How User Groups Show Us the Way

In two of my previous blogs, I shared my thoughts on the networking and influence benefits gained from participating in software user groups. As I was thinking about this third and final part of the series, I happened to hear Styx’ song, “Show Me the Way.” It reminded me of the value user groups bring to their membership by giving companies an opportunity to share their successes (and failures) with their peers.

“Every day I’m more confused…”
Software user groups are a great way to meet IT and business users from other companies and to build your network. But sometimes, networking isn’t enough. Sometimes, you encounter a business problem and you can’t quite find the right solution. Surely another company has solved this problem.  But who? And how did they do it?

Other times, your company has solved a business problem so eloquently that you just have to tell someone. Your experience may benefit someone else. And, if you share your knowledge, your peers may just be willing to share something in return.

“Show me the way…”
Software user groups often provide a forum for this exchange in the form of an annual conference. These typically include education sessions grouped into tracks around specific topics as well as multiple opportunities for networking and community building.

For long established user groups, the first day of the conference takes on a class reunion-type atmosphere, as old acquaintances are renewed and new contacts are made. But quickly, everyone gets down to the business of sharing and learning.

“I wake up each morning and… find we’ve so far to go…”
While most of the stories have a happy ending, they don’t all start out that way.  Some companies tell stories of an awkward process or outdated systems that existed before their particular project.  And some tell of challenges they encountered as they worked to transform their business.  These experiences are rich content for those in the audience, and can help others avoid the same issues.  As the CIO of one small-sized company put it, “We can’t afford to make a five-figure mistake.”

“…wash my confusion away…”
But the happy ending is really what everyone wants to hear. Project management, decisions about scope and the detailed technical information are shared. Often, presentations are made with a partner, showing additional ways to gain business benefit.  And the solution provider will often take the opportunity to share a road map and talk about enhancements and new functionality that will benefit a specific industry or process area.

There’s plenty of time for Q&A, too, and often these discussions carry on past the end of the presentation time and spill into the hall where business cards are exchanged. Clearly, if you are willing to reach out, you are not alone.

“And if I feel the light, should I believe…”
Indeed, the sharing and learning takes place everywhere – on escalators, during lunch, and throughout the conference venue. It’s non-stop value if you’re up for it. And it doesn’t stop there. With the new relationships that are forged, you can walk away with contacts that will benefit you throughout the year.

I recently attended the annual conference for the user group I support, the Americas’ SAP Users Group, or ASUG. ASUG’s annual conference includes hundreds of education sessions in dozens of process and industry areas. In my role at SAP, I see the value that this exchange of information brings to our customers. The ideas and experience shared at this conference grow into solutions that help companies run better. But the education doesn’t end there. Throughout the year, ASUG and its special interest groups – like the group focusing on wholesale distribution – host Webcasts on industry-related topics to insure learning and sharing happens year-round. As an ASUG member, you can go to their website and join the wholesale community and dozens of other groups.

If your company depends on software to drive success, you need to find the education avenue offered by your user group. Show the way, or see the light – either way, you win.

To be inspired by Styx and Dennis DeYoung, click here.

Lynn Lupo is a solution manager with the Global Wholesale Distribution Business Unit at SAP.