Last week, I had the pleasure of attending IBM Vision 2015 at the Hilton Bonnet Creek in Florida. Perficient was a sponsor of the event. This was my first time attending IBM Vision, I have been to a number of the other IBM conferences, and I came away impressed. Unlike massive events such as Insight and IOD, Vision is quite small and intimate. At Vision, it is easy to interact with attendees and presenters and to get around to see all the exhibitors. It was great to be able to check back in with people to see what sessions they had enjoyed. This year, IBM Vision had five tracks into which the material was collected:
- Financial and operational performance management
- Sales performance management (SPM)
- Financial close and disclosure management
- Governance, risk, and compliance
- Cloud based solutions for business insight
I chose to concentrate on presentations in the Sales Performance Management track.
There were two major themes presented at IBM Vision this year. The first outlined by Keynote speaker Ben Casnocha, who recently wrote the start up of you with Reid Hoffman, was the continuous beta. This is an interesting concept and something well worth considering in your implementation mentality. It goes hand-in-hand with Agile in the fact that new features and improvements are constantly being implemented. A solution is never complete; it is always being improved. Ben highlighted the concept by recalling how when Google first released Gmail, it maintained the BETA label for a long time. The second theme of the conference was Watson Analytics. Watson Analytics capabilities and features were featured heavily throughout the conference. Direct integration with (Cognos) Incentive Compensation Management (ICM) and Cognos Business Intelligence (BI) were shown. Cognos TM1 will also soon be available as a directly integrated source of data. IBM also announced that anyone with current ICM and BI licenses would have 75 free seats of Watson Analytics professional available for a year to get going. The two themes were also tied together. IBM will be releasing Watson Analytics updates on a constant basis. There will be no major or minor release schedules, just new features and capabilities appearing constantly.
The first session I attended was “ICM Taking Reporting to the Next Level”. Two things became immediately obvious at this standing room only session. First is that there is a lot of interest in ICM and SPM. Second is that people are struggling with the in built reporting capabilities of ICM. I know from direct experience that in using Composer it can be hard to get the reports you want.
As I mentioned previously, I focused on the SPM track. The SPM keynote from Alan Chapman who now leads the SPM group. The title of the session was “A New Way To Drive Sales Performance”. This covered some of the interesting features of Cognos ICM version 9, the new naming (dropping Cognos), integration with Watson Analytics, the march to cloud, high performance with PureData, and ancillary features such as quota and territory management.
My colleague Abhi Majumdar had an afternoon session with one of our clients, The Chickasaw Nation, presenting Mobile Analytics. As a break from SPM, I went along to see what others in Perficient’s IBM Business Analytics group were doing for our clients. It was great to see how they had used Cognos BI and TM1 to implement a secure mobile solution.
Day one ended with an SPM only function out on the patio by the Waldorf Astoria. It was good to meet some of the IBMers who sell, support, and implement ICM and SPM. Many of them I’d had conversations with, emailed, or been referred to in the past. I also got to chat with some end-user organizations who had or were implementing ICM solutions about their experiences on the sharp end.
Day two started with another keynote session. It was great to see one of our clients, Jabil, where I spent a lot of time implementing TM1, on the main stage talking about their Business Analytics experiences. Watson Analytics was featured heavily during this session.
Two sessions that I really enjoyed during the rest of the day were on Implementing ICM Workflow and on Automating ICM Data Imports. Both of them were extremely informative and it is good to see ICM customers leveraging Cognos ICM to the fullest.
The rest of day two was filled with booth time on the exhibition floor, meetings with the IBM SPM enablement team, and an executive meeting with Marc Altshuler who is the IBM VP responsible for Watson Analytics.
The final day of the conference was a little more nerve wracking as I was presenting a session with a client of ours Vibra Healthcare. We presented “Implementing Business Analytics at Vibra Healthcare” which covered topics on Cognos BI, TM1 and IBM SPSS.
I also managed to attend sessions, one before and one after, on Advanced ICM Data Integration and High Performance ICM. The advanced data integration session show SDK like facilities for importing and exporting data to ICM. The high performance session covered the use of IBM PureData as the calculation engine for ICM. It showed some impressive reduction in calculation times for some originally outrageous (72+ hours) calculations.
I closed out the conference by attending some SPM enablement sessions. These were for partners and IBMers selling SPM and ICM solutions. I found these sessions valuable. Again, it was great to put some faces with names and voices that have become familiar to me over the past year.
I highly recommend attending this event. There are good educational and networking opportunities. I encourage you to submit a proposal for a presentation. It is good to learn from and share information with your peers and partners. There are certification opportunities and profession education credits to be earned. Pick a track and learn as much as you can in that genre.