Tax & Accounting Blog

SYNERGY 2017: Big Data, Boot Scootin’ and Giving Back

Aumentum, Blog, Governments, Our Customers, Thomson Reuters & You October 23, 2017

Team Thomson Reuters stands ready to greet attendees to the 2017 SYNERGY Aumentum User Groups Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

More than 300 customers, sponsors and Thomson Reuters team members attended the 2017 SYNERGY Aumentum User Groups Conference in Fort Worth—the 20th annual gathering of this group. The four-day gathering was filled with intriguing keynote addresses, more than 100 sessions, a walking tour of the city’s Sundance Square, armadillo races, mechanical bull riding, boot scootin’, the big reveal of this year’s Public Sector Champion Award winners, and camaraderie while lending a hand to Trinity Habitat for Humanity.

The opening session got things off to an exciting start. Keith Nichols, Thomson Reuters managing director of Government, announced the new Aumentum platform is scheduled to be complete by December 31. “Everybody is excited about what we’re doing,” Nichols said afterward. “We’ve been working on the platform for several years, but we’re close and the benefits are going to be huge for all our clients. Once we unlock the platform strategy, we can start looking at upgrade paths, build new products and maintain our existing products in a more scalable fashion. The things we’re doing behind the scenes to improve performance, improve search, and the overall platform are going to benefit everybody in huge ways.”

An appetite for Big Data

In her opening address, Mona Vernon, chief technology officer with Thomson Reuters Labs, said digital information continues to be generated at a mind a mind-boggling rate—creating real challenges when it comes to analyzing and interpreting it all. In order to leverage Big Data to solve the critical challenges facing our communities, we must find better ways to harness its sources and extract actionable insights. By doing so, “smart counties” will not only use Big Data to fund community growth, they’ll manage it in the same manner as critical infrastructure like roads, bridges and electricity.

Guests at the Senior Leadership Symposium learned about the latest technology trends affecting governance.

Blockchain is also revolutionizing the digital world, and guests invited to the Senior Leadership Symposium were able to learn more about it and other technology trends affecting governance alongside their government peers, industry association members, and senior Thomson Reuters technologists.

In his keynote address, former Kansas City, Missouri, mayor and publisher of Governing magazine, Mark Funkhouser examined the growing level of risk many municipalities are grappling with trying to keep their pension funds solvent.

Understanding the human side of data

Funkhouser also joined Sharon Sayles Belton, vice president of Government Affairs and Community Relations at Thomson Reuters, and ESRI’s Veronica Schinder for a keynote panel on the national opioid crisis in America. Sayles Belton admitted, “We wondered if this was the right kind of conversation for a group of people who focus their time and energy on tax and accounting issues facing their municipalities, but found that it really was. People everywhere want to understand what they can do.”

Camaraderie and networking were big parts of the this year’s SYNERGY.

Both Governing magazine and ESRI have done a lot of research on the opioid crisis in the United States and had good information to share. “I think members of the audience got a better understanding of how the opioid crisis has affected the community where they live, and the extent of the collateral damage associated with it,” Belton Sayles added. “It was a great conversation.”

Belton Sayles was also moved by the number of people who approached her afterward to share personal stories about the ways they had been personally affected by the crisis.

Both the future and the past garnered keen attention

In a week filled with great sessions and attractions, the Innovation Lab was wildly popular. “Every session was packed,” said Diana Flanders, vice president of Customer Operations. “It was great to hear so much customer feedback.”

One customer wrote, “Thank you for the opportunity to provide feedback on some of the upcoming enhancements. We are very excited about the planned features.”

A walking tour of Sundance Square—a mix of historic and modern buildings that is the heart of downtown Fort Worth—led by the Tarrant Appraisal District was also a big hit. “It was really cool,” said Mariann Matz, property appraisal supervisor at Clark County Assessor’s Office. “The guide was so knowledgeable about everything—how the developers did everything, when a building was built, when it was remodeled—all the thought and planning the developers put into making Sundance Square amazing.”

A guide from Tarrant Appraisal District led a walking tour of Fort Worth’s popular Sundance Square.

On Wednesday evening, the Public Sector Champion Awards banquet honored the notable men and women who have made a big difference in their communities and the Thomson Reuters universe. Ron Agnor, the assistant real estate assessor for the City of Virginia Beach, received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his pioneering work with user communities and laying the foundation for the annual SYNERGY conference we know today. You can learn more about our 2017 Public Sector Champion Award winners and hear their stories in this collection of videos.

Leaving a big piece of our hearts in Fort Worth

On Thursday, Thomson Reuters staffers and nearly 40 clients worked side-by-side to help Trinity Habitat for Humanity with revitalization efforts in a Fort Worth neighborhood. Volunteers painted a single-family home and historic Barber College, and constructed outdoor benches for a senior citizens home.

Sharon Sayles Belton joins Trinity Habitat for Humanity volunteers to paint a family home in Fort Worth.

“We could not be more excited to have Thomson Reuters partnership on this project,” said Lauren Harris, director of leadership giving with Trinity Habitat for Humanity. “It takes volunteers and funds to affect change in such a large way. We know that Thomson Reuters is a company that cares about their community and wants their employees to be engaged, wants them to volunteer, wants them to donate to the causes that are close to them and we’re just so thankful to be on that list and part of how Thomson Reuters gives back to the community.”

“I love that Chris Barlow and Diana Flanders reached out to Habitat so we could do something for this community,” says Sam Wilkins, vice president of professional services. “We thought what a great opportunity to get our customers involved. We’re in the government sector and these people are all about service and helping their community. That’s why we’ve got such a great turn-out for it.”

Next year, Riverside!

Sunshine, palm trees, citrus groves and historic Mission Revival architecture will be the backdrop for SYNERGY User Groups Conference 2018. Join us in Riverside, California, September 16 -20, 2018 for more informative keynote addresses and plenary session, more award winners and more camaraderie with your industry peers. See a preview of what’s in store, and save the date now.