The Microsoft Management Summit: Saying Goodbye to a Good Friend

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.

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  • charliem

    I admit, a lot of the reason I went to MMS every year was to catch up with old friends. We always joked that we made our own conference inside a conference because our group had gotten so large. Its going to be sad to see it go.

  • GarthMJ

    I’m truly sad to see MMS go. In the past I
    had team member go to TechED and they all said the same thing. TechED is a
    waste of time! Why you ask, the simple reason is, TechED is trying to be all things
    to everyone and not good at any of them.

    Conversely MMS (particularly in the early
    years) is deeply technical and you can talk to the speaker no only after the presentation
    but throughout the week. You can find Product team members, MVPs and other community
    members, each will all help you try to solve your problem. These contacts are invaluable
    as you can then touch base with them throughout the year. You might be able to
    do this at TechED but not the same degree, due to TechED size, you first have
    to track down someone in your area of expertise then hope that they know more
    than you. Good luck getting close to a presentor or evey try to figure out who
    the MVPs are in your area of expertise. In the end this is a lot of effort for
    little benefit.

    I look forward to attending IT/Dev Connection.

  • Dean Duensing

    Hey Rod, This is truly a sad time. I attended MMS in 1998, and have been back almost every year since. I have always walked away with new information, and a sense that the problems I struggle with are shared by many other people; I’m not alone! Thank you for the years of hard work! Congratulations on all the success, I hope the next thing is as valuable, and worthwhile. take care!

  • Scott Ewing

    Rod, congratulations on the sale of myITforum to Penton.

  • Doug Neal

    Glad to see your words, Rod. I fondly remember the Computing Edge owl figurines and T-shirts my first year at the event. The next year, there were Altiris denim shirts for presenters, which I was fortunate to wear as I presented on SMS 2.0 performance and scalability on behalf of Microsoft before they took ownership of the event in subsequent years. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do to keep this vibrant, valuable community flourishing. –dugn

    • http://www.myITforum.com/ Rod Trent

      Thanks, Doug! Always great to hear from you and so many fond memories!

  • Nick Aquino

    I really liked the focus on Configuration Manager at MMS. Being able to connect with people (BOF) and understand how other businesses in your industry are the System Center products (mainly configman) so that you can improve on your own. I wouldn’t have the success in my career without the MyITForum community and it was clear that was the beginning of MMS. It is sad to see it go. I missed the last one!!!!!

  • Ed Aldrich

    As painful as it is to see the end of what used to be a terrific, community focused, event, I can now breathe a sigh of relief now that this is finally out in the bright light. Now we – the “community” – can begin to get back to what made this magic in the first place: a forum to share ideas, present tips & tricks on what works best, share how we solved thorny problems within our own environment, and share with everyone those personal Best Practices that makes this Systems Management discipline, and the System Center suite itself – such a great environment to work in. While it is always welcome and important to get direct Microsoft subject matter experts on stage, it is – in my opinion – equally or even more important to get those “Industry Expert” speakers on stage. These are the guys and gals who are working in the DEEP end of the trenches! I’m proud to have been one in the past on many occasions at past MMS events, and as a long time member of this myITForum community, I’m VERY excited about what comes next! While having the behind-the-scenes resources available from Penton, in the end the next conference itself – speakers and content – should be community driven. After all, who knows what we want and need better than ourselves?

  • Bob Kelly

    Wow. Sad indeed, but I think few will disagree a reboot has
    become necessary. I hadn’t even realized MMS had changed from a conference
    about managing Windows systems to an event about promoting System Center until
    I was nearly asked to leave for breaking such rules. Those running the event
    threatened to have our AppDeploy.com booth taken down because it did not
    “specifically offer integration with System Center”. They reported to have
    already had Novel take down the Zenworks corner of their booth. I managed to
    talk my way out of having to leave, but sure enough none of the vendors I had
    always liked visiting were to be found after years of participation. It’s a
    shame that Microsoft would suddenly feel so threatened as to redirect the event
    in this way.

    The smaller, Computing Edge event I first attended was so much
    better focused on what mattered, it seemed to get better when first taken over
    by Microsoft, but then started loosing its roots more and more each year until
    ultimately we see it is no more. So it is sad, but I have to say I am excited
    about what may be born of its ashes. Rod + NT Magazine? That’s a team I think
    people can (and will) get behind. Like many others I’m sure, I hope there is
    some way I can personally help.

    • http://www.myITforum.com/ Rod Trent

      Thanks, Bob! I’m really excited to get this moving and will totally be reaching out to you. I feel like we’re getting back to where we need to be.

  • Ross Norrie

    I will fondly remember MMS. It was there on April 26 2006, the we announced the sale of my company, AssetMetrix to Microsoft. Many did not know that minutes before the announcement we were in the satellite FedEx office actually signing the papers :-)
    What followed was a whirlwind of a few days and an interesting few years !!

    Cheers,

    Ross

  • Kevin Quinn

    I attended all but the 2013 MMS both as a techie then as a Microsoft employee and back to techie and have seen many changes from desktop focus to more holistic management to product focus(SystemCenter) to venue changes (Orlando, Vegas, San Diego, Vegas and even multiple locations in Vegas (MGM, Venetian, Mandolay etc) but the one thing I always looked forward to was ‘The Gathering’ the recognition of so many of the faces of the faithful and careers that had been built on management. The world will not feel the same anymore.

  • Christopher Balk

    There was so much to like about this event. I remember the first Computing Edge conference, and only having a couple rooms for breakouts, then in a few years we had tripled the attendance. I still have the PowerPoints from those events. Then in recent years watching Bill and Brady give their State of the Union and top 10 lists. Networking and Community, always great; but I also appreciated having some dedicated time to learn some of the tech that I didn’t have at home or at work. Always a “SMS guy”, I liked being able to run a few other labs. TechEd never had that bent to it.

    Of course, there ain’t no party like a myITForum party :) I look forward to the next gen.
    Rod – thanks for this great write up, it made me tear up a bit, but I know the future is in good hands. (and congrats on the Penton deal, what a trip you’ve had since SWYNK).

    • http://www.myITforum.com/ Rod Trent

      I know. How can you truly cover over 14 years of good memories in single post? It was a great ride.

  • Chad Simmons

    I was only able to attend MMS twice over the years. In 2009, my rookie
    year, I focused heavily on filling every timeslot with a session. That was easy to do and I got a huge amount of training out of the event. But after it was over I realized that I had missed out on something big. I had attended more than 5 sessions sitting next to Sherry Kissinger, Brian Mason, and the Wells Fargo team… some of the best in the business, and yet didn’t connect with them. It became a running joke on my team that I knew the MOF Master, but not really.

    I was again allowed to attend in 2013 and took a totally different approach. My primary goal was to network, find people that knew more than I did, and pick their brains or even just hang out and listen. I kept a hectic schedule attending sessions/gatherings from 7:30am until 10pm or so every night skipping meals and avoiding “Vegas”. I was able to do a few non-conference activities too including running a 5K and attending the Bible study. Those are my best memories along with having lunch with Rod and helping out Mikko. In the end I skipped out on a number of sessions, but for the most part that’s OK… I’ve downloaded the recordings. What I did get is to hang out with some of the best people in the industry. MMS is still giving back to me and I’m grateful.

    I won’t get to attend IT/Dev Connections this year, but it’s been on my radar for quite some time. Hopefully my boss will let me go in 2014 and experience a true community event.
    Also, System Center Universe 2014 in January isn’t far from me. Perhaps I’ll see some of you there.

    • http://www.myITforum.com/ Rod Trent

      Hi, Chad! I’ll be at SCU 2014. Hope to see you there!

  • George Morell

    I will miss MMS. There is no other way to put it. Having attended for many years I fondly remember my first MMS years ago. After the third day I felt like there wasn’t any more room left in my brain. I couldn’t believe so much information could be covered in such a short period of time. I stayed late on Friday and found myself in one of the last conferences of the event. Everyone remaining was worn out, as they talked about SMS client repair tools that the community had been working on. That one session helped my career more than any other that first year. It made me realize how connected everyone was with one another, and willing to help each other.

    In subsequent years I found myself looking forward to the BOF sessions more than any others. The BOF sessions would sometimes go late into the evening with groups of people talking through real problems together. I have not been to any other conference, Microsoft or other, where people were willing to spend so much time together talking about the topic of the conference. It wasn’t exclusively about the product. It was the understanding that we were all in this together, indifferent to the company where we might be working at the time. I think that is what made MMS so special to me. It was a place where I could spend a week with 100’s of people who I could relate to, who had similar challenges, and understood the complexity, difficulty, and stress of systems management.

    Rod, thank you! You have become a role model through your contributions and leadership, with both MMS and MyITForum. I wasn’t able to attend IT Connections this year, but it certainly sounds more like the earlier MMS’s that I attended. It will definitely be on my radar for next year.
    Thanks again for all that you have done for our community.

    • http://www.myITforum.com/ Rod Trent

      George — you’re gonna love IT/Dev Connections. It has the same feel as the early MMS’s. It actually made me tear-up reflecting on it. This event truly can get us back to where events belong.