Enthusiasm, Persistence, And The IBM i Payoff
March 4, 2013 Dan Burger
Innovation is an overused word that gets nailed to everything from a pair of socks to cures for baldness. Let me give you a place where it actually applies: the Southeast Michigan iSeries User Group (SEMiUG). Membership in local user groups is not what it once was. The IBM midrange community is no different than most in that regard. One reason for the membership decline is a dearth of educational innovation with the result being decreased value.
I’ve written about the SE Michigan user group before. Check out the “Related Stories” at the bottom of this article. In November, the article told of a hands-on Web Query training program that was just getting under way. It was following a project template that began a year earlier with a PHP focus. More than two dozen people signed up for the PHP program. More than three dozen got on board for the Web Query project. Some had varying skills in the topic, others had none. Participants were placed on teams, given tutorial materials, and provided guidance from subject matter experts. Weekly webinars were held to review progress, facilitate open discussion and questions, and make assignments for the following week. LinkedIn was also used for collaboration.
In both instances, two companies were recruited and they provided the project objectives. The Web Query business intelligence project included dashboards, a mobile component, and some of the advanced Web Query functionality. One of the companies was a Web Query user looking to expand its business intelligence capabilities, while the other was in the decision making process of whether to implement Web Query. Staff members from each company participated in the project. The teams choose the project they wanted to work on and ultimately most participants had time to be involved in both projects.
Six weeks later, the projects were completed. All the teams presented their results, which were based on how they determined the goal should be achieved. Of course, that meant everyone’s end result was similar but different. During the presentation stage there was much interest and enthusiasm generated by the different ideas.
Both companies got what they wanted from the exercise. For one, it was the conclusion that internal staff, using Web Query, could get the initial business intelligence results the company wanted. For the other company, it was the understanding of what it would take to meld its complex data into more advanced business intelligence than what it was currently capable of providing given its backlog of requests and current skill set.
“In just six weeks, those that participated advanced greatly, and it was great to see the finished results,” Laura Ubelhor said last week during a telephone call with IT Jungle. “The teams were not forced to complete projects, but were provided the openness to progress as they could while accommodating other demands on individual time. And using a team format inspired individuals to push a little further than they may have on their own.”
Ubelhor is the president of SEMiUG. She believes in the value of participatory education and team collaboration. She has been the organizer of these activities and in this latest endeavor had help from staff at ConsulTech Services, a company owned by her and her husband. She also acknowledged the assistance of Jackie Jansen, an ex-IBMer now employed at Information Builders.
Not only did the individual participants and the companies get something positive out of this, but the local user group gained by an activity that increased participation. Even some of those who did not actively participate were interested in taking a look at what had been accomplished. IBM was also a winner, because it brought a lot of exposure to Web Query.