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Has the core concern of ITSM changed in 20 years?

Posted By Ivor Macfarlane, 01 November 2017

Do I need to tell you again? That was a favourite phrase of my mother’s and a sure clue I had forgotten to do something, usually something she’d already told me about more than once. It meant I was in some degree of trouble.

Now – in a professional capacity – I find myself asking, rhetorically at least – that same question. I’ve been presenting at itSMF events for some time now, since the Brighton conference in 1993, and I reckon I have clocked up 84 annual conferences in 28 countries. Take out some of the really boring ones about ITIL itself, especially what V3 will and did contain, and most of the rest shared a common theme: “you need to understand the people you are doing all this IT service management (ITSM) for – your customers”.

After 20+ years banging on about this, you might think I should shut up – even I think that maybe I should shut up. But instead, at the upcoming itSMF UK conference (ITSM17) in Manchester in a few weeks I’ll be at it again. Maybe for the last time, but that seemed a good reason for a small retrospective.

We all see the same world, but in different ways 

The real reason for looking back though is that too many organisations still haven’t ‘got it’. In the best tradition of the BBC therefore, my purportedly new talk will contain a few healthy chunks of repeats. Specifically, I plan to re-run elements from talks I delivered for itSMF: UK, US, and others, in 2004 and 2009. The main theme is “Understanding the Business Perspective” – that was the 2004 title, and it uses iced buns, childlike perceptions, dolphins, and washing machines to make a point; along with quotes from great literature (Thomas the Tank Engine) and the wisdom of John Lennon.

It won’t be all doom, gloom, and the cynical rantings of old age though, (some of course, but not all). I think there’s been real progress in the 15 years since I first wrote and delivered the content. We’ve seen business relationship management (BRM) become high profile and for many it’s now a must-have concept within their organisation. What we don’t universally see yet though is how BRM can be a universal bottleneck to every aspect of successful ITSM if it isn’t done effectively. 

BRM: the new bottleneck?

When I deliver ITIL Foundation courses I lose track of the number of times we say “And of course if BRM isn’t working properly, you’ll not be able to get this right, because you won’t know what you’re aiming at”. I guess the flow we need goes something like this:

· We need to understand our customers and relate to their desires and concerns. For that we need to talk their language, share their concerns, and empathise with their attitudes

· That knowledge has to be translated into terms our service provider folk can understand. In terms of what success would look like – when it’s ‘done’ to borrow some Agile terminology

· Then we have to actually do it.

Without those first two steps though, we often have no alternative but to fall back on to the traditional IT behaviour: we put all our efforts into getting better at what we’re doing now. That enthusiasm and determination to improve is good, positive stuff. But if we can combine that with some understanding of how our customers think and what they actually need … well then we can start actually being useful. 

And shouldn’t we always have been useful?

And that’s the other talk I will be sampling, as delivered to itSMF UK and USA in 2009: “Is your service management useful?”

When I wrote that ’useful’ talk and started delivering, there was no question that the answer was always going to be ‘Not really’. Has that changed? Are we now working as part of the business, attuned to their needs and desires? Or have many CIOs fallen back on protecting their empire and gone for keeping the IT unit at arms’ length rather than feeling part of the bigger organisation with one set of shared metrics? Maybe there’s one test to help you answer that question:

If your customers and users start using their own software (spreadsheets and the like) to do critical business work, do you shout ‘Shadow IT’ and complain? Or do you realise that they are doing it because they need more than you are providing, and then go sit don with them and work out what they need and how you can help them?, If you just see it as Shadow IT, I think you are missing the point I’ve been trying to make for 20 years.

Personally, I think there’s still enough mileage on those old ideas to warrant bringing them out for another run in Manchester. Fancy a trip backwards in ITSM to look forwards? I hope you’ll join me at ITSM17.


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All go in ITSM...

Posted By Mark Lillycrop, 01 November 2017

by Barclay Rae, CEO, itSMF UK

It’s certainly all go in the ITSM world right now – with the major conference season upon us. New ideas, models and publications, plus a healthy dose of classic themes and events. We have seen the announcement of a new framework for Service Management, plus some new events for 2018. We have FUSION this week in Florida and ITSM17 later this month in Manchester to look forward to, where we can debate all of this as an industry.

I attended the recent NOW FORUM event in London recently – this is a free event run by Service Now to update its customers and the industry on new product and corporate developments. There is also a flourishing partner exhibition which is a great networking opportunity. I was pleased to hear some positive references to traditional ITSM terms such as ‘Customers’ and ‘Services’ in the keynote sessions, and a good focus on practical solutions.  

We have also seen the announcement of a new ITSM framework – VeriSM  (check out the details, including an excellent introductory video, at This has been produced via the same approach and team that brought together the recent SIAM Foundation BoK and Training programme, which received good industry feedback. On the basis of this, the output from the new VeriSM product should be of a good standard. We are pleased to see competition and new ideas being promoted in the marketplace and look forward to commenting further on this once more details are made available.  

It’s FUSION time – I will be presenting with our Chair, Rosemary Gurney at the itSMF USA / HDI joint conference this week. The topic will be Service Management professionalism and we will discuss the need to develop a wider and more holistic view of how we view, recruit and reward our ITSM practitioners. We have gained valuable insights through developing the PSMF framework and look forward to the session and sharing our approach.  

This year is the last FUSION joint event and we also saw the announcement last week of a new ITSM conference in the US run by HDI. We also await news on the next itSMF USA conference in 2018. At the same time we are planning out our whole schedule of events and activities for 2018 – this will be available shortly and we look forward to the reaction to this and to our new website, which will be launching very shortly.

No doubt there will be further industry announcements and discussions forthcoming at both FUSION and ITSM17. At our conference we will be playing back practical feedback from all delegates in real time, to keep the discussions flowing.

There’s lots to discuss and I look forward to seeing you at one or other event soon!  

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Supercharge your support teams – reward and recognition that really works!

Posted By Sally Bogg, 25 October 2017


At the upcoming itSMF UK conference (ITSM17) this year, I’ll be presenting on how you can use reward and recognition to motivate your support staff and build strong, customer-focused teams. Studies have shown that there is a huge difference in the performance of motivated and non-motivated staff, and as such it’s highly important to invest time and effort in the people that are responsible for service delivery. People that feel valued and appreciated are better able to deliver excellent customer service and it makes sense that happy people give great and/or better service, so if you want to improve your customer experience then you should start off with employee experience.

Sounds easy doesn’t it?

The reality is that this can be quite a difficult thing to do – most people are simply not motivated by money alone, but want to be able to feel that they’re making a difference, after all nobody deliberately comes to work to do a bad job. So if you want to supercharge your support teams here are my top tips for successful reward and recognition:

  • Make sure that your teams have a strong sense of direction and purpose – help them understand their fit in your organisation, and how the work they do supports the overall organisation.
  • Invest in professional and personal development – it can be a great motivator for people, so develop a culture and working environment that gives people the opportunity to learn new skills and improve their knowledge, and invest in staff training and development. 
  • Collect customer feedback – using customer feedback and customer compliments can also be a great way of recognising excellent customer service. Make sure that you take the time to share customer feedback with key stakeholders including the senior management team.
  • Arrange “team time” – a team is not just a group of people that work together but also a group of people that respect, trust, and care for each other. Make sure your teams get the opportunity to spend time away together; regular team meetings are essential, and you might also want to consider team building events and away days.
  • Recognition – this is an essential ingredient in ensuring that people feel valued and motivated. Make sure you take the time to recognise good work and celebrate success. 

My experience is that different people are motivated by different things so it is important to use a wide variety of reward and recognition initiatives, enabling you to demonstrate the value that you place on the staff involved in service delivery. 

So when should we reward people?

Sometimes, this can be the most difficult part of a reward and recognition strategy. Should we only reward people when they go above and beyond what is required of them and when they have put in the extra effort to get the job done? That might sound like a good idea, but what about the people who go about their jobs diligently and deliver excellent service every day? Should we not reward them too? Simple answer – reward the behavior you want to see more of! Recognition should be always be timely. When there is a reason for praising someone don't put it off! Promptness equals effectiveness. Praise people when the achievement is fresh on everyone's mind, and don’t be shy about it, simple thank you emails are nice, but don’t necessarily have a big impact – it’s much better to deliver recognition face to face with a big smile and a warm handshake.

The Results

My approach to reward and recognition has enabled me to create team cultures where there is a real sense of fun and joy, and joyful people do remarkable work. But it’s worth remembering that once you’ve created this culture it will need to be cultivated and nurtured. This isn't a one off piece of work but an ongoing and continual process.

Service improvement is not just about processes, procedures, tools, and technologies! It starts with the people! A good service needs good people and a strong team. If you focus on improving employee experience the result will be an improved customer experience, and so as a result you should create teams that can stand tall and be proud of the service that they deliver.

You can find out more about this at my upcoming session at ITSM17. I’m really looking forward to presenting, it’s my first time at this event and I’m excited to not just be attending and learning, but also to be contributing.


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You are Antifragility - not a Weeble

Posted By Andrew Vermes, 18 October 2017

Stuff happens: An important upgrade goes wrong, causing a two hour outage. It turns out that the preparatory checks weren’t all completed before the upgrade. Note to self..

We’re all pretty good learning machines, and have a certain amount of ability to bounce back. Sometimes, though, we turn ourselves into Weebles*

In an attempt to bring some order to sometimes chaotic IT environments, we surround ourselves with process: change management, incident management, release management.

All of these have the same purposes: to avoid mistakes or to return the system to equilibrium; and they can all have the same problem: as we weigh ourselves down, it gets harder and harder to learn and adapt to new circumstances. At a certain point the process stops being an aid to effectiveness, and starts to become our enemy….

The other point is that the protection that a good process affords us does depend on the durability of the assumptions we made when we designed it. Put another way, every process can only deliver what it’s designed for, and we cannot (sensibly) build processes that cover every possible eventuality. All in all, too many processes we work in are turning us into Weebles, only able to return to the prescribed position, and unable to flex and grow from the disorder around us...

What is Antifragility?

Nassim Nicholas Taleb makes the point that some things gain from disorder. You can see this principle when you encounter cross training: top athletes will usually exercise muscle groups in odd and apparently disruptive ways, to build their ability. One example of this is golfers who will deliberately practice their swing the wrong way round: left handed if they’re right handed or vice versa. The same applies to athletic field events such as discus, shot putt, and hammer throwing.

One of the criticisms levelled at the concept of antifragility is a lack of practical application, so here’s an example of building your agility in the field of incident management. We almost always start by asking the user (or the monitoring system or event management tool) “What is the problem?”. Everyone’s used to that, and if you’re an Incident Manager, you’ll be accustomed to getting deeply misleading responses. Now let’s try to do the job in reverse:

“Before we go into details, can you tell me which colleagues nearby (if any) are still able to access the system?”

And “when you last used it successfully, when was that exactly”

So instead of looking for details about what the problem IS, I’m asking about what it IS NOT. One interesting thing about doing this is that I get far fewer inventions, exaggerations, assumptions and downright lies, when I start from this angle.

I’ll be looking at all sorts of ways to make you and your processes antifragile at the upcoming itSMF UK conference to help you

  • Uncover processes and practices that are already antifragile
  • Build on your existing skills
  • Reduce the complexity of your working environment.

 See you there!

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Everything You Need to Know About ITSM17

Posted By Barclay Rae, 12 October 2017


As I’m sure you’re already aware, this year’s annual itSMF UK conference (ITSM17) is taking place in Manchester 20th - 21st November. And as you’ve probably seen, we’re planning a wide range of improvements and changes to the event (not least the change in venue).


What You Can Expect


With all of our planned changes (more on this below), we can promise you that by attending ITSM17 you’ll:


  • Gain new and advanced knowledge on service management topics, trends, and best practices.

  • Take away practical ideas, solutions, and techniques related to topics such as DevOps, knowledge management, cloud technologies, SIAM, customer experience, and the people challenges of service management.

  • Learn not just the “what you should be doing” and “why you should be doing it” but the practical side of “how to get started” and “how to improve”.

  • Build your network of peers and resources, collaborate on ideas, and discuss mutual challenges.

  • Meet with the leading vendors of service management tools, and other complementary service management offerings.

  • Learn more about the direction in which the industry is heading (the future of ITIL, how to cope with increased business expectations, etc.).

  • Discover new ways to encourage personal and professional development by learning more about the Professional Service Management Framework (PSMF) and accessing related case studies.


Essentially, everything you need to start you on a journey of service management improvement in 2018.


Getting Practical


To give you a little more insight, our primary goal for ITSM17 is to make it as practical an experience as possible for delegates with a strong focus on collaboration, relationship building, and peer support. This will be supported by three discussion zones (Future of ITIL, Practical ITSM, and Beyond ITSM) that will provide delegates with the opportunity to engage, debate, and contribute ideas, questions, and input.


The above will be facilitated by a select group of people, who in addition will be:


  • Attending sessions and providing key commentary

  • Discussing the key takeaways and feedback from sessions

  • Discussing other inputs e.g. there will be various industry announcements taking place

  • Discussing in a group what is useful and valuable, new, contentious etc. – working as a team to produce content that will be presented at the plenary panel session in the afternoon on day two.


We’ll also be encouraging and providing as much networking time as possible – e.g. via the discussion zones. Also the removal of the awards dinner opens up the Monday evening for an informal drinks, food, and networking session – this will run from 5pm to 8pm. Following this, delegates will be free to enjoy the Manchester nightlife, or for those that prefer something quieter, we’ll be reserving tables at local restaurants for those who wish to join.

The Presentations

With four presentation streams (ITSM and Beyond; DevOps and Service Management in the Cloud; People, Customers, and Relationships; and Practical and Experiential Learning) and over 50 educational presentations, there’s something for everyone.


With a concentrated focus on practical advice, here are just some of the “how to’s” you can expect to learn by attending:


  • How to use Scrum to design and/or improve your ITIL processes.

  • How to successfully adopt SIAM in your organisation.

  • How to kick start or improve your problem management process.

  • How to improve your self-service initiatives to achieve better benefits and results.

  • How to build a CSI function, including workflows and a CSI register.


You can view the event agenda here.

Plus, for a sneak peak at the content on offer, why not check out some of our ITSM17-related blog content? Those published so far include:


You can also expect to see even more content in the run up to the event.

A Helping Hand

It might all sound great, but if recent years of conferences have taught us anything, it’s that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for people to get management to approve conference attendances. After all, it’s a significant investment of time out of the office (whether it be for ITSM17 or any other service management event). So if you’re interested in ITSM17, but struggling with this particular challenge, we might be able to help.

Our teams have created some useful resources to help you make the case for ITSM17. These include:

Hopefully you’ll find these helpful.

In Summary


At itSMF UK HQ we’re really excited for this year’s event, even more so than normal. We anticipate that our planned changes for 2017 are going to make a significant difference to how the conference is perceived and the value it provides to delegates. We hope you’ll join us and agree.


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