The biggest cloud conference in the UK and one of the largest in Europe held its latest show at the ExCeL in London last week. Straight off the bat, I thought it was a good show and still has relevance but there are a few areas that I think it needs to go in the coming years. It is easy to criticise and this piece is not an attempt to do that – rather it is meant to take an objective look at keeping it relevant and successful.
Three things caught my attention and it seems a number of other people too in the conversations that I had during and after the conference.
Inclusivity in the Tech Industry
Louis Columbus, industry heavyweight and strong advocate for inclusivity, held a really strong panel with Emily Hall-Strutt (Ministry of Justice UK), Monique Ellis (Massive Interactive) & Elena Corchero (Unruly Home) focusing on strategies to getting more women in to the tech industry in the first place as well as overcoming the glass ceiling. This was a packed session and with good engagement.
This was complemented by the live TV coverage on Disruptive Live on inclusivity with Zoe Cunningham (Softwire UK), Marie-Clare Fenech (My Recruitment Space) – both also jointly addressed the conference in their own speaking slot as well, as well as Maria Tanjala (BigCouch) who gave some really good insights from the media industry.
From my perspective, it was great to see and that the conversation has matured from a pure gender balance conversation to a more nuanced level with empathy and practicality to address this in an industry that still struggles with getting the balance right.
I will also add that I was delighted to see the complete absence of “Booth Babes” or “Poster Women” (i.e. a less mature organisation’s thinly veiled attempt to show they “do” inclusivity) but plenty of attendees and stands of professional women who are in the mix and there to do their job – this is heading in the right direction.
Cloud Economics and TCO
There was a greater level of conversation about business value and making the TCO and economics of cloud work for customers. This is an area that is still poorly understood in the industry and for businesses, those green shoots are appearing as people are waking up to the real reason why people buy products and services – what value they will get from it.
Steve Chambers (CloudSoft) spoke well on this at his speaking slot and on social media during the Expo. Frank Mogenson (Cloudeon) also looked at this. So I see a positive that the conversation is beginning to take hold.
No Cloud-washing anymore
There was a shift in how organisations exhibiting were presenting themselves. Their messages and reasons for being there were sharper and clearer. I saw very little generic “cloud-washing” and many were articulating their place in the industry very well, understanding their position and more importantly, what the value proposition was rather than just a pure product positioning.
Adding to this, the debate was on about DevOps vs DevSecOps – this was a good thing but I couldn’t help but wonder if this was not the best target audience and more of an echo chamber (see my thoughts for the future below).
What things would I like to see next year?
GDPR is not the end state
This is perhaps a little unfair. GDPR is very close, so it was naturally a hot topic this year, but what really stood out for me was the amount of people that can’t see beyond GDPR. I have said on multiple occasions that GDPR is a milestone in a new world of regulation and compliance. It is not an end-state.
The security conversation has too move on to the wider issue of meaningful value add to businesses beyond ”quick fixes” to an immediate problem that needs a long term plan and continuous work.
What no Serverless?
There as some reference to containers and severless this year, but no-one was really talking to the “how”. This is a fast-paced industry, the topic of serverless is new to many and its wider impact on the industry is not being grapsed. I have predicted before that Serverless is the next “Cloud” in the tech industry. Getting an agreed nomenclature, common understanding and articulation of what it actually does – rather than failing to learn the lessons from the early Cloud days – is critical. This merits its own section in the agenda for next year, if that is not too late.
Merging the Expo
Continuing the theme from above, Cloud has long been all pervasive in the tech industry, as is Security, Agile, Networks, etc. The new topics on the block such as AI, ML, Blockchain, Serverless, No-Code and so forth fit in the same category. I would argue the time (indeed it is probably overdue) to bring this all together and focus on business outcome themes rather than pure product or service focus areas. This will be a tough challenge for the organisers but believe it to be a key one.
To be fair, the organisers have launched Techerati this year to begin to do that that, but it will need some real drive to make it work in less than 12 months before the next expo.
More business engagement & workshops
Again, this is all intertwined with the points above. To keep the footfall into the Expo, I feel that more business engagement would be a good thing – stories from the business world and celebration of collaboration does happen, but it would be better to have more of it and place it front and centre. Humans like stories not product pitches!
It would also be a good thing to have training camps to improve skills and bring the business community to a technology expo. They need a reason. Reduced price offerings to upskill customers in a networking environment is interesting, good brand placement for the tech industry and will naturally help sell – which is the real reason why people exhibit and get involved.
Daytime & overnight camps with really powerful and influential speakers, masters of their trade and access to the “rock stars” will draw them in and provide significant value add. It might also get the likes of the really major players to come to the event and make a deeper impression.
It is easy to be critical and somewhat jaundiced of these types of event and this article is not meant to be that. However, they are at risk of being made a lower tier priority for tight marketing budgets compared to the big players’ own conferences if they don’t innovate fast. The key for me is about business engagement balanced by keeping pace with the market trends.
That being said, the Cloud Expo Europe 2018 was one of the best yet with a clearer articulation by exhibitors of their place in the market and what they do. A strong message towards tackling inclusivity in a much better way was a real positive (and no booth babes!).
What did you think about this year’s Expo and where it should go in the future, add your comments below and get involved in the conversation.