As a part time musician, I’ve seen firsthand some powerful messages in popular music. If you’ve ever heard Joe Cocker sing “With a Little Help from My Friends,” you know what I mean. Joe’s not messing around. He tells you, loud and strong, that when he’s in a rough spot or feels alone, he knows what to do – he calls a friend.
And I think that’s human nature. When we’re in a situation where we need advice or direction we reach out to someone who’s been there before and is willing to help.
“What would you do…”
Software user groups abound these days. Whatever solution you use for your profession, hobby or interest, you can find a group to join. Business software users in particular seem to band together to discuss the latest release, share successes, and solve problems.
Successful user groups foster an environment where members can network and share information. They have a membership model that includes users and partners to gain a broad view of experiences. And they provide a variety of networking channels like blogs, discussion forums, and face-to-face events. Members ask questions, solve problems, and offer their experience for the benefit of others. Through this type of interaction, it’s easy to build your peer network and extend your list of contacts.
In the best cases, user groups will have smaller, sub-groups for specific industries, business processes, or geographic regions. These special interest groups focus on the benefits and challenges that affect their unique segment.
“Lend me your ears…”
I recently talked with an executive from a mid-size distribution company who had a great user group story to tell. Two years ago while at a user group conference, he was talking with another CIO about a specific problem at his company. While chatting, the other guy suggested a solution that sounded pretty good. He went back to his company and configured a great solution. A year later, he was back at the same user conference sharing his experience. That’s the beauty of networking.
“I’ll get by with a little help…”
When user group members get together, the topics of interest reach beyond industry, company size, and the unique traits that give a company its competitive edge. For example, all distribution companies manage inventory, recover vendor costs and analyze their business. By learning from each other, user group members become more efficient at business basics so they can devote more time to what makes money for their company.
And the benefits of user groups extend beyond a specific software solution. I’ve listened time after time while experiences are shared – everything from “How did you do it?” to “What vendor did you use?” It’s always easier to hear directly from your peers what has worked and what went wrong. One of my user group contacts says, “Customers never lie to customers.”
“I’m gonna try with a little help…”
If you haven’t looked for a user group for your enterprise software, all you need is your favorite internet search tool. You’ll find groups for large software and hardware solutions as well as groups that focus on specialty or niche software. One large and successful group is the Americas’ SAP Users’ Group or ASUG. Created in 1991, ASUG is an independent organization of SAP software customer companies and solution providers. The group provides benefit to its members by working closely with SAP to deliver networking, influence, and education to its members. It also includes dozens of special interest groups focused on business processes or industries like wholesale distribution. Their annual conference held in the spring of each year is a rich networking experience, where relationships are strengthened and new friends are found. With a little investigating, you can find the group that’s right for you.
So the next time you’re facing a challenge or making a software decision, reach out to a user group friend who’s been there before. Who knows? It could be the start of a beautiful peer relationship.
This is the first in a 3 part series on user groups. Next up: “Jim Croce and the Power of Influence”
Lynn Lupo is a solution manager with the Global Wholesale Distribution Business Unit at SAP.