I am pleased to be joined today by Doug Ash of Smart Hotel Software. Doug has a rich history within the Sage Accpac family and currently runs the successful Third Party Access Conference (TPAC) – now in its tenth year.
Join us as we discuss the conference, its history and the benefits of attending.
Peter: Hi Doug. Thanks for joining us, today. Can you please introduce yourself and let the readers know a little about your background?
Doug: I worked for Accpac years ago and “wrote” Order Entry for Accpac Plus (DOS). I have been in the Accpac community over 25 years. At my company UniDevCo, we developed a set of add-on products – Item Inquiry, Customer Inquiry, Sales Analysis – products that have become part of the standard [Sage] Accpac product.
At my latest venture, Smart Hotel Software, our focus is solely on hospitality – hotels, motels, retreats etc. I have always been involved with operational software (like Order Entry) and continue to be so in the hotel business by building the software that a company runs its business on.
Peter: Thank you. Can you tell us more about the Third Party Access Conference and how it came about?
Doug: The [Sage] Accpac conferences focus primarily on [Sage] Accpac. Third-party developers, like me, needed a forum to promote their own products as part of a larger solution. David Hood [former CEO of Accpac prior to the Sage acquisition] coined the phrase “End-to-End Solution”. The third party products are a BIG part of the end-to-end solution. Some are add-ons like Norming’s Security Suite or Orchid’s Information Manager Suite and some are full modules like MISys or Service Manager or, my own product, Smart Hotel Software’s Reservation System.
At TPAC, we showcase products and services that connect with Sage Accpac ERP and Sage CRM. That’s it. Every exhibitor has something that the delegates might be able to use.
The business partner channel needs to be kept aware of what is available. There is no substitute for face-to-face meetings. The business partners get a chance to meet the actual developers of the products their customers are either using or need. They get a direct chance for feedback or training or support or deal making. It is the BEST way to assess who they will deal with in the future – what products they will carry forth to their customers.
TPAC 2012 is the tenth TPAC. It is the largest Sage Accpac-only conference in the world.
Peter: So, what’s the ultimate reason behind the conference?
Doug: To showcase third-party products, how they connect to [Sage] Accpac and how they provide a fuller and better solution to the end users – often via the business partners.
Peter: Do you coordinate and organize it yourself or is it a joint effort?
Doug: We do 100% of the organization and a lot of the promotion. Sage helps with the promotion to both the exhibitor and delegate channels. Each exhibitor promotes their own product to the business partner channel.
Peter: That seems like a big project. How much work goes into planning and running the conference?
Doug: It is a BIG project to host a large conference like this. It has become a bit easier with time, but we still have to organize the venue, the conference format, key notes, detailed agenda, exhibit center layout, food and beverage and the event night. In the past, I seconded some of my regular staff to organize and run TPAC. I now have a dedicated resource – Jordan, to run TPAC.
We added a “shoot out” session last year and it was very popular. We will do these again where all the exhibitors for a certain segment – like Business Intelligence last year – get together and compare and contrast their solutions.
Peter: In your eyes, is it worth the effort you expend?
Doug: Oh Yes. We are very self-serving. TPAC gives Smart Hotel Software a great chance to promote its products to the channel. It’s also a great party!!
Peter: Who can attend the conference? Is it open to customers or prospects?
Doug: TPAC is open to Sage Accpac and Sage CRM business partners. It is intended for the business partners and not for prospects or customers.
Peter: What is the average attendance count? How many exhibitors do you gather each year?
Doug: The attendance varies from year to year depending on the economy, the mood of the [Sage] Accpac community and when the conference is. We had to move from the summer back to the spring in 2011 because Sage once again moved their conference and we have to stay 4 months away from theirs. We expect 40-50 exhibitors this year and 150-200 delegates. With the consolidation of the business partner channel, we have a challenge to keep up our numbers. But those that come, now represent larger companies.
Peter: For people that are considering attending, what are the top three reasons to sign up for the conference?
Doug: Attendees have the opportunity to:
- Find new products or services that your clients need or strengthen existing relationships with developers. Increasing the happiness of your clients is paramount – TPAC helps make this happen.
- Network with your peers and Investing in yourself as a professional – learn new things
- Meet with senior [Sage] Accpac management.
And a few days out of the office to reflect on life and business never hurts.
Peter: Agreed! When and where is the next conference? And how much is it to attend?
Doug: TPAC 2012 is in Vancouver (actually Richmond which is a suburb) on March 11-13. The price is $500 early bird, $600 regular and $700 for late registrants. Check the web site for details.
NOTE – we have changed the format this year – we are starting earlier on Sunday so the conference is bigger.
Peter: Finally, where can people get more information?
Peter: Great – thanks for your time, Doug. Keep up the great work and happy 10 year anniversary!