Why You Should Join A Local User Group?
February 4, 2019 Dawn May
Here’s a good question: Why should you want to join a local user group?
You can communicate with colleagues via email or instant messages. A wide array of social networks, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and others, provide a way to share information. Internet searches allow you to find documentation and articles. While the interconnected world provides access to large amounts of information, you also have to determine if the information you find is accurate. Of course, you can trust information from IBM web sites, but what about posts on social media? Are they always right? I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Everything you read on the Internet is true.” You must do due diligence to ensure your information is correct if you are not confident of the source.
With access to so much information through your laptop or phone, why should you invest your time and money to meet face to face? While online resources are great, your professional network and who you know is extremely important. User groups can help you extend your professional network by meeting people from different companies that all have something in common: their use of – and often passion for – Power Systems running IBM i.
I’m a huge fan of local user groups and try to support them in any way I can. It’s a great way to get inexpensive education, you get to meet face-to-face with IBM i experts, and you have an excellent opportunity to network with peers to discuss challenges and share successes.
Most user groups have monthly meetings. Some also have small conferences that are 1 to 3 days in length. There is generally a membership fee, and there may be a small charge for monthly meetings. There are IBM i local user groups all over the U.S., as well other parts of the world. MeetUps also bring people together, and there are a few IBM i MeetUps that have been successful.
If you become active in a user group, you may have the opportunity to provide input on what topics should be considered for the meeting agenda. IBM supports user groups by providing speakers – you can hear firsthand from IBMers who are part of the development team in Rochester. In addition, experts within the IBM i community also speak and share their deep knowledge with helpful real world experience.
If you haven’t been active in a local user group, there are many places where you can find lists of user groups. COMMON has this one, there’s one at midrange.com, IBM has a wiki page, and HelpSystems has this blog. I’m sure there are more. All of the active user groups have web sites where you can learn more about their meetings, upcoming speakers, and agendas. Many maintain a mailing list for spreading information about upcoming events.
And of course, there is COMMON. COMMON is the largest IBM i/Power Systems user group in the world. COMMON hosts a large annual conference in the spring, now called POWERUp, and a smaller event in the fall. In addition, COMMON offers free virtual conferences, paid webinars, in-depth bootcamps, and certifications. If you are not a member of COMMON, you should look into joining as the educational opportunities available are extensive. Other countries also have COMMON organizations, as well as other user groups.
If you are not part of a user group in your area, please consider joining one. It’s definitely worth the investment of time and money, and gives you a competitive advantage by extending your reach beyond your immediate team and company.
Related to user groups are advisory councils. There are several IBM i advisory councils – the Large User Group (LUG), COMMON Americas Advisory Council (CAAC), COMMON Europe Advisory Council (CEAC), the ISV Advisory Council, and others. My last assignment with IBM involved working with these advisory councils to help manage their meetings as well as the requirements process. A major role of these advisory councils is to submit requirements to IBM and provide guidance to IBM on requirements that others have submitted. If you are not yet familiar with the RFE process, a good starting point is the article IBM Request for Enhancement (RFE) allows IBM i clients to affect the course for the future.
You could consider becoming a member of one of these advisory councils if you meet the demographic requirements. The LUG is for large companies that run critical production business on IBM i. Their membership requirements are quite steep. You can read about LUG membership at http://www.the-lug.com/membership.html. If you are not a member of LUG and your company qualifies, you should seriously consider joining. All LUG members have program agreements in place with IBM. In addition to submitting requirements to IBM, LUG members also learn about future product plans and are able to provide direct input to IBM on those plans. Peer-to-peer networking at LUG meetings is good way to build your professional network.
CAAC and CEAC are made up of representatives from small and medium businesses. There are also demographic requirements for membership. Both of these organizations want people that are not afraid to speak up and offer their input. Like LUG, CAAC, and CEAC members have program agreements in place with IBM and gain access to future product plans.
The IBM i community is unique in the large number of active user groups. If you like working with the platform as much as I do, take the opportunity to get to know others working on i. Together we can increase the strength of our platform.