This PowerUp blog entry is written by Pete Massiello of iTech Solutions and past president of COMMON. You can reach Pete at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @petem59.
Twenty-five years! Wow, it seems like only yesterday that the AS/400 was announced, and in retrospect, it is amazing how far we have actually come. As the world around us has changed, so too has the machine we all first fell in love with. You have probably heard by now that IBM is celebrating the 25th birthday of the platform, and they are introducing 25 topics on Facebook (bit.ly/ibmi25). IBM asked me to talk about the second of those topics: User Groups. While the folks in Rochester have done an absolutely fantastic job in keeping the machine up-to-date with all the latest technology, new features, functions and improvements; they have also worked very closely to the entire user community to understand their needs and requirements.
User groups have been a backbone of the AS/400 and now IBM i community over these last 25 years—whether it is a local user group or the national user group COMMON. Go to any user group meeting and you immediately see the camaraderie that exists in this community. The user group members, the platform, the IBMers—they all mesh together. We all seem to know one another, and we value each other’s opinion. Yes, I really mean each other’s opinion. It isn’t a one-way relationship. IBM has been a good partner for the user groups, for COMMON and for the individuals in the community. Perhaps it is like a good marriage, where each side understands one another, they listen to each other, they help one another, and they are there for one another. I believe the rest of IBM is properly envious of the relationship that Rochester has with its users.
Remember, 25 years ago there was no Internet. People relied on user groups to get all their information. Everything was face-to-face meetings. Times have changed, technology has changed, our world around us has changed. Yet, today I am at the COMMON conference in Austin, Texas, with the largest concentration of IBM i users on the planet. As I walk around the conference, inside of sessions, in labs, in the hallways, in the expo, I can feel the excitement. I can feel the buzz. This is a great example of the community, user groups and IBM coming together and working together. There is so much value in coming to a user group meeting. The education, the networking, the interaction with other users—it’s priceless. As a member of the community, I have seen that not only do the individuals learn at these events, but so does IBM. This is why I believe it is a reciprocal relationship, even mutually beneficial relationship. The COMMON America’s Advisory Council (CAAC) is a good example of the relationship between both the users of the community and IBM receiving value from this user-group relationship. If you don’t know, the CAAC works with the community to collect requirements from the users and then prioritizes their importance. Then with the IBM Rochester development team, they work to get these requirements into future releases of IBM i. Over the past few years, more than 64 percent of the community’s requirements have been incorporated into 6.1 and 7.1, with additional requirements scheduled to be included into future releases of IBM i. As you can see, user groups aren’t just about individuals coming to listen to what IBM is saying; yes, there is that, but there is also IBM listening to the needs of the users, and then delivering.
Last year, as president of COMMON during the opening session, I talked about COMMON’s strategic partner, IBM. I know that COMMON couldn’t ask for a better partner, and I hope that IBM feels the same way. Over the years each organization has worked together, supported each other and worked very closely for the benefit of the entire community. I think we as the community are extremely grateful for the work that they have both done for us.
IBM has proven over the years they aren’t just the vendor, but a trusted and valued member of the IBM i community. I am amazed at how fast the first 25 years have passed, and I am looking forward to the next 25 years. Put on your sunglasses because from where I am standing, the future of IBM i looks pretty bright.