The IBMi25 anniversary celebration enters the home stretch with Lynne Benedict’s commentary about a grass roots customer effort that evolved into a strategic partnership with IBM – the LUG (Large User Group). Lynne is the Director of Operations and Administration for the LUG and has led the group for thirteen years. Her background is in database programming at IBM Rochester and Rockwell Shuttle Operations Company at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. She also serves on the board of First Farmers & Merchants Bank in Stewartville, Minn.
So how did this paragon of collaboration form? Representatives from six companies, all pushing the AS/400 as hard as they could, met in 1994 at COMMON in San Antonio, Texas. It became obvious to them that they were all experiencing similar challenges, so they agreed to keep the synergy going by meeting at each other’s sites, sharing experiences and trying to solve problems. The next logical step was to lobby IBM for information and assistance, and IBM responded positively, understanding that hearing collectively from their largest AS/400 customers was an opportunity. In 1996 the LUG created its first 11 requirements and delivered them to IBM, where they were accepted into consideration in the development planning. A Lotus Notes based website hosted by IBM brought the requirements process online where it could be easily accessed and updated. This process is now considered one of the formative deliverables of the LUG, boasting more than 1200 written requirements since its inception. IBM has delivered on over 75 percent of approved entries.
Another key deliverable of the LUG is the Strategy Presentation delivered in Rochester, Minn., every year during the deep freeze of February. The concept has been stretched, twisted and taken to the drawing board numerous times over its history until today, when it has come into its own and hit its stride. The big change is that, instead of being a super-secret creation of the LUG, the doors have been opened to include IBM as part of the six teams that have been formed, each focusing on a single area that has been identified as strategic. The LUG has embraced the idea that good strategy should not change much from year to year (thank you, Steve Will). What’s truly exciting is that, instead of delivering a great presentation and then putting it away like holiday decorations until the next year, these teams are staying in contact, tying strategic ideas to existing tactical requirements or writing new requirements to support their ideas.
Now that you know a little about the concrete deliverables through which the LUG collaborates with IBM, let’s look at the organization and the true benefits of membership. LUG was incorporated in 1999 and is not owned or operated by IBM. Membership applications are approved first by the LUG Board of Directors and then vetted by the entire membership. Annual dues of $3,000 per company cover the operational expenses of the corporation. The only additional costs to members are the travel expenses incurred to attend the required meetings (two per year for US based members and one for international members). Without exception, LUG members find this to be an incredible value as they take advantage of technical information provided by IBM, access to the development and support teams and the opportunity to network with their peers. LUG members know that their management truly grasps the value of membership when they ask: “What would LUG members think about this?” or “Can you find out how LUG members solved that?” The IBM i community is recognized as passionate about the capabilities and possibilities surrounding their favorite platform and the LUG is no exception. It is not particularly visible in the media or even very vocal outside the confines of the LUG website, but there is no secret handshake or codeword, just a group of dedicated professionals and the companies they represent, willing to share their knowledge and give the time to participate and contribute.
As the LUG celebrates IBM i at 25 with the rest of the world, it prepares to mark its own 20-year anniversary in October 2014. If your company has two or more Enterprise Power Systems running at least 100,000 CPW, perhaps you would like to become part of the group that proves time and again that by coming together and forming a single voice, the static is cleared, the messages are received and change does happen.