Well, the 2015 DOCUMENT Strategy Forum has come and gone, and it’s time to reflect on what we heard and learned from the conference. The overall reviews from our participants showed a significant uptick in satisfaction over the prior year. This was validation that our approach resonated, and we hit a nerve. What were we trying to do, and what was it—besides the dinner cruise around Manhattan—that you all found value in? This is my attempt to correlate the goals of our advisory board and the subsequent results, which we will closely examine for putting together our next conference.

The industry is changing, and we are trying to figure out where it’s going. I know I can hear you all now saying—DUH! Change is everywhere, across industries, geography and technology. So, what was so special about acknowledging that fact? I think people were happy to hear that we are all in the same boat, and nobody has the problem solved. Misery loves company and so do document management professionals in highly regulated industries. We received a fair amount of feedback saying that the audience derived good knowledge from listening to real-world challenges and solutions.

We also had positive feedback on vendor participation from show participants and vendors alike. Vendors, who are given complimentary access to the moderated session discussions, told us it was very valuable to hear people's challenges in a relaxed environment. One vendor said it would take a few sales calls to hear what they obtained in 50 minutes. Participants as well liked having vendors provide input in a “non-selling mode” as it brought a wealth of experience to the table.

A third element to our successful formula was the popularity of the power panels. (Full disclosure, I was on the panel. Unfortunately, I cannot recuse myself and still write this article, so forgive me if this comes across self-serving). We had a cross-section of business, technology and industry to discuss selected topics—capture, paperless processing, life cycle management and outsourcing, to name a few. The overwhelming opinion was positive and that you wanted more. I highlight this because I feel this aspect was what set the conference apart from other trade shows. We thought of it as almost a product-agnostic user forum. Where applicable, we did highlight vendors that helped us, but it wasn't a vendor pitch. It was more about process, multi-vendor integration and how to best leverage a set of diminishing resources as effectively as possible. That was the sweet spot, because it’s the reality of what you all face every day. This includes pressure to deliver, diminishing resources and an evolving technology palette from which to deliver from.

Next year, we’re looking to tackle the behemoth that’s digital transformation. That’s a really broad topic so there should be some really interesting breakouts. I can say I have been researching along these lines, and I see so much that can be learned, such as the intersection of customer experience, marketing and new tools, like social channels. If you are like me and were initially skeptical on how this stuff applies, well, fasten your seatbelts. Some of the stuff that’s going on will be eye-opening. Our job will be to bring it all together and present it to you in a meaningful way. We also want your input because our exit surveys showed that there is more information that you want. We plan on looking to you for guidance on topics, as we want this to be as relevant as possible.

On a personal note, I really enjoyed the conference and interacting with all the attendees. I felt the atmosphere was very collegial and that everybody was truly interested in helping solve the problems we all face. That's a truly powerful experience. We should not let that critical mass dissipate. We have read all your feedback and want you to stay engaged. Send suggestions. We'll try to share more ideas as we go along. We think we hit the mark in 2015, and we want to continue with what works and constantly reshape the event’s offerings to fit your needs.

We hope to see you at DOCUMENT Strategy Forum '16 in Chicago on May 10-12!

Gerald Edwards sits on the advisory board of the DOCUMENT Strategy Forum and has served in this position since 2010. For more information, visit www.documentstrategyforum.com.

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