Ariba LIVE 2005 is coming to a close. Below, I've posted a few candid pieces of feedback on the event, based on my discussion with other attendees and my own perspective.
Content -- The content for Ariba Live this year was useful and relevant. Most vendor conferences are stealth -- or not so stealth -- infomercials. Ariba Live, for the most part, was about industry trends and customer stories. Other vendors should take a lesson from Ariba in building a conference that gives more than it takes.
Speakers -- Overall, the quality of speakers at LIVE this year was excellent. From executives, to analysts, to in-the-trenches managers and practitioners, the quality of presenters was universally high.
Customer Buzz -- There's a buzz from Ariba customers that Spend Management is growing as a movement. CEOs are taking note, and CFOs are helping to drive initiatives. This buzz came through loud and clear from conference attendees. Spend Management is finally getting the executive attention it deserves.
Venue -- The Disney venue was not a disaster, but not great. Disney appears to be content to put on a show rather than anticipate their guest's needs and demands. For example, the lack of umbrellas (when attendees were forced to walk from hotel to conference) is inexcusable. Another example is the lack of a cafe or coffee shop that stays open past the morning (to sit down and talk with fellow attendees). Disney should learn from other venues if they want to become a top notch conference facility.
Inspirational Interludes -- One of the sad facts about the software and consulting markets is that few leaders are truly inspirational in front of a crowd. Ariba's executive presentations on the main stage were fine (and par for the industry), but did not inspire or capture the imagination as much as some of the main stage customer presentations.
Internet Connectivity -- There's no excuse in charging guests for WIFI connectivity at a conference like this in 2005. Connectivity at LIVE cost $10 a day (outside of the free booths provided by Ariba). Adding insult to injury, the available WIFI bandwidth was wretched. Get with the program, Disney, and wire Mickey and company for the digital age.