Synergy. It’s an odd word but an interesting concept. We all talk about it, look for it, and try to take advantage of it. Each of us knows that we can do our jobs better and more efficiently by simply finding synergies where they exist. But simple isn’t always easy. While working together may be the goal, the actual ability to do so may be hindered by any number of factors.
Finding where synergies exist doesn’t always mean we are willing to take advantage of the possibilities. We are sometimes restrained by competition, by precedent, by a desire for independence, by perceived market forces, and by our own sometimes negative experiences in working with others. So why bother? Might it not be better to go it alone? After all, you know what you want and how you want it done.
Finding a way to work together, to determine where synergies exist, has been the task of user groups since the concept was invented. For many years, the search for synergy was internal to these groups, which looked for places where members could work together to assist each other or to lobby for the things the group found important. The nearly 500 user groups currently associated with Oracle’s products and services each developed in much the same way. A group of people with specific issues and interests came together, found those synergies, and formed a collective approach to gaining what they needed.
The user group concept works well in many ways. Each user group provides the kind of services members want, using differing methods, structures, and approaches. Some of these groups are large organizations with sophisticated staff and broad product-line constituencies. Some, both large and small, have a purely volunteer base. Some are well funded, while others are financially challenged. Some are based on industries, while others are based on horizontal product lines or geographic regions. Each user group has its own characteristics, style, and priorities.
Oracle executives have spent the last few years developing a relationship with all of these groups, responding to a huge array of user issues and connecting them with Oracle’s resources for vital information. Much to Oracle’s credit, it has invested time, staff, and resources into its Global Customer Programs division, which is tasked with coordinating Oracle’s interaction with user groups and finding synergy (there’s that word again) among them.
But how do you get all of these groups to work together and look for those areas of commonality, not just internally among a user group’s membership, but worldwide, among all user groups? There are some very clear places where common concerns and opportunities are evident. The issues facing healthcare, the public sector, and secondary and higher education have never been more clearly defined or more critical. Both the current economic situation and the growing accountability requirements have melded the issues facing all of the user groups that represent these constituencies.
The synergies among these groups, which probably existed in the background for years, have become urgent and demanding. For the private sector, regulatory demands present an area where the requirements of governance, risk, and compliance are a constant pressure point. The opportunity for user groups to coalesce around these issues, and to work in synergy with Oracle to define and develop the product lines to meet these broad needs, is more important now than ever. Working together is a win/win for both Oracle and the user groups.
We’ve taken some great first steps, but further work needs to be done. User group leaders need to work with each other, maintaining their own identities but dropping barriers among the groups. Oracle needs to continue to listen, to continue to focus on its customers’ needs, and to continue to assist the groups in finding those worldwide synergies. Uniting around common challenges: it’s the best result for all.
Stan Jakubik is the assistant vice chancellor of the University System of Maryland and president of the Higher Education User Group.