This morning started with a breakfast and networking session bright and early at 7:30. This was a lot of fun... I sat with some guys from a couple different North East CU's and a vendor or two. I'd been at the bar the night before with one of the vendor's, so he was pretty cool and wasn't very 'sale-y' which was nice. After breakfast we went to the primary ballroom, where the Official conference welcome was held and Symitar presented their items. Even though this isn't a Symitar sponsored conference (like the SEC), Symitar still makes an appearance since there's about 120 of their clients represented. They talked about a lot of the upcoming changed we'll be seeing in our two 2009 released, which a lot is the result of user submitted requests from 2007 and 2008; which is really really nice. There's a nice big Card (ATM / Debit) creation solution going in, free of charge (yippee!!), that will resolve a lot of Credit Union's convoluted debit card ordering processes. For example, I've worked for a year to clean the junk and crap out of our Card Ordering program, and printed we're still sitting at a 170 or so pages. It's a NIGHTMARE to edit... the room busted out in Cheers whenever they announced this change.
After that we saw a small break, where I went and got some coffee to settle in for the day full of classes. My first two classes were symitar-put-on classes talking about a massive upcoming project that its going to completely reorganize the way symitar handles Member Name and Address records, and its going to be an epic undertaking.... we're talking a year and a half minimum, and thats if everyone buys into it. This is THE topic of this conference; everyone's talking about how they're going to go about cleaning their database to get ready for this. I ended up sitting next to the SVP of Operations for Members Choice CU; a Philly based CU thats about $1.1Bil in assets and talking to him about their upcoming 2-to-4 digit conversion, database cleaning and our solutions for another project they're about to start on. I didn't know at the time that he was with MemChoice, but I ate dinner last night with 2 Project Managers from MembersChoice who were real impressed with me and stuff... then they ended up walking up on the conversation he and I were having, and after formal introductions and stuff... I ended up eating lunch with them. It was really cool and we all kind of picked each others brains and stuff.. talked about how we were going to go about getting ready to do this big address project; and then some out of stuff work (talked about Vacations, I talked about Italy and mah lovely wife... etc). They run a 40 person IT shop and were extremely impressed with all the products and services our IT department supports with just 5 people; not to mention all of the inhouse customization and project management we do. He ended up giving me his card and saying if I ever find myself in the Philly area or wanna move up to the big leagues, to give him a call...
The sessions were chock full of soem great information... since it's just me going, I've maade sure to keep really good notes so that I can pass them to gene whenever I get everything consolidated tonight... I think I've got about 12 Hand written pages of notes!
Networking with people, I'm finding that EVERYONE is cutting expenses, which has a drastic effect on IT. When you look at a balance sheet.. our department is usually #1 at the top of the list for spending money... we're earn the Credit Union / FinInst intangible benefits, so we've got a lot of value, but asset wise we do nothing but spend money. Technology... despite the Newegg and TigerDirect emails, isn't cheap. So its interesting to see that everyone's Travel and Conference budgets are being cut, but yet the vendors still haven't mitigated their prices in light of the current economy. OpCon's scheduling product is _still_ $19,000.00 witha 4K annual service fee... which is absurd. Symitar is still pushing $30,000.00 solutions like there's nothing wrong with asking a Credit Union that just got slapped with a 1.5Mil un-planned for expensese to pay 30K for a luxery application... I don't get it.
Tonight there's a group event that I didn't sign up for... the tickets were $50 a piece, and I really didn't feel like it'd be that good of a time (I wish I would have signed up now though). It's an 'American Band Stand' themed dinner in one of the Ballrooms. I think instead I'm just going to go grab a chicken salad or something and come back up to the room and work.
Speaking of dinner choices... I've done bad on my diet =( They've just thrown and thrown and thrown the food at us; and you can only say no to fresh zitti with mushrooms and meatsauce once or twice... third times the charm.