A Look at SHARE Atlanta 2023 and the Organization’s Vision for the Future
by Steven Dickens | March 10, 2023

On this episode of Futurum Live! From the Show Floor, Futurum Research Senior Analyst Steven Dickens talks Scott Fagen, President of SHARE. Their conversation covered Scott’s vision for SHARE in the future, where the organization is headed, and what people can expect from SHARE New Orleans in August.

It’s a great conversation you don’t want to miss.=

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Steven Dickens: Hello, and welcome to the Futurum Tech Webcast live from the show floor here at SHARE Atlanta. I’m joined by Scott Fagan, president of SHARE. Welcome to the show, Scott.

Scott Fagen: Oh, thank you, Steve. Good to see you again.

Steven Dickens: Do I have to call you Mr. President all the way through this?

Scott Fagen: I would say you need to call me master of all that I survey.

Steven Dickens: Fantastic. Well, thanks for joining us on the show. We were just commenting off-camera, it’s great to be back. I’ve been saying that now for the last couple of shows, but this feels like the first one we’re back to sort of pre-COVID levels. Is that where we’re at?

Scott Fagen: I think with this show, we’re a little bit below the last one. Because of scheduling issues and everybody trying to get back in person, it’s been hard to find conference space. So we’re a little bit under Columbus, but we’ve exceeded our budget in terms of getting people here and sponsors here, for sure.

Steven Dickens: Fantastic. Great show floor as well. I thought that looked really good. Some of the sponsors and exhibitors have done a really good job with that.

Scott Fagen: We actually have a number of new sponsors this time, which is awesome for us.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, we were doing some filming on the Model 9 booth and I think they’re new to the program, which is good. So you’re relatively new in the role of president at SHARE. Where do you see your vision for the organization? Obviously, you got a rich history going back decades now, but where do you see it going forward? I know you’re pretty visionary in that regard.

Scott Fagen: Yeah, so we’re trying to make sure that we keep to the past, keep what we’ve been doing successfully for a long time, which is the two conferences per year model. Have one in the spring, late winter, one in the summer, hopefully, before the fall starts. We have to get that in before the kids go back to school. But we’re also launching a year-round education program that’s digitally oriented, much more around being able to get to content on demand when you need it, 24 by seven by 365. We learned a lot during COVID, right?

We ran three virtual conferences during COVID and, actually, the first of the three had more attendees than any SHARE conference in the last 10 years. We were able to reach people overseas, we were able to reach people who don’t normally come because the cost is far lower, you don’t have travel costs. And from that, we learned that we can successfully deliver content to people as long as we’ve got the secondary ability to connect with the speaker off hours, either through communities, direct messaging, and things like that. And that’s all going to be rolled into the learning management system that we’re rolling out starting right after this conference.

Steven Dickens: I think that’s really positive. I think the key takeaway for me is we went through that period as collectively as COVID. We can look back on that and look at it through whichever lens, but I think for me, we learned some good lessons, let’s take those forward. Yes, we can get back to in person, it’s great to bump into you and all the familiar faces here at the conference, but I think being able to bring in those communities that are maybe not able to be here, some of the international communities. There’s not those mainframe meeting places in far-flung parts of the world or the community’s a lot smaller. Maybe there’s not the access to the same level of speakers that there would be in some of those. So, I think SHARE can play that role and become more international.

Scott Fagen: That’s really part of the plan. You look at it and you say, “Even if we could get, say, three or 4,000 people here for a conference, you’re not reaching anywhere near a large fraction of-

Steven Dickens: Barely 1% of the total community that comes here if you think about it from a global community point of view.

Scott Fagen: Yeah. And that might be a high percentage. So during COVID, we ran three virtual conferences, which were very well attended. All of them were better attended than any of our in-person conferences. And a lot of that was because we were getting the second and third person in many of these mainframe customers as well as numbers of people from overseas. We’ve got emails from folks in Australia, “This is great.” And you think about it, they’re watching the show in the middle of the night. They’re getting their content in the middle of the night and they’re online and they’re asking questions and they’re engaged.

I’ve gotten emails through LinkedIn from folks in India, somebody asking me, “How do I have SHARE in Hyderabad? How do I have SHARE in Bangalore?” So to be able to extend the level and the quality of education to those areas is very, very important because many domestic customers, as well as European customers have satellite offices there and mainframe is growing in those geographies while Australia, the mainframes been there since the beginning. But certainly, the ability to reach those people with the education to be able to move their careers forward, move their businesses forward is very important.

So to that end, we’re developing a digital platform and changing, not really changing, but adding the concept of an individual membership to SHARE, the individual membership will have access to our learning management system, which we are building out content for today. All of the content that this show will be placed in there prior to the next show will have specialized content that’s only available to individual members as well. That gives us also the possibility for doing things like office hours with mainframe experts. People can give ad hoc talks.

We have this concept that SHARE call a birds of a feather, where people who have similar concerns, similar problems can get together. We can arrange that and rather than a birds of a feather occurring in a dark conference room at six o’clock in the evening after regular hours of the show, it can incur virtually between folks in Germany, California, and Sydney.

Steven Dickens: And I think the technology’s given us… We’ve got to harvest the best from the last three years. It was tough on everybody, but I think the opportunity we got over the last three years, it’s digital transformation at its best. We’ve got the abilities to build those communities online, bring in different audiences. Where else do you see SHARE going? I think we’ve got a fantastic central melting-pot meeting place for the whole community. I know you’re pretty visionary in those regards. Where else do you see things going?

Scott Fagen: Well, so one of the things that is critical to this platform, and actually, most of IT, is that it’s graying. And then in the SHARE case, maybe we’re going from gray to white in many cases. So, we are going to extend to students and faculty low-cost, if not free, access to the individual membership capabilities, as well as looking out over the folks who may have retired in the last few years who still want to be participatory. They’ll be able to mentor new people. There’s a lot that we talk about. I have folks where I work that I’m interfacing with that don’t know our lingo, and of course, we don’t know their lingo.

So we spend a lot of time doing the Rosetta Stone of IT, right? In mainframe, it’s DASD. In distributed, it’s disk, and that kind of stuff. So it’s allowing these folks to come in and mentor younger people and help them with the lingo, help them with the culture and why things are different, and in some cases, give them the history. We had a great session at this SHARE talking about the mainframe’s involvement in the Apollo program, right? Mark Nelson did a terrific job with that. I don’t think many people understood how pivotal the mainframe was in that area.

Steven Dickens: So, Scott, as we sit here, the next one on the agenda is New Orleans. What should we be looking for?

Scott Fagen: Well, we will be back to a full-sized, full-width conference in New Orleans. Again, like I said, with COVID, everybody’s trying to get back to in person and we are just battling it out with all the other conferences for space. We have a full agenda being planned for that conference. I think we’re going to have to make some accommodations for the heat.

Steven Dickens: Turn the AC up in-

Scott Fagen: Turn the AC back up, yeah.

Steven Dickens: … New Orleans in August.

Scott Fagen: Right. Yeah. I’m looking forward to the comment cards that say, “Room too hot, room too cold,” which always is the favorite complaint of SHARE attendees. With the recent announcements of the new z16 by IBM and COS 3.1, there’s going to be a whole lot of new content for people to come and see. I think it’ll be an exciting program, very informative. And I invite everybody to come. If you’re a member, come. If you’re not a member, become a member and come. It’s all good. Even Steve here, I think, got something out of the week.

Steven Dickens: Is this a personal invitation for me to come next time?

Scott Fagen: Yeah, please come next time.

Steven Dickens: We’ll bring the crew and look forward to it.

Scott Fagen: Absolutely.

Steven Dickens: New Orleans in August. Well, what could be better?

Scott Fagen: Hurricanes on the street.

Steven Dickens: Fantastic. Well, thanks very much for joining us, Scott. You’ve been listening to the Futurum Tech Webcast, brought to you live from SHARE at Atlanta. Please click and subscribe, and we’ll see you next time.

About the Author

Steven Dickens is Vice President of Growth and Business Development and Senior Analyst at Futurum Research. Operating at the crossroads of technology and disruption, Steven engages with the world’s largest technology brands exploring new operating models and how they drive innovation and competitive edge for the enterprise.  Read Full Bio.