The ICAEW Cloud conference - yet another missed opportunity

 As I mentioned in my recent post, I attended the ICAEW's Cloud Conference on Friday 24th September. I had mentioned that I did not have high hopes for this and sadly my concerns were justified - but not, interestingly, for the reasons I had feared.

Firstly the positive points - there were some. The fact that the ICAEW had decided to run such a conference was a positive step. After all it is incumbent on a leading professional organisation to keep its members informed of current trends and I salute them for organising the event. The surroundings were great - Moorgate Place is a very impressive venue - and the organisation of the ICAEW staff was first class. The fact that over 100 people attended the event was also positive as it clearly indicates the growing level of interest in the subject.

However.....

My heart sank when I saw the agenda. The second item was entitled Legal Implications - what are the legal implications of moving to the Cloud. I shall return to this shortly but my initial reaction was "oh,oh, here we go with the jargon". My concerns were exacerbated in the opening stages of the conference. Everyone had been issued with voting pads (you know the sort of gizmos they use in Millionaire) and we had to give our prefernce to a number of multi choice, fairly anodyne questions, such as How much do we know about the Cloud and would we consider using it. The results of the voting then appeared on screen (great technology by the way!)

My hackles were raised at the second question - What are your main concerns about using the Cloud? Talk about a leading question, somewhat akin to "have you stopped beating your wife". Why did the question have to be framed in those pejorative terms which pre-supposes that everyone should have concerns. Why could it not be asked as "Do you have concerns..." and then it could be assessed what those concerns were.

The first sessions was a presentation by a representative from Microsoft (!)  on "Cloud Computing defined" which started with a deliberately jargon filled explanation to make the point that "..it is difficult to define.." Well, why is it difficult to define. Cloud Computing is using the Internet to run your applications and store and access your data...simples. It doesn't need to be made more complicated than that... after all the Cloud is merely another method of delivery.

I'm afraid matters went downhill after that. The lawyer talked a lot of legalise which, in my humble opinion was not strictly relevant and after the breakout sessions, a presentation by the Global Director of Cap Gemini entitled "Risk and return - an overview of security risk and return" might just as well have been delivered in Swahili for all the relevance to the audience and comprehensibility were concerned. Why is it necessary to go into such detail when talking about the Cloud?

Very few people understand - or indeed want to understand - how their on-premise server or office network works. When I get into my car,I want to know two things - how to start (and stop) and who to call if there is a problem. It is the same with any computer setup for the majority of users and the Cloud should be no different. There is no need, in a general symposium to go into such technical detail - it is just not relevant.

The one bright spot was the break out session I attended which consisted  of an excellent presentation by Matt Holmes of Liquid Accounts who gave a first class presentation on the Cloud  and the relevant issues which was followed by a panel session of 4 practicing accountants who gave short presentations on why they had moved tto the cloud and their experiences in so doing. This is what the conference should have been built around and I implore the ICAEW to take notice the next time they run something like this.

So in my view a missed opportunity. 8/10 for effort - 3/10 for content.

Comments
dahowlett's picture

Were we in the same building?

dahowlett | | Permalink

@richard: I know you were a tad ticked off but you are looking at this through one lens only. I agree that Cap Gemini's performance was a touch heavy for that broad type of audience though it would have looked good to some of my clients. The legal stuff IS important. The lawyer may have appeared to make heavy weather of it but trust me when I say there are VERY FEW lawyers who have even the remotest grasp of this topic. They are to be valued and for me it was one of the highlights of the event. People skate over these issues at their peril. 

You bemoan the risks issues and the way ICAEW approached the issues of concern but you need to get real. I field these types of question every day and 'you' as an industry do a lousy job of answering the key, core questions. That's why CIF exists and why people like myself are more than gainfully employed.

@gary (who talks about this elsewhere on AW): I agree that ICAEW did a decent job but I would say that as you know I had a small hand in it. However, they needed to segment their audience or have a different type of speaker for that audience. You know as well as I do that vendor pitches are easily gamed. I've seen it done in SaaS shoot outs so don't shoot (sic) the organizers for that one. Another time perhaps but there was plenty of exposure and opportunity. 

Both of you are coming at this from the vendor perspective and as you both know I consider the vendors largely do a shocking job at explaining the value proposition. I can see how demos would do the job but I would want to make sure I knew what the vendors were presenting rather than figure which was the smoke and which the mirrors.

More generally, vendors will always bitch and moan they didn't get their point of view across yet in the business track, there were users aplenty answering honestly on their experience. Check the videos I posted at AccMan. They always speak far louder than any vendor in any assessment where I've been involved. That's why they are so important. As to vendor presentations: Jeremy Roche gave a solid performance barely mentioning his own company in the process.

Needless to say, I am told the overall feedback was "good" to "excellent" and as I said to the organizers - on what I saw - ICAEW did a good job. 

(Hint: my comments reflect my buyer side bias)

richardanning's picture

Feedback from attendees

richardanning | | Permalink

@Richard

I have put a comment on John Stokdyk's post outlining some of the feedback from the event (rated 83% overall by attendees) - http://www.accountingweb.co.uk/group/cloud-computing-accountants-discussion-group/icaew-cloud-conference-missed-opportunity.

I am happy to share detailed feedback with you so you can understand more clearly what attendees thought and what their real needs are.

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