Traditionally that influence has come through user groups, where those who have bought a supplier's systems gather to discuss common issues and give feedback to the supplier on what they would like changed. This model has worked well for more than 40 years, since the IBM Computer Users Association was formed in the UK in the early 1960s.
Now, as the industry matures, users are refining their tactics. For example, existing user groups are widening their remit in recognition of the fact that no IT product exists in a silo. In addition, a new breed of user group is emerging. The Jericho Forum is an attempt to get suppliers of security products to concentrate their efforts on the medium-term issues that large companies consider to be important. And, as we report this week, the Open Group is forming a focus group to look at how systems can be changed to allow information to flow freely within and between organisations. These pioneers are showing the way for other users to tackle industry-wide issues with the support of their peers.
These single-issue user groups, formed tactically for the purpose of tackling an issue that goes beyond individual suppliers, are a new phenomenon. They are attracting high-calibre participants who no longer want to leave the strategic direction of IT product development to suppliers. We are entering a new era of user/supplier relationships, which is no longer about tweaks to proprietary systems but rather about the wider business issues.