With just a month to go, the Top Gun 2018 agenda is complete. In the eve of this unique educational event, inlumi CEO Soner Bekir explains what makes Top Gun 2018 such an important event for EPM professionals.
As the founder of the event, I thought I'd take the opportunity to answer some questions I'm being asked about the event and potentially dispel some myths as well, so that you can decide if the event is for you.
So let's start with an honest-to-goodness explanation of what the event is, and then I'll dive into the FAQ afterwards.
Top Gun has been running since 2012, so this is the 7th edition. Initially I started the conference because following the acquisition of Hyperion by Oracle there were no more "Top Gun" sessions - sessions which used to be run by Hyperion for expert consultants to educate each-other on the latest changes to the software and best practices for implementing the product suite. What I wanted to achieve with the conference was three-fold:
- To give my staff the opportunity to develop, by demonstrating their skills for peer and customer review and presenting case studies publicly.
- To give our customers the opportunity to meet staff in person who had largely been servicing them remotely - in a less formal setting.
- To use the opportunity to learn about what was new and coming from the development team at the software vendor.
The first Top Gun (in Prague 2012) - was a one-day conference, with 16 sessions purely on Oracle EPM Suite, that was attended by around 70 people, made up largely from Infratects (now known as inlumi), Oracle and some clients.
Since then, the conference has significantly evolved, becoming a three-day event with a pre-conference training day hosted by Keyteach and two-days’ worth of sessions +/- 40, with a mix of content from multiple vendors, that will be attended (this year) by up to 250 people, mostly group controllers and other group finance professionals, with some IT procurement staff (focused on finance systems) and obviously a decent contingent of consultants (advisory, functional & technical) and development staff from the different vendors.
What hasn't changed in the seven years of operation is the ethos that goes behind the running of the conference, with the following principles that I established many years ago;
- It should be 100% educational. Sessions that are overtly commercial are not approved and in the event that one sneaks through, the presenter/company is not invited to present again.
- Participation should be democratic. Everyone, presenters, our staff and attendees, pay the same fee for the conference.
- There is no sponsorship fee. "Featured Vendors" are just featured vendors, and have not paid for the privilege, make no contribution other than their attendance fee, do not have stands with commercial representatives in an exhibitor hall and won't be wandering around and scanning badges. (The down-side to this is that there are no free to enter competitions or prizes either).
- Finally, it should be a fun and high-quality event. We spend a lot of time making sure that the venue can properly host us and our guests, that the catering & food is excellent quality, and that the social event is in an iconic location or has an iconic view and a free bar.
These principles exist for a very simple reason. Having spent more than twenty years attending conferences of one flavour or another, I wanted an event that I controlled to omit the things I always disliked about other events. Thankfully, when we have asked the attendees at the end of each conference we've run, what they valued from the event, their answers have reinforced these self-same principles.
Now for the questions that we get asked a lot in the run-up to the conference.
Q: Isn't this an EPM Infrastructure conference for techies only?
A: No, I'm afraid not. It used to be, but not for the last 3 years. The majority (86.5%) of the conference is actually functional/business process-focused in nature and looks at the latest developments in the EPM space. For example, the effects that automation and AI will be having on the finance function.
Q: Can I come for free? There are lots of similar free events I can attend throughout the year, so why should I pay to come to this one?
A: I hate to break it to you, but there is no such thing as a free lunch. Period. This is probably the only event you can attend in the entire year, where you will be able to meet developers and senior staff from multiple vendors, where the sessions being presented are mostly case-studies, based on real-world implementations and delivered by the people who did them (from customer & consultant), and where your name will not be added to a generic marketing list and be sold/given to the people who paid to exhibit (because there aren't any).
Q: ...But XXXXX company runs an EPM Event and theirs is free. Why can't you run a free event?
A: We choose to provide a quality event, in a good location, with purely educational content, and to charge each and every attendee (including ourselves) the same fee for attendance. By doing so, we can ensure that the information provided is as objective as we can make it, and the experience of attendees during the event is pleasant and untroubled by being asked continuously about your plans, decision time-frame and potential project budget.
Q: Who can present at Top Gun?
A: Anyone who can write and submit a convincing abstract, and more importantly, anyone who has an interesting real-world story to tell and a real-world client who is prepared to stand-up and talk about their experience. The only exception to this is the development team from various software vendors, who instead can stand up and talk authoritatively about the direction products are heading in, new developments and the future, and who can also take questions, issues and concerns from existing users and escalate them.
So, if you are still wondering why you should attend, I'll take a last shot at convincing you and then leave you be.
In my opinion, we are currently at a pivotal point in time for many organisations and their finance function. Whether it’s the need to deal with increased reporting requirements, the spectre of automation and AI drastically changing the focus of the finance function or business demands for increased agility and a "digital finance office", the reality is that there are multiple factors that are probably influencing decisions you need to take about the future of how the finance function in your organisation is executed and organised. Top Gun 2018 is the only event where you will have the opportunity to learn from your peers, domain experts and vendors - regardless of product suite, on how they have met or are meeting those challenges, and take that information away with you to make an informed decision.
And if you don't believe me, have a look here at what last year's attendees had to say about the event.