Each summer the data centre sector makes its annual pilgrimage to Monte Carlo where members of our global community congregate for the highlight of the data centre calendar. Now in its eleventh year, BroadGroup’s Datacloud Congress is again poised to set the standard for industry events.
And on the 4 June, to start things off in style, the 11th Datacloud Awards will unfurl under a starry sky (or, in the unlikely event of rain, under the retractable roof) in the exclusive Club Sporting. There will be a gala dinner, everyone will be dressed up and this year the charismatic and glamorous Joanna Lumley will be presenting awards to the lucky winners. What’s not to like?
I am privileged to sit on the judging panel and find the process fascinating. As in other competitions, judges are assigned to those categories best suited to their expertise and then present their conclusions to the full panel for scrutiny. This is intimidating: judges don’t always agree! Many classes were heavily subscribed, so companies who entered but did not make a shortlist should not feel discouraged; in some cases there were clear winners but more often there was very little between the candidates.
It was really pleasing to see how many of our members submitted high quality entries and how many of them subsequently appeared in category shortlists. Even better, among the global players like Equinix, Digital Realty, Cyxtera and CBRE, our UK operators like Kao and Virtus made it through to the shortlist.
Before the competition closed, I circulated some tips on how to prepare a good entry. This was really just common sense: answering the questions, explaining why your thing is better and, critically, providing evidence. Having now observed the process at first hand and reviewed the entries with my fellow judges, I have had more time to muse on what differentiates the successful submissions. Here are my personal observations on the most common factors that separate the shortlisted entries from the rest of the pack, and perhaps more importantly, what prevents an entry from getting onto a shortlist.
- Don’t enter categories you are ineligible for
- Don’t scattergun identical entries across multiple categories
- Don’t stray off the point - be relevant and remain relevant
- Don’t get too technical
- Don’t give a sales pitch
- Don’t make assumptions
- Answer the question - ALL the questions
- Provide evidence to back up your claims
- Always provide testimonials if you have them
- Proofread your entry before submitting
- Multiple identical entries into one category
- Most importantly: materiality
It’s astonishing how many organisations submitted entries for classes for which they didn’t qualify. For instance, global players with operations in multiple regions are not eligible for regional data centre or cloud awards, because these categories are restricted to players that have not yet expanded out of a region.
This annoys the judges and it is obvious that the entries are not bespoke. There is no harm in entering multiple categories if you are eligible and there are technologies and services that are valid in more than one category, but don’t just cut and paste.
Lots of entries lost marks because they were unbalanced: they got sidetracked on a particular offering, got too detailed about a specification or feature. Occassionally they misunderstood the questions, which didn’t help either.
yes, there will always be judges who know what you are talking about but judging panels are diverse to draw in a wide range of expertise. Speak in a language that everyone can understand.
This happens far too often. Yes, you need to explain what your solution does, but you must be clear on why is it better and, most important, what your solution has actually delivered in the real world - NOT just what the technology or service is capable of in an ideal situation.
Although the judges do have background knowledge, they are obliged to base their decisions on the quality of the entry, not on what they’ve read in the press. So don’t be complacent. Don’t neglect relevant details because you’ve assumed that everyone already knows about them. It’s surprisingly common to read entries from companies that had a great product and a great story to tell but failed to explain the product or provide a coherent narrative because they didn’t think they needed to.
Failing to answer the question is the most common reason for being relegated to the also-rans. The questions are there for a reason and irrespective of the category they broadly ask the same thing: What (is it / did you do)? How (does it work/ did you do it)? And Why (is it better than others)? Your answer to each one is marked individually so don’t write “see above” if you think you have already covered it: the judges are within their rights to give that part of your entry a zero.
So many submissions fall at this hurdle because they don’t provide hard evidence. Judges are very good at differentiating assertion from evidence and want to see outcomes and deliverables – whether they are measured energy savings or happy customers. Always include data if you have it.
Third party corroboration is invaluable. Even a sceptical judge will take note. Not only does it demonstrate the quality of your service but also says good things about your ongoing customer relationships.
Do re-read your entry to ensure it makes sense before you submit, or get someone else to look over it. While we always make allowances for those not writing in their first language, it does need to be coherent. Occasionally entries appear to be a jumbled set of random statements, are clearly unfinished, or make so little sense that they may as well be written in Klingon. A few minutes for a final check is usually time well spent.
Do not put multiple identical entries into one category under the misapprehension that the result is somehow vote-led like Strictly Come Dancing. It is not.
Finally, is what you have done material? Is it truly substantive? Have you delivered concrete outcomes? The judges are adept at distinguishing style from substance and so, no matter how beautifully crafted your entry is, if it lacks substance it cannot win. Be devil’s advocate to yourself and keep saying “so what?”.
Datacloud Awards will take place in the Salle des Etoiles in Monaco on the evening of 4 June 2019. More details and the shortlist are here: https://www.datacloudawards.com/
Datacloud Global Congress runs from 4-6 June 2019 in Monaco. All details are here: https://www.datacloudcongress.com/