Daniel Breston

#TechEthicist on great practices in the Cloud

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ITSM18: the IT Service Management conference that helped a community grow

Conferences: they get a bad name as being a time waster but for the last 20 years, itSMF events have always taught me something.

I was looking forward to ITSM18, especially as at ITSM17 I had agreed with several others to mentor new speakers to help bring fresh voices into the discussion.

Who knew that 2018 was going to be the year where it might just all change? We were beginning to see at DevOps, agile and now ITSM conferences that people wanted to focus on people. How often have you heard 'people, process and technology', but then seen the discussion focus on the last two, whilst forgetting that without people we do not have or need processes - or the fun stuff. Across the spectrum in Linkedin, Facebook groups, webinars and conferences, many were quoting Peter Finch in Network: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

More poignantly, the community lost several individuals that truly made an impact: Dave Jones, Rob Stroud, Tom Kadlec, Michael McLaughlin and Ian Connelly. All gentlemen in their own right and instructors to many on what technology means to organisations with a focus on People First.

I did not anticipate last year how the conference would morph and maybe even begin to grow up, as 29 of the 46 sessions or panels were people-focused: staff, customers and suppliers before processes and technology. This provided a refreshing change which one could feel in the buzz of attendees as they heard things that mattered to them: personal journeys, challenges, support and benefits of being in our profession.

The conference

It began with a tribute to those mentioned above and expanded to a story about how English fire fighters helped Japan during their terrible tsunami. Imagine having to create ways of working that showed the status of activities without having telecommunications. White boards, visual signs and flags were all incorporated until some semblance of technology was re-introduced - which seems like a perfect match to DevOps or ITSM continuity practices!

This was followed by a young man from SANE who portrayed his journey in working with people affected by mental health: stress, depression, suicides and more were linked to our world. I have been in IT for over 40 years, of which 28 I was on-call 24/7, 365 days a year, and thought nothing was wrong with that. I have experienced bullying and poor management, and even had a death during a project. With all of the frameworks or standards and their processes or promises on how to do this or that, we have forgotten about people and how to ethically address the way they work and create the things now so pervasive in our lives.

The future

The focus of the majority of the sessions can be summarised as 'People First':

  • Respect people first in what you are asking them to do
  • Respect people first in what you are delivering to them in terms of solutions
  • Respect people first in how you create, manage, change and sell technology
  • Because without people there is no need for what we do!

A common portrayal was offered by Head of IT Services for HMRC, Spenser Arnold, on how he changed his behaviour allowing his teams to truly benefit from agile and DevOps practices. I mentored five new speakers who commented on the impact of new style leaders on their ability to make things happen better, faster, safer and of value.

Virtual Clarity and ITSM18

Alan Nance and Tony Price worked tirelessly with several others to make this conference a success. They both also contributed to the people-first discussion, exploring how XLAs would help determine the relevance of ITSM professionals or By Kicking the KPI habit you could better your services. Tony recently blogged about metrics and Shifting Left of Bang (value to the consumer).

People First: is this the mantra of technology professionals going forward? Should it be? Can it be anything else? Your thoughts are appreciated.

  • Whether it was AI, chatbots or ITSM processes: the focus returned time and again to how are people using it, benefiting from it and contributing to it
  • Collaborate, change mindsets, use new ways and be brave as a leader towards staff, plus have metrics that matter
  • Even the vendors on display all showed how their products did more than just process logging!

On behalf of itSMF or the British Computer Society, if you want to tell others your story but would like some mentoring, let me know.

On behalf of Virtual Clarity, we love telling stories and helping others use collaborative techniques to elicit better behaviour or use of technology people, processes and the fun stuff. If you want to learn more, give us a call.