IT suppliers have been hosting annual conferences for their customers for many years. In the beginning, many of these user groups took place around a single table, where pioneering customers gathered with their IT supplier to ask technical questions about their new systems and to offer ideas.
Today, the trucking community as a whole owes a debt of gratitude to these suppliers and their customers. Their work together over the years has steadily expanded and enhanced the industry's toolbox of IT solutions. Just as importantly, they've helped fleets to understand how to make use of these tools to build more efficient and profitable businesses.
“Our first user group meeting about fourteen years ago took place in one room and lasted one day, but the reception was so enthusiastic that we were almost taken aback,” recalls Tom McLeod, president of McLeod Software. “The meeting has been growing ever since. While training is still a central activity, we've also expanded into topics well beyond our software, such as driver recruiting and strategic planning. Because our product touches every part of our customer's business, it seems appropriate that the conferences have evolved into business process meetings. We try to listen as much as we teach, though, to learn what the needs are for the next generation of products.”
At TMW Systems, Inc., user group meetings have also grown over more than 18 years to include not only training, but also presentations on industry issues and opportunities to network and trade ideas, according to Tom Weisz, company president and CEO. “I suppose it is fair to say that user group meetings have really been the only forum to discuss this type of technology in detail,” he observes. “TMW, I believe, was the first to host a modern-style user group, a three-day event with educational courses and a vendor forum. In fact, many of our attendees today consider our meeting to be a ‘trucking industry event’ rather than just a user group conference.”
“Maddocks has been hosting user group meetings since about 1988,” notes Neal Cranna, marketing manager for Maddocks Systems, Inc. “These days, we typically have more than 400 attendees representing about 130 fleets as well as many supplier partners. Our customers come to learn about new products and product updates and to share ideas with Maddocks and with one another.”
UPCOMING USER GROUP MEETINGS
Here is just a sampling of the user group meetings scheduled for the months ahead:
Maddocks Systems, Inc.: September 12-15, Whistler, B.C., Canada (www.maddockssystems.com)
McLeod Software: September 22-25 in Birmingham, AL (www.McLeodSoftware.com)
PeopleNet: August 17-19 in Chaska, MN (www.intouchavl.com)
TMT Software: October 16-21 in Raleigh, NC (www.tmtsoftware.com)
TMW Systems: November 7-10, Cleveland, OH (www.tmwsystems.com)
XATA: September 19-21 in Minneapolis, MN (www.xata.com)
As far as I know, there is no official trucking industry award for supplier/customer teams such as these who have helped to reinvent and reinvigorate the industry, over and over again. Perhaps there really should be.