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Tales from Texas; 2020 Advantage Users Group in Austin

Fifty attendees from 17 Advantage client companies gathered recently at the Omni Hotel in downtown Austin, Texas for the 2020 Advantage Users Group conference. The weather cooperated nicely, with no rain and several warm and sunny days.

Kevin Gervais (Massachusetts Medical Society), current Steering Committee Chair, welcomed everyone to the conference on Wednesday afternoon and set a positive tone for the meeting.

Dan Heffernan (Vice President & Chief Product Manager at AdvantageCS) kicked off the presentation parade with his customary AdvantageCS News, Strategy, and Direction presentation. To recognize the 40th anniversary of AdvantageCS this year, he took a look back at 1980, including showing photos from that period of each of the 10 AdvantageCS people in attendance. He followed that with overviews of AdvantageCS product and innovation milestones over the years and then a report of client and project activity over the past year. As usual, he wrapped up with a look at what is planned for the next year and few years to come, both on the business and technology sides of the software.

Doug Moore (Director of Program Services at AdvantageCS) then announced the second Advantage Academy---three days of classes and a hands-on workshop slated for October 13-15, 2020.

Next came a presentation by Mather Economics on “Benchmarks and Best Practices in Digital Subscriber Pricing and Churn.” Mather also sponsored the meet and greet reception on Wednesday evening.

The last session of the day was an open forum on customer retention with attendees sharing methods for retaining subscribers.

Thursday began with the keynote address by Allison Belan (Duke University Press) titled: “Aligned and Allied: Managing Systems within a Strategic Framework” and was followed by a lively Q&A session.

Then Felicia Muse (Agora/14 West) led an interactive session with all attendees on “Optimizing and Scripting Your View of Advantage” which involved lots of sharing how various clients use Advantage.

John Sheehy (Chief Solutions Architect at AdvantageCS) gave a report on new features coming soon to Advantage which included a breakdown of development in 2019, including modification and documentation team activities. (Speaking of documentation, of the 9,244 pages in online help, 1,261 were updated and 107 new pages were added in 2019.)

After a fabulous buffet lunch of Tex-Mex delights including chicken and beef fajitas with all the popular options, the afternoon got underway with Tara Rebak (Newsmax Media) presenting on “Designing Your Advantage Interface (Ribbons and Views).”

A panel discussion on upgrades/updates/automated testing followed, with 5 participants: Tricia Koning (InterVarsity Press) Moderator, Felicia Muse, Caryn Bair (Informa), Ricky Land (National Auto Research) and John Moore (AdvantageCS).

During the break, everyone enjoyed a cake in honor of Ken “Nemo” Nemerovski (Senior Account Manager at AdvantageCS), who is retiring from AdvantageCS after 37 fun-filled years. (Congratulations, Nemo!)

The afternoon continued with John Sheehy presenting “Cider: Promotions and Landing Pages” and wrapped up with roundtables on Tax Software Interfaces, Recurring Payments and the VISA Mandate.

Much of the group chose to attend the evening’s entertainment option---Esther’s Follies, a local comedy troupe performing sketch comedy, political satire and magic. The laughter was loud and frequent.

On Friday, Matt Varblow (Vice President of Engineering Services at AdvantageCS) gave the AdvantageCS Technology Update, which was followed by roundtables on Telephony, the Select Set Builder, Workflow Events and Operational Efficiency. The official conference then wrapped up with a pizza lunch. However, attendees could choose to stay for the Friday afternoon session “Ask Advantage,” offering an opportunity for them to ask specific questions and receive on-the-spot training, consulting, and problem-solving.

That was it until next year!

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