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It’s ITSM Jim, But Not as We Know it

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A great event

Last month I had the pleasure of being involved in the itSMF New Zealand annual conference. The event was a great success, at least from a content viewpoint, although financially, it is quite likely that the numbers will tell a different story. There were a host of outstanding speakers, both local and international and the conference delegates spoke highly of the conference experience and learning opportunities. You can read Stuart Rance’s review of the event here.

Does ITSM have a future

But…and there is a big but…I was left at the end of the three-day event wondering if we should still be holding ITSM events, and I really don’t know if I have the answer.

I know that New Zealand is not alone in struggling to attract both sponsors and delegates to ITSM conferences, and it is time to ask ourselves why? Is this an industry that has had its day? New Zealand pushed DevOps at this event, with many sessions concentrating on the part that this way of working has to play in the ITSM space, but are we just clutching at straws, trying to get on the DevOps bandwagon in the hope that we can resurrect an industry that is losing its relevance?

Over the past 10 years, in various roles, I have had the privilege of attending ITSM conferences in many parts of the world and, almost without exception, over recent years the delegate lists and the exhibition floors have been shrinking. It is now to the point where many of these events are becoming financial risks rather than the opportunities they used to be for itSMF chapters.

Sponsors going elsewhere

This year’s sponsor list in New Zealand was very small, there was an overlap with the CIO conference being held in the same week in another city, and a number of vendors opted, quite understandably, to go where the budget holders would be, rather than possible influencers. It was pleasing to see that some felt it was worth the effort to be at both.

This is a conversation that we have had at many conferences. The question still needs to be asked and answered – are we just continuing to flog a dead horse, and is it past time to call ‘last drinks’ on ITSM as a profession and, potentially, itSMF as an organization?

DevOps and ITSM are very different

We have all heard the conversations saying that DevOps is just the new way of doing ITSM, but I am not convinced that it is – it is a very different beast! Whether it’s right or wrong, ITSM is seen to be a means to controlling the IT landscape, keeping things in order and predictable, and in many ways DevOps flies in the face of that. Traditional ITSM is about stopping things from breaking, DevOps is about trying, failing and moving on. Traditional ITSM practitioners struggle with that concept.

DevOps might be the new way of doing IT, but I am not convinced that it is the new way of doing ITSM. Services that are now made up of so many fluid components and are subject to change, sometimes multiple times a day, cannot be managed in the same way as they were 10 years ago.

Time for a change?

Does ITSM need to reinvent itself, or does it need to pat itself on the back, say “job well done” and hand the baton on to the DevOps movement to take the technology landscape into the future.

As I said at the beginning, I really do not know the answer, playing Devil’s advocate in the hope that perhaps someone wiser than me can make it all a bit clearer!

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Kirstie Magowan

Kirstie Magowan is the managing editor of IT Chronicles. Kirstie is an experienced journalist and publisher who has been working in the IT Service Management industry since 1999. Kirstie is a regular speaker at industry conferences globally.