Day one of SDITS12 was a watershed moment for the UK ITSM industry, according to James West, with real change evident. So why was he in professional despair just 24 hours later?
I’ve been attending SDITS in its various incarnations for over ten years, long enough to remember the Touchpaper ice rink (yes really) and the live Blues Brothers performances on the FrontRange stand (yes really). Many of these events have blurred over the years, primarily because (whisper it quietly) not much changed in the industry. It may have been – and continue to be – an important entity within an IT support context, but talking about ITIL was never going to give you goose bumps was it?
I am therefore pleased to state with honesty that day one of SDITS12 was the best time I’ve ever had at the show. The atmosphere was cracking from the moment the breakfast briefing started at 0830, with the early morning debate encompassing the future of the service desk, social media and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).
Starting on a such a high, a drop-off was to be expected, but the buzz continued and remained there for the whole day. (James Finister echoed this sentiment to me late on day two, stating that previously the show started with a burst of optimistic enthusiasm which began to tail off after lunch, yet this year it maintained its pitch). The feeling was certainly helped by a knock-out session by Chris Dancy, which referenced the Matrix, Terminator, Smoking 2.0 (“I used to be a smoker, now I pretend to check my phone when I want five minutes peace”), and a series of stunning figures and observations which explained why the current explosion in technology adoption is just the beginning, and that the integration between humans and IT will utterly transform the working reality of all of us. It’s a great session (Cloud, Mobility and the Coming Singularity) if you ever get to see Chris deliver it live. I could sense half the audience thinking: ‘what’s this got to do with me’, and the other half beginning to panic as the enormity of what Chris explained hit them.
Next for me was conversation with the always engaging Kevin Kimber, UK country manager for ServiceNow, who explained that ITSM teams attempting to improve the end user experience should be aiming much higher - citing Amazon as setting the bar that must be met if internal IT departments are to remain relevant.
The conversations I had continued in the same vein, with those I spoke to keen to solve real world challenges, rather than the internally-obsessed ‘how do we improve this ITIL process’ talks I had become accustomed to. The day culminated with the Back2ITSM presentation, which showcased the launch of the initiative’s official website and introduced to the show audience its very difficult but worthy task of extracting from the industry the very best ideas and methods for solving ITSM challenges. Like everything that proceeded it, Back2ITSM is a breath of fresh air, a chance to re-evaluate the sources of ‘best practice’ we reference and create something more in keeping with the demands placed on IT today.
I left SDITS12 with belief that the industry really had began to change. The imperative of thinking about IT from the perspective of the customer seemed at this moment to finally have sunk in.
You may have noticed I stated earlier that ‘day one’ was the best time I had a SDITS. That wasn’t to say day two was bad – it wasn’t – but my mood was severely altered during the breakfast briefing. Regardless of the original topic, the majority of sessions I attended over the two days of SDITS invariably turned to BYOD and social media, underlining the fact that these are the two areas causing practitioners the most concern. The day two breakfast briefing was no exception, but for me represented the polar opposite of the progression mood I had witnessed during day one, with the willingness to experiment and find ways to adapt to emerging tech replaced by a sneering cynicism. This was best illustrated by a comment about social media: “what are we supposed to do – ‘like‘ an incident?” which raised an appreciative laugh and in the process summed up why the service desk is in crisis. The problem here is not questioning the value of social media in an IT support context – such a question is healthy – it’s that too many IT professionals still think that social media is about posting what you ate for breakfast (I was fortunate enough to be sat next to Hornbill’s Pat Bolger, who offered a simple solution for protecting corporate matters while using Twitter to log IT incidents that impressed me enough to write it up as a news story.)
The luddite IT professionals again showed their true colours when talking about BYOD, questioning whether they should offer support for equipment procured by users. This was the point that really fired me up. When did the IT department become so arrogant that it dictated what technology people can use? As I tweeted at the time, surely IT works for the end-users, and not the other way round? At this moment I realised that for many organisations, all the talk of treating end-users like paying customers has been empty rhetoric. I will be writing a follow up article on these topics soon. A word of warning – if I’ve offended you so far, I suggest you studiously avoid this article. I will call it “The article that will make the ITSM industry hate me” to give you a heads up.
Thankfully, Noel Bruton was on hand later that morning to put the BYOD issue into perspective. Bruton is an individual that assess IT support issues based on logic, reasoning and metrics, and is not swayed by hype. He freely admits that my working practices baffle him (he mentioned me during his presentation: “he is carrying a MacBook Air, iPad and iPhone – what’s the point?”) yet he argued that because consumersisation is a cultural, not a technological issue, service desks have no choice but to support a wider range of devices. “We must get away from procedural rigidity and embrace governed flexibility, we’re dealing with creatives, not data entry people,” he said, explaining that service desks will have to price their support services accurately before they can adopt BYOD. “Set an expectation, tell the users what you can support and if they demand more, explain that it will cost them.”
The day concluded with the recording of ITSMWP Rest of the World podcast, which was great fun to record, with the usual banter between some of the good and great in the ITSM world (even though I fear my rant – much of which has been outlined in this article – will jar once I listen back to it.)
In summary, SDITS12 was a fantastic event, well organised and thought-provoking. It’s great to see the industry attempting to change finally. Attitudes do however still need to change, because I fear that those who refuse to adapt are unlikely to be in the industry next year. See you at SITS13 (yes, the D has been banished).