The Data Future Is Already Visible. Can We Get to It?

April 7, 2022

Brian Scott

Brian Scott, president and founder of ClearTone Consulting, provides executive technology consulting services based on 35 years of technology expertise and 20 years of CIO/CISO experience within the exhibitions and events industry. Brian provides expert technology consultation in the areas of technology strategy, software development, systems integration, data warehousing and analytics, cyber security, data center operations, cloud computing, and end user support. He works with his customers to overcome technology challenges, leverage tech to drive growth and revenue, secure valuable digital assets, and execute projects to meet the organizational objectives.

Some folks can get really caught up in the “grass is always greener” syndrome. I can understand that tendency, of course, as I have my fair share of lawn envy, and I mean that both metaphorically and literally. Lately, for me at least, it’s been about automobiles. It seems everywhere I go, my eye is catching that certain car that makes me salivate. After the initial emotional rush, I can usually remind myself that I currently don’t have a car payment and then take a moment to recall exactly how much I dislike those.  

The point is that the greener view, more often, is an illusion. It warns you that once on the other side of the fence, you will likely find yourself gazing longingly back at the yard you just abandoned. When it comes to how technology companies are coming to market and enabling an active data exchange ecosystem for their customers, the grass truly is greener in the commercial space as opposed to the association or event technology space. It’s not an illusion. I’ve crossed over and stood in that yard, and when I looked back at the event technology space, I thought, “Wow, that grass is brown!”

It’s not that I don’t love the event tech industry. In fact, it’s the opposite. It feels like my family. I grew up in this industry, and I want nothing more than for the entire industry to be incredibly successful. All boats rise with the tide, right? That’s why I make these rather alarming statements – to jar an industry (that I believe has been lulled to sleep) into an awakened state to help ensure that the tide is actually rising as opposed to receding.

Let’s talk about this data exchange ecosystem.

I’m going to torture you with yet another metaphor that I love to overuse: data is the new oil. In this metaphor, our oily liquid gold, our valuable Texas Tea, is a wonderful asset that has an immense amount of intrinsic value hidden beneath its obsidian surface. Unfortunately, to start realizing the value pent up in the data, organizations must move the data between systems. Sometimes they need to gather it together, other times they need to move it from a collection vendor to an analytic vendor. The point is that gas sitting in an underground tank at the gas station does not make your car move. It’s only when it’s transferred into your tank that you can start racing through the streets, distancing your competition and cutting off those darn mobile texters.

The real enabler of transforming raw data into purified business value is the ability to move the data easily, at will, whenever you need to, and doing so without having to pay a computer programmer $120K a year just to do so (No offense meantI love programmers, as well). The consumer SaaS market has understood this essential enabler for over a decade and has subsequently created a data exchange ecosystem that is fueling incredible innovation. Everyand I do mean everySaaS company that comes to market today does so with hundreds and hundreds of out-of-the-box data connectors ready to spin up at a moment’s notice to move data from point A to point B, all without a programmer.

This has occurred because all these product companies collectively realized that data in motion between vendors, even between competitors, is far more valuable for the customer than any data isolated and imprisoned in their own system. In fact, it’s already table stakes, and no SaaS product can enter the market without its data doors flung wide open. Go ahead and take the Pepsi challenge. Google any of your favorite SaaS products along with “data connector” and see what you get. I bet you’ll quickly come across a page that lists literally hundreds of pre-made connectors that allow you to push or pull data to and from the system. And this is something that even you could do! Pretty amazing, right?

Does this describe the event tech world you know today?

Admittedly, there is a small selection of vendors that have been living this principle, and to them, I say thank you. They get it. Unfortunately, for so many of the vendors in the marketplace, it may not even be on their product roadmap. The outcome for associations and event organizations is that it is still very time-consuming and difficult to get data in or out of the systems they use, ultimately making their business more challenging. And, when they do achieve integrations, I’m betting it still requires a developer to do so.

The future for the event tech industry has always been known. It is not the role of the event tech industry to be leading the world on the cutting-edge of technology creation. We are the collective benefactors of the much more dynamic and cut-throat consumer tech world. We get to take advantage of what they invent and productizeafter the marketplace bloodbaths have subsided and galvanized winners have emerged. This is actually an enviable position. Let the other companies risk their war chests on new tech development. We’ll be happy to apply the proven tools into solving our customers’ needs.  

The future is clear as can be. As an industry, we must quickly make our way into a free-flowing data exchange ecosystem, or I’m concerned we’ll not just be grounded by an outgoing tide, but we’ll be literally swept away by the tidal wave of external vendors and products that sweep in from the outside to fill the void.

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Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact