James West attended the vibrant and thought-provoking ITSM16 and learnt a valuable lesson about IT’s elevated position and what must change for it to deliver business value.
One limitation of an ITSM event is the visitor only experiences it in segments. There are myriad conversations and sessions running concurrently which would be of interest yet the attendee only sees the event through a very limited prism.
While I may have had a limited view of the itSMF’s 25th Annual Conference, what I did see offered some valuable lessons regarding the practical and long-term challenges faced by the industry.
The event started with Barclay Rae talking about the importance of people, referencing the importance of DevOps and Business Relationship Management to ensure ITSM delivers business value. This was extremely refreshing to hear. itSMF has long championed processes, chiefly ITIL. Now it is openly recognising the importance of not just people, but the value of relationships. “Our profession keeps the world ticking, we should be proud and recognise our achievements.”
The people-first theme
To underline this sentiment, ITSM saw the launch of the Professional Service Management Framework (PSMF), a competency and recognition programme designed to create ‘professional identity for the service management industry’. Initially aimed at itSMF members, Barclay said the intention was to roll PSMF out as a standalone product – a development which could very well have deep implications for the future direction of the itSMF. Regardless, it bodes well for the future of the members and the industry to have such a well-regarded organisation thinking in such progressive, people-orientated terms.
People remained the over-arching theme throughout my time at ITSM16. The keynote speaker on day one was the extraordinary Dr Sue Black, government IT advisor and all-around IT superstar. Sue explained how she rose from humble origins to help save Bletchley Park (with some help from her ally Stephen Fry) and become one of the most respected and influential figures in the development of IT as a profession and a force for good.
Of all the incredible stories Sue shared about her life and achievement, one stood out. As part of #techmums, Sue’s initiative to teach Mum’s technology skills which would help them both as parents and in their future careers, Sue gave a simple example. One of the early adaptors of TechMums told Sue how it had already transformed her business – and her entire life.
The lesson she benefited from was the ability to attach images to emails. This meant that rather than driving products to customers across London, she was able to show them the product via email. This led to a ten-fold sales increase, virtually overnight.
On first hearing this, my reaction was shock. Shouldn’t every business owner in 2016 have grasped the basics of email? But as I thought this through, I realised this was an arrogant view based on my own elitist view of technology.
Why would anyone instinctively know how to attach email files? For the technically minded, it seems a simple leap of logic, but that isn’t a given. For someone with no former training in using a PC, having such a knowledge gap is very understandable.
Knowledge is power
Those of us working in technology are privileged and fortunate. We ‘get’ technology. But a maths genius can immediately picture the answer to an equation that will take skilled mathematicians hours to fathom. A brilliant mechanic will intrinsically understand how an engine component works without having even set eyes on, while others may need to attend a training course.
My point is that knowledge is relative. Although Sue’s example is extreme, we’re all operating at different levels. Everyone has different capabilities and understanding of technology and ITSM professionals must never assume knowledge. Until ITSM professionals are humble enough to realise this fact, they will NEVER be capable of helping the business deliver value and strategic outcomes. And ITSM professionals that are unable to help demonstrate value will quickly find themselves seeking a new career.
The arrogance and assumption of ITSM professionals are traits holding back the development of technology within the business. You’ll hear lots about people and relationships in 2017. You’ll also hear lots of ideas about how to improve relationships and get the most from people. But there is no need for such complexity.
ITSM professionals have a duty to help the business harness technology. Understanding the limits of knowledge, and being humble about the position we inhabit, is the perfect way to start meaningful conversations which will help ITSM deliver business value.