Days of Future Missed – Being different in the world of ITSM

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The Internet Experience: Employee Self Service and Self Help

It’s been a few years since I had any ITSM business cards, after technology (and other) problems when I last tried to get them. I discovered that – in our brave new digital world – business cards can be useful but are not essential.

One of the reasons I have survived without the previously essential calling cards is because of my name. In my early life I felt my unusual name to be a burden – a bizarre combination of Welsh and Scottish, all the more bizarre for my being English. But since the creation of the internet, the sheer unusualness of my name has been a major and exploited asset.

An unusual nomenclature helps!

Others in ITSM, including many more deserving than I of stellar recognition, get lost on Google amongst the poets, radio presenters and victims of killer tomatoes with the same name. There are one or two others round the world with the same name as me, but they don’t seem to be active in the cyber world and so I am easily found by anyone sad enough to want to ‘Google™’ me, find me on LinkedIn™ or any similar internet places. In fact this happy accident even got me some credibility with my children. It seems that when teaching search engines during IT at school, they tell the students to put their names in, and then try their parents names. Other kids got a mishmash of many folks on screen, my kids got pages of me – instant parental kudos!

I was having this conversation at the SITS14 show a while back, with someone else who also enjoyed this kind of spin-off benefit in ITSM from their unusual name; someone who, proving the point, I found on LinkedIn easily the next day and connected with.

This prompted the thought that a caring parent should – in our internet age – be giving their children a unique name to make them stand out amongst the cyber crowd.

How do we stand out?

On the train home, with plenty of time to muse, I was reminded of how over 40 years earlier my elders and betters had tried to help me – and my school friends – to stand out and be successful. Those of us with an apparent aptitude for things mathematical and arithmetical had been selected and offered (voluntary of course, but we knew it was an offer we couldn’t refuse) special classes in our own time to learn how to use an adding machine. Our head-teacher realized that this was a skill that would make a real difference to our viability in a numerically oriented work environment.

Just because that assumption was based on his sound knowledge and experience doesn’t mean we can’t all see now that it was totally and irrefutably wrong. All because the teacher had failed to see into the future correctly, it is such a common activity, you think we would be better at it!

Crystal ball gazing…

That made me wonder what might change between now and a child growing up to make an unusual name less relevant and useful – or indeed what other ‘right things’ I try to do that might turn out not to be so useful in the real future compared to the imagined one.

As an old man, I spend a lot of my time in the past, but when I was younger I spent more time in the future – read science fiction, imagined what my life would be like, that kind of thing. Of course there were contradictory visions of the future, but setting aside the WWIII and nuclear holocaust predictions, you could get a consensus of sorts. Lots of variations but some common traits like:

  • Flying cars
  • Science driving nutrition – all your body’s needs in one pill, kind of stuff
  • Colonisation of the moon and planets and an ongoing exploration of the universe

Predications have a habit of being wrong!

We all know those confident predictions didn’t work out too well – certainly I am still waiting for my flying car and the richer you are the more likely you are to be eating old fashioned organic foodstuffs. Actually of course, they predicted a future different in only the aspect they were thinking about, forgetting that most everything might change too. As in the picture, where we still have 1950s fashions and gender roles.

In fact I seem to recall that the one almost universal feature in all the predictions was how the scarcity of jobs that technology, automation and universal affluence would bring. The problem would be coping
with the massive amount of leisure time we would all be forced to take – given the need for part time jobs and early retirement?

Now that I have got to an advanced age, I do find myself worrying about keeping employment – but not due to a threat from universal leisure! Those in work have to work ever longer hours, and are expected to work past what was retirement age a few years ago. Ironic, isn’t it that the only consensus amongst visionaries of the future is one that seems to have been as wrong as my maths teacher’s view of accounting tools.

So … I just idly wondered how much our current confident future spotters have right. Of course I won’t live to see the answer to that, but I confidently expect there to be many, in 30 or so years’ time, musing in much the same way on their childhood expectations and the gap between them and reality

Change is the only constant!

But for now all we can do is make our best judgement and offer advice – and children’s names perhaps – based on our expectation.

By the way, back on the unusual name front, I gave one of my daughters a name that was totally out of style and old fashioned, only to see it hit number 1 in the UK most common girl’s name list 24 years later! I can say one thing for sure about the future: like the British weather; the only consistency is that ITSM will be changeable.

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In 23 years working for the UK government, Ivor Macfarlane moved from forestry to ITSM via prison, stores and training. He has worked as a Service Management trainer, consultant and writer since going freelance in 1999 and then after a 7 year spell with IBM he is now independent again working through MacfPartners to deliver training and consultancy to customers. He was an author for ITIL (versions 1,2 & 3), ISO20000 and ITSM library and an ITIL examiner since 1991. He is well known at ITSM events having presented at many around the world (39 countries so far) and is an active contributor to social media.