It Takes a Village to Collaborate

This article recently ran in the Fall 2013 NAVUG magazine.  Find this article, and lots of other great NAVUG info, at this link.

thCA6300NZBack when she was First Lady, former Senator and Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton wrote a book titled “It Takes a Village”. The book was essentially about how it takes all people in a community, not just the core family, to raise a child. We see similar principles within our own NAVUG community, where it takes a village to continually support each other, nurture our networks, and improve our knowledge base as we all strive to provide our companies with the best possible business solutions using our ERP system of choice, Microsoft Dynamics NAV.

In the five years I’ve been actively involved in this community, I’ve seen some amazing examples of how this village of users collaborate to solve business problems for their companies.

I know two Controllers who met through NAVUG who have bartered knowledge back and forth every year. One year, one Controller taught the other how to use and enhance their account schedules. The next year, the other Controller traded information to the other about intercompany consolidation. The year after that, they exchanged information on budgeting. This tradition has continued every year, with these two users finding ways to enhance their use of NAV by trading information and brainstorming ideas.

Through some sessions at Forum, the annual user group conference held in October, a number of users voiced concerns they were having difficulty in coming up with a suitable business process for correctly using EFT (electronic funds transfer) to pay vendors. This group worked together over the year, exchanging information on how to get it done, and two of those users presented a Customer Showcase showing how they solved it for their companies at the next year’s conference.

Every year, over a hundred volunteers collaborate to provide webinars throughout the year to the user group at large. These webinars include presentations on specific topics as well as interactive discussion formats, allowing the participants multiple opportunities every month to assist each other with business challenges. Time and time again on these webinars I hear examples of users who help each other right then if they can, and if they can’t, they follow-up with each other through email or phone calls, helping the person to make connections until they get an answer to their question.

Recently, the NAVUG has been reaching out internationally, searching for ways to collaborate with users in other countries who use NAV. They made a foray into the international community for the first time in January of this year by going to Rome, Italy, and will be returning to another international event in November. This event will continue the work to expand the user group in other countries, expanding the village to the international community, and creating new ways for us all to exchange the information we need to help each other.

As an active blogger in the Dynamics community, I’m particularly excited to see the launch of the new NAVUG Collaborate tool which has recently been made available to the community. By incorporating social media into a platform that gives us a home base where we can update each other on educational events, answer each other’s questions, and connect and build our networks, the NAVUG has just one more place to make the work of the village possible.

Every person who participates makes the community stronger and with a stronger community, each participant benefits.

So why do they do it? What could possibly possess a group of people who all have full-time jobs of their own and families and lives to invest time to volunteer their time to help other users? I think there are a few reasons:

1)       We’ve all been there.  All the people who volunteer to help the user group can tell a story about when they were new to NAV and felt like they were alone.

2)       We’ve all been helped by other users. Each one of those people can also tell a story about how they had business problems another user helped them with. Every time I hear one of these stories, I’m always so impressed by the heavy feeling of gratitude and relief that comes through in the telling, as people came to realize they didn’t always have to pay someone to help them and how empowered they felt to be able to solve it on their own.

3)       We’ve realized the benefit of this community. Because we’ve been able to help each other out, each and every person has brought value back to their organizations in the form of solved problems, greater knowledge and understanding of our ERP systems, and the type of future preparedness that only comes through staying current on emerging technologies.

4)       We want to give back. Each person who volunteers realizes the advantage this gift of support has been to them and wants to give back to others.

Think these stories don’t apply to you? Think again! If you were able to reach out to a group of informed people who aren’t invested in selling you anything, what would be the quality of information you would receive? These people have real world advice and real world experience with NAV. They use NAV in their job roles every day, just like you do. Whether you are looking for advice on best practices or just an honest opinion on what type of solution to choose, this is the group who can get that to you. If that doesn’t convince you, put together a return on investment analysis. What’s the benefit of being able to support yourself through the network you have developed?

Just this year another strong business leader, Sheryl Sandberg, who is Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, authored a book called “Lean In”. While this book focuses in on gender politics in the workplace, the message she conveys with equal strength is to get involved in what happens at your office and in your community. Don’t hold back. Bring your talents to the table. Speak up and participate.

If you feel the NAVUG has brought some benefit to you, get involved in collaborating, in whatever form may work for you. We are always looking for users to lead webinars, facilitate discussions, lead sessions at the annual conference, engage in social media, blog, and find ways to connect with each other in a meaningful way. I encourage you to set a goal for what you can do to contribute to the effort this community puts forward to continually grow this user group.

If you haven’t yet been actively involved with NAVUG or if you’re brand new to NAV, know that you don’t have to struggle coming up with a solution on your own for what you need. There are other NAV customers out there who have gone through what you’re going through and are ready and willing to help. There is a whole village available to you through NAVUG whose call to action is to support each other through the ability to collaborate.

Kerry Rosvold has been the Corporate Controller at Augsburg Fortress Publishers since 2008, and has been using Microsoft Dynamics NAV as her ERP of choice since 2004. Kerry has been an active member of NAVUG since 2009 and frequently conducts webinars, speaks, and teaches classes on NAV financial topics. She blogs regularly at www.dynamicsnavfinancials.com and also can be found on Twitter @krosvold.



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