Review: itSMF Problem Management Seminar [Chelsea Football Club]

Steve White, Kepner Tregoe, Engaging the Audience at Chelsea
Steve White, Kepner Tregoe, Engaging the Audience at Chelsea

The UK itSMF hosted a popular Problem Management seminar this week.

Around 100 itSMF members met at Chelsea Football Club to learn about ‘Proactive Problem Management’ from a variety of industry specialists.

Firstly, a quick summary of the sessions (Football Clichés A Go-Go):


John Griffiths from Fox IT explored the human elements of problem management, the communication channels that exist between incident capture and problem resolution and the interpretation and translation that must happen via the service desk.


In many ways this event felt a little like a ServiceNow user group – but when the SaaS vendor took centre stage to deliver some thought leadership we were delivered an undiluted sales pitch.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting David D’Agostino before and know him to be clever, funny and articulate – so I had high expectations for this session. This was an opportunity missed – The itSMF need to be brutal with their editorial – in the end it’s the vendor who came off worst.


A great session from Steve White at Kepner Tregoe. Steve hosted an interactive whiteboard session on defining proactive problem management. For me and for the other delegates I spoke to this was the highlight of the day. More like this please itSMF! It would have been interesting to perhaps walk through some real life scenarios and discuss options with the audience using this open forum approach.


Unfortunately I missed parts of Vawns Guest’s session but from what I saw and feedback from others Vawns gave a passionate lesson on the relationship between incident, problem and availability management.


This was an interesting case study from Mike Evans from ITS and Rich Starkey from Oasis Healthcare.   The double act provided a before and after picture of progress at Oasis Healthcare, a network of over 200 UK dental practices. It was also great to see an organization sharing business benefits and return on investment for their project.

Is Honesty The Best Policy?

An interesting point was made during one of the sessions regarding honesty with problems – i.e. do we tell the customer we’re experiencing a problem?

There were mixed views on this – do we keep our problems to ourselves for fear of the organization using it against us or do we openly admit that, we’re human, mistakes happen and we’re doing everything we can to resolve it?

In my view – How an organization answers this question gives a good insight into their culture and maturity. I’m sure that at times there are perfectly good reasons for keeping schtum – but I think honestly is the best policy.

Whether you are trying to run trains on time, hosting services in a datacenter or delivering fruit and vegetables– a bit of honesty from your provider strengthens the relationship and gives the impression that you are not just being fobbed off.


Overall I would definitely recommend this seminar, some interactive sessions with lots of questions. I look forward to attending future itSMF seminars this year (further info here).

Finally, Colin Rudd asked the audience if there was interest in rejuvenating the Problem Management SIG and the response was positive – contact itSMF to learn more.


3 thoughts on “Review: itSMF Problem Management Seminar [Chelsea Football Club]”

  1. Great review Martin. I chatted with some of the members of the itSMF Service Transition SIG this morning, which is chaired by Vawns Guest. Some of the great content that is produced for itSMF events will benefit the “BACK2ITSM” group and hopefully we can make it available to the entire ITSM community. For those that are interested in BACK2ITSM, see how you can get involved before (and it) the SDITS show in April.

  2. I think there was something for everyone during the day – many of the attendees were ITSMF seminar debutantes (keeping the footie theme!).

    I agree that the interactive slot from Steve was the most enjoyable – these sessions should be about 2-way exchanges.

    By and large the allocation of time for audience questions was really healthy too.

    Yes the most controversial session (in my opinion) did take 20 minutes (I timed it!) to actually start talking about problem management, the whole point of the day after all. But I’d like to think that the majority of the audience saw through the sales-pitch. Especially when one audience member questioned how saas problem management is any different to any other way…

  3. Despite being a gentle warm up, Foxy John’s presentation delivered
    some decent nuggets to take away. His focus was on communication and
    the language of problem management. Are your problem analysts able to
    get the information they need from the end-user’s description of their
    incidents? Are you discussing these problems using overly technical
    details without relating to the business? Do your problem managers
    ever talk to the customer at all?

    Although there wasn’t a whole lot of proactive about John’s section we
    at least got something more than a rehash of ITIL problem management

    Disco Dave from Service Now seemed constrained by a brief that he
    didn’t have a lot to say about and a command to make his company’s
    product look good. The result was a list of things that your ITSM tool
    should do to aid problem management with the subtext of “these are
    things Service Now does” not being near subtle enough to stop the
    presentation from turning into a sales pitch. I’m not saying the
    product is bad, nor am I suggesting that Disco Dave doesn’t know much
    about ITSM. It was a common theme of the day that there was very
    little ‘proactive’ about the ‘proactive problem management’ topic.
    This presentation tried too hard to stick to that topic when there
    could have been more useful content elsewhere. After all, like many
    ITSM processes, the meat is often in the people and not the tool.
    Meanwhile I disengaged my brain.

    It’s a real shame to have a sales pitch at a paid itSMF seminar. The
    free regional and SIG meetings I’ve been to have so far managed to
    avoid them. I do know that the itSMF team do try very hard to stop
    these from creeping in so I can’t say for sure why it happened this
    time. The slides themselves don’t appear very spammy so they would
    have reasonably passed review. It would be interesting to hear from
    Service Now to understand if this was the result they had intended. I
    hope that vendors in general recognise that this approach is not going
    to leave a positive impression.

    Kepner Tregoe then led a short workshop that woke everyone up and
    introduced some much needed interactivity to the day. Unfortunately
    this turned out to be a tease because the end came very swiftly to
    make room for a sales announcement featuring the tool vendor I just
    mentioned. To be fair, the news that Service Now’s next release will
    feature KT built in is quite newsworthy but not as interesting or
    relevant as the workshop it cut short.

    I don’t have as much to say about the remaining two presentations
    after having my willpower sapped by sales. Vawns Guest did her usual
    rapid fire overview of the topic that didn’t go much beyond the core.
    She clearly knows the topic in more depth. Specific questions asked
    directly of her are rewarded with insightful answers so do take the
    time to speak to her if you get the chance.

    The case study that rounded off the day was a bit off target as it
    talked more about fixing connectivity issues and capacity management.
    Case studies are usually very informative as there is something to
    learn from someone’s approach to a problem, even if you don’t agree
    with the method. So I don’t want to discourage participation but it
    does need be on topic.
    There were a couple of take-aways though, including the story of how
    confidence in the IT support function at the start of the improvement
    project was so low that users gave up calling the service desk. This
    is more proof that less incidents reported does not automatically mean
    you are doing a good job.

    On the other hand, one of the secondary benefits of the project was
    listed as ITIL application for all services. All together now: “ITIL
    is not a benefit!”. Now place your face in your palm and go home.

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