At one point, it seemed that shows in the accounting market were like the California condor--still around, but not terribly numerous.
Shows--conferences, if you prefer--were vanishing within the accounting software community as vendors disappeared into larger competitors. Many of us were looking at the possibility of spending more weekends at home.
Think about it. There used to be reseller conferences for RealWorld, Solomon, Great Plains, Navision, Damgaard, State-of-the-Art, MIP, SBT, Accpac, Timberline, BusinessWorks, and BusinessVision. As those entities ended up as part of Microsoft and Sage, the travel schedule got easier. Microsoft has the Worldwide Partner Conference and Sage has Insights.
So business travelers can stay home? Sorry, shows are back. Of course, they are not the same kinds of shows. Those other reseller shows are gone for good, although most of the products they celebrated are still around. The one exception has been AccountMate, back on the schedule after being digested by Softline and then spit out by Sage after it picked up Softline..
No, the shows that have sprouted up are user shows.
In the traditional accounting firm space, Creative Solutions has done well for decades with user conferences and other tax vendors have had get togethers. But on the mid-market side, the offerings were pretty limited.
Great Plains led the way 10 years ago with Convergence, a well-thought and well-executed gathering that, in my opinion, continues to be the best show of any kind in this segment.
It took competitors a while to get into the same field as this now-Microsoft-owned meeting. Epicor at times straddled the space by combining reseller and end-user shows. But Exact Software got into the Act in the fall of 2004
by importing its Engage show from Europe. And last year, Sage Software and CCH kicked off their first-ever user shows, while Intuit did the same at the end of May for users of its QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions and Open Systems will join the parade in September.
What is the appeal of physical meetings in an era in which the Internet was supposed to spread e-community far and wide?
It is the human factor, call it community; call it networking. There's the desire to put faces to names, and cultivate the trust that goes with that. There is what I called the "high-school-English" approach: compare and contrast. People want to know what others are doing the same and are doing differently when faced with similar situations. And there is the desire to have input with supplier since users are betting the future of their firms on these manufacturers' products. It's a lot easier to voice complaints, or just feel listened to, in person.
Given those desires, shows are definitely here to stay.
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