I was excited and nervous all at the same time as I wrote an email inviting some of our users to my very first user group. Second guessing myself I had all these concerns; would they want to attend? How would I keep the conversation from drying up? Will it be a positive experience for everyone? Luckily, as it turned out, I needn’t have worried.
Here at Bromcom, we have been debating on how best we can support our schools and trusts in sharing best practice. I have wanted to cultivate a network of user groups, which not only support customers from a geographic location, but also with respect to specific modules of the MIS System.
Our MAT Vision product allows Trusts to aggregate data from across all their schools and be able to carry out purposeful analytics from across all the schools into one place. It includes built in Power BI, for either Bromcom’s out of the box analytics or custom developments.
Our aim is for these user groups to be directed by the actual users, so my first challenge was to see if I could find someone who would be happy to ‘virtually’ host the event. Due to the current crisis we are faced with, needed to go ‘virtual’. Which, to be honest, would have been the way to go regardless of the crisis, to enable the easy participation of many representatives from across the country. Daniel Barlow from the Acord Multi Academy Trust, jumped at the opportunity. As a major user of MAT Vision, he was perfectly placed to lead and offer a guiding hand during the meeting.
We sent off emails to firm up an agenda and by the beginning of May, with some trepidation, invites were sent out to our current MAT Vision customers. And to my relief the responses poured in. Multiple MAT Leaders with members of their senior technical team were signing up almost instantly. The rush of signups almost overwhelmed me with a mild sense of panic, as I had a growing feeling I was fast losing track of who was and wasn’t attending, but I finally gathered myself and with a deep breath eased into sorting out a list of attendees.
So, it was 1:15 in the afternoon on the 22nd May, I excitedly set up in my meeting room (AKA lounge) with a hot cup of tea, mildly anxious but ready to start the meeting, unsure of how it would go.
I held my breath for a second or two and opened the ‘virtual’ doors, watching with a sigh of relief, the steady stream of customers entering our event. It was really pleasing to see that, just like in a more traditional event; people were discussing and engaging with each other in a real and productive atmosphere that seemed quite natural and unplanned.
By 1:30 I was amazed and pleasantly surprised to see over 25 people had joined the call. I excitedly, with a butterfly or two swirling around, called the meeting to order and passed it over to Daniel to lead the proceedings.
There was a pulpable feel of respect among the whole group; size of MAT held no weight in this open and honest forum. Between Daniel and me, we were able to successfully host an open, free flowing discussion and answering the many questions from the group.
The session ended with Ben Mort (Bromcom’s Product Owner) discussing the ongoing roadmap for planned development for the MAT Vision product. This was most welcomed with lots of approving nods from the attendees. It was agreed that we would meet at the end of June where the session would be co-hosted by Matt Kyle from Pontefract Academy Trust who uses our out of the box analytics based on Power BI with no need for Power BI development skills.
Even after the meeting had finished, many continued chatting with mutual support and advice whizzing before my eyes.
Looking to the Future
We are now looking forward to our next meeting at the end of June as well as growing our user group forum and encouraging it to continue sharing good ideas offline.
My worries about hosting such a meeting were totally unfounded and the positive, progressive feel of the group made the start to my bank holiday weekend all the better.
MAT Vision is the hub of a Trust’s Management Information System. More than just a warehouse for trust-wide data, MAT Vision is at the centre of the trust’s operations by facilitating the management and organisation of data across Bromcom CloudMIS. Powerful and highly flexible analytics allow a trust to understand school performance and target school improvement.