IT Vendor engagement of the customer community

Over the last month or so I’ve had two invites to participate in vendor events abroad.   The first was an invite to the Gestalt IT tech day in San Francisco, the second was an invite to the EMC EMEA Customer Council event in Prague.   Now as much as I would love to go to everything I get invited to, I have a day job which pays the bills so in this instance I had to chose the one most relevant to my employer and that was the EMC EMEA Customer Council.

Having never been invited to an EMC Customer Council event before I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. The basic structure of the event involved EMC sharing product roadmap and strategy, deep diving a few key technologies / strategies and then listening to customer feedback.   The sessions I attended were very interactive round table discussions, with a lot of enterprise customers who were not backward in coming forward with their feelings and opinions. As the sessions went on I started to see why EMC run these events. It would be hard to gain this kind of candid and honest feedback through any other medium, this kind of information is invaluable to a vendor. From my perspective as a customer I got a lot of good insight into roadmap, allowing me to more accurately propose a long term EMC storage strategy for my employer.   I also got to meet and chat to a lot of interesting people and best of all, I got to hear about the experiences of other customers. It was re-assuring to hear that whether you are an SMB IT operation or an enterprise level one, you tend to have very similar issues. The only difference sometimes being the scale of the infrastructure involved.

Now unfortunately unlike the Gestalt IT Tech Field day, the EMC Customer Council is governed by a non-disclosure agreement which means I cannot blog about any of the content discussed. However it’s a small price to pay when you get invited to an extremely well organised, well attended event where all parties involved get something out of it.

It’s easy to see why companies are starting to catch on to the benefits of engaging the customer community directly. In some instances the community becomes a self help group of sorts as well as an alternative marketing channel for a vendor. I often see “a community” leading the way with product information awareness, problem resolution, best practice and procurement advice. The VMware community stands as   one of the best examples of this,   there is a wealth of information out there and it’s not hard to find if you ever need to go looking. In fact if you use twitter or subscribe to an RSS feed like PlanetV12n more often than not the information lands in your lap without you needing to ever look for it.

I wanted to briefly cover off the Gestalt IT tech day. Stephen Foskett the organiser and chief recently set out on a mission to organise a technical field day that vendors would sponsor without the usual NDA’s being in place. Thus allowing the attending bloggers to write about what they saw until they couldn’t possibly write anymore.   He did an exceptional job and I believe the experience didn’t put him off, he’s already looking at organising Gestalt IT Tech Day 2.

Well the attending bloggers wrote post after post and there was lots of good stuff coming out from the vendor visits they participated in. This event is another good example of vendors engaging successfully with the community and everyone getting something out of it. The vendors get a chance to spread the word about their products and services and the bloggers get lots of technical content to put out there for their readers.   Everyone is a winner and that is exactly what a vendor event should be all about.

To read more about the Gestalt IT Tech day and sample some of the many articles written, click the link. What a Tech Field Day!

About the author

Craig Stewart

I’m an IT professional with over 12+ years working in both the public and private sector within the UK. I currently work within the UK financial industry, specialising in infrastructure delivery and integration using products from a host of vendors including Microsoft, Citrix, VMware and EMC to name but a few.

I’ve had an unhealthy interest in all aspects of virtualisation since working on projects deploying VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3 and Citrix XenApp. I have followed this up by achieving certifications in a number of these technologies and trying to find the time to continue learning about and spreading the good word of virtualisation.

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