And just like that, Focus 2017 has come and gone. For the planning committee at Solver, charged with the planning and execution of the 5th annual user conference for the community of BI360 customers and partners, it is bittersweet. To me, the best conferences can seem like summer camp for adult professionals, as you step out of your routine and your life to take up residence at a specific locale that is an all-inclusive on learning new skill sets, making new connections, and having fun. And Focus never disappoints in the context of this analogy. This is the fourth year I have attended the event, and it was such a joy to see familiar faces and share memories from past years with new faces at the ample networking opportunities. This blog entry will recap the highlights from this year’s Focus event.
Let’s start with the location: Solver returned to La Jolla to host the 5th annual Focus conference at the Hilton Torrey Pines. With a world-famous, seaside golf course as the backdrop, it was beauty all around us as first, the training classes launched on Monday, then the popular Partner Day programming on Tuesday, and Focus coming to full fruition with the Customer Conference Days on Wednesday and Thursday.
BI360 Training at Focus came in three different levels, for the beginner, the intermediate, and the advanced user – and were completely full classrooms. The popularity of the hands-on learning achieved in training paved the way for new breakout sessions that were laptop-provided workshops and the continued offering of the hands-on lab, facilitated by BI360 expert Jim Hummer. There are already plans for next year to expand the training to accommodate the demand at Focus. CPE credits were also available to training and conference attendees, making this a truly valuable investment for more than just product knowledge.
Partner Day is such a sweet day for Solver as their family of resellers, sending both sales/marketing and consulting/technical professionals to better understand the value proposition of the BI360 suite now and in the future for the benefit of customers. Solver CEO Nils Rasmussen and CTO Mike Applegate welcomed everyone and dove right in to the exciting features and functionalities of the new BI360 Cloud offering, as well as the roadmap for both the on-premises and cloud versions of the BI360 suite. The day was split into a couple of different tracks, designed for the sales and marketing crowd and the technical and consulting contingency. A partner panel discussion delivered best practices and opportunities that attendees could apply when they returned to work, and the day of programming concluded with awards bestowed upon high-achieving partners. Later that evening, the night was the true definition of a welcome reception.
Set in a courtyard at the hotel, overlooking the Torrey Pines golf course through a vine-adorned grotto framing Solver’s very own resident DJ, Nick Del Rosso, the Welcome Reception on Tuesday, August 22, was the first time that partners and customers came together to network over delicious bites and wine and beer tastings as the sun went down. Attendees bonded over the delicious Southern California themed foods and beverages, as well as their work with BI360 at their respective organizations. I think I also saw some people dancing a little.
Customer Conference Days kicked off with an exciting keynote from Solver executives – and a special guest. Nils Rasmussen welcomed attendees, talked to everyone about this exciting era of change we’re in for enterprise technology and what it means to our everyday work lives. Rasmussen discussed the leadership and innovation that is behind the product development, support, and customer service that Solver is proud to deliver to customers. From there, Rasmussen brought Mike Applegate onstage to showcase the intuitive flexibility and accessible power of BI360 Cloud, as well as discuss the next couple of years in terms of plans for the product. He also welcomed Developer Evangelist at Microsoft, Bret Stateham, to the stage to discuss the power of Microsoft Azure as a cloud platform – and the excitement of working with Solver to deliver BI360 Cloud on Azure. It was an exciting keynote to be in the audience for, to say the least.
The day rolled out with 5 tracks of sessions, some demo-based, some presentation style, and some workshops for that hands-on learning experience, with a customer panel for a post-lunch general session. The day concluded with a glamorous Customer Awards dinner, hosted by the true definition of Hostess with the Mostest, Stephanie Gamber. After the awards, attendees participated in the first offering of Casino Night. Around 200 people came to win – and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this offered again next year.
The final day of the conference didn’t disappoint, as customers and partners were awakened, humbled, and inspired by Guest Keynote Speaker, Linda Cliatt-Wayman. Cliatt-Wayman is a passionate educator, known for making notable difference in underserved schools through bold leadership. She told stories of leadership in action and truly moved the whole audience, including sponsor Concerto Cloud Services, who donated $1000 to a charity of Cliatt-Wayman’s choice, which Solver then matched. It was a powerful kickoff to a full day of sessions, workshops, and customer presentations that concluded with an Executive Q&A panel that invited feedback on the conference. It was a bittersweet sendoff, and Solver set out on their annual company trip, but the wheels are already turning for Focus 2018. Save the date: August 27-30 in Huntington Beach, California. See you there!