The Shape of a Partnership: Inside Exago’s Client Advisory Board
Two weeks ago, Exago did what it does every summer and brought select members of its client companies together for a two-day conference at Mohonk Mountain House, a world-class resort and hiking destination tucked away in the Hudson Valley’s Shawangunk Ridge. The hotel boasts exceptional farm-to-table dining, breathtaking views of the Catskill Mountains, a lavish spa facility, and an embarrassment of recreational riches. It is, in short, a pretty big deal.
But then so is the Exago Client Advisory Board. This diverse group of product managers, software developers, and executives is selected from among Exago’s clients for their close engagement with the product and its users, as well as their enthusiasm for seeing the product evolve. As CAB members, they help Exago prioritize proposed enhancements, address end user challenges, navigate BI industry trends, and better realize the application’s potential. Their impact on the company cannot be overstated.
“The biggest reason why I was happy selecting Exago as a partner, aside from the technology side of things, is because of the openness that I found with Scott and Stew and Mike in adapting to my needs,” says Bihari Srinivasan, VP of Engineering at B2W Software, referring to Exago’s VP Technology and cofounders respectively.
B2W Software develops a solution that manages end-to-end processing associated with heavy city construction. It partnered with Exago in February of 2015, and Srinivasan has been an outspoken CAB member ever since. “Having an opportunity to tell Exago what my needs are in no uncertain terms and give them a sense of where I’m going to take my products is invaluable,” he explains. “It means I have a say—maybe a small say—but a say in the direction Exago’s products take. Because at the end of the day, that is tied to my success and my company’s success.”
B2W was, for example, an early proponent of Exago’s integrating with Microsoft Azure, a cloud infrastructure for hosting files, databases, virtual machines, and web applications. It is in large part due to their interest and feedback on this enhancement that Exago BI supports it today. “That’s a testament to the fact that not only does Exago listen to what the client is saying, but they also do the right thing by the client.”
But the annual CAB meeting isn’t just about cultivating client feedback. Participants take the opportunity to touch base with other users, swap tips, and catch up on Exago news.
“The thing that I look forward to most every year is seeing what’s coming up next and the thought process that’s gone into it,” says WorkWave Chief Solutions Architect Jason Kochel. Last year, he and other CAB members got to see early mockups of what would become the ExpressView designer. This year, not only is it a central part of the application, it figures heavily in upcoming enhancements to the Dashboard Designer. “Feeling like we’re getting a peek behind the curtain is exciting.”
Kochel feels the annual CAB meeting keeps him and his company “close to the cutting edge of Exago’s releases.” Knowing what’s on the horizon helps him temper users’ expectations and prepare for upgrades. “That kind of insight helps us plan ahead and quickly adopt the new versions because the features aren’t just coming out of the blue.”
This was Software Developer Jen Tadros’s fourth CAB conference, and for her the experience affords the chance to strengthen workplace relationships. “We work with you on a regular basis, so it’s important to meet all you guys and have some face-to-face time.” Tadros has been with her company, Autotask, for nearly a decade and has provided invaluable feedback to the Exago team in-between annual meetings.
Of course, with a destination like Mohonk, part of the CAB’s allure is the hotel itself. When I asked Roman Trevino of Management Controls how his experience of the CAB has been thus far, we were standing on the Mountain House’s sweeping front porch overlooking a glacial lake and the lushly wooded cliffs beyond. “It’s been wonderful,” he said. “First off, this place is absolutely great. I love coming here, and I wouldn’t miss a chance to come. But a big part of it is being able to go back to the office and help our team understand how powerful Exago can be if it’s implemented correctly, the right way. Some of our developers might say we can’t or won’t do something, whatever the case is, but here, I get to see customers who have done that thing well. That’s number one for me.”
To help CAB members and other clients keep in touch with each other year round, Exago will be taking steps to introduce a community forum to the Knowledge Base.