Thoughts on EMC World 2008 and the ECM Professional

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 Crystal

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.

10 thoughts on “Thoughts on EMC World 2008 and the ECM Professional

  1. I can’t thank you enough for your postings throughout EMC World.

    Not only did you do an extreme service to the Documentum community, I personally enjoyed learning from your recounting of the sessions, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

    I wasn’t able to attend (insert long complex reasons why here), but — written through your eyes — I received a unique perspective that I found valuable and insightful.

    Your comments about the need for increased engagement in the Documentum and the broader ECM community are well stated. FWIW, I will do everything I can to help lobby for increased focus on this vibrant — and increasingly relevant — community.

    Thanks ever so much for your efforts!

    You rock!


  2. msillanp says:

    I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but Laurence you nailed it though Billy C! said it best, “Nerds!” Think about it.

    As a species, we nerds, are non-social animals. We’re relegated to our dark cold hidden corridors of the office building rarely venturing out only to scatter when place into the light. But the internet bubble created a new species of nerds, cool nerds. Practitioners of content management are artists and nerds. Maybe what we’re seeing at EMC World, a culture class.

    What you pointed out so well is we’re missing the time face-to-face collaboration. I can sit on a webinar and be talked too but at this great annual opportunity, we’re missing the time to collaborate with peers, vendors, and our software provider all interested in moving content management. What we’re interested in is learning with others not just from others. How you would configure a server for a pharmaceutical company is probably the same as you configure it for an airline but how you would deploy content management is completely different. You only learn the other through collaboration with peers.

    Momentum was, and in Europe still is, about the meeting of business and IT not to create content for an organization but to create value for the organization. And in the professional world isn’t that what it’s really about, creating value?


  3. Thanks for your thoughts, both of you. I’m glad that you found the posts, and my thoughts, useful. More are on the way.

    Chuck, I was looking for you and now I know why I didn’t find you.

    Marko, next year is year three. I have hopes that it will be better, even if we have to counter-program. 🙂


  4. Lisa McIntyre says:

    Laurence, I too would like to thank you for the excellent coverage you have both of EMC World and of the ECM world.
    With you blogging the conference, I felt as if we had an extra person on our team (of two) attending the conference. You seemed to get to the sessions we wanted to get to, but for lack of sheer numbers, couldn’t.
    Here’s to a goal of next year of having enough people blogging the conference to have close to 100% coverage of all of the Momentum/ECM sessions (okay, maybe we start at 50%, with 100% within the next 3 years).
    Thanks again for all the comments and hard work.



  5. Brian Fitzgerald says:

    Thanks for taking the time to blog from EMC World. One thing I think is worth commenting on is the accounting for the number of Content Management/Momentum attendees. The number of 1500+ used at EMC World is a figure representing only the customers and selected partners. When you add the EMC emplooyees focused on content management, EMC executives and others who attended the conference (and who would have if it were a stand-alone content mangement event) you would be back well over 2000 people. In fact, as part of the EMC World team, we have watched the content management component of the conference (both partner and customer) to ensure that it has, in fact, held steady or grown year over year.

    The same holds true for non-technical attendees; the proportion of the EMC World audience that fits a line-of-business or CxO type of role continues to increase year over year, and we are adding more content for that non-technical content every year.

    You are dead-on in terms of the importance of that sense of community, and we also take steps to build and ensure that sense of community and networking for all attendees. The community model, color-coded tags, and special events like the CMA/Momentum party all tie to that goal.

    We will continue to take all input and suggestions into our thinking for next year (and the years after that). Our goal is a vibrant community for the content management audience and we’re excited to make that happen at EMC World (and beyond).


  6. Brian, thank you for chiming-in. I think the numbers from previous conferences did not include the EMC/Documentum employees, but you have access to better numbers there.

    The discrepancy with the business users may be tied to being unable to find those in the CMA community. With less Case Study presentations this year, there are less sessions that they are likely to stay after to ask questions offline. That makes them harder to identify. I would like to state that many people have made this observation to me and that it isn’t just my own observation.

    The party was a start, but it was poorly advertised as a CMA event as opposed to a Crown Partners event. Many people felt that they had to spend time at the Crown booth in order to get an invite. Most people did not perceive it as being CMA inclusive, so by default, it wasn’t.


  7. Thanks. I actually read that a while back. I disagree on some points with Alan, though he has an outsiders perspective.



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