The itSMF Norway conference – it’s the one that I want!

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itSMF Norway Conference

Last week I had a last minute opportunity to attend the itSMF Norway conference in Oslo, and I have to say the stress of booking a flight, packing a bag and leaving my house within the space of an hour was completely 100% worth it. This was easily one of the best ITSM events that I’ve ever attended, both in terms of quality of content and overall experience, and one that I would highly recommend to others.

It’s also worth noting that I say this without really experiencing the entire event, as there was many sessions in Norwegian that I couldn’t attend (my Norwegian is a little rusty you see) all of which received great praise from the more local attendees. I was particularly sad that I couldn’t attend the session by Henrik Aase as it was literally all anybody was talking about throughout day one. However, the good news is that we are going to work with itSMF Norway to get some of the Norwegian sessions written in English as ITSM Review articles.

I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to share some of the key takeaways, advice and tips coming out from the event, and so I hereby present to you my summary of some of the sessions that I attended along with general thoughts about the conference.

The conference key messages

Bearing in mind that I didn’t attend all of the sessions (my takeaways may differ to other attendees. However, from the sessions that I attended and my conversations with other delegates I found three key reoccurring messages:

  • We can’t keep ignoring DevOps. The benefits are too great to miss out on
  • Be honest in everything that we do, both with ourselves and with our customers
  • We must work on continual service improvement to maintain success

Interestingly, ITIL barely came up in any of the presentations that I attended, nor was I party to any conversations (bar a quick catch up with AXELOS) discussing ITIL. I know it was discussed during the “future of IT service management” panel at the end of day two, but by that time I’d left for the airport and so I only picked it up on Twitter. I found this particularly refreshing, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t get stuck in a conversation going round and round in circles on the topic of ITIL. In fact, I heard ‘COBIT’ mentioned more often than ‘ITIL’. Perhaps this says something about Norway’s adoption of the best practice framework (but I guess not given that the conference tagline was “ITIL – tell me more, tell me more”), or perhaps I just don’t understand ITIL in Norwegian (although I still question that I understand it in English).

However, a topic that did come up on a number of occasions was one that I’d not personally heard being discussed in a long time. Project and portfolio management (PPM) seemed to be a key focus for many of the delegates that I spoke with, with their primary reason being that it helps them make faster and better business decisions.  Again, this could speak more about the country than a new trend, but when I spoke with some of the international delegates they seemed to be in agreement of its new found importance.

Other messages

To avoid this particular article becoming incredibly long, over the course of this week I will publish supplementary articles of the key takeaways and advice from the following sessions:

We have also invited speakers to write articles based on their presentations, which we hope to publish over the coming weeks.

The conference itself

I could easily write paragraph after paragraph about just how good the itSMF Norway conference was, but for everyone’s sake I will try and summarize my thoughts in bullet points:

  • The content overall (granted I can’t really speak for the Norwegian sessions, but talk amongst the delegates leads me to believe that my assessment is fair) was far superior to anything that I have seen at any other ITSM event
  • The atmosphere was much nicer than at any other event I have ever attended. It was relaxed, laid back and fun – there were no stressed out organizers either, they enjoyed every second of the conference just as much as any other delegate
  • The theme was brilliant (although I don’t know how many more days I can take of continuously having “Summer Nights” stuck in my head) and was consistent throughout the event, from the sessions to the entertainment to the roaming hotdog vendors dressed in full 50s attire.
  • The organizers were wonderful, in control and most importantly ­– happy! P.S. Thanks for extending the services of your 50s hair and make up artist to me!
  • The food was yummy (this is huge praise from me, I never touch the food at conferences) – many will tell me this is irrelevant, but it’s all part of the event experience as far as I am concerned
  • The entertainment was fantastic (although there were a few groans from some who could understand the Norwegian “dinner entertainer” – i.e. not me – that he wasn’t on par with the standard of previous years).  Who knew that dancing to Grease tunes with Tobias Nyberg, Kaimar Karu, Dagfinn Krog, Andrea Kis, Rae Ann Bruno and a bunch of Norwegian people that I don’t know could be so much fun?

My only criticism of the event, which I (and others) have already shared with the organizers, and I am already 100% confident will be fixed for next year, was that for those of us who couldn’t understand Norwegian there were often long periods of time when we were left with no English content (two hours and 15 minutes each day to be exact). Whilst, I wouldn’t expect a Norwegian conference to be delivered 100% in English, as itSMF Norway has become a victim of it’s own success with more international attendees each year (I met with delegates from Finland, UK, USA, Italy, and Germany just to name a few), it would be nice to find a way to ensure that we could still benefit from the Norwegian sessions.

This conference easily has the scope to become one of the biggest itSMF events in Europe. It’s inexpensive to attend compared to other ITSM events (even with flights from long haul destinations) and the quality is of an exceptional standard. To be honest, even with the gaps for non-native speakers I will still be recommending this conference to everyone that I speak to.

If you want to learn, pick up practical advice, meet amazing people, and all whilst having a huge amount of fun then make sure you get your tickets booked to next year’s itSMF Norway conference. I know for a fact there is no way that I intend to miss it.

Pink14 Preview: The Phoenix Project

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IT needs to embrace the “3 Ways”

Ahead of his presentation at the 18th Pink Elephant Conference and Exhibition (PINK14)Jack Probst, Principal Consultant at Pink Elephant talks about The Phoenix Project: a novel about IT, DevOps and helping your business win

In May 2003, Nicholas Carr wrote a Harvard Business Review article entitled “IT Doesn’t Matter”. In it Mr. Carr proposed that IT was, and remember this was just after the dot.com bust, being marginalized and could be thought of as a commodity.

Seems that thinking hasn’t changed much in the past 10 or so years. IT is challenged daily to just keep the lights on, at best, and, if all goes well, maybe try to keep up with the needs of the business much less get ahead of the game.

For those of us who are immersed in IT Service Management, that thought, at times, is a bitter pill to swallow. It is true to that the table stakes for IT is to maintain and manage operational stability but there is more to a day, week or month in the life of IT than KTLO. If we truly embrace the notion of a service – “delivering value by facilitating customer outcomes” – then staying abreast of or anticipating and preparing for the future of the business is or should be the IT mantra. The question is can IT do both? 

Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford recently published The Phoenix Project. Their book develops a landscape of principles and practices that attempt to answer that question. The book, written as an allegory, focuses on the trials and tribulations of Bill Palmer, recently named VP of IT Operations at Parts Unlimited Inc.. From day one on the job Bill is challenged to first stabilize operations AND deliver on a mission critical project – a project that could spell disaster if it fails. As the story unfolds the authors highlight ideas that should be on every IT managers improvement opportunities list. I would think everyone would like to get a peek at practical advice for how to deal with:

  • Demanding business leadership
  • Major incidents
  • Uncontrolled changes
  • Failed deployments
  • Security/audit issues
  • Overwhelming project list

At PINK14

At the upcoming Pink Elephant IT Service Management Conference, I will be presenting Sunday afternoon and again Wednesday morning some of my insights from the book.

There are many great discussion topics interlaced throughout the story. My focus during the session will be laser in on the results of when Bill reluctantly falls under the guidance and tutelage of Eric Reid, a candidate for the Board of Directors. Eric leads Bill through a set of hands on exercises to learn some key principles instrumental to elevating IT’s overall performance. Of the many insights, Eric continues to hammer home the need to focus on Bill finding ways for IT embrace the “3 Ways”.

  • First Way – Create a fast flow of works as it moves from Development into Operations”
  • Second Way – Shorten and amplify feedback loops to fix quality at the source and avoid rework
  • Third Way – Create a culture that simultaneously fosters experimentation, learning from failure and understanding that repetition and practice are prerequisites to mastery.

So why read The Phoenix Project

I have been recommending to my Pink Elephant clients to pick up a copy of the book and add it to their nightstand reading. Several reasons for this:

  • I’m sure you will find yourself at some point seeing your own situation through Bill’s eyes. I found the experience of reflection on the challenges Bill was having and some “ah-ha” solutions the authors brought forward would highly instructive, especially as conversation starters for ITSM teams at various stages of their program.
  • Many of the ideas that are being kicked around today in the blog-o-sphere and water cooler talk are fleshed out in a practical setting. Granted the circumstances don’t exactly match what my clients are dealing with but it isn’t a huge leap to find resonance with how the practices can be incorporated in their own ITSM program.
  • Lastly, it is a story after-all. One that we have all lived through to some extent. An entertaining read and, as one side note, there is some visceral pleasure in seeing the antagonist getting her comeuppance.

Why attend my session?

My focus for this session was to distill the many points and concepts that Bill and his team use to solve their challenges into a pragmatic approach for your ITSM program.

During my sessions I will dig deeper in to each of the three ways. For instance the in the First Way we will learn how IT must understand the 4 types of IT work and how that work is managed through what I call “the Funnel and the Pipe” or the IT Value Stream. In the Second Way we will talk about the “Tyranny of Technical Debt”, its sources and potential ways to avoid it. And finally my discussion of the Third Way will encompass Improvement Katas and DevOps.

I hope that you will add one of my sessions to your Conference Optimizer. If we don’t get a chance to connect during my workshops, then look for during the networking events each night.

This will be the best Pink Elephant Conference yet! I look forward to meeting you in Vegas – see you there.


Jack Probst
Jack Probst

To learn more find Jack at PINK14:

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