September 30, 2009

Forum Attendees Learn How to “eOptimize” in Tucson

Thanks to all sponsors, exhibitors, speakers and attendees for making the IDEA E-Biz Forum 2009 a productive and enlightening experience for all. IDEA’s president and CEO, Bob Gaylord, kicked off the event with an informative and educational keynote presentation highlighting the progress the electrical industry has made with eBusiness in the past year despite a tough economy. Gaylord coined the term “eOptimizing” as the desired end result of implementing strategies from the 2009 conference. Get the recap…

The Tech Center

The Forum began with the annual Tech Fair and Welcome Reception where attendees had the chance to get reacquainted with trading partners and learn about the latest technologies used to optimize business in the distribution community. The room was packed full of energy and excitement as sixteen exhibitors demonstrated their solutions and shared their expertise. Attendees met with the exhibitors to discover how B2B technology is evolving to increase efficiencies and reach a new generation professionals.

The General Sessions

Ron Schlader, VP, Operations and Quality, Crescent Electric Supply and current Chairman of the IDEA Board of Directors, introduced Bob Gaylord during the opening keynote presentation. Throughout his presentation, Gaylord highlighted the new and soon-to-be released products and services that are influenced by IDEA’s strategic implementation and customer feedback.

Gaylord demonstrated the new features of Industry Data Warehouse (IDW) including:

  1. A streamlined authorization process for manufacturers and distributors
  2. The new standardized Electrical Attribute Schema that will supplement IDW data
  3. The Utilities Work Station that will allow manufacturers to edit and add product data directly in IDW (to be released to customers at the end of October).

He highlighted other new services in development such as web forms, the IDEA Customer Portal 2.0 (to be released October 5) and a Net Price assistance program. IDEA’s new tools and services were expanded upon and discussed in various break-out sessions led by IDEA staff (see “Break-out Sessions”).

As a former White House advisor and Harvard Professor, the first keynote speaker, Todd Buchholz, entertained the audience with an educational and animated account of the economy past and present. He used history to explain how our industry can take advantage of the present market condition to grow business, quoting education as the most important factor. Take away tip: It’s just as important to read the trade publications of your customers as it is to read the ones that impact your business directly.

The Data Sync Panel consisted of Peter Vient, OSRAM SYLVANIA; Dan Wilkinson, 1SYNC and Ron Schlader, Crescent Electric Supply. Wilkinson educated the audience on the big players of global data synchronization including GS1, the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) and 1SYNC. Although only one person raised their hand when he asked who is involved in GDSN, he explained how everyone who sells product is involved in some way or another. Each panelist expressed their opinion on the difference between data synchronization and data accuracy – all panelists agreed that synchronization is meaningless without accuracy and that you must have both to succeed. Vient and Schlader took the crowd on a journey through their data endeavors and advocated the benefit of synchronization for their business. Wilkinson gave attendees a glance into the future when he discussed the “green” attributes and scorecards that are in development by GS1.

Ray Bender followed the Data Sync Panel with a fitting topic on how to create lasting change in an organization. Bender kept the crowd engaged with his interactive performance. Some key strategies he explored to build a commitment to change include:

  • Allow room for participation in the planning stage
  • Leave choices within the overall decision to change
  • Provide a clear picture of the change
  • Share information about change plans to the fullest extent
  • Divide big changes into more manageable steps
  • Minimize surprises – give advanced warning

Marilyn Sherman closed the Forum on an upbeat and inspirational note. She encouraged attendees to always take a front row seat in life by following her seven proven strategies: Act on your vision, invest in personal and professional development, be appreciative of your seat, be of service, don’t be cocky, be persistent and be gutsy.

The Break-out Sessions

Between meals, business meetings and General Sessions, the attendees had a chance to learn and interact on a more personal level with special-interest educational sessions. IDEA staff presented multiple “user-inspired” sessions throughout the event with the most popular being the Standards session. In this session the Standards Director, Mary Shaw, explained how the industry can utilize the latest industry standards, specifically the newly released Electrical Attribute Schema and Net Price solutions to sell more and make better buying decisions. Shaw educated the audience on the importance and benefits of product attributes which was demonstrated with two unmarked water bottles. She went on to explain that without proper product descriptors/attributes, you have no way of knowing which one is water and which one was vodka distilled in an unsanitary country. Following the overview, she released the Electrical Industry Attribute Schema for the first time (stay tuned for a public release). An emphasis was placed on the call to action for manufacturers: they must assign a minimum of class level UNSPSCs in IDW before the December 31st deadline and UNSPSCs must be populated to utilize the schema.

The IDEA new services training presented by Nick Manzo, Director, Business Development and Integration, described the methodology that is used to determine new products and services for the industry and demonstrated the soon-to-be released web forms solution. The IDW and IDX user groups were also popular with attendees. IDEA staff gave customers an opportunity to learn about new features, tips and tricks that can improve efficiencies. The IDW user group trained attendees on new features such as the streamlined authorization process, source flags, attributed data fields, tooltips and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) flag.

A particular session from our executive series identified ways to become a “green” organization. Bill Bean, Green Planning & Coaching and Denise Keating, DATAgility provided practical steps to get started. Keating brought everyone up to speed with how green products are being marketed in the electrical industry and provided strategies and tactics companies in our industry are using to become more “green”. Government and private resources were provided for attendees to continue their education after the event.

Matt Hartman, Tour de Force, gave attendees best practices on adopting a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Sales Force Automation (SFA) solution. He detailed how a good CRM/SFA solution can alleviate any problems that have hindered proper tracking of sales calls in the past. It can provide an efficient means to manage inventory, orders, quotes, receivables and payables. Most importantly it enables critical customer communication and collaboration.

Overall, attendees were engaged and excited about the future of IDEA and the new technologies and services that can optimize their business and provide results for increased profitability. The Forum survey will be sent very soon. Stay tuned for presentations and pictures from the event. We look forward to the IDEA E-Biz Forum 2010 to be held September 13-15!

Read the Electrical Marketing Forum review – “IDEA E-Biz Forum Report from Tucson”.