“Focus is key for success” says the German Cognos User Group

The German Cognos User Group

Last year, I posted an interview with Steve Veilleux, president of the Quebec Cognos User Group. This article has gotten a lot of attention. I therefore decided to reach out to another very successful user group: The German Cognos User Group. The three leaders of this organization volunteered for an interview. Please meet Kai Noack, Martin Otto and Erik Purwins.

Cognos User Group

Christoph: What is the purpose and mission of your Cognos User Group?

Kai Noack: Our group has a clear mission:

  • Provide a forum for IBM Cognos users to exchange knowledge and share experiences.
  • Provide deep expertise in all IBM Cognos related questions via newsletters and conferences.
  • Connect with IBM management to discuss trends and potential issues.

We cover all IBM Cognos products (BI, Performance Management, etc.).

Christoph: How many members do you have and how do you communicate with each other?

Martin Otto: Our group was founded back in 1998. Membership has grown membership rapidly. We currently have over 300 active members from over 100 different companies. The group targets German speaking associates: 95% come from Germany and the remaining 5% are spread between Austria and Switzerland. Our roster of associates features active Cognos users, administrators, project managers and consultants.

We have three main communication channels:

  • The website is our hub. It provides news, updates and other relevant information. There is also a discussion forum.
  • Frequent newsletters
  • Seminars and conferences are the ‘glue’ that hold our group together. We organize a bunch of those every year. They are very successful and provide us with the ability to develop long-lasting relationships.

Christoph: Do you have to pay to become a member? If yes, how much and how do you utilize the funds?

Erik Purwins: Our group is completely independent. IBM does not sponsor us. Anybody who is interested in IBM Cognos and Business Analytics can join our group. But we do charge for the membership. There are currently two types of memberships: Personal (100 EUR p.a.) and corporate (EUR 250 p.a.). The corporate model is very attractive as it allows up to 20 people from an organization to participate in our activities. The majority of our members have a corporate account.

The fees that we collect are used for several purposes: maintenance of our website, conferences and marketing. German law also requires us to utilize a professional accountant and external tax advisor.

Christoph: What are the benefits of being a member in the German Cognos user group?

Kai Noack: There are a number of benefits for our members:

  • Education – we have a big focus on knowledge sharing. Our members have diverse backgrounds and have a lot of accumulated knowledge.
  • Problem solving – our community allows us to jointly solve problems
  • Direct connection to IBM – we enjoy an excellent relationship with IBM. This allows us to voice concerns, share ideas and obtain critical information
  • Ability to detect trends – we frequently invite guest speakers and conduct polls
  • Fun – our members really enjoy being part of the group. We are all passionate about business analytics. Being surrounded by like-minded professionals is fun and rewarding.

We strongly believe that our group is contributing to the success of the different IBM Cognos implementations in the German speaking countries. As a matter of fact, members claim that being part of the group feels like having a professional consultant available 24/7. Our combined knowledge is that rich and deep.

Christoph: Tell me more about your conferences.

Martin Otto: We typically organize 4-6 conferences and workshops per year. Some of the meetings are more general, others focus on a specialized topic. Two years ago, we hosted an event about running Cognos on mainframes, for example. The events are actually open to non-members as well. We do believe we profit from having a larger circle participate. Non-members typically pay a surcharge for participating.

We usually invite at least one representative from IBM. This provides all members with the ability to have a direct connection to IBM. At the same time, IBM benefits from being able to connect with their loyal customers. It’s a win-win situation.

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?

Erik Purwins: There are certainly a lot of lessons.

  • We highly recommend defining a clear vision for the group. Our group is focused on technical topics, for example. Having that vision provides clarity and drives success. Members know what to expect when they join us. The majority of them either have a technical background or they enjoy discussing the technical topics.
  • Organize professional meetings. As mentioned earlier, they are the glue for our group. We do charge a small fee for all our meetings (in addition to the annual fee). That allows us to provide the best possible service (great locations, professional setup, etc..). Charging for attendance also acts as a filter for those people who are not passionate about the topic.
  • The conferences need to be focused and need to feature relevant content. Speakers are highly encouraged to focus on specific lessons-learned that benefit the attendees. Our members therefore have the ability to gain a tremendous amount of knowledge.
  • Edit your content. We actively discourage ‘sales and marketing’ type content. We learned our lesson early on when some people ‘hijacked’ a meeting to sell their services or software. Our group is not a market place for selling. Our members expect to learn something when they join our organization.

Christoph: Thanks much for your time!

You can find out more information about the German Cognos User Group on their homepage.

Joining a Cognos user group is key! – An interview with Steve Veilleux

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

Cognos user Group
Steve Veilleux

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.