In late October, we held our first Red Oak User Conference at the Omni Hotel in Austin, Texas. With the team usually on the road meeting with customers or attending other conferences, it was a fantastic opportunity to be home.
A Warm Red Oak Welcome
The night before the official conference kick-off, the Red Oak executive team welcomed users from San Francisco to New York. Cathy greeted all with her classic Texas hug, we heard about Rick’s newest health kick and Stephen’s made us all wish we could join him on a sailing adventure. Over drinks and food, we were so glad to sit down and visit with customers, that admittedly have become friends over the years.
User Updates & Networking
The focus for our first user conference was to provide an opportunity to give customers first-hand knowledge of future updates and current best practices, but also for customers to network and share their solutions for how they use Red Oak. From the very start of the day over breakfast to the lively interactions during afternoon Q&A, attendees freely shared their ideas, questions, and solutions with the Red Oak team as well as other users.
The Red Oak Journey
Stephen Pope, CEO kicked off the sessions with the Red Oak journey, initially starting as a consulting model using other compliance software, and like many startups, bootstrapping costs without taking a salary. Today’s Red Oak may look different, with in-house built software and support teams, but what remains the same (and always will) – the commitment to being the best advertising software for compliance and marketing professionals. As Stephen celebrated Red Oak on the Inc. 5000 list of America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies, he also reiterated that even with the growth and industry accolades, the company will continue to keep the same user-first mindset that’s been at the foundation of the Red Oak experience.
The Roadmap, Artificial Intelligence, and User Feedback
A majority of the user sessions focused on future development as much as best practices. Rick Grashel, CTO discussed company insights as a true agile community of having real conversations with our users around the globe. As our customers have experienced quite often, Rick himself will pick up the phone to get real-time feedback. The two days were a true agile session with open feedback, questions about training, and lively discussions (why excel continues to be the world’s number one database and reporting tool was a favorite).
For roadmap initiatives, Rick reviewed the incremental and heavy lifting updates to come. Both focused on improving workflows and usability, as much as ensuring our software stays ahead of the continuously evolving regulatory environment. The new updates will also remain part of helping firms of all sizes, from those that are just getting started to those that have thousands using the product (both were in attendance).
Another focus related to development was the question of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Rick’s unique perspective on AI centered around the too often used buzzword, and the question he’s frequently asked: “Do Y’all Got an AI?” Attendees discovered the difference between Deterministic and Statistical AI, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of AI in regulatory compliance. The takeaway, like many trends, is not to get caught up in the buzzword, but to ask, “How will this help in my review?”
User Case Study
Attendees also heard from a Senior Director of Marketing Process Management & Controls for a global company with over $37 billion in revenue and over $1 trillion in assets under management. Sharing their story of migrating from a homegrown Sharepoint (“We spent two years working on Sharepoint, and we’re close to making this work”) to Red Oak Software Solutions.
What were the key lessons learned?
- Engagement of key stakeholders throughout the transition increased ultimate buy-in and was essential to laying out foundational workflows
- Keeping a “hotline” to involve end-users helped with monitoring progress and in determining priority adjustments.
- Training at a high level to educate on regulatory requirements was as crucial as at the tactical “how to do” level.
Three years after implementation, the benefits continue to be seen with business partner satisfaction, turnaround times beating SLAs, and supporting ongoing changes in regulation.
Until Next Year
Recognizing that having our first User Conference also meant having direct access to our users, we wrapped up sessions with a Q&A. From automation to expiration dates, dealing with new people, and termination of employees (one user had 72 people leave in the last year), the live user examples bring us the needed feedback that will drive the future products and services we offer.
We fully appreciate our clients taking time away from work and the effort to travel from all around the country. Our goal for each future conference is that it continues to deepen client product knowledge, provides users the tools to improve their team collaborations, and has a positive impact on their business. We might not always be there with you – but we know what it’s like to walk in your shoes.