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Conversations with Companies: EDUCAUSE 2010
October 6, 2010 - 9:45pm

I go to EDUCAUSE for the companies. More precisely, for the conversations I can have with the people who represent the educational technology companies that I currently or may interact with.

Most of my time at EDUCAUSE is spent having these conversations. I realize that the more years that I attend the conference, the less time I can actually spend in sessions. Is this true with you as well?

To get the most out of these conversations, on both sides, here are 5 quick guidelines:

1. Strategic: The best conversations are at the strategic level. I don't want to see your product or talk about current features, rather I want to understand what problem or need that your product/service will solve (at a high level). The best discussions are about large scale educational, economic and technological trends - and where your company and its products/services fit into this larger story.

2. Product Roadmap: Understanding where your company and your main products/services are going over the next 18 months is extremely important. Talking about new products you are releasing or major upgrades to existing services is productive. Even better if you can show me what is going on. I think greater transparency about your future is almost always beneficial to both parties. Particularly if we can have a real dialogue about where education is going, and how your company can best be positioned to provide value to your customers.

3. S.W.O.T.: An honest discussion about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats your company (and its place in higher ed) is always illuminating. We want you to succeed, and we want to participate in your success, and we want to learn from you. The norms of higher ed are open and collaborative, and we want to establish that sort of relationship with you.

4. Black Swans: What black swans do you see as possible for your company, or higher ed in general? What are we not thinking about that could change the relationship between education and technology? What disruptive services or technologies can you bring to our world? Are you thinking really big?

5. Mirrors: As part of these conversations, it is great to hear your views on higher education and how we need to change and evolve.

What guidelines have you found most useful to guide your discussions leaders from ed tech companies? If you work for a company, what types of conversations do you find most productive?


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