Central Florida User Group to Disband in December
September 20, 2010 Dan Burger
Tony Morelli has been a member of the Central Florida Midrange User Group since the mid-1990s. He’s served on the local user group’s board of directors for years and has seen the highs and the lows. At the end of this year, he’ll watch CFMUG fade away. At its meeting last month, the board set December 31, 2010, as the final day of business for organization.
“We haven’t had people responding to and attending our meetings,” Morelli. “I believe it is just a lack of interest. We were willing to do whatever people let us know they want. But nobody let us know anything.”
CFMUG plans to have two more meetings before the end of the year. The first one is scheduled for October 12 when IBM‘s Jeff Elmore is scheduled to discuss the new Power7 servers and their features and enhancements. Several emails have been sent to announce this meeting, but as of Friday only four people have reservations. The final CFMUG meeting will likely take place in December, Morelli says. “It will basically be an opportunity for people to say their good-byes.”
Recent meetings were drawing about 15 attendees and approximately half of those were board members. Combined with a depleted treasury due to declining memberships, the decision to call it quits was pretty much black and white.
“The membership fees were used to pay our way into COMMON,” Morelli explained. There was little left over. Members paid fees to attend meetings, but those charges only covered the cost of food, with not much left for the treasury. Talk of closing down the user group has been ongoing for past couple of years as monthly meetings diminished to a more sporadic schedule.
In the mid- to late-1990s, Morelli says attendance at meetings often topped 100. “When we had John Sears and Dr. Frank Soltis there were good responses. And when we had normal meetings we would have 30-plus people.”
Similar to other local user groups, the board at CFMUG remained pretty much unchanged over the years despite efforts to bring in new people. A core group shouldered the load even though a majority of those had retired from their IT professions. A lack of new volunteers for leadership roles at the LUG level is a common nail in the coffin as these organizations fall by the wayside nationwide.
“In all the time that I’ve been there, we only paid for one person to present,” Morelli says. “Everyone else pretty much came on IBM’s dime. We had really good speakers–the ones that speak at COMMON and the technical conferences. The speakers would come to our meetings because they were in town at IBM’s offices talking to customers. We had a very nice relationship with IBM because of who was associated with our group.”
Although there are many local companies with substantial investments in Power Systems IBM i technology, the job market has shrunk, Morelli says. Among the IBM i shops in the greater Orlando area are Fiserv, HTE, Universal Studios, and Disney World, plus many smaller organizations.
The interest in local user group activities continues to wane. What’s happening in Orlando is, to some extent, happening throughout the LUG network. Contributing factors include a reduction in corporate memberships, individuals with less time and/or desire to devote to professional networking, and less involvement on the part of IBM, which at one time was instrumental in the success of many LUGs.
When the axe falls on CFMUG later this year, the organization–which formed in 1978 for the users of System/34s, System/36s, and System/38s–will join Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale LUGs that have also passed away. The LUG in Tampa (DEBUG) is best described as being on life support. That LUG has widened its scope beyond an IBM i focus in hopes of continuing operations.