The fine folks in charge of organizing the Microsoft Exchange Conference have released a partial list of the sessions that will be on offer, as well as a list of speakers (oddly enough, the speakers are in alphabetical order by first name… ooops). There are some surprises in the mix, and I expect a few more once the full list of sessions is released in the near future.
First, there’s clearly a heavy emphasis on panel-style discussions: there are no fewer than 8 “Experts Unplugged” sessions featuring product managers from the Exchange team. I’m moderating the UM panel session, which should be a good opportunity for people to have their in-depth UM questions answered by the PMs who own the features in UM. In addition, the support team has a session called “Experts Unplugged: Exchange Top Issues – What are they and does anyone care or listen?” that I can almost guarantee will be worth your time. Amir, Jennifer, Scott, Shawn, Tim, and Nino did a very similar panel at the MVP summit and it was extremely informative— plus they’re a fun bunch to talk to. I expect the other panels to be of equal quality, and the fact that there’s one per track is a good sign that the Exchange team is interested in getting two-way feedback from the community.
Second, there’s a nice mix of topics covered: a number of sessions promise to compare or contrast the on-premises and service environments (I’m particularly looking forward to “Engineers vs Mechanics”), and there seems to be a balance between architectural-focused sessions that explain design principles and sessions focused more narrowly on how to administer, manage, or use features such as RBAC (presented by Bhargav Shukla, who taught RBAC for the late lamented MCM program) and archiving. This balance between explaining why features work a particular way and how to use them was a hallmark of MEC last year, and I’m pleased to see it continuing in the sessions this year.
There are a couple of sessions whose abstracts are missing or incomplete. For example, the “Enterprise Social” session promises to “discuss Social experiences in the MSFT suite beyond e-mail.” I’d bet $5 that this is a code phrase for “talking about Yammer,” but we’ll see. As we get closer to MEC, expect to see more detailed abstracts, as well as additional sessions.
Turning abruptly to Microsoft’s other major unified communications conference: I’m speaking for the first time at Lync Conference (which lacks a catchy acronym so far: I suggest “LyC”, pronounced “like”). The session list is worth a careful review; I don’t know if there are more sessions forthcoming, but the ones that are there focus much more heavily on on-premises topics than the MEC sessions do, and there’s an entire track titled “Business Value” dedicated to helping attendees identify areas where Lync can add value to their environments and then squeeze that value out as rapidly as possible. There is also a “Lync Online” track shown in the track selection pulldown but it shows no sessions right now— I’m sure they’ll appear in the near future. It looks like the content for the developer-focused track will be super technical; it will be interesting to see how the level of detail in those sessions compares to the developer-track session at MEC. I get the sense that there will be more admins-who-are-interested-in-development at MEC and more developers-who-write-code-every-day at LyC, but I could be wrong.
My Lync Conference session is a 300-level look at integration between Exchange 2013 and Lync 2013. It’s nicely complemented by Jens Trier Rasmussen’s 400-level session on the same topic; we’ll be working together to coordinate topics. The Lync Conference also features sessions presented by sponsors; Dell (or, more precisely, Michael Przytula, my boss) will be presenting one. I’ll have more to say about its contents when we get closer to showtime.
I’m looking forward to both shows— meeting with the community is always really energizing, and both shows have a great session lineup. If you haven’t already registered for one or both, you should strongly consider it while early registration is still ongoing. What you learn in a single session can easily save you (or make you) enough money to make the entire trip worthwhile, and the social and community benefits of attending are icing on the cake. See you there!