My user group journey
I got involved in customer user groups when I started in the field of product management 15 years ago. At first, I attended user group meetings as a vendor, to hear what customers were saying about the products they used. Then, I started joining user group meetings as a user, to learn more about the products I used. Finally, I started volunteering with user groups, helping to organize meetings, finding speakers, and also speaking on topics I thought would benefit others.
But then, a few years back I stopped attending user group meetings entirely. What happened? Thinking back, one reason was my move to another company and another role. However, that doesn’t fully explain my absence from user groups as a product user. Considering this issue more critically, I realize that the Internet and Social Media had a lot to do with my absence. It was just too convenient for me to access the content I needed from online resources, such as a company’s website, discussion forums, and other online social groups created for users.
It was just around this time last year when I proverbially ‘pulled my head out of the sand.’ I organized the SAP Inside Track 2010 event in Vancouver, with the event theme of “Local action with global impact.” It was this focus on “local” (ie. activities, innovations and expertise) that really made me appreciate a different form of accessibility – one that trumps any that I have been able to find online. I’m talking about a most basic form of relationship-building that happens in person, where I can actually make eye contact and shake hands. I’ve obviously swung too far on the ‘engagement pendulum’ and need to include more people-to-people experiences in offline settings. Social media experts will tell you again and again that social media tools don’t replace the need for actual and personal engagements.
The Crystal Developers User Group meeting – August 26, 2011
Good news – I’m back in the user group scene! Last week, I hosted the Crystal Developer’s User Group of British Columbia meeting in SAP’s Vancouver office. There was a nice representation of Crystal Reports developers, IT administrators, independent consultants, plus support from many of SAP’s own developers, product managers, and technical support and services teams.
In the first session, Crystal Reports Product Manager, Jaclyn Churcher, gave the audience a glimpse of what was planned for Crystal Reports in BI4.1. Here’s just some of what is planned:
- new charts and improved navigation
- direct to data connectivity
- new “field-level” set data source location:
- supports mapping fields from one table to many, or the converse (fields from many tables, to one)
- placeholder formulas can be created where no destination field is available
- conversion formulas support the mapping of one type to another for some data types
Jaclyn also shared a snippet of her upcoming SAP TechEd session in Las Vegas (Session BI203) with the group – “Thinking about report design from the point of view of your report consumer.” In this part, she made the following important points:
- Appreciate the relationships between human cognition, data retention, and pattern finding and the visualizations and features available in Crystal Reports to support understanding, analysis, and retention.
- Leverage recognized understood concepts to optimize the benefit and response to the reports you create.
- Then show samples that demonstrate good and weak applications of these concepts.
You’ll have to attend her session at TechEd for the full download.
In the next session, Solution Manager, Saskia Battersby shared with the group what was new with Crystal Dashboard Design in BI4.0, and what was coming! I found Saskia’s recount of product name changes from Xcelsius to Dashboarding very interesting.
The final session was affectionately called “Stump the Geeks!” Vitaly Izmaylov and Raman Sharma were our in-house Crystal Reports and Dashboarding experts that took the hot-seats, and fielded questions from the group. Great job, guys! 7 out of 8 questions answered (in my count)!
“You won’t know if you don’t go” – Support your local SAP user group
People-to-people connections are so vital to businesses, governments and communities. If you’ve ever attended SAPPHIRE or SAP TechEd, you’ll know that nothing strengthen online connections more than an offline (face-to-face) encounter. Start by supporting your local SAP user group to learn from others in your area, or to share your experiences, because local connections is the best way to ensure your relationships stay strong. Then make sure to share what you’ve learned on SCN. Thanks!
Looking for SAP user groups in your area? Check out: http://www.sapusergroups.com/