Hands-on with 400 users

Preparations continue for EMC World 2009, including putting the final touches on the use cases for the ControlCenter hands-on sessions.  This year we’re repeating the session 4 times, with 100 likely attendees at each session.  We’re taking into account the things we learned from last year, and taking an approach which we hope will make our users happier. See if you can predict the problem we’re facing right now, though.

We have a two-hour session, divided into three parts.  Each part presents the user with a different ControlCenter application and a non-trivial problem (or set of related problems) to solve using that application.  Attendees will be presented with the problem and some hints, and a handful of EMC representatives will be pacing the floor helping out.  If anyone wants to see the “right” answer, they can just follow the directions in a handout.  After letting people explore each scenario, an EMC presenter will showcase a few highlights from the directions before moving on to the next scenario.

The problem is easy to anticipate.  Though this is marketed as an expert session, not every user will be an expert in all three applications. And while the StorageScope Custom Query exercise might be trivial for one user, that same user would likely be completely stumped by the Performance Manager Links View exercise.  In each session of 100 users, we are sure to have attendees who are frustrated by the simplicity of an exercise, and those who are frustrated with the difficulty of another.

One way to approach this is to have a core problem, followed by optional deeper tasks.  You may have been able to figure out that the cluster is misconfigured in 30 seconds (while your neighbor needs 20 minutes), but can you pinpoint the root cause?  Could you fix the problem?  Of course, that introduces a new challenge … none of the EMC representatives are expert in all three of the applications being used.  So when users begin deviating from the script and exploring the application in more detail, it’ll be harder for us to step in and offer assistance.  And that’s far from a new problem; we faced it last year as well.  The truth is ControlCenter is a large and complex set of applications and you’re going to be hard pressed to find many EMC employees who can rattle off the details of every dialog in each of its components.

But if we’re flexible and attentive when the scenarios are being explored, if we’re as careful as we can be in constructing and documenting the approaches, and if we keep the sessions staffed with a variety of experts, we should be able to keep people relatively happy.  We’ve got a busy 2 weeks before the conference, and then a busy 4 days of executing against the plan.  Hope to see you there!