Friday, April 7, 2017

RANT: Ignite & Other Microsoft Events

A few weeks ago I attended the free Microsoft Tech Summit event in Amsterdam. It lasted two days in which I learned a great deal, most of it outside the sessions. Also it made me think about how the Microsoft event cycle is organized now and what’s lacking BIG time.

At the end of the day, these are just my thoughts/ideas. So there is no need to feel/think the same. Yet I am wondering whether I am the only one out there or perhaps there are people thinking the same about it.

So feel free to comment Smile.

The past – The pre-Ignite Era
Before Ignite there were the Tech-Ed events, organized in the US, Europe, Asia and Australia. Besides that there were more product/service related events as well, like MMS, events for partners and Exchange/Lync events.

Those events were quite accessible and contained good content, aimed at their respective audiences. Also because most of those events were organized in different regions (Tech-Ed events that is), those events were fairly easy to go to. No need to travel to the US, only when one wanted to go to MMS or the Exchange/Skype event for instance.

In most cases it was pretty easy to write a business case for it, thus being allowed to visit a Microsoft event.

Sadly, Microsoft decided to change things and Ignite was born…

The current situation: Ignite was born, and many other good events were killed
With the birth of Ignite, many good events like Tech-Ed, MMS, Exchange/Skype were killed. Because Ignite would bring it all together. A bigger and much more happier place, at least that’s what Microsoft aimed for (I guess).

So instead of events targeted at certain audiences, one big monster event was created targeted at everyone and everything. And instead of covering many different regions, Ignite is hosted in the US and Australia only.

Both locations are quite out of reach for many organizations residing outside the US and Australia. Resulting in Ignite selling out while not covering the request for information as covered for by events like Tech-Ed/MMS and others. More over, many people who normally attended the more regional events, were (and still are!) left out.

Meaning, Microsoft is missing out on tons of valuable feedback. But at the end of the day Ignite is a bigger event compared to VMware World and events organized by other competitors, and IMHO that’s what counts for Microsoft?

As another side effect, it turned out to become even harder to present at Ignite being a non-Microsoft employer, while in the past most of the best sessions were given by non-Microsoft employers. Also many sessions are following the Microsoft regime resulting in too much marketing mumbo jumbo.

No, I’ve never been to Ignite myself. But I’ve watched my share of recorded Ignite 2016/2015 sessions. And content wise, the overall quality has dropped significantly compared to the pre-Ignite era. Not only because of the Microsoft regime but also because EVERYTHING has to be crammed into one week covering ALL levels of expertise and all products/services. And there is only a fixed number of rooms per day available. Resulting in the dropping out of smaller sessions with highly specialized content aimed at a smaller number of IT specialists…

Trying to bridge the cap and failing…
None the less, many professionals started complaining about missing out on many things. As such events like Microsoft Tech Summit were born/rebranded/revived. Basically being nothing but a repeat of the previous Ignite, on a much smaller scale that is of course.

Back to how I experienced Microsoft Tech Summit
And yes, many sessions of Microsoft Tech Summit referred to Ignite 2016 shamelessly. Whether the title of the slide deck (using the code of Ignite) or the demo environments, bearing names like Ignite2016 and so on… Also other sessions were ‘enriched’ with commercials about Windows 10, the latest Surface computers and so on. As a result the level of the session dropped from an already low 200 to even less 100…

All this resulted in a failed event. The first day I simply walked out of the keynote (a total fail) and some sessions because they were total crap. A waste of my time. So instead I connected with old customers, friends and former colleagues. Which was also nice but no the main reason for attending that summit.

The first day there was only ONE really good session and another coming close to it. The second day there were only two good sessions, the rest being a shameless repeat with added commercials. During the event I spoke many peers, and to my relief they felt/experienced the same. So it’s not just me being picky!

Time for revamping Ignite
Sure, Ignite is the BIGGEST Microsoft event ever organized. And yes, every time it’s sold out! So when living in the Microsoft bubble in Redmond it’s easy to say Ignite is a success and I am full of sh#$!t SmileSmileSmile

But try to look at it from another perspective. Even though Ignite is sold out, it doesn’t mean the overall quality is on par with the pre-Ignite era. Also it doesn’t mean it covers all the need for information by all IT people, whether IT decision makers, developers, managers, pro’s and so on.

Could it be it’s sold out because it’s the ONLY event, sharing new information, no matter the lower level of quality of the sessions? Could it be that even more people AREN’T attending because Ignite is sold out so quick and/or they aren’t allowed to attend because it’s too far, thus too expensive?

Still there are regions with no Ignite, like Asia and Europe. So why not organize Ignite like events in Asia and Europe as well, bringing down the scale but improving the overall quality of the sessions by allowing more content specific sessions and allowing more non-Microsoft employers to present?

At the end of the day many people and organizations in IT are willing to pay for attending an Ignite like event. The main deal however is that the location of the event should be more local to the organization and the content of the sessions should be more on par with their demand.

When having more Ignite like events outside the US and Australia, it would be easier to allow for more sessions aimed at a smaller audiences with their own specific request for information. This would be a huge improvement to the overall quality of Ignite.

As a side effect, it would create more traction, thus bringing more people attending Ignite. When combined all these Ignite events would bring more people together than the current two Ignite events in the US and Australia.

Will this ever happen?
Sure! When we believe in it and keep on ASKING for it. Make yourself heard. Speak up! Let Microsoft HQ know what you think about the current situation. In the past they could organize multiple Tech-Ed events around the globe. So why not use that experience in order to organize multiple Ignite events around the globe?

At the end of the day, Azure is hosted not only in the US and Australia but also in many other regions. Ignite events should adhere to that situation Smile.


Unknown said...

I have to agree, Ignite is just too big, and it shows. Last year we had all sorts of logistical issues such as travel time between sessions and even being able to grab a bite to eat. The food quality seems to keep going downhill year over year as well. I noticed many attendees leaving the conference to eat towards the end of the week. But back on to the topic of travel time, one fellow MVP noticed that he walked over 50km that week!

The marketing has to be toned down, most sessions now are being done by the product groups, and it just isn't practical or deep enough for some of us. I've been going to smaller conferences to get better information because there isn't room for the MVPs to present in a frank manner.

There were some highlights last year, but I ended up giving up on most of the sessions since they were too basic, the room was full or the travel time was too long. I ended up spending time at parties, socializing with people I know in the industry and cruising the trade show floor instead.

I am not sure if Microsoft wants to get out of the game of in-depth/local events and focus more on the mega conference, but it makes someone such as myself loose motivation to take time off work and spend out of pocket to go. I think the event needs to be broken apart into something more manageable but maybe year three we'll see some improvement?

Miha said...

As someone who attended last years Ignite, I couldn't agree more (it's far, expensive and lacks in-depth sessions). I'll have a hard time convincing not only by boss, but myself to attend again.

Anonymous said...

Not disagreeing with your overall point here but just pointing out that there was an Ignite in New Zeeland in 2016 and one in China in 2016. It does seem that Europe has been severely underserved though - it's a shame.

Paul Schnackenburg