What makes a good user group?

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We all know that making the most of third party software and services takes some effort. The more you put in, the more you get out. The last thing you want is for your expensive services to gather dust and not benefit your business. After all, you must have purchased the product for a reason in the first place.

Setting up an internal user/focus group is a great way to engage staff with valuable tools that are there to benefit the business. Focussed effort amongst key users can reap rewards.

Here are 5 quick tips for an effective user group:

1) Select your group carefully. Get senior buy-in and ask managers to nominate a good cross-section of engaged staff from all departments that should be benefitting from a given product. You don’t want everyone – and not everyone wants to be included! Make sure you pool all expert knowledge.

2) Choose sensible intervals. Give yourselves time to take action. Too often means you often can’t achieve the goals set in the previous meeting. Talking over the same issues again and again is demoralising and boring!

3) Use time wisely. Meetings are generally unproductive and staff prefer to be “doing” rather than “talking about doing”. Focus on key areas that will benefit the business – look at developments, best practice, innovation and training.

4) ‘Sherpas’ make great guides. Really make use of ‘expert’ staff. Use them as key contacts to support other staff. Put together training materials and template use cases to standardise use across the business. This reduces the need for all users to be “experts”.

5) Be heard. Ensure you organise follow up meetings with your supplier, so that you can feedback on all of this good stuff. They can then build on your knowledge and expertise to drive the product forward. Everyone wins!

“Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

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