Fifty people descended on the New Maison Dupuy Hotel in the French Quarter of New Orleans January 13 - 15 for the annual Advantage User Group meeting. The 41 clients representing 23 different companies were joined by 9 representatives from ACS.
Although the conference officially opened on Wednesday night, three discussion sessions were planned for Wednesday afternoon for early arrivals and almost everyone attended them. Attendees had their choice of "XML ICEDIS Standards for Academic Publishers," led by Andy Wright of Oxford University Press, assisted by Dan Heffernan of ACS, or "Implementing Marketing Strategies in Advantage," led by Nikki Lorenz of Kalmbach, aided by Phil Montgomery of ACS. Much meaningful discussion took place during these highly interactive sessions. They were followed by an ACS-led AMB and BI module update/forum led by Dan Heffernan and Phil Montgomery. They were able to report on the latest additions to these popular modules.
The meeting officially opened with a vendor-sponsored meet-and-greet reception Wednesday evening. Representatives from two vendors, Jim Jankowski from Ladd & Associates and brothers George and Richard Coriaty of Sir Speedy, attended the conference. (Ladd is a circulation modeling software provider and Sir Speedy is a print-on-demand operation.) After the reception, many attendees headed down Bourbon Street to be amazed at the eclectic mix of elegant restaurants, famous music halls and the other, more low-brow establishments.
On Thursday morning, after a welcome and introductions by Andy Wright, the outgoing AUG chairman, Kevin Carr, president of Motor Information Systems, delivered an informative and entertaining keynote address. His talk was entitled, Change or Perish, and was a captivating case study of the Encyclopedia Britannica's rise to prominence over the course of the 20th century only to be followed by a rapid and nearly-complete collapse in the late 1990's and early 2000's. Carr's main point was that, due to a number of factors, EB did not adequately prepare for the technological changes that were making their way into the industry in the early 1990's. By the time they realized what was happening, it was too late. Their short-sighted refusal to acknowledge the realities of the changing marketplace led to their inevitable demise. Kevin cautioned the attendees to make sure they don't make that same mistake.
Rounding out the program on Thursday morning was a vendor presentation on circulation modeling by Ladd & Associates and Kristie Fischer of Kalmbach Publishing. Kristie, a user of the Ladd modeling software, explained how Kalmbach uses this application effectively by using data from Advantage to project a number of scenarios ranging from how many magazines to produce for a particular issue to how much revenue could be expected from a change in approach to renewals efforts. Jim Jankowski of Ladd Associates then demonstrated how to set up and use the Ladd application.
The food at the New Maison Dupuy hotel was superb and Thursday's lunch was no exception. Yum, yum!
Dan Heffernan, ACS VP of Product Direction, had the dreaded after-lunch time slot and tried to keep everyone awake with a colorful presentation of the latest ACS news, including current initiatives and the importance of keeping in touch with customers in order for ACS to provide real software for real life – at least in the publishing/information content business. He succeeded in holding the attention of the entire group and gave them much to think about.
Brandon Marsh of Penton Media then led a session in which he reviewed the results of a survey done prior to the conference in which people were asked to identify and rate the interfaces that they use. The list included credit card, address cleansing, manifest shipping and other interfaces. Attendees found this information helpful and ACS will be putting this on its website for ongoing reference.
Brandon's short presentation was then followed by roundtable discussions on several of those interfaces. Participants found this exchange with one another engaging.
The day concluded with an AUG business meeting in which Kevin Quinn of Wolters Kluwer Health was tapped as chair for the next term. Although some in the audience suspected that he was bribed, others responded that "it's about time." Also coming on board were Sue Sherrill of the AMA, and Ricky Land of National Auto Research.
Dinner Thursday evening was aboard a paddleboat on the Mississippi River. It was a little on the chilly side, but the lights of New Orleans from the water were breathtaking.
Starting off the Friday activities was a presentation of Advantage New Features, given by Mona Hidayet. The reps from Speedy Printing then gave a presentation on Print-on-Demand, and after that, the group broke up into small groups to attend the first of two hour-long roundtable discussions. Topics included Packages/combo orders, Print-on-demand, Promoting for Renewals, and Duplicate Consolidation. These roundtable discussions have become an important event at the conference, since everyone gets a chance to talk and all find something helpful to take away with them.
After a short break, the roundtables were repeated and attendees were able to attend a second discussion of their choice. The conference ended shortly after noon on Friday.
According to a survey performed after the conference, everyone who attended was either satisfied or highly satisfied. There was a tangible comfortable spirit at the conference, which even the new attendees felt. If you missed it this year, make plans now to attend in 2011.