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MY Call to Action – Are You Listening, itSMF USA?

Just about three years and four months ago, I wrote a blog post I called Where is the "Forum" in IT Service Management Forum?
My intention was to express why I felt I was not getting value from my membership. For a professional organization (particularly one with the word “Forum” in its name) there was a distinct, palpable lack of the voice of the membership.
In my view, itSMF should be the forum where members are empowered to drive ITSM forward, impact the course of the discipline, and increase their influence over their own careers.
I did not see that happening.

The post got a bit of attention in our little group, mostly on LinkedIn.
Vague promises were made and vague plans were discussed to address the concerns of itSMF USA members.
Attention waned.
Interest faded.
Nothing changed.
I let my membership lapse.

Fast-forward to Pink 13… I ran into Charles Araujo, and we chatted for a good 45 minutes. I told him I was no longer a member. He told me he had big plans for his tenure as President of itSMF USA and I would be seeing some significant changes. When I got home I renewed my membership, waited, and watched…

I saw Charlie around a few times at Pink this year… We ran into one another in the halls. He was at the annual Monday night Piano Bar meet-up. I sat in on the Pink Think Tank review sessions (in one of which, he was on the panel).
I know he’s still President Elect, so I didn’t want to give him too much of a hard time, but I had to rib him a bit, in good nature, about not seeing any changes. If you know Charlie, you know he took it in stride. If you don’t know him, and you are an itSMF USA member, I recommend you keep an eye out for an opportunity to meet him. He’s a good man, a smart man, and a passionate man. I have sincerely high hopes for his term as President. As I said, he’s the reason I joined again.
I did, however, want to know more about what he’s planning. We didn’t have the time to get into much detail, but I do believe he sees the need for change, and I know he has the membership at heart.

Knowing and respecting Charlie as I do, I was knocked back in my seat by something he said in the Pink Think Tank session. Someone addressed the panel, asking what these ITSM leaders are going to do with the results of the Pink Think Tank. In his response, Charlie said that the practitioners need to take ownership of ITSM.

Frankly, my initial reaction was angry disbelief.

I fully cop to the fact that I can be hot-headed. I also know that Charlie would not intentionally imply "the floundering state of ITSM is YOUR fault, and YOU need to accept accountability for the problems and take the responsibility to fix them, rather than look to us” but that’s how it sounded in my head in the moment… So I decided not to say anything in that moment, and give it some space before responding.

About 20-30 minutes later, I tweeted this:
“I agree with @charlesaraujo: Practitioners DO need to take ownership of #ITSM - BUT I could never find a forum to do so. #EnableITSM #Pink14”

.....................

So… This is me taking ownership. I hope you’re listening, itSMF USA.

I DO NOT speak for the collective itSMF USA membership, NOR for ITSM practitioners at-large, NOR for anyone but myself. Attempting to speak for others, as opposed to attempting to offer them a forum to speak, is at the root of the problem, as I see it.
That really needs to end.

This is MY call to action for itSMF USA.
If itSMF USA wants my continued support and membership, this is how it will earn it:

“CONNECT. LEARN. GROW.”
I never liked this...

While learning is an important aspect of assuming ownership of one’s own career path, this slogan ignores the extraordinarily significant fact that many members have a lot to OFFER, as opposed to just CONSUME.
It’s not itSMF’s job to TEACH the members – it’s itSMF’s job to help the members SHARE knowledge, SHARE experiences, SHARE wisdom… It’s itSMF’s job to help members learn from one another.

The Local Interest Groups are simply not enough. Some meet once per month… Some meet once per quarter… Some are essentially ghost towns.
I’ve belonged to three different LIG’s so far. It’s not my intention to call out any specific LIG’s or individuals on anything, but suffice to say, they were three radically different experiences.
I think most LIG leadership teams attempt do the best with what they have, but even that tends to fall well short of what is needed.
•   There’s only so much that people have in common with others in their geographic area
•   People have busy lives with their own responsibilities and busy schedules, and sometimes those conflict
•   How many members believe what happens in their LIG actually gets any further than that?
     o      Does it?
•   LIG’s, at their best, tend to be social gatherings with occasional visits from the ITSM speaker elite

All that is well and good, but it’s just not enough.

Special Interest Groups are supposed to fill some of the cracks, but they do a mediocre job, at best.

I understand why there are some “celebrity” personalities in ITSM.
I understand, and even appreciate, that there is a relatively small, minimally fluid, group of “ITSM Leaders”. They know their shit. They dedicate themselves to the hard work of pushing the envelope, challenging assumptions, driving innovation, and owning their careers.
I understand, and even appreciate, that they draw crowds of people who want to listen to what they have to say. There are some people whom I simply will not pass on an opportunity to attend one of their presentations/workshops.
I hold every member of the Pink Think Tank in high esteem, and they have certainly earned that respect.
We mustn’t forget, however, that we have MANY people in ITSM with valuable things to say, and if they don’t get outside their LIG’s, and if they don’t (or can’t) attend conferences (or they do attend, but don’t have/want the opportunity to present) then we all lose out on that.

I believe complaining without offering solutions is almost always less than worthless, so here’s my suggestion: Take a cue from TFT, but take it a step further…
Do a presentation every week. (If you have enough proposals, why not do one every DAY?!?) Offer every member an opportunity to propose a session. Allow every member to vote on the proposals. Have the presenters do a live, interactive presentation. Record them all. Post them on the itSMF USA website, with clear descriptions. Allow the members to tag, rate and discuss the specific presentations. Make it ALL searchable.

Aside from sharing expertise by democratizing a continual spotlight, build (actually good) online forums for members to discuss ITSM topics – not just for learning, but to take ownership of evolving and shaping the future of ITSM. A million disjointed discussions, scattered across a thousand un-moderated channels is unwieldy, disorganized, difficult to derive value from, and impossible to manage – at best.

Again, here’s my suggestion on how that could be done: Build a set of discussion forums. Organize it by subject. Assign moderation of each sub-forum to a select group of members who are subject matter experts. Each sub-forum would have open areas where anyone can start a discussion, and comment on any open discussion. Have the moderators strategically select “official” discussions, based on the activities in the open discussion areas, and move them to “official” sub-forums where only moderators can start discussions, but anyone can comment, and there are more stringent rules of engagement. Have the moderators guide those “official” discussions, elicit feedback from the members, and capture value. Use the “official” discussions to drive “official” changes/whitepapers/documents – but more importantly, give the members the central place to find valuable information, exchange of ideas, and collaboration.

These are not my attempts to dictate changes. Hell, they’re not even well thought-out ideas – they are just two thoughts that popped into my head as I was writing this…

Regardless how it’s done, I am calling on itSMF USA to do SOMETHING to give the members a forum to not only learn from one another, but to play a role in sharing with one another, and ultimately grant us the power to influence the shape, texture and future of ITSM.

As a professional organization it’s not just your job, but your solemn duty to help members gain a greater measure of security and determination over their careers and lives.
For my continued support, I need to see you treating that considerable responsibility with the earnest, thoughtful respect it deserves.



Oh… And fiscal transparency!


February 28, 2014, 12:01:37 pm

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Comments

charlesaraujo

Craig -

Thanks for this thoughtful and impassioned post.  Let me begin by saying that I am responding personally and NOT on behalf of itSMF USA in any official capacity.

With that out of the way, let me say that I largely agree with you.  The "forum" part of itSMF has been an area of struggle for some time.  I wanted to let you know that I agreed with your core sentiment, but before I go much further I'd also like to clarify what I meant when I said that ITSM practitioners need to "take ownership" of ITSM.

That statement was not an abdication of the role of itSMF or other industry organizations.  We exist to serve our communities and therefore have a responsibility to do so (more on this later), but I was referring to something much more personal.  In my travels within IT organizations large and small, I observe a very large number of ITSM practitioners who are more than willing to do things "by the book".  They fail to grasp the true essence of service management, nor do they seem to actively attempt to try.  They are content to "implement ITIL" as a dogmatic and bureaucratic system of processes and tools with no regard to the value they are intended to deliver to the organization.  It makes no difference what people like me or others of the "chattering class" say if the practitioners who live "where the rubber meets the road" do not apply a thoughtful and critical approach to the application of service management.  That is what I was referring to when I made that statement.

My intent aside, your point about itSMF USA's challenge with creating a meaningful and robust forum for our community of ITSM professionals remains valid.  I believe that there are really three reasons for this:
1)  Our core operating model, as you point out, is based on our Local Interest Groups (or LIGs) - and it is probably an incomplete and inadequate model in our current, digital age
2)  We are a volunteer run organization (with a full time staff of only 3) and therefore change occurs slowly
3)  Until recently, we have been focused on stabilizing the organization and have not been in a position to invest in new approaches

These are not meant to be excuses.  They are just the reality that we have been living.  But the board and LIG leaders have been listening and are very much aware of the need to change, grow and create better ways to harness the collective knowledge within our membership community.  The good news is that we have largely achieved our first objective of creating stability and viability.  The organization is now financially sound, we have a talented and stable staff and have finally been able to spend time over the last year actively looking forward and plotting a course that will enable us to effectively serve our community.

In October, we created the frame of what will become our Five Year Strategic Plan.  In January, we convened a meeting of our board and our major LIG leaders to further develop that plan and identify key strategic initiatives.  You can read some high level details on this plan and initiatives here: http://www.itsmfusa.org/default.asp?page=AGM.  The full plan should be available to members shortly.

I want to be respectful of the team leaders who are now actively recruiting teams and leading these strategic initiatives - it will be up to them to work out the details of exactly what comes next - but you will see in these initiatives answers (at least we hope) to many of the challenges that you articulated so well.  Specifically, one of our initiatives is to create new "engagement models" for members that will not only reinvigorate our approach to LIG meetings, but create completely new ways for members to engage within the broader community on a virtual and national level.  We understand that members have different needs and our LIGs may, in fact, not be the best (or only) way to meet them.  This initiative will create a variety of new ways that our members can connect, engage and share.  I hope that you will join this team and help lead it forward.

You will also notice a number of initiatives focused on:
- Developing a more robust infrastructure to support cross-member communication
- Professional development of our members
- Creating platforms for industry advocacy
- Better ways to simply engage members and connect them to the various parts of our community throughout their lifecycle as a member and as an ITSM professional

Like many, I am frustrated with the relative slow pace of change.  But progress is being made and I am very excited about what is happening within itSMF USA.  We have an actively engaged team of leaders around the country and we have more and more people "coming back" to the organization and offering their time and talents to help take our organization and our community where it MUST go if we are to remain relevant. 

I welcome your criticisms.  But I value your contributions more.  I know that you will get involved and be part of the solution.  And I encourage everyone in our community to do the same.  We will only succeed if we do it together.

Jimbofin

Craig,

This is a tough challenge for all itSMF chapters. I've just renewed our corporate membership of itSMF UK and every time I do so it feels like an act of faith. Perhaps it is, but it is a faith in the people involved.

If I'm brutally honest I think the UK's practitioner community has too often been prepared to sit back and let other people do the hard work whilst at the same time complaining about  the influence of vendors and consultants. The responsibility of the itSMF is to establish an environment in which practitioners feel comfortable contributing and believe they, or the wider profession, will be rewarded for doing so.

In the UK I think we have most of the mechanisms and frameworks in place to achieve that but what we might lack are the ambassadors actively canvassing practitioners.

 

ggreen

I agree with you that we have been missing a true "forum".  One of the reasons that conferences like Fusion and Pink are so important is that we have opportunities to speak with a broad section of our constituent members - and this is invigorating.  What we lack after travelling home is the engagement, the topicality, and any continuation of the spark conversations started.  Technology can help - I like your idea about central, moderated forums but also believe that there we are working against the past, in that organizations and individuals have tried things akin to what you're describing and haven't successfully built the kind of community required to sustain these.  I want a system like that to work but want it to be truly open.  I'm inclined to believe what we need is the wild west, but we're all sitting in tea rooms.

I have problems with ITIL.   I don't necessarily feel that contributing to IP that I'll need to buy back at some point is the way to go.  It's great because we shape conversations around it, and use its terms and relate things to it; but service management is not and should not be ITIL-centric.   I want an open-sourced, flexible, and extensible framework.  If we had that I'm pretty sure we wouldn't hear complaints about implementing service management by the book; rather it would be conversations about the modules and variant methods we employed to build our custom service management frameworks.

If we want change then we have to build it.  What's important is finding out who the "we" are so that those voices can begin working together to create something more than what we are all settling for today.

Craig Wilkey

Thanks for the comments, and thanks for showing that itSMF IS listening, Charlie.

Greg,
I agree, to a point... I wouldn't have a problem "adding to" ITIL, just to have to pay to buy it back IF I felt that we had ownership of ITIL and IF the framework were responsive (as I've said before, by the time the books roll out of the printers, it's time for an update already).
Neither of these are currently true.

Service Management certainly should not be exclusively ITIL-driven, but I don't necessarily think we need a new framework, either.
What I think we need most of all is open, productive discussions about:
   Ways in which ITIL has been adapted to specific verticals
   How people have used different frameworks, and ways in which multiple frameworks have been integrated together
   Ways that people have successfully adapted Service Management frameworks and models to their advantage
   Practical applications of alternative methods
   Emerging practices (Standard+Case, USMBoK, etc.)
   ...


As an update, I am now a member of the "Multiple Engagement Models" committee, and we will be looking at ways to improve member engagement, sharing and collaboration.

I will keep you posted.

Lanny Kimsey

Craig, thank you for sparking this outstanding discussion!  I must admit, as a multi-year LIG leader it's been very challenging to keep the LIG alive.  Year-over-year membership is down, and our local corporate sponsors have all but lost interest in supporting us.  A select few of my fellow LIG leaders and I truly believe our LIG is a worthy cause and, thus, refuse to give it up.  Personally, if I didn’t believe in the cause and wasn’t involved as a LIG leader, then I too would be hard-pressed to derive enough personal value from my membership to continue.  IMHO, it seems as though itSMF largely exists because of FUSION.  Outside of that there’s a lot to be desired.

The top-down governance approach only provides value when it enables organizational and stakeholder (in this case, membership) objectives within our known constraints.  What I would love to see made available to our LIG, as well as to all members universally, is a real no-kidding community forum where everyone is encouraged to contribute and awards are given by community moderators for individual participation.  We could base it on a few key principles:  pervasive, relevant, and timely communication to an open and/or limited forum of members based on topic.  Seems simple, really, but it’s much more than just a Facebook/Twitter/Yammer group.  Additionally, we can hold regular community calls to discuss important topics and do our best to create and manage collaboration throughout the call.  We should also hold multi-community meetings and events where synergistic communities get together to further drive cross-pollination of ideas and solutions.  For example, if we take the concept of Yahoo’s forums and add topical community meetings, events, and awards then I think we are on the right track.

If we were to do this within itSMF today, then we would obviously need to extract as much value as possible from our currently available resources (i.e. people, processes, partners and products).  We already have amazing people within this community.  We could easily create processes to support this future forum vision.  We can deepen our relationship with our partners by including them in our communities, thus driving more relevant cross-marketing too!  And we can use our current website as a starting point for our community forums.  We have all the resources we need.

Off the top of my head, other CSF’s are, of course, to ensure all the data is searchable (backed-up, restored and tested regularly) and all the conference calls are recorded and posted to the community forum.  I would also encourage each community moderator to reward individuals for best white paper, most valuable contributor, etc.

In the end, itSMF needs to be the conduit to enable our members to collaborate and leverage the tremendous knowledge only available as a united ITSM community – and I believe we can do just that.

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