MISSION VIEJO, CA — Scientists can’t actually agree on when mankind first discovered fire. Some think as recently as 100,000 years ago, but others claim evidence of campfires as old as 1.6 million years by carbon-dating them. In any case, whenever fire was discovered, everyone is in agreement that the first thing needed was a users’ group to share knowledge and techniques about this new, mysterious technology. Cavemen and their cavewomen traveled far and wide to assemble and discuss fire and trade new ideas and stories about its benefits. Can’t you just imagine the program agenda for that first Users’ Group? Probably workshops with titles like “Cooked Meat: A Whole New Paradigm” and “Heating Your Cave: Why a Chimney is a Good Idea” and “Stay Awake after Dark with a New Source of Light.”
Fire…it was a hot topic.
Fast forward many eons to the present and users’ groups are still a dynamic, viable method of knowledge sharing. The topics concerning sophisticated technologies may be more complicated, but the concept is the same. Change for the better is inevitable in our industry and mastering the technology that propels it can ultimately separate the victors from the also-rans.
Users’ Groups are usually fairly informal organizations, created by people interested in sharing and obtaining real-life information about technology and what they can accomplish with its help. Users’ Groups may be about the technology, but they are also about the networked business relationships that result. The benefits include assistance to members — whether beginners or experts — with technical issues, candid advice on business processes, the opportunity to gain knowledge, provide feedback, exchange ideas and share experiences. Many groups offer classes, one-on-one support, regularly scheduled meetings, informative newsletters, member discounts, special interest groups and of course, the inevitable camaraderie.
Some users’ groups are less beneficial than others, mainly because members feel disenfranchised if they don’t have a voice in the direction the group takes to best serve their needs. That can happen when a technology supplier, rather than the members of the group, manages the direction and agenda. For that reason, DST has championed a truly client-driven users’ group, composed of customers as the directors making the important decisions, while DST takes on the roles of guide and coach. The DST Users’ Group is unique in the automotive and business technology-based industries in that it is truly a user-driven nationwide association. Users democratically make final decisions on everything regarding conferences, including agenda topics, dates, locations, fees and discounted fees for additional attendees from the same company. Owners and managers of firms using DSTWare are encouraged to actively participate because the users’ group focuses on achieving significantly improved business results. The DST Users’ Group is not directed by DST management, and the conferences are not sales meetings, but rather forums for sharing best practices, challenges, opportunities and solutions.
The recent Spring DST Users’ Group Conference focused on common goals of DSTWare users, networking, training, product direction and best practices, as well as breakout discussion groups. Topics included warehouse management, bar coding, replenishment, querying, creative extracting and reporting ideas, cataloging, sales management and Internet-based parts ordering.
Floyd Beadle, DST’s vice president of business development said, “In the same manner in which we partner with our clients, we are stakeholders and advocates of the DST Users’ Group. While offering guidance and administrative assistance, we have championed the concept of providing them with the authority to create and manage their own organization as a forum for sharing knowledge, providing education, establishing communication and networking among their peers. We applaud the time, leadership, dedication, vision and continued commitment of the dedicated Users’ Group directors and members.”
Your technology partner should include a functioning users’ group as part of its product and service offering. If your partner doesn’t, get proactive about insisting upon the formation of one. Formats of Users’ Groups can vary widely, depending on corporate culture and personality. Some feature both users and suppliers as presenters, as well as guest experts from the technology industry. Most meetings include time for question-and-answer sessions as well as some social and networking activities. You can usually ask any question imaginable about the use of your system, easy or difficult, and get immediate feedback from a knowledgeable fellow user. Many meetings feature a raffle or other giveaways to reward participation or especially innovative knowledge sharing.
Joining and becoming active in the users’ group provides you full access to all the benefits a group offers. Though membership offerings and associated fees vary from group to group, you can look for a newsletter, personalized support, regular meetings and a welcoming atmosphere. You’ll feel connected. Even if you don’t attend regular meetings, many Users’ Groups offer a variety of non-meeting resources which you’ll find beneficial. Top notch publications, specialized technical help, email discussion lists and/or online message boards are examples of these resources. Joining or forming your own online users’ group is another option if you are unable to take advantage of meetings.
The next time you strike a match, remember that knowledge sharing at those first users’ groups brought mankind out of the dark.
We continue to love to get your responses to our weekly questions, hearing your thoughts on the topics that we post, suggestions for additional questions and anything you’d like to share. Send us an email at: [email protected] or give us a shout at 1.800.700.4DST.
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“DST Asks” is written and sponsored by DST Inc. The opinions expressed in “DST Asks” articles appearing on aftermarketNews.com do not necessarily reflect the opinions of AMN or Babcox Publications.