Configura – the Swedish technology company that makes the space-planning software CET Designer and the programming environment CET Developer – recently wrapped up its 12th annual conference.
New this year: The conference was redesigned the CET Experience. More than 550 people traveled from North America and around the world to the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes resort for the event, held Oct. 16-18. The conference was Configura’s largest yet.
“With people from multiple industries and disciplines attending from all over the globe, this has become a melting pot for the whole CET community,” Configura CEO Johan Lyreborn said. “It’s about connecting with others and making an impact on the industries we serve.”
Industries include office furniture, kitchen and bath, laboratories and healthcare, material handling and industrial machinery. Configura redesigned, rebranded and expanded the conference to meet the growing needs of the people from these diverse areas who use, create and invest in Configura’s CET platform.
“As our platform continues to grow, so does this extraordinary event. We’ve taken the conference to a whole new level for the designers, dealers, developers, manufacturers and partners in our community,” Configura Vice President of Global Customer Experience Tracy Lanning said. “One of the greatest joys of my career is the growth of this event and how involved people are. Together, we’ve created something that’s powerful.”
Three days of inspiration
Configura expanded this year’s conference from two days to three, with developer and user workshops kicking off the event on a Wednesday. Welcome events that night had attendees choosing from excursions to Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Epcot to a variety of onsite extracurriculars like a yoga class, a golf clinic, spa treatments, sushi and pasta making, and wine and beer tasting.
Conference sessions and presentations continued on Thursday and Friday. By design, most of the workshops were led by CET Designer users, developers and partners external to Configura. Topics ran the gamut – from Collaboration Within CET Designer to Technology Applications to Supercharge the Dealer Showroom Experience. BIFMA Outreach Director Jennifer Wammack spoke on the value of standards for commercial furniture and explored how emerging social science on employee engagement is influenced by furniture that’s tested for safety and performance.
Olympic speed-skating silver medalist John K. Coyle offered the Thursday keynote, speaking to a packed ballroom on how to design for one’s strengths. A graduate of Stanford’s “d.school” as well as an NBC sports analyst and the author of Design for Strengths and The Art of Really Living Manifesto, Coyle challenged audience members to define their strengths and accept their weaknesses.
“Playing ‘wacamole’ with your weaknesses is misery. Instead of trying to fix them, design around them. And then unlock your potential by maximizing your strengths, where your greatest room for growth is,” he said.
Coyle shared stories of his own sports training and how, by discovering and honing in on niche strengths, he was able to beat the odds and achieve Olympic success.
The paradox is that weaknesses can be strengths in disguise.
“Strengths and weaknesses are usually facets of the same thing,” he said.
Coyle shared lists of strengths and corresponding weaknesses – for example, a creative type might be disorganized; an organized person might be uncompromising. And yet, each strength (and inverse weakness) is needed on teams to get work done.
He shared two golden rules of designing for strengths: If you try to fix a weakness, you run the risk of destroying a corresponding strength; if you have a weakness, you probably have a corresponding strength.
His words were met with a lot of nodding from audience members as light bulbs went off.
“Phenomenal,” said Amy Edington, who is Herman Miller’s technology manager of dealer enablement. “I mean, thinking about strengths and weaknesses – and how you have to not just think about one or the other to actually be the best person you can be – is something most people don’t think about.”
Herman Miller colleague Paul Riches added: “People tend to isolate strengths and weaknesses instead of thinking they’re corollary, that they can be a complementary thing,” said the dealer technology strategist based in Vancouver.
“Coyle was a really interesting choice for a keynote speaker, outside our industry but with a message that is so relevant to all of us,” said Lorna Marcuzzo, a Philadelphia-based dealer technology strategist for Herman Miller.
Marcuzzo, Edington and Riches have attended nearly every Configura conference.
Edington said 85 Herman Miller dealer-designers were in attendance at the CET Experience – an excellent number especially given Herman Miller launched its Extension only a few years ago.
“We were floored by how many new people were attending – which bodes well for innovation, creativity, new thought processes. And, it gives those of us who’ve been around awhile the ability to mentor. We can share some of the tribal language and perspective on CET Designer,” Riches said.
Diamond Level Sponsor OST, an Implementation Partner, offered remarks after Coyle’s keynote. Speaking on behalf of OST, the company’s Director of Enterprise Services John Vancil shared his company’s values and encouraged attendees to explore the values of their own companies. “What can you do within your own organization to enhance and live these values?” he asked.
Friday’s keynote kicked off with a brief presentation by Diamond Sponsor OFS whose new tagline is “Imagine a Place.”
“We have to be curious – but curiosity by itself doesn't do any good,” said Ryan Menke, the company’s senior vice president of sales and marketing. “It takes courage to try something new. Don’t worry about failure – that’s a natural part of the process. Push yourself to have new experiences.”
In addition to Diamond Sponsors OFS and OST, the CET Experience was sponsored by Gold Sponsors Global, Haworth, Herman Miller, HIDevolution, HNI, Knoll, ProjectMatrix, Steelcase and Yulio; Silver Sponsors Chief and National; Bronze Sponsors PlatinumEdge Solutions and RSC; and Bellow Press, BIFMA and My Resource Library.
Friday’s keynote presenter Paul Anderson then took the stage. Anderson, who is vice president of wellbeing and development at OFS, spoke about getting outside one’s skin and focusing on others to create experiences. Quoting Maya Angelou, he said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
It was the perfect segue into an important discussion on the WELL Building Standard™ and its influence on design.
“When you design something that is focused on health and wellbeing, then you’re doing a lot for the world,” Anderson said.
He talked about how the world of wellbeing fuses so well with technology, and mentioned how Configura is working on ways to use the power of its software to help designers specify materials and products that are good for people and the environment.
All told, the CET Experience offered more than 60 educational sessions. Many of the sessions were approved for Continuing Education Units by the Interior Design Continuing Education Council (IDCEC).
“The conference was awesome, with so many opportunities for learning and networking,” said Abby Tufvesson, a five-year CET Designer user and first-time CET Experience goer. The interior designer with Steelcase dealer Interstate Office Products based in South Dakota said her favorite workshop was Live Design – a hands-on session for creating great customer experiences. “I’ve learned simple tricks to make using the software even easier.”
Felipe Camacho, design lead and project manager for CSI Fullmer, an Allsteel dealer in Pasadena, California, has been using CET Designer for two years. This was his second Configura conference and, this year, he brought some of his team members with him. “We’re on the right track based on what we’re hearing here,” he said.
Connecting with users
During the conference, manufacturers that have invested in CET Designer Extensions – including OFS, Steelcase, Haworth, Herman Miller, Global, HNI and Knoll – had opportunities to present and meet directly with their dealer-designers.
OFS launched its CET Designer Extension five years ago; today, 100 percent of its products are available through the OFS Extension. The company continues to develop technologies related to the original Extension and, at the CET Experience, revealed upcoming additions to its portfolio, including a Typicals Warehouse and enhanced experiences with the Intermix, Applause and Agile product lines.
“A considerable amount of the advancement that our OFS Extension receives is driven by the user community, and there isn’t a better place to show users that you’ve been listening to and valuing their feedback than at Configura’s conference,” said Wes Harper, OFS director of learning and development.
Global, which launched its CET Designer Extension in 2017, also led a session for its dealer-designers, offering demos and a glimpse into the new functionality and enhancements in the Global Extension.
“This year’s conference is one of the best I’ve seen – it’s a great opportunity to interact with our users,” said Phillip Damianidis, Global’s Configura implementation project manager.
Meetings at the start and end of the CET Experience brought together the Application and Implementation Partners involved in creating and marketing CET Designer Extensions. The meetings were opportunities to hear directly from Configura leadership about the company, product updates and future plans – as well as for partners to present, share their feedback, collaborate and network.
Configura’s expansion model is based on this partner community, which consists of Application Partners (manufacturers that have invested in their own CET Designer Extensions) and Implementation Partners (external software development companies, user-experience designers, software adoption specialists, trainers and marketers with specialized understanding of CET Designer and Extensions).
Today, there are 200-plus clients, Application Partners and Implementation Partners. Twenty-six of these partners have joined the Configura community since November 2018, according to Terese Acou, vice president of production U.S. for Configura.
Over 60 percent of Application Partners are actively working with an Implementation Partner for development of a CET Designer Extension, Acou said.
The model continues to help Configura achieve significant growth. At the Partner Meeting, CEO Johan Lyreborn reported $20 million in sales for 2019 to date and predicted 21 percent sales growth this year. The company now directly employs more than 200 people globally – a 25 percent jump since the beginning of the year, particularly in sales, research and development.
Lyreborn noted that Configura’s solutions are now used by more than 15,000 designers, specifiers, salespeople and software developers across the globe – with 32 percent growth in the first three quarters of 2019 alone.
The company also opened an office in Berlin this year, and has started to do work in Tokyo.
“At the end of the day, Configura is a community-driven ecosystem, and it’s paying off,” Lyreborn said at the meeting. “Thank you to our partners – you’ve made it happen.”
Lyreborn also announced that he plans to step down as CEO sometime in 2020 – the same year that Configura celebrates 30 years as a company.
“This is a natural step for both me and Configura. There are others who are better suited for classic CEO tasks, and the upside is that I get to travel more to talk about our innovations and vision. We need to take the next step – we need new views to take the company to the next level,” he said. “I'm planning to continue on this journey, and I’m super-positive about the future.”
Lyreborn has been CEO since 1999 and founded the company along with Sune Rydqvist and Göran Rydqvist in 1990. Sune Rydqvist served as the company’s first CEO and had been chairman since the founding; he passed away earlier this year.
Configura has begun the CEO recruitment process and also will select a new chairperson in 2020.
In 2018, the privately held Configura announced that the Norwegian company Vind became a 40 percent co-owner. Vind CEO Harald Høegh, a Configura board member, attended the CET Experience and Partner Meeting.
“It was great to meet the many different and all highly enthusiastic members of the CET Designer community. The Vind team is very excited to be contributing to Configura and the unleashing of the vast potential in the platform and the community, with major impact all over the globe,” Høegh said.
A number of conference sponsors whose technologies integrate with Configura’s (or will soon) exhibited and presented at the conference – including HIDevolution, My Resource Library, Yulio, ProjectMatrix and OST.
Toronto-based Yulio is a DIY virtual reality platform for designers and architects. Several years ago, the company collaborated with Configura to bring a mobile virtual reality experience of designed spaces to customers for the cost of a $15 VR headset and a simple subscription service.
Yulio and Configura are now preparing to launch new technology that uses algorithms to quickly create photorealistic, cloud-based renderings, which can be used with the full VR solution. Yulio Founder and Managing Director Rob Kendal demo’ed the technology to conference attendees, who were wowed by the ease of use and realism produced by the product.
“VR is a way to tell visual stories. Millennial decision-makers expect it. And with our latest collaboration with Configura, creating quick VR-ready renderings for use in Yulio will be as easy as a couple of clicks,” Kendal said.
My Resource Library also exhibited at Configura’s conference. A virtual library serving the contract furniture and hospitality industries, MRL offers access to resources – formerly found in a physical library binder – now digitally in the cloud. Users can share information via My Resource Library’s Project Binder tool. Nearly all of the major commercial furniture manufacturers’ products are available in My Resource Library.
“Our mission is to remove complexity from a complex industry,” said Founder Jeff Carlson, who has worked in contract furniture his entire career. “We’re simplifying the specification process by offering a virtual site for consistent, updated information that, when used, greatly reduces time and specification errors.”
My Resource Library will debut its new CET Designer Extension this Dec. 1 on Configura’s Marketplace.
“Our Extension is the first time that marketing materials will link dealers directly to specifications, saving them time. Just drag and drop and get your projects completed,” Carlson said.
CET Designer Awards
Configura also held its 12th annual CET Designer Awards ceremony during the conference. On display throughout the main conference hallway were the submissions from CET Designer users: photorealistic renderings, fly-thru videos, 360-degree panoramic renderings and user success stories. The award recipients were announced at the conference and the winning work is posted at https://www.pinterest.se/cetdesigner/cet-designer-awards-2019/.
Presentations, videos and photos from the conference are available at www.cetexperience.com.
Configura’s spring Partner Meeting will be March 24, 2020, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A Developer Conference also will be held in Grand Rapids March 24-25. Configura’s next CET Experience will be Oct. 12-14, 2020, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
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