Today, Cooper Power Systems held their first IMS Users Group teleconference. Building a user community was in their plans, and I am glad to see it slowly coming to a reality. I'll spare all the technical announcements because I'm not sure what can be made public. However, one of the things that stood out was a need to build up an online presence so that users can exchange ideas and solutions. Someone suggested using Google Groups but they already have a forum which they control, so my guess is that it will probably end up there.
Normally, a user group should be set up by users and remain independent. Linkedin is a good place to start one. However, as far as niche products go, IMS is as specific a product as it can get. That being said, Cooper EAS obviously doesn't have a pool of thousands of customers on which a user community can be easily built and communities need leaders. So it is better under the circumstances to keep the community leadership in their hands.
I believe that building a user group based on an unusual technology isn't necessarily a challenge... it's a feature that can be harnessed. Many specialized products have thriving user communities. For example, when I used to spend 100% of my time on HP business systems, the NonStop guys consisted of a fair crowd, tightly knit together with dedicated conferences and strong leadership, while HP-UX didn't benefit from such a community momentum (I was trying to change that slowly, but my career path steered me elsewhere). That hit me. Some people take pride in working with one-of-a-kind, high quality systems. Cooper encourages papers, so I expect some of their customers to participate in the best way they can in that manner.
Speaking of papers and conferences, Cooper EAS is planning a special IMS and SMP track at their next EAS conference. We'll see if more people can come than last year. And let's hope I'll be able to be one of them.
P.S. Someone asked me if I had plans to continue my entries on IED integration in IT. I have a rough draft for part 2 ready, but didn't find the energy to finish it yet. I'll probably end up doing it eventually. I have to work from home on this on my own time, so bear with me.