The annual Winshuttle User Group (WUG) conference has been the sole focus of my attention the last few days. After the inaugural event in New Orleans last year and follow-up events in London and Paris earlier this year, the WUG has grown exponentially into a sizable affair with more than 400 Winshuttle enthusiasts gathered to share experiences, attend customer presentations, participate in training classes and engage with the Winshuttle Partner Network.
The show was kicked off Monday with a keynote that included a solution demo by Winshuttle Co-Founder Vikram Chalana and a very inspirational talk by Harold Hambrose on software design and usability. Vikram’s demo showcased an expense claim process automated in SharePoint and fully integrated with SAP. It was a great example of all the Winshuttle products working nicely together to provide a complete, yet simple solution. In 15 minutes he demonstrated both the end user experience and gave an overview of how it was all put together. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this demo was the fact that the entire solution was built in under four hours on a flight from Seattle to Chicago.
Following the keynote, I attended a couple of customer presentations focused on the Central governance platform. Both sessions sparked some hectic debates between business users and IT representatives. Like any other business user-oriented software platform, such as Microsoft SharePoint or SAP Business Objects, the Winshuttle suite aims to empower the business without compromising IT governance requirements. It is a balancing act that sometimes can create some internal friction in organisations. However, consensus was that it is something that cannot be ignored and business units seeking more autonomy in solution development need to partner with IT every step of the way to ensure success. It is clear that business user tools must have good governance and control features to be relevant in an enterprise context.
At the end of the first day, I facilitated a panel discussion on master data governance. Again, all attendees were very open to share their experiences and some valuable lessons were passed on. Probably less than half of the companies represented had reached a maturity level where master data governance is centralised with an executive sponsorship. This is what everyone is striving for though and it is increasingly becoming an area of high priority.
Tuesday was all dedicated to training and overall the event was a massive success. Like other industry events, the WUG provides a perfect opportunity to collect feedback from customers and partners alike. And there is no doubt the customer-to-customer interaction was well appreciated by everyone. Large enterprises face many of the same challenges and taking out a few days to learn how other companies are dealing with these challenges is invaluable. And as a Product Manager, I have certainly come away with a long laundry list of first-hand customer feedback and ideas that will feed into both short term product improvements and long term roadmaps.