Building SOLABS’ User Community: Part II
SOLABS Community - 1 June 2016
Every year for the past several years, SOLABS has hosted a User Group Meeting (UGM), both as an educational and social gathering and for users to get the pulse of their industry peers and Quality in general. SOLABS’ Director of Sales and Marketing Ericka Moore sat down to speak with us recently about the 2016 edition of the UGM, and to share some of her thoughts about building software user communities. This is Part II of the discussion. Part I was published on May 18.
SOLABS: So: it’s hard to get people excited about software, but we seem to have done it this year?
Ericka Moore [EM]: I say this about software in general: people have a sort of love/hate relationship with software: it’s not like some sleek sexy sports car: an Austin Martin or a Ferrari, for example. It’s something we interface with and, hopefully, use productively every day! SOLABS QM may not even be the most-used software our users have, but they’re loyal to us, and we appreciate it a great deal! We exist in their work environment—and we help them out in managing their critical quality operations and, most of all, stay compliant with regulatory requirements. It’s incredibly satisfying for me when we talk to people and validate that the time we’ve spent learning their industries, walking their walk, talking their talk is bringing great value not only to their individual work, but also to the company as a whole.
At the end of the day, this community-building we’ve been investing time and resources in is for the clients. We’ve taken, as I’ve said, years to understand their milieus, their applicable legislations, etc., but finally, it’s they who are in the pharmaceutical, medical device, contract manufacturing, etc., companies–and we can only do our best to serve them from where we sit. Having a community that’s aggregating around knowledge-sharing, give and take, sharing tips and tricks, this is a best case scenario for us to improve on our product, services and practices, and something we’re working very hard to encourage. When our clients come together at the SOLABS QM UGM, we don’t feel they see themselves as competitors. It feels like they’re all peers, they have a lot in common in their daily lives, share many challenges and help each other find solutions.
"Look: they don’t have to love the software, but I want them to love us... I want them to love SOLABS. We make a big deal about service, and about contact and follow-up."
SOLABS: And in that sense, I guess you could say we provide the ‘middle space’ where they can meet and exchange ideas…
EM: We have industry experts, we have subject matter experts, but if we can interact with our user base and help them interact with each other, this is pretty well the apex of how things can move in the best possible direction for us. Not everything is perfect; I don’t want to paint a rose-gold picture here, of course we get service calls, feature requests, something is not working as they feel it should. Software is not a romance novel: it has to be functional, they have to tolerate it, they have to integrate and, most of all, adopt it. But this event is a time to meet with people and talk about their issues, help them find a path to highly-functional software in the context of their daily lives, and with the backdrop of compliance/regulatory.
SOLABS: It’s hard to get people to evangelize and have it come off as sincere if they don’t mean it…
EM: Look: they don’t have to love the software all day every day, but I want them to love us as people working, and shedding blood and tears to make our product, our services and our support the best of the best: I want them to love SOLABS, nothing less! We make a big deal about service, and about contact and follow-up; we’re bringing out a new Document Review feature in SOLABS QM 10.5 in the fall, and the amount of buzz we’re getting around this is unbelievable. At the end of the meeting, I was sitting at the dinner table with some of our users, and, maybe after a glass of wine or two, they were honestly saying things like, “I’ve been waiting for this feature forever, you have no idea, this will change the way we work drastically. This makes my daily document-routing so much easier and more collaborative.” I don’t really wonder why they’re excited about it, although it provides me with so much joy, because I’m well aware of the fact that our users spend, say, 48 weeks a year in their workplaces, and it makes sense: making something they have to do anyway more appealing, easier, faster, clearer? It’s obvious to me why people get excited about small, incremental improvements.
SOLABS’ User Group Meeting isn’t only serious business. It also provides industry peers with a laid-back networking opportunity.
SOLABS: And so now you just have the unenviable task of outdoing yourself next year…
EM: When we talk about a success like this, we take a lot of things for granted, and I need to go on the record with this now: we have a genuinely exceptional team, and it’s not all good luck and good recruiting. I need to profoundly thank these people, all of our team, and all of our clients, for putting their heads together. One of our clients who presented for us and who just signed for four new QM APPS, they use our software dedicatedly, and they were willing and happy to present in front of other clients—that is a true testimonial.
And they’ve done something which is truly inspirational—they’ve taken our Document and Training functionalities out of the box, and they’ve made some really clever customizations in the way they use it. Clever, like I mean you can tell someone sat down and put a lot of time and thought into this, thinking about how they were going to exploit this software in the good sense—make it work for them. They probably had 15 people go up to them after their presentation and ask for business cards, ask them if they’d be willing to share some of their experience and rationale, and what led them to this what is truly an innovative way of thinking about implementing things.
We do an awful lot of hard work to get where we are, and we never rest on our laurels—but I’m going on record as saying this was the best one yet, and it is my incredible bad luck [laughs], along with the support I get from my colleagues and our CEO Philippe, that have kept them getting better every year.
Read Part I of our interview with Ericka Moore.