Francisco D’Souza, CEO of Cognizant, sighed as he had to break away at 9 pm from a reception where his guests were enjoying hand rolled cigars and flambé. He had a few more phone calls to make that night. And unlike at previous Community events he had not had the chance to personally greet every one of the 350 client executives at the event. In previous years he would carry a list of (far fewer) attendees and check them off as he spent time with each.
During his short tenure as CEO, Cognizant revenues have quadrupled and employee count tripled, but he and other Cognizant executives always worry about keeping Community a small, intimate affair. Oracle and Salesforce.com can brag about tens of thousands of attendees to their events. Cognizant wants Community to be a high-class networking and learning experience for its attendees.
They need not worry about the feel of the event if my Monday night dinner table was any indication. 6 non-Cognizant and 3 Cognizant attendees self-selected to be at that table. And the conversations moved effortlessly from Felix Baumgartner to Peyton Manning to Paul Ryan to some of the presentations during the day. None of us had met the others before the conference but the conversation was relaxed and invigorating. And there was no sales talk.
Malcolm Frank, EVP of Marketing (and along with my friend Alan Alper, the architect of the superb event agenda) mingled with the crowd in Francisco’s absence and the conversation focused on Steven Strasburg and Bobby Valentine and on his impressive presentation in the morning on “boiling points” of various industries. Again no sales talk.
The agenda included a wide array of authors and big minds. The panels and breakouts profiled a variety of Cognizant clients and SMAC (the Cognizant acronym for social, mobile, analytical, cloud) projects. The recreational activities showcased the best of the desert that surrounds Phoenix. The resort was vast and impressive.
There was something for everyone there in a congenial setting. No, Cognizant need not worry Community is getting too big. As I wrote last year, it is still a model event for our industry.