Constellation Research event: Expansive, respectful vibe

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CCE Storyboard 2

Let’s face it – industry events are increasingly formulaic. Most vendor conferences are predictable – keynotes and product futures, rock bands, large partner booths. Most research firm events tend to be siloed around their category definitions and what currently excites them. So, I particularly enjoy events like Cognizant Community which are about conversations with peers, mind expansion, and not so much about bragging or selling.

I had a chance to spend a day at Ray Wang’s Constellation Connected Enterprise event last week. The event honored a wide number of innovative customer executives, definitely different from other events where vendor executives dominate. It is different from the Cognizant vibe – the content here was much more dense and rapid fire. But I liked the panel and fireside chat formats. Way too many events have one talking head after another. I find in my own presentations, the conversational style with a moderator improves audience engagement. Of course, in the 30 minute CCE session format, there is not much time for audience questions. Instead you get to ask questions one on one. In fact, many attendees were outside networking. Ray had opened the event with – ‘you are all here because you are intelligent, innovative…and impatient’. I was clearly a rookie – most attendees had been to 3 or more of the 9 annual CCE events. They get their value from the networking outside the sessions. Impatience personified:)

The wide breadth of sessions was refreshing, if covered a bit shallowly. CCE had sessions on sports, economics, fintech and much more. People know me as a SAP or an outsourcing analyst, but the reality also is my New Florence blog has racked up close to 7,000 posts over the last 15 years and books like the New Polymath have focused on the exponential payback from combining cleantech, healthtech, agritech and more. I enjoy diversity in topics.

I could have participated in the event remotely. Every session was streamed like this chat with Aneel Bhusri of Workday. Every session had a visual story from Heather Willem artists like the one above and below. Given Ray’s own prolific Twitter habits, the audience provided instant feedback in tweets on every session. However, I am glad I was there in person and here is what I observed in the few hours I was on-site

Honoring the Past

Ray had his parents in the audience. That was very respectful as was his fireside chat with Vint Cerf. It was good to see on-stage executives from MicroStrategy, Tibco, Infosys. These companies are not dead by any means – they are reinventing themselves. It was good to see Jim Cavalieri of Salesforce and Aneel Bhusri of Workday in different sessions look back and honor Marc Benioff. In many ways, it was nostalgic and feel-good. As an industry, we don’t do enough of that.

Savoring the Present

To me it is puzzling that so many people are miserable and angry when the economy is so vibrant. I like meeting content people so it was nice to spend a few minutes with Ray’s wife, Tina who balances so much with a smile. Ditto with Ray’s associates like Dion, Holger and Nicole who are always positive. I only had one meal at the event but have to point out several people at my lunch table went back for the to-die-for crab bisque. The administrative and event staff did an excellent job with logistics.  Dr. Alan Beaulieu of ITR Economics had an informative and humorous session on the world economy and assured the audience the US economy is healthy short-term given its energy and manufacturing balance, but cautioned about longer term impact of national debts and aging demographics.

Inviting the Future

It was nice to see Ray’s son, Nathan and his school mates at a table – a good metaphor for what’s coming next. There were sessions on spatial computing, blockchain, quantum computing, global opportunities. In my conversations I heard of next-gen applications – very little mention of today’s vendors, much more of start-ups, custom development, platforms from Google, Amazon and Microsoft.

Some quotes out of hundreds I heard give you a clue to the future world that was discussed – not all positive, but should give you a flavor for the variety of conversations

  • The notion of pure anonymity on the internet may evaporate
  • We need to get beyond Next Best Action to Next Best Conversation. If you don’t understand me, how can you support me?
  • Teach your kids French. Africa will play a big role in the future and French is a common denominator on that continent.
  • 3D designs that look crappy look REALLY crappy in VR
  • Digital strategy should run parallel to corporate strategy – Under Armour needs have evolved from apparel footwear industry features to that of a fitness platform
  • We are significantly increasing our attack (vulnerability) surface as we head into 5G and with massive amounts of IoT.
  • Tracking your lettuce from farm to store doesn’t implicitly add security or prevent it from spoiling. It made zero sense to me when I first heard that use case and it still makes zero sense today.
  • “Our equipment works equally well on the earth or the moon for intelligent data processing. We will have mining operations on the moon in about 15 years.“

If you were looking for a string to pull all the pearls together, sure Ray has it. I was only there for a third of the event so have no right to expect that. His loyal fans who show up every year will likely say – who cares? It is a good forum to enjoy Ray’s hospitality, get some pretzel logic, energize body and soul and to renew long-term friendships. Mission accomplished. Glad I could be part of it.

CCE Storyboard 1

Cross-posted @ Deal Architect