If you’ve been a Hughes customer for any number of years, you have likely been invited to – or maybe even attended – the conference for the Hughes User Group (affectionately known as “HUG”). As I travel home after my first HUG conference, I can’t help but marvel at the genuine camaraderie and connection that I witnessed over the last two-and-a-half days, not to mention the authentic commitment to continuous improvement.
HUG originated more than 30 years ago when Hughes leaders brought a group of customers together to address their enterprise service concerns. The Hughes team took that opportunity to listen to the customers, prioritize the issues and identify actionable and meaningful follow-up. Since that time, HUG has operated as a standalone, customer-led organization whose purpose is to find ways to optimize Hughes services and solutions, whether that means providing feedback to Hughes engineers and product developers or learning best practices for using Hughes products and tools, such as the digital signage platform or HughesON™ customer portal.
HUG even has its own board of directors and chairperson – all elected by the members and representative of a variety of enterprise customers, including financial institutions, big box retailers, retail petroleum and convenience store franchisors. The board meets virtually most of the year, and in person during the annual conference. For the last two years, HUG meetings have been virtual, so the conference in Charleston, South Carolina, at the end of April was a welcome return to a ‘live’ event format with customers attending from all over the U.S. and as far away as Indonesia.
The conferences boasts a content-rich agenda with plenty of opportunity for networking and feedback. General sessions cover everything from the Hughes business and recent innovations to deep dives on topics on everyone’s mind, such as network security and 5G strategies for enterprises. Presenters are not just from the Hughes team, but include representatives from ecosystem partners (think wireless providers and equipment manufacturers). Given the wide range of Hughes customers – from satellite manufacturers to grocery stores – breakout sessions offer customers the opportunity to meet with Hughes experts on areas of individual interest. These smaller sessions, such as a Digital Media Workshop, offer real-world instruction and best practices; while others focus on practical issues around “Cloud Architectures and Workload Connectivity,” “OneWeb and Hybrid Systems” and “Using AIOps to Improve Service Delivery,” as just a few examples.
I had the privilege of hosting the final general session of the program, a Q&A with Hughes executives including Dan Rasmussen, SVP & GM, Enterprise Division; Cliff Rees, SVP of Service Delivery; Sindhu Rajan, VP of Enterprise Support; and Frank Kelly, VP and CTO, Enterprise Division. It was a frank and open discussion with my colleagues describing challenges, opportunities and enhancements that have been addressed and implemented or added to the roadmap based on feedback from the customers in attendance. A theme of continuous improvement emerged during that discussion, affecting everything from field installations to help desk support to network monitoring. As I reflect on my time with our customers, I realize that theme reverberated throughout the whole event.
In my role at the company, I write a lot of marketing copy which often discusses a “virtuous cycle” of innovation and feedback that is unique to Hughes. The assertion is that we innovate solutions to meet our customers’ needs; solicit practical feedback on those solutions; and continue to innovate to address the feedback. What was remarkable to me was seeing this cycle in action during the conference. From roundtable discussions to informal conversations over meals to open Q&A sessions, my colleagues asked for and listened to feedback that they will take to their teams as essential input for continuous improvement. The outcome will be the next iteration of a product, solution, process or system to support our enterprise customers in achieving their business objectives.
The slogan for HUG is “talk, listen, learn.” It’s apt for our customers. From the perspective of a Hughes employee, though, it would be better stated as “listen, listen, listen.” If you want to be part of this constructive conversation, join us on the HUG LinkedIn Group. Or better yet, plan to join us at next year’s HUG conference in Fort Worth, TX in May of 2023.