I was lucky enough to present for itSMFNZ at the ITx conference in Wellington in July. I say lucky not just because I got to see NZ again (always a treat), catch up with good friends (not just NZ but US an Australians who were also presenting) and escaped from a too-hot England to a pleasant Kiwi winter. As well as all that I got to attend the event, and hear some good mind-expanding ideas. A country of less than 5 million people, demonstrated – again – that it is a thought-leader in our industry.
Before I tell you about the best things I learned, a word or two about the ITx event itself – also an NZ innovation. itSMFNZ was one of 12 organisations working together on a shared event called ITx, each organisation had their own streams focusing on their own particular interests. Keynotes and exhibition area were shared meaning, however blinkered you might wish – or try – to be, you were exposed to different thoughts from people with different perspectives. And it provided a platform for issues that should concern us all, but are unlikely to get airtime at a more focused event. More on that near the end. That variety can diminish focus though, and restrict tailoring events for your industry niche’s individual characteristics. So … good and less good aspects but, typically for NZ, innovative independent thinking.
As a small country the organisers featured speakers from America and Europe alongside home grown stories. And of course they have more than their fair share of world respected native experts who featured prominently.
ITSM is more than ITSM
Even within the itSMFNZ streams within ITx, it was noticeable that interest is far wider than the traditional ITIL focused area. Devops and Agile understanding was safely presumed, with talks focusing more on how to make best use of these concepts in a service environment. That was also perhaps noticeable in the somewhat muted interest for the ITIL V4 announcement session: ITIL is useful but it isn’t the only game in town as it was when V3 launched. Lots of ITSM water under the bridge since then?
Personally, I found it interesting how much of the talk and debate was about, and applicable to ‘IT’, not some part of it. As if we’ve come full circle and are now able to see that there is a responsibility to conceive, discuss, deliver and maintain services and be judged on overall performance, rather than dividing it into separate IT components and then hiding behind the walls we’ve built. I felt that attitude across several talks but, for me, it was encapsulated and explained best by Rob England – no surprise there, the IT Skeptic does this routinely!
IT services aren’t projects
Rob’s talk (he did a few but this was my favourite) was in the Agile/Devops stream, titled ‘Project management was the worst thing that ever happened to IT’. You can read his original blog poston the topic. He says it far better than I could summarise here, but – for me at least – it embodies the original heart of the Devops difference. Building and operating may be different aspects of a service, but unless you see them as an integrated whole you cannot get optimum benefit. At the other extreme, treating go-live as the end of a project and/or the beginning operations is focusing on part and not seeing the whole. Usually it is people focusing on their limited area of responsibility, and believing success there is sufficient – and it never is. I do strongly recommend reading Rob’s thoughts and thinking about it with an open mind. Analogise it to everyday life – different focus at different stages, yes. But services (like house, families and more) don’t have starts or finishes, but never ending change and adaptation. Drawing lines between arbitrary parts isn’t the smartest thing.
IT managers need to be managers
The bravest – and most grown up – things on the agenda though were not mired in IT detail, they were aimed at us all – as managers and human beings – clearly recognising that we all have human responsibilities to each other. Central to this were sessions on mental health (we learned that mental illness is a separate thing). This included personal stories from those who have suffered, helping us all to be in a better position to help others in future.
This echoed, for me, the brave initiative taken by itSMF Norway a few years back and repeated by others including ITMT in Poland and SMD in the Netherlands, where Geeta Sekhon talked to IT managers about human trafficking. It is intended as the highest possible praise that ITx’s addressing mental health concerns felt on a par with Geeta’s talk.
It was a good conference, but most importantly it showed again how New Zealand – as an itSMF organisation and a country – punches above its weight. Never just a follower, there was innovation and exploration for all to learn from. I don’t think I’ll be back to the conference (too old and with retirement looking too attractive) but I will for sure try and get back to New Zealand – hopefully not in the middle of their winter next time.