User groups keep Global 100 vendors moving in the right direction

No vendor could generate enough revenues to qualify for the Manufacturing Business Technology Global 100 without a sizeable customer base, nor could they stay on the list very long without taking continual steps to keep those customers happy. This inherent need to maintain high customer satisfaction rates has caused many of the Global 100 vendors to adopt what at one time would have been consid...

07/01/2007


No vendor could generate enough revenues to qualify for the Manufacturing Business Technology Global 100 without a sizeable customer base, nor could they stay on the list very long without taking continual steps to keep those customers happy.

This inherent need to maintain high customer satisfaction rates has caused many of the Global 100 vendors to adopt what at one time would have been considered an unusual practice: collaborating with independent user groups.

These organizations represent a cross section of the companies using a particular vendor's products, and their independent status means they typically tell the vendor exactly what it takes to hold on to customers.

Among the most influential of these groups is the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG), which at one time was among the most vocal critics of the way Oracle treated customers. That relationship changed for the better after Oracle acquired PeopleSoft, which had just started a relationship with another feisty organization: the JD Edwards user group.

PeopleSoft had acquired JD Edwards a few months before Oracle purchased PeopleSoft.

As part of a corporate image makeover, Oracle opened the lines of communication between the company and its various user groups. It found the gesture profitable, as have many other vendors.

“Although developers of any product or solution only want to hear good things, an independent user group lets you work with an organization that uses and understands your product,” says Lori Webber, VP of marketing and communications for Dassault Systemes. Webber also is the company's liaison to the CATIA Operators Exchange (COE), the independent user group for Dassault's product life-cycle management suite.

“We hear the good, the bad, and the ugly, and it all helps us understand how our products are used and where they need improvement,” Webber says. “We take users' ideas and move them forward into new products and solutions.”

Often very much behind the scenes of COE are professionals from association management provider SmithBucklin Corp. Established in 1948, SmithBucklin partners with nonprofit organizations as well as some of the oldest and largest independent user groups in technology:

  • SHARE, an IBM group, since 1975;

  • The International Telecommunications User Group (ITUG), which represents users of Hewlett-Packard technology, since 1983;

  • The aforementioned IOUG, since 1993; and

  • America's SAP Users Group (ASUG), since 1994.

“We champion the independent user group model that establishes deep partnerships between users and vendors, as opposed to an advisory group that the company might create,” says Jim Luisi, VP of client management for Chicago-based SmithBucklin.

SmithBucklin personnel work by direction of the user group board of directors to facilitate event planning and management, membership registration, and training and education for end users. “Being in the business for decades, we're able to identify best practices so that groups can benefit from our experience,” says Luisi.





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