The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Looking Back on EMC World 2009


It has been a busy week.  I think each year my schedule get crazier and crazier while I am here at the conference.  As a result, I notice things that make it both easier, and more difficult, for me to accomplish everything that I set out to accomplish at the conference.  While it is all still fresh, and I wait for my ride, I want to share some thoughts on the conference.

Before I dive in, I want to say that I recognize that EMC has listened and tried to make the conference better for the Content Management professional. I appreciate the efforts and I hope that they continue to listen to the feedback.  No conference is perfect, but they should strive for perfection.

I shared, and gathered, these thoughts with people from EMC employees, partners, and customers.  This is a conference evaluation, not on the strategy or direction of EMC.  That will come later. Check my EMC World page for all my links.

The Good

As I said in an impromptu interview conducted by Len Devanna, this year was better than previous EMC World’s. Considering where the bar was set last year, that wasn’t much of a challenge.  EMC did a great job of clearing the bar with room to spare.

  • The Momentum Community: Between the ribbons, Momentum Lounge, co-located CMA expo partners, CMA party, and closely grouped sessions, it was easy to find other Documentum users.  We weren’t everywhere, we were just together.  That was a MASSIVE improvement.  I know several people and companies that did not attend this year because of the disjointed feeling after last year’s EMC World.  They missed out this year and I hope that EMC continues the community trend.  That should help attract those attendees and vendors back to EMC World next year.
  • The Bloggers Lounge: The aforementioned Len Devanna organized a Blogger’s Lounge for both bloggers and tweeters of the EMC community to come together to meet, talk, and drink espresso drinks.  I was a regular there and by the end, the barista knew my order, a double espresso.  It really upped the visibility of social media within EMC and to the larger EMC community that hadn’t really looked closely at the online tools for business purposes.  Next year we’ll need to schedule a Tweetup to handle all of the new twitterers.
  • Water Bottles: A couple of groups, including CMA, handed out metal water bottles.  Scattered throughout the conference were stations for refilling the bottles with water.  Next year, I’d like to see this taken further and give everyone a bottle and have large number of prominent water bottles scattered everywhere.

Overall, it was a better organized conference than last year and I can’t blame EMC for the rainy weather.

The Bad

  • Hard to Find Essentials: Scary fact, the easiest place for an attendee to find power for their laptops was in sessions, and that wasn’t easy.  Power was hard to find, but many didn’t notice because they were busy trying to find out where the coffee had disappeared to in the last five minutes.  These were things that I didn’t notice, thanks to the Blogger’s Lounge, but others pointed out to me frequently.
  • Compressed Schedule: Once again, everything overlapped.  The only free time I had to go to the expo without skipping a session was opening night. If you have ever been to a conference, you know that it is very difficult to get too deep into a product or service offering when an expo first opens.  Usually a visit later in the conference is called for in order to meet everyone and learn what needs to be learned.  I had to skip a breakout session and a Product Advisory Forum session to accomplish 80% of what I wanted to accomplish in the expo.  I was unable to accomplish the other 20%.  The expo needs more hours added or moved to the evenings when sessions are over for the day.  In addition, it would be nice if the invitation only sessions, like the Product Advisory Forums, were moved to the first day before the opening party (Sunday afternoon) or to the last day after the last session has concluded (Thursday afternoon).
  • Where’s Waldo?: There were lots of EMC people missing this year.  I understand that there is a recession. When you cut sessions, you cut attendees, which cuts revenue.  Still, difficult decisions need to be made.  I didn’t see lots of regulars that are good speakers.  The one I missed the most? Craig Randall.  He is an excellent speaker that is extremely visible to the entire Documentum Developer Community.  He is a public advocate and when he says he isn’t attending EMC World, developers notice and question their need to attend.  I’m sure this is tied to the first item in the “Ugly” category.
  • Overviews At The End: Nothing helps you realize what you missed better than getting an overview or roadmap towards the end of the conference. It makes you realize which of those strange new acronymed products you actually need to learn about.  “What is xCP? No clue. Wait, that is the new name for the Case Management Framework? Ooooo, interesting. What do you mean the deep-dive session was yesterday?” That is only topped by hearing this 2-3 times in a session once you realized that you needed to learn about a product, If the expo was still open, you could have gone to see a demo. I’ve heard that part of the reason for this is that the people that give the presentations are in Executive Meetings on Monday.  Here is a thought, MOVE THOSE MEETINGS!!! If the executives have to know first, move the meetings to Sunday.  If they don’t need to know first, but just need more details, move them to Tuesday.  Overviews and overall roadmaps on the third day drive me NUTS and show poor attention to detail.

That last one almost made it to the the final category, but just because it is a pet peeve doesn’t make it ugly

The Ugly

Some trends have continued and they are becoming major issues.  If these aren’t addressed, I’m not sure how much value the conference will offer the average user in a few years.

  • Diminishing Sessions: This was extremely noticeable this year.  The half-day training sessions were cut a couple years ago and each year, there have been less and less CMA sessions.  Meet the Experts, gone this year. Meet the Speakers, cut last year and still gone.  There is a diminishing of both tracks and sessions per day.  If the sessions are near each other, do we really need 30 minutes between each session?  During the four session periods on Thursday, only the first two housed CMA sessions.  There were a LOT less developer sessions.  The ones that were held were more akin to the older technical sessions from previous Momentums.  Remember If you build it, he will come? Well..Don’t schedule it and they won’t come also applies.  There were also only TWO hands-on sessions.  Yes, they can be done online, but the most valuable part of all of these sessions is the Q&A.
  • Who Has Done This Before?: This is a common question at the end of many product sessions. It is a hard question to answer when their are so few customer presentations.  Nothing is as compelling as hearing people share their experiences implementing the solutions.  Customers LOVE those presentations.  Ever since they killed the call for topics a few years ago, case studies have all but gone away.  What went with it?  The reason many attendees came to Momentum.  The conference shouldn’t just be about product features.  It needs to cover best practices from those that have survived implementations. This was a problem last year and it continues.

When everything was combined into EMC World, TWO separate conferences were eliminated, the Software Developer Conference and Momentum.  Both conferences were growing each year when the acquisition took place.  Now the CMA portion feels smaller than either one.  It isn’t just the recession.  People aren’t seeing the value in the sessions being offered.

Here is a question, why does VMWare get to keep their conference, VMWorld? They have more in common with storage than the CMA crowd. Don’t get me wrong, I met many storage people this year that I liked, I even saw how the CMA community can coexist in the same conference as the storage people. I just feel like the entire conference is withering away even as the product offering and need for Enterprise Content Management grows.

EMC needs to work on these things and be sure not to neglect the thoughts from last year as they still apply, even those that were addressed.

Boston on Mother’s Day

Next year, EMC World 2010 starts on May 10th and runs through the 13th in Boston.  I like the conference not being on Memorial Day, but it now starts on Mother’s Day.  I’m already working on how to explain this to the wife as next year is the “not having brunch with the Mother of Pie so the Wife of Pie can sleep-in and do whatever she wants” part of the bi-annual cycle.

I hope to see you there.

12 thoughts on “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Looking Back on EMC World 2009

  1. Chris Campbell says:

    Just got back into the office. I’ll go ahead and piggy-back on your post and give my GB&U thoughts: (Apologies in advance for any typos… still have a nagging sore throat and I’m just dragging this morning.)
    The Good
    – Emphasis on ECN: I really liked that the EMC Community Network was getting a big push from the top down. I truly feel that if a company wants to grow new customers, it needs to focus on keeping the existing ones happy. Growing ECN is one of the best cost-effective ways to establishing a brand, fostering new ideas and making people really want use a product.
    – Focus on Quality: No new earth shattering new product announcements, but stating that the division was focusing on quality was a big deal to me. Things have been getting better and better since the 4.x days. With all the recent mergers, the CMA division has done remarkably well. Committing to quality and what I see as “unification” is exactly what is needed to establish a firm foundation to take larger leaps.
    – Victor Spivak: Victor is god. Hands down the best presenter and the person I’d most love to have a mind-meld with. Yes, I have a man-crush on him. Maybe it’s the accent.
    – ESS: Oooooo. The thing I like about any session about ESS was that it was all about how it worked and not how it looked. That made the sessions really informative.
    – XML: That xHive purchase is looking better and better and better all the time. We’ll look back and wonder how we ever got along without XML databases.

    The Bad
    – CenterStage: Since I had another person attending this year with me, I was able to concentrate a bit more on all the main interfaces: Web Publisher, DAM, CenterStage, Webtop, TaskSpace and the My Documentum group. (I did attend some PAF meetings, but those didn’t influence what I perceived from public breakouts. I can’t or won’t speak on anything the PAFs.)

    Last year, I was really jazzed by CenterStage and what it could bring to the table. This year a lot of people were talking about it and came specifically to learn about it. As for myself, I found my enthusiasm tempered a bit. My entry in the Ugly section is part of it, but it also has to do with the fact that the TCM products and MediaWorkSpace subtly have taken the lead. It’s been a year since the CenterStage announcement and I haven’t seen that much progress as a customer. TaskSpace is a complete product and is going to get a big boost from the new emphasis on Case Management. Their tutorials are *fantastic*. In my mind, MediaWorkSpace has the killer interface, not CenterStage. It practically has a workable SDK and seems more DFS friendly. The one thing CenterStage had over the other two was collaboration, but that’s really no longer true as of SP2. I’ll be using MWS and TaskSpace… why should I clutter our environment with CenterStage? CenterStage used to be a must-have for every customer, but that’s no longer the case. It’s for some customers.

    The Ugly
    – My VivaECM video entry: Everyone says it’s good, but man, is it embarassing.

    – No workflow: I took several product managers and one VP to task on this. I knew ahead of time that DCO 6.5 wasn’t going to have a Documentum Inbox and workflow capability. (By that I mean being able to work on workflow tasks.) I talked to John McDonald before the conference and totally understand the reasoning behind it. The customers they talked to didn’t use DCO for workflows and that particular development team has basically had to start from scratch to write a good native .NET app that actually works with Outlook. It’s a good product and something I would love to have if it wasn’t for the fact that I totally depend on inbox tasks and workflows in our business.

    My surprise came when learning that CenterStage wasn’t going to have it either in the initial release. There’s all this buzz about collaboration and case management and EMC is releasing products without Inbox and Workflow capability? (Really? REALLY?!?!?) I asked Frank Chao in the 6.5 Product Roadmap session why. His response was they weren’t included due to time and resources.

    Every single customer or user that I talked to uses the documentum inbox and workflow and found this news a bit shocking. It caused more than one to reconsider moving to CenterStage and MyDocumentum. So how did this happen?

    First, as customers, we need to look at ourselves. EMC reponds to customer feedback, so we need to make sure that we’re responding. We need to tell them that we are using specific features to ensure they aren’t removed. Customers need to be more vocal and participate more. If EMC is going to give us something like ECN, then let’s friggin’ use it to our advantage.

    Second, I’m really not buying into the “not enough time/resources” defense. The Workflow Service has been in DFS since 6.0 and the Task Management has been there since 6.5 was introduced. We’ve been told as developers that once the service has been created and exposed it’s easy to implement it in any application. So we’re supposed to wait a year from now for this to be in products that really should have it OOTB?

    The way I see it, we as customers failed by not telling EMC what we wanted (which means fill out those @^#$&! surveys) and EMC management failed by not realizing that not including it in EVERY product released castrates them in the end. Workflows are the single biggest strength that Documentum has. I can’t think of any other product that can touch it.

    In some conspiracy circles CenterStage was only created to slow the migration flood to SharePoint. We all pretty much know that SharePoint is mostly hype with little substance. The worst thing you can do to combat a dog-and-pony show is a nearby stage featuring smoke and mirrors. Have a solid foundation (ala Digital Asset Manager) and follow up later with the sexy UI (MediaWorkSpace).

    Odds and Ends
    Overall, a great conference. I thought the snacks and food was overall better in Las Vegas, but the venue itself was better. (Less walking.) The trip to Universal Studios turned out to be better than I thought. The rain wasn’t a factor and it seemed that people really loosened up and started to “rock out”. Also had something to do that the vendor pavillion was closed and they let it all loose. Loved the fact that so many attendees were from outside the US. Hated that so many EMC Documentum employees didn’t or (as rumor has it) weren’t allowed to attend. What gives? Can’t be good for company morale when you have 2000 EMC employees go from your other divisions. I like the direction the company is headed; it also confirmed that I’m aligned correctly in respect with what I’m doing.

    Oh, one last thing about the date for next year. I actually *LOVE* it. I missed my wedding anniversary the past few years because the conference always landed on it. If the date wasn’t earlier this next time, I probably wasn’t going to go.

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    • Thanks a TON Chris. Good to have a vocal customer sounding off. I’ll be incorporating some of your points in future posts.

      To sum up, I pretty much agree across the board except about the date for next year thing. I like moving the data a little, but Mother’s Day, ugghh!!!

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  2. Jenny Dormoy says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write this up. We do read and appreciate feedback.

    Besides the customer deployment programs, my team organizes the PAFS and I just wanted to tell you that originally we did run before or after the conference and got a lot less participation and requests to make the PAFS happen during the conference itself. Next week, I’ll send PAF attendees a link to a survey for feedback on the PAFS and if the large majority of you who attended would like them to be scheduled differently, we’ll try to accomodate.

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    • Marsha Glassner says:

      I also skipped the PAF I had registered for in order to squeeze a little time in at the Exhibit Hall and because it overlapped a session I especially wanted to attend. I know others who did the same. Maybe it makes sense to include the folks who did not attend when deciding how to schedule future PAFs.

      I’d like to mention something about the Momentum party: Scheduling it after the shuttles stopped running made it feel like it wasn’t at all important to EMC.

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      • Thanks for the additional feedback. I think the PAFs should either be after that last session on Thursday or in the afternoon on Sunday. Those that have valuable feedback and that care about the products will still attend. I remember when they were before the show and the attendance was a little higher. While many factors could lower attendance, the fact that the attendance was healthy when they were held before the opening reception shows that people will make the effort.

        As for the shuttles, I stayed in walking distance, so I didn’t experience that, but I know a few people that had some shuttle issues. There were shuttles directly from the hotels to the parties, but as I was shuttle free, I can’t actually speak from experience. Thank you for sharing.

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      • Chris Campbell says:

        If there were buses to/from the parties from either the Hard Rock or Loews Portofino, it wasn’t publicized. I ended up skipping the Momentum party because the buses I knew of stopped running before the party was over. On Tuesday I attended the Studio.E party and took a taxi back.

        Other than transportation to the two outlying hotels (the others were technically within walking distance) for Monday and Tuesday nights, I can’t really find much to complain about.

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    • Jenny, thank you so much for the reply. I think that this is partially a case of you can’t please everybody. Some will not want to come early/stay late while others are trying to balance a busy schedule and need more time as a whole, like myself. If I had to push one way, I would go with later next year as it is an east coast conference and flying to points throughout the US is still possible for those that don’t want another night in Boston. Just my two cents.

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    • Chris Campbell says:

      Jenny, I’m not so sure if it has to do with scheduling before or after the conference, but more to do with the fact that that the PAF sessions were scheduled 12 – 2pm and the Birds-of-a-Feather were scheduled to start at 1:30pm. I was a bit torn between them, but had another person attending the conference with me that could go to the BoaF. It also didn’t help that Studio E did a drawing at 1:30pm on Wednesday. (Win a TV or attend a PAF? You probably don’t want those people anyway…)

      Last thing was the location of the rooms, way down in the basement and requiring a Marauder’s Map to locate. Couldn’t a location be used on the 2nd or 3rd floor?

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    • Jenny Dormoy says:

      Update: PAF Survey results about the keeping or changing the time are currently a tie:

      43% Leave the time the same (during lunches)
      43% Move before the conference
      14% Move after conference

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  3. Pie

    Dude, many thanks once again for all your posts from the conference and your summary above, I look forward with baited breath for your summary of the strategy and positioning rather than the conference details.

    I seem to remember we first met when the PAF’s were the day before, were’nt we in the same Collaboration / eRoom PAF ? If I remember rightly for both the U.S. EMC Worlds I attended (as opposed to my 2 European Momentum conferences) the PAF’s were before main conference and pretty well attended.

    Anyway, thanks again

    Jed

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