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Ronald Heerema is an Enterprise Architect for the Dutch Tax Office (DTO), known in Dutch as Belastingdienst, overseeing the document management and archiving implementation on the content management infrastructure, which is built on IBM Content Services (FileNet). After completing a Master’s Degree in Business Economics, he parlayed his love of PC’s into a career, first as a developer for IBM i-Series software and then moving to architect. He launched a consulting company to offer Portal development services for commercial and public sector customers. He did projects for the Dutch Social Security agency, among many others, and then got a lot of experience in process automation for the Dutch Police. He gravitated to content and process management as a special focus and began his association with DTO over a decade ago. He joined DTO full time in 2018 and has been deeply involved in the challenges of running one of the largest FileNet applications in the world with 5 billion documents under record management and a total future estimation of nearly 100 billion documents. In 2023, he helped found the Business Automation Nederland User Group, and now it’s time to take it public.
DJ: Ronald, thank you for taking the big step of helping to create a new user group. What is your vision for the group?
Ronald: There was a Dutch User Group, run by IBM, before the pandemic, which I was involved in. Beginning this year, I started talking with IBM and other people, like Henry Schenau of Nationale-Nederlanden, about getting a group going again. When I go to conferences like Think or the AIIM Conference, I don’t really go for the speeches; I go to meet people and to talk about the stuff that we do. That’s what a user group does, from my perspective. It’s talking about bigger and smaller things with people who are doing other implementations. This is so important with these enterprise technologies, where there is no set of standard Best Practices. We’re all discovering better ways in the course of doing our jobs and a user group gives us a platform to share them.
DJ: What’s an example of how people benefit from sharing information?
Ronald: For me in the Netherlands, there are no big implementations like the one we have, but I don't mind sharing knowledge. It's not always about getting knowledge, sometimes it's also about bringing knowledge to other people. Recently, at the AIIM Conference, I connected with a large US-based IBM customer in the auto insurance industry. We talked about deployment automation and one of the projects that he just finished. Next month, we will be doing a conference call together, because we are building deployment automation at this moment. He has just implemented it and maybe he has knowledge we can use and maybe we have information he can use. That's the kind of interaction a user group supports. The Dutch government is no competitor of auto insurance in America. We can share freely and everyone benefits.
DJ: How often do you plan to meet? How will the Netherlands user group engage with each other?
Ronald: We are still talking about this. I have met with a few other IBM users, like Henry, and heard from a few others who are interested, and we’ll be planning the group this summer. What we’ve discussed is first, everyone is welcome. You don’t have to be from the Netherlands. I will never say, “Because you're from Germany or the UK, you cannot join.” The essential part of the group is sharing knowledge. I hope that we can do an in-person event two times a year. A physical meeting is important. IBM Netherlands has locations. The Dutch Tax Office has facilities all over the country and some of our members have space, so that shouldn’t be a problem. The problem will be, how does someone from Australia join? We’ll have to think about having Hybrid Events.
DJ: What can people expect on your typical agenda?
Ronald: Before, in the previous version of the user group, we would have an opening session, and then two or three people might talk about their implementations and take questions. And if possible, somebody from IBM also does a feature story on a product from the Cloud Pak. We’ll have breaks where people can find each other and connect. We’ll have a reception with drinks afterwards. The idea is to get people talking and it’s OK to start small. The bigger the turnout, the harder it is to get people to talk. It's easier to fade into the background. If it's just fifty people, it's easier to get people talking and when one starts talking everybody starts talking. So I plan to set up the room in a roundtable format, not a theater setup. It’s gonna be trial and error.
DJ: Will you conduct your meeting in Dutch or English?
Ronald: English probably. Most IT people in the Netherlands speak English. This kind of depends. If there is twenty percent or more English speakers, that it usually is in English. We’ll be flexible, but I don't think there's anybody in the Netherlands that doesn't speak English, at least not an IT.
DJ: Thank you Ronald for your time today. I’m going to close with a link that people can use to join the Business Automation Nederland User Group here. I’ll also encourage people who want to volunteer, present or support the group in any way to reach out to you by sending you a note to your profile in the Community here.