The Story of the itSMF - Part II

INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN JOHNSON, BY OLEG SKRYNNIK AND RUSHAN UMEROV, IN 2013
Read part I.

PART II:

Oleg: This is impressive! How did you manage to get a hundred people on the topic that was not so well-known at the time? And how did those strange Dutchmen jump in?

Brian: A lot of the interest was created by ‘word of mouth’ everyone on the initial management board contacted friends and colleagues, the Civil Service College was involved in promoting to students attending IT and IS themed courses and of course the vendors on the board contacted their customers; it was an amazing effort by everyone.

The Dutch attendance is a different story; one day (in the early days!!) one of my colleagues, Neil Croft, met Alan Nance ‘somewhere’ and arranged for Alan and Martin van Kesteren to meet Neil and John Stewart in the Mischief Tavern in Norwich. They discussed a collaborative arrangement whereby Pink would develop ITIL-based services and thus start promoting ITIL in the Netherlands. Alan Nance was an honorary Dutchman (he seemed to be like a Dutchman) but is in fact English.

John Stewart (despite being as nonplussed as anyone else about why the Dutch were even interested) agreed and one of the strangest partnerships in the ITIL universe was created, a government department in the backwoods of England and a Dutch company with big ideas and (at the time) less than forty employees.

And over the next few years those odd Dutchmen were very creative and helped us to internationalize the ITIL brand as they themselves became an international organization.

Rushan: How come that the Forum as an open space for people from various companies, public and private, had been created under government supervision?

Brian: Again credit goes to John; he asked who in the private sector was sufficiently gullible to put money behind something created by half a dozen civil servants in a dank office in the backwoods of England? No one. So to convince people with deep pockets to get involved we had to demonstrate that something for the public good could also generate revenue. John succeeded in persuading our employer (the Government) that the private sector would take on and support ITIL if it became clear that it was not a charitable venture but a venture that had revenue potential AND simultaneously fulfilled a need: education, guidance and professionalism in an area where none existed.

Rushan: What were the objectives pursued by the forum creation? What did you plan the forum tend to be? And how does it look like today comparing with those plans?

Brian: Things are different, and depending on your perspective, some things are better and some not so much. For example, the Steering group existed for only two years - once the itIMF was clearly established it was decided that the group was not needed. Partially this was because the itIMF committee did not think they needed external guidance and partly because the Steering group members (remember these were Heads of Government departments and CIOs) were often too busy to meet. In any case, that led to itIMF becoming less and less influenced by government and to the name change to itSMF, almost in recognition of that altered dynamic.

I think an external steering group should exist; but as I say, it depends on your perspective!

Oleg: Interesting note: here in Russia we also have some kind of Steering group, called Board of Directors, whose goal is to direct the Forum and committees inside the Forum. This body was established in the beginning of this year, but it has yet to demonstrate the value for the community.

That is interesting! I don’t know of any other group doing this. I hope it works out as it is a good model for governance.

Brian: Another change was to allow a vendor to Chair itSMF, something I can understand because it is not always easy to find a ‘customer’ who can put in the time needed, but it is something that has caused the focus of itSMF to change over the years.

Probably the biggest change is to sponsorship; we (and I say ‘we’ because I supported and still support the concept that vendors should provide funds to allow the Forum to flourish) could not rely on government ‘seed corn’ money and created sponsorship concepts. Where I disagree is that in many case sponsors are allotted prime speaking slots, not because they have something that should be shared, but because they are gold sponsors, or silver or whatever. In my opinion, that changes the entire color of proceedings, it becomes a vendor-led agenda.

I work for a vendor, so this is far from an ‘anti-vendor’ rant; vendors are in many respects the life-blood of the ITIL community, the users group in my opinion, should be customer led and vendor supported. The problem is getting the customers into leadership positions!

END OF PART II

Read part III

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