User group consolidation strengthens our voice

The current wave of consolidation within the UK's IT user groups has been brewing for several years.

The current wave of consolidation within the UK's IT user groups has been brewing for several years.

Two years ago, Computer Weekly brought 21 user-focused organisations together to explore common ground and concerns. Despite warm words of good intent, there was no agreement on a common approach.

That meeting was just six months too early. A few months later Microsoft announced controversial changes to its licensing policy. This resulted in a flurry of activity from user groups including the Institute for the Management of Information Systems, Elite and the Society of IT Management, which sent a hard-hitting and effective letter to Microsoft, raising concerns about the impact of the licensing changes on its members.

Since then there have been various attempts by some user groups to speak with one voice on some issues, with patchy results.

The National Computing Centre had sat on the sidelines until this summer when it burst onto the scene with renewed vigour.

Armed with a war chest from the sale of its consultancy arm in 1999 and freed from the resulting restrictions on its activities, NCC's group chief executive Michael Gough has bought two user groups, Certus and CIO-Connect, plus the Institute of IT Training. This is part of his vision to breathe new life, vigour and value into the UK's user IT effort.

Gough sees the real influence of the IT industry partitioned among three core organisations: the National Computing Centre for the corporate user; the British Computer Society for the individual professional; and Intellect, the recently consolidated supplier group, for the supplier voice.

That scenario leaves several user-facing organisations unaccounted for - notably the Corporate IT Forum Tif, Imis, Elite and the Communications Management Association, plus the supplier-specific groups and Socitm.

Perhaps there is room for further consolidation and more unison?

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