"Some members have had as many as three different telcos in succession," said CMA chairman Carolyn Kimber. "Such that BT is becoming the new IBM - a safe pair of hands."
The core objective of the CMA, said Kimber, is to "act as a catalyst for the improvement of effectiveness and efficiency throughout the communications value chain from component supplier to end-user".
The 1,600-strong membership comprises individuals responsible for networks or telecoms in their organisations, and a good percentage are IT directors and managers. There are different classes of membership, defined by role: corporate members; small and medium-sized businesses (less than 500 employees); and consultants.
The CMA has special programmes targeting core areas of concern to members - two hot topics are convergence and mobility. In the new year, a new programme will address security.
Kimber said she aims to work with the Department of Trade & Industry to promote broadband aggregation for the private sector. "Aggregation is well addressed for the public sector, but the challenge is getting broadband delivered to everyone who needs it," she said.
One increasingly important issue for CMA members is data rights management, said Kimber. The implications of the EU Directive on Digital Rights Management for user businesses will start to reveal themselves soon, she said.
Spam is another area Kimber is tackling, providing advice on how to stop spam getting through and how to deal with it when it does. SMS text spamming is becoming a particularly difficult problem.
Of course, getting the best from suppliers is a key aim for user groups."The relations with suppliers are changing," said Kimber. "We are moving away from the confrontation days, and our aim is to make life better for everyone."
Kimber has no plans to extend the CMA internationally. "Organisations that expand too quickly have to retreat to core markets, therefore it is not envisaged for the CMA to make such mistakes," she said.
Kimber said it was very satisfying that, six months after the CMA changed its name from the Telecommunications Managers Association to reflect comms convergence in the industry, the government brought together several regulatory agencies, including Oftel, into the combined industry watchdog Ofcom.
"It makes sense not to have national agencies representing isolated technical and media components, provided the right balance is achieved," she said, adding that the CMA would aim to ensure that independent user opinions get heard by Ofcom.
As with all successful user organisations, the CMA aims to identify its members' needs and target its work accordingly. "The only way to learn is to meet people," said Kimber. "Nothing beats networking and regular contact with your peers."
CMA group helps with IT security
The Institute for Communications Arbitration and Forensics (Icaf) was set up as an off-shoot of the CMA in 2001 to promote best practice in the security of information, to resolve IT-related disputes and help solve IT-related crime. It is a Department of Trade & Industry-recognised professional institution.
Icaf has about 500 members and provides technical advice, support and expert witnesses. It aims to act as a focus and support for those involved in IT dispute arbitration and resolution.