The IT Superhero – A recap of Pink 2014

As the sun sets at the end of another Pink Elephant ITSM conference & exhibition, I’ll take a few minutes to describe events and the conference from my perspective.

Firstly, I think we can say that the team at Pink once again did an amazing job overall. The conference has a gentle start with early training and exam sessions, but then kicks off properly on the Monday morning with the big keynotes. The theme was Superheroes – reflecting that the superheroes in IT have tough jobs in tough times, but do amazing things. Lots of lycra and leaping around, but a firm message: IT People are Business People. The IT Superhero is not a Cowboy. The IT Superhero follows process and does the job properly. Total support from me on those points.

The guest keynote speakers on the first day were both totally outstanding. Commander Chris Hadfield was – as you would expect from a super-famous guitar playing astronaut – most impressive. The phrase “awesome” is tossed around like cheap confetti these days, but this is a man who has had extraordinary experiences and has performed a job that is worth of considerable awe.  Reassuring also to hear that if the (Windows) computers in the Soyuz rocket had any problems they would turn the whole rocket off and then turn it on again. Something we all know about in IT!

The second keynote – Caroline Casey – was also awesome, but for totally different reasons. To see her stand on stage, laughing and at times crying, and tell her incredible story of discovering and overcoming a tough handicap was an amazing experience, which led to a huge sobbing standing ovation. ITSM people clearly are very much in touch with their emotional side. Not a dry eye in the house.

As usual, the show floor buzzed quietly, less of a rushing torrent of people, more gentle detailed and considered conversations and practitioners exploring the various vendor offerings. Interesting to see no one clear direction across all vendors, but LANDESKs user oriented IT vision seems to be drawing great interest  – more of that below.

IT-GuyNow, at Pink it’s really all about the sessions. It’s a huge agenda and there’s way too much going on to be able to see everything. In fact, one criticism I have is that each 45-minute time slice has just too many choices running at the same time. I had to make hard choices and not attend sessions that I really wanted to see, and then find that some sessions are running with a relatively small number of attendees in the room.

It was most interesting to see industry leadership initiatives evolving. A few years ago back2itsm was very present, this year the lead was taken by the Pink Think Tank, a panel of very great minds quite correctly reflecting the broad concern that IT is becoming bypassed as the business looks too seek IT solutions elsewhere. Often referred to as Shadow IT, this concern basically boils down to risk of irrelevance and risk to business safety.  This concern came up time and time again. Pink Think Tank tackled this with group focus on one specific area. Not ‘boiling the ocean’ but finding the recommended point to press hard to address the situation. And that point – driving business value by IT growing into more of a broker for multi-channel service suppliers. The principle being that by IT becoming a preferred go-to point for liaising with these external services, it becomes easier and safer to go to IT than to do it yourself. I’m fairly on board with this, although I have some concern that we’re fixing the situation by focusing too much on back-end IT activities and less on the end-user experience. More on that below. I guess that will come as the Think Tank progress, but I do wish them well.

Talking of community, SMCongress was a much discussed topic. I still have nothing to say on that one, I mostly stepped back from the conversations about that ‘change the world’ initiative that, well, hasn’t changed the world. Call me a cynic, that’s ok.

Obvious high points over the week included Alexos announcements around ITIL. I won’t go through all of them but the headlines for me are the appointment of the very brilliant Kaimar Karu as Head of ITIL (cool title eh?) and the start of a new cyber security best practice portfolio. That is very sharp of Axelos, it makes them very relevant indeed. Since LANDESK is an experienced vendor in ITSM and security solutions, I find this most exciting. Good to see Axelos living up to expectations so far.

I wanted to call out David Cannon’s session on the coming ‘business apocalypse’. Again pretty much the same subject around Shadow IT, but his summary of the situation was stark. Basically if you don’t change IT you can expect to be working in a basement or a cloud data center, His approach – in line with Pink Think tank but stretching further – focuses on the importance of the Service Portfolio, on Business Relationship Management, Demand Management and other associated activities. There’s way more to it than that of course. Anyway, I loved his approach, though I’ve got concerns. Looking at many organisations today that don’t have enough staff to manage Incident Problem and Change well enough to keep the fires down.

Even more so than in previous years the social community atmosphere was outstanding. The volume and range of tweets being produced during the conference was quite extraordinary with contributions from people with different backgrounds and experiences and opinions, both present at the event and of course remote from the Conference. Well done Pink for streaming the keynotes live so everyone could contribute. If you’ve not looked already, just pop into Twitter and search for the hashtag #Pink14. It’s all there.

Related to that it was interesting to see Tuesday’s keynote from Joshua Klein being a little less successful. A case of ‘know your audience’ I think. His presentation of visionary imminent future technology examples was good but didn’t totally amaze the audience – we’re mostly was well aware of them (credit @ServiceSphere2010/11/12), and the unfortunate use of stereotype imagery of women in IT caused a genuine and completely valid twitter storm of horror. Let’s not forget ITSM is the industry with a very high proportion

Checking out the Google Glass

Checking out the Google Glass

of amazing successful women in all roles. Mind you – Josh Klein got it right for me on a few points, particularly the move to mobile and wearables and context.  IT becoming more sensors and servos, less code and computers. Talking of wearables, LANDESK was giving away a Pebble Steel watch on our stand, and –yay – I also finally got to try Google Glass. My view? Amazing, I want them.

Of course it’s not all virtual community. Networking and meeting old and new friends and colleagues is a crucial important part of the event. Pink facilitate this very well with the social networking events on the show floor, which inevitably lead to great group meetings over beer and peanuts going late into the evening. Wonderful to meet so many experts, opinion leaders, customers and online community members in real life.

Now, to return to the earlier point, it does feel that IT is aware of and grasping the Shadow IT challenge. I’m concerned that it is only using traditional ITSM approaches and procedures to address those challenges. Kind of what we’ve done before, but more. That’s okay, but the piece that was missing for me was a front-end result of this activity – the new user experience. Okay, so we apply multi-channel supplier brokerage, and we enhance our service portfolio, but how would that actually transform the end user experience as a customer of IT? Describe the end result.

At LANDESK we talk a lot about user oriented IT, a technical and philosophical approach that complements best practice frameworks and traditional processes, but also introduces a mindset of concentrating on the user and the user experience as the most important piece. We put the end user at the center of everything IT does. Not the end. But that is a bigger topic and I’ve written too many words already. You’ll find more on that throughout the LANDESK blog site.

In summary, I think these events are always a very individual, personal experience. My experience was that this was not only the best Pink conference yet, but also the single best global ITSM I have ever attended. It’s becoming a cliche to say ‘its all about the people’ but my impression once again is that our industry has the brightest greatest potential – IT people that both see long vision, think and know about the business, and know how to action to get there. Exciting times.

  • I agree that Kaimar is very brilliant, but I believe he is being labelled as the AXELOS Head of ITSM, not Head of ITIL.

    Few people have been as cynical about SMCongress than myself, but I believe it deserves to be seen as part of the same continuum of initiatives as Back2ITSM and the Pink Think Tank.

    As a member of the Think Tank what struck me was how the issue of multi-channel sourcing provides a different lens through which to view what we are already doing. The service lifecycle view, whilst useful, can also be limiting.

    But of course I’ll be blogging on that myself…

  • Ian Aitchison

    James,
    Corrections appreciated. Totally agree on the continuum point, and looking forward to your thinktank blog.
    Thanks for reading.

  • Aale Roos

    Interesting point about the end user experience. I’m in the middle of writing an article about implementing the next generation service desk. Here is what I have written about the subject: “Service Desk (SD) is an important function, it is the face of the whole IT to their customers. The challenge for IT today is increasing customer demands. People use IT systems all the time for their personal needs and they now know what is possible. IT has moved from complete monopoly to open competition. We use names like BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and Shadow IT to describe this competition and it is quite clear that this competition is not welcome. IT would like to keep its monopoly but that battle is futile.”

  • Ian Aitchison

    Aale,

    So you see the focus on ITIL as the way forward, through Portfolio, BRM & Catalog as ultimately futile? OK. But what do you see as alternative advice to help IT stay engaged and adding value to the business? Personally I think it is partly ITIL – yes, I still do – but with that missing ‘something new’ in user experience and ‘something new’ in IT user orientation that’s not there for me in ITIL. What would you recommend IT leaders consider outside of ITIL?

    Ian

  • Aale Roos

    No, I did not say that. I think IT should accept competition and try to win their customers with better service instead of fighting against things like Shadow IT. Better customer experience is a key part of winning.

    I don’t think that the current “best practices” for Service Desk and Incident & Request Mgmt are very good. You need to move forward and find your own best practices.

    I do also have serious doubts about Service Portfolio Mgmt but that is not the point here…

  • Ian Aitchison

    Fair answer, thanks Aale. I like the point that IT needs to ‘accept competition’. This is now very much about competition, and sadly IT often has a non-competitive background – after all, many ITIL consultants are not competitive-business experts, they have expertise in ITIL/ITSM. Yet some of the most successful IT leaders I’ve seen have had strong a retail background. So, it’s not so much about ‘running IT’, it’s now about ‘winning at IT’. And – my original point – just ‘running better’ does not feel like all parts of winning the competition. I think we’re agreeing.

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