by Rocky Pisto
Vivit IT Operations SIG Leader
Have you ever wondered why someone would volunteer their time as a Vivit Local User Group (LUG) or Special Interest Group (SIG) Leader to bring Micro Focus customers together to share best practices? I would like to share my leadership journey of 16 years with you. My IT career started when I worked for PCI, an HP/HPE/Micro Focus partner, for 30 years in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. As my career moved from selling hardware (PCs, Servers, Networks, and Storage) to Enterprise software with HP in 1993, things got very interesting.
In 1996, PCI landed its first multi-million-dollar HP OpenView deal with CompuServe in Columbus, Ohio. You may remember them as one of the first Internet companies. In fact, they owned half the Internet bandwidth at the time. To learn more about CompuServe, check them out here. (https://www.compuserve.com/home/about.jsp)
As CompuServe evolved their implementation over the next couple of years with PCI’s help, more and more staff were hired to support the many silos of the business. The following questions at CompuServe would always come up: "Are there other companies using these tools in our area, and how can we find out how they are using them to support their businesses?” “How can we learn from other companies the best way to leverage these tools?” For over 30 years I learned that if you want to keep your customers, you have to listen to them.
In working with my customers to answer their questions, I discovered that there was an organization that brought users, partners, and HP folks together in the HP OpenView user community. This organization was running local events in a number of cities like Chicago. It was called OpenView Forum International (OVFI), the independent user community for HP Software customers run by partners and end users, but supported by HP Software.
Not being technical whatsoever, I decided to drive to Chicago to learn how to bring an OVFI user group chapter to Michigan and Ohio. These events were run in Chicago by a partner (Pepperweed, Jim Murphy) and customer (Walgreens, Henry Wojak) with support from HP Software. The chapter meeting was well attended (over 50 people), and everyone seemed to enjoy the networking and learning from each other. I liked the meeting format and decided I could build chapters and do the same thing.
As a partner representative with PCI, I decide to start a chapter for Ohio in 1999 and then in Michigan in 2000. OVFI was a very small organization run by a Board of Directors and one Executive Director. I was sent a packet that included a T-Shirt, a welcome letter, and an affiliation agreement. I was on my own with the responsibility of bringing Local User Group events to the area—no pep talk, no hand holding, with the charge to just do it. My motivation was supporting my customers, so I reached out to my best customer, Tracy Staats, and asked him to help me make sure we brought the content the community would appreciate to help grow their careers. This content included end user best practices, use cases, and events at customer sites so that we could see the operations or live demonstration right from their NOC or Data Center consoles.
It wasn't easy to convince end users to present or take the time to go through security to reserve a room for our events, but once it was arranged and the events took place, everyone saw the value of bringing fellow peers together to learn from each other and to visualize different environments and methods of using the same software toolset.
We also reached out to HP, asked for product updates, and asked them to invite their customers in the area to help bring awareness to our events and share best practices. These events were standing room only in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit and Grand Rapids over the next 16 years. We had great hosts for our events in the area from HP Offices to customers like CompuServe, WorldCom, JPMorgan Chase, Limited Brands, Big Lots, Sterling Commerce, Nationwide in Columbus; Key Bank, Sherwin-Williams, Smuckers, Jones Day, Diebold, Federal Express, Progressive Insurance, and Eaton Corp in the Cleveland-Akron Area; and Auto Club Group, Trinity Health, DTE Energy, Chrysler, Comerica, Meijer, La-Z-Boy, Spectrum Health, and Grand Valley State University in Michigan.
OVFI was renamed Vivit Worldwide after HP acquired a number of additional software solutions. The new name for all these acquisitions became HP Software.
What was the value of being a Vivit Leader to me? The reward was meeting so many people in the ITOM solutions space and networking with these end users, along with helping end users reach out beyond their comfort zone by presenting to a peer group and seeing them grow before my eyes. The appreciation from Micro Focus, Micro Focus partners, and customers for bringing them together in an independent forum where they can share success stories and use case scenarios as well as discuss issues they may be having was riveting. Customers loved to travel to other customer sites and observe company practices, skill sets, and environments to level set them on how to improve with their own company. The enthusiasm by all was contagious.
As a partner, bringing everyone together gives you a sense of what the community is doing with the tools and how the relationships work with other customers, partners, Micro Focus marketing, and support groups. It’s more about the relationship than just the technology. We have since partnered with other partners to work on joint projects or have them take over the account with their special skillset to make sure the customer is well supported. This could not have happened if it wasn't for joint presentations at Vivit LUG events.
Additionally, the community sees a partner as an enabler of supporting their solution investment, especially if education budgets are limited or nonexistent. As a LUG or SIG Leader, you don't have to be a technology presenter, just the moderator and organizer of the event. As a small regional partner, PCI was able to network with all the Micro Focus teams and customers in the area; without the role of a Vivit Leader, that would not have happened. In many cases, Vivit LUG events were the first time the Micro Focus sales representatives met their newly assigned customers. As a Vivit Leader, I had the opportunity to work closely with the Micro Focus teams and provide services for their customers.
From a software product end user perspective, Vivit events are a learning experience and in some cases, the only exposure to the Micro Focus teams and other peers in a given region. The more end users who get involved in LUG meetings, the more they get out of it. Presenting, hosting, and leading at Vivit LUG events will help them network for future opportunities. For example, being a Vivit LUG Leader working alongside Leaders from around the world in the Vivit Community grows your network. Sometimes as practitioners, you don't always get the appreciation or respect you desire from your own company, but as the facilitator of a Vivit LUG event, everyone appreciates the work effort, not to mention the growth of your leadership skills.
Micro Focus looks to the Vivit Leaders to support the community with new updates. Partners look to LUG Leaders with the ability to share use cases, and end users appreciate the networking and camaraderie of sharing with peers.
I welcome a discussion with any practitioner or partner who would like to understand the value of running a Local User Group focused on a Micro Focus solution in these areas:
- Analytics and big data
- Application development, test, and delivery
- Collaboration solutions
- Information management and governance
- Business continuity
- IT operations management
Be sure to view Vivit’s recent webinar, Transform your Leadership Skills into a LUG Leader & Maximize Micro Focus Relationships.