Cognos User Groups are quickly gaining a lot of interest from IBM customers around the globe. These groups provide users with the ability to learn, to connect and to share experiences. A few weeks ago, I had the honor to meet with one of North America’s largest Cognos User Groups – the ‘Groupe d’utilisateurs Cognos du Quebec‘. The president of this group, Steve Veilleux and I sat down for a quick interview.
Christoph: What is the purpose and mission of your Cognos user group?
Steve: The « Groupe d’utilisateurs Cognos du Quebec »has a clear mission. We primarily want to provide the Quebec BI community with networking opportunities around IBM Cognos technologies and BI concepts. We typically do that by organizing two full-day events per year (in Montreal and Quebec City). Our members help each other to gain new knowledge they can apply at work. We also share the latest news about IBM Cognos. Members frequently share case studies as well.
Christoph: Is this a new initiative or does this user group have a longer history?
Steve: I am proud to say that our Cognos user group has a long history in the IBM Cognos world. We were founded over 15 years ago! I personally joined the group in 2002 and have played the role of the president since 2007.
Christoph: How many members do you have and how do you communicate with each other?
Steve: We currently have around 450 people. Our meetings typically attract around 100 attendees. To communicate with each other, we established a group on LinkedIn. Members and non-members can also use our web site: www.gucquebec.org . We also publish a newsletter and share the results from our different meetings.
Christoph: Who participates in the user group?
Steve: We have a well-balanced mix of members. The majority are IBM Cognos customers or prospects from the business or the IT side. There are also consultants and some IBM employees.
Christoph: What are the benefits of being a member in a Cognos user group?
Steve: A user group is definitely very beneficial for its members. I personally see three main benefits:
- The ability to stay informed about IBM Cognos products
- The ability to networking with other business analytics professionals
- Privileged contact with IBM employees
Christoph: What is your relationship with IBM through the group?
Steve: We have a very close relationship with IBM. They actually sponsor us to a certain degree and provide us with resources for our meetings. We typically invite speakers to help us understand the latest news about the technology and services.
Christoph: There are some regions that do not have a user group. What advice would you have for IBM Cognos sponsors and users who are thinking about forming or joining a similar user group?
Steve: My clear advice: Start or join a Cognos user group! First of all, you need to find a few like-minded people. Once you have made up your mind, make sure to share responsibilities. A successful user group requires some time and effort. People need to provide some help with organising meetings, managing contact lists, finding and selecting presentation topics and speakers, reserving the facilities, etc.. Our “Groupe d’utilisateurs Cognos du Quebec” is managed by an executive committee for that purpose. Once the user group is up and running I recommend to take care of a few things:
- Listen to your user community. If possible, try to find conference topics they ask for (we frequently conduct a survey).
- Avoid consultant-only presentations. We strongly prefer customer presentations and we think this is one a the reason why our Cognos user group is so successful.
- Encourage your members to actively participate. It can be a challenge to find and convince customer “champions” to prepare materials and to present them. To encourage them we offer free registrations to our meetings and also offer them a gift for their effort.
- Work with IBM. We have had great IBM people present at our meetings. Exactly like you, Christoph!
- Charge a registration fee for your meetings. Not only does this help cover fixed expenses (room, audio/video, meals) but it also helps us get some prestigious speakers. We were able to attract influential experts like Wayne Eckerson, Shawn Rogers, Brett Knowles, Philippe Nieuwbourg, Naomi Robbins and some others. Interest in our events has significantly increased since we started bringing in these prestigious speakers (+40%).
- Try to have fun and share the good news! This is really important! Once you start having fun and people get value out of the community, word of mouth will bring in new members.
Christoph: Tell me about your career in Performance Management and Cognos
Steve: I started my career 17 years ago at Groupe Canam Inc.. Until 2000, I was involved in payroll, manufacturing and financials systems development. With all the knowledge I had gained on those systems at Canam Group Inc, I started a Data Warehouse project in 2000. And for the past 11 years I was thus responsible for the development of the BI environment. Can you believe it – I started with Cognos 6.6 back in 2000. I guess that makes me an “early adopter”. I have hands-on experience with almost all versions between Cognos 6.6 and IBM Cognos 10.1. During those years I also participated in Customer Reference and IBM Cognos Beta Programs. You can even find my profile on the IBM website. I recently decided to make a major change in my career by join Keyrus Canada as a Business Intelligence Consultant.
Christoph: Thanks much for your time, Steve!
You can connect with Steve directly via LinkedIn.