“Focus is key for success” says the German Cognos User Group

The German Cognos User Group

Last year, I posted an interview with Steve Veilleux, president of the Quebec Cognos User Group. This article has gotten a lot of attention. I therefore decided to reach out to another very successful user group: The German Cognos User Group. The three leaders of this organization volunteered for an interview. Please meet Kai Noack, Martin Otto and Erik Purwins.

Cognos User Group

Christoph: What is the purpose and mission of your Cognos User Group?

Kai Noack: Our group has a clear mission:

  • Provide a forum for IBM Cognos users to exchange knowledge and share experiences.
  • Provide deep expertise in all IBM Cognos related questions via newsletters and conferences.
  • Connect with IBM management to discuss trends and potential issues.

We cover all IBM Cognos products (BI, Performance Management, etc.).

Christoph: How many members do you have and how do you communicate with each other?

Martin Otto: Our group was founded back in 1998. Membership has grown membership rapidly. We currently have over 300 active members from over 100 different companies. The group targets German speaking associates: 95% come from Germany and the remaining 5% are spread between Austria and Switzerland. Our roster of associates features active Cognos users, administrators, project managers and consultants.

We have three main communication channels:

  • The website is our hub. It provides news, updates and other relevant information. There is also a discussion forum.
  • Frequent newsletters
  • Seminars and conferences are the ‘glue’ that hold our group together. We organize a bunch of those every year. They are very successful and provide us with the ability to develop long-lasting relationships.

Christoph: Do you have to pay to become a member? If yes, how much and how do you utilize the funds?

Erik Purwins: Our group is completely independent. IBM does not sponsor us. Anybody who is interested in IBM Cognos and Business Analytics can join our group. But we do charge for the membership. There are currently two types of memberships: Personal (100 EUR p.a.) and corporate (EUR 250 p.a.). The corporate model is very attractive as it allows up to 20 people from an organization to participate in our activities. The majority of our members have a corporate account.

The fees that we collect are used for several purposes: maintenance of our website, conferences and marketing. German law also requires us to utilize a professional accountant and external tax advisor.

Christoph: What are the benefits of being a member in the German Cognos user group?

Kai Noack: There are a number of benefits for our members:

  • Education – we have a big focus on knowledge sharing. Our members have diverse backgrounds and have a lot of accumulated knowledge.
  • Problem solving – our community allows us to jointly solve problems
  • Direct connection to IBM – we enjoy an excellent relationship with IBM. This allows us to voice concerns, share ideas and obtain critical information
  • Ability to detect trends – we frequently invite guest speakers and conduct polls
  • Fun – our members really enjoy being part of the group. We are all passionate about business analytics. Being surrounded by like-minded professionals is fun and rewarding.

We strongly believe that our group is contributing to the success of the different IBM Cognos implementations in the German speaking countries. As a matter of fact, members claim that being part of the group feels like having a professional consultant available 24/7. Our combined knowledge is that rich and deep.

Christoph: Tell me more about your conferences.

Martin Otto: We typically organize 4-6 conferences and workshops per year. Some of the meetings are more general, others focus on a specialized topic. Two years ago, we hosted an event about running Cognos on mainframes, for example. The events are actually open to non-members as well. We do believe we profit from having a larger circle participate. Non-members typically pay a surcharge for participating.

We usually invite at least one representative from IBM. This provides all members with the ability to have a direct connection to IBM. At the same time, IBM benefits from being able to connect with their loyal customers. It’s a win-win situation.

Christoph: There are some regions that do not have a user group. What advice would you have for IBM Cognos sponsors and users who are thinking about forming or joining a similar user group?

Erik Purwins: There are certainly a lot of lessons.

  • We highly recommend defining a clear vision for the group. Our group is focused on technical topics, for example. Having that vision provides clarity and drives success. Members know what to expect when they join us. The majority of them either have a technical background or they enjoy discussing the technical topics.
  • Organize professional meetings. As mentioned earlier, they are the glue for our group. We do charge a small fee for all our meetings (in addition to the annual fee). That allows us to provide the best possible service (great locations, professional setup, etc..). Charging for attendance also acts as a filter for those people who are not passionate about the topic.
  • The conferences need to be focused and need to feature relevant content. Speakers are highly encouraged to focus on specific lessons-learned that benefit the attendees. Our members therefore have the ability to gain a tremendous amount of knowledge.
  • Edit your content. We actively discourage ‘sales and marketing’ type content. We learned our lesson early on when some people ‘hijacked’ a meeting to sell their services or software. Our group is not a market place for selling. Our members expect to learn something when they join our organization.

Christoph: Thanks much for your time!

You can find out more information about the German Cognos User Group on their homepage.