And I was happy I did show when I did. I made it just in time for the buffet in the showcase area.
The food was obviously the draw in getting UConnect attendees to the show area. When I walked in, the buffet lines were long and the vendor booths were decidedly uncrowded. So what did I do? I joined the crowd in the food lines. I spotted a sign for what was billed as "Cincinnati Chili" and made straight for it. Unfortunately, the Floridian idea of Cincinnati Chili has little in common with what the Buckeye State regards as one of its prize foods.
I left my plate of chili on the table and perused one of the other food lines, and I'm glad I did. They had a chef grilling fresh (?) trout served with a peppercorn sauce. Now that was tasty food. The trout was great, but the sauce added a spicy flavor that made me go back for seconds (or was it thirds?).
But then it was time to visit a few vendor booths. As I walked around I saw everyone carrying a little yellow booklet that reminded me of a Cliff Notes book from my school days (yes... they had paper back then). Seems that one of my old targets (SPS Commerce) was giving away iPods to anyone who would take their booklet around to a few of the company's competition. Of course I grabbed one. On first look, I could see that the questions were designed around SPS's offering; something they called "Trading Partner Integration Center." They were obviously trying to get people to recognize that they were offering a different technology from the rest of the pack.
I thought it might have been a good attempt at differentiation... having the competition define their strength and weaknesses based on questions that customers asked. I think that's what SPS had in mind too.
Not one to pass up a free iPod, I took my booklet around to the specified vendors and diligently asked my questions. I was surprised at the answers I got, and if you were there and did the same, I imagine you were surprised as well.
To be blunt about it... nearly every vendor lied!
I mean, I would expect a competitor to explain their answers and put them in the best light against the question, but it seemed that they all took the exercise as something to ignore. As a potential customer, I really did want to know how the vendors addressed the issues and was pretty peeved by answers like "Just mark all 5's for us. We do everything on the list."
I guess I could have accepted that most were able to do these things to at least some extent, but when they all said they use a "Multi-Tenant Application Model" I had to laugh at them. I asked one to explain how the software that they sold and installed locally at each of their customers' locations was in any way 'multi-tenant'. At that point he asked what I meant by 'multi-tenant'. I think that kinda put things into perspective for me.
What's even better is that I shot some surreptitious videos of the people answering my questions. To be honest, some of the answers were honest attempts to explain their positions. But likewise, some were downright funny. Check back in a couple weeks because I'm checking to see if we can post some of the videos. I think you'll get as much a laugh out of them as I did.
To those of you whom I was lucky enough to meet, it was wonderful to get to put faces to the names. I hope you all picked up one of the ec-bp.org T-shirts, and are letting people know that you met me. I also hope you got what you needed from UConnect. I understand that next year we're back in Dallas, at the Gaylord of course.
Let me know your take on the yellow questionnaire. Did you get answers that you think were valid, or did you just get humored? In the end, maybe it doesn't really matter if you collected your iPod.