Pride In Advancing The IBM i Community
July 10, 2017 Dan Burger
The IBM i community is a global community. We sometimes forget that as we limit our view to the horizon as seen from our own IT departments. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but the smart cats will tell you it’s far more likely to simply kill ignorance. The power of ideas should not be underestimated. And access to ideas is the reason the IBM i community benefits from events like the recent COMMON Europe Congress (CEC). The education and networking opportunities are what inspires people to participate, says Ranga Deshpande, president of COMMON Europe. “There’s pride in advancing the community.”
“In the past, attendance varied greatly depending on the location. The attendee count in recent years has leveled and maintained at 250 to 300. At the same time, exhibitor and sponsor participation has increased year over year. And finally, more presenters have shown high interest in speaking at CEC, which has brought together over two dozen speakers from many countries including as far away as Australia and the United States,” Deshpande said in an exchange of emails with IT Jungle.
Deshpande spends much of his time thinking about how to shape the CEC and maximize its value for attendees. In this interview, he talks with IT Jungle about the constraints and the opportunities for the IBM i community and the training and education available for IBM i shops.
IT Jungle: What are the challenges that are ahead? What are the concerns?
Deshpande: Challenges are ever changing in the technology and business sectors. I don’t have any particular challenge or concern other than making sure Common Europe is nimble enough to take on any new demands or challenges that do come up. Our organization is stronger than ever, we have a strong and committed board of directors and a renewed and energetic volunteer community. With these ingredients, I’m confident we can address new challenges and will be fluid enough to meet new member needs as they do come up.
The concerns, per se, are obvious, some managed service providers (MSPs) are giving quality service and gaining smaller shops. The flip side we are observing is more MSP, independent software vendor (ISV) and business partner (BP) personnel are attending our events for education. For example, in our Benelux Power events, the BP personnel participation has increased from 35 percent to 55 percent over the last four years. This shift is just natural and is the emerging iceberg phenomenon of the changing roles in the community.
IT Jungle: What are your plans to build on the momentum in the coming year? Will there be additional conferences? Do you have other plans for delivering training and education in addition to traditional conferences?
Deshpande: There is discussion for additional education, although it may not be in the typical conference format. For example, Common Europe will again hold its iTour series–one-day events held in conjunction with one or two vendors and many Common Europe local user group members. The vendors and country-based local user groups have not yet been finalized, but it’s expected the event will be held in five different cities in late Fall. We will also be holding a series of webinars for those members that are not able to attend in-person education. The topics and speakers for these events are not finalized, but we hope to announce the first couple of events very soon.
IT Jungle: Could you comment on whether the greatest interest in attending sessions favored the traditional subjects or the new technologies?
Deshpande: This is hard to say as we didn’t take counts in each session. It’s probably a balance of both though. Experienced attendees favored new technologies and some newer attendees may have gravitated toward some traditional topics that may have been new to them. And others may have re-acclimated themselves to technologies they may not have used in a while or simply wanted to know about new features that were recently implemented. However, I can tell you a number of sessions were completely filled, which indicates some very high interest. Some of those were offered by IBM (Hidden Gems of IBM i, IBM i talks to Watson, and open source sessions), some others by industry and local experts (using open source tools to modernize IBM i applications, customer testimonials, security essentials, and especially the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that is looming over European IT shops. For me, it is not simply an IT issue, it is a big management issue proved by all the latest worldwide ransomware attacks. I also noticed interest in the Rational Developer for i (RDi) sessions offered by Charlie Guarino from Central Park Data in New York.