“Life is a journey, with problems to solve, lessons to learn, but most of all, experiences to enjoy.” Ritu Ghatourey
By Ed Collupy, executive consultant, W. Capra Consulting Group
Stimulation….I recently heard at the NCR Synergy Users Conference Mario Andretti talk about his racing career and that his motivation to drive was always about stimulation and it’s what kept him going. As I listened to him, I realized that over the past few months I’ve been stimulated by attending industry conferences: Payment+ Forum, Conexxus Annual Conference and the NCR conference. Being in attendance and a part of these meetings has made me –
- stop and think,
- learn and share,
- get up and go,
- and have some fun along the way.
What a way to come back from a business experience—full of opportunity and potential.
Although the conferences I’ve attended recently had a technology emphasis, it’s pretty clear that the success from them is all about what can be delivered back to the business. The host for the NCR conference and retail industry expert, Michael Sansolo, said it best when he commented, IT doesn’t need to be invited to the table because “they are the table.”
When you find a conference like the Payment+ Forum you quickly realize that the people attending is what makes the difference. At conferences with progressive thinkers you’re bound to gain knowledge that otherwise you may not pick up and it will help you form a solid point of view to take back to move your business ahead.
My colleagues at W. Capra invited a true cross-section of the payments industry – merchants, processors and other service providers. Myself and attendees left this discussion learning from all these people about the journey that we are on. The customer is connected 24/7 and the store’s role is changing as customers blend their interaction not just in the store and at the pump but also with mobile apps and mobile payment. For certain, data breaches will continue to be a broad level problem as Cahn Tran, co-founder and CEO at Rippleshot, told us at Payments+, but with next generation fraud tools that take advantage of big data and predictive tools, he said, “detection is the new prevention.”
There has been no better Conexxus Annual Conference than this year! The attendees were true collaborators. The good news is even if you didn’t attend you’ll see the results of this in the standards, ongoing education that Conexxus is committed to (learn about upcoming Webinars at www.conexxus.org), and the advocacy that, together with NACS, makes a difference with policy makers. Working groups at the conference focused on finding the best way to deliver system improvements for:
- lottery; by eliminating the need to rekey data from into the POS or Back Office,
- electronic business process automation; whether it be NAXML or EDI,
- targeting real time promotions; using trickle feed of POS data that can go to the Back Office or other systems;
- data security; including Personally Identifiable Information (PII), risk associated with bring your own device and the Internet of Things, and respond and recover best practices,
Being part of problem solving is a rewarding part of attending the right conferences.
There’s always the question of whether the conference and sessions will be as good as or better than the marketing that goes into it ahead of time. Check in with your peers that may have attended the event in a prior year, find out who will be attending, and look carefully at the people that have been invited to present. My eye is always on the lookout for something that is technology oriented but business applicable and leadership driven. The NCR Synergy conference challenged attendees to think about “Omni Commerce,” a combination of channels and the Internet of Things, and a pathway to solve for the challenges of payments, inventory, and more.
At one of the Synergy sessions Target leaders Brad Thompson, VP, Stores and Financial Services Technology Portfolio and Jeff Van Meter, Sr. Director, Controller, Target Financial and Retail Services told the story of how, in the face of challenge there will be success. They confidently walked the audience through a plan based on a customer first focus, team and hard work across internal and external people, and conviction that made the difference in a highly complex project. And yes, there was the technology story around payments – their transparency around the solutions and approach to their multifaceted payments flow was on the mark.
The next events are just around the corner! Your own attendee experience – gain knowledge, exchange ideas, and make connections – is up to you and imagine the benefits. National Advisory Group (NAG) will be about building profits and relationships. Join me and small to mid-size and family owned convenience chain operators in September for their annual conference. Or perhaps I will see you at the NACS Show in October where the Conexxus staff and membership team will lead many of the Technology Edge education sessions. Throughout the NACS Show you have the opportunity to be part of what makes attending conferences important and successful to your business. Whether you like stimulation that is intellectual or emotional, use it as a motivator or to have fun, it’s all about what you put into a conference that will really make a difference.
Ed Collupy, executive consultant at W. Capra Consulting Group can be reached at [email protected]. He recently joined W. Capra after 18 years at The Pantry Inc. prior to its merger with Alimentation Couche-Tard. At The Pantry, Collupy served as vice president of the IT leadership team and most recently directed and supported all of The Pantry retail systems for store operations, merchandising and the fuel teams.