I’ve been reluctant to write this, primarily because it’s hard to put into words what I feel about the end of the Microsoft Management Summit – at least properly. As many of you know, I was there at the very beginning of MMS as one of the founding members of the event. I put my heart and soul into each year, contributing through speaking, managing, vetting sessions, creating and running unique community events, building one of the most sought after party tickets, and putting a friendly face on an event that, sadly, turned into a marketing scene for Microsoft in the latter years.
In the end, it was Microsoft’s conference to do with as they pleased. Microsoft took over the event from Altiris in 2002, who acquired the conference from Computing Edge/Swynk in 1999. At its very beginnings, MMS was built by, and around, community. People don’t seem to realize these days how important a concept that really is. Just as myITforum was put in place to fill a need, MMS was put together for the same reason. One thing we’ve learned over the years is that you can’t just put up a web site or start an event from scratch and call it a community. Community takes work, and to just stick the “community” tag on something that was less for the community and more about individuals, just dilutes and taints the community message. No, the community comes first and then based on the needs and requirements, you can then build something monumental.
Turning a community event into a marketing platform, in truth, is what ended MMS. In concept, MMS actually died a few years back – but, the folks at myITforum worked extremely hard to buy and barter to keep the community aspect of the event somewhat intact. We even fought extra hard over the last few years just to keep the event going. Many of you don’t realize the effort that was. Those that attended MMS in the last few years, though they loved it and desired to always return, really never experienced the true MMS and I feel sorry for them. For alumni who attended in recent years, it was less about the conference itself, and more about catching up with peers. So, the community thrived amid the adversity – creating their own sub-conference to ensure their own value.
In the beginning, MMS was a great event where we could highlight individuals in the community and give them a chance to advance their professional career through speaking, leading BOFs, and providing pre-con training sessions. A lot of the “big name” speakers at TechEd and MMS you see today, countless recognized experts in the community, and top Microsoft employees, got their start through the myITforum leadership of MMS. MMS hasn’t been able to provide that for years, and I want to personally apologize for that.
Throughout this year, after MMS 2013 ended, there were rumors that MMS would not continue. One reason was the lack of an announcement for the date and location for MMS 2014. I maintained that it would continue no matter what. And, while MMS 2014 will not take place, I can promise you that the true legacy of MMS will. Even up until a week or so ago, the promise of MMS 2014 was still on the table, but with so many “shock and awe” changes going on at Microsoft these days, there’s truly nothing that is written in rock. I’m sure there are many more surprises coming, and some of them may have to do with other Microsoft conferences in the future.
We’ve seen a lot of successes over the years, but also learned some hard lessons. The primary lesson goes back to the basics of allowing the community to build what they need. In a few short weeks, TechEd 2014 registration will go live. TechEd is a wonderful conference of which I’ve been part of for the last 5 or 6 years, attempting to provide the same level of community building as with MMS. Many MMS alumni will be invited to attend TechEd. Microsoft will rework TechEd a bit to make the conference more favorable to those accustomed to the MMS experience. What that eventually looks like should prove…interesting. However, a retrofit is not exactly what is needed.
One of the most exciting pieces of myITforum history happened in April this year that really brings this all together. In April, myITforum was acquired by Penton and became part of the Windows IT Pro network. Windows IT Pro itself has a popular and storied history, and has been part of hundreds of thousands of IT Pros lives for over a decade. Penton is outfitted with a highly experienced events crew, managing and running some of the largest events in the US in various industries. So, while myITforum brings content, community and events know-how, we get to take advantage of an expert team for running conference logistics. A match made in heaven.
So, there’s good news. Just as we gave the community what they needed in an event in the very beginning, we’re working to do it again. In fact, a few of us have been preparing for this eventuality for a few years since a TechEd/MMS merge was first whispered. Over that time we’ve worked with sponsors who are 100% behind a new event, as long as it doesn’t go down the same path as MMS did. So, you’ll be glad to know that there truly is another event already available that takes great content, and great speakers, but puts community back as the cornerstone. We’ve been working hard the past several months to revitalize and re-envision IT/Dev Connections. While we’ve already made great strides, several months is really not enough time, so we’ll be working in phases. In two short weeks, phase 1 of our vision will kick-off and based on community feedback from the event, we’ll be further evolving the conference for the next year, to ensure it meets all expectations and requirements for MMS alumni and at the same time, formally introduce a new audience to a true community conference.
You’ll notice that IT/Dev Connections is a Fall event. This is another lesson we learned a while back from community commentary about MMS. The March/April time frame for MMS was truly not the best value for IT Pros due to work-related projects, weather, and all sorts of variables. Plus, many companies need an event like this to help with budget and direction planning for the following year. Holding MMS in the Spring and early Summer months really provides no value for this. MMS was held at this time of the year for Microsoft’s value, providing a venue for announcements, and in some respects for the last several years, a testing ground for TechEd.
I know its short notice with only 2 weeks to go, but if you can arrange it, I highly suggest registering for IT/Dev Connections today. Register HERE. If you’re interested, I even have some special discount codes that can get you as much as $500 off the event. Email me directly for more information. And, if you can’t attend this year, keep watching the IT/Dev Connections site and myITforum for the evolution of the event, and plan to attend in 2014.
To be clear, IT/Dev Connections is not a replacement for MMS, but a reboot. It’s exactly what is needed.
So, while I’m horribly sad (literally to tears when I think about it) that MMS is no more, I’m also excited to bring back the best of our beginnings in an event that is shaped and molded by you. It’s said that the best recourse when faced with adversity, is stand up and do something about it. So, we’re wiping away the tears, standing up, and doing it.
I can’t wait for you all to see what we can build together.
So…what did MMS mean to you? What were your favorite parts? What do you believe should have been improved about MMS? Leave your notes in the comments.