Friday, October 26, 2007

Changes in Attitude ...

I was in Chicago for a working weekend with another group of friends and I took time out for a quick break. I walked into the local Corner Bakery Café and as I ate a sandwich, one of my favorite Jimmy Buffett songs came over the speakers:

“Yes, I am a pirate, two hundred years too late
The canons don’t thunder, there’s nothing to plunder
I’m an over-forty victim of fate!”

The picture included here captures me in a more reflective mood, on the deck of a 19th century clipper. I have included it as I think I am a pirate and there’s much about me and the way I think that, I have to admit, is reminiscent of the rebellious sailors of old.

And I was reminded how often I can be a contrarian. Throughout my IT career I was a bit of a renegade, a bit of a disruptive influence. When everyone else was happy to go left, I turned right.

This song reminded me that following one of my recent blog postings, I had the good fortune of catching up, on email, with Tony Bond – a former ITUG Chairman and the person I hold responsible for launching my career at ITUG. Tony had a lot to do with getting me to stand for a Director position back in 1999.

Tony remembered one occasion in Sydney, at a restaurant just up the street a ways from La Grillade (see “Club at the end of the Street” posting), a number of us gathered one Friday night at a great Vegetarian restaurant. The place was situated on the second floor of a corner premise and was very popular with the developers we were working with on the NonStop NET/MASTER project. But as many of you may have observed over the years, I wasn’t a big fan of vegetarian food – and when it was pointed out to me that the bistro on the first floor was a regular restaurant, I ordered a steak from them and had the waiter bring it upstairs.

It was something that just happened and at the time, I wasn’t fully aware of the impact eating a steak in a vegetarian restaurant would make. Enough to say that the restaurant cleared out a little earlier than usual on that Friday night!

The song above, “A pirate looks at Forty”, comes from a 2 CD package called “Meet me in Magaritaville: The Ultimate Collection” and is perhaps one of my favorite Jimmy Buffett compilations. The song is on the second CD, and on the first CD I found the other one that fits with my story here: “Changes if Latitude, Changes in Attitude”!

Tony Bond is certainly enjoying all that comes with changes in latitude. Tony has become a genuine enthusiast of off-road exploring in Australia. Anyone that is keeping up with where he an Jennie are will know that they spends a lot of time in the outback, in the extreme climate of our Australian “Deep North”. He just recently posted an update on my blog here, simply saying -

“We’re currently sitting under an awning at Burketown in the Gulf of Carpentaria … this trip has been our longest and we’ve crossed the Simpson Desert and the Tanami Desert and have been as far west as Broome, Western Australia.”

These are up in latitudes I have rarely visited and are some of the most remote and hottest areas on the planet. But it’s not just the changes in latitude that speaks of Tony – it’s also changes in attitude.

For nearly all of his term as Chairman of ITUG, he wrestled with the enormously difficult task of integrating the various user groups that found themselves part of Compaq. The request had been made by Compaq to consider forming a single global user community – combining the operations and events of what was formerly Digital’s DECUS and Tandem’s ITUG. And to oversee the evaluation, a joint task force was created with the Chair’s of each group participating.

What wasn’t fully realized at first was that there did not exist a global equivalent to ITUG in the other vendor’s user community. DECUS had independent chapters worldwide with no oversight from a global body – so immediately, the joint task force saw a single ITUG voice becoming one of many. True, ITUG supports many RUGs, but when it came to developing a dialogue community to community, there wasn’t a single DECUS voice.

And so, it never quite worked out and the pace of discussions slowed markedly as the year came to a close. A number of years later, of course, HP came along and bought Compaq and the situation had not changed. There was one significant difference however, that continues to this day – the Advocacy group cooperation. And it is recognized across HP as working well and making a contribution.

But in terms of attitudes, many of us on the board at the time, myself included, looked at all the time and effort Tony put into the dialogue as disappointing and draining. Tony finished the year totally exhausted and walked away from ITUG looking longingly at being able to spend time in the desert. Looking back on it all, Tony‘s efforts and the joint Advocacy activities that resulted, paved the road to the future.

Much has changed in the past year and my own attitude has changed 180 degrees. Deep down I am a pirate and deep down, I am a contrarian. It takes a lot to make me have a change of heart and to get me to consider another path. But so much has changed since Compaq’s time!

What is contributing to all of this “positive thinking” on my part?

I think the users group are happy to be a part of the HP world (no pun intended), and the new owner understands Enterprise Computing. On both sides, the people have changed: the new leadership is cooperating and listening to each other far more earnestly than I saw at any time before. Whereas the prospect of any meeting among the leadership back in 2000 always brought with it uncertainty and unease, today the leadership of each group has developed a camaraderie, and strong working knowledge of each others aspirations. There’s also a real awareness that working together and cooperating projects a stronger user “face” than can be achieved separately.

But there’s a lot more. It’s not just the people, but on the technology side, the product mix has changed too. With Itanium and with the product roadmaps based on Itanium servers HP clearly shows the commitment it is making to a multi-tiered product portfolio, where NonStop has a very major role to play. Under Compaq, the future of NonStop was never really well articulated – and neither was the future of VMS clear.

And the infrastructure and tools now coming from the ITUG vendor community support a lot more of the HP product suite than ever before. Wandering around the exhibitor booths at the last HPTF&E really reinforced how far many vendors had come along the road to cross-platform deployment and support.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the comments recently posted to my blog (“You can’t survive if you aint got jive ..” – October 17, ‘07) by Bill Highleyman, a former ITUG Chairman and whose commentary on the industry I always value. Go back and check it out – it’s a good observation. In it Bill opines “I have to admit that I was one of the supporters of keeping the ITUG Summits ‘pure.’ Back in the early 2000s … however, I must admit that the problems that faced us back then seem to have been pretty well solved. I thought that this year's Summit was a great improvement over Anaheim … but the advantages of sharing community across the product lines clearly showed, and I hope that the joint shows will learn from the past and get better in the future.”

I look back at all of these changes and it’s clear why the future for HP user groups looks good. I certainly see a very strong case being made in support of collocated and cooperative events. And I reflect back and ask myself – are the culture and our heritage, and the voices of those that have been around the user groups for a long time, now at odds with the new reality? Can I ignore these changes in latitude and changes in attitude? Shouldn’t I be trying really hard to work together to build something better?

As the chorus in Jimmy’s song belts out:

“It’s these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of our running and all of our cunning
If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane”

Yes, I am a pirate, and yes I tack when others just stay the course – but over the years I have changed. I don’t drive as fast and I don’t party as much. And I do take time to listen to others points of view. Shouldn’t we all be encouraged with where we are now headed and with the increased opportunity these changes bring?

As for me, then yes, I am looking forward to it all. I try to stay on the sidelines, as much as possible, but the view I have right now suggests we are headed towards something a whole lot better. I may not be as rebellious, and I may not stay the distance at most receptions, but for sure, I am looking forward to a whole new alignment across the user community.

3 comments:

Peter Henderson said...

The HP NonStop@Work & OZTUG Summit 2007 was a one day event in September hosted by HP at the recently refurbished Hilton hotel in downtown Sydney. This represented a departure from previous year’s formats and was the first time a cooperative HP and local user group event was held, and the one day format seemed to be popular and the thanks of the user group went out to HP for sponsoring the event. Future convergences of NonStop technology with other parts of the HP technology range were of particular interest.
About 80 people attended, including a contingent of 5 from two of the major banks in New Zealand. There were a number of local HP speakers, with good support from Singapore and the US.
Unfortunately, the one customer presentation scheduled for the event fell through due to other commitments by the speaker. This was noted with disappointment in the traditional OZTUG user group Q & A discussion, however Bob Kossler from HP "whipped up” a migration to Itanium presentation as a replacement which was well received.

Overall, the conference went well and there was a constant buzz in the breakout sessions.

Peter Henderson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ONGEB said...

I agree, there have been a lot of changes in attitude, Richard. So I guess I have to begin with the fact that stability for the HP customer has contributed to this. Several years ago, the HP former Compaq, former Digital, former Tandem customer had the rug pulled out from underneath them what seemed to be every year. Thus, there was a reluctance to engage in user groups because of the vendor uncertainty. Now that it appears that there is some stability at HP and a focus back on the customer, there is a 'New Attitude' (borrowing from the Pointer Sisters)and consequently leadership of the user groups is trying to harness this goodness and positive energy and create something special for our community: a sastainable and relevant community of HP customers of ALL ages who want and need a place to engage in positive advocacy (not just venting!), networking (and that means having fun again!) and access to education that meets the needs of the community at large as well as the local communities around the world. Another key to the success of this new attitude is that ego-driven decisions don't seem to be part of the culture of today's HP user groups. I'm having a blast, Richard, and I hope that together we can be a force of energy that people are drawn to! Thanks for your thoughtful and insightful posts!!