps are popular) or just looking to hire some consultants to bang out a big project, there are vendors of all flavors to pitch their wares.  In addition to dedicated Partner Sessions, there is also an Exhibit Hall that is open for the entirety of the conference.

The absolute best feature of MicroStrategy World is the networking opportunities.  Everyone from the Engineering team will be in attendance, usually in the background just walking around.  You can bump into them and have a chat (had a great chat with the Product Manager for Mobile when he sat at my table for breakfast one morning) or schedule specific meetings/run-ins through your Account Executive.  When I attend MicroStrategy World, I usually have so many people to speak to that nearly every minute of each day of the conference is booked.  MicroStrategy employees wear special name badges, and sometimes you can just strike up a conversation while standing in the Bagel line.  Perhaps it’s a little silly, but as someone who spends so much time and effort in the world of MicroStrategy as I do, this is like having a backstage pass to your favorite concert and meeting the band members.

MicroStrategy does a great job of putting you in contact with fellow customers as well.  The lunches are broken out by industry so that you’ll be sitting with other people in your business.  This gives you something to talk about and you can compare stories and ideas.  I’ve met several long term contacts in this way that I still keep in touch with.

On the 2nd night is the Regional Reception, where you can meet all of the customers from your geographical region for drinks and snacks.  This is another great way to meet some local customers that you may be able to follow up with in the future for reference calls (both for products you may be interested in (MicroStrategy or not) or for hiring references since it’s likely you’ll be sharing a talent pool).

If you’re a heavy user in a particular product, you may also be able to participate in private focus groups with MicroStrategy.  In past years, I was privy to a preview of what is now the Knowledge Base and Support Site (if you used it’s predecessor several years ago, you’ll know this was a very welcome upgrade) and feedback myself and others provided directly shaped it’s functions today.  I saw a demo of Visual Insight and Data Import about 18 months before it was released GA (it looked very different then) and again had the opportunity to provide direct feedback to the team who was actively building it.  And just last year I was fortunate enough to have the company of the SDK team as they’re currently working to revamp SDK documentation and tutorials.  I spend a lot of time in the SDK these days, so being able to speak face to face with them was a huge treat.  If you’re interested in working closely with MicroStrategy in those ways, just speak with your Account Executive, and they may be able to put your name in and set you up with some of those opportunities.

Worth the price of admission alone, this is my absolute favorite part of the conference.  This 3hr presentation (it always runs over and they can never show everything) is packed with features that have not been released yet, but should be over the next few years.  Some of the features are full product demos that will be coming later in the year, and some are just concept art for ideas they’re kicking around.  The crowd applauses to show their support and excitement for individual ideas and it always keeps me on the edge of my seat.  If you’re traveling far, do not make the mistake of skipping this to catch an earlier flight since it is the last event.

Value and Conclusion
I’ve already laid out the training value you gain, which compared to the cost of 1 week of training on 1 topic is already a bargain, as well as the incredible opportunity to network with both MicroStrategy Employees and like minded customers.  The ROI you get from MicroStrategy World is what you put in.  If you’re active in mingling with others, attending all of the sessions you can and setting up appointments with MicroStrategy employees during breaks and lunches, you’ll gain a tremendous insight and opportunity.  One of my claims to fame is the work I did with Migrations that I presented at MicroStrategy World 2010.  The basic idea for that came from a conversation I had at MicroStrategy World two years earlier, when during an administration session someone said they used Shortcut objects to perform migrations, and a friend from another company commented that he thought Object Prompts would work better.  My first major Flash Widget may have fallen flat and ended my short visualization career had it not been for some tips I gained from SDK Engineers during last year’s conference.  And one of the user’s favorite features that I bring to a company, Training Videos (and all kinds of additional proactive support measures), came based on a presentation that I heard at my very first MicroStrategy World in 2007.

If you enjoy this blog for it’s feature highlights, creative tool use and outside the box approaches to solving problems, the MicroStrategy World is years worth of content that I could ever come up with packed into a single week with opportunities hidden around every turn.

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