We sat down with J.T. Kaminski, Customer Success Manager at IDBS, to find out what i3 means to IDBS, and what he sees for the event’s future.
What’s the most eye-opening thing you’ve seen at i3 last year?
I’d say it was the number of different companies and customers that were represented this year, that brought about questions and conversations that weren’t anticipated. We’ve had conversations with people from oil and gas talking to pharmaceutical companies: they have similar challenges but they have different approaches to solving the same problems.
It’s been interesting not just in the presentations, listening to the different customers, but also hearing from them in the break-outs. So, a five-minute conversation over a coffee in the morning turns into a planned session with different customers in the afternoon. Now, a lot of folks are looking forward to reaching out to other people, they’re looking at what they can do following the event, how many other conversations they can have. That was a theme I’ve heard over and over from different customers. What are the next events that we can do together, not just IDBS and another company, but what are the types of things that the IDBS experts, coming from all different backgrounds and industries before they joined IDBS, can say to our end-users, and how do we bring that ‘day in the life of an end-user’ to the next generation of changes in the products.
What types of problems are we solving at i3?
A lot of the conversation starts around data management. It seems there’s a focus from an IT perspective, talking about IT challenges, but at the heart of those challenges, it’s about the end-users, and what sort of challenges the end-users are having and how are they being reflected at the i3 event. So, as always, grabbing more end-users to events in the future would be a great thing to bring to customer forums and to share different voices from one customer to the other.
We hear ‘change management’ a lot at i3. Can you tell us how customers are sharing insights around not only technology, but culture and adoption to lead to a good change management?
There is no one right answer – these are all different techniques and while one customer feels passionate about what’s worked for them, you’ve got the same passion coming from another customer saying, “that didn’t work for us”. So, hearing from each other, not a vendor, saying what has worked and what hasn’t worked, has been really important for this community. And talking about change management, it is about managing the end-user’s expectation. It is about setting those expectations early, upfront, and being transparent along the way, because not all change management or user adoption challenges happen overnight.
In fact, a lot of the presentations that we saw last year took place over several months, or several years. And that’s a very difficult thing for IT professionals and lab managers to manage – user adoption and change management.
What are some of the benefits to customers who choose to attend i3?
It’s definitely the diversity of the customers that come to the event – there were dozens of different types of customers, and the fact that they’re all able to share their stories and talk about their challenges together, helps us understand where the different voice of customers is taking us and how we can help them approach their challenges to better meet the products that are in the market today.
We talk about community at i3 – we’re trying to build this community of scientific data management professionals. What do you think that that community can offer to unique and individual customers that are part of that community?
I think it gives individuals a sense of whether they’re on the right track. There were some start-up companies that were looking at these multi-national companies presenting their challenges as snowflakes, in terms of what they think their challenges are – that they’re a unicorn, that none of these problems are affecting other organizations.
But they’re not alone. And I think coming to an event where they can share these experiences and feel part of a community and see that there are other people that have similar challenges and a way to address them, is a really good thing.
I’m sure with business, comes a little fun. Can you talk about what happens after the meetings are over?
I mentioned earlier that the break-out sessions are almost as entertaining as the event itself, because you end up talking to people who have ideas, and those ideas are able to be shared with business analysts from IDBS, product strategy experts from within IDBS, IT experts, and other folks who have tried things in the past within their own companies.
So, when everybody is relaxed and you’re listening to the jazz band at dinner, and you have an idea, you’re more free to say it in an open environment, and people are listening. In fact, that’s one of the main things that are happening at the event – people are really listening to what others have to say.
What’s your favorite part of the i3 event, so far?
The space is perfect to allow lots of different types of conversations, and the ability to have different methods of sharing that information. We’ve had formal presentations, conversations that were planned and some that were unplanned. Having an event that offers that flexibility, that caters to both those that need a structured and unstructured format has been very beneficial.
Another great thing about coming to these events is that people say things at the i3 that they wouldn’t say anywhere else. They’re sharing information, total cost of ownership, things that have been real challenges that they’ve struggled through that they don’t say any other time, to any other group. It’s not going to come from a Business Development session with some other customer, they’re only talking about this with other like-minded people, and they’re happy to hear feedback. They’re eager to hear that advice from somebody else that has a similar concern or a similar challenge.
What do you think it is about the i3 forum that allows customers to feel comfortable enough to share this information, to gain insights from it?
I think they’ve been to similar events with IDBS in the past, so they are coming with an expectation, but each and every time they come to these events, they have something new that they learn, and they’re always finding compelling content that makes them want to come back.