MS Ignite kicks off in Chicago next year and represents Microsoft's attempt at merging all of its IT Pro related conferences into a single event. It's not the company's first attempt, mind you. In 2014, Microsoft tried merging the favored Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) into TechEd 2014 which fell as flat as a pancake dropped from the Eifel Tower. The result was so disastrous that the majority of long-time MMS alumni have sworn off events run by Microsoft. Some have moved on to better, more applicable conferences, while a few others have simply started their own conferences. The reason? They were promised the moon and got a moon rock.
A bunch of MMS alumni sat with Microsoft TechEd planners in a conference room in Redmond in late 2013 and gave a day's worth of feedback. Microsofties took notes, nodded, smiled, acted generally interested, and gave the impression that the feedback would be reviewed and implemented. MMS alumni left that meeting feeling pretty positive. However, the notes from that meeting must've gotten lost or were trash-binned on the way out, because the elements professed for making the TechEd/MMS merge successful were never implemented, even on the tiniest level.
Fast forward to earlier this year, just before Microsoft renamed TechEd (and the 5 other conferences) to MS Ignite, and something similar happened. Microsoft invited folks from the various other events it decided to retire (SharePoint, MEC, Lync, Project, TechEd) to sit in Chicago for a feedback meeting. The result has yet to be determined since we won't get to experience the event until May, but some items of concern are already starting to trickle out.
First off, I told you about how Ignite is positioned as an event that was requested by customers, which isn't entirely true. Just last week, Microsoft posted a sneak peak set of sessions for Ignite, which got a few yawns and maybe a couple golf claps. Today, there's even more evidence that something screwy is going on, and one piece has long-time TechEd alumni up in arms.
Today, Microsoft revealed additional pricing features for Ignite. The full conference pass is a little higher than in previous years, sitting at $2,220.00 (hotel is extra). But, the pièce de résistance, and the bit that seems to have caught the ire of the TechEd faithful is the inclusion of add-on passes – something Microsoft has never done before.
MS Ignite will offer a sort of "would you like fries with that?" registration checkout offering. Here's how it shakes out…
Plus Pass Chicago
Plus Pass Limited Edition
The Krewe of TechEd Facebook page lit up this afternoon after the announcement, and other TechEd alumni took to Twitter to voice confusion and concern. The general consensus, particularly from some of those that sat in the Chicago feedback meeting, was that they were blindsided by this new offering and thought it had to be a joke. Imagine getting approval from management to attend MS Ignite, and then also asking for an additional $495 for a T-shirt and a chance to be spit on by Satya Nadella.
To be fair, though, there are many conferences that offer special perks with add-on passes. It helps pay the bills and allow smaller events to provide offer unique event features. However, Microsoft has never done this before and some are wondering if it is actually a cost issue.
UPDATE: The president of The Krewe of TechEd delivered a missive to the MS Ignite organizers today, to voice his displeasure. It's a good post and might get a response. But, I have to say I've done this before myself. We fought very hard to keep MMS going for several years. And, based on the content of missive sent today, it reminds me of those struggles. Eventually, Microsoft stopped listening and did what it wanted anyway.
On one hand, you can't blame Microsoft at all. The company is struggling hard to stay relevant and competitive, so it needs an event where it's messaging and marketing can shine through. MS Ignite will be massive in both scope and attendance. What is Ignite? It's been said best in a recently released video featuring the showcased event speakers. Ignite is about the Microsoft vision…
What do you think? Can Microsoft pull it off?