Big Ideas

Building Effective User Groups

The Oracle Applications Users Group benefits customers and business

By Patrick Gresham

December 2010

User groups are an extremely valuable part of a technology organization’s business. Made up of customers who test products and services in development, user groups provide actionable feedback that can save a business time and money. They can also provide added services to customers, such as product information repositories, online and offline discussion groups, and educational and professional development opportunities.

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The Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG) is a global organization that enhances the capabilities of real Oracle users in their day-to-day use and management of the growing family of Oracle Applications. Formed in 1990, the OAUG is one of the software industry’s most successful user groups and speaks with one voice for the family of Oracle Applications users. As a subset of the OAUG, the organization’s Customer Support Council focuses on all things related to Oracle Support Services. The council works directly with Oracle Support to review and test new support resources and procedures and to provide constructive feedback — all to help Oracle Support provide even more value to applications users.

As chair of the OAUG Customer Support Council, through my interactions with OAUG members and Oracle Support personnel, I have seen just how valuable this go-between entity has proven to be over the years, and have discovered three key functions user groups can perform to provide real value to users and the organization’s community at large.
  1. First, protect customers’ investments. The OAUG Customer Support Council was the catalyst behind Oracle’s decision to extend support value for customers. The council helped negotiate the one-year waiver of support fees for a number of product lines, including Oracle’s E-Business Suite (EBS) 11i, through 2011. For Oracle customers, this means they are able to receive continued support for current product releases while getting extra time and flexibility to prepare for significant product upgrades. In addition to providing testing opportunities and information on new products, user groups should make sure they are advocating for the preservation and extension of users’ current investments.
  2. Keep customers current with news and updates. Oracle entrusts the Customer Support Council with first-hand knowledge so it can gradually introduce users to new services and application features. Additionally, it addresses or redirects any member questions that arise after relaying this information, ensuring a firm connection between Oracle and the Oracle community. User groups should have the proper infrastructure necessary to provide customers with up-to-date information as soon as it is ready to be disseminated, through newsletters, online videos, and in-person lectures. This makes customers feel more valued and involved, and can increase customer loyalty.

  3. Keep the channel of communication and participation unlocked and unimpeded. Through its regular council calls and periodic joint meetings with the International Oracle Users Group Community (IOUC), the OAUG Customer Support Council exercises a voice that reflects the needs and interests of the larger Oracle community. User groups should create and maintain opportunities for open communication, such as executive speaker events, online discussion groups, local meet-ups, and feedback forums.

A user group that performs these three key functions will prove invaluable to both the business and customers. There are numerous benefits a successful customer support council brings to the user group, including a unified forum to voice direct concerns and feedback to Oracle regarding proposals and initiatives. The direct, two-way dialogue between Oracle and the user group strengthens the Oracle community of users and helps to further build upon Oracle’s proven credibility and reputation.

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