The Story of the itSMF - PART I

AN INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN JOHNSON, BY OLEG SKRYNNIK AND RUSHAN UMEROV, IN 2013

PART I:

Oleg: Dear Brian, thank you for this wonderful opportunity. It was a pleasure to meet you at the 4th Annual itSMF-Russia conference. I guess you have been amazed with the number of people here in Russia eager to get new knowledge on ITSM, ITIL etc. Being a frequent speaker on various IT Management events, how do you see the audience here?

Brian: The audience seems much more open to new ideas and to look at ITSM more broadly. I was surprised (and very happy) to see a presentation about the Application Services Library for example. Recognizing that other frameworks provide better or more appropriate guidance for domains such as audit or applications is not as common as you might imagine!

Oleg: How big is ITSM movement around the world?

Brian: I think everyone involved with ITIL is astonished at how big ITIL has become; John Lennon got into trouble saying the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, so I will say ITIL is bigger than the Beatles. Joking of course, but really - more than fifty countries have an official itSMF chapter and more countries join in each year and in some countries such as the USA, local itSMF chapters often have 200 members!

Oleg: Are all those itSMF chapters in different countries all active in getting people together, sharing the knowledge, exchanging the ideas?

Brian: I think it depends on both the composition of the management boards in each country and also on the membership. The information sharing was always the most important component and I have talked with a number of people recently in Canada who no longer attend itSMF because exchanging ideas with peers seems to have almost ceased. One comment from a lady in Alberta was that ‘competitive’ events were not much better because they focused on things that were (in her opinion,) low level and no longer of interest such as variations on incident or change processes for example.

Of course the problem is also that if someone wishes to change things they themselves need to become active; it is easy to simply dismiss things as a waste of time and just divorce oneself from involvement (and I know that because I am guilty of doing it myself!).

I want to avoid being generic not just because I think it is a trap that it is easy to fall into, but also because the cultural component can be misleading; some cultures want to be led along a specific path and are very rule based, some are much more collaborative and some much more argumentative and this leads to differences in how itSMF chapters are set up and managed.

itSMF is and should be, predicated on information sharing, though the exchange of ideas is mostly done by meeting with peers these days.

If someone is dissatisfied with how things are being run, get involved and change it!

Rushan: From the interview with John Stewart and you we already got some insights about ITIL creation (not so official story, but very interesting). Now we would like to talk about itSMF as a professional organization closely linked with ITIL and ITSM. Am I right that you were the one who was responsible for itSMF creation? How did this idea of a community come up?

Brian: The itSMF was originally called the’ IT Infrastructure Management Forum’, ITIMF, and yes I did ‘create’ it but as with all of the original ITIL ideas and concepts it was John Stewart who wanted a ‘Users group’ and also a ‘Steering group’ and he gave me the task of getting them going. John saw the ‘Users group’ as being the grass-roots, providing the impetus for establishing ITIL, and the ‘Steering group’ - which was comprised of people who were CIOs in Government and in the private sector - establishing long term direction and guidance.

The CCTA (the UK government body that John and I worked for) put up the money to kick–start both organizations. The steering group meetings were generally chaired by the Controller of CCTA (Roy Dibble), and John and I acted as secretary. The itIMF was initially established by me calling up people who I thought might be interested and then we held a meeting to elect a Chairman, a Secretary and a Treasurer. I took the role of Deputy Chairman to maintain a connection for CCTA.

The first Chairman was Mick Brown of HM Customs and Excise (the original constitution insisted that the Chair had to be from a non vendor organization), the Treasurer was Alan McCarthy of Pink Elephant, and the Secretary was David Wheeldon then of Ultracomp. Other original members included Aidan Lawes (then at ICL), Hans Dithmar, Gail Fosbrook (HM customs), Alan Nance (at that time Pink Elephant), Willy Carroll (National Savings) and Ivor Evans (Ministry of Defence). Without them there would be no itSMF today. I should not really single out one person, but I will anyway: David Wheeldon worked tirelessly to establish ITIMF, everyone did, but with David it was almost a personal crusade.

The first meeting of ‘members’ somehow gathered nearly 100 people at the Treasury building in London including a bunch of very odd Dutchmen Martin van Kesteren, Maarten Plokker, Arnold van Mameren and Rene van ’t Veen who all contributed hugely to ITIL and established the second users group in the Netherlands!

END OF PART I

Read Part II

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