Wednesday 13 January 2010

EMC Customer Council - Prague 2009

Right, so I spent 3 days the other week (well last year now - but I've been busy ok?) in Prague working with circa 70 other people at EMC's annual EMEA Customer Council. So naturally this is a tricky blog to draft, as being under many levels of NDA I certainly can't & won't talk about the content of the sessions and/or the information provided. But I just want to put down some thoughts out of the time spent and work done/started.

1) Firstly yes despite what people may think it definitely is work - sessions start around 0830 and run until around 17:30, and (as the paraphrased F1 saying goes) in these sessions your either giving or receiving information, there is never a relaxing moment. Yes there are 15min breaks dotted around the schedule - but for most of us the breaks get filled up with discussions with peers & EMC staff. And during this you still have to find time to fit in the usual 'day job' conf calls, emails and reports.

2) You meet some great people at these sessions - with a good diversity of views even though a lot of the requirements aren't too dissimilar. Indeed it's the candid & fluid interaction between attendees (employees & customers) that makes the event work and gives the value

3) This really is one of the best organised & structured council/feedback/user-group sessions I've ever seen with any supplier throughout my career - at lot of that must go down to a very professional & high quality team that plan, organise and manage this. I'm lucky enough to have been invited to attend for many years and it's always been more than worthwhile.

4) Despite EMC's somewhat historic arrogant image they really are actively listening, engaging in dialogue, taking feedback and changing approaches & technologies - very positive and rewarding for the time invested with them. In short customer feedback really does make things happen.

5) As is evidenced by their strong (perhaps sometimes slightly too calculated / manipulated at times) use of social media the company culture is also changing to a more open and communicative approach.

6) It's also clear from the past results, the level and qty of mngt attending, level of investment and detail of follow-up actions it's obvious EMC take this very seriously - I'm glad they do.

7) During the sessions there were many points that got my mind racing and raising the odd question or 6, and at least one occasion I was so shocked with the dialogue I was stunned into being speechless (at least momentarily).

Of course Prague is a very nice city - but this year workload & events meant I only really got to see it from a taxi to/from the airport. Unlike MS PDC ( we didn't get any free netbooks - but did get a jacket, plastic pens and notepads (does that qualify as an FTC suitable disclosure?).

I don't believe it's breaking any confidences to mention that it was also great to catch-up with past attendees & friends (eg @stuiesav @chapmancentral @storageanarchy @docderrico - and many others not yet on twitter, or (wisely?) not prepared to share their IDs with me), but also to meet a great new crowd of first-timers who contributed highly to the event. (naturally @storagebod was very much missed, and would be good as a 'guest analyst speaker' at the next session)

A few other suppliers run similar titled events (although it surprises me just how few seem to run them, or treat them as seriously) but seem to pitch the level either too snr mngt (CIO/CTO level vision fests), or too open (300+ people attending user group briefings) or only for their resellers (shows priority focus of training people to sell rather than listening to the customer). They would do well to follow EMC's format and model here - I know I'd find it very valuable.

If you get an invite to such a session accept & attend - but also, please be prepared to contribute, discuss and challenge in the conversations & sessions, the supplier can only listen if we talk (or shout in some cases) and it is the customer responsibility & duty to help the supplier move forward.

All in these 3 days tend to be the most valuable conference / workshop days I spend during the year, I hope they continue, and I hope more suppliers adopt the approach!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the kind words, Ian. We appreciate your participation probably moer than you appreciate being there. A look back at EMC's history will show that it's not just a recent phenomenon -- almost everything we've done has been built based on dialog with customers such as yourself. We also realise (UK spelling intentional) that it's a sacrifice, which is why the effort to make it as productive and enjoyable as we possibly can. Kudos to the team that runs and organizes these events...