Midwest User Group

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Back in A Big Way - Report From The Midwest User Group, August 24-25

By DAVID Jenness posted Wed September 28, 2022 09:29 AM


Matt Passini had a vision: that he could return the Midwest User Group to a live version of its annual gathering in 2022.  Matt assumed the role of president of the Wisconsin chapter of the Midwest User Group in late 2019 and we all know what happened next.  He oversaw virtual versions of the meetings in 2020 and 2021, but he was eager to bring people together in the same room again. “These events help attendees stay up to date on the latest and upcoming features and functionality and hear from experts in the partner and customer community on how to best take advantage of these technologies.  Perhaps best of all, it helps bolster a true community and creates lasting connections and friendships.”

Matt obtained support of his company, Acuity Insurance, to donate a meeting space in the award-winning Acuity World Headquarters in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. And he had a secret weapon: IBM’s Vicki Miller, Principal Automation Technical Specialist, who has supported the Midwest User Group for more than 5 years. Once the dates were confirmed (August 24-25), Vicki went to work curating an agenda that featured customers showing new applications and lessons learned, Business Partners sharing solutions and Best Practices, and IBM Product Management presenting the new features and roadmap for the entire product set, and it’s a big one!  When Bill Lobig, Vice President of Product Management for IBM Automation, signed on to do the strategy and direction keynote in-person, she had the proverbial "icing on the cake."

Adding a new element to the proceedings, the team decided to make the event “hybrid,” meaning both live and broadcast out to the world, opening new possibilities for attendance, but also adding complexity and stress. Will the technology work?  IBM’s Joe Cosenza stepped up to take on the tech support role for the team, and I can attest that all went smoothly, with presenters live in Sheboygan or beaming in from their home bases bringing inspiring stories and updates to benefit attendees no matter if they were online or in the room. 

In person, I met attendees from Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio. On line, we saw people from all over the world in attendance. And there was a palpable mood of optimism and joy in being able to get together again. The Midwest User Group has always enjoyed a collaboration with IBM Business Partners, and Matt extends thanks to Genus Technologies, enChoice, Pyramid Solutions, and The Dayhuff Group for sponsoring lunches and breakfast and for sharing their experiences and expertise in Business Automation, AI and Cloud Migration.

It must be said that Matt and Acuity shared true Wisconsin hospitality and made everyone who traveled to Sheboygan feel welcome. Acuity World Headquarters reflects the values of Acuity and make it appear annually at the top of "Wisconsin’s best places to work." For example, at the end of the first day of meetings, all attendees were invited to the weekly Acuity Wednesday BBQ, which featured a live band, sumptuous food and drink, and is open to all employees and their families. Before our second day of meetings, Acuity hosted a tour of their sprawling campus, which offers employees a variety of creative work spaces, a hi-tech theater-in-the-round meeting hall, and art and sculpture everywhere you turn. There are also three NBA-sized indoor basketball courts, a workout gym, a full-sized Ferris Wheel, and a rock climbing wall – Oh, and a crazy medieval torture chamber that Acuity execs like to escort guests to after a meeting – just to see the look on their faces!

But seriously folks. One of the things employees are proud of is the campus also features the tallest flagpole in America (100 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty) and the world’s largest free-flying American flag (70 by 140 feet). On the tour, we learned that the pole can sense wind direction and twist as needed to assure the least amount of stress on the flag and keep it flying free. For a meeting all about AI and Automation, it seemed very appropriate to have a flag using the same principles!

Click here to view the recordings and access the slide decks from Day One, August 24

Click here to view the recordings and access the slide decks from Day Two, August 25