VMUG, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

My original plan this evening was to write a couple of blog posts passing on what I think are some great VMware User Group related articles to all of you (I’ll get to that in a bit).  However as I started putting them together I found myself thinking about not only these articles, but how VMUG came to be the organization that was being talked about in the articles.  As my thoughts evolved from those planned announcement posts I decided that “VMUG, You’ve Come a Long Way Baby” was an appropriate name for this post for a couple of reasons.  The first and most obvious reason is that VMUG in fact has really grown to be an successful organization that we can all be proud to part of.  The second reason has more to do with what has happened to VMUG over the last 3 1/2 years.

Three and half years ago I was about 2 years into being the Wisconsin VMUG Leader when I was asked to participate in a VMUG Advisory Board with quite a few other VMUG Leaders at VMworld 2009.  At that point in time VMUG was a part of VMware and the face of VMUG within VMware was Jean Williams.  Up until this point, VMUG had been Jean’s “baby”.  She had made it into a vibrant and fast growing collection of VMware User Groups with a strong North American presence and toeholds throughout the world.  In 2008-09 the group experienced 234% growth in membership.  On the plus side, the VMUG program was flourishing but like any baby it had grown up and had to look at moving out of the house and charting it’s own course in life.   That early meeting was the beginning of what ultimately lead to the creation of a steering committee of VMUG Leaders that laid the ground work for a global VMUG organization operating independently of VMware.  Out of that steering committee an inaugural VMUG Board of Directors was formed and together with help from our partners at VMware and SmithBucklin Corporation we ventured out on our own at VMworld 2010.

This journey really does parallel that of a child growing up and moving out on it’s own.  Those early steering committee and Board meetings had many similarities to high school and college years as we went through the growing pains and the educational process of finding out what was all involved in being out on your own in the real world.  There were plenty of bumps in the road along the way and like any child growing up there were plenty of lessons to be learned.  Fortunately we had outstanding parental guidance from Jean and everyone else at VMware.  We have also benefited greatly from having great teachers, mentors and partners in this process with our Executive Director, Victor Bohnert and the amazing team he works with at SmithBucklin.

Early on (like any teenager) we made a few mistakes and we had plenty of doubters as to the direction we were taking VMUG.  I think we all had moments of doubt ourselves as to whether or not this was the right thing to do with our own local VMUGs and the VMware User Group as a whole.  We certainly had plenty of discussions about it and late night debates whether it would work out in the end.  Could some things have been done better?  I am sure of it, but who doesn’t have some things they would have done differently growing up?

After 3 1/2 years of growing and more importantly maturing, I think we can comfortably say that in 2013 VMUG has entered a new phase of life.   While we will never forget our roots as an organization, stepping out into world on our own has moved the VMUG organization to a much higher level.  Surprisingly to some and maybe not so much to others, becoming independent from VMware has actually strengthened the relationship between VMware and us as VMUG members.  Jean’s tireless efforts and those of our other supporters at VMware are now focused on strengthening our relationships within VMware rather than on the logistics of creating and supporting the day to day operations of a bunch of local user groups scattered around the world.  Our numbers as far as members and active groups continue to grow.  Along with that our independent local groups still have a large amount of local control but we now work much closer together as a global organization.

I think the Board of Directors, our leaders and the VMUG Headquarters team along with our partners at VMware are at the point where we have built a solid foundation and are able to focus on continued growth in our membership, expanding our global reach, expanding what we can provide to our members and improving the VMUG experience for everyone.  We have done a lot the past 3 1/2 years but in some ways I think we have only just begun.  There is a lot of great things ahead for the VMware User Group program and all it’s members.

So now back to my original purpose for starting to write a blog post tonight.  There are four articles recently posted that I feel really say a lot about where VMUG now is as an organization.  The first 3 are all directly related to each other:

  • In the February 2013 issue of the VMUG Voice there is an article entitled: “What VMware Learned from the VMUG Member Security Survey“.  This article discussed some of the survey results from the 1,700 plus VMUG members that completed the survey.  If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to read the article to see some of the information gathered and VMware’s responses.  In my mind I think the last two sentences in the article are even more important than the actual survey results themselves:

We are sharing this feedback with teams across the VMware organization as input into their planning processes.

Once again, a sincere thank you goes to those who responded to the survey. We value your input, and you will start to see the actions taken to improve our security patch release process.

  • This week longtime VMUG supporter David Marshall (@vmblogcom) wrote the following article for his Virtualization Report on Infoworld.com: “VMware pledges to improve security, considers scheduling patch updates“.  Along with that there was a subtitle of: “More than 1,700 VMUG members respond to survey with insightful info that could help shape future security processes“.  The article also included the following two quotes:

The virtualization giant surveyed more than 1,700 members of its independent VMware User Group (VMUG) to learn more about its customers’ security practices and requirements

In response to the survey information gathered, VMware said they are considering initiatives to increase awareness of security updates, as well as the potential for product improvements to reduce the burden of keeping up-to-date on security.

  • VMUG launched our online workspaces on the VMUG.com website a little more than a year ago.  Since that time, we have had literally thousands of members take advantage of the online community by posting, downloading documents and visiting our pages.   This in and of itself is a tremendous success.  Recently B-to-B Magazine, a division of Crain’s, informed us that VMUG’s online community was selected as runner-up in the Closed Community category for their annual Social Media Awards!  The award is given to a closed community program that has generated a strong online community with rising participation and interaction.We will be recognized at B-to-B’s Digital Edge Live event March 20th in San Francisco.  This was announced in their online edition, and was included in the latest print version released March 4th.

If you look on the “Who We Are” page on the VMUG.com website you will find the following four items listed as benefits that VMUG being an independent organization will bring to it’s members.  Long ago we spent much more than a few minutes discussing what those benefits should be.  At that point in time they were really the key goals that we were working towards.  Today I think we can say that we have achieved the goal of providing these benefits to our members:

  • Ensuring a consistent and high quality experience for all VMUG members
  • Providing a more effective interface between VMware and our customer base
  • Creating a cohesive network of VMware customers and partners with a collective voice capable of impacting VMware products and services
  • Establishing a support system and business model that allows the local VMUG leaders and VMware to move beyond tactical support into more strategic initiatives

Three and half years ago, VMware entrusted us with Jean William’s baby and it’s been a long, hard, satisfying, tiring, exciting, frustrating, fun filled journey but VMUG has grown into something we all can be proud of.  Our work is far from done, but it has certainly changed.  With your help we will continue to grow and evolve the VMUG program.  2013 is shaping up to be another great year for VMUG.

Between VMware, SmithBucklin, our sponsors, our VMUG leaders, our members and even our critics who helped make us stronger; there are way to many people thank and give credit to so I won’t even try to mention any names.  As I cross the 1600 word count it what has become by far my longest blog post ever, let me end the way I started: “VMUG, You’ve come a long way, baby!”

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