I recently had an invite by another company to attend their Executive Briefing Tour of some specific tech companies we all do business with. Microsoft, NetApp, Apple, HP, Oracle, and Cisco. It was a very jam packed week however the value of a tour like this really helped with some of the strategic projects we have coming up over the next few years. While the tour was great, where I found a good portion of value was the networking with the three other companies that also toured along. The tour helps initiate some discussions that typically don’t happen over a lunch hour if we were to meet here in Edmonton. All in all it is something I plan to attend each year as it will only help set us up for success each year with our strategic planning.
We hit Microsoft first in Redmond and while I cannot really discuss what went on (NDA’s) the facility was pretty impressive. All the details to make the tour enjoyable and worry free were taken care of.
Saw some interesting technologies that can possibly help enable remote workers as well as BYOD initiatives. That was one common theme amongst all vendors was BYOD was top of mind. Rightfully so since it’s one of the most talked about topics within the IT industry.
The next stop was NetApp and Apple on the same day. The biggest take away that I received from the NetApp tour was the CEO – Tom Georgens, sat down with us and talked candidly over the lunch hour. I have to say this was the highlight of the whole trip to be honest. What multi-billion dollar company has their CEO sit down with it’s customers? No other EBC tour offered that level of personalization and I believe that’s what sets NetApp apart as a classy company. They may not be the biggest storage vendor, but what they do offer and how they offer it, in my opinion, is first class. Expect more good things from this company.
Apple was in the afternoon after NetApp and boy what a change of gears. I don’t know if it was the message or how it was said but pretty much if you didn’t know Apple was arrogant, it was made very clear that afternoon. “No Roadmaps” was the theme of the day and while we were not looking for device specifics we wanted to know how Apple was going to support their devices in the enterprise. Basically we were told nothing (no idea why we even had to sign an NDA), and yet this little article pops up yesterday on Engadget “Time Cook: Apple Focusing more on iPad for enterprise”. This is exactly what we had asked for yet wasn’t given any clue into how they were going to do this. That’s what EBC’s are for so that we as leaders can plan for the future. The only good thing of value from this session was how Apple does their own IT. I found that of tremendous value and took a few cool nuggets away that we could apply internally. I did like the half stumper of a question I asked; “What does Apple do for BYOD? What if I wanted to bring in a new Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook and plug it into the Apple network, would you support that”. I was basically looked at like I had two heads, like why would anyone want to use something other than an Apple. If anything I got a good laugh from the guys.
The next day was a work day for me while the others headed off to HP and Oracle. I needed to catch up on some work and had also booked a lunch meeting with the folks from Yammer. We are looking to use them as an internal social media site and so far it’s been well received within our company. The value through a few different use cases seems to be paying off. People are connecting with each other like they’ve not done before and that’s exactly what we are aiming to accomplish. It’s also good to meet face to face with someone your dealing with. I like to see the whites of their eyes because you can tell a lot about someone by how they are in person aside from how they are on the phone. Overall a great meeting.
The last day was a full day at Cisco and was it ever a full day. To be honest we all agreed it could have easily been two days and will hopefully plan for that next year. I think the biggest thing that wasn’t under NDA that I can speak on was the NERV (Network Emergency Response Vehicle) truck. Now this is a very cool truck that hovers around the $1.2 million dollar mark. The amount of technology wrapped up into this vehicle is astonishing and at the same time ultra purposeful. It has a satellite uplink and can basically be the hub of communications for a disaster area. While not meant to be a full time communications hub, it’s role is really to be that first response until the main line of communications has been restored. I believe they said they can cast a Wi-Fi cloud over a site of around 700 yards. Don’t quote me there but even still that’s pretty decent. The vehicle and the personal that were there describing it, have responded to many disasters over the years and it was a pivotal piece of technology used to help in disaster relief efforts. I’d love to have one that’s for sure!
The trip, the networking and the visits to all the tech companies that we saw was well worth the time and I’d consider this an integral part of planning for our companies future. It helps see what possibilities are out there and how we can incorporate some or all of them in our planning sessions.
Thanks to all those who organized it!