Blair Greenwood, from the SharePoint Pro site, asked me for commentary the other day to be ingested into an article she was writing about TechEd 2014 expectations. The article, What to Expect at Microsoft TechEd 2014, is now available, and while it does have a clear SharePoint bent, there are some excellent thoughts for all IT Pros.
TechEd 2014 is just days away, and I wanted to take some time to expound a bit on my quote in Blair's article, and hopefully give attendees some things to listen for during the week.
In the article, I said,
"Personally, I'd love to hear how Microsoft will be investing in the normal company—those companies that still retain on-premise servers and software . . . The majority of Microsoft's customers are still heavily invested in internal datacenters. The industry buzz and marketing is completely contrary to what's actually happening in the real world."
I spend a huge amount of my time participating in many different communities, while at the same time staying deeply focused on industry trends and news. So, I have a unique perspective. I see what is being promoted by the industry, and then get to see how it is received by actual companies. Microsoft (and others) seem to consistently work off a game plan that is about 5 years ahead of everyday life. Technology companies build for the future, and that's a good thing. But, unfortunately this also causes a severe disconnect with customers. Customers need help with today's business problems, not the problems of the future.
It's rumored that there will be no major announcements at TechEd 2014 about on-premise software, only announcements around 'Clouditized' commodities. The majority (not all) of the sessions are clearly vetted for specific messaging to help nurture the keynote and the theme of the event. So, you have to wonder if this really benefits those IT Pros in attendance. Total attendance for TechEd 2014 will be around 8,000, with a split of 85% IT Pros and the rest Dev.
Announcements are great, and hearing about new things is awesome. I love technology and the prospect of the future. But, when the week is over, how much learned can be taken directly back to the workplace and implemented right away? Will it be more a matter of envisioning what the tech life could be like in five years? Daydreams accomplish nothing for today.
Last September, I wrote commentary about how IT Pros are a less attractive partner to Microsoft. I'll be revisiting that shortly to produce a sort of scorecard to see if Microsoft has accomplished anything to patch the strained relationship with IT Pros, but I'm keenly interested in using TechEd 2014 as the final data for my report. In 2013, Microsoft made changes in several of its programs and offerings for IT Pros, causing frustration and even creating enemies out of longtime supporters.
TechEd stands for "Technical Education." When a company approves (and pays for) its employees to attend technical training, they expect the employees to return with new knowledge that can be used to immediately benefit the technology needs of the business. It will be interesting to see this year how much of TechEd is messaging versus substance.
I am lucky. This year I'll be attending TechEd 2014 as an exhibitor, a speaker, a community event organizer, a Best of TechEd judge, and an analyst/press person. So, there will be no end to the value I'll receive by attending. As a press person alone, I'll glean enough fodder to use in articles for the next six months.
But, as an IT Pro at heart, I'll be focused on and closely monitoring the "Technical Education" side of the conference. This is what I'll be watching, and you should, too. It's easy to get lulled into the sometimes brain-numbing world of the circus we call an Expo, the carnival-like community events, and the pop-up sideshows. But make sure you keep an eye out for the true value. If you leave TechEd 2014 with pages and pages of notes about how to solve existing issues in your infrastructure, you'll be OK. So will TechEd.