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Forget ITSM Best Practice, Let’s Talk About People

Posted By Barclay Rae, 03 May 2017

Let's Talk About People

I’m fortunate enough to attend multiple IT service management (ITSM) and IT industry-related conferences each year –  in the capacity of speaker, organiser, exhibitor, and/or delegate. It’s therefore safe to say that I have a pretty good understanding of the value that attending an event can provide to both individuals and the businesses they work in.

Events provide excellent opportunities for learning new things, better understanding the industry, networking with peers, and of course making new contacts and connections. Whether you’re looking for new ideas, wanting to keep up with the industry, or looking to learn more about the latest challenges facing the world of IT, events will typically provide value across all three. After all, there really is no substitute for meeting and engaging with like-minded people face-to-face – it’s informative, beneficial, and good fun too.

Having said this, events can also be mentally draining, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I seek the solace of a dark room and “real work” once an event is over. But a big part of my fatigue is based around the fact that I attend so many events, covering the same topics, and addressing the same issues. Each event I attend – whether it be covering ITSM, DevOps, Agile, or the service desk –  typically always boils down to the same key takeaway:

“IT is about business. Business is about people. Therefore, IT is about people.”

Simple, right?

All the challenges and issues we face in IT can be solved and mitigated through dealing with people issues. So, whether we’re talking about DevOps ‘culture’, ITSM-related organisational change management (OCM), ‘professionalism’, skills and competencies, or management and governance – what we’re really talking about is people challenges and opportunities. Look at ‘solutions’ such as Kanban, Scrum, and Lean – they’re all ways to manage and improve not just what we do, but the way that we do things, usually involving some form of approach that deals with people.

Of course, this ‘takeaway’ is nothing new, which is probably why it’s continued to be prevalent at IT conferences for as long as I can remember. However, what is ‘new’ and changing, is that as an industry we’re beginning to accept this. We’re actively looking for new, people-centric solutions to augment or replace existing operational models. We’re effectively calling out the importance and value of the ‘people’ aspect in what we do. In reality, confirming that ‘soft’ skills are just as important as ‘hard’ or ‘technical’ ones.

Process, and tools are no longer enough to deliver success. Something we should already know, but are now finally beginning to build on and challenge into a number of new approaches. We’re finally coming to realise that we need to stop relying on frameworks and technology to solve what are ultimately people problems.

The New Challenge

But, this then presents us with a new challenge. That now the industry has recognised the issue, there are suddenly several different models to help you ‘solve’ the problem. So, in addition to the traditional models of the likes of ITSM, COBIT, and ITIL, we now have DevOps, Agile, Lean, Cynefin, service integration and management (SIAM), IT4IT, and more. And vendors and consultants automatically start to begin to create new content, celebrating new ideas, and providing tips for success. But from an IT practitioner standpoint, is this too overwhelming? Are we clogging up ‘best practice’ headspace with a varied and seemingly conflicting plethora of new ‘things’ to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I know and appreciate that many of the new models deliver value. What I’m questioning is whether these multiple models are confusing and challenging for practitioners? I mean, which should they follow? Where should they start? How do they make certain models work together? In my view, we need some central guidance on service management that reflects both proven success as well current and future capabilities. This doesn’t need to be a patchwork of the frameworks, but more an aligned way of using different ideas together under a practical banner of value-based guidance.

So What Now?

This kind of guidance isn’t going to be easy to create, and will require input from a variety of places within the service management industry. From itSMF UK’s perspective we’d like to help bring people together to discuss this idea further and drive a consensus around these questions. As such, we plan to use our portfolio of events and workshops over the next year as a place to start these discussions. We’ll also be creating content aligned with these questions and ideas via our blog channel, as well as in whitepapers and co-sponsored research outputs. 

So, if you think you have ideas and/or thoughts to contribute on the future of the service management industry, and how best to help practitioners in these complex times, please let us know. You can get involved by attending any of our events, or submitting content to put your opinions and suggestions out to the industry by emailing us at

Our upcoming events include:

·      Service Catalogue [workshop]

·      Professional Service Management Awards [PSMA17]

You can also find out more about our regional and other member events here

More from itSMF UK

One additional place where we hope to explore this topic further is in our reinventedService Management Podcast”. Thats right, back together are: Stephen Mann, James Finister, Patrick Bolger, and myself. Back to discussing ITSM, with a little grumbling and a few poodles thrown in of course. itSMF UK are the new, proud sponsors of the podcast and we hope we can use it to help drive conversations on topics, such as the one in this blog, forward

You can listen to the first episode here (Apple) or here (Android). Equally I look forward to hopefully seeing you at one of our many events this year

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