Monday, 18 November 2013

A Little Less #SMCongress, A Little More Action Please.

You might have missed the fun and games around #SMCongress. Rob has summed up the skeptical perspective on it rather well  and I've already had my chance to quiz some of those who were in the room on a  podcast.

So I wasn't planning to make any specific posts on it.

After all being specific seems to be the one thing SM Congress isn't about. Yet.

Now before we go any further let me declare an interest. I had a an invite to attend Fusion as a member of the itSMF USA RevNet sessions that produced the concept of SM Congress. I know my thinking is usually aligned with most of the people who were there and that there isn't much that came out of it that I would probably have disagreed with - apart from ditching the hideous Universal Declaration of Digital Rights, which is a fail on so many counts.

The reason I couldn't take up the invite to attend was because I was busy  in the real world that pays the bills and keeps the lights on. That real world is a very interesting place at the moment as organisations ready themselves to come out of recession. Many aspects of received ITSM wisdom will I'm sure be reevaluated  as a result. The shift to align ITSM with the Agile manifesto, as SM Congress suggests, will be an interesting challenge. It is one we have long ago come to terms with in TCS, which is why my SIAM team is part of the same practice as our Agile team.

But it is a real world challenge, and needs critical thinking, careful presentation and new tools if it is to be successful. You don't just bolt on agile thinking to existing models and mindsets.

If there really is a brave new world then it has to be packaged and sold to multiple stakeholders with hard facts concrete solutions and practical help. Above all else it has to be aligned with their pre-existing objectives and agendas. That doesn't mean sustain the status quo for the sake of it but it does mean the solution has to fit the problem, not the other way around.

The constant retweeting of self congratulatory messages about how, with 170 on line signatories, this is the biggest thing ever in ITSM is a self destructive behaviour on so many levels that opens the whole movement up to ridicule unless matched by actions. Lets put this into perspective. there are over 2 million  people with ITIL qualifications. The Back2ITSM Facebook group has over 700. Most of the attendees at the RevNet workshop have over a 1000 twitter followers each.

Most worrying for me about this kind of messaging is the underlying sub-text that there is some kind of competition, and that somewhere out there is an opposition that needs to be revolted against. I have enough respect for the majority of people who were in the room to think that they are neither so naive as to think there really is such an enemy, nor so politically manipulative as to want to create one. However the history of revolutions is not a happy one and I highly recommend a little light reading  Another cautionary tale about power politics from an Irish perspective can be found here .

There is a reality though that we probably do need to face up to. We like to talk about the ITSM community as if it is a homogeneous group. I've railed in the past about the perception of them and us divisions . It is silly though to expect that we will all align all the time. Different geographies, different scales of organisation, different specialists that fall under the ITSM banner and different levels of management all need to make ITSM work for them in specific ways within a more universal framework.

The ITSM SocMed world doesn't have to act as one, and we should not expect the entire ITSM SocMed world to share all the same cultural norms.  That requires respect for how those other cultures prefer to work and think and an understanding of their requirements. Much of the initial  noise around SM Congress can be traced to this, particularly given how passionate and committed members of the community are, and how independently minded some of them are.

If people didn't care they wouldn't care.

So what does SM Congress need to do?

Thankfully a lot of effort is going into sharing the message at other conferences, such as the itSMF UK and Estonia conferences and this needs to continue if it is to succeed.

In Europe there is very limited interest in conceptual models so if SM Congress is going to have any impact on this side of the Atlantic it needs a road map and to articulate the benefits for both organisations and individuals, as AXELOS is beginning to do.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is to prove that this time things will be different and to highlight real successes that come out of the initiative.


  1. What do you suggest we accomplish then? What have you done?

    1. Matt, We need to learn from Back2ITSM is one thing. That had simple and straight forward objectives in terms of bringing basic collateral into the public domain but still ran into issues with IP and getting practitioners to engage and create. It seems obvious to execute using some agile approaches as well to keep momentum going.

      If I'm honest though I'm struggling to identify what the required outputs are, which is why I'm not as evangelical about SM Congress as others. If there is one thing I would do if I could it would be to introduce a new training programme divorced from ITIL as it currently exists.

    2. I've been struggling with this overnight. I don't have the answer yet but I think it would be good to do something closely aligned with one of the values, Ingenuity v process might be a good starting point because that sounds like such a clear change from ITSM's process based past

  2. Barry Corless FSM Action? Hmm, with zero operational capability. Sorry. SM as a profession / industry / career / vocation needs to establish itself within the existing establishment not go off on yet another social media inspired crusade to reinvent the wheel.

    1. Barry, I'm beginning to wonder if thinking about ITSM/SM as an entity is part of the problem. My clients don't talk about buying ITSM as such anymore.

  3. Is "service" becoming a utility? People only notice it if it ain't there?

    1. There is an element of that, matched by service measured in terms of business outcomes, not what was done to achieve those outcomes. Do you really need to tell an outsourcer what availability you expect from individual servers? Is it really that much more meaningful to define it any higher level of IT granularity, or do you go for a risk sharing model where IT benefits from overall business benefit?

  4. For me it is quite simply: what can be done to help people working in IT, and the organizations they work for, get better at supporting business operations? So in the words of Ali G we need to be keeping it real. So there are layers of help needed - stuff that helps with the day-to-day issues that probably cause unpaid overtime through to the stuff that helps IT organizations to be the valued internal resource that businesses need. The danger is trying to do the latter before the former - the competing pressure of the former will detract from the latter (incident and problem anyone?). So how do we get the balance right such that addressing some of the former allows room for the latter and vice versa?

    1. Stephen. Perhaps the underlying issue with SM Congress in this formative stage is "Who is it for?"

      As an over-arching theme I have no issue with it being for everyone and trying to reach the mythical win win situation,

      In practical terms though I think the tension between the needs of a CIO and someone sat on a service desk are very real and the practical stuff that SM Congress is capable of generating should be targeted at specific groups.

      Even at the abstract level of the values these could be translated into what they mean for specific stakeholder groups.