Community Is More Important Than Ever

As well as the recent death of Small Business Server there has been a lot of concern about what will happen to the Small Business Specialist Community as a whole. Especially against the backdrop of the replacement of the SBSC designation with the shiny new Small Business Competency and the fact that community participation has generally be on wane recently with dwindling IT Pro group numbers the most visible impact.

I’m of the opinion that Community is more important than ever.

Within hours of the SBS announcement Susan Bradley, Brian Higgins and Amy Babinchak had a webinar lined up ready to discuss with Microsoft Partners about options going forward and to answer any questions people had. (Q&A Transcript and full recording are available)

235 people took time out of their day to join in which is rather impressive. If that’s not the power of community at work then what is?

My local group, AMITPRO, stopped calling itself an SBS User Group a long time ago as we wanted to encourage anyone who is involved in working with technology for local businesses to get involved. We can all learn from each other so does it matter if that person works with SBS or even Microsoft. One of our newest members works exclusively with Google Apps and we had a great session last month looking at how that works and discussing the types of conversation he has with clients.

This month we had a great turn out and the second half of the meeting was a bit like a live version of the webinar I’ve mentioned above.Everyone got involved and we kicked around ideas and possibilities for solutions and the changes we’ll be making to our businesses.

Since everyone will need to ensure their tech skills are up to scratch with deploying the “full” range of Microsoft products (Windows, Exchange, SharePoint, WSUS etc) having a group of people you can rely on is an amazing resource to have. Regardless of whether  it’s someone to bounce ideas off or formally run projects together the solutions you’re able to offer can only benefit from this.

But for this to happen people HAVE to get involved on a regular basis. Online communities are a great thing but if you want your local community to exist it needs people to actually turn up. If attendance is low or patchy it’s harder for organisers to attract speakers or new visitors and at that point a vicious cycle starts where people who are attending stop coming because attendances are low.

Finally, have a think about what you contribute. Robert Crane wrote a great post recently titled “What did you do for SBS” that talks about getting involved. Getting deeply involved by organising meetings, writing blog posts or running webinars isn’t for everyone but little things go a long way. Bring a guest, find a speaker, comment on blog posts or even just say thank you to someone who puts time, effort and frequently their own money into keeping the community going.          

A community is only as good as the people who are in it. We don’t need a certification or a badge or a vendor as a reason for coming together and helping each other to improve and grow.

If you’ve never been involved in a peer group find your local one. TODAY. Richard Tubb wrote a post recently with a comprehensive list of the groups that are currently available in the UK as well as a post called “3 Good Reasons IT Companies Should Attend Their Local User Group Meetings”.

Get involved.

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Andy Parkes is Technical Director at Coventry based IT support company IBIT Solutions. Formerly, coordinator of AMITPRO and Microsoft Partner Area Lead for 2012-2013. He also isn't a fan of describing himself in the third person.

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