HP User Groups Consolidate

Users hope a heavier, 50,000-member group will gain new advantages and added leverage with HP.

Three independent Hewlett-Packard user groups have voted to join under one banner, creating a new 50,000-member organization.

The leadership of Encompass, HP-Interex EMEA and ITUG are expected to announce May 5 that their rank-and-file members have voted to consolidate the three groups into one new organization that will be called Connect.

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Nina Buik, president of Encompass, the largest of the three groups, is expected to become president of the new Connect executive board, which will include members from the other two organizations along with representatives from HP.

With 50,000 members, Buik said the new user group should have a newfound influence with HP, while being able to offer its members more educational opportunities and access to the company's leadership.

"We are on HP's radar at that level," Buik said, referring to membership size of Connect. "We may have not been so much before, especially independently and fragmented. We certainly are now and I think that influence and the amount of education that they [the membership] will have access to-they will have more access to education than ever-and for such a low point of entry [will be valuable]."

Going global

The new Connect user group will also expand its membership to other parts of the world as HP also looks to expand its business beyond the United States at a time of economic uncertainty. While Encompass mainly focused on North America, HP-Interex EMEA and ITUG concentrated more on Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

Connect will hold its first user conference in June and plans to hold its first expo in Europe in November.

Monday's announcement marks the end of what had been an ongoing debate about the various HP user groups since Interex shutdown operations in 2005. (HP-Interex EMEA is a separate group that is a federation of users in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.) From that point, Encompass became the dominant group, although leaders of the three groups have said that the consolidation push was not related to the shuttering of Interex.

There are still some independent HP user groups, such as Vivit, which focuses on HP software instead of the company's hardware offerings.