There's a new acronym in Washington as of January 1, 1999. The Software & Information Industry Association, SIIA, became an official trade association, formed by the merger of the Software Publishers Association (SPA) and the Information Industry Association (IIA). The merger had been announced in mid-December, following the overwhelming ratification of the merger plan by the IIA and SPA membership. The new association represents more than 1,500 software code and information content provider companies under a single umbrella, providing additional clout for representing common interests and addressing critical industry issues.
Ken Wasch, SPA president and now president of SIIA, said: "We believe a new industry is emerging that brings together computer software—code—and information—content. This new industry is evolving from several previously distinct industries. As we well know, a willingness to change and adapt in our industry is essential for both survival and growth. With this merger, we are taking code and content in the digital age to new levels of representation."
The SPA was founded in 1984 by Ken Wasch, who saw a need for software companies to have representation in Washington with policy makers. Wasch was an attorney working for the federal government before starting SPA. The group started with about 25 member companies, and grew to 1,150 members before the merger. Besides lobbying in policy issues, over the years the SPA grew to have a strong research department, which conducted surveys and provided statistics on various issues. It has recently been known for its work on software piracy. Wasch is respected by his staffers, who speak not only of his intelligence but how passionate he is about the SIIA mandate.
According to an SIIA representative, there are other associations that represent software companies, but they represent various segments of the industry, such as entertainment. They feel the SPA (and now SIIA) was more representative of the entire software industry.
Perhaps better known to Information Today readers, the IIA has a longer history. It was started in 1968 by Paul Zurkowski with the vision that information was indeed an industry in its own right—that it was a commodity. IIA was formed by seven information companies, including still-member McGraw-Hill, to build the information industry. IIA became an advocacy powerhouse on issues relating to information including proprietary rights, information regulation, copyright, and intellectual property protection. Its membership expanded to reflect the growth in the information industry, and reached more than 500 before the merger.
The IIA staff of 13 joined the SPA staff temporarily until new space can be located at the existing SPA offices in Washington, and there is now a total staff of 54. The board of directors consists of 15 members of the SPA board joined by 6 IIA board members. The SIIA said it expects revenues in excess of $10 million. One insider noted that there was a lot of synergy and energy among the board members, and the meetings were lively.
The nonprofit organization expects to hold two major meetings a year, in the fall and spring, and to continue offering other popular meetings and forums throughout the year. The 1999 Spring Symposium has been announced for March 6-9 in Los Angeles, and is billed as the first major event of the new SIIA, with the title, "Code, Content, Commerce, Capital: the Convergence." In addition to the major broad industry meetings, SIIA will continue to produce the Information Industry Investor Conference, Global Forum, and Venture Forum.
An IIA staffer, now at SIIA, commented that it wasn't just about joining forces to become a bigger group with more clout, but that the two groups' interests dovetail so well. The new organization offers members more networking and business opportunities. "Everyone wins," she said. Staff members I spoke with were very excited and happy about the merger, and said it had proceeded very smoothly. Another commented that there's always worry about conflicting cultures or issues when two groups merge, but that this was successful because the staffs and boards of both associations had spent 3 to 4 months together, talking and planning before the merger. Issues and concerns were laid on the table and discussed.
Wasch commented: "Both IIA and SPA have been consistently allied on virtually all public policy issues: intellectual property, privacy, encryption, taxation, and electronic commerce. Together, we believe, our combined resources and efforts will make this new association—SIIA—the leading voice on behalf of code and content in the digital age."
Marjorie Hlava of Access Innovations, who has been the IIA treasurer and a board member, called this a "powerful merger." She feels that reaching consensus on two issues will challenge the joint organization: the SPA stance supporting the government's antitrust case against Microsoft (a member of SPA), and the IIA stand against database piracy.
Another challenge the new organization faces is the concern and skepticism among some IIA members (despite the "overwhelming" approval) about how good the merger will be for the smaller group—the small fish in a big pond scenario. Some are taking a wait-and-see attitude, and some are wondering whether to renew their memberships. Sources indicated to us that IIA had been experiencing financial difficulties and probably needed some restructuring, and the merger presented a solution. So, IIA members are now hoping their concerns are not lost in joining with the "big guys."
For now, the two association Web sites remain available ( http://www.spa.org , and http://www.infoindustry.org ), while the germ of the new site can be seen at http://www.siia.net .