Date: Wed, 17 Jul 1996 22:05:17 -0700 From: Nick Ragouzis email@example.com To: Christine Quinn cquinn@leland.Stanford.EDU, Bebo White BEBO@SLAC.stanford.edu, Michael Genesereth firstname.lastname@example.org Benay Dary-abrams email@example.com Corinne Moore firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Rethinking the conference planning and operations model? Christine, Bebo, Mike, Corinne, Benay: We have all talked about the need for a plan. An conference description, an operations plan, a budget, a schedule, requirements. And a need to determine just how the work of the conference will get done. One problem we have faced, especially Christine, in trying to delineate primary responsibilities and other authorities and responsibilities, is the multi-phased and multi-team aspect of the conference. I think that we may be able to adapt known business models to assist in constructing a long-term workable planning and execution environment. One that continues to build on itself, to evolve without complete reconstruction at each stage. The traditional business operations approach for manufacturing and services (i.e., planning then production) nor the traditional conference approach (i.e., secure facilities and basic services, manifest it, then open your doors) has worked up to now. We face the dumbing down of the conference to fit these methods, or the challenge of finding a model that _will_ work. The conference happens in two major and partially overlapping phases. Other characteristics add to these difficulties. Perhaps we need to consider a hybrid model. What do you think of this? --Nick --------------------------------------------------------------------- POSSIBLE TWO-STAGE HYBRID MODEL FOR CONFERENCE PLANNING AND EXECUTION I. TRADITIONAL THEATRE AND MOVIE PRODUCTION STAGE Nature: These productions parallel a standard conference, but with more, and more complex, interactions. Like our conference, and unlike a traditional conference, theatre and movie productions involve more pre-building of custom and single-purpose (and never-been-done-before) elements. This is especially true of today's productions which involve, for example, a high level of planning for location shoots and customization, and customized special effects programming. Another area where our challenge is more like theatre and movie production is in the detail planning of the interaction of various components. Sure a standard conference must worry about the arrival of food, exhibit pipe and drape, union assemblers, folks to direct lost guests to registration. But in parallel with a theatre or movie production's need to plan every set and every cut, our conference needs, for example, to plan things such as network traffic and systems support. These are higher-level needs than a traditional conference. Timeframe: Now and through period immediately preceeding the conference. Infrastructure and support continues throughout the conference. Implication: Responsibilities are divided into production teams. Each production team has a job that falls into two components, each of which may be serviced by different parts of that team. 1) Build and prepare their elements 2) Build and prepare their operations and support of those elements To emphasize speed of decision and independence of execution, each of these teams are responsible for the conduct of their own area. They produce whatever is clearly in their hands, and act as service units to other production teams. They respond to and serve the requirements of other production teams as they determine that they must and can. They take on responsibilities and look (independent of 'executive' directive) within the other service units for support. This differs in a significant way from traditional hierarchical methods. In those methods, plans and exceptions flow up, decisions get made, and the teams would execute - identifying problems through reporting and reviews. The method used by theatre and movie production orgs. 'demands' two dependent teams to determine their own solutions for the problem. If they intend to drop or change something, they must seek out those impacted and determine how another solution can serve the principles intended by the original. The director has no time to interact with that process - and teams pride themselves in resolving it. Unsatisfactory solutions are escalated as appropriate by the _impacted_ teams. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FACING US NOW? 1. (Re)Casting these teams. These are not the same as the sub-committees. Telecommunications, Internal, External Web services, and Volunteer SCs are four that would be significantly re-structured. So would the Exhibition, Sponsor, and P/R, Marketing, Promotion SCs. And adding units focusing on, for example, File System, Database, system configuration, and traffic management services. 2. Assigning these teams will help make clear to Conf Mngr, Exhibit Mngr, Conf Svcs Mngr, Tutorial and Developer track folks, that several different teams will have design and, (possibly not the same team), primary decision, or demand power over various aspects of their work. In a sense this reflects the reality shown in Christine's recent grid where several people/committees had primary responsibilities - for different aspects in different times. 3. Preparation of the plans - it might seem natural to us but these folks will need outlines. Ones that focus on the two stages mentioned above would help a lot. For example the constitution and training of a problem response center and team for server outages, or a service for updating and maintaining consistent configurations on public systems, would probably be missed at this stage in our current methods. Also the difference between testing designs and testing the implementations themselves. (In my discussions, few were thinking about that, but rather just taking the 'build the systems' view.) We also have the need to remind them of the difference in planning the implementation and the kind of planning and coordination (very detailed) that is necessary for the build-up at conference time. Finally, the grid of activities must be redone to reflect these different phases in the work, and the many interacting demands. II. NEW-STYLE MEDIA AND CONTENT DEVELOPERS MODEL STAGE Nature: These organizations consider the look and feel of their content and the structure in which their content is presented, as paramount. They care little about the technical aspects; those must be there and must provide the capabilities they feel are necessary to provide the desired audience experience and to compete. (If the capabilities aren't there, they will make your life miserable!) Timeframe: For some areas this begins now - we should have people working now to develop the content of our experience - investigating the methods for developing content, determining the nature of the experience, and defining the road to getting that content. This would be true for activities ranging from standard broadcast, basic news groups and forums, and even general exhibit floor activities. It extends to fun stuff happening during the Great America or other events. For specific Technical Program categories their timeframe for active participation is a few months off - at least after the call. If we do any sort of advanced participation (which we could certainly do at the Technical Program/Tutorial/Developer CATEGORY-level without involving specific papers, etc. then the timeframe for full involvement of this type of activity is quite early - Sept to begin, Oct to be up and active. Of course, the focus of this 'new-style media and content-dvlpr stage' is on the meeting days themselves. Active meeting activities, Partner sites, Satellite conferences increase the need for this. Implication: Responsibilities for this divide the conference into possible 'content channels'. Like channel directors in web media publication houses, or standard program directors in production broadcast, plus editors in standard print media, assign one, two, five, ten of these folks to reflect the content and channels to be emphasized. These folks also help in determining how the content and channels can be best promoted and extend their reach. Even determining how search facilities would best be categorized and managed. Just in case someone has gotten the idea backwards - this second stage does _not_ work to control the Technical Program, but rather to prepare themselves, their channel, to maximize TechPgm exposure and play in the ways determined and controlled by the TechPgm cmmttee and the Conference Chairs. The proper folks for this are among the best technology folks in their area, candidates perhaps also to be on panels or to lead panels; past presenters who don't have new papers; etc. Further, these folks become critical to the success of any part of the active meeting aspect. Paris had very low remote and advanced participation but also didn't work to develop it! Involvement of these types could expand the outlets for the Program Committee, the Tutorials and Developer track, and the Exhibit floor science faire, tutorials and demonstrations. Last, this is not only the domain of the remote/papers-related type stuff. This also required the assignment to someone of the 'channel' of, for instance, what a Delegate sees on their web pages, or the conference web pages during the conference: dynamic and static adverts, announcements, scheduling. 'Reminding' Delegates of neat software or activities available on the conference servers (before and during the conference. Or the 'channel' of the orientation and training for Delegates to participate in the conference web services - before and at the conference. In any of these 'channel director' roles, this involves high-levels of interaction between those responsible for communications, devices, systems, or timing. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FACING US NOW? 1. Casting these teams. Again, these are not the same as the Subcmmttees. Perhaps they should be an arm of the Program Committee. (Situated in that way they may also be a resource for the papers/panels/posters and science-faire activities.) This would explicitly remove from a unit such as the Meeting Web services the problems of the content itself; from the Telecom unit the problems of estimating the bandwidth - this information _IS_ needed now, but it isn't their expertise. 2. Assigning teams will make clear the need for cohesive messages in each channel, and coordination across channels. We are now in critical need of segmenting our audiences and these folks should be doing it. 3. These folks will set requirements and develop ideas. For instance if we were to do the 'parallel font development' idea, or the WebQuest from Paris, or the Medical data services, or any similar thing outside of the Tech Pgm but still content, these folks must begin work and inform others. The collaborative choir idea might fit well treated in this way. 4. Planning. This area requires significant planning for effective execution. Some of it imposes requirements on others; in other ways it requires money. But it also requires significant development of primary and alternate content; identifying participants; scripting activities; coordinating supporting and related events and activities; seeking and architecting sponsorship and promotion.