Old habit protects from new risks
New Endeavor hopes to create community

One user group ring bands them all

HP user group Encompass took a big step toward the ultimate alliance of HP enterprise computer customers this week, when the largest North American HP user group announced it will unite with two of the others. Now Encompass, the Tandem group ITUG, and HP-Interex Europe/Middle East/Africa will all work together, bound under a single group which will have a new name announced sometime this year. HP-Interex EMEA was allied with the now-defunct HP user group Interex, but Interex EMEA survived Interex North America's 2005 bankruptcy.

This week's move nearly completes a consolidation of at least six user groups which existed in 2005. Encompass and Interex North America had worked on a few annual HP World user meetings together prior to that date, but when Interex shut its doors suddenly, Encompass took on some Interex members. Still, groups from the NonStop/Tandem base, OpenView, overseas Interex groups and Asia/Pacific membership still remained as separate advocacy and information points. HP had to listen to all, but wished for one group to represent everybody.

Board director Chris Koppe, a former Interex North America director, alerted us of the new assembly, which now is only missing the OpenView users group Vivit to complete the group roster. Encompass brings 16,000 members, ITUG 2,500 and Interex EMEA 33,000 — but increasing the size of the group is not as important as the membership's scope. HP's liaison with customers will grow more focused in  a single, larger group.

"In the days when I was working at Interex, this was something was all wished would happen, that the user groups would follow HP's path," Koppe said of the merger. "Corporate mergers are one of those things where somebody decides to buy somebody else. User groups don't come together as quickly, but I think this is getting close to where we want to be. Individually it was very hard to get HP's attention, and that model now changes going forward."

Users of all the groups, which include Encompass Asia/Pacific, will receive a free one year membership to the combined group.

Encompass spread the news through a press release on its Web site (PDF file), plus a blog entry from Encompass board president Nina Buik which defined the new association. Merger, she says, is not the right word to describe what's bringing together thousands of members.

Buik said in her entry from Tuesday,

The word merge implies that someone, or rather a group, is giving up something and that’s not the case here and couldn’t be further from the truth. We are uniting from positions of strength and equity bringing the best of our complementary skills together in the new organization.

She added that Encompass will be "putting this before the membership for a vote this spring." Koppe said Hewlett-Packard has been hopeful this kind of consolidation would happen among user organizations.

"Today, all of these organizations have a much higher level of sponsorship in HP than they had in the past," he said. "HP has been quite supportive of the idea of us doing this [unification]. They've taken and back seat in it and don't want to be pushing it, because it's not their organization."

Combining the groups into a single unit "has the ability to carry more weight within HP as an advocacy source," Koppe said. "If HP wants to know what their customers are saying, here's the largest group of their customers, and they're all highly organized. The ability to effect change on HP will be much bigger than it's been before."