T Minus 3 Weeks to NA STARS Customer Conference

Rick Burke January 19, 2016

3 weeks from today, I’ll be standing on stage with our CEO Stephanie Feraday, kicking off the 4th Annual North American STARS Customer Conference at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge conference center in Phoenix, Arizona.

History of STARS

For those of you that don’t know what the STARS (Strategic Teamwork Accelerates Results) PCM (product cost management) conference is all about, here’s a quick summary of how we started, and how we got to where we are today:

  • In January of 2013, the management team at aPriori thought we should try to get together a group of our most visionary customers to discuss the state of the PCM market, trends we were seeing in manufacturing, and provide insight into our roadmap for future product releases. At that time, we had 13 people packed into a conference room here at our corporate headquarters. It had snowed about 6 inches the morning of the meeting – I nearly had a heart attack – but it was about 100 degrees in that little conference room!
  • Everyone in attendance agreed that the first event was such a great success that we should immediately hold a conference for our European customer base.  So, in the summer of 2013, our friends at Bentley Motors invited us to stage our first European STARS event at a meeting facility at their Corporate Headquarters in Crewe, England.  That event drew 25 individuals from our top customers across Europe.
  • Since then, we’ve held 3 more of these conferences, two in North America and another one in Europe, each one growing in size and scope to accommodate the growing market interest in the value of product cost management.
  • At this year’s conference, we expect nearly 100 of the world’s foremost experts in product cost management to join us in Phoenix, along with 25 of aPriori’s top Subject Matter Experts. We have people flying in from Europe, India, Japan and all across North America. We believe this could be one of the greatest concentrations of thought leaders on PCM that exists in the world today.

The 4 Key Pillars of STARS

For those of you that know me, I’ve been designing and executing corporate events for a very long time.  There are 4 key pillars that I have developed for event management that have held up over the years, and are the 4 key pillars upon which we built the STARS program:

  • Quality – Everything about the event is aligned with our corporate commitment to producing quality software products and services – the Venue, the Service, the Content of each and every workshop, the Content of Guest Speaker presentations, Partner presentations and Case Studies, the Customer Appreciation Dinner, Best Practices handout materials – all of it is representative of our ambition to be the highest quality partner in this business.
  • Value – our customers are busy and their resources are precious – every session must be designed to be highly practical, and either instantly usable by customers when they return home, or it should provide information that could be leveraged to address cost challenges they are considering tackling in the near future.
  • Community – the event must incorporate the notion that we are working in partnership with our customers to build the greatest community in the world dedicated to managing product cost & profitability.  The greatest minds on this topic will attend and be available to share their insight with everyone.
    • As a side note, I think this pillar could also be entitled “Humility“.  When I use this word, in this context, what I mean is that any great software vendor must acknowledge that they have much to learn from their customers.  They live with the problem day in and day out; they know what will work as a solution, and what will not.  It is important when our team attends this conference, that they approach every conversation with humility, knowing that if they listen hard, they could learn a lot, and discover creative new ways to solve sticky problems. This market will only grow and be successful if we work to solve problems together, as a community.
  • Fun – people should look forward to this event every year because it delivers value they can tell their boss about and fun their family may enjoy. Nothing wrong with mixing in a little bit of fun after the work day is over!

Guest Speakers

This week, I want to reveal some information about our 2 keynote speakers for the event. We have 2 incredibly talented business women that are going to be addressing our audience at this year’s conference:

  • Jennifer Bennett – we are incredibly excited to have Jennifer speaking on day 1 of our conference (thanks to Brian Courtney). She is the General Manager of the Brilliant Manufacturing Software team in GE Digital, delivering critical manufacturing intelligence and execution solutions for GE and many of the world’s leading manufacturers.
    • Jennifer’s presentation at the conference is entitled “Leveraging Your Digital Thread to Optimize Real-Time Manufacturing”. Manufacturers are challenged to decide what to build, how to build it, where and when to build it, and how to efficiently maintain it. Jennifer will talk about how the key to optimizing the full product life cycle from design to service is through analytics of data that has been traditionally locked inside corporate silos.
  • Carla Bailo – our second keynote speaker is equally compelling. Carla is the Assistant Vice President – Mobility Research and Business Development at The Ohio State University. Until Feb 1, 2014, Carla was Senior Vice President, Research & Development – Nissan Americas. In this role, she was responsible for all of Nissan’s vehicle engineering and development operations in Michigan, Arizona, Mexico and Brazil. She was also a member of Nissan’s MC-A, the company’s highest-ranking decision-making body in the Americas region.
    • Carla’s presentation at the conference, entitled “Total Delivered Cost Optimization” – will talk about how today’s product development environment is driving faster and more optimized cost design solutions than ever before. Her presentation focuses on strategies to drive down the total delivered cost of a component from cradle to grave.

I can feel the excitement (and yes, the nervousness), building in the hallways here at our corporate headquarters. This conference is a major company-wide commitment. In one way or another, everyone in our company plays a part in helping us drive success at this event.

I’ll provide one more update next Monday about some the Case Studies that will be presented at the conference, and after that, I’ll be tweeting from the event floor as I run around like a crazy man, trying not to spontaneously combust from all the excitement.

If you are interested in joining or learning more about the 2016 STARS Conference, write to me at rburke@apriori.com. You can also follow all the action from the event floor by searching for our Twitter event hashtag #aPrioriSTARS.


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