SIM's President Ed Trainor

NEW YORK (10/14/2003) - Ask almost anyone who has attended Comdex or any other big computer industry conference recently, and they'll tell you that attendance has taken a nose dive over the past couple of years. But as corporate travel budgets have tightened and overburdened IT managers find it harder to sneak out of the office, one beneficiary has been the Society for Information Management (SIM). The Chicago-based association, which was established in 1968 and counts nearly 3,000 IT executives as members, has witnessed a steady rise in attendance at local meetings among its 30 regional chapters, which now include recently added affiliates in central California, Charlotte, North Carolina, and St. Louis, according to President Ed Trainor.

Trainor, who is also senior vice president of information systems at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood, spoke with Computerworld about other changes afoot at SIM during the organization's annual SIMposium conference here this week.

What's the current state of SIM? Even with the weak economy and everything else that's going on these days, SIM in its 35-year history is probably as strong now, if not stronger, as it has ever been.

What's driving that? People have found the need for an organization like SIM in tough times -- the need for networking at a local level.

Many industry conferences have seen a downturn in attendance as corporate travel budgets have been slashed. Has this benefitted SIM as CIOs find it easier to brainstorm with peers on a local level? I think you hit the nail on the head, because SIM's real strength is in its chapters. The chapters have continued to grow and thrive. That's where IT executives find their local peer support.

What's top-of-mind among CIOs (chief information officers) these days? Certainly, outsourcing is one of them -- and the impact it has on organizations. It's not something that SIM has a position on, but more of us are looking to selective outsourcing. Frankly, I think it's something you need to engage in. I don't think you can be an IT manager today without considering selective outsourcing, even if it is a sensitive topic.

You mentioned during your introductory remarks that SIM relaunched its Web site within the past six months. What's new? It contains the foundation for a few things we'll be doing, including electronic collaboration functionality, which is currently available. We want to relieve our local chapters of back-office support requirements, like dues collection and maintaining chapter membership rolls. We'll be deploying those kinds of applications in the next year.

What are some examples of electronic collaboration? We end up with various topics of interest, like UCITA, where we were actively engaged in fighting UCITA. Right now there's a working group that's looking at selective outsourcing, where they can use the site to exchange experiences.

You also spoke about a new Strategic Business Leaders program. What's that about? It's positioned for the midcap CIO. We're trying to cover the needs of different segments of our membership, and the bulk of our membership is in [midsize companies]. The idea is for these people to focus more on business issues than technology issues. Issues they're addressing include the development of people in their company and helping people be able to relate to the needs of the business. Even to examine the impact [of IT] on the bottom line and make investment decisions correctly.

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