Jim Croce and the Power of Influence

Jim Croce’s song “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim” tells a great story of influence.  Well, okay – maybe it’s more about strong arming, hustling and intimidation.  But when you capture someone’s attention, they are more likely to listen to your point of view.  And then you are in a positive position to influence and grow the relationship.

“Uptown got its hustlers, the bowery got its bums…”
While software users are certainly not bowery bums, they do wield some power when they join together to influence their software partners.  One way they do this is through organized user groups focused around the solution offerings from a specific vendor.  These groups build a strong partnership with the software provider, offering members the opportunity to shape current and future solutions.  What could be more powerful than customers joining together, pooling and prioritizing their feedback?

“You don’t tug on Superman’s cape…”
The unified voice of customers is a benefit to everyone.  User groups educate software providers about the challenges facing their industry, and, in many cases, offer solutions.  Smart vendors embrace these groups.  It’s an opportunity to look at software solutions through the customer’s eyes.  The recommendations from user groups can be used to develop enhancements and future functionality    that enable customers to run better.

Often user groups will have a formal process through which feedback can be gathered, reviewed and presented.  In this way, they can influence future solutions to insure they best fit their business.

Another way user groups influence solutions is by validating requirements and participating in usability testing.  User groups facilitate this process, and insure the valuable feedback is collected.  This focused feedback helps the vendor better understand how solutions will be used and whether they will meet the needs of customers.

“But I come to get my money back…”
Software providers can also benefit from a strong partnership with their user group.  By having an open and honest dialogue, knowledge is exchanged and relationships are built.  And every conversation with a customer is an opportunity to have a positive impact on their business.  To enable these conversations, software providers will often establish programs to collect, evaluate, and develop the ideas that come from their users.

“And you don’t mess around with…”
In my role at SAP, I work with the Americas’ SAP Users’ Group, or ASUG.  In addition to networking and education, the group provides several options for customer groups to provide their feedback.  Throughout the year, they organize both influence and usability activities in a variety of focus areas.   With dozens of special interest groups, there is good opportunity to gather a broad spectrum of views.

SAP also has a program through which customer user groups can submit recommendations for enhancement requests.  It’s another avenue for members to influence development.  For SAP, this is a strategic relationship through which we can help our customers run better.

So if you want to influence the development of your critical business software, reach out to your user group.  It’s a partnership from which everyone benefits.

And if you want to hear Jim Croce deliver this song, find it here.

This is the second of a three-part series on user groups.  Next up:  “Styx and How User Groups Show Us the Way.”