Have I ever told you how awesome my grandmother is?
Grandma will be 95 this year. She belongs to the VFW Women’s Auxiliary, the American Legion Auxiliary, the local volunteer fire house auxiliary, the Red Hat Society, and volunteers at the local VA hospital. She helps drive the older ladies to meetings (yes … really). An avid reader, she got a Kindle for her 90th birthday. She got a zero-turn lawnmower the next year, and still uses it. (Except to mow the ditch in front of her house. She still needs the old push mower for that.) And, like nearly all Southern ladies of her era, attends church every Sunday.
But oddly enough, there are times when she doesn’t feel she’s as awesome as I know she is. For example, she’s obviously one of the oldest active attendees at her church. But when I asked her if she participates when they’ve asked for congregational guidance for the newest building campaign or church-wide votes on important matters, her response is usually, “Oh, they don’t care about what I have to say.”
This obviously is not true. I’ve been to her church, and I’ve heard pastors announce their wishes to have every person in the congregation bring their ideas to the table — even if they’re not part of a formal committee. But for some reason, Grandma feels like her opinion doesn’t count. Maybe it’s because she lived in another state for 45 years and felt a bit out of place when she came back home after she retired. Maybe it’s because, in her congregation, this humble farm girl is surrounded by doctors, lawyers, and business magnates. Maybe it’s because she’s never had the time (for obvious reasons) to join church groups, clubs, or committees, so she feels she doesn’t have the right to speak up.
That’s the funny thing about brainstorming, though. Many great ideas come from ordinary people who merely have the courage to give their opinion — no matter how off-the-wall it is — to the people who have the power to affect change. In my career, I’ve been in many brainstorming sessions where I’ve made completely ridiculous suggestions, and shared a good laugh with the group. But sometimes, that funny idea left to simmer on a whiteboard has led to someone to say, “Wait — there may be something to that.”
Sage CRE asks for ideas from everyone
Last week, the folks at Sage Construction and Real Estate re-Tweeted a Sage City blog post from Ka’ohu Ah Yo on this very subject. (And I was in the middle of writing about it when Sage dropped the bombshell last week that they would be extending Sage Summit 2015 Early Bird pricing to May 15. But I digress …)
Ka’ohu, a senior customer support analyst with Sage Construction and Real Estate, provides technical support to Sage CRE customers across many platforms. This not only includes writing the occasional blog post at Sage City, but also monitoring feedback to help assist customers find the answers they’re seeking.
In his April 6 post, “I have this crazy idea …,” Ka’ohu explains how the input and ideas he receives are routinely brought to his colleagues and supervisors to “determine how we can either get better at what we’re doing well and change what we’re not. Without discussing and calibrating out expectations on a regular basis, we have no indication of what our clients need.”
(On a side note, Ka’ohu explains that in his youth, saying “I have this crazy idea …” was usually followed up by a trip to the Emergency Room. That’s just like saying, “Hey y’all, watch this!” is usually followed by the same ER visit in these parts. But I digress again …)
The interesting thing about Ka’ohu’s post is that his main suggestion for giving ideas to Sage is directly through the Sage CRE software. In Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate, it can be found via Help -> Web Resources -> Submit Enhancement Requests or by visiting this site. In Sage 100 Contractor, it’s under Home and Resources -> Customer Resources -> Product Enhancement Requests or by visiting this site.
I find this suggestions fascinating, because there are plenty of ways to get suggestions to Sage representatives. However, it may feel a bit intimidating for a day-to-day user of the software to walk up to a Sage CRE vice president at Sage Summit, the Sage Inspire Tour, or the TUG National Users Conference to give feedback or suggestions. (Believe me — every Sage representative at these events wants to hear from their customers, from the everyday user all the way up to C-level executives.) And sometimes, asking a question or making a constructive criticism in a public form like message boards or social media can feel awkward or embarrassing.
Why I find Ka’ohu’s suggestion so amazing — and why I think it’s wonderful that Sage offers these direct feedback links in their CRE products — is that those ideas, suggestions, and criticisms will come straight from the those day-to-day users. Instead of a daily user telling their boss an idea, who may or may not decide the information is valid enough to share with their Sage partner, who then may or may not choose to send it along to the Sage CRE team, the people with the most hands-on experience with the software can give direct feedback to Sage. Plus, the feedback can be sent privately, instead of having the intimidation factor of it being made public.
Ideas may range from ludicrous to meaningful
Now, I can sense some of you already thinking this could be an epic disaster. Yes, there are those who delight in trolling or griefing, the online equivalents of purposely ruining an innocent event for the fun of causing chaos. (Think: Every scene in “Animal House.” I’m partial to the parade scene as an example of causing mass chaos for the fun it. But I digress yet again …) I’m sure Ka’ohu and his team have seen quite a few colorful suggestions come through these feedback channels. I’m also sure the CRE customer support team have enough humor and thick skin to take those comments with a grain of salt.
Even though it’s in a public forum, by clicking on the links Ka’ohu provided, it’s pretty evident those everyday users are contributing meaningful suggestions. Here are a couple of examples:
And, they’ll probably get some silly comments too. I can imagine them getting suggestions like, “We need a button in Sage 100 Contractor that will make puppies appear in my office.” Or, “Can you add a module in Sage 300 CRE that brews a cup of coffee out of my monitor?”
But being a veteran of silly suggestions while brainstorming, even those humorous comments could have a basis in real-world scenarios. Let’s say that Ka’ohu took those suggestions to his team. The Sage CRE team may figure out their customers were asking them in a roundabout way to develop a timer that reminds users to get up every 55 minutes to make sure they’re getting enough mini-breaks during the day to prevent stress, eye-strain, and inattentiveness.
I double-checked with a few contacts, and I found out that Sage HRMS also has a feedback link on its Welcome screen but Sage 500 ERP does not seem to have one. (I haven’t researched whether Sage ERP X3 or Sage 100 ERP have a feedback link.) If they don’t, I really think Sage should incorporate this feature into all their products.
More than anything, this opportunity would give their everyday customers to have more ownership over their product. And with that confidence, maybe it would lead to more feedback, suggestions, and ideas. I’ve seen it work before, and it’s benefited Sage and all of its customers.