Friday, June 20, 2008

A New Microsoft Approach to User Groups

The Waterloo Wellington IT Professionals is getting geared up for the end-of-season community launch this coming Monday evening, hosted at Conestoga College. We'll be highlighting new features in seminal products like Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, and specific technologies like Hyper-V. We needed the larger venue provided by the college and an extra hour's time (starting at 6:00 pm, instead of 7:00 pm and continuing to 9:00 pm) to accommodate those registered for this event.

We might want to save a few moments in our announcements to give our user group community of IT professionals a "heads-up" on Microsoft will be supporting user groups in the future. Working cooperatively with Culminis, Microsoft will be establishing a volunteer-based organization similar in structure to INETA with regional advisory boards. In the first year of operation, board members will be appointed, but within that first year, expect to see board members elected by their regional user group communities.

The structural change and alignment of models with INETA is significant in itself. It means that Microsoft will be stepping up directly in the provision of services such as

  • event support
  • development of the user group community
  • delivery of content
  • recognition and reporting to/from user groups
  • support for newsletter publication

While the newly structured Culminis and continuing INETA will benefit from this reorganization, other user groups like PASS and those just forming that don't fit the mold of IT Pros or developers will now have potential support from Microsoft directly for their endeavours.

Personally, I think this is a win-win-win scenario for Microsoft, Culminis, and the user group community in general. Volunteer-based boards are adaptive and driven directly by the issues which surface from interaction with members of user groups. They tend to have their fingers on the pulse of the community and are responsive to their needs. They move quickly, usually democratically, and provide immediate opportunities for professional development and leadership.

I look forward to this new development and supportive structure.

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