Friday, 15 August 2014

The Conference Season

If you do the Twitter thing, follow me at @hotpixUK
or LinkedIn here

Well, summer is barely gone and the autumn housing IT conference ramps up. There is a good reason why system suppliers enjoy this timing, it gives ICT System Managers good time to squeeze all those super products into next April’s budgets. You may call me cynical, but that's a fact. With that aside, Autumn 2014 looks to be a great period to learn more about what's out there and what your system supplier has put in the latest upgrade.

Orchard, Capita and DRS housing conferences pop up shortly and then this years 'Federation’s IT in Housing Conference and Exhibition 2014' event, becomes a two location affair this year. Although surely that one will cost suppliers double to do both, it will certainly reach more RSLs in the North.

So, how to get the most from your suppliers conference, beyond the almost obligatory free bar? If you are lucky enough to for your supplier using a venue like Alton Towers (you know who you are), ensure you ask for a rides ticket.

Choose some interesting sessions, on areas you may get more from with your existing system. Sessions run by other customers or outside consultants are often the most useful. Expect sessions to be positive though. No supplier would organise a car crash in a session intentionally, so if the subject matter did interest you, do as I do and chat to the presenters after the session, to gauge a more balanced opinion. Suppliers have good stories to tell, but you may well be implementing it in a different situation to others.

Talking of others, conferences are great places for making links with your peers, neighbours and other users of your package. This can be invaluable in sharing insight and knowledge. I have also seen old users of mine at MIS-AMS use contacts to gang up, to push the priorities of new features or module fixes, as a group. You might find that useful to consider. Most suppliers are happy to take feedback on board like that, to push products forward.

I find supplier user conferences invaluable too. Being truly independent, I find all switched on suppliers are pleased to make me aware of their new biggest and best developments. It certainly helps inform me when working with the variety of system applications I work with on a regular basis. It’s obvious that some leading suppliers are developing their systems very rapidly and from their user conferences, seem to be fulfilling delivery promises and expectations.

The National Housing Federation’s IT in Housing Conference and Exhibition 2014 bash also comes with a free drinks event, although this has become more subdued in recent years. Hopefully Documotive will sponsor that again this time. The sheer choice of suppliers you can see at London Olympia and this year at Manchester Central, is a big draw for me. In the last few years I have taken customers wanting to procure around similar suppliers, to make structured soft market assessments. If you are looking to try something similar this year, please be in touch.
Last year’s conference seemed much more focussed on RSL IT experiences and less on supplier pitches, which I believe is the way to go. Satisfied customers often sell solutions better than suppliers sometimes sell software. I am sure you would agree. As again, don’t be afraid to engage speakers after the session if feasible.

If you are booked into the conference circuit this autumn, do let me know. It would be great to share some war stories and a coffee or a beer in the (free) bar(!).

Related Post - Learn To Fly, the Housing Technology Conference

Here are the most important / relevant ones:

Capita's Everything To Everyone 2014 -
DigitalFirst at Salford Quays 29th September
Housing Technology SMAC Your IT up at the BT Tower, London, 3rd October -  
Orchard Customer Conference 2014 - and My experience there
Optitime / Kirona DRS Conference - Chester -4,5th November -
The Federation’s IT in Housing Conference and Exhibition 2014 - London Olympia and Manchester

You can link with me on LinkedIn here - It would be great to connect !

Nitin Sawhney – The Conference.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

PS As usual, if there are subjects you might like me to tackle on this blog, please get in touch and let me know!

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