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Perspectives19: 20 Years in the Making

Well, it’s 2019 and another Perspectives is in the books.  But this wasn’t just another event, another year.  This year marked our 20th Perspectives.  While trying not to feel too old about this, I’m proud to say I have attended 18 of the past 20 events. […]

Ron Hovsepian discussing the future of work at Perspectives19

Well, it’s 2019 and another Perspectives is in the books.  But this wasn’t just another event, another year.  This year marked our 20th Perspectives.  While trying not to feel too old about this, I’m proud to say I have attended 18 of the past 20 events.

This year’s event saw many milestones: the 20th Anniversary, our opening keynote from our Executive Chairman, Ron Hovsepian, an articulation of our new strategy, and the introduction of innovative technology. As a Skillsoft and SumTotal event, we have truly moved to a point where customers and partners are an essential part of the strategy that influences our solutions.  It was great to connect with many other colleagues I’ve come to know over the years attending this event.

If you’ll indulge me, let’s take a brief step back to see the journey to today.  I can recall one of my first Perspectives events in New Orleans, right around the time of the SmartForce merger.  Elliott Masie was a keynote speaker and at the conclusion of his speech, he asked for any questions from the audience.  There was an awkward silence so I mustered up the nerve to ask the first question.  Can’t recall exactly what it was, but I can say it was rewarded with a free pass to his Tech Learn, now Learning, event.

Two of my most memorable Perspectives I attended as a customer occurred in 2005 and 2007, both at the Green Valley Ranch Resort in Henderson, Nevada.  In 2005, I arrived late to the event and was informed that the hotel was sold out.  Not to worry, I would be provided a suite for the night.  What followed was my introduction to a 3,000 sq. ft. suite with its own pool, and pool table!  You could say we had two customer evening events that year.  My other fond memory in 2007 and winning the “Skillsoft Learning Leader of the Year Award.”

Over the years Perspectives has seen many changes in location, attendance, management, and customer evening events.  Speaking with attendees at this year’s event, there was again that sense of nostalgia for the past 20 years, but also an excitement as we see the possibilities for the next 20.  The one thing that has been constant is the amazing networking and comradery of its attendees.  Not just for the product information, but also for the insight that an industry leader has on the broader landscape of training and development.

Customers have always had unprecedented access to the senior leadership of both companies to discuss their needs and identify ways to grow both product lines.  As a former customer and now employee, this has always been one of my favorite events to attend each year.  Even as a young manager, I was thrilled to have had substantial conversations with both the CEO and COO of Skillsoft.  I’m honored to say that both had a direct impact on my decision to become a part of this organization and consider them friends to this day.

It is evident that Perspectives has driven product development for both Skillsoft and SumTotal through feedback from the customer base.  Our industry has changed so much as the role of learning has taken on new significance with the development of skills as they related to career development and advancement.  Perspectives continues to be an event that brings together new professionals to the field with seasoned attendees who love to discuss the “art of the possible.”

Perspectives19: A Customer-Centric, Music-Filled Experience

Who doesn’t love company conferences, right? A three-day jam-packed event filled with networking, knowledge sharing, software updates, presentations, expert’s panels and karaoke. This year was my first-time attending Perspectives. It did not disappoint. With everything going on, I could have used another day. […]

Perspectives19: A Customer-Centric, Music-Filled Experience
Daniel Pink during his Perspective’s keynote

Who doesn’t love company conferences, right? A three-day jam-packed event filled with networking, knowledge sharing, software updates, presentations, expert’s panels and karaoke. This year was my first-time attending Perspectives. It did not disappoint. With everything going on, I could have used another day.

For me, the most valuable takeaways stemmed from the many one on one conversations I had with customers. Speaking directly to customers and absorbing their stories increased my knowledge not only from a software but also from an organizational perspective. What are they doing differently? How can I take their successes and share them with other clients? We don’t need to reinvent the wheel; we need to share our collective knowledge more often.

Here’s Anthony Barbone, Senior VP and GM, SumTotal Systems talking about our latest releases.

Perspectives also provided me with the unique opportunity to interact with the SumTotal leadership team. For those of us who work from home, it is often a struggle to connect with the senior executives at your organization and talking on the phone or doing a video chat can only accomplish so much. Having worked at other large organizations, I believed it would take a miracle to cross paths with the head of sales, an SVP or a Chief Operating Officer (COO). Not so at SumTotal. Over the three days in Orlando these folks were in my meetings, talking to our customers and just generally everywhere doing their best to reinforce the SumTotal brand. It felt really good to sit down with these leaders and get to know them on a personal level too.

In between meetings with clients and prospective customers, I attended several sessions. The keynote presentation from Daniel Pink sticks out in my mind. Everything he spoke about he backed with scientific fact, and I now know the ‘perfect time’ to do tasks throughout the day. It makes sense now why I’m the most productive between 6 am and noon and why later in the afternoon I start to lose steam. His book “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” is well worth the read!

On Tuesday, I attended Craig Weiss’s session, Battle Royale – LMS v LXP. Craig did a fantastic job of explaining the differences between a learning management system and a learning experience platform and how each is beneficial to organizations. Many companies think that they need one or the other when in reality, they should invest in both. These systems have some overlapping technology, but they are designed for two very different purposes. To learn more, read the blog by Apratim Purakayastha, our CTO, How to Determine the Best Learning Platform for Your Needs.

Later that day, I sat down with a few of our partners to learn more about their strategies. RapidLD, GP Strategies, Chasma and dominKnow are just a few companies with whom I spoke. I’ve had a handful of conversations with each over the past year, but meeting them in person is entirely different. Each partner brings something unique to the table. From implementation and consulting to dashboarding and content authoring, these partnerships are powerful for our customers. SumTotal is doing an incredible job of offering clients a partner ecosystem to help them execute on their strategies. Sometimes, our customers “don’t know what they don’t know” and it’s our job to help teach them.

A glimpse of the sights on City Walk, Universal, Orlando

Tuesday evening was a blast! We had three hours at City Walk in Orlando with food, drinks, entertainment, dancing, networking, and karaoke. In other words, the perfect setting for everyone to unwind after a long day full of presentations and discussions about talent development and learning strategies. It was also another excellent opportunity to meet more customers. Expanding my network and ‘reach’ is one of my passions so when possible I’d take out my phone and invite these people to connect with me on the LinkedIn. Why does the conversation have to stop at the conference? Maybe there is something I’ll share on LinkedIn over the next few years that will help them in their job. Who knows!

Day three brought even more fantastic sessions. I sat in on Learning Management: Latest Innovations & The Road Ahead with Jim Poisson of the product management team. Jim took the room through an update on what’s coming from SumTotal. As a sales director, Jim’s session brought me up to speed on the roadmap and what updates and enhancements to expect. Seeing our customers react and share feedback was incredibly exciting. Our customers help shape our product, so watching their eyes light up when they see that their suggestions are part of the solution is especially rewarding.

(Left-right) Su Joun, Stacey Gordon, Jennifer Brown and Heide Abelli

Fortunately, I was able to attend the final panel discussion on Enabling Diversity & Inclusion in the Modern Workplace Panel before catching my flight home. What a powerful conversation. Diversity and inclusion is an ever-evolving conversation in the workplace, and it’s great to be a part of an organization that is leading the charge.

You never know what to expect from a user conference. Some hit the nail on the head and some miss. For me, Perspectives hit the bullseye. More than 1,100 customers, partners and employees came together with one common goal — how do we attract, train, engage and retain our most significant asset! Organizations are not successful without their people.

Already, I am looking forward to 2020’s Perspectives event. If you need help convincing your company to let you go, reach out to your Customer Success Manager so they can help you establish a business case! I look forward to meeting all of you next year.