In the past few blogs, many key managers from IQMS have been recapping their experiences with our recent User Group conference in Las Vegas. With about 300 people in attendance, this was one of the best - some say THE best - User Conference to date. As I begin to put my thoughts to this blog, not only do I think about the collaborative nature throughout the event but how that behavior initiated many months in advance with the planning stages.
User Group is a conference that begins to take shape more than 9 months before the actual event. From site selection to setting dates, these little tasks can have a large impact on the planning - capacity anticipation, avoid holidays, etc.... as are all determining factors in the first step of planning. For us, the next step is where collaboration really begins to take shape: planning the topics and the format. Never ones to settle on simply what we did last time, we review the previous User Group comment forms to find areas for improvement. Do clients want less talk of basics and more talk for development? Are the sessions too long or too short? Were there not enough discussions for enhancement modules such as Quality, Payroll, Warehouse Management, EDI, and others? What do clients want to see and talk more about and how do they want to do it? This is the driving (and collaborative) force behind any agenda set for User Group.
As we move into the months before User Group, we begin to request new topic selections and ideas for discussion from our clients. The industry is an ever-changing beast at times and making sure that "hot" topics are on the agenda is one of the keys to a successful conference. We also solicit ideas for the format. For example, a majority of the clients going into this event requested less overview discussion in favor of more talk on development. The overwhelming request for this was something we listened to greatly. Sessions were more abundant but in smaller durations to get as many topics on the table as possible. It made for a grueling schedule for some IQMS employees but a more beneficial event for clients.
Once the event started the concept of collaboration really kicks into high gear. Clients network with other clients, IQMS employees mix and mingle with each other, clients and IQMS employees chat, it goes on and on..... The sessions themselves become a complete collaboration in the discussions and idea sharing. Just because a development idea is brought up doesn't make it an automatic "winner" that gets put into the next version. Rather, an idea gets brought up by Client A and Client B might see some advantage to this but if it also incorporated a little something extra. Still Client C or D might have more input. Soon one small idea can expand into something that a majority of people in the room would like but might not have thought about. Development via collaboration!
Other than the clients, IQMS employees also continue the theme of collaboration. While many of us are responsible for a particular area or division within the company, we all come together and work as a team. A good example is a session I took part in; the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) session I worked on with Training Manager, Shannon Holloway. As Marketing Director I live and breathe by CRM and I am in the module about 80% of my day. Shannon also uses CRM almost exclusively but on a different set of criteria. Together we are considered power users of the entire module. This became a great partnership because the areas where one of us might not know instinctively, the other has vast knowledge and useful experience. With this partnership in the CRM session, along with one of the programmers of the module, we were able to talk in detail about all ideas and get a better list of possible enhancements and solutions together.
As my recap of User Group 2010 comes to a conclusion, I hope those who attended were able to experience some of the collaborative efforts that made this event a success. For those who attended and will attend in the future, I hope you take time to offer up some comments or ideas when the opportunity arises. What were the best aspects and how can we further improve the next event? Collaboration starts with listening and our ears and minds are already open for the next time!