The Story of the itSMF - Part III

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

PART III:  

Oleg: Oddly enough, but one could think that most of the knowledge nowadays is gathered by consultants, not customers. Consultants do lots of projects, are continuously busy with implementing those best/good practices, have to learn more and more, have to certify their own people, are able to quickly learn new tools and methods. All of which, combined with a wide spectrum of customers they work for, leads to a massive knowledge accumulation. Don’t you think that most of the times it’s better to listen to good case from the vendor, than some insights by the customer? If so, than the problem is not vendor speaking slots, but the quality of their presentations/cases, and the main question is – how to avoid marketing and sales stuff and go right to the valuable content.

Brian: As ever the problem is not easy to solve and I certainly would not disagree that consultants accumulate useful knowledge; and I also agree that the quality of a presentation is the most important feature. The issue is really one of finding the right balance; vendor domination leads to a particular perspective and a users group does not want to see presentations that focus on sales of any kind (despite the case being that many customers themselves work for organizations that also have to sell services or goods). Without vendor support itSMF and similar groups would not exist.

It is a tension between two equally important perspectives and when that tension is resolved, both sides benefit.

Oleg: At itSMF-Russia, a regional chapter of itSMF-International, we are having a typical discussion from time to time – what is the value that itSMF delivers to the ITSM community? Setting aside large annual conferences and monthly small workshops, what is the benefit of itSMF? I guess our chapter is not the only one which is bothered by those questions. What do you think?

Brian: The primary benefit is networking; talking with people in similar roles in different industries and exchanging ideas and information. It is nearly impossible to put a value on that. And times have changed; sometimes competitive advantage means that people are less likely to share. One of the reasons that the vendor role has increased is that it is in our interests to share - the issue of course, is that as in any industry a vendor needs revenue to survive and prosper so what is shared may not necessarily be what is needed; the Rolling Stones once sang that “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes you get what you need…”. Maybe itSMF should actively poll membership and focus events only on membership votes…..

Oleg: Do you believe that the value of itSMF chapters should be delivered only to the paid members? If so, what should other ITSM professionals do (apart from rushing to the chapter with their money)? And if not, what are the values for the community?

Brian: I do; if I pay money to itSMF to attend events and conferences, and therefore support the continuing effort to provide benefit I do not expect to see others gain free access. Other professionals have access to the books, to education and to blogs and it is up to them (in the same way as it is up to the itSMF membership) to decide if what they read or see has value.

Over the years I have seen ITIL misrepresented by many bloggers, some ludicrous stories about the origins of ITIL that would be at home in sci-fi comics and many people expounding theories that lead the reader to assume that the writer is an ‘authority’ that it becomes mesmerizing. The itSMF should make certain that it is the one source of truth and thus provide major value for paying members.

Rushan: The forum is growing every year and now is including more than 50 countries all over the world. As far as I know a few more countries would like to join. Which value will local groups gain if they join itSMF International, besides well-known logo and trademark? What will they lose if they will stay just local user-interest groups, getting together from time to time, communicating and networking via Internet?

Brian: It is entirely possible for a National chapter to exist without International. Going back to the early days, we never anticipated that there would be a need for an International body because we were only ever thinking that our market would be the UK! As mentioned earlier, when the Dutch created an itIMF we were surprised and delighted, and our idea of exotic foreign travel was Amsterdam! I am of course biased; I imagine many of us from the early days are biased, in that I think support should be freely given to those wishing to promote the good word about ITIL. I do recognize though that nothing can be done for free, membership dues only go so far and the enormous scale of ITIL interest requires some form of expensed over-arching governance.

That said, the individual national groups need to know they get value from an international team meeting at the expense of the membership in exotic locations and expensive hotels; transparency about the cost and benefit of international governance should be established so that everyone is clear about the return on investment. There is inevitably going to be resentment when elected officers travel around the world and rank-and-file members are unclear about both the reasons for doing so and the benefits to them.

Read part IV of the interview.

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