Does a Broader Church Impact the Congregation?

I had an interesting conversation with a long time VMUG member at yesterday’s London VMUG meeting. He’d not been to a meeting in a while and felt that some of the content and sponsors weren’t relevant, at least not to him in his role (specifically vSphere focused). In talking to one of the sponsors, BlueMedora, who operate on top of vRops – which this particular member doesn’t use – he said this highlighted the lack of relevance of a VMUG meeting for him.

I commented that perhaps VMware is becoming less relevant in today’s IT stack and he countered that with so many differing solutions, perhaps folks like him are looking at more niche type events.

However, on further cogitation I don’t believe that VMware is becoming less relevant per se, just that other options are becoming more prevalent. What I do think, however, is that whilst the VMware community is still strong and passionate, VMUG itself is, perhaps, becoming less relevant.

With the recent “VMUG Gate” issues surrounding Nutanix and then the communications debacle around the announcement of VMUG becoming part of Dell Technologies User Community, perhaps VMUG itself is at risk of demise due to trying to be a broader ‘church’? I recently spoke to one of my colleagues in the Nordic region about a decline in meeting attendance and with numbers on the low side in London too, especially considering Frank Denneman was on the agenda, maybe VMUG itself needs to adapt and morph to remain relevant?

Perhaps there needs to be different tracks for different interests; one for traditional ol’ vSphere-ites and one for the fanbois of all things new and shiny, and not necessarily just VMware?

Would love to hear other folks’ view on this post and hopefully it won’t blacklist me from a potential 2018 vExpert inclusion 😉

In closing, this tweet from last night’s Luxury vBeers reminded me that whilst there are corporate politics and bureaucracy, the community will always win through!

 

 

 

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VeeamON Forum, London – a Rimmary

I’ve been fortunate to attend some interesting industry events recently and this was my very first VeeamON Forum. On entering the venue, prior to the keynotes starting, the first thing that hit me was the ‘buzz’, there was a really vibrant atmosphere. The first people I bumped into were 2 UKVMUG attendees, Craig Dalrymple and Nick Furnell. They were chatting with someone I’d conversed with for a long time over twitter and spoken to on Skype for a PernixData customer story, but never met. It was awesome to finally meet IRL Anthony Spiteri, in attendance all the way from Australia! Throughout the morning I met many more PernixPros, including Rasmus Haslund, Liselotte Foverskov, Olafur Helgi, Barry Coombs and Karel Novak.

The breadth of countries represented at this event in London is a testament to the strength of Veeam in its customer and partner base. I also bumped into a few European VMUG leaders, namely Fred Hofer, Joep Piscar and Javier Larrea. Veeam has its own evangelist/advocacy program called Veeam Vanguard and many of the aforementioned are also VeeamVanguards, who had their own meeting the day prior. After the morning keynotes, they were called together for an official photo, with the program owner Mr Rick Vanover!

 

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The keynotes were interesting and focused on Digital Transformation as the ‘theme’ and were well balanced in terms of content. It was interesting to hear about the floating, 100% virtualized datacenter from Richard Agnew in his Availability for the Modern Enterprise keynote. He also shared some impressive growth numbers for Veeam:

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His quote of the day, for me, was in talking about the shift in IT – that it is no longer the small organization scared of the large, it is the slow scared of the agile – he said “No CEO wants to be Uber’d.” 🙂

 

I found the IDC presentation informative with Archana Venkatraman, senior researcher for Storage and Datacenter at IDC. Key takeaways for me were IDC’s view of “thrivers and survivors”, along with the 1st platform being mainframe, the 2nd platform client/server and now the 3rd platform is really the Internet of Things. Archana also shared some interesting stats on priorities and spends:

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She summarized with data protection tools need to be agnostic and compatible with heterogeneous environments.

Next was the customer panel – always great to hear from the peeps ‘at the coal face’. The panel consisted of a diverse section of industries; transport, finance law and education. Bob Eadie trumped everyone with having been at Bedford School for 45 years, he said he arrived in 1971 at the same time as the first computer! His statement that IT is pupil-led in his school and that IT can make or break a student’s career was quite sobering.

Let the customers do the talking!

Let the customers do the talking!

I then enjoyed catching up over lunch with Julian Wood and Liselotte. I also bumped into Iain Radford of Telefonica, who I’d not seen since VMworld Barcelona a few years ago. He very kindly took this photo of me and Liselotte 🙂

 

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The VeeamOn Forum ‘vibe’ reminded me much of the early days of VMware customer and partner events; lots of people sharing their stories, with a good element of community and happy customers and partners. A really great event, thanks for having me Veeam!

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Community 2.0

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Community – it means different things to different people, particularly in our industry. But I like this definition the best: A community is a social unit of any size that shares common values. I’ve recently become involved in a crowd-sourced community, WhatMatrix. The goal of WhatMatrix is to provide free comparisons to organizations based upon collaborative, expert input. Having been involved in the launch of this community, it is exciting to see people’s responses to the matrices – particularly when they don’t agree! But the sweet thing about WhatMatrix is the fact that this is exactly what underpins it; if you disagree and can assert the correct information, it will be updated.

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The value of this can, however, potentially be undermined or misconstrued if an expert contributor is associated with a vendor. It could be assumed that the expert might have a bias towards his or her own company’s solution. This train of thought got me thinking about other things in general. I think that experts, bloggers, industry contributors etc., whatever “nomenclature” you want to associate with this group of people, it all boils down to respect. If you can demonstrate that your opinion is factually based and be willing to change it if proven wrong, then you command the respect to be an ‘independent’ member of said community. Whilst I’ve always said if you’re an employee, you’re ‘always on’ as a representative for your company, you can still be a community contributor and employee. I’ve also seen experts move from being independent to working for a vendor only to discover their ‘perks’, such as NFRs etc. are removed from them, as owners of the programs to which they belong don’t like the competition having access to their software. Well, let me tell you, if you sell via a channel and your competition is that desperate to get a hold of your product, they will! Don’t penalize the expert for no longer being independent is my view.

But I digress…….. What does the future hold for our community within the virtualization and cloud space? I see many vendors creating their own select programs and really getting behind them to own, drive and, in most cases, fund them. For any user community to thrive the vendor has to take ownership early on, in conjunction and collaboration with the users. Big user groups, such as the VMware User Group, have become totally independent to be effective and are funded via vendor sponsorship. For more niche players and start ups, make the community what your ‘social unit’ needs it to be, not what you, as a vendor, want it to be. Other community programs, such as VMware’s vExpert accolade, become less meaningful, to some, as they grow. People want exclusivity to feel more valued it would seem. My view is that as the user base grows, the vExpert numbers will grow. But maybe it is time to create some kind of tiering? This point reminds me of being involved building the channel for Citrix and then VMware across EMEA in both companies’ early days. The innovative partners that first came on board and really invested wanted recognition as the partner base grew to include the ‘box shifters’, and so tiering was introduced; platinum, gold, silver, etc.

In summary, I think Community 2.0 will be more collaborative, potentially less exclusive but more ‘segmented’ and should continue to focus on the needs of the member first and foremost.

 

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Measuring the Technical Evangelist

At the recent London VMUG, a sponsor shared with me their lead goal; as a marketer I fully understand the need for measurement of marketing spend.  However, being a sponsor at a VMUG is slightly different to the usual industry seminar, tradeshow etc. in my opinion, as a sponsor is influencing the community just by being in attendance. This is very much understood by the technical folks within vendor sponsors in my experience, to the point some don’t even care about lead numbers generated, they just want the ability and platform to speak to this unique set of individuals, aka VMUG members.

This discussion got me thinking about how can marketing therefore measure the technical evangelist?  Noting some of the tweets being sent during presentations, it occurred to me that a key measurement of success is captivation.  A technical evangelist cannot be measured on how many people attend a webinar they are hosting – the audience acquisition is down to marketing to drive with a compelling title/agenda/content. A technical evangelist also cannot be measured on how many people they present to at an event, this is down to the event organizer to acquire the audience.  However, once the evangelist is in front of their audience, whether physically or virtually via a webinar, it is their responsibility to captivate the audience with their presentation both in terms of content and presentation style.

Therefore, I believe marketing should monitor social media both during and after the technical evangelist’s presentation to measure the captivation metric.  Whilst not as scientific as actual number of leads, it will certainly provide an indication of acceptance and understanding of the presentation.  Many organizations tier their leads; contact, enquiry, lead, qualified lead, etc. prior to handing to sales. The qualified lead then goes into the sales hopper to then be converted to an opportunity and then get weighted in terms of a forecast.  So what should the captivation measure consist of?  As with many things marketing related, it’s quite subjective, but I believe captivation weighting could be deployed to measure success, or otherwise, of a technical evangelist’s presentation.  If tweets are the platform, the measurement can consist of 3 elements; positive, neutral and negative. A score can be attributed, for example, 2 for positive, 1 for neutral and 0 for negative.  Marketing can then agree a goal for the number of positive captivations the technical evangelist creates.  With polls being regularly deployed during webinars, this could be the platform that the measurement can be taken from and free tools such as SurveyMonkey could be utilized on handheld devices/smartphones during a seminar to obtain empirical data.

I think technical evangelists are playing an increasingly important role within technology companies and they do want to be held to account for their impact.  However, the measurement of them has to reflect their role and it would be wrong for marketing to just lump them into the lead goal bucket.

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Nordic VMUG User Conference – December 3rd, 2013 – Bella Center, Copenhagen

It was an awesome first-time User Conference put on by the Danish VMUG leadership team, with the ‘back office’ help of VMUG HQ.  The numbers was comparable with the UK VMUG, however, we were hosting our third event, this was the first in the Nordics and a testament to the dedication and efforts of the leaders.  But without a doubt the ‘star’ of the show was my good friend and Danish VMUG Chair, Liselotte Foverskov.  As Joe Baguley commented on his opening keynote, for someone that has a full time job, is married with a young family and is chair of the Danish VMUG, is a truly outstanding achievement to pull off the Nordics VMUG.  He then presented her a plaque to commemorate her achievements.

For me, as a visiting VMUG Leader, it was great to be able to attend sessions that we had on the UK VMUG agenda, but being on the committee it’s rare you actually get to attend them!  I attended Cormac’s VSAN session – oversubscribed as in the UK – as well as Frank Denneman discussing use of flash in virtual datacentres, Chad Sakac’s Software Defined Storage session and, the best one for me, was Enrico Laursen from LEGO, along with his colleague Stefan Pahrmann, talking about how LEGO relocated to a new datacentre, sharing their process, challenges and outcomes with a packed room.  It’s always great to hear from other users of VMware and eco-system technology and their implementations. It was also great to catch up with Duncan Epping, who had been unable to attend our UK VMUG in November.  I still missed his session though as it conflicted with the LEGO presentation 🙁

 

The solutions exchange had many of the same sponsors we’d had in the UK, with some local companies supporting the Nordic VMUG, such as Arrow.  It was great to catch up with Rasmus Haslund from Arrow, who is such a passionate virtualisation and cloud VMUG member.  I also caught up with my old colleague and long time friend Matthias Sundling who was presenting his myth buster session with David Davis, a session I missed at VMworld and also missed in the Nordics, as it conflicted with Enrico’s presentation.  This is a challenge of scheduling such great content and speakers – there will also be a clash, unless we turn VMUG User Conferences into a 2-day event – thoughts?  Another highlight was finally meeting Christian Mohn (aka vNinja), we’ve ‘known’ each other for a couple of years now, thanks to the power of social media, but never met face-to-face, until now!  This is the power of VMUG, we’re a virtual community but also provide the opportunity to network face-to-face too.

There were so many good points throughout the day that I can’t capture them all here, but if you want an overview, put #vmugdk into your Twitter client and see detailed coverage of the day.

The closing keynote from Chad was inspiring, entitled The Nature and Impact of Disruption on Industries, Vendors and Customers, below is the key takeaway slides from it:

After the prize giving and closing by Nicolai Sandager from the Danish VMUG, where David Davis provided some Pluralsight free 1-month trial codes, and there were a few left over, which I purloined (with his approval!) for our London VMUG meeting in January, there was beer and pizza in the solutions exchange.

Then the speakers and VMUG leaders in attendance were treated to a Mikkeller beer tasting and dinner, hosted by VMware Denmark (thank you Rasmus Thomsen!).  The following day there was a VIP tour of LEGO, one that I was lucky enough to be invited to, but one that I couldn’t attend, as I had to get back to the UK.  However, my fellow UK VMUG leader, Simon Gallagher, did attend and, from the photos on Twitter, certainly enjoyed it  🙂

The only ‘negatives’ to comment on are relevant to most VMUG events; registration still proves an issue at these events, no matter how much you encourage folks to arrive early, register and have some light breakfast, most still decide to arrive at the last minute, causing a backlog and delays…. We also saw the usual ‘no shows’ in the region of over 20% – 600+ registrations, 470+ attendees.  Solutions to these two points could include registration confirmation via your smartphone (like) and charging to attend these events (dislike) – thoughts?

Thank you to everyone for such a fantastic time at Nordics VMUG User Conference – here’s to 2014!

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