itSMF UK 2023 Conference Recap

itSMF UK Conference 2023

It’s Reading, baby! The itSMF UK hosted one of the biggest IT service management (ITSM) events in the UK this week at the Select Car Leasing stadium, the home of the mighty Reading FC! The itSMF UK 2023 conference had over 300 IT professionals gathered in one place to share ideas, hear real-life experiences, and learn new things. The event had four different streams to pack in as much content as possible. The sessions included major incident management, artificial intelligence (AI) ethics, and looking after well-being. So, there truly was something for everyone. In this article, I provide an overview of all of the best bits, including top tips and advice from the presenters.

In this article, @Vawns provides an overview of all of the best bits from the @itSMFUK 2023 conference, including top #ITSM tips and advice from the presenters. Share on X

The itSMF UK 2023 keynote

The itSMF UK event was kicked off in style by Mandy Hickson, RAF fighter pilot, and the first woman to fly the Tornado GR4 on the front line! Mandy’s session motivated everyone in the audience. I’m not exaggerating when I say that everyone in the audience was hanging on to her every word as we listened to how she forged a successful career in the RAF built on empathy, belief, and teamwork. One of my favorite takeaways from Mandy’s speech was this: Control the controllables, and if you can’t… let it go!

Sometimes, we spend so much time worrying about the things we can’t control that we forget about what we can.

Implementing SIAM in a global retailer – Peter Hubbard and Karl Twort, The Body Shop

One of the first itSMF UK morning sessions was by Pete and Karl from The Body Shop. Their session looked at their SIAM journey and what worked well in their organization. Pete started by outlining the position they were in in 2019 and the challenges the business was facing. In short, “The business would buy stuff and only tell us when they called to complain it stopped working,” something I feel we can all agree is less than ideal. Pete and Karl then explained their implementation plan: “When implementing SIAM, you’re changing the whole governance structure of IT… you can’t just sprinkle some SIAM on top of everything else and hope it sticks.”

'When implementing #SIAM, you’re changing the whole governance structure of IT… you can’t just sprinkle some SIAM on top of everything else and hope it sticks.' – via @itSMFUK #ITSM Share on X

The session continued to look at The Body Shop’s SIAM journey and how the team worked with the business and the suppliers to understand what suppliers were currently in place and how many had up-to-date contracts and documentation. Pete and Karl talked about the importance of:

  • Getting support from procurement teams to ensure accurate information about suppliers was captured
  • Really listening to the business to understand what the key outcomes are
  • Understanding the demand landscape.

In the case of The Body Shop, the results were impressive. Incidents and major incidents were reduced, and P1 incidents were reduced during peak business times year on year.

From ITSM to agile: a journey towards agile service management – Andy Ferguson and Faith Thomas, University of Birmingham

The final itSMF UK morning session was from the University of Birmingham on making their ITSM capabilities more agile. As Andy and Fauth explained: “At the beginning, what do we do? A load of service management stuff, basically. We needed to figure out what we were doing and who we were doing it for… it felt like we were making all the spaghetti, but half our stakeholders didn’t even like pasta.”

Andy and Faith explained how the COVID lockdown increased the need for agility as the university needed to quickly roll out Zoom and Microsoft 365 services so that students and university colleagues could work remotely. On the return to the office, the agile theme continued as meetings were restructured into three main agenda items: what does today look like, what’s the plan for tomorrow, and are there any blockers? A fourth agenda was added afterwards to protect colleagues’ mental health and asked all meeting attendees to articulate anything they felt grateful for. They continued by reminding the audience that Agile ITSM isn’t just ITIL. It’s DevOps, Lean, Agile, KanBan, and more.

The top tips? “Our take on agile is what do we need to do next and what little changes do we need to make this work?” and “We need to seize opportunities, not fear them.”

Service Influence – an alternative approach to service management – Michelle Major-Goldsmith and Simon Dorst, Kinetic IT

The first itSMF UK session of the afternoon looked at service influencing. Michelle and Simon started by explaining that SIAM is common sense written down… but sometimes best practice isn’t common practice. The key messages from the session were:

  • “SIAM isn’t a contractual straight jacket; we need to think about how to manage our relationships above and beyond contract management… so we can foster trust across our ecosystem and all our stakeholders.”
  • “Trust enables us to build relationships and lead with confidence.”
  • “We need to focus on outcomes.”
  • “The watermelon effect, things look green, but from the consumer perspective, outcomes aren’t being achieved, so the service is red, and the more complex the ecosystem, the harder it is to deliver those outcomes.”
  • “Little things can make a difference. Baseline your service providers, so you know how you’re doing.”
  • The scope of control only goes so far. We also need the scope of influence… we need to shift focus from contracts to people and collaboration.”
  • “The days of command and control are over… we need to focus on working with people.”
  • “Need to build trust so our teams work cohesively together.”
'SIAM is common sense written down… but sometimes best practice isn’t common practice.' – via @itSMFUK #SIAM #ITSM Share on X

How Nestlé IT are modernising ITSM – Osvaldo Santos, Nestlé

The itSMF UK next session looked at how ITSM was modernized within Nestlé. Santos began by sharing a quote from Malcolm Fry: “Effective ITSM is like a well-tuned orchestra; it harmonizes technology, people, and processes to create a symphony of business excellence.”

He continued by explaining that “Failure is good because it makes us do better next time.” He discussed the need for stable service delivery: “It’s not about building beautiful applications; it’s about maintaining them and taking ownership.”

The next part of the presentation looked at real-life examples. My favorite was the 3 Es: essential (what we need to survive), enhance (how can we improve services), evolve (how can we drive innovation?” An example was evolving the service portal. Redesign it to make it more user-centric, review content, introduce AI search capabilities, and lean into omnipresence and using swarming for a more collaborative approach.

'Failure is good because it makes us do better next time.' – via @itSMFUK #ITSM Share on X

The results were a significantly improved incident management process by introducing machine learning. This enhanced performance, introduced a right-first-time ethos, and reduced onboarding duration by 87%.

The key learnings from the session were:

  • “We need to engage the business to understand the true impact.”
  • “We need to stop the blaming ping pong. Arguing about the service level agreement (SLA) isn’t going to help the user.”
  • “We must delight our customers daily and respond with quality and speed.”
  • “Channel Yoda when failing fast. Just do it. There is no try.”

Measuring true value – showcasing IT with business SLAs – Martin Goble, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS)

Martin Goble was on hand at the itSMF UK event to explain how we can all collectively up our game by using business SLAs. Martin started by asking the question, “The SLAs are all green, but what does that mean to the business? How does it help? What do the numbers even mean? Is IT improving or getting worse?” He continued by explaining what business SLAs are – that they align IT services and components to business objectives and reports in a language that the business understands and how they are important in protecting mental health.

Martin explained how business SLAs can be supported by a Business Indicator Plan (BIP) whereby business priorities are understood and documented, monitored and reported on, and subject to ongoing maintenance.

Key takeaways from Martin’s session included:

  • “Think about what IT is doing at the moment and how it supports your customer. This will make your reporting more meaningful to the business.”
  • “You need to understand what IT is doing for the business… if you don’t understand what a piece of kit is doing, why are you supporting it?”
  • “The point is you’re not just in IT; you’re in whatever your business delivers.”
  • “Don’t aim for perfection… focus on the good stuff and talk in a language the business understands.”
  • “We need to shift our focus from ‘Aren’t we clever for keeping our applications running’ to ‘Aren’t we clever for keeping the business running.’”

Martin concluded by asking delegates to revisit their SLAs, look at what they cover, what the business needs, and if the SLAs add any value. If not, update them with help from business stakeholders so that everyone is aligned to a common goal.

From service management to service manageability – David Billouz, OCIRIS Global

David Billouz looked at using service managability over just basic service management. He started by talking about the importance of ensuring that not only are services useful, but they deliver in terms of customer experience.

He explained the difference between the two –service management is focused on resources, whereas service manageability is focused on capabilities.

Key learnings from this itSMF UK session were:

  • “Service manageability supports outcomes.”
  • “Low code/no code can give options and flexibility but can also increase the potential for shadow IT.”
  • “Service manageability can be used to embrace change.”

Unlocking real value through ITSM business transformation – Misha Macinski, Pink Elephant

Misha from Pink Elephant used the magic of buzzword bingo to explain how business transformation can add value. He started by stating that “values are like fingerprints,” a quote by Elvis Presley, to explain that everyone does things differently, but our actions leave an imprint. In the case of service management, values are used as a structured framework for aligning IT services with business objectives, making them successful in transformation efforts.

Key learnings from Misha’s itSMF UK session included:

  • “The few people motivated to make the change aren’t carried by the rest of the organization, so you need an approach. “
  • “How do we close the gap between where we are now and where we want to be? By understanding the value the business needs to be delivered.”
  • “We need to create the need for change, but it needs to be the right change.”
  • “Just get started. Once the ball is rolling, it’s harder to stop it. Get the ball rolling. That’s the most important thing.”
  • “If I work on a service desk and get a new toolset. That’s very visible to me. That’s tangible.”

StressLess© – Building  your Well-being Toolbox of Techniques – Simone Moore, SJM, Humanising IT

A well-being session on creating a toolbox of well-being techniques was led by Simone Moore. Sometimes, in IT, we’re so focused on delivery and providing the customer with their outcomes that we forget about the people making all those awesome things happen.

Service desk colleagues, in particular, can be at the sharp end of this because it’s so fast-paced. When things are going wrong – major incidents, high call volumes, lots of VIP tickets – it can be difficult to take a break and reset, and yet it’s so, so important.

Simone’s itSMF UK session offered attendees the tools and strategies to manage stress and look after their well-being, including breathing exercises and reflexology. I was lucky enough to assist Simone in being the resident mental health first aider present, so while the session wasn’t recorded and I wasn’t taking notes, it’s well worth checking it out at future ITSM events. Simone plans to present at SITS and ITSM24, so watch this space!

Evolving through an ITSM strategy & beyond – Patrick Briscoe and Nicola Gibson, Home Office

This itSMF UK session was about evolving IT service delivery by having a solid strategy in place. That makes sense, right? You need a plan to be effective.

Patrick and Nicola opened their session by asking, “If we’re doing OK as we are, why do we need to change? With technology evolving so quickly, people will always want more.”

Key learnings included:

  • “We need processes, but people will work around them if they’re too restrictive.”
  • The service portfolio will help people understand what they’re accountable for.”
  • “We need to ask ourselves what are we doing well and what value does it bring? What should we stop doing?”
  • “The service portfolio helps reassure our staff that problem areas are being taken care of and increases flow.”
  • “The portfolio helps us have really strong conversations about shaping the future state.”
  • “Policies are our guardrails; we need to make sure they are workable and have buy-in at an operational level.”
  • “Evolution affects everyone, so everyone needs to get involved. It will always take longer than you think. Getting bought in is so important so your people feel respected and heard. Learn from each other.”

Practical aspects of IT resilience management – Vytautas Adomaitis, Danske Bank

This session was about building IT resilience using practical examples. We often hear the words “IT resilience management” but struggle to get started.

Key learnings from this itSMF UK session included:

  • “We need to ensure that the show goes on and that IT can continue supporting the business.”
  • “When reviewing lessons learned, focus on the customer impact.”

Enterprise SIAM as a key enabler of the Defence Digital Backbone – Lucy Murray Brown, Defence Digital and Nigel Gill, Atkins

This session was about how SIAM underpins the Defence Digital operation in the Ministry of Defence (MOD). Lucy and Nigel opened by outlining the sheer scale and complexity of MOD operations supporting over 200,000 users over 1,000 sites globally.

Key learnings from this itSMF UK session included:

  • “Don’t do big bang cutovers; if you do things iteratively, you have the time to course correct and still get things right.”
  • “Taking back control and weaving partners and practices into the tooling.”
  • “As a service integrator, you need to be clear with your partners and be the one to make the rules.”
  • “Partners are critical for collaborative working.”
  • “IT service delivery is a team sport.”
'You don’t have to do everything. Look at the value and intent of what you’re doing… if it doesn’t work for your business, don’t do it.' – via @itSMFUK #ITSM Share on X

Global best practice – adoption and adaption to drive IT organizational improvement – Nicola Postlethwaite, BT Business

This itSMF UK session was about using best practices to improve IT services. Nikki opened by explaining that best practices can be methods, guidelines, processes, and standards that are proven to be effective and efficient in different contexts and situations. Best practice documentation can be industry and domain-specific and can help benchmark performance, identify gaps, and suggest improvement opportunities.

Key learnings included:

  • “It isn’t one size fits all; you need to look at the business needs and how best practice can help.”
  • “The value is in the journey.”
  • “Always start where you are… ask yourself, ‘Do we already perform these activities?’”
  • “Use benchmarking to understand where you are now and identify opportunities for improvement.”
  • “The @AXELOS_GBP ITIL maturity assessment can help structure your benchmarking exercise.”
  • “Ask yourself, ‘Will this help me fix a problem or move forward? Are we culturally there yet? Is this all aligned with business objectives? How can we identify opportunities for continual improvement?’”
  • “You don’t have to do everything. Look at the value and intent of what you’re doing… if it doesn’t work for your business, don’t do it.”

So that’s my take on the itSMF UK 2023 conference. Thank you to the itSMF UK for inviting me; I hope to be back next year. Were you at #ITSM23? What did you think? Please let me know in the comments.

Vawns Murphy Photo
Vawns Murphy
Senior ITSM Consultant at i3Works

Vawns Murphy holds qualifications in ITIL V2 Manager (red badge) and ITIL V3 Expert (purple badge), and also has an SDI Managers certificate. Plus she holds further qualifications in COBIT, ISO 20000, SAM, PRINCE2, and Microsoft. In addition, she is an author of itSMF UK collateral on Service Transition, Software Asset Management, Problem Management and the "How to do CCRM" book. She was also a reviewer for the Service Transition ITIL 3 2011 publication.

In addition to her day job as a Senior ITSM Consultant at i3Works, she is also an Associate Analyst at

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