What Customers Really Want to Know

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CompetitionI’m privileged to be responsible for EMC’s worldwide Executive Briefing Center program, and I also get to be an “evangelist” in facilitating discussions with customers and partners of all shapes and sizes. In 2011 alone, we’ll have hosted about 25,000 customers from 4000 organizations in our centers in Hopkinton, Santa Clara, Cork, Singapore, Bangalore, Japan and RSA – with over 24,000 IT topics covered. We had one day just before the Thanksgiving holiday, where we literally ran out of chairs in our HQ center – a good problem to have!

With this kind of volume, the EBC program is like a living, breathing micro-lab of what’s going on today in IT, and so the top question I usually get asked is “what’s going on in the briefing centers these days?” Everyone wants to know what’s hot (and what’s not).

Storage and Backup

It’ll come as no surprise to anyone – even my mom – that storage and backup have always been hot topics for EMC and our customers. Whether we’re talking about specific products, or at the strategy level – one thing is consistent here: the big driver is the explosion in the amount of data that everyone has to manage. Everyone wants to understand how we can help them store more efficiently, and they need to automate and simplify everything. I was talking to a company the other day that provides hosting services to long-term care facilities. Their storage capacity requirements are growing 100% year over year, driven by the fact that there are 8,000 people turning 65 – every day. And we’re at the beginning of the baby boom – there’s a guaranteed growth metric for you!

If none of this storage talk surprises you, here’s something that will:  storage and backup are both hot – but together they only represent about 30% of all of the topics that we’ve covered this year. So what else is trending up?

Virtualization & Cloud

101412354Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen a 230% increase in virtualization and cloud discussions. Admittedly, this cuts a pretty wide swath across a range of topics: virtualization strategies, EMC-VMware integration status, VCE, cloud overviews, building the Virtual DC, and EMC IT discussions around transforming people, process and technology.

But check this out: these EMC IT Transformation topics themselves have seen a 680% increase in the same time period. What’s going on here?

I’d say a majority of customers have embraced cloud, have a strategy defined, and have specific projects on the table – but they’re looking for help. And for those who might self-diagnose themselves as having “cloud fatigue” – well, we’re still having productive cloud conversations, because we’re doing it at a very practical, grounded level.

What we’ve seen – whether you’re at phase 0 or phase final on the journey to cloud – is that most people get stuck somewhere along the way. So everyone wants to know what everyone else is doing – they want to understand what the best practices are, and what pitfalls to avoid. I’ve literally had customers say to me “you don’t need to sell me on the value of cloud computing – we get it; we need to dig into the how-to’s…”

So these “how-to” topics – how to transform people, process and technology – are some of the most valuable and hottest conversations we’re seeing in our briefing centers right now. It’s EMC IT practitioners and EMC Consulting professionals sharing what we and other customers are doing to get “unstuck,” and ultimately accelerate the move to ITaaS, IT agility and faster time to provisioning.

A web company who was in recently described it this way: the need to get to virtualized,  automated data center operations is their top IT initiative – so that engineers can become engineers again, instead of spending time typing in the same commands over and over. Sounds about right…

Security and the CIRC

article-eyes-on-glass-pvIt’s almost impossible to imagine a spike in cloud engagements without an accompanying increase in security discussions. And in fact we have seen a surge in security-related topics, and our CIRC tour in particular has seen about a 70% increase in traffic since the beginning of the year. The CIRC is EMC’s Critical Incident Response Center – the cornerstone of our security program, where we capture millions of events going on around our global infrastructure, and prioritize them for further security analysis and action. It’s more than just a great tour – one customer recently reported a 60% decrease in phishing attacks, as a result of deploying our RSA security technologies.

Practitioner-to-Practitioner

The fact that we’ve transformed our own IT organization, embraced new skills and training, built out a completely virtualized data center, transformed our security strategy and changed the model around how IT engages with the business – and that we’re happy to share what has and hasn’t worked – all of this has created an invaluable set of practical, grounded discussions between IT practitioners – EMC and customers. You can check out some of the content here.

One final thought: customers don’t have to come to us to take advantage of these knowledge transfers. We also have a field program, and we’ve seen about a 20% increase in the number of field-based EBCs that we do – that means that we’re more than happy to bring the conversation to you.

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