IT pros chafed about Microsoft's handling of summit

This is the year that Microsoft is in charge of its own Management Summit. And IT pros say: don't bet on a great turnout at the Las Vegas event. Why? Let's just say Microsoft could use some help in the planning department.

Chafed IT pros say Microsoft has bungled its popular annual summit, which focuses on its manageability suite of...

products and third-party Windows manageability software.

Some pros, in fact, may not make the Microsoft Management Summit, to be held from March 18-21 in Las Vegas, because a final agenda for the show won't be released until Jan. 24, giving them too little time to get approval from their companies.

The lack of information is not the only issue that irks IT executives. There are also new show rules: no discounts for companies that send more than one attendee and a ban on guests (i.e., spouses) at lunches, dinners and after-hours gatherings, according to information Microsoft provided to, a Web site where IT pros swap tips -- and sound off.

Microsoft didn't comment on these grievances in time for this story. The company last week issued a presentation called "10 Reasons to Attend the Microsoft Management Summit 2003," which outlines the event without providing detailed descriptions of each session. The presentation, which is posted on, said that the summit will include 66 sessions and a keynote from Kirill Tatarinov, Microsoft's vice president of management.

The summit will be held at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. This is the sixth year of the annual conference, and the first year Microsoft is putting it together. The conference has a reputation for being a good event for administrators to sharpen their Windows management skills but, with Microsoft now planning the party, some pros worry the conference will turn into a lengthy Microsoft sales pitch.

In the past, summit organizers opened registration and released an agenda the previous November, allowing IT departments ample time to include the business trip in their first quarter budgets. This year, registration opened in January. The agenda will be out later this week, giving IT pros only seven weeks or so to review the conference sessions, draft a proposed travel plan and win trip approval. Thanks to strained budgets, IT supervisors are less likely to approve last-minute business trips.

"The conference is just two months away, and potential attendees are in a time crunch to even get permission to attend, let alone make the arrangements," said Michael Schultz, a Connecticut-based SMS consultant. "How do you get your boss to sign off on an optional $2,000 trip in under two months, when you can't even prove that it's not some boondoggle to Las Vegas?"

Schultz is close to the situation. He was on the list of potential speakers, but Microsoft waited until Friday to inform him that he indeed will speak. Microsoft originally was to let Schultz know the previous Monday.

Said Chuck Young, a senior systems management specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Huntsville, Ala.: "I don't know what classes are going to be offered or who will be speaking. This makes planning very difficult."

Young felt he got his money's worth last year, but the lack of an agenda is causing him to reconsider going this year. Young works with SMS 2.0 Service Pack 4, with the hotfix rollup package and feature pack.

"Quite a few people are displeased about how Microsoft has handled the conference," Schultz said. "Last year, they bought into the conference on a large scale, and this year they took over the entire conference. But instead of blowing everyone away with events, coordination, organization and material, it appears this year's summit is just another Microsoft event with a 'ho-hum' attitude."

Altiris Inc., which develops systems management software, organized last year's summit. Microsoft wanted to play a bigger role in the conference, and the two companies agreed to let Microsoft run this year's show, said Tyler Smith, Altiris' vice-president of marketing. Altiris is a close partner with Microsoft; its software integrates with Microsoft SMS. Altiris remains a sponsor of this year's summit.

The event started six years ago, when SMS users clamored for a chance to network and share knowledge, Smith said. One hundred users attended the first show, and 1,400 attended last year. Microsoft said it expects 2,000 attendees this year.

While Microsoft has left users to wonder about the summit agenda, Altiris has already released the agenda for its smaller, two-day conference just prior to the summit. The Altiris agenda was released Jan. 6.

Schultz has attended the management conference for years, going back to when it was a simple gathering of 100 pros discussing a new thing called "WMI," Windows Management Instrumentation, a programming interface that allowed IT pros to configure and manage system and network devices.

"It's disappointing Microsoft wasn't able to take the ball and run with it," Schultz said. "Instead they've floundered, and the conference may suffer because of it."


Read what we DO know Microsoft has planned for the Summit in this article.

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