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The latest from UKISUG Director Alan Bowling, ahead of UKISUG Connect 2019.

Taking time away from the day to day job is always a challenge. But not doing so is the beginning of a treacherous downhill slope, especially when the time away is for education, improvement and innovation. But it is much more than just that – it’s an amazing networking opportunity to get first-hand experiential knowledge of the challenges facing your peers and your own organisation.

As a CIO, it was my job not just to run the IT aspects of the organisation, but also to advise the organisation of the opportunities that SAP could bring to the table to deliver improvements and innovation in our ways of working. I could of course go to SAP SAPPHIRE NOW (which I did), but that is heavily choreographed from a selling point of view, and I always wanted some reality to come into the equation. I find CONNECT to be a major source of normalised information relating to the challenges, practicality, and benefits of SAP.

CONNECT is big enough to have what I need whilst at the same time being personal enough to get close to the issues (especially any UK and Ireland related ones). It also has executive forums that bring together IT leaders with senior SAP execs for close up and personal discussions. But there is also opportunity to talk with other IT leaders without SAP being there, for those frank exchanges that are so helpful. Ultimately, CONNECT has always enabled me to advise my organisations with confidence.

Making the most of the conference

I mentioned getting my staff to go. You would think that giving people the opportunity to attend a user conference event would be easy, wouldn’t you? Well it should be…..and to make that happen you have to get staff to realise that the world doesn’t stop back in the workplace simply because they aren’t there, and that being away on a conference is not a “jolly”. It is part of people’s career development and I’m really pleased that UKISUG is now a CPD recognised organisation and that attendance counts towards any CPD plan, which all organisations should insist their staff have.

Good planning helps as well, and I have taken advantage of the bundled membership offers that link CONNECT places to the UKISUG membership, meaning that people would be assigned attendance at the event early on. But I also insisted that staff report back on their attendance and share with those unlucky ones who couldn’t attend a particular year. The positive noises back from attendees helped increase attendance and demand, but also amplified the worth within my organisation.

Value is important at these events and I would put this one at the top in terms of value created. In the past, the conference has brought together organisations doing the same thing but in different sectors, so there are no competition complications. This has meant that information sharing has been immense, generating visits between organisations where two-way sharing has taken place – there have also been occasions where code has been shared! You can soon build a network of contacts and organisations who will willingly answer your call when you have a query or challenge, demonstrating the value of a strong user community.

In my time as a CIO I also noted how these events helped my staff grow. Candidly, some may see this as a threat to staff retention, but if you do you are missing the point. I found that staff who saw you were interested in their future were unlikely to move and they enjoyed their job, going the extra mile when you desperately needed it. So, we treated CONNECT as a reward to staff to recognise their growth and delivery during the year, and to affirm our trust in them for the future.

I started this post by saying it’s time to consider attending and I hope the above goes a long way to convincing you it is essential to attend. Don’t miss out!

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