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Laissez les bons temps rouler! (Let the good times roll!)

The 2014 Advantage Users Group (AUG) was--despite the Midwestern winter-like temperatures--a success.  As has been the case at past AUG gatherings, the weather was once again a factor for many traveling to New Orleans. Despite that, most of the 75 registrants made it to the conference, including representatives from Egmont in Sweden.

Eric Fishman of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the outgoing AUG chairperson, opened the conference by welcoming one and all and then introduced the keynote speaker, Nancy Becker of UCG.

In spite of having her flight re-directed and then driving 5 hours to New Orleans from Houston the night before, Nancy delivered an enthusiastic address that began with a group participation activity to help break the ice and get communication flowing.   She asked the attendees to gather in small groups and find something that everyone in the group had in common, besides Advantage.   After a fair amount of discussion, common ground was found among all the groups.

Nancy’s presentation challenged the audience to look at their business through the lens of what is “In” and “Out” within the industry.  Many of the old standards such as data, functional silos, and multi-tasking are on their way out, and have been replaced by new ideals, business intelligence, cross functional teams and mindfulness.  Where does your business stand?

Attendees were treated to a preview of coming attractions via Dan Heffernan’s annual presentation of ACS News, Strategy and Direction and Dick Hile’s technology update.  This year, additionally, a look at the new Call Center functionality that has been added to MSTFST was demonstrated by Doug Moore.  Call Center further enhances the Advantage integration with telephony systems and expands the use scripting within MSTFST.  

The final view of the future was provided by John Sheehy’s presentation of Advantage’s latest development project.  This project, code-named Cider, will provide a brand new e-Commerce platform that integrates tightly into Advantage and will give marketers the ability to quickly create and deploy new promotions to the web. 

Advantage integration with SalesForce has been discussed at prior AUG events, and this year, participants got to see how some of their fellow users are working in this environment.  Eric Fishman and Suzanne Earley of Agora Publishing (API) presented how their organizations are using SalesForce and outlined their vision for the future.  Phil Montgomery presented Advantage’s integration approach using the Scribe Connector that can simplify the integration to SalesForce as well as other CRMs and external systems.

As is always the case, the user community delivered outstanding presentations, panel discussions and roundtable sessions.  With the transition to the .NET version of Advantage well under way, and publishers moving into the digital world, a number of the user presentations focused on .NET, and the Access, Management and Billing (AMB) module.  Thanks to all the presenters, panel participants and roundtable leaders.  Your contributions make this event a success. 

No AUG conference is complete without a chance to unwind a bit and have a little fun.  This year was no exception as Thursday night everyone was invited to Mardi Gras World to learn the history of Mardi Gras and see the effort, craftsmanship and artistic skills required to create a Mardi Gras float. See photo.

The dress code was significantly relaxed for this event, as demonstrated by Todd Ladson (Motor), Nikki Lorenz (Kalmbach), and Tim Swietek and Dennis Biswell (Ogden).

Once again, the AUG steering committee and the Advantage user community delivered an outstanding conference.  If you haven’t already, make plans to attend next year.  (Details to follow in upcoming newsletters.)

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