Ten U.K. IT user groups merge into ‘super’ group

Aiming to improve the relationship between IT users and suppliers, 10 U.K. user groups will pool their resources to launch one “super” IT user group beginning next month.

The Strategic Supplier Relationship Group (SSRG) will be formally launched on April 20 to focus on implementing and encouraging a “reasonable code of doing business,” said Ray Titcombe, chairman of both the SSRG and the IBM Computer Users Association, in an interview Friday. “The SSRG will provide an opportunity for vendors to consult with a wide variety of customers before going public with changes to terms and conditions that could prove to be unrealistic and problematic for its users.”

Currently, IT managers have to contend with a variety of pricing formats, be it per processor or per user, from a plethora of vendors such as IBM Corp., Oracle Corp and Microsoft Corp. “An IT manager can contend with software from up to 20 different vendors in their shop, all with different pricing policies, which makes development costs very difficult to figure out. Throw in costs for services and there are even more conflicts,” Titcombe said.

SSRG members are: BCS Elite Group, Corporate IT Forum, Charities Consortium IT Directors’ Group, IBM Computer Users’ Association, Computer Weekly 500 Club, Institute for the Management of Information Systems, Society of IT Management, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, U.K. Oracle User Group and Charity IT Resource Alliance.

Titcombe said he was unaware of another user group of this size.

The SSRG was initially conceived a number of years ago in response to changes Microsoft made to its licensing agreements for corporate customers when it launched Windows XP in 2001, though the group only begin to crystalize within the last year and a half, Titcombe said

“If a group like the SSRG had been in place when Microsoft instituted its new licensing programs, we would have had a much more coordinated response to the situation,” Titcombe said Friday. “There had been discussion about such a group for years but the Microsoft move really brought a focus to it.”

Titcombe said that the overall response to the creation of SSRG by vendors has been cautious so far. “Some will like it some won’t. But the larger players like IBM, Oracle and Sun have said they see it as having potential value.”

Microsoft said that it welcomes the chance to work with the new IT user group. The formation of the SSRG will enable Microsoft and its partners to engage on a broader range of issues affecting British businesses from all sectors in a constructive environment, the company said in a prepared response to questions Friday.

Though the group has no specific plans in place for expanding beyond the U.K., Titcombe believes that such growth would be a fairly natural progression. “Any such growth would most likely it would be event or situation driven,” he said.

For the time being, SSRG will have its hands full with organizing events between users and vendors. “We will be reinforcing the marriage (of the 10 users groups within SSRG) to all of the different corporations and representatives,” Titcombe said. “We won’t be lacking for things to do.”

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