Pick 'n' mix support for users

There is a large selection of user groups for IT directors and managers to choose from, but which one would do most for you?...

There is a large selection of user groups for IT directors and managers to choose from, but which one would do most for you? Julia Vowler finds out what some of the main contenders have to offer

The UK is fertile ground for IT user groups, ranging from traditional supplier groups, such as IBM's Guide Share and the UK Oracle User Group, to subject-specialist groups such as the Jericho Forum for security and BuyIT for procurement, and sector-specialist groups such as the Estate Agency IT Directors' Forum and the Society for IT Management for local government IT.

And with at least 10 organisations specifically targeting IT managers, directors and chief information officers, senior IT professionals are spoilt for choice as to where to spend their time and money. The range is wide - and the focus can vary from technology, networking and lobbying suppliers and government, to personal career development at varying levels of seniority and developing IT standards and education.

Costs vary widely too - from free to more than £250,000 a year for corporate memberships. Time commitments can vary from occasional lunches and after-work meetings to a set programme of masterclasses and three-day annual conferences.

Free memberships

British Computer Society Elite

Elite was set up in 1986 to be "the UK's lead forum for IT directors and senior managers to exchange experiences, views and expectations on how IT should be managed to achieve business objectives".

Although Elite is a British Computer Society special interest group, membership of the BCS is not required. Elite has recently undertaken a major recruitment drive to expand membership beyond its traditional stamping ground of large organisations in London and the South East, to regional and small and medium-sized organisations. There are 1,200 members and regular meetings to discuss critical IT issues, lobby suppliers and influence IT education and training. Suppliers cannot be members, but can sponsor and participate in events.

Fees: Free "to those with overall responsibility for the management of IT", but members "are expected to contribute through attendance and participation". Membership is personal, and is independent of job title.

Events: Forthcoming events include government IT head Ian Watmore on e-government (1 December). Also see the BCS diary in Computer Weekly every week.

E-mail: elite@bcs.org.uk 

Tel: 01793-417472

Web: www.elite.bcs.org

Computer Weekly 500 Club

Set up 10 years ago by Computer Weekly to serve as an informal forum for IT directors, there are now more than 1,000 company members representing nearly 2,000 individual members. Membership is free, but by invitation. Regular "off-the-record" early evening meetings take place throughout the year in central London with IT director guest speakers. Suppliers can sponsor meetings but are not members.

Fees: Free, but membership is by invitation only and is restricted to senior IT management.

Events: Recent events have included seminars on change management, outsourcing, security, aligning IT with business needs and the implications of mobility for IT directors. Forthcoming events include flexible working - roles, responsibilities and pitfalls (8 December).

E-mail: cw500club@rbi.co.uk

Tel: 020-8652 8699

Web: www.computerweekly.com/cw500club

IT Directors' Network

Set up 18 months ago by former IT director, Roger Ellis, the IT Directors' Network is "an independent user group and social network for current and former IT directors, and for those between jobs". There are no fees, no suppliers, no formal presentations or speakers, though an image consultant and headhunter are often on hand. The 200 members meet socially, currently in central London but regional meetings are in the pipeline.

Fees: None, but membership is by invitation only.

Events: Forthcoming events include the ITDN annual dinner at the House of Commons (2 February 2005) and a visit to the Royal Mail's new sorting centre in Langley, near Heathrow (l March 2005).

E-mail: apply@itdirectorsnetwork.com

Tel: 01494-837857

Web: www.itdirectorsnetwork.com

Fee-paying groups

Buy-IT Best Practice Network

Set up in 1996, Buy-IT is a not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to "help organisations realise the business benefits of IT best-practice procurement". It produces guidelines on e-procurement, IT procurement and, most recently, content and catalogue management.

The network runs an early adopters' programme with members forming experience-sharing groups. It seeks an informed debate with industry and government. Members are IT user companies, IT suppliers and professional and government bodies (including the BCS, employers body the CBI, the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Suppliers, the Office of the E-Envoy and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister).

Fees: Varies with type of business.

Events: Recent events include seminars on e-procurement, contract management and e-invoicing. Forthcoming events include meetings on e-collaboration and IT outsourcing, and in December Buy-IT will launch its Framework for Procurement at the House of Lords.

E-mail: info@itworld.co.uk 

Tel: 020-7828 7300

Web: www.buyitnet.org

The Corporate IT Forum (Tif)

Originally called The Infrastructure Forum, Tif "represents the corporate IT user community - corporate IT departments from some of the UK's largest blue-chip organisations work together to find practical solutions to everyday issues, such as IT architecture, policy and supplier relationships, exchanging ideas and best practice to yield tangible benefits".

Its objective is "to raise best practice standards, benchmark achievements, and communicate the collective voice of corporate IT to government and suppliers".

Member companies include more than 140 IT departments, 50% of which are FTSE 100 and 250 companies. There are more than 2,800 corporate IT users, including IT directors and senior managers from architecture, infrastructure and security. There is no participation from suppliers or consultants.

Members get a Q&A service, peer-to-peer networking, facilitated workshops, benchmarking and IS security services, online IT news, and a supplier and product library. Tif says it is highly responsive to "instant" issues and will organise a meeting in response to member requests.

Fees: Membership is corporate and subscriptions range from less than £6,000 to £15,000 a year depending on the size of organisation.

Events: Recent events include setting service level agreements for the business and software supplier management and negotiating best value. Forthcoming events include software asset management (30 November) and open source for strategic thinkers (16 January 2005).

E-mail: membership@tif.co.uk

Tel: 01442-866634

Web: www.tif.co.uk

Guide Share

Guide Share is the user group for large IBM systems. Formed by the merger of the 35-year-old Guide and Share user groups, Guide Share spans Europe, with 1,300 European company and organisational members across 11 regions, collectively representing 17,000 IT professionals. Guide Share UK has 205 corporate members, representing 2,000 management and technical IT professionals.

Guide Share is financially independent of IBM and encourages members to exchange experiences and information, and seeks to influence IBM strategy and European IT standards. The user group in the UK has working groups on a wide range of IBM technologies, including Cics, large systems and DB2, as well as broader IT issues such as software asset management and content management.
Guide Share UK conducts an annual survey of members' concerns with IBM, and members can submit their products and service requirements to IBM. A membership directory of work groups and projects allows members to find colleagues across Europe with shared concerns.

Membership is corporate for organisations that are customers of IBM or its subsidiaries, and all employees of a member organisation can participate in Guide Share events. The GSE Journal is published four times a year.

Fees: Membership for a company's main site is £375, and £170 for additional sites.

Events: Recent events have included the annual conference in October, which this year focused on topics ranging from IMS to Websphere.

E-mail: gsehq@gse.org

Tel: 07770-415102

Web: www.gse.org.uk

IBM Computer Users' Association

Founded in the 1960s, the IBM CUA is for users of IBM's enterprise and mid-range systems. Independent of IBM, it encourages the exchange of information between IBM mid-range users, facilitates problem-solving and influences industry and IBM.

The UK arm of Common, the US-founded IBM mid-range user group, is now part of the IBM CUA, and membership is common to both.

Fees: Membership is corporate, and costs £325 + VAT for one year.

Events: Recent events have included workshops on security and patch management, Linux, Domino and emerging technologies from IBM's Hursley Laboratory. Forthcoming events include seminars on iSeries development, and the law for IT managers.

E-mail: office@ibm-cua.org.uk

Tel: 020-8518 5110

Web: www.ibm-cua.org

Institute for the Management of Information Science

Originally the Institute of Data Processing Managers, the organisation was relaunched as Imis in 1997 to be "the leading professional association of IS managers" and to "set and maintain standards for the IT profession", as well as to guide IT policy formation in the government and education bodies.

Imis is closely involved with IT education and training, both in the UK and overseas, and its accreditation process and examination syllabus is used by more than 600 colleges worldwide. The institute provides members with a forum for networking and best practice, and conducts research into such issues as ethics in IT, women in IT and an annual review of UK IT skills. Members also get an online news and information service and a journal.

Membership is personal, with grades reaching from student to fellow, depending on seniority and IT industry longevity. Corporate club membership is also available.

Fees: Depend on grade, between £40 and £114 a year. Corporate membership is £450.

Events: Recent events have included seminars on the benefits of wireless connectivity, and future seminars will cover making successful presentations (24 November) and optimising your interpersonal skills (7 December).

E-mail: central@imis.org.uk

Tel: 0700-00 23456

Web: www.imis.org.uk

Society of IT Management

Founded in 1986, Socitm is the professional association for IT managers in the public sector. Its 1,600 members represent 95% of local authorities, plus locally delivered services such as police, fire and housing organisations.

Managers and consultants from IT suppliers can also join Socitm. It promotes the use and development of IT best practice and the implementation of e-government through publications, conferences, training, research and consultantcy.

Fees: £75 a year (corporate)

Events: Recent events include the annual conference in October, where management guru David Taylor gave the opening speech, and the agenda focused on e-government, understanding chief executives' and councillors' needs, open source and information sharing. Forthcoming events include a joint presentation with Gartner on the public sector and Microsoft/open source (29 November),and implementing the Freedom of Information Act (14 December).

Tel: 01604-674800

Web: www.socitm.gov.uk

UK Computer Measurement Group

Founded in the mid-1980s, the UKCMG is the UK affiliate of Computer Measurement Groups across the world. It is a general forum for IT professionals, sharing information across a wide range of topics via events, networking and an annual conference.

Members - which can include IT suppliers - get a private website with white papers, industry forum papers and conference proceedings, and also get a free technical support helpline and a product feedback avenue to suppliers.

Fees: £475 + VAT for corporate membership, £195 + VAT for self-employed contractors and sole traders.

Events: This year's annual conference looked at topics including capacity planning, testing disaster recovery plans, business and IT alignment, legal disaster e-mails, database cloning and server consolidation. The next industry forum takes place in London on 24 November.

Tel: 020-8421 5330

Web: www.ukcmg.org.uk

UK Oracle User Group

Set up in the 1980s, the UKOUG is the "independent organisation and voice for companies and individuals using Oracle products". Its purpose is to "ensure Oracle understands the needs of users and to educate and inform members about Oracle products and development".

It has 1,600 corporate members, representing 8,000 individuals, and consists of large to medium-sized organisations and individual consultants. Job titles of members range from IT director to DBA/analyst. Independent of Oracle, it is largely funded by subscriptions.

Fees: Corporate membership costs £555 + VAT, professional membership (for Oracle certified professionals) is £255 + VAT.

Events: The annual conference takes place this month, and forthcoming seminars include upgrading to 11ix (25 November), modelling and development (2 December) and database management systems (7 December).

Tel: 0870-9000 334

Web: www.ukoug.org

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