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itSMF UK Conference 2013 – the practitioner perspective

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Meeting the famous ITSM Penguin

Meeting the famous ITSM Penguin

When I got a tweet from Sophie saying I’d won the ITSM Review Competition for a free ticket to the itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition I seriously couldn’t wait to tell people…especially my manager who was delighted. I’ve never been to Birmingham and I’d certainly never been to an itSMF UK conference and now I had the chance to be there in a more interactive capacity than the odd twitter stream comment…wow…time to get organised and get up there.

Drawing from my submission I hoped to get the following from attending:

  • Learning from others – practical hints, tips and experiences from other practitioners. Their journey using service management techniques to improve their company’s IT landscape. The sort of thing that money can’t buy – the sort of thing you don’t necessarily read about …rolling the sleeves up and getting to the nitty gritty.
  • Networking – I was going to be rubbing shoulders with the some of the most respected and nicest people from the global ITSM community. People whom I follow on various social media streams, the ITSM Review crew and people I’d got to know over the past couple of years. As well of course to make some new friends along the way…well I thought gregarious by name, gregarious by nature.
  • Innovation – finding out what’s new with the industry and what’s coming our way in the future.

Sunday networking

On sunday afternoon I beamed up to Birmingham to join everyone at the Hyatt hotel. The first thing that struck me was that so many people were there that are involved in the same IT discipline that I am…it was time to immerse myself and get involved.

The idea behind Sunday evening is to have informal drinks, network and enjoy your time getting a feel for what is going to unfold over the next couple of days. Take my example, randomly, I found myself sat at a table with fellow practitioners, consultants, trainers, mentors and even the Chairman of the ITSMF UK – Colin Rudd. Where else could this happen? Where else would all these Service Management experts be in one place? Where else I could I bump into Pengi? It was then that I realised the true value of being there…and I knew it was going to be good.

Opening Keynote

Monday morning came round fast and kicked off with an awakening electro charged sound track and video with Colin Rudd and departing Chief Executive, Ben Clacy introducing the conference.

Colin went on to say this was the 22nd ITSMF UK conference, featuring delegates from over 20 countries.

He discussed how Service Management will be more important than ever before through the use of service integration and the ability to demonstrate the value of IT services to the business – Service Catalogue will be key.

Looking jazzy with ITSM Review

Looking jazzy with ITSM Review

It was reassuring to hear that AXELOS (the new commercial owners of the best practice management portfolio) are engaging with itSMF UK and that they were to be a big presence at the conference.

Round table discussions to discuss the Big4 agenda were mentioned. The concept whereby delegates have the opportunity to share their views on what they think the four key topics in ITSM for itSMF UK to focus on should be for 2014.

Ben went on to introduce MONITOR, which is an online ITSM self-assessment and benchmarking tool that helps IT align with business goals. The contents of which have been “crowd sourced” from industry experts.

The opening session was then finished by Jo Salter, the opening keynote speaker. Jo is Britain’s first female fast jet fighter pilot and in my opinion re-defined the meaning of stress at work. If flying at the height of a tree wasn’t bad enough – try doing so at 600MPH – that requires not only fast thinking, but cat-like reflexes. She put the attribute of “speed and response” down to the sport of fencing in acquiring good hand to eye co-ordination.

Considering what Jo had done for a living she came across as being well grounded. When she was growing up she wanted to be a hairdresser, then an accountant and when the government decided women could fly jet fighters she took the opportunity to do just that. Along the way she faced much adversity – from old school boy scepticism to working out the easiest way to “pee” whilst flying.

Jo told several inspiring stories, each with a hint of tongue and cheek and doses of “eeek factor” and determination to succeed.

We’re only human and we all make mistakes. Jo was once preparing for take-off, something she had done countless times before.  The engineers were running final checks on the underside of her fighter. Due to miss-communication between them she accidently uncoupled a missile from the plane. It fell to the ground with a thud. Luckily nobody was hurt. Jo’s message was a simple one “be honest and open” It’s all about experiences -learning and moving on.

The sessions

Over the two days six topical presentation streams were provided. I mainly focused on two. Real World Learning – this stream covered the main reason I wanted to be there – learning from others and their journey – adversities they encountered and what approaches they took to achieve their end goal. The second stream, IT(SM) into the future – what disciplines and innovations are emerging.

Monday’s presentations came from a good mixture of companies such as Dyson, Accenture, Jaguar and Land Rover and Tata Consultancy Services. Between them they covered subjects such as Supplier Relationship, Business Relationship Management, Service Integration and End User Support.

Ingredients for Great Supplier Relationships

Cath Bartlett from Dyson gave practical advice gained from her experiences dealing with suppliers. My takeaways from her session were:

  • Ask the question – who are we? And who does our supplier think we are?
  • If you feel it’s not working request an account manager change – it can be a positive thing and bring value to the relationship
  • As the customer, define what matters to you, after all you’re the expert on what you want…but remember that the supplier is the expert on how you achieve it
  • From a customer perspective ask the supplier what you can do better, this will only encourage collaboration
  • Make sure your KPI’s are a true reflection on what the business wants from IT

Business Relationship Management

Andrea Kis was next on my list. She outlined “the Beauty and Simplicity of Common Sense for Business Relationship Management”. Takeaways from her session were:

  • BRM is a skill, an ability not just a job title – they’re enablers that can connect the business and IT
  • Make the business understand the value you bring, business perception is key
  • Common goals are the foundations to building a relationship – it’s not an enslaved deal, it’s a partnership
  • Have a positive effect and take responsibility
  • My favourite of six competencies that Andrea listed was  “established teams don’t work in silos” – have collaboration at all levels

Project of the Year

Midway through Monday’s presentations The Project of the Year award 2013 finalists from EE, Land and Property Services and QBE were showcasing how service management techniques over the past 12 months helped them reach their companies goals.

EE’s objectives were to maximise their stability, and recognise and mitigate the risks during the London Olympics with the influx of foreigners to the capital. I liked their use of capacity management whereby they measured against forecasts to ensure services met demands and how this was used to good effect to drive through changes quickly.

Land and Property Services was a great example of minimal budget in times of austerity. Using an Agile approach enabled them to improve their IT systems freeing up man hours and leading to better services.

QBE – who later went on to win the award with its zero to hero Service Desk implementation.  This was a classic case of turning around the business perception of IT. QBE’s IT asked the business (their customers) what they thought of the service given to them from IT. The response was shocking – their stats showed that IT wasn’t fit for service and the business didn’t have confidence in its IT department. Their customers felt that they’d lost that personalisation and that their incident tickets were falling into a black hole. Being customer centric they took the feedback seriously and set out to bring back their in house Service Desk. Jacqueline Brunett and Amanda Rutlege spearheaded the initiative and employed 10 new service desk agents. Training for the new staff included learning the nature of the business (which I feel all organisations should provide for their service desk).

Three months on from the rebirth of the Service Desk the stats improved and both agreed that being customer centric was key to this success.

Optimising the End User Support Model

The afternoon presentations started with Mel Tuke Griffin from Accenture. They have a huge user base of 275K that mainly work out of the office and generate on average 1 million incidents a year. Their drive was to help prevent users having to come into the office for repairs. This was achieved by incorporating an effective one-stop shop self-service experience along with improved IT remote tools.

Accenture have used self-service since 2001 and 61% of their incidents come from the self-service portal and it is treated as the front door to IT. Once logged in they can search a database for known issues, for example outage information on key services and general issues such as what to do when your mail box exceeds its size limit.

The Future of Supplier Management

Mark Hipwell of Jaguar and Landrover and Martin Goble of Tata Consultancy Services co-hosted a session on service integration.  With TCS’s help, JLR’s objective was to improve the IT supplier management process. These were my takeaways:

  • JLR outsourced the responsibility to TCS, but kept the accountability in house. This allowed for JLR to step in from time to time and allow the processes and procedures to be tweaked
  • A benefit of using the ITIL framework allowed everyone to talk the same language
  • An example of JLR working collaboratively with its suppliers was arranging with them to inform JLR of their own planned outages. JLR then analyse the risk and put mitigation and communication plans in place to take that risk away

AXELOS road mapClosing Keynote

Then onto the closing keynote from AXELOS the new owners of ITIL and PPM. “Think AXELOS think best practice” was Peter Hepworth’s message. Takeaways from this update:

  • Those going through qualifications, keep doing that
  • Quality, relevance, growth, innovation and collaboration through crowd source is key

Evening Entertainment

After an action packed day attention turned to the evening for the glamorous itSMF UK Service Management Awards Dinner – hosted by Edwina Currie. A special mention must go to the guru Stuart Rance who deservedly won the Paul Rappaport award for outstanding contribution to IT service management. When collecting the award Stuart was kind enough to let Edwina hold Pengi to have their photo taken, which was especially cheered and clapped from a certain couple of tables near the back of the awards hall.

After the awards, the dance floor was rocking, surrounded by casino tables, bars and hilarious photo booths – fun was had by all deep into the early hours of the next day.

Service Integration and Management

In a blur I arrived back at the ICC for the last day of the conference. My Tuesday agenda focused mostly on CSI, SIAM and Problem Management.

Presenter Kevin Holland asked the question…what is SIAM?…For starters it most definitely is not a breed of cat and … it’s a lot more than a new fancy acronym (Service Integration and Management) for ITSM. The fact is it’s not even new – but is something that we’re all going to be hearing much more about in the near future and this is why:

  • SIAM is a service integrator, it governs and links everything together consistently, ITIL doesn’t do this
  • SIAM takes problem, incident and change management and integrates them
  • It’s not the technology, it’s using soft skills such as relationship and conflict management – it’s people that make SIAM work
  • You need to build trust at every level, focus on customer outcomes and what value you provide

Interestingly Kevin asked a full room of attendees “Who has a service catalogue?” Only two put their hands up. In an ideal world you need a service catalogue to work out what you do. Without this you’re wondering what does what and how the information flows.

SIAM is coming but if the majority of companies don’t use Service Catalogues it will be interesting to see how SIAM gains momentum.

Implementing Problem Management

From one lively presentation to another – Amanda Kirby from Virgin Media gave a 10 step guide to successfully implementing problem management. Amanda’s enthusiasm shone through as well as the attitude of “screw it … do it”. During the session and with the help of other attendees (and myself) she used a fun game consisting of different coloured balls to demonstrate the conflict that can result from using the same resources for both problem and incident management.

These were my takeaways from her session:

  • Dedicate a team to underling root cause, separate incidents from problems
  • Record known errors and link everything, incidents, change and outputs
  • Elevate the profile of the problem team – Amanda insisted that problem management must challenge the status quo
  • Change the culture and embed the process

Continual Service Improvement

The next session that I attended was by Adam Poppleton, from BrightOak Consultancy Ltd exploring the requirements of a good CSI implementation.

Adam’s thought provoking presentation started with discussing someone he knows who embeds CSI in their personal life – this person would sit down and ask himself what is it he wanted and how is it he was going to get there. An interesting approach when you consider that as an industry we tend to be bad at taking our own medicine.  Adams view is that CSI should be the first process people consider.

These were my takeaways from his presentation:

  • Before you start, baseline otherwise how do you know how well you’re doing?
  • CSI shouldn’t be retro fitted, it’s applicable to everything and everyone is involved
  • If you have a CSI register communicate it out – if nobody knows of it nobody will use it, think crossover risks and opportunities
  • Where do you start? – where it’s hurting most … be brave
  • Keep CSI simple, what does the business need how can you help enable it to get there

Next up, Laura Jay and Steve Bowler gave advice on the journey so far into their service improvement programme at 3M Cognet. Laura and Steve’s story was similar to others, they needed to keep the service fresh, their challenge – lack of resources. Thinking adapt adopt – they didn’t use the full 7 step CSI process and instead they used the parts of CSI that works for them.

Here are my takeaways:

  • Include stakeholder engagement
  • Define corporate strategy and link to service strategy
  • Small improvements can have big results
  • ITIL un-alignment isn’t a bad thing
  • Use a CSI register for managing expectations after all it’s an evolving document

In Summary

Socialising with Stephen Mann from ServiceNow

Socialising with Stephen Mann from ServiceNow

Over the course of the two days I attended many presentations, that represented hours of insightful learning; but it didn’t stop there. Bubbling away under the roof of the ICC was an ITSM eco-system, which meant in-between all these sessions you could network and exchange “war stories” and using social media I was able to keep updated and find out what else was going on.

Over the course of the two days I attended many presentations, that represented hours of insightful learning; but it didn’t stop there. Bubbling away under the roof of the ICC was an ITSM eco-system, which meant in-between all these sessions you could network and exchange “war stories” and using social media I was able to keep updated and find out what else was going on.

My only criticisms of the event would be the woeful Wi-Fi – there would have been more twitter activity if it wasn’t for all the signal problems.

After speaking to several of the vendors they felt visiting numbers could have been higher. I would consider a venue that allowed for the vendors to be central and whereby traffic can flow through the vendor area to get to their sessions.

The delivery of training in my opinion leads the way for innovation. Whether it is board games, computer games or education via your smartphone it gives a student more options to learning service management. Otherwise I felt innovation was lacking.

When all said and done the question is would I come back again? Most definitely. There is real substance to coming to an event like this and learning in one place from some of the industry’s best.

Common threads that I picked up on were:

  • Engage with your business focus on their outcomes and what value you provide
  • Work collaboratively, create and build relationships
  • Be open and honest, learn from your mistakes
  • Change the culture and embed the process
  • Have a positive effect and take responsibility
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel, if you’re interested in asset management find out if it’s being done somewhere in the business already under a different name
  • Small changes accumulate – don’t boil the ocean
  • If appropriate use ITIL

There is a core in the ITSM community that I tap into from time to time so I can hear and read about their thoughts and opinions on what’s happening out there in the world of ITSM. Going forward I will be doing so more often. Winning the ITSM Review competition enabled me to have the pleasure in meeting those acquaintances who I’m happy to say have now become friends.

See you at ITSM14.

 




5 Responses to " itSMF UK Conference 2013 – the practitioner perspective "

  1. James Finister says:

    Great review Greg. It was almost like being there. Once again it shows the value of networking at these events and how easy that is to do once you take the first steps.

  2. itsmreview says:

    Excellent write up Greg and great to meet you 🙂

  3. Marc says:

    Great write up!

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