Project Conference 2012: Drinking from the Firehose

drinking from the fire hoseMy first experience with  “drinking from a fire hose” was in college. The three days I spent in Phoenix at Project Conference 2012 brought back those memories. For me, the conference was a whirlwind of attending presentations, meeting exhibitors, catching up with old friends, and meeting new ones. I had good intentions of blogging during the conference, but each night when I got back to my room, I was so exhausted that the pillow won out. Here’s my PC12 memoir:

Monday: Travel ran as if it were managed by a project manager with unlimited resources, Project Server, and an administrator with a Starbucks IV hookup. My flight landed early and I hopped on the light rail right to the convention center just in time for the Microsoft Project Users Group reception.

The MPUG award presentation with Matt Davis and John Riopel from MPUG Project Talk and Ludovic Hauduc, GM of the Microsoft Project business unit, kicked things off perfectly. When I chatted with Matt and John during the conference, they boasted that they could answer any Project question. We’ll have to see about that. The MPUG event was the catalyst for me to meet one of the award winners, Gerald Leonard, who presented a session on critical chain project management. I’m a big fan of critical chain and the theory of constraints and now I’m psyched to try out ProChain, an add-in for Microsoft Project that offers critical chain features.

Gantthead’s welcome reception was a few hours of sipping cocktails, nibbling tasty snacks, and swapping business cards…..uh, doh! I knew I forgot something.

Tuesday: I walked over to the convention center in unseasonably cool air. Lucky me! A quick breakfast and caffeination and I was ready for the conference to begin. By the end of the opening keynote, I was pretty jazzed and it wasn’t the coffee talking.

christopheThe presentations and demos that Microsoft delivered during the Tuesday and Wednesday keynotes were awesome. As a former demo jockey, I know how tough it is to design demos that make people crave your products and then have those demos actually work — with one glitch left in to prove that the demo’s running in real time. The Microsoft folks did all that. I collaborate with a lot of people and I thought I was geekily adept with my collaboration tools. After I saw Keshav Puttaswamy, Christophe Feissinger, and a few others share info from Project to Project Web App to Visio to OneNote to Office 365 from desktop to laptop to Windows tablet to Windows phone to — um, I don’t even remember the rest — I’m ready to play and share well with others. I was also impressed that Microsoft even did a demo with an iPhone! Boy, have times changed.

clouseauChristophe put up with some good-natured razzing over his moustache. Ludo compared it to The Artist, but I had hoped Christophe would slip into an Inspector Clouseau persona.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday:

It was tough to choose which presentations to attend. The content and quality were overwhelmingly good. Danny Smith from Marquette University talked about project portfolio management that works. Marquette has set up a sweet-sounding environment. However, Danny’s unflappable character seems like it would help any system run smoothly. (I also liked his comment about how shiny things pull focus away from the important stuff. So true.)

Mary Ellen Kliethermes and Sharon Harness from Ameren talked about how to implement Project Server with little or no consulting money. The bottom line on that presentation: use virtual servers (VMWare) to eliminate hardware cost, tackle the implementation in chunks to see what does or doesn’t work, and be prepared to really work at it.

Speaking of Project Server and project portfolio management, hosted Project Server in the cloud, in some cases, pre-built environments should make this technology more accessible to organizations. Lots of companies don’t have the hardware, people, or money to put together their own Project Server environment. Hosted systems offered by Project Hosts, Bemo, or SharkPro could be the answer. For example, subscribe for the length of time and number of users you need; or get a ready-made configuration; or expand without having to line up more hardware, software, or system administrators.

On Wednesday I enjoyed a half hour of fame signing books for a long line of patient fans. Because my book partner, Teresa Stover, couldn’t attend, I signed my book, Successful Project Management, and Teresa’s Microsoft Project 2010 Inside Out. I also signed a few copies of Your Project Management Coach, a book co-authored by Teresa and me and published by Wiley. (Thanks to Microsoft for putting the book signing together.) During my book signing slot, I was lucky enough to finally meet Carl Chatfield in person. Carl’s and my books, Project Step By Step and On Time! On Track! On Target!, were paired for several years as a project management kit. His Step by Step book is one of my favorites. People told me he is recommending my updated and improved edition, Successful Project Management. Thanks Carl!

That close encounter with Carl spawned an idea. I felt honored to have people stand in line to shake my hand. But several other of my favorite Project authors were present, so I did the paparazzi thing and snagged some pictures with yours truly. Sadly, the photo with Eric Verzuh of Fast Forward MBA in Project Management fame was too blurry to include.

eric_uHowever, here I am with Eric Uyttewaal who wrote Forecast Scheduling, a great book on scheduling with Project. I did catch up with Gary Chevetz and Dale Howard from ProjectExperts (but didn’t remember to take a picture). And I also finally met Larry Christofaro in person. He has written some incredible articles over the years.

Now I’m home and back to work. Since you’re reading this post, I obviously finished my #1 priority. Next up is emailing and sending LinkedIn invitations to the people whose business cards I gathered at the conference. (Bonnie’s project management tip of the day: If you promise to do something for someone, do it!)

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