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WebSphere Users Group Fills Knowledge Gap

WebSphere Users Group Fills Knowledge Gap

The quest for knowledge and the opportunity to share experiences with WebSphere is evident with the successful launch last year of Canada's first WebSphere Users Group.

Established with just 30 members, the Southern Ontario WebSphere Users Group has grown by leaps and bounds to 180 members ranging across all industries and organization sizes.

Brought together by the common goals of building a network and increasing their knowledge base, the WebSphere Users Group will further expand by merging with a local MQSeries Users Group. Membership of the merged group will top 300 and be composed of developers, architects, designers, managers, and administrators.

The aim of the joint group is to promote knowledge and technical understanding of the IBM WebSphere family of products and to focus on common issues and experiences. More importantly, the users group provides an opportunity to learn firsthand from the experiences of others in implementing WebSphere.

The Southern Ontario WebSphere Users Group has an executive committee of five members which meets regularly throughout the year. From our experience, it’s important to have executive members from across all industries who are users themselves. Having an IBM representative, as well as a third-party vendor, sitting on the executive committee, is also helpful.

The executive committee plans three meetings yearly where members can hear presentations on proven innovative WebSphere solutions, from both suppliers and user organizations. Plenty of opportunity exists for members to network before, during, and after the meetings. Soliciting input and feedback from members following each meeting ensures a successful meeting next time around and ensures all voices are heard in the process.

The WebSphere Users Group has taken the concept of team-based, shared learning to a larger community. The meetings provide the setting for a large interactive classroom from which members can gain valuable knowledge, advance career opportunities, and learn more about new and innovative applications of WebSphere.

The user group also benefits from its close proximity to IBM facilities. Our last meeting, for instance, was held in December 2001 at the IBM Toronto Software Development Lab. Members not only had an opportunity to peek inside a state-of-the-art facility devoted to software development, but also heard presentations from key members of the IBM WebSphere Software Commerce Suite development team. Invaluable insight was gained from this team, as well as an insider’s view of IBM’s WebSphere plans for 2002 – an exciting treat for those in attendance.

A special guest and keynote speaker for the meeting was Hershel Harris, vice president of WebSphere Server Development and director of the Toronto Lab IBM Software Group. Harris told the audience that the WebSphere family of products is one of the most rapidly growing e-business platforms, with 35,000 global users, and that WebSphere ranks highly with CIOs.

With its growing popularity and market share, it’s important that users have a forum from which they can learn, share ideas, and learn new applications of WebSphere. WebSphere technology is key to the implementation of effective e-business strategies that result in increased efficiencies, productivity, and ultimately, ROI for users.

Participation and attendance has grown exponentially with each successive users group meeting. The turnout is testimony to the fact that WebSphere users are eager to increase their knowledge, share knowledge, and increase the benefits of networking. It also demonstrates their eagerness to capitalize on this innovative e-business software and apply it to their own enterprises in creative ways.

As a founding member of the group, I highly encourage this forum for a growing and vibrant community. It’s an excellent avenue to share experiences, gain valuable knowledge and keep abreast of an innovative technology.

For more information on the users group and upcoming activities, visit www.websphere-users.ca.

More Stories By Morgan Smyth

Morgan Smyth is president of Toronto-based Braegen Group Inc., which has architected and implemented approximately 30 WebSphere sites throughout North America, mainly for commercial institutions. For more information about Braegen, visit www.braegen.com.

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