I’m sitting next to Marko and thinking about EMC World this year and trying to get my thoughts down as to how this year rated. I’m not going to be talking about what I learned in this post, but more on the conference itself. Marko had a couple of posts and I think they are a great starting point for the discussion. After you have read them, read on.
Sense of Perspective
I’ve been to every US Documentum user conference since 2000 and I’ve seen a lot of changes over time. I remember the exhibition being setup for the whole conference with almost no traffic (better now). I remember motorcycles zooming in to the stage at the keynote (fun, energetic, suffocating). I remember walking down Bourbon Street and having a great time as if it was just an extension of the conference (a great sense of community).
Some things have improved. One thing that hasn’t is that sense of fun and community. It was easier to find Documentum folks on Bourbon Street in 2003 than it is at time at EMC World. In 2006, there were over 2000 attendees at the last Momentum in Anaheim (thrown together on the quick) and more than 2500 the year before in Vegas. This year, the number given was 1500+ out of 9300+ attendees. It makes it hard to find people that have similar interest unless you already know them. You can find those people at sessions, but the sessions aren’t that well grouped together. The decrease in CMA attendance speaks volumes.
One reason that I think that less people are attending is that it is becoming a more technical conference. Documentum isn’t just about the technology. Ask any ECM expert and they’ll tell you that the business efforts (change management, business process re-engineering, etc.) are more important than the technology. All of the storage people, and developer conference attendees, really swing the demographics further to the geeky, nerd range and that doesn’t make the end-users comfortable. They want to talk to other users that experience their pain.
Billy was funny as hell. Loved the show. The final event sucked though. The final events are usually a touch-and-go quality to them. That is fine. What I enjoy best is getting together with everyone I met, or only see once a year, and having fun and chatting about things besides ECM. This year, it was a no-go.
For those that missed it, we were funneled into an arena and quickly served food and drinks. We were then ushered into our seats, for a long time. There was no real opportunity to wander around and talk. Then Billy came out and talked for over an hour (I love Billy C!). When he finished, it was over.
That’s it. Everyone going their own way, no place to really network and get together. It was horrible from that perspective. The previous night, there was a CMA party hosted by Crown Partners featuring The Groove. That was great! We could wander around and talk to people and enjoy the sense of community. The only problem with that event was the invitation requirement. It scared off some people that didn’t go grab an invitation, even though they were very liberal with them.
Things I’d Like to See Next Year
One, very smart, EMC employee told me that it would take three years for them to get it “right”. Well, we are two years into it and I actually saw a step back from last year in some areas. Here are some suggestions for next year.
- Group all the CMA presentations into one area of the conference: This will let me know if people walking by are CMA and I have a chance of running into people that I met two sessions ago. This includes the Software Developer tracks as well. Those would be a good transition area in the conference between the different technology tracks.
- Different colored badges for each community area and/or handing out community ribbons at registration: You could get ribbons this year IF you went to the community talks on Sunday and picked one up. Many didn’t realize they were there, and some weren’t even at the conference in time to participate.
- More room for the community meet-and-greets: The community meet and greets were a great idea. There needs to be a larger area for each one for people to sit and chat. There were no chairs so people just talked for a couple of minutes and moved on. We need to encourage people to talk.
- Group the sessions in the catalog by topic area: This year they were listed as one long alphabetical list which made it hard to scan to find good topics. Another benefit is that it also will help make sure that people go to the sessions in areas that they care about without having to decipher non-specific titles or flip through the book to find the detailed description.
- Less overlap of events: Take a couple of invite-only events and put them at the beginning or the end of the conference. I had to duck-out of some things in order to attend a Product Advisory Forum, which I needed to attend. It ate deeply into my time to participate in standard activities.
- A zero-conflict Meet the Experts time period: They had several meet the expert time periods where you could go and talk to product managers on their product specialities. Not only was it poorly advertised, it took place during sessions. Do I talk to the expert among a group of similar users or do I attend a critical session that isn’t repeated? If the exhibits are open, fine, but no sessions.
- Bring back the Meet the Speakers sessions: Along this same line, I miss the Meet the Speakers sessions as well. It was a great chance to network and talk. That should be at the end of each day after the sessions have ended.
- The booths should be open until 7:30 or 8 and not close when the sessions are ending: If I spend the whole afternoon in sessions, it makes it hard to get to the exhibits to visit all of the booths.
- Bring back the CMA content: Speaking of sessions, there were five CMA tracks this year, plus the Developer sessions. In previous years, there were 6+ well defined tracks. Why do we have less sessions when we are now talking about more things like Captiva and X-Hive? Where is the generic Introduction track? That was a great track for Project Managers and users that were new to Documentum.
- Schedule the broader, overview sessions for Day one: The Documentum 6.5 platform overview session was offered on the last day. Attending that used to alert me to cool things to check out later.
- Bring back the call for topics: It was removed this year which is how they got down to five tracks, less customers presented. Case studies are great. Watching end-users who are passionate about the technology that they just implemented is great. You can learn a lot. This year, only a few from sponsors which doesn’t really engender a sense of community.
I have some session specific thoughts as well, but I think I’ll save that for a more content focused review next week. This used to be a user-centric conference. Now, it is a technology-centric conference. It still has value, but it has shrunk.