Are you part of an active user community for your SPM software? If not, you should be. The benefits can be immense. Some of things you might gain include:

• a different perspective on software function ability
• an understanding of how other companies have addressed issues similar to those that you may be facing
• advice on upgrade and feature utilization timing
• recommendations for product and ancillary service providers
• insight on how others have approached contract negotiations with the vendor1

How do you find an appropriate group of fellow customers? Often software vendors will provide references at sales time and beyond including lists of potential groups. User conferences or industry trade shows are another opportunity to find software user groups with which to join or if necessary (and often with even better benefits) to form your own user groups (e.g. Callidus’ TrueConnection conferences, Varicent participatory events,Oracle Users Conferences 2009, WorldatWork’s Total Rewards Conference).

Why do consultants like us encourage user group participation? The answer is that we find we can better provide excellent services value to more knowledgeable customers and that these customers better recognize our value.

-Michael Stus

1 Careful here—contracts often forbid the disclosure of specific terms. ↑