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.
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.
- 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
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.