User groups – tools for management

Tools are the difference between smooth management of an user group and a not-so-smooth one.

There are a couple of different tools we are going to mention here. There are of course more out there and plenty of specialists comparing different tools if you are looking for something more.

Please give ideas in the comment field if you have other tools to suggest.

Management of a user group

This one is a bit related to how big or small your user group is. But let’s start with the basic tasks you have to perform.

  • Keeping tracks of members
  • Invoicing (if you are charging a fee)
  • Project planning (Another post will cover event plannings)
  • Communicating with the users

To start with, creating a Gmail account is not a stupid thing. First of all It is good to separate your work with the user group from your daily job or even private life. Secondly with Gmail comes tons of tools.

Keeping track of members

This one is crucial of course. Depending of your size and “ambition level” you should know a couple of things about your members. Name, email, company is the minimum I would say. If you are charging a fee you need to know if they’ve paid or not.

Gmail contacts is a good place to start, or just a spreadsheet with Google Sheets or Excel if you are willing to pay a bit for this.


is a bit up to where you are in the world (and of course if you would like to charge anything in the first place). But I would go with a local vendor with a cloud based solution today. To create an invoice and send it as PDF is today a very simple process. The financial reporting is a bit trickier, but with online tooling you can do this yourself with basic knowledge. Make sure you follow the rules of your region though. To pay a bit extra for this as a service might be a good idea after all.

Project planning

There are many tools out there nowadays. Again, you can do magic with Google sheets or Excel when it comes to planning activities for the user groups, but some other tools gives you some nice features. One such feature is to delegate tasks another one is to set due dates and reminders.

One popular tool for project management is Trello. It is free and you can tweak it a lot to meet your requirements.


You need of course to communicate with your members in different ways. You should probably create groups on Linkedin and Facebook and perhaps also a Twitter account. Another great way of communicating is through newsletters. A bit old fashioned but let’s call it “classic” instead.

Mailchimp is the most popular tool around, and free up to 2000 email addresses. Most likely enough to start with at least. You get tons of good functionalities using Mailchimp where one important thing is that Mailchimp will help you being compliant to rules around spam etc.

Slack is another popular way of communicating with your user group members. It is free to start with and easy to get started with. Also it will give you tons of options when it comes to integrations with other tools (such as Mailchimp) and runs well on both browsers but also on my smartphone. You can create different “channels” and they can be both open or hidden, you can chat in threads and much more.

Some other tools that you should take a look at for managing your user group are:

Doodle – To find a good time for meetings or events.

SurveyMonkey for surveys

Google Forms for different types of registrations

Please comment below if you would like to suggest other tools for managing a user group!

Saving an user group

A short story that perhaps you can relate to or get some insights from:

I came 2008/2009 into an very old organization (40+ years old) after about 10 years of hard times with losing members and with that members fees, lost interest from sponsors, bad reputation of the name, few people attending meetings, previous board members that used all the money for personal benefits, people trying to split the organization etc.

I made a decision very early, I was there to create content to make the user group relevant in the future. Luckily there was other at the board that could take care of the boring stuff such as cutting costs, going through bylaws and just keep the members list up to date and make sure invoiced went out.

We had a very good relation with IBM locally and the first year we cancelled our yearly conference (two per year was done in the past) and made a half day in IBM facilities where mostly IBMers and business partners showed up. Previous conferences had cost us money we no longer had more or less..

The year after we arranged a two day conference with approx 80 people attending, again mainly IBMers, business partners and some old members that always showed up. On my initiative we ended the conference with a brainstorming session where one very important idea came up from one of the participants. “Why not make sessions that attracts developers?”

Back then, around 2009 – 2010 the agenda was mainly for hardware people including operating system management. We did, and the following year we invited Paul Tuohy, Susan Gantner and Jon Paris, with that we grew the number of participants to over 150 and more each year with a peak of 300+ attendees when we in 2016 hosted the Common Europe Congress which was seen as a huge success. Common Europe and many other organizations through out in Europe had similar issue like we had in Sweden after all.

We also produced a members magazine which I took control over. Another huge success was made especially I was lucky to know a person doing magazines for a living. We got really good attention from all around the world, and I always brought a number of them to the board of directors meeting for COMMON in North America for example.

The third thing I started was a monthly newsletter that had about 800 subscribers when I quit doing them in 2019. Short messages about what is going on in the community, news from IBM etc was the success factor. People really liked to read about their beloved platform that the outside word gave very little attention after all.

First page of a newsletter

What would I like to say with this?

  1. Keep an good relation with your local IBM people
  2. Keep it simple. All initiatives are good initiatives.
  3. Look around and see what resources you have available. Perhaps just starting a monthly newsletter or a Slack group for chatting is good enough to start with. Or just gather some people in a pub and brainstorm together.

Webinar Built on Power Peptalk – Oracle runs best on Power!

Recording of the webinar can be found HERE

The presentation can be found HERE

Date: January 20th, 2022

Time: 14.00 – 15.00 Central European Time

Welcome to join us for a inspiring call / discussion where the following will/might be discussed:

A (very) short introduction to IBM (RISC Based) Power Servers
Why Oracle runs so good on IBM Power Servers
What did TietoEvry do to convince so many customers to move from x86 PC-servers
– The arguments that works
– The pain customers had before the move
– The quick wins etc.
When does EnterpriseDB make sense instead of Oracle?
Learn about the massive resources you have available from IBM to become successful with Oracle on Power.

And hopefully a few WOOW and YEEEAH will be delivered.

Join us and please engage with your own stories and questions


Tommi Sihvo from TietoEvry has been working on IT-area for 20 years now; Started with coding Oracle Forms and by doing Configuration Management within a Logistics system used world-wide. After that he moved to Unix area; and have been working in several different roles & projects; mainly focusing on IBM Power hardware & AIX.
François Martin from IBM is a Global Competitive Sales Specialist and responsible for developing brand and product specific solutions that address client’s business needs (both industry and business) and deliver client value while supporting brand specific business strategies. François has experience and skills with Power Systems Sales competition. He understands customer situations, sales, and technical sales to tackle competitive proposals. François has knowledge of competitors sales strategy, especially competition against Oracle.
Torbjörn Appehl – Built on Power has been specialized in the business application platform named IBM i and It’s predecessors since 1997 in many various companies and positions. Today he has hisown advisory consultant firm helping companies optimizing their investment in IBM Power Systems also helping IBM to revitalize their ecosystem of Independent Software Vendors in EMEA as a contractor.

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