How To Get Vendors To Share Their Plans

Tech users groups want more than help--they want strategy.

Whereas advocacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation will stand up to Congress over big-picture issues, business technology pros want someone on their side in their dealings with software and other vendors.

That's where vendor-specific user groups come in. They began as a way for technologists to meet for training, networking, and direct contact with the vendors of the products they were using. That's still the case, but with the Web's ability to deliver tactical information, coupled with the growing diversity of huge vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Oracle, the groups spend more time pressing for vendors' future strategy.

"Ten years ago, it was all about R3, how can I get a screen to work better?" says Rod Masney, president of the Americas' SAP Users Group and global director of IT infrastructure services for Owens-Illinois, a maker of glass and plastic packaging products. "Now it's all about NetWeaver, CRM, and other areas of SAP's rapidly growing product line." ASUG's 50,000 members want to influence how those products are developed.

SAP doesn't pick up the tab or tell ASUG how to operate, beyond its one voting member on a 13-member board. Membership costs a company with more than $5 billion in revenue $5,000 a year for an unlimited number of employees. The board meets annually with CEO Henning Kagermann, product and technology group president Shai Agassi, and global service and support director Gerhard Oswald.

The Independent Oracle User Group, with 20,000 members, has a similar independent model. That gives members the ability to be skeptical of promises Oracle makes for new features, release timetables, and security fixes, says Ari Kaplan, president of IOUG and manager of Datalink's database practice. Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and most other big vendors have independent user groups, as well. Without financial independence, the groups wouldn't be of use to members--or vendors, says Robert Catterall, president of the International DB2 Users Group and director of engineering for CheckFree. Says Catterall: "IBM values the straight talk they get from IDUG."

Back to Ari Kaplan's Home Page


is looking into the disappearance of his hero, Wallenberg. He has made 10 trips into Russia, using a database program he developed to follow the movement of prisoners through the gulag.

May 21, 2001

Back to Ari Kaplan's Home Page