This year Mitratech held its peer-driven annual user conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, where the weather was hot, hot, hot and so were the discussion topics. Mitratech’s VP of Marketing, Janet Vito, was in attendance and gives us some of the highlights from the show.
As we were about to embark on our largest event of the year – Interact 2017 – I was sitting out in the courtyard at the Westin Keirland Resort and Spa and I started to reflect upon what a beautiful place Arizona is. To quote Joseph Stacey, “Nowhere on this planet is the desert as fascinating as it is in Arizona.” I would have to agree with this assessment. Nowhere do you see mountains, desserts, valleys, sophisticated cities, Ferrari’s, hundreds of galleries all within a few miles. The perfect setting for Interact 2017!
If you asked any of our clients, they’d say that one of the wonderful things about Interact is all of the people you meet. You not only learn more about the solutions you’re using, but also the industry you’re in, and you can share best practices that help you and the other attendees do their jobs better.
The theme of this year’s Interact was ‘A New Perspective’. And, when I looked around sitting in that courtyard, I thought of the numerous perspectives in geography. As I met people attending the conference, I appreciated the numerous perspectives they bring not only to their jobs, but to this conference. We welcomed attendees from companies with thousands of people in their legal departments, and others with less than 10. Some were seasoned legal department veterans with strong backgrounds, and others were brand new to their role and just getting started.
After a variety of hands-on training sessions throughout the day, the conference kicked off on Monday evening with an opening reception outside in the very same courtyard I sat in earlier. You may think it would be too hot. But remember, it’s the desert, it cools off at night during this time of year. The weather was perfect and the mood was a mix of relaxation and anticipation.
DAY 1: A New Perspective in Action
The day started with attendees lined up early for breakfast – clearly a sign of the anticipation and eagerness to get things started. We had just issued a press release announcing the new products and innovative features we’re planning on previewing at the event and there was an atmosphere of anticipation as many attendees were looking forward to the sneak peeks we’d just announced.
Traditionally at our Interact conference, we kick off the event with a keynote from our CEO, Jason Parkman. Now, if you’re familiar with Jason’s keynote presentations, he always brings in an out-of-industry example to set the stage and tell a story. And this year was no different.
Using examples of how archeology has advanced because of technology, which has enabled different perspectives from the traditional archeological sites, to images from the air, to using satellite imagery to find ancient long-lost cities, Jason walked through how having these different perspectives can be immensely impactful. He then tied it to the Amazon story, not the South American river but the online retail behemoth. It’s a fascinating story of how Amazon grew to be what it is today. From humble beginnings where Amazon started selling books online, to today being the largest internet retailer on the planet. Amazon’s mission has always been to build an experience. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, once said: “We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.”
Legal used to be called the department of ‘no’. Now it’s the department of ‘let’s figure it out'. Click To Tweet
You may wonder what this has to do with legal, risk, and compliance professionals at a user conference. Well, it has a lot to do with it. Jason tied the knot and walked through how legal departments are increasingly more strategic – they are more than just a service responding to problems – they are now the conscience of the organizations they represent. Jason explained: “Legal used to be called the department of ‘no’. Now it’s the department of ‘let’s figure it out’.” In essence, legal teams have become true strategic partners at the company level in many organizations and the trend will continue.
The keynote ended with celebrating our clients. We honored two great companies for their strategic vision in legal, risk, and compliance as winners of our 2017 Rockstar Awards: HMSHost and Prudential Financial.
With that, attendees eagerly headed out to the numerous breakout sessions offered and I was able to attend a few sessions myself. My first stop was a session titled “Global Data Privacy Frameworks – Isn’t it All about GDPR?” by Robert Bond, Partner and Notary Public at Bristows. Just after the morning break, I joined a stream of fellow attendees who were heading over to Trailblazer Ballroom E for the sneak peek into our new Legal Hold software solution and learned about how it enables organizations to streamline the legal hold process for better visibility. After that, I attended Mitratech’s Karen Oxenford-Melcher’s jam-packed session previewing TeamConnect’s new advanced reporting functionality and Steven O’Donnell led a great session on building the case for ROT (return on technology).
One of the takeaways I got from Day 1 was just how much the conference truly exuded a sense of community. When people weren’t in sessions, they were chatting in hallways, visiting the Solution Center, and networking. And everyone was talking about what they were planning on wearing at the evening’s Day Glow Desert Party…
The Day Glow Desert Party
When we were planning this party, I couldn’t help thinking about the day glow themed dance that my high school daughter went to last year. I guess we are never too old to have fun because this party was very entertaining. Held outside in the beautiful early evening weather, the décor included large glow balls placed around the grounds, a glow putt-putt golf area, glow sticks galore – from eye glasses to bunny ear head bands, to in the drinks themselves. Attendees went all out as well in their attire – taking advantage of getting the full effects of black lights and the night sky. If you ask anyone, though, the biggest hit was the karaoke. Our own Jason Parkman took the lead and kicked off the karaoke where he was joined by the leadership team to sing a rousing rendition of Toto’s “Rosanna”. This was followed by many other attendees eagerly lining up to put their names down to unleash their vocal chords on us all. We heard a variety of music from Journey to Garth Brooks to The Killers. After the party, of course, is the after-party at the resorts’ “Saloon” bar where we all enjoyed great conversation and company.
DAY 2: Enter stage left: John Mackey, CEO, Whole Foods
Mitratech went all out this year in delivering great content by securing John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, as our keynote speaker. John, while on the surface very unassuming and laid back, is as sharp as a tack. He’s also very passionate and his talk focused on a book he authored called “Conscious Capitalism.” He starts by telling the audience that he is a capitalist and he believes in capitalism. He provided us all proof that capitalism has helped the human race: since capitalists have more wealth overall, are more literate, and if the trend continues, abject poverty could end on this planet in the next 30 years. He touts that capitalism is NOT increasing inequality of wealth – it’s actually doing the opposite. Capitalism is actually creating wealth across the globe for billions of people!
Business is good because it’s a voluntary exchange, no one forces you to buy products and… Click To Tweet
John went on to talk about business, where he informed the packed-out conference hall that “Business is good because it’s a voluntary exchange, no one forces you to buy products and services, it can elevate us when we work for businesses, we innovate, build lifetime skills and relationships. And business lifts people out of poverty. So, why is it that business has such a bad rap? The mistrust in business is pervasive.”
John summed it up here: “Humans have evolved at a breakneck pace and companies need to evolve too. Companies need to shift from a focus of profit maximization to purpose maximization. Great companies have great purposes.”
He then walked the audience through the four tenets of conscious capitalism:
- Higher purpose
- Stakeholder integration
- Conscious culture
- Conscious leadership
In particular, I enjoyed his talk on conscious leadership. He started by quoting Gandhi, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Then he talked about the qualities and virtues of conscious leaders including authentic, purpose-driven, loving and caring, high integrity, emotionally intelligent, and more. He ended his presentation with these thoughts: “It matters how you make the money. Business is not a game. Business is not a machine. Business is not a math equation. Business is not war. Business is about the real lives of real people. It is one of the most human things we can do. We must, therefore, measure our success by the way in which we touch the lives of other people.”
So, with that inspirational ending, my fellow attendees and I headed off to another full day of networking, learning, and sharing. Some of the sessions I participated in included Steven O’Donnell and Ian Dalton presenting on Mitratech’s new Law Firm Client Success Program, which included a demonstration of Viewabill. I also heard from Shelley Wilson from Foresters Financial on how they’ve expanded the legal operations function within her organization. Finally, I was able to catch the panel moderated by Julie Richer with AEP that included panelists Tim Strong of Duff & Phelps, Prudential Financial’s George Chiu, and Mike Russell from Ingersoll-Rand. The lively panel delved into effective strategies to manage external vendors including real-world approaches that have been tested and proven to deliver results.
Yacht Rock Here We Come!
Having heard “yacht rock” music throughout the conference, this set the tone for the ending celebration. (If you don’t know what “yacht rock” is, Google it.) Mitratech’s Chris Kraft and Jason Parkman once again did not disappoint. Adorned in full yacht rock attire – including white slacks, blue blazers, ascots, sunglasses, captain’s hats, and fake mustaches, the tone was set for the evening. There was a live band called The Windbreakers whose specialty is, you guessed it, yacht rock music. Guests were given leis and captain’s hats and the mood was festive yet relaxed. Some guests danced the night away, while others played cornhole, block Jenga, or chess while enjoying the beautiful weather and great conversation.
Until Next Year: Interact 2018
During breakfast on the morning of the final day, with the conference so close to adjourning, I once again found myself sitting back in reflection. As my mind wondered over the events of the past few days, I couldn’t help but smile. I had learned so much, met some great people, be they clients or partners, and had seen and been involved in what is a truly wonderful community spirit. Commented in one of our run-up to Interact blogs, “…people are the real power behind our business, be that us employees, our clients or our partners; it’s all about coming together and connecting.” I witnessed this at every level during Interact 2017 and I am extremely proud to have been a part of it.
As breakfast ended and the conference came to a close and with people around me saying goodbye, I took my leave and said my own goodbyes to those around me. As I stepped out of the resort, my mind turned to next year’s event, which is going to be on our home turf of Austin, and I found myself already planning Interact 2018.
Until next time!
Save the date! Interact 2018 | The Fairmont Austin, TX | September 24-27, 2018