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The Voice of the Community

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COMMON provides value to newcomers and seasoned professionals. “It’s really important to see other ways that people are doing things, maybe ways that you hadn’t considered. You can do that with COMMON,” Carey adds.

While COMMON focuses on what you need to solve your business problems today, COMMON’s charitable arm, the COMMON Education Foundation (CEF) works to introduce both college students and educators to all that the Power Systems platform has to offer by providing them with a conduit for education and networking outside of their current learning environment. By exposing and educating a new wave of talent to IBM i and Power Systems in general, the CEF hopes to provide new opportunities for future IT professionals, while augmenting the existing talent pool with new idea generators, contributors and problem-solvers to help the community flourish.

COMMON Europe

Like its American counterpart, Luxembourg-based COMMON Europe plays a role in providing news and education to members on a monthly basis. It also organizes webinars, smaller meetings and the annual COMMON Europe Congress, which last year hosted more than 300 attendees from 20 countries. The next congress will be held in Brussels on June 18-21.

In addition to the umbrella organization, the individual country user groups are extremely active, says Torbjörn Appehl, current president of Swedish user group Data3 and marketing manager for COMMON Europe. Data3 focuses on all Swedish companies running IBM i, from small users to international cloud vendors. Its membership is open to companies and individuals.

The Swedish user group, like those in other countries, holds its own events, including a well-attended conference in the fall. Recently, Data3 held a meeting on systems monitoring based on Nagios. The group is working to broaden developer skills in Sweden with full-day seminars on modern RPG as well as SQL education for RPG developers.

The country user groups and COMMON Europe focus on networking and education to help companies solve their challenges and assist individuals with improving their skills. For example, a Data3 member was interested in seeing a change made to IBM i and posted the idea on developerWorks. Other members of the community supported the idea on social media. The COMMON Europe Advisory Council included the change on its list of requests to IBM. “It was a win-win situation for the client, IBM and the community,” Appehl says.

Both the local and COMMON Europe members value the connection with IBM. Top managers from IBM attend COMMON Europe and are available to speak with local users. Such interaction is very valuable for representatives of small Swedish companies. No other platform makes its executive available to shake hands and answer questions, Appehl remarks.

Local users also help other users who are trying to solve challenges. For instance, one customer was going to switch from IBM i to another platform to run Linux. But other users pointed out that such a change wasn’t necessary because Power Systems runs Linux. The client saved a lot of money when it realized that IBM i can run the newer technologies, Appehl says.

Support From the IT Community

Besides support from their own members, many user groups receive support from IBM, its business partners and ISVs. User groups sometimes meet in the offices of IBM or its business partners, which keeps costs low and enables the user groups to reach out to more of their members.

Business partners and ISVs sometimes speak at various conferences, including the small conferences offered by local user groups, notes May. Local user groups often feature vendor expositions at their conferences, which allow business partners and ISVs to showcase their offerings and offer opportunities to meet with clients to discuss their options, she says.

Some business partners also provide monetary support. For instance, Maxava annually contributes $50,000 to various user groups to fund their activities.

All around the world, user groups are providing feedback to IBM and fellow users about Power Systems. The community is richer for such efforts.

Shirley S. Savage is a Maine-based freelance writer. Shirley can be reached at savage.shirley@comcast.net.


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