We are deep into the 2020 Spring virtual events season and so far the experience has been highly variable. Some have been good, none have been spectacular, the majority have been so-so. IFS, with its MindFuel program, aspires to be different to the point of positioning its program in the following way:
This is not a conference or a virtual event. This is an industry-focused series that collides great minds and exciting ways to build the future.
As background, Jon Reed has plenty to say on virtual events, some of which is - how shall we say - acerbic. Your virtual events are legacy - and so are your webinars. Let's get crackin' is a case in point. With that in mind, I recently spoke with Darren Roos, CEO IFS. I wanted to discover three things:
- Why this format - which stretches over six weeks?
- How will the content differ from the expected fare of marketers accompanied by pre-programnmed guests?
- What is IFS learning now that holds promise for the future?
To my first point, Roos said that in recent discussions with customers coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, both he and his team saw interesting conversations about the way software components might be used rather than as they are used today.
It occurred to us that it would make sense to open up those discussions not with the intention of IFS professing to have all the answers but getting customers to explain what they're discovering as a way of stimulating thought. And if that leads to an engagement with IFS then great but if it doesn't then it doesn't matter. It's more about creating an interactive format.
That resonates with me because in working through the mechanics of a session that I will host involving Brian Sommer and Michael Ouissi, IFS Chief Customer Officer, we talked about the temptation in these types of event for like minded people to blindly agree with one another rather than developing a conversation where legitimate and alternative views are aired. This is important because as Roos and I talked further I asked if he is seeing differences across industries.
We've all seen that different industries are impacted in different ways, some better than others. But what is also clear is the commonality of entirely new problems in certain industries. That's had the effect of bringing what would otherwise be competitors together in an effort to find common solutions. It is this level of collaboration I'd like to foster and encourage. The surprise is that every CXO I've asked to come to present has said yes. You'd imagine people woud be too busy. I think they're just as keen to learn as they are to share. What we haven't done is guide them towards talking about us. That's not the point.
This is an interesting insight and I wonder the extent to which the levels of collaboration Roos sees will continue into the future. In this moment of crisis though, I wanted to know more about the industry approach.
You can see from what we have planned that we are highly focused on defense, manufacturing, energy utilities and telco, oil and gas and construction. Each is unique and we've built up teams of experts in those industries we can pair with customers. We don't go into any engagement without those people because that's how you deliver value. The days of ERP are done, industries need specific solutions. My hope is that customers will reflect that in the language they understand.
As to the future?
I agree with the view that anyone reckoning they know how this plays out is full of it. None of us knows for sure. What I can be certain of though is that we will return to the workplace but it will be in a very different way. We've seen the success of remote working and that challenges all of us to think about how we manage the inevitable changes that accompany these kinds of structural shift. What I'm interested in though is helping customers in the here and now but with sustainable benefits in mind.
As we closed out our conversation, I asked Roos how he views success for MindFuel:
I'd encourage people to come with an open mind, to bring their questions, but not assume that we have pat answers. We don't. If they come with the mindset of collaboration then answers will emerge so for me it's all about the continuing conversation.