Customer Conferences: Why They Matter


In our business, we attend dozens of customer conferences every year. With an arduous schedule that takes us from hearth and home, you would think we analysts would have become jaded or callous “seen one presentation, seen them all.” But no, quite to the contrary, these sessions are inspiring and invigorating.

That is why this short opinion piece should be read by every user and their managers.


Why Conferences Matter

Source: Image by ChainLink Research

Think of the effort involved in the supply chain function — time, cost, organizing/process work, and so on — to ‘get it right.’ The impact of poor forecasts is well understood by senior leadership. Companies depend on the supply chain team to improve customer service, reduce costs, support a greener profile for the firm and ensure high quality production. (Doesn’t that sound like a corporate goal statement?) With such an important mandate, the education, motivation, innovation, and effectiveness of the supply chain professional are of paramount importance to the firm. So why not invest a little in conference attendance?

Not incidentally, many of the companies who do send their people have a leadership position in their marketplace. For example, at the Logility Connections 2017 User Conference, I had lunch with a group from Spanx (who are Logility customers) whose company has been sending a team of professionals to conferences for years. Notice Spanx growth, lately?

In my day, on the customer side, I worked in my firm for more than nine years before I ever was ‘allowed’ to travel to a conference, due to cynical attitudes towards conferences (boondoggles) and misguided cost cutting (while senior managers still dined on steak dinners and handed out Monte Blanc pens). Once there, it was a revelation: what others were doing, how our field had modernized, and what we needed to do to achieve success. But that is another story.

Source: Image by Luis Quintero via Pexels

At a coffee break, I met some folks from Sensient1 (also a Logility customer) who had five people at the conference. They have been cutting inventory and improving customer service (no small feat for a chemical company) by improving forecast accuracy — a real challenge in an upstream business.

In the course of conducting our research, we have found that executives constantly cite talent acquisition and management as their top concern. That should mean also investing in their development. Which means that more senior people should also attend — another omission by many organizations. Instead of spending time attending tedious, redundant meetings discussing a problem, you could find the solution during a presentation at the conference. You can also meet other professionals who have grappled with the same issues and who have developed practical and innovative solutions.

The icing on the cake was a session I attended at Descartes Evolution2 where Hallmark Cards, American Hotel Register, Cabela’s and Buckle all talked about their transformative Transportation Management implementations. These were herculean efforts by these firms, such as successfully insourcing their logistics, implementing a new TM system to manage what was once managed by a third party; an implementation of a TMS in nine weeks; achieving significant cost improvements in logistics; and so on. The speakers provided lessons learned and advice to the audience who were planning a TM. It really shows attendees what’s possible, too. Want to know their secrets? You’ll just have to attend a user conference!3

One other critical factor of attending these conferences: Today, organizations are technology dependent; hence, the relationship between tech provider and firms is paramount. Knowing what their plans are, providing feedback and direction on those plans in collaboration with other customers, one would think is strategically essential.

In the brief, we cover the conferences because they are critical to the performance of the supply chain team and provide a learning experience you cannot get on your own from a software company. Our culture today embraces ‘support groups,’ action committees, social networks and so on across all domains of our society as a key linkage in problem solving and acquisition of knowledge.

So, if you are thinking about attending your conference — register and go. If you missed this year, commit and sign up early for next year’s.


1 You’ll hear more about the modern chemical company in a subsequent article. — Return to article text above
2 Descartes Evolution 2017 Global User and Partner Conference — Return to article text above
3 We will provide some observations and insights from Descartes Evolution in the next issue of the brief. — Return to article text above

To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.

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