Having recently returned from a succession of software vendor user groups I asked myself the question, “Are Users Groups a Good idea?” This question crept into my mind after attending user groups across the EMEA region and I wanted to reaffirm my belief that user groups are a fantastic way of gathering useful information from customers.
Here is why I came to conclusion that user groups are a great idea. First and foremost everyone benefits, the old saying that two heads are better than one really applies in this environment. It’s only the larger organizations that tend to have a large IT staff fulfilling various roles covering all aspects of the IT environment, well, what if you don’t have that peer network to fall back on? Most IT departments tend to have one person for the network, one for the systems and applications and one other for everything else. This common IT departmental set up lends itself to people seeking out the user group community.
User Groups provide a great opportunity to network with like-minded individuals and discuss common IT problem like configuration issues, pre and post deployment experiences or even just discussing your requirements for a new project. Asking peers in the industry “how did you handle this issue with your network?” can often save you months of research time and undoubtedly make your life easier.
What’s in it for the software vendor? Well, where better to learn about how your customers are using your products, good and bad? What do your customers love about your product? What problems are they experiencing? Are there any process issues that may not have received the right amount of focus internally? When it comes to items like bug fixing, often a KB can deal with a known issue which leaves the vendor thinking that problem has been dealt with. I’ve attended user groups where known issues have become the focus topic of the day, comments arose like “I had no idea that other people found this work around (bug !) as irritating as I did”. Another plus for software vendors is the way that user groups tend to evolve over time, as a user group matures from an environment of fixing issues and discussing how did you deal with this headache, they tend to become a great source for generating new ideas which can be rolled out as new features in future releases.
So, I hope you agree that user groups tend to be a win-win for all, once you crack the format and agenda and prevent it from becoming just another vendor event then user groups can be incredible rewarding for everyone.
So why aren’t we running more Solarwinds user groups in EMEA? Well, watch this space for more on that question!!