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itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition 2013: Review from a CEO and First-Timer

By | November 12, 2013 in ITSM

IT Service Management Forum UK

Well, Oded Moshe, Joe the IT Guy, and I are fresh back from the UK following our very first visit to the itSMF UK Conference and Exhibition in Birmingham last week. It was cold, and it rained a lot, but I’m pleased to say that the event itself made up for both of these facts.

The wide-variety of event content was delivered by: high profile names; IT consultants; vendors; and people with proper IT jobs, and between the three of us we attended numerous sessions looking at topics ranging from effective problem solving to gamification, from financial management to change & release processes, and more.

It would be a tall task for us to write about every presentation with passion, so instead we’ve decided to highlight the sessions that stood out to us most.

Energise your Service Desk for the Future & Cure Your Service Desk With Customer Experience – John Rakowski, Forrester Research

This session was one of the ones that stood out from the rest. It offered clear and simple advice, often much needed in the ITSM industry.

John discussed the increasing need to better manage the experience of end users. He advised that you can no longer ignore the phrase “customer experience”, and that it’s now becoming a case of “adapt or die”. The great thing about John’s presentation was that he didn’t just preach about customer service, he provided actionable advice for attendees to take away and use to better their business. One of the things he discussed in detail was how utilizing a Self Service Portal, as a front end for the Service Desk and potentially automation, can empower end users, improve service, and offer outstanding value to the business all in one go; potentially for a relatively small investment in terms of time, money, and resources.

John also walked us through the results of one of the latest Forrester customer experience surveys, with the most interesting statistic (in my opinion) being that 47% of people prefer to use external sources/fix their IT issues themselves instead of contacting the Service Desk. This is a scary statistic, but one that could be changed by making a bigger investment in customer experience and additional capabilities such as Knowledge Bases and Self Service Portals.

So are you utilizing a Self Service Portal?

The Good, the Bad, and the Agile – Patrick Bolger, Hornbill Systems

I was secretly hoping that the stories I’d heard about Patrick’s brilliant presentation skills were all lies given that he works for a competitor… I’m joking of course. Regardless of whether I’m joking or not, his session was actually very interesting. He looked at the topic of Agile from a very different angle to what I’m familiar with. I’ve always viewed Agile from the perspective of R&D, but I loved that Patrick made us look at it through a Service Desk lens.

Patrick offered up some interesting statistics from a recent itSMF Service Transition SIG survey:

  • 62% of people surveyed are “dipping their toes into the water” when it comes to using Agile principles
  • 30% think the idea of Agile looks great, but they don’t know how to apply it to ITSM
  • 5% said that they couldn’t live without it
  • 3% said they simply wouldn’t touch Agile

So how do you feel about Agile?

Patrick also looked at the different approaches to ITSM, both the traditional approach and the newer Agile-mindset approach:

So which of these approaches do you currently take?

Patrick’s session also proved how ‘enthusiasm’ from the presenter (married with great content of course) is truly the key to delivering a great presentation.

The Beauty and Simplicity of Common Sense Business Relationship Management (BRM) – Andrea Kis, Tata Consultancy Services

They say that common sense is not so common, and I am inclined to agree. Sometimes you don’t need shiny tools and processes, or to throw money at new initiatives and projects, sometimes you just need to step back and apply simple common sense. This was why Andrea’s presentation was so refreshing to hear.

Andrea discussed many things including:

  • How you can apply day-to-day personal relationship skills to IT Service Management to better IT’s relationship with business colleagues
  • How the role of BRM in maturing relationships takes the IT service provider from basic provider to promoter, then to partner and finally to peer
  • How you need BRM in all areas of business (not just IT) if you truly want to operate successfully

Being a huge advocate of customer service (both internally and externally), the point that Andrea made that really resonated with me was that:

“When it comes to BRM the focus must be on the relationship from the viewpoint of the customer not the viewpoint of the business – perception is reality”.

Have you implemented the role of Business Relationship Manager in your organization yet?


The formal conference content was excellent and very educational, there was so much value to be had from the presentations that it was a shame that there were not more practitioners in attendance.

Unfortunately this lack of ‘real IT people’ was my only negative point about the conference. In my opinion, because of the lack of practitioners the roundtable discussions regarding the future of ITIL, and the itSMF UK Big 4 Agenda were lacking in substance. Speaking only to analysts, vendors, and consultants is never going to bring about any ‘real’ answers or commitment for change. I’d be the first to admit that what I think is a challenge for the Service Desk, could potentially be the exact opposite of what a real life IT administrator (or other IT practitioner) considers a challenge. Thus in the roundtable discussions I was not convinced that the opinions brought forward, on what was important to the ITSM industry, truly reflected the opinions of the front line of IT.

So what do you think the ITSM industry needs to focus on in 2014? Gamification? Agile? Problem Management? Business Relationship Management? Is the future of ITIL and the plans of AXELOS important and/or relevant to you?

My recommendation to both itSMF UK and AXELOS would be to build stronger relationships with vendors. Vendors have access to large client-bases, full of the people actually doing the things we are continuously talking about. Vendors could act as a conduit for ideas and feedback, and as a platform for change. SysAid would be more than happy to be involved in this kind of initiative. We would be happy to encourage practitioner-led discussions, and to help get to the heart of what really is important in ITSM. Of course we could technically go off and do this ourselves, but where would the benefit in that be to the wider ITSM community?

Anyway, roundtables aside, the conference itself was excellent. We made lots of new friends and acquaintances, learnt even more about ITSM, and hopefully also made it known that SysAid is happy to be involved in any community-led initiatives (be it SM Congress, Back2ITSM, the itSMF Big 4 Agenda, the Future of ITIL, or similar).

Finally, I just want to take this opportunity to say congratulations to Stuart Rance on winning the itSMF UK Lifetime Achievement Award. I don’t think I have ever met a person more passionate and knowledgeable about ITSM than Stuart.

IT service management forum conference
I was thrilled to have the chance to chat with John Rakowski.

Sarah and Sophie at the IT service management forum

Sophie Danby and I all dolled up for the black-tie dinner.

IT Service management forum with Pengi

Oded Moshe and I also caught up with Adam Holtby.

Please share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook where we are always listening.

Sarah Lahav

About Sarah Lahav

As the company’s 1st employee, Sarah has remained the vital link between SysAid Technologies and its customers since 2003. Current CEO, former VP Customer Relations. Always passionate about customer service! Mother of three adorable children – she juggles work, family, and zumba classes with ease.

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