When I first attended Focus in 2014, I was relatively new to the corporate performance management (CPM) space. I was starting to understand the ins and outs of financial and operational reporting, budgeting, forecasting, and modeling, data visualizations like dashboards of graphs, charts, and scorecards, and data warehousing as solutions to organizational performance management. But everything became three-dimensional to me at Focus. A community of hard-working and fun-loving BI360 users came together to share and compare best practices, learn about the power of the product, and network with new and established connections alike. Frankly, it was really sweet – and felt more like the most productive and educational family reunion rather than a formal conference. This article will explore what unfolds at this annual event – and why it’s as successful as it is, but also what to expect from the 2017 edition.
Expertise. If you’re allocating part of your departmental budget toward attending a user conference, you’re expecting to get a significant return on that investment in the form of insight that will help you do your job more efficiently. Focus always delivers a lot of takeaways, and 2017 will prove no different. Not only are Solver executives, Nils Rasmussen and Mike Applegate, delivering keynotes, but Principal Linda Cliatt-Wayman, an inspiring educator, will be the keynote speaker on the final day of the conference. She will explore leadership and teamwork concepts with the end goal of achieving whatever you set out to do as a business. But she’s not the only leader you can expect to learn from at Focus 2017.
Solver boasts a diverse staff of subject matter experts, across departments. At Focus, these SMEs unite to deliver a program of multiple tracks of breakout sessions, hands-on learning experiences, and meaningful dialogues, whether facilitated in panel form or one-on-one to understand what objectives you would like help in achieving. All hands are on deck, and from Support, Development, and Consulting to the Executive team, this is an event that the Solver staff looks forward to all year long. And the programming develops out of interactions with customers and partners – to address common curiosities and goals with BI360.
Forecast: Cloudy. On June 1, 2017, Solver released the first complete Excel-powered, web-based CPM suite that is hosted on the Microsoft Azure public cloud, namely BI360 Cloud. And even with the amount of webinars and launch activities, Focus 2017 is the front row seat to see the new deployment offering by Solver. With functional and technical consultants, as well as project managers on hand, you can have a productive conversation surrounding how your organization might navigate hybrid platforms, multiple clouds, and/or a roadmap to cloud CPM. BI360 Cloud as an additional option continues the tradition of flexibility in product offerings, as customers can decide between on-premise or the cloud, as well as starting on-premise, then strategically moving to the cloud. But again, this conference isn’t all work and no play.
Destination: Torrey Pines. Over the years, Focus has been in Santa Monica, Marina del Rey, and now, La Jolla. All are beautiful southern California locales – and true destinations. La Jolla is located outside of San Diego and is home to the world famous Torrey Pines golf course, which is open to the public. Granted, with its fame, you will want to reserve your tee time as early as you can, but Focus 2017 also has a driving range and putting activity as part of the program. One of Solver’s favorite activities is volleyball, so continuing tradition, attendees can network in a non-traditional way: on the volleyball court. New to the event is a casino night, just one more chance to raise the stakes on this vacation work trip. Regardless, this fifth edition of Focus will be the kind of workplace escape that delivers professional development and a vacation in equal parts.
Training. The training department at Solver has been busy this year as the customer community grows. On top of learning opportunities offered at the headquarters in Los Angeles, ad-hoc off site, remotely, and on the 2017 training tour, Focus offers two-day hands-on technical training for BI360 users before the conference even begins. Laptops provided, this offering allows users to go through exercises within the product in a structured classroom setting. Training as a feature of the conference was added last year, in response to requests from conference attendees and then expanded, based on demand. This year, Intermediate was added as a learning level to the introductory and advanced levels offered at Focus 2016. Another great aspect of training, especially in these classrooms at Focus 2017, is the built-in networking that can happen when sharing and comparing through learning exercises. It’s a great launchpad into the conference, but you can also choose to do one or the other.
All in all, Focus 2017 is going to be more of the same great experience that new and returning users alike have come to expect from the conference. I tend to describe professional conferences as a summer camp experience for adults, but this one feels special in its ability to connect users and resellers. A large part of that has to do with the hardworking, fun-loving people that come to the event, whether first time attendees or the gang of folks that return year after year, seeking to become workplace heroes because of how they leverage BI360 to achieve company goals. I hope to see new and familiar faces this year – and make sure to register soon to achieve Early Bird Savings on the Customer Conference pass.