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POWER > Trends > Collaboration

Meeting of the Minds

Alison Butterill
Alison Butterill IBM i Offering Manager - Photo by Craig Washburn

Many Power Systems users have been working in their company for many years, without sharing their experiences with users from other companies. At user group meetings and conferences, “the hands-on, experienced users are there to explain to other users or customers what they did with the tools and technologies to achieve their goals,” says Torbjörn Appehl, IBM champion and president of Data3/COMMON Sweden.

Across the country and around the world, IBM Power Systems* users are meeting up and sharing ideas around their business needs. Thanks to these user groups, everyone from programmers to CTOs is learning new ways to use and improve IBM technology.

“These groups are a great way to talk to someone who solved a problem in a way you hadn’t even thought of yet.”
—Alison Butterill, IBM i offering manager

But it’s not just the users who benefit. The groups are also an invaluable asset to IBM. As a company, IBM is dedicated to every client’s success. That requires listening to clients—and user groups are one of the best ways to do that.

In the course of her long career, Alison Butterill has seen the benefits of user groups to IBM firsthand, from her beginnings as an IBM IT specialist, to her current role as the IBM i offering manager. Throughout her career, she has served as a volunteer for COMMON, the world’s largest professional association of IBM technology users.

Founded in 1960 in Chicago, the nonprofit organization comprises more than 4,000 individual and corporate members. They represent more than 18,000 IT professionals using IBM Power Systems and related solutions. And that’s just North America. COMMON also has an international presence in nearly 20 European countries and in Japan.

“At first, the idea was to talk about common technical issues, from coding techniques to how to manage the system,” says Butterill. “But over the years, it has grown to reflect a wide range of technology areas and interests within the IBM Power Systems community, such as Linux* and open source.”

Giving Power to the People

By definition, user groups are organized and run by users, often meeting annually for a large national conference, as well as monthly for local events. The goal is to learn from each other’s experiences and expertise. Therefore, while IBM Power Systems is the focus of COMMON’s annual meeting and expo, many of the speakers are industry experts from companies other than IBM.

In addition to in-person meetings and events, user groups also offer online education, certification training and exams, and perhaps most importantly, direct access to IBM decision-makers through advisory councils and working groups.

Case in point: the Common Americas Advisory Council is a small yet diverse group of members that represent IBM customers of different sizes and industries, such as retail, distribution, and education. The council is designed to act as the liaison between IBM as a company and the user group members.

In Butterill’s experience, the process of exchanging ideas between users and IBM works like a well-oiled machine. Any IBM i user can go to the COMMON Requirements Portal, where they may choose between IBM i or AIX* requirements. They can review existing requirements to see what’s already been submitted, and add requirements of their own. Users may also submit hand written requirements during the annual meetings, but most opt for the online method, which is also mobile-friendly.

The advisory council then reviews these requirements and determines whether they should be submitted to IBM. And in most cases, they do.

Eve Daniels is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer.



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