Thoughts from The Project Challenge conference

Project ManagementImage by Cappellmeister via Flickr

I spent some time yesterday (March 25th) at the Project Challenge conference in Birmingham's NEC.

Project Challenge is a free conference focused on projects, programmes, process and resource and takes place twice a year in March and November. It has a number of focus areas (as detailed on the web site) and I was there following an invitation to present in the Process Performance Zone.

The beauty of this sort of conference is twofold:

  1. It is free to attend. There is no cost to attendees (although companies who are exhibiting have a cost for their stands which covers overheads for the show as well), which basically means the opportunity cost of attending is restricted to a day or two of your time and, maybe, an overnight stay in a local hotel
  2. There are, literally, dozens of seminars, presentations and discussions taking place over the two days on such varied topics as Putting Process at the Heart of the Organisation, Five dimensions of professionalism and Do you feel confident? - Applying Risk Analyses Techniques to Project Management. This means that the wide spread and varied subect matter should be to everyone's taste

Alongside this there are several exhibitor stands showing products related to project management, process management and training.

I was in a conversation with Mark McGregor (who is involved in the organisation of the conference) and he was mentioning, though, that one issue they continually come across with these conferences is the reluctance of major BPM vendors to be involved in either exhibiting or sponsoring. After a couple of moments of discussion we came to the conclusion that it is because they vendors are probably unsure of how to pitch their products to a room full of non-IT individuals.

Basically when vendors pitch to projects it is usually an IT focused group that are involved. The vendors talk about the functionality, the user interface, the import and export functions and the cost. there tends to be very little discussion of some of the less tangible deliverables such as 'what can this tool do to help me improve my ROI?', or 'How, exactly will this help me as a financial accountant' do my job better?' It was an interesting point of view and one I will be putting to a senior director of a BPM vendor next week in a discussion I have planned for her.

My presentation went well. I was discussing 'Implementing Business Process management by Stealth' to cover situations when a company wishes to build a business process capability in their organisation but doesn't have senior management backing. Initially I was concerned about the level of attendance as the discussion ahead of me had only 6 people attending (one of whom was actually a colleague of the presenter from the same company). In a room that seated about 70 that was a bit discouraging. Luckily as the time for my presentation approached the seats started to fill up until I had upwards of 60+ folk waiting to hear me speak.

My thanks to all those who approached me after the presentation and for the discussion that ensued. Thanks also to Kate for looking after me while I was there.

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