In our search to secure the best software database, we tend to seek just the right features to help achieve our mission. Right? We buy software so that we can increase efficiency, improve our ability to serve our members and donors, and gain measurable results. Surprisingly, support, documentation, culture, and community are far down on the list. In this article, I discuss the impact of a software users group in order to increase the happiness of users and their productivity.
The Impact of Software Users Group
Software Users Groups include people meeting and discussing how they use their software solution. Whether it’s a simple online forum or a large event where your surrounded by like minded individuals, you will derive measurable value in participating in the community of your software. The medium may be an in-person meet-up, conferences, training sessions and boot camps.
In my 20 years of experience in the software industry, I have seen the net benefit of software users groups on the entire community. Although anecdotal evidence, here is what I believe is the impact:
- Users are much happier and more engaged.
- Users use the tool more often and also get more value out of the product.
- Users become more efficient and produce higher value with using the software.
- Users have better expectations with regards to the software capabilities now and in the future.
Obtaining Support & Answers From The Software Users Group
It doesn’t matter what software you use. We all from time to time get frustrated, right! With access to a software users group, before picking up the phone and paying for tech support again, a software users group will provide you a third level of support to answer your question. At a bare minimum, an online community provided by a software vendor or independent users group can help you find an outlet to get situations resolved independently.
There is an interesting thing about online communities to note. You will find software users there but you may also enjoy the value of knowing that a software support team is also likely lurking to help answer your questions too. So, if you are having a tough time convincing your Executive Director to pay for membership to a software users group, tell him that one call or tip could save the organization several hundred dollars each year.
Professional Development & Education via The Software User Group
The software users groups mission is primarily to provide a means to be educated and develop your skills with the software. Like iron sharpens iron, so to do users sharpen themselves with training.
A larger convention form affords you one to one direct interaction with fellow software users from other organizations faced with similar challenges but provides access to industry experts to provide you with the training, education, and tips to save both you and your organization time and money.
Beyond the conference, many offer onsite training throughout the year. Higher Logic User Group (HUG) has frequent activities on a regional and national basis. Their group fosters and online and offline community to help users solve problems, network and improve productivity via training.
NiUG International, iMIS user’s group, hosts both workshops and conferences each year in various locations throughout the US, Australia, Canada, and Europe. The format for training usually includes a curriculum for learning in the form of in-person training classes, followed by the users conference which consists of several general breakout sessions on topical issues surrounding iMIS and related products which may be used by the community too. They have awards and after hour events for all to enjoy!
Informz,marketing automation software provider, has their own SuperFan Summit. They provide a two day educational forum for users. I was informed (pardon the pun) that this year, it will include three tracks on one session day — marketing, design, and tech — and a full day of hands-on training on day two.
From online, local, and conferences formats, professional development and education by users for users is critical to software success.
A Direct Voice to the Software Vendor
Make your voice heard! While performing a software assessment, I hear often, “I was told the software couldn’t do that”. I play devils advocate quite a bit in the software assessment process because I know that often times organizations desire to drop kick their existing system before they have all the facts. Participating in a software users group provides you with a direct line to the software vendor to know what is on the product road map but also affords you the opportunity to ask for a feature too.
Some software users groups have a formal Product Advisory Committee (PAC). This group usually has a great working relationship with software vendor. It is generally thru this type of relationship; participating members can impact and make changes and enhancements to their product- maximizing their investment.
Recent Experiences at Users Conferences
This past month, I was grateful to be invited to “Xperience 2016”, YourMembership’s Annual Users Conference in Florida. At this particular conference, attendees participated in multiple sessions on upcoming features and product road map announcements. The education sessions were great. Every session was packed and the questions were always applicable to almost everyone in attendance. I even overheard several folks say, “I wanted to go to that session, but I just didn’t have enough time”.
YourMembership’s company leaders were available for everyone to mingle with and talk to. So, every participant had a direct line of communication to the CEO and other Executives to voice their opinion on what was important to them. This is valuable access which will provide ongoing success for all parties participating in such a venue.
Earlier this year, I was also thankfully invited to attend the Abila Users conference in Austin. Abila’s conference was filled with complimentary software vendors who supported their product lines, training tracks for the various products, & general sessions comprised of company news and product road map announcements. At the end of the product road map session, Abila had a live “voting” for the top product enhancements expressed by the attendees along with a piece on “what items were completed” from last year.
Personally, I was pleased to go to Act-On Software, marketing automation software provider, “iHeartmarketing” users group. It gave me the opportunity to network and mingle with other Act-On users and success managers, so I could sharpen my own skills.
Super Tip, Community Collaboration Counts
Yes, the features and capabilities of the software are important in your software search. I understand. But, I believe with many others that there is more to a successful software match than just the features found on that comparison score sheet.
Looking for signs of commitment by the software vendor should be equally important in your search for a partner. It is so incredibly important to look at a vendors support, documentation, community & even involvement of the software users. In my opinion, a software users group (supported by a software vendor or independent) is good evidence of long term viability and continued maturation of a software database.
Super tip: Don’t overlook the power of a software users group!
For more information, please contact us. Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.