Every year I look forward to Collaborate, this year especially as I sit in Connecticut watching snow fall on April Fools Day. Orlando is certain to be nice this time of year, but my excitement about the event goes way beyond the prospect of finally feeling warm again. Every past trip to Collaborate has been informative and invigorating for me, even though I always get something out of it that is very different than what I went in expecting.

The real value of Collaborate lies in the great ideas picked up from others doing the same thing you are. There are always lots of customers sharing clever ideas about how to squeeze more value out of a limited technology budget. Running into people you know that are doing different and exciting things is also invaluable. For me seeing all the innovative things that the vendor community has come up with is the most valuable. I always come away with concrete ideas that can be applied to my own business.

In most years there is the hope that Oracle will send someone from the inner circle that will enlighten us as to what the next big thing might be. Last year we got then President Charles Phillips who made a disappointing and very bland presentation by video. Later in the year we found out that he had already decided by then to leave Oracle and was just waiting for the right timing. That moment came in September when HP fired CEO Mark Hurd and Larry Ellison immediately talked him into coming to Oracle to replace Phillips.

This year Oracle has a time slot for a keynote presentation, but I expect nothing newsworthy to come out of it. I cannot see Oracle sending Mark Hurd or any other top tier executive to deliver the non-news. There is no sinister reason for this – Quest just happens to schedule its big event during the last six weeks of Oracle’s fiscal year. The only thing that really matters to Oracle at this point on the calendar is closing as many big deals as possible before the end of May.

We should not feel badly if we don’t get to see Mark Hurd since no one else has seen him since he was hired. The most credible rumor speculates that all his time has been spent working on acquiring a major storage vendor that would help fill out the Oracle line of hardware/software appliances. I expect that he will make a visible splash at some time, but that our event is not the right time for him to come out of hiding.

If Hurd did come he would have to explain the further delay in bringing Fusion Applications to the market. The latest I have heard is that the formal announcement of availability of the initial release won’t come until at least August. If that is correct, Oracle will certainly hold off until OpenWorld in early October to finally show us what Fusion really is.

We can expect to get a preview-of-coming-attractions style look at bits and pieces of Fusion at Collaborate since a few of the building-block pieces are apparently ready to show off. For me, finally getting even a glimpse of what is coming could end up being one of the highlights of the show.

This year I will personally have less time to spend seeing presentations since my company has agreed to co-sponsor what Quest is calling the Country Club. It will be a large area in the Expo hall where those of us who love golf can putt, chip and even hit a few balls at a screen and pretend we are on the tour. Non-golfers who want to watch will have room to sit and socialize and critique our lame attempts to excel at a game that is much harder than it looks.

Much of my time will be spent at the Country Club area so those of you would like to share ideas and gossip about what is going on in the world of Oracle applications are strongly encouraged to look me up. Above all, the greatest value I get from Collaborate comes from meeting customers willing to share their experiences and ideas with me. Come and let me know what is on your mind. I look forward to meeting lots of you there.