Communities: Helping the VMware User Group Go Global, Part 2
Earlier this week, we took a look at how the VMware User Group (VMUG), with the help of Tech Image’s parent company SmithBucklin, took small local user groups and developed an integration plan that led to the creation of a global community providing increased benefits to members, sponsors and even VMware itself. This is a project that has incredible results, but also requires VMUG to keep up with the changes within the user group.
To further build the community and create continuity, VMUG beefed up its online offerings. For example, the organization offers webinars that draw thousands of people. In fact, one recent webinar alone drew an audience of 3,000 participants. Its website also offers online discussion forums that allow users to ask questions or float ideas and have them answered by their peers. And, VMUG Voice, the monthly electronic newsletter, is a great source of information and articles on timely topics around VMware products, installations, news of successes from various chapters and more.
In the roughly two years since the start of this program, VMUG has grown its membership more than four-fold, from roughly 20,000 in 2010 to more than 75,000 in 2012. Its revenue has grown with the program, from less than $1 million at the start of the program to several million dollars today. VMUG is not just successful, but self-sustaining as well. More members have become actively involved, which is allowing VMUG to not only accomplish today’s tasks but also begin grooming leadership for tomorrow.
Perhaps most importantly, however, VMUG has captured the attention of the C-suite at VMware. Those executives are very interested in hearing the voice of the customers through VMUG, and view the organization as a partner. VMware remains very supportive of VMUG and interested in partnering with it.
At a recent meeting of VMUG leaders, VMware’s outgoing CEO, incoming CEO and CTO all appeared for an open Q and A and dialogue. VMUG was the only group to garner that level of support. Yet the company is also respectful of VMUG’s independence – in fact, it fully supports that independence as important to generating an open and honest dialog. That, in turn, is viewed very favorably by the membership at large.
Throughout the process, Bohnert says the biggest key to success has been communicating, or perhaps even over-communicating, everything the organization was doing.
“When we first began there were naturally some questions around control of the group—these are trust issues,” Bohnert told me. “There was concern that this might just be an attempt to usurp control of the group which may ultimately take away from the success of the local chapters. But by keeping a steady stream of communication with local chapter leaders, and demonstrating the benefits of being part of a global community, we were able to win their trust and their support. They now see how having a unified voice across the globe gives them a level of influence they never had before.”
Bohnert added, “VMUG is the largest group of its kind and it is growing at a pace that far exceeds any other user community. The explanation is simple: we have an engaged group of more than 200 leaders globally that share a common mission and vision. That mission and vision has been shared and embraced with VMware and its partners. We have a global community that is moving forward in lockstep. The VMUG leaders deserve the real credit, understanding how your local actions and drive a global initiative shows vision- and our leaders have that.”
He adds there’s still much work to be done. But they’re past the toughest part. Today VMUG chapters are not only thinking locally – they’re thinking and acting globally as well. And the net result is a successful, vibrant organization at a time when many are struggling for relevance – or even survival. Definitely worth a look.