By Bob Raida on
Years ago there were dozens of EDI and e-commerce user groups scattered around the country. This ComputerWorld article from 1993 shows how vibrant the EDI user group community was back then – citing 32 local and regional user groups. A list of groups purportedly from “EDI World” magazine in 2001 claims about 60 groups were active. Today I’m aware of only a couple active groups – the Atlanta EC Forum and the New England E-Commerce User’s Group, or NEECOM. I haven’t had the pleasure of attending an AECF event, but I did make it to a couple NEECOM events in the past 8 months and came away quite impressed.
There are a number of reasons these groups have faded away. Among them, the fact that it’s now easy to collaborate online with experts all over the world. There needs to be real and tangible payback to warrant travelling off site to meet up with folks in person. Perhaps equally important is that EDI and e-business is a lot easier today than it was twenty years ago. E-business has become a ubiquitous part of the business technology landscape, and no longer warrants its own niche of user groups. You can pretty much pick a solution off the shelf and run with it – or better yet, outsource it!
In any event, I miss the group we had here in Pittsburgh (GPEP) so I look forward to my visits to Boston for NEECOM events. In the fall I attended the 25th Anniversary Fall Conference and thought so highly of it that I went back last month for their annual Spring Conference.
In order to attract a large enough base of attendees, such a group needs to go far beyond discussions of traditional EDI. It needs to provide real insight to where e-business is going and how we can make the most of it. At the fall NEECOM event much of the discussion was centered around multi-channel issues and opportunities. I found it fascinating to discuss how changing consumer behaviors are impacting the supply chain, and how this creates enormous opportunity for real time e-business solutions.
At the Spring Conference there were excellent presentations about more traditional EDI topics, like how the future is bright for growth in B2B commerce, as long as service providers make adoption easy and cost effective (Todd Gould of Loren Data – EDI and the Next 20,000 Hubs), and an informative overview of the landscape for e-business talent (Barbara Feldman of EDI Staffing – 2016 Job Market Overview).
The spring event also explored topics outside the realm of traditional EDI with presentations related to how digital content and meaningful product information can drive online sales, and how to address the challenge of maintaining that content (Rob Gonzalez of Salsify).
These are just a few examples. Each of the presentations was valuable in its own right. Overall, an informative and enjoyable event – and I came away with new business relationships that are already paying dividends. These relationships don’t form as easily via online discussions so I hope the practice of meeting up with like-minded folks in person doesn’t completely fade away as digital collaboration grows!
Furthermore, I came away with renewed excitement about the business we work in. That alone is worth the price of admission! Kudos to NEECOM, and here’s to 25 more years!