RPG and DB2 Summit Sees Turnaround in Training Budgets
September 21, 2009 Dan Burger
Earlier this year, around the end of May, four of the top educators on IBM i development technologies had a tough decision to make. They had just concluded the fifth RPG and DB2 Summit, a bi-annual education and training conference with a reputation for excellence. But the economic storm clouds were ominous. Training budgets were being dialed back and the conference business was taking a beating. One conference after another was reporting attendance rates that were generally in the neighborhood of 50 percent of one year earlier. Other conferences were being canceled, and some were redesigned as virtual conferences.
The folks behind the Summit–Susan Gantner, Jon Paris, Skip Marchesani, and Paul Tuohy–looked at what they had already accomplished with their previous Summits and made the decision to move forward with a fall conference in Minneapolis. At the time, it was a gamble. Today, with three weeks to go before the next Summit, it was clearly the right decision to make.
As of late last week, registrations are 33 percent higher than the attendance at the spring Summit in Orlando. The exhibitor space for vendors is 50 percent greater than the previous conference.
Is it the rebounding economy, a location that’s more attendee friendly, or just too good of an educational value to pass up? Give the rebounding economy a lot of credit, but don’t shortchange the other factors.
In a conversation with Paul Tuohy last week, he told me the spring Summit attendance was down about 45 percent from the fall 2008 event. That decline was in line with what many conferences were experiencing at that time.
“At the start of the year, there was a terrible fear factor for companies, and many decided not to spend any money,” Tuohy says. “Now that things have settled a little bit and people have seen that they are still in business and no disaster has happened, companies are realizing they have to keep investing in things or they will die a slow death.”
Based on a previous RPG and DB2 Summit that was successful in Minneapolis, the System iDeveloper group–Tuohy, Marchesani, Paris, and Gantner–decided it was a good location to revisit. And from the registrations that are in, it shows people are coming from all over the country in more or less equal numbers, Tuohy says.
While it might strike you as odd that companies are sending their best and brightest employees for advanced training (odd because your company doesn’t see the value), there really is no argument for not training employees and then taking advantage of what they learn to meet business goals and gain competitive advantages.
Tuohy also believes that many companies have experienced layoffs and have situations where three people are doing the work that five once did. Those companies realize that training improves productivity, which is necessary when staffs are reduced.
“One thing that helps the Summit is its focus on only RPG and DB2,” Tuohy says. “It is geared specifically for programmers. It’s different from conferences that cover a broad range of topics and are set up to appeal to various IT professionals as well as programmers. I also believe many people wanted to attend in the spring, but company budgets were frozen. Now that budgets are loosening again, we are getting some overspill of people who would have come in the spring.”
It’s getting late to make plans for a conference that’s less than a month away, but most conference planners expect a little surge of registrations during the final weeks. The Summit holds its registration rate for the three-day event at $1,295 until October 2 (after that it’s a hundred bucks more), but the special $99 per night hotel rate requires a booking by September 25.
You can find a complete agenda of educational sessions online, which includes the four optional half-day Headstart Seminars on Monday, October 12, one day before the Summit gets under way.