Having been in the Microsoft Dynamics world for more years than I care to admit, I have attended more than a few Partners Users Conferences in the past. My general experience is that they were noble attempts to sell products and services under the guise of a “workshop”. Attendees were usually newbies to the Dynamics world or were veteran clients harangued by the management of the conference promoter into attending and speaking about the merits of the partner. Presentations were usually the newest gizmo (read software) or trend (read changing software) to come down the pike and how we can (for only this amount of $$) provide the solution to the newest XXXXXXX. I am normally not a cynical or jaundiced IT professional; but my prior experience with Partner User Conferences is that they are not the most beneficial use of client’s time and partners resources.
Last May I was attending (and speaking) at our KTL User Conference, thinking jaundiced thoughts at 8:30 in the morning, but by mid-morning my understanding of Partner User Conference’s was being seriously challenged. Here is why:
1. As a member to the sales team at KTL, I realized that our team had little or no input or duties around the conference. This is a consultant driven conference, with one Senior GP Consultant (Colleen Williams) driving the content, theme and her fellow consultants to deliver relevant content to finance and IT professionals, and management providing the logistics. No sales pitch here, as a matter of fact, I found out at 8:30 that morning that attendees get six CEUs at the end of the day. A REAL learning experience for me that morning and for the attendees that day.
2. Looking at the Dynamics technology paths and upcoming Microsoft “Connected Customer” presentations are great. Because the KTL User Conference has been around for so many years and is so well attended, Microsoft makes a concerted effort to speak with our clients. Knowing how Microsoft is improving your technology while moving closer to making Office, the cloud, SharePoint, Lync and Dynamics all working together is a great story well presented by Microsoft. (Microsoft over the years has called it different terms, but pick your choice here, you most likely have heard these terms; “The Stack”, “Connected Customer”, “Information Worker Toolset”) You made the choice of Dynamics and you can see how well it is paying off.
3. The best reason for attending is the education, without a doubt. I was in the back of a finance track session around Advanced Excel; it was so good and Q&A so exciting that we ran out of time. The presenter gave out his company email for questions not answered; I have never seen a room of 90 people carefully and soundlessly writing down a presenters email. Great, relevant material presented well.
4. Most attendees told me they love the ecosystem of the ISVs, fellow users and consultants that allows for those intimate “give and take” conversations about best practices and tips and tricks. (although last year there was a formal “tips and tricks” session which was also well attended”) Speaking to fellow users in a casual environment helps stimulate the mind to better your own work environment.
5. The continual growth of the KTL Users Conference is a testament to all the above; with over 140 customers and over 200 attendees last year, it is by far the largest Partner User Conference in the United States. Most attendees stay for the full day and almost all return the next year. That sums up the value of attending.
In perspective, the KTL User Conference is about clients and that is the WHOLE idea. I am going this year, (May 16th) and I hope to see you there!