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User Groups are the Heartbeat of the Power Systems Community

Power Systems User Groups
Illustration by Mark McGinnis

Just as nothing can grow in a vacuum, enrichment of the mind cannot occur in isolation. The same can be said for the user experience behind the IBM Power Systems* platform. Designed for mission-critical applications, the platform manages data-intensive processes, while adjustments and updates make it responsive to trends and developments.

Systems administrators and developers must keep up with and adapt to an ever-evolving body of technology still while fulfilling their professional responsibilities. To meet the demand and exchange ideas, user groups have popped up around the world in force.

Sharing Is Innovating

But don’t be fooled: User groups are more than simple forums for sharing information and supporting fellow users. With the exchange of knowledge come new ideas and fresh responses, and the evolution of thinking found throughout the IBM Power Systems community helps drive innovation within the platform itself. As Worldwide IBM Power Systems Content and Community Manager Brandon Pederson reveals, the relationship between IBM and user groups is a two-way street where new ideas are heard and taken seriously.

“User groups are the heartbeat of the IBM Power Systems community,” comments Pederson. “They stimulate growth by inviting new IT professionals into their networks and by sharing knowledge and best practices. Many features that we have built into the platform were a direct result of feedback we collected from clients and business partners in user groups.”

Pederson’s sentiments are echoed by Manzoor Siddiqui, executive director at COMMON. With an emphasis on IBM i, COMMON is the world’s largest association of IBM technology users. In its role as a provider of independent education, certification, advocacy and networking among users and related third-party solution providers, COMMON intimately understands the influence of user groups.

“The collective voice of the IBM Power Systems community provides a platform to openly share best practices, showcase innovative solutions and business applications,” explains Siddiqui. “But user groups also share with IBM—and other solution providers—their ideas on how to make the platform and related software even more robust for greater business value.”

All of which is invaluable. Through the growth of user groups, IBM benefits from real-time feedback that makes its solutions even more robust for the larger market. While many companies would otherwise invest a great deal of money for this kind of input, IBM receives vital information on a regular basis without burdening resources. It is a truly win-win system for all involved.

“User groups are the heartbeat of the IBM Power Systems community. ... Many features that we have built into the platform were a direct result of feedback we collected from clients and business partners in user groups.”
—Brandon Pederson, Worldwide IBM Power Systems Content and Community Manager

A True Sense of Community

User groups formed organically. Whether spurred by a lack of resources or access to education, Power Systems users coalesced into localized cooperatives, and as the use of the platform expanded, so did the user groups and what they offered their members.

And everyone is in it together. Many user group members are business partners or clients who compete against each other on a daily basis, yet when it comes to the user group community, their dedication to IBM Power Systems platform outweighs the desire to outfox the competition. For Pederson, the willingness of individual groups to assist fellow users is one of the most remarkable aspects of the IBM Power Systems community.

“The Power Systems community is essential to the success of our business,” he says. “The community and user groups within it give us critical product and strategy feedback, help to grow interest in the platform by reaching out to new IT professionals, and evangelize for our brand through speaking at conferences, writing blogs, being active on social media and so much more.”

Again, Siddiqui agrees: “The Power Systems community is strong and vibrant, and members really believe in the robustness of the platform. They tend to be real advocates—evangelists, even—in a way that you don’t see among users of other systems. It’s a cohesive group of IT and business professionals who share a common thread, and that’s what brings them together. These are people who work on the platform day after day, and have the knowledge, insight and voice to further grow and enhance the platform,” he says.

The collaboration extends beyond the strictly professional realm. Through networking events run by local user groups, members of the IBM Power Systems community can meet and make long-lasting relationships both within the workplace and outside.

Client Experience at the Center

The Power Systems platform is also reflective of a universal sense of commitment to clients found throughout the firm. IBM understands that user groups represent a very important section of their client base and actively seeks feedback to help improve their products and solutions.

In the case of the IBM Power Systems community, user groups are able to work toward solutions that ultimately enhance the client experience because their members encompass IBM and other solution partners, not just users. Taken together, this provides the client with a holistic, fully formed support system as well as the reassurance that every aspect of the platform is being taken into consideration.

The Roots Run Deep

IBM Power Systems user groups have a long history. For more than a decade, IBM’s proprietary UNIX* OS, AIX*, has been running the Virtual User Groups (VUG) with the purpose of educating clients on IBM Power Systems technology. This intricate exchange of ideas has become a hallmark of the IBM Power Systems community. Over the years, it has led to myriad groups coming together to share and learn.

“There are many Power Systems communities,” reveals Joe Armstrong, certified IT specialist and client technical specialist for IBM Power Systems, “and they are extremely important as they provide a way to share information, either from client to client, or from IBM to clients. Two of the best known within IBM are the Large User Group (LUG), which caters to the IBM i community, and the Technical Collaboration Council (TCC), which much like LUG, only started with the AIX community and has since grown to include Linux as well. While both of those are well run within IBM, they cater to larger clients.”

But this is only the tip of the iceberg. IBM Power Systems communities come in all shapes and sizes, whether local user groups or virtual user groups, such as the one managed by Armstrong. Virtual learning is of particular importance since many clients are unable to attend conferences and seminars (such as IBM’s Technical University events) in person. As a result, virtual learning groups allow professionals to further their education without financial burdens or logistical headaches. And that’s because the core principle behind IBM Power Systems user groups is the organic spreading of ideas designed to reinforce the greater good.

“The thinking when we started the Power Systems VUG was that people who were better informed of how to use Power Systems would do better at their jobs, be more effective and be more successful,” Armstrong explains. The feedback that I get each month, and the success of the Power Systems VUG shows that people who use Power Systems truly appreciate the information.”

Taking it Forward

As businesses look to the future, it’s critical that IBM Power Systems users remain at the forefront of showcasing and advocating for the IBM Power Systems platform. Those coming behind need to know what drives business and how the platform continues to deliver on that business value. User groups can enable this by providing the knowledge, education, networking and voice for this community; all they need is the collaborative spirit that has become the trademark of user groups.

As Armstrong reflects, “people who collaborate are more successful. Communities allow people to collaborate.”


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