Is COMMON relevant?

COMMON today isn’t what it was a few years ago. And it certainly isn’t what it was when it started.

And that’s a good thing.

From a kitchen meeting in 1960, to two yearly meetings of thousands at our peak, to the current offerings of COMMON, COMMON has the one characteristic of all enduring organizations: the ability to change.

For a long time, COMMON was mostly our meetings. “I’m going to COMMON.”

From a financial perspective, that’s still somewhat true. The Annual Meeting is a huge slice of our revenue and expense pie. I believe the Annual Meeting is extremely relevant. It provides a unique place to network with experts and users and to see the cream of the crop in Power System vendors all under one roof. It provides exactly the kind of concentrated experience that we all need in this “doing more with less” world.

At the same time, it is a model that is increasing difficult for our members to justify. Even as we struggle to manage costs, just the cost of taking time off from work is becoming really hard for our members. Shops are smaller, so everyone is called on to do more, often 24x7x365. Even though the meetings have what people need in one place, it’s still hard to fit it in. We need to continue to meet the needs of our members beyond the meetings. We are doing this today with our webcasts, webinars and seminars, and need to continue to grow this. I’d love if three years from now there were offerings and benefits for our members that approached the impact of the Annual Meeting, offerings that neared the impact of the Annual Meeting to our members and also on the organization as a whole.

Defining our identity is a big issue. We have been breaking out of the “COMMON is an event” thinking. Also, we now are a group for a platform that supports three distinct operating systems each with users with their own cultures. We need to seek commonality (no pun intended!) between those communities and grow COMMON as a whole.

I’m sure the discussions of the IBM 1620 at COMMON’s inception in 1960 are a lot different than the discussions about RPG or virtualization today. I’d like to think that the conversations at the COMMON meeting in 2060 will be much different still. I think the key to that is to keep evolving as we have over the last 50 years, building on what we have done and growing into new areas both to serve our members and to grow our membership.

COMMON also serves as a vital link between IBM and its customers, and a unique position of advocacy for IBM i. During my term, we’ve grown efforts such as the COMMON Americas Advisory Council and the Young i Professionals. We are embarking on new projects for the future, such as our certification program. The more we can keep our members connected to one another and to IBM, the better for us all. As COMMON grows to explore new communities that share the Power Systems platform and even beyond that with certification, we grow our network. One great boon for the IBM i core of COMMON is that this gives us more chances to introduce others to the unique benefits of IBM i!

I’ve seen COMMON evolve during my current term on the board, and am eager to see it continue to grow and become stronger still.

Yes, COMMON is still relevant. In some ways, more now than ever before. I would be honored if allowed the opportunity to serve on your Board of Directors to continue this exciting work.

About Jeff Carey:
Jeff Carey first became a member of COMMON in 1992. After years of benefiting from COMMON's education and community, he decided to start giving back. He began volunteering as a speaker for COMMON in 2005, consistently earning Speaker of Merit. He first served on the Board of Directors from 2006-2010. He is also the current President of the Omni User, a premier IBM i user group. He has worked on the IBM i platform for almost 20 years as a system administrator, manager and technical support specialist. He is currently employed by at SXC Health Solutions, a growing service and software provider in the Pharmacy Benefits Management space that uses IBM i as its platform. He holds a BA from the University of Chicago, an MBA from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an MS in IT from Northwestern University. He lives in Chicago with his wife and two daughters. His pastimes include theater, Toastmasters and all things Disney.