Crossing the Las Vegas Strip


Why did the technical writer cross the road?

To visit the user conferences on the other side! Yes, I know, bad joke. But sometimes, to get a taste of the technological world that we document, or the “other side” that lies outside our comfortable cubes and desks, we as writers must take the opportunity to “cross the road”.

Hi, my name is Jay, and I’m an IBM TRIRIGA information developer (i.e., technical writer) at IBM. In fact, our TRIRIGA headquarters is located right here in Las Vegas. Recently, my manager in Massachusetts was lucky enough to obtain approval from her manager in California to allow two local TRIRIGA writers to attend the Facilities Management conferences that were going to be held on the Las Vegas Strip. I was one of those writers.

Mandalay Bay hotel and casino

Mandalay Bay hotel and casino

In a nutshell, IBM TRIRIGA is known as an enterprise-class software suite that specializes in real estate and facilities management. So my manager knew that these conferences represented a unique opportunity to visit the vendors and see the faces of Facilities Management or FM in person. At first, I was hesitant. “I’m not a facilities manager!” But that was the point. It was a chance to see the technical and technological from a different point of view, from a broader perspective. “Will I fit in? Am I supposed to be here?” Those weren’t the real questions. Eventually, they became: “What can I see? What can I learn?”

Day 1: Monday, September 16

Finally, the first day of the conferences arrived. I hadn’t visited Mandalay Bay in years. So from the start, as a work day, it was already a refreshing change of pace and scenery. Finding an open parking spot was a minor ordeal. But once I recognized the path through the casino to the conference centers, I found the FMMUG signs easily.

What is FMMUG?

Facilities Management Maximo User Group (FMMUG) is a member-run organization whose members use the IBM Maximo enterprise asset management (EAM) software to support facilities management operations. But FMMUG is not part of IBM.

The mission of FMMUG is to provide a forum for IBM Maximo users in the facilities management industry to exchange information, methods and experiences. This exchange of information is designed to optimize the use of Maximo capabilities.

What sessions did I attend?

  • EDI, an IBM business partner, discussed the steam-trap maintenance program at Pennsylvania State University.
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) discussed its use of Maximo to plan and schedule facility work.
  • IBM, in its first session, discussed its Maximo asset management strategy, roadmap through 2015, and latest features.
  • IBM, in its second session, discussed query-based reporting (QBR) in Maximo.
  • Banetti, an IBM business partner, discussed best practices for asset management and preventive maintenance.
  • DataSplice, an IBM business partner, discussed the benefits and challenges of CMMS/EAM mobile solutions.

What else did I see?

Here are some views of Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, along the path from the self parking garage to the south convention center.

Mandalay Bay hotel and casino

Mandalay Bay hotel and casino

Mandalay Bay path to convention centers

Mandalay Bay path to convention centers

On the signs, we can see that the FMMUG event is attached to a larger NFMT Vegas event on the same floor. NFMT Vegas is the National Facilities Management & Technology (NFMT) conference.

Escalator to FMMUG and NFMT Vegas

Escalator to FMMUG and NFMT Vegas

FMMUG sign and NFMT Vegas map

FMMUG sign and NFMT Vegas map

As I mentioned above, I took part in 6 sessions presented by EDI, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, IBM (2 sessions), Banetti, and DataSplice. Based on the sessions, there were about 50 attendees.

FMMUG sign with agenda

FMMUG sign with agenda

Jay’s NFMT-FMMUG badge

Jay’s NFMT-FMMUG badge

Day 2: Tuesday, September 17

Before the first day, I didn’t expect to return a second day. In fact, I had originally planned to take two full vacation days after Monday. But because of what I had seen and learned about the FM world outside of TRIRIGA, I couldn’t let myself miss another opportunity. Although the FMMUG event ended, I decided to exchange a half day of vacation for a peek at the related NFMT event.

What is NFMT?

National Facilities Management & Technology (NFMT) is an educational conference and trade show for all facility management professionals responsible for the management, operations, maintenance, renovation, and construction of non-residential buildings.

NFMT Vegas is a free two-day educational conference and trade show in Las Vegas, which aims to provide a forum for best practices, new business connections and resources, product information, and proven facilities management strategies.

What sessions did I attend?

  • BACnet International, which promotes the open protocol for building automation and control networks (BACnet), discussed sustainability through building automation.
  • Hotel Sustainability Solutions discussed the management practices in achieving a successful sustainability program.
  • BACnet International, in a later session, discussed the impact of evolving energy codes on lighting controls.
  • DataSplice, an IBM business partner, discussed EAM mobile strategies for facilities management.

What else did I see?

Here’s the NFMT daily planner. As I mentioned above, I took part in 4 sessions by BACnet International (2 sessions), Hotel Sustainability Solutions, and DataSplice.

NFMT Vegas daily planner

NFMT Vegas daily planner

BACnet International session

BACnet International session

Here’s the NFMT exhibitor locator, exhibit hall map, and exhibit hall entrance. Based on the exhibitor listing, there were about 150 booths. Based on the sessions, there were about 200 attendees.

NFMT Vegas exhibitor locator

NFMT Vegas exhibitor locator

Entrance to NFMT Vegas exhibit hall

Entrance to NFMT Vegas exhibit hall

The NFMT exhibit hall opened at noon. Here are a couple of the Polaris utility vehicles. Polaris was a core NFMT Vegas sponsor. BACnet International was also a core NFMT Vegas sponsor.

Polaris utility vehicle 1

Polaris utility vehicle 1

Polaris utility vehicle 2

Polaris utility vehicle 2

Here are more exhibitors. JLG manufactures aerial platforms, boom lifts, and other access equipment. Meanwhile, Emerson Network Power delivers power-infrastructure management solutions.

JLG equipment

JLG equipment

Emerson Network Power booth

Emerson Network Power booth

After I left the conference, I gathered my FMMUG and NFMT bags, brochures, flyers, and pamphlets into a single photo. Then I began to reflect upon my general observations and impressions.

Mandalay Bay hotel and casino

Mandalay Bay hotel and casino

FMMUG and NFMT material

FMMUG and NFMT material

What were my overall impressions?

Earlier, I asked myself, “Will I fit in? Am I supposed to be here?” But after the first day, I found myself wanting to return for a second day. Without realizing it, my inward concerns became outward curiosity: “What can I see? What can I learn?” Now that I’ve shared a brief glimpse at what I’ve seen, let me highlight what I’ve learned.

One observation was that while the Facilities Management community spans a limitless spectrum of vendors and products, enterprise-class EAM vendors like DataSplice represent only a tiny fraction. In other words, although I’m consumed every workday by enterprise management software like IBM TRIRIGA and IBM Maximo, this class of software is implemented by only a small fraction of the FM community. This reversal of perspectives was eye-opening.

Another observation was that many different types of FM technology are thriving independently from, or along the edges of, enterprise-class technology. For example, two names stood out the most for me, which is probably why they’re repeated throughout this article: (1) BACnet, the open protocol for building automation and control networks, and (2) DataSplice, the leading provider of Maximo EAM mobile solutions.

In the former case, the building-level automation technology seems to be evolving quickly without the integrated supervision of portfolio-level enterprise technology. Meanwhile, in the latter case, the tablet- and smartphone-based mobile technology seems to be taking advantage of the traditional inertia in desktop- and laptop-based enterprise technology. Together, both cases demonstrate the limited reach of enterprise management software. Again, this reversal of perspectives was another eye-opening realization.

Why did the technical writer cross the road?

Why did the technical writer visit the other side? To get a broader perspective.

Do I have an update?

Five months after crossing the Las Vegas Strip, I was lucky enough to climb through the IBM clouds!

Jay @ IBM Pulse 2014

Jay @ IBM Pulse 2014

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