A Year’s ITSM Learning in a Single Blog

Lego man investigating why people change ITSM tool.
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Last week I was lucky enough to attend this year’s itSMF UK conference – ITSM 16. This is always a special occasion, but more so this year because it marked the organization’s 25th anniversary. The theme for this year was Professionalism in ITSM, reflecting ITSMF UK’s current drive to develop and advance ITSM as a professional discipline. Over the two days it featured a wide range of exhibitors and five different tracks from “Leading edge ITSM” to “People Make ITSM,” featuring talented presenters from all over the IT service management (ITSM) world.

In this blog, I provide an overview of some of my favourite sessions and share some of the things I learned along the way. I’d like to think that I received a year’s worth of ITSM learning in just two days, much of which I’m now sharing in this blog.

Enterprise Service Management

My first breakout session of the day was to see ITSM.tools Principal Analyst Stephen Mann presenting on the topic of Enterprise Service Management (ESM). A topic that many people still see as new, but in reality is a topic that’s been around for 10 years and has been called different things during that time.

So what is it? Well Stephen’s definition is “the use of ITSM principles and capabilities in other business areas to improve performance and service” – short sharp and to the point. But does it matter? Well actually yes, in a recent SDI survey 55% of respondents said they’re planning for “shared service management” i.e. enterprise service management. Other functions such as HR have to deal with complaints, the use of knowledge management, requests for help and information just like IT! Certainly in the firm I work for our HR department provides a really good self-service portal.

Consider what we could learn as well – take facilities – a big part of what they do is about preventative maintenance.

Stephen’s advice was to allow for the differences in the business functions. Other departments will get it and for some it just isn’t going to be a priority. Don’t go pushing it out to other areas when you haven’t got it right in yours first and don’t talk IT speak – speak theirs.

Overall ESM isn’t about saving money or improving efficiency – it’s about delivering a better customer experience and if you can do that you potentially can change the way your business does business!

Lego Serious Play

When I was a kid one of my favourite toys was Lego and I must still carry a guilty pleasure because I couldn’t resist Christian Tijsman’s interactive session on “Bringing ITIL Practitioner to life with Lego Serious Play.” A session that almost didn’t take place when his Lego got accidentally locked in his suitcase with no one knowing the code… cue some poor itSMF guy trying all 999 combinations.

Thankfully, they got into the suitcase and a passionate Christian kicked off his session with a short introduction. He deeply feels that this is a match made in heaven. Nobody in the room had ever played Lego Serious Play (LSP) before but like me they’d all played with Lego in the past. LSP has been around for 20 years and was developed from various creative and imaginative teams at Lego and universities to what it is now – a collaborative thinking method used to explore and communicate and help solve problems. What was exciting for me was to be in a session with a whole bunch of ITSM practitioners not knowing what was going to happen except that we all had a bag of Lego to play with!

With Christian’s guidance we went on to undertake several exercises with LSP. Some didn’t have instructions and we’d construct what was in our heads, which went on to become physical metaphors for storytelling and getting points and ideas across.

What we all built was then shared and discussed amongst the people on the table we were working at. What did became extraordinarily obvious was that these Lego pieces were bringing our stories to life – “making the invisible visible.”.

So how does LSP bring ITIL Practitioner to life? Christian mapped his exercises to the ITIL Practitioner guiding principles. He finished off the workshop by sharing a case study he had facilitated over two days with key stakeholders to help an organization fix its IT. Creating many models from how they saw their IT department now, to how others saw them, to what their future aspirational identity was. Extracting what people thought in their heads and building one large rich model of the organization.

The result of this was that everyone could see and have a clearer understanding of how IT works, and with a focus on value, how it wanted to function in the future. This went on to improve trust and collaboration within the business.

Oh and in case you were worried, no bricks were harmed in the building of those exercises!

Change Management in the Real World

The next session I attended was on day two, a practical presentation by Peter Hubbard on one of ITIL’s better known processes: How to make change management work in the real world. Peter is feisty and energetic and his enthusiasm for change management is clear to see. This presentation was a breakdown of practical hints and tips.

He spoke about the benefits being that it can help you change faster, safer and that bad change management hurts. Certainly in recent years some large companies have publically fallen short several times over.

In a nutshell, change equals risk so control that risk. So, how do we do this? He showed a slide that had agility at one end and safety at the other end of a seesaw. Work out where your organization’s appetite is for risk and use that as a foundation for your change process.

Peter asked the audience who has a formal definition of a change – several people put their hand up and half of those used the ITIL definition. It’s a good definition but one that is far reaching and covers everything. Peter went on to say scope your change and make sure everyone knows what it is, otherwise how do techies know when to engage with you? His own personal definition is simpler, “any non pre-approved modification, maintenance or monitoring activity taking place on a scope item.” He then went on to list those items in scope such as server installations and application patching, advising that you then market this information within the IT department. This way, techies, and SME’s know when to engage with you. He took that further and said that being a change manager you need to know what is going on, you need to have your fingers on the pulse, and you need to get immersed in what is happening around you.

Some of my takeaways from the session were that change management by its nature can be bureaucratic, but with standard change you can weed out a lot. Automate it in your tool set as much as possible. Also that you should avoid having a dual role of problem manager and change manager. Why? Well consider this, problem manager’s want to find the underlying route cause of one or more incidents, what is the underline reasons for most of the incidents in your IT department? – Change!

Leadership Skills for ITSM

My last session of the conference was Brian Crighton’s Leadership skills for ITSM (The Agile Doorman). In this pragmatic session Brian discussed key skills for surviving service management and compared those skills to a Doorman – even disguising himself as one! He wanted to dispel with their bad perception and show using his Kanku model what good practice can look like.

Brian’s Kanku model consists of four key areas:

  1. Be passionate about service – understand the business and translate it into service management and empathize with the customer. Good Door crews read situations well.
  2. Do your best – take responsibility and be honest with yourself and take pride in getting things done right. Focus on measurement and look at ways you can improve. Door crews will look back at their previous night and focus on incidents that didn’t go as well as they would have liked.
  3. Build relationships – this one resonated with me. Brian said that being loyal to those not present gains the trust of those who are and that trust comes from integrity. He went on to speak about intelligent disobedience and how stepping out of the box can have positive gains. Doormen can see where to blur those lines and just because someone is wearing jeans doesn’t mean they’re going to be trouble.
  4. Be resilient – keep getting back up. It’s those who keep going that keep being successful. Richard Branson has had more failures than successes and yet we don’t deem him a failure. Keep looking ahead and identify risks. Good Door crews will always be looking ahead down those queues for anyone acting suspicious.

Brian finished off with saying that you can’t always pick your situation but you can always pick your mood and how others sees you. Being optimistic can really have a positive impact and change your day for the better.

The skills he looks for when hiring isn’t what badges and certificates you have, it’s about what real world experience you have, and what attitude and soft skills you can bring to a team.

In summary, I learned an awful lot in just two days. As to a common theme, I think there is one – the need to think a little differently about ITSM. Whether it’s the use of ITSM in other lines of business, using serious play to better understand situations (both challenges and opportunities), being more practical about change (including greater use of automation), and the power of positivity in service management.

If you were at ITSM16, what were your key takeaways?

Image Credit

IT Service Management Analyst at Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP

Greg Hall is the IT Service Management Analyst with a broad range of technical skills for one of London’s largest law firms Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP. He has been an IT professional for 15 years – having held several positions on Service Desks and worked in various technical and project management based roles.

He’s an active committee member of the BCS Service Management Specialist Group, regularly presenting and debating topical issues and learning from other ITSM practitioners.

Championing one of ITIL’s four P’s – People - Greg prides himself on drawing on his, and others, experiences to mentor and give back to the ITSM community.

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One Response

  1. Greg, I enjoyed this article and appreciate the summary of ITSM 16. Had never heard of Lego Serious Play – now I’m very interested. Also, it felt reassuring to read Brian Crighton’s leadership skills for ITSM and confirmed for me that my own core behaviors are aligned to the four areas. Thank you!

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