Future of ITIL workshop – a little insight

AXELOS

The following comment piece is contributed by Stuart Rance of HP and Stephen Mann of ServiceNow.

Yesterday a number of ITSM professionals convened in London to talk about the future of ITIL. From the get-go, it was stressed that the purpose of the meeting was to provide input to AXELOS’ thinking and not to make decisions.

Who was involved?

It was a passionate group of people that represented: ITIL authors, examiners, consultants, service providers, vendors, penguins, and AXELOS. The attendees were:

Of all the qualities we might look for in a SAM Managed Services Provider - proven track record is key.
AXELOS CEO, Peter Hepworth and ITSMPenguin

And of course ITSMPenguin. Everyone had opinions and ideas to share and it was a good mix of people.

Some attendees travelled a long way to attend: Anthony from Houston, Sharon from Canada, Jayne from Florida, and Rob Stroud would have attended from New York but for personal reasons. Even though most of the attendees reside in the UK, they work for global organizations and as such have global experience and global views. Not withstanding this, we all agreed on the need for more input across geography, culture, industry, and language.

If you wish to provide your input please respond to this blog (in the comments section) or email AXELOS direct.

Community input

You can already see much of the input from things people have already shared with the ITSM community:

Scope and content of ITIL

The discussions included the scope, content, and structure of both ITIL and the ITIL exam system. And started with people suggesting ideas for strategy and principles for ITIL going forward. It was surprising how long this took (shouldn’t we already know this?) and not unsurprisingly everyone agreed that ITIL should be driven by business and customer needs.

Other suggestion related to:

  • Having a visible set of values
  • Separating architecture and structure from narrative and examples
  • Collaboration with a wide community of practitioners, examiners, trainers, consultants, vendors, and industry bodies across geographic and industry boundaries
  • An emphasis on relevance to end-user organizations
  • Quality being more important than time to market.

From a content perspective, AXELOS introduced the concept of what it calls the “Onion Model”, shown below, that encompasses the previous feedback on how there is a need for different types of content and, importantly, community input to the ongoing development of ITIL.

photo

Where:

  • The centre has the very stable ITIL core
  • The next layer has modular content such as role or industry-specific information
  • And then further layers have more practical content such as templates, guides, and case studies
  • The very outside layer is community owned and community driven with AXELOS and the community curating and promoting this

Content is able to move inwards as it becomes accepted best practice.

                                       Training and exams

Of all the qualities we might look for in a SAM Managed Services Provider - proven track record is key.
The workshop group

We discussed the importance of people, culture, and organizational aspects. In particular the need for more practical guidance about how IT organizations can benefit from the experience of others, and how they can start to gain value from ITIL within their own organization.

There was a lot of passion around training and exams. An interesting point was the absence of guidance on the development of skills such as negotiation and management as part of effective IT service management. Everyone recognized the need to make the exam system more valuable to both individuals and employers. But there was a consensus that that any change requires more input, more time, and needs great care not to disrupt the status quo. Again, if you have an opinion as to the future of ITIL exams, please respond to this blog or email AXELOS direct.

Next steps

Following day two of this workshop (a second blog will follow), AXELOS will continue to seek out global community input.

If you want to follow what’s happening, please look for their communications on Twitter or Google+

As always, thoughts and comments are encouraged.

Reasons to be cheerful: ITSM in the ascendancy at #SITS13

I have just returned from the Service Desk and IT Support show held at Earls Court in London over the last couple of days. It has been great to catch up with industry friends: old, new and digital.

A snapshot of ITSM Industry sentiment from the last two days would be: Buoyant

  • If 2012 was about thinking/planning, 2013 is about doing
  • Many more organizations are looking to proceed with projects and have a green light on implementation
  • Visitors come armed with very specific requirements and needs rather than ‘we might be in the market for a new helpdesk’
  • Frameworks are a given, it’s much more than Service Desks – visitors have much broader, longer term ITSM objectives

But don’t take my word for it – Some pillars of the ITSM industry have kindly shared their views:

Peter Durrant, LANDesk
Peter Durrant, LANDesk

Peter Durrant, Enterprise Sales Director for LANDesk Software, who recently hit 150% of their European Sales target, reports new clients are increasingly approaching LANDesk with end-to-end ITSM requirements rather than replacing ticketing systems. In difficult times, customers see LANDesk as a low risk and reliable option with a strong reputation.

Colin Rudd, itSMF
Colin Rudd, itSMF

Colin Rudd, Chairman itSMF UK reports good interest in membership at the show. Echoing Peter’s comments above Colin stated the industry is maturing beyond ITIL and Service Desks into much broader ITSM requirements. Exciting times for the industry and to be part of the itSMF community.

Tony Probert, Cherwell
Tony Probert, Cherwell

Tony Probert, Managing Director UK and EMEA at Cherwell Software stated that SITS is a barometer on where the industry is going and his judgement from the last few days was a lot more positive. Projects are becoming unstuck, purse strings are being released and the industry is looking very positive. Clients are becoming very specific about their requirements and have moved beyond Incident, Problem and Change to Portals, Systems Integration and Advanced Reporting. Cherwell have put effort into building their partner community and have recently signed up new business partners in Spain, Russia, Hungary and Norway.

Emma Spear, SDI
Emma Spear, SDI

Emma Spear, Head of Marketing and Events at The Service Desk Institute broke with the norm with a relaxed and sociable ‘tea party’ presence at SITS. Emma reported the SDI Service Desk Certification was very popular and the team were preparing for the SDI Conference on June 18th – 19th in Edgbaston.

Tom West-Robinson, Marval
Tom West-Robinson, Marval

Tom West-Robinson, Account Manager at Marval Group also noted that show visitors have a much clearer understanding of what they want and that projects are beginning to make progress. Tom stated that many organizations face high value maintenance renewals on their existing helpdesk software and are actively investigating better value alternatives.

Andrew Smith, BMC
Andrew Smith, BMC

Finally, Andrew Smith, Solutions Marketing Manager at BMC Software, expressed his surprise at the vibrancy of the show. He stated that although 2012 was good in terms of visitor numbers, this year has been particularly good for the level of engagement. Lots of companies were talking about projects in 2012; in 2013 they are starting to implement them. Andrew noted it was great to see new exhibitors and alternative technologies appearing as well as the industry regulars.

SITS visits Berlin in late September before returning to Earls Court in April 2014.

Review: itSMF UK Tooling Event [January 2013]

itSMF UK Chair Colin Rudd

itSMF UK Tooling Event, London, January 25th 2013

I attended the itSMF UK Tooling event on 25th January in central London.

That week in the UK was bitterly cold with lots of snow – so this event had low turnout or cancelled written all over it.

However, hats off to the itSMF UK events crew who managed to persuade around 100 ITSM folks to brave the snow and ice and discuss service management tools and technology.

The event blurb stated:

“Finding the right ITSM products and implementing them correctly is a challenge for any organization, and keeping abreast of the latest software developments is becoming increasingly difficult as users have less and less time available to explore the options.

itSMF UK’s ITSM Software Tools Forum offers an unprecedented opportunity to bring vendors, consultants and potential buyers together under one roof to discuss product selection and implementation.”

Running for Ashley

itSMF UK Chairman Colin Rudd was our opening speaker and guide for the day. Colin began by painting the big ITSM picture and discussing the 50,000ft view on what we are aiming to achieve with the practice of ITSM.

Colin’s opening served as a useful orientation and allowed delegates, who had taken a day out from being at the rock face of day-to-day ITSM, to gain the right perspective.

Colin also urged us to support the itSMF UK team with their Reading Half Marathon charity run in support of long time itSMF supporter Ashley Hanna.

Colin Rudd, John Windebank, Ben Clacy, Mark Lilycrop, Rosemary Gurney and Barry Corless will be running for Macmillan Cancer Support on the 17th March – make a donation here:

http://www.justgiving.com/ashleysbigchallenge

After Colin’s introduction we heard from Cherwell, Marval, Hornbill, 2E2, BMC and Topdesk.

CHERWELL (8/10)

An old adage for presenters to keep their message clear and concise is to:

  1. Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em
  2. Tell ’em
  3. and then tell ’em what you’ve told ’em

Simon Kent from Cherwell opened vendor presentations with a textbook example of this method in action.

He told us the leading Cherwell value points were: Ease of use, business value, service automation and innovation. He then proceeded to hammer each point home concisely by letting the technology do the talking.

MARVAL (7/10)

This is the first Marval pitch I’ve seen without Don Page. Whilst Don is clearly a leading pillar of the ITSM community and someone you won’t forget in a hurry, I thought it was refreshing to see a Marval presentation minus Don.

Underneath the façade of humour and expletives lies a solid ITSM company with a solid offering. The team are clearly service oriented and interested in the long-game consultative sale rather than just punting software. Good presentation from Tom West-Robinson, I look forward to seeing him present again.

HORNBILL (6/10)

The two presentations prior to Hornbill were focussed on ease of use, codeless configuration and DIY development. Prospective customers are perhaps thinking “If we swap our existing tool for something else we don’t want to re-mortgage the business to pay for the configuration”.

With this in mind, I felt the Hornbill proposition looked a little dated (versions aside).

Patrick’s presentation was good as per usual and Hornbill’s ‘Make IT Happen’ is a great approach but, given this is a tooling event, Patrick could have given us more to showcase the actual technology.

Quote du Jour from Patrick:

 “Renting software doesn’t make you any better at running it“ – Patrick Bolger, Hornbill

2e2 (1/10)

Martyn Birchall from 2e2 opened his pitch by stating that he ‘got bored with own PowerPoint’ and ‘preferred to make things interactive’. What a refreshing change – an interactive session before lunch? Alas, Martyn then proceeded to plod through his PowerPoint and not allow for interaction. I won’t dwell on his painful pitch since 2e2 unfortunately seem to have bitten the dust since the event.

BMC (8/10)

Andrew Smith provided a live demonstration of Remedy Force which included harnessing the enterprise social platform chatter into service management work streams. Remedy Force will look very cosy and familiar for anyone working with the force.com platform. It was a good showcase and attracted the most questions and interaction throughout the day.

For a big lumbering publicly listed conglomerate the demo showed surprising innovation. I also liked the tool BMC use to help potential prospects navigate the portfolio.

The video below was used during the presentation:

TOPDESK (7/10) 

Finally, last to present was Rob Goldsworth of TopDesk who stated that ‘ITSM is not an IT function’ and emphasized the use of their technology in HR, Facilities, CRM and so on.

Apart from a small home-goal with ITIL certification semantics Rob gave us a good tour of the compelling features within TopDesk via a live demo. In particular I liked the Kanban-style instant visualization of work in hand and resources available. Similarly the resource planner and process mapping tools look very well thought out. It was a good enough demo to whet your appetite without being too mechanical.

Whistle Stop Tour of ITSM Tools

In short, I thought this was a good event. It was well attended, had a good mixture of exhibitors and provided a great opportunity for prospective buyers to network with peers and engage with software companies without the formality of the normal sales process.

Note: This is just my opinion, as an itSMF member of an itSMF event. If you wish to share your own opinion on this or any other event please feel free to use the ITSM Review platform.

Event Listing: Service Desk & SLM Seminar, itSMF UK, 12th September 2012, Manchester

What?

itSMF UK Seminar – Service Desk and SLM

The Service Desk is at the frontline to increase service quality, reduce cost and pressed to do more with less. Many are still searching for tools to help move them from their traditional fire fighting roles in-order to free up resources to more spend time on better managing customer expectations and improving service.

What are the best approaches to meeting this challenge?

This seminar is targeted at service desk, service level and service catalogue managers who want to ensure agreed customer expectations and promises are met

When?

Wednesday 12th September, 9am – 4pm

Where?

Museum of Industry & Science, Liverpool Road , Manchester, M3 4FP

Museum of Industry & Science Website

Map and Directions

Museum of Industry & Science (MUSI) in Manchester

Who?

itSMF UK

Agenda

Key learning outcomes of this seminar include:

  • Learn the processes that underpin a good service desk
  • Learn what are the key interfaces between the service desk, service level management and service catalogue
  • Learn how you know if you have got the right people working on your service desk
  • What is the skill profile and roles of a hybrid service desk manager and analyst
  • Learn which service desk structure is right for your organisation
  • Learn the challenges and approaches to managing a distributed or global service desk
  • Learn how to define a service catalogue with underpinning service levels that works for you
  • Learn how to get more out of 2nd line teams by implementing operational level agreements
  • Learn how to improve your workload planning and scheduling techniques to manage the service desk
  • Where will the service desk be in 5 years

Further Info…

Photo Credit

Winners and Losers in the ITSM Premier League

Six leading ITSM vendors went head to head this week at the itSMF UK Tools forum. The free event was held at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, home of the 2012 premier league winners Manchester City.

This was openly promoted as a tool focused event. A perfect opportunity for some of the leading lights of the industry to showcase their technology and highlight their competitive differentiators.

An opportunity to shine?

It’s a tough, competitive market out there. Differentiate or die.

I was eager to find out which vendors could articulate their unique qualities, who could position themselves in the market? Could they inspire confidence in buyers? Would buyers be safe in their hands?

The result? In my opinion – Delegates experienced the full spectrum from cutting edge to dull as dishwater:


Roy IllsleyOvum (6/10)

Roy gave us an interesting, thought provoking presentation. The content seemed to be a bit out of place for the theme of the day but otherwise it was great talk and I look forward to delving into the slide deck when it becomes available (Applying Lean principles to IT Strategy).

Patrick BolgerHornbill (9/10)

You can tell why Patrick has ‘Evangelist’ in his job title. Patrick gave us an inspirational pitch for not only his company but also the industry as a whole. If all Hornbill customers have the same software installed and the same ITIL training – how is it that they experience vastly different results? Patrick argued that it is because of the people. Hornbill believes in putting their successful customers on a pedestal when positioning their solution. Nice job Patrick.

Tony Bambury, FrontRange (1/10)

Tony provided us a live demo of their SaaS solution and ran through a user ordering an iPhone. I struggled to see how FrontRange differed from the rest of the pack. An opportunity missed.

Kevin Parker, Tom Burnell and James Warriner from Serena (8/10)

Serena have some closet amateur dramatics buffs in their midst. Serena declared an end to dull PowerPoint pitches and provided a refreshingly different demonstration of their technology. We were entertained by means of a reenactment of one of their ‘Doug Serena’ episodes.  For me, it would have been the presentation of the day – but unfortunately it was difficult to hear their presentation and the ‘actors’ were not always visible, so we lost the thread at times. Otherwise – an excellent slot by Serena and they should be congratulated for their effort, preparation and originality (the product looked good too!).

Dave D’Agostino from ServiceNow (5/10)

Dave gave a safe and steady presentation on ‘SaaS driving forces’ and positioned ServiceNow as a cloud platform rather than pure ITSM focused tool. I’m personally not convinced that the market needs telling the advantages of cloud anymore and I would welcome some more pragmatic advice about shifting services to the cloud. E.g. if you are in this particular industry facing abc market forces and xyz legislation this is what similar customers achieved. Perhaps it’s time to move the conversation on from ‘You don’t need to buy servers!’.

I also thought Dave’s ROI model of on premise versus cloud looked a bit shaky, given the likely implementation / customization costs of ServiceNow over a 3 year period – I would welcome some independent industry statistics on this.

Don Page, Marval (4/10)

I tuned out for Don’s session. It was entertaining but a bit of a rant. If I were a prospect for a new ITSM tool provider I would be left with the impression that Don is a great guy and unique personality, but I would be a bit lost if you asked me to remember the redeeming features of his solution, apart from ‘Buy British’.

Tony Probert, Cherwell (7/10)

Tony set out the stall for Cherwell in his no-nonsense forthright style. Tony urged us to think about business services over support and that if we were doing break-fix for a living we were ripe for outsourcing.

He openly stated that most of Cherwell’s features were ‘just like everyone else’ but then managed to clearly articulate their competitive differentiators:

  1. Code-less configuration
  2. Autonomy from Cherwell (not dependent on consultancy and feature lock down)
  3. and seamless upgrades despite customization.

Three bullets to separate Cherwell from the competition and an attractive proposition for those migrating from on-premise tools. That one slide was a refreshing change to the others of the day who struggled to articulate their competitive differentiators.


Same again next year?

Like the SDI tools day, this is a great format by the itSMF and I hope they repeat it again soon. As with regionals – perhaps some real life user feedback could be shoehorned into the day. Further upcoming itSMF events can be found here.

Great seminar location: The view from the 'Legends' lounge at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester.

Event Listing: Service Catalogues & Service Portfolios Seminar, itSMF UK, 18th April, Solihull

National Motorcycle Museum, Solihull

What?

itSMF UK Seminar – Service Catalogues & Service Portfolios

“Service catalogue, service portfolio and service level management are the essential elements of the relationship between IT and the business.  Without these processes in place, it is increasingly difficult to define what IT services are available to the business and on what basis.

But the relationship between service catalogues and service portfolios is often poorly understood, and this can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. This seminar explains how these concepts inter-relate, and helps attendees to build a solution that suits their specific business needs. “Problem management is often the most under used process, and is described by some as the “If we only have the time” process. In reality it is a process that if used correctly adds real value to the business, and supports all of the other service management processes. To get there, there is a need to invest both time and resource – the very things that problem managers have little of.”

When?

  • Wednesday 18th April 2012, 9am – 4pm

Where?

Who?

  • itSMF UK

Agenda

  • Service catalogue – all things to all people?Not only is the service catalogue a way to orientate your organization and processes around services, it is also a user facing service itself. This is Unilever’s experience of delivering a user-friendly catalogue that is part of improved customer satisfaction. ~ Andrew Davies, Unilever
  • Unlocking the potential of service portfolios and service catalogues, and measuring the right thing This presentation will destroy some myths, make you think differently, and give you the tools to continually improve both IT and the business by integrating portfolios, catalogues and measures. ~ Kevin Holland, UK Public Sector Consultant.
  • Magic wand session: Service catalogues and service portfolios in your organizationTake part in one of our interactive round table discussions, led by Dr Don Page of Marval, and discuss the answers to some key questions concerning service catalogue and service portfolio implementation. ~ Don Page, Marval
  • The service portfolio – the new tool in your service management toolset Just when you have finally understood the concept of the service catalogue and managed to produce a useful addition to your service management toolset, along comes ITIL v3 and the service portfolio. What is it, how does it help us? This presentation will give you some answers. Rob Young, Fox IT

Further Info…

Image Credit

Review: itSMF Problem Management Seminar [Chelsea Football Club]

Steve White, Kepner Tregoe, Engaging the Audience at Chelsea
Steve White, Kepner Tregoe, Engaging the Audience at Chelsea

The UK itSMF hosted a popular Problem Management seminar this week.

Around 100 itSMF members met at Chelsea Football Club to learn about ‘Proactive Problem Management’ from a variety of industry specialists.

Firstly, a quick summary of the sessions (Football Clichés A Go-Go):

FOX IT – GENTLE STRETCHES TO WARM UP

John Griffiths from Fox IT explored the human elements of problem management, the communication channels that exist between incident capture and problem resolution and the interpretation and translation that must happen via the service desk.

SERVICENOW – OWN GOAL

In many ways this event felt a little like a ServiceNow user group – but when the SaaS vendor took centre stage to deliver some thought leadership we were delivered an undiluted sales pitch.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting David D’Agostino before and know him to be clever, funny and articulate – so I had high expectations for this session. This was an opportunity missed – The itSMF need to be brutal with their editorial – in the end it’s the vendor who came off worst.

KEPNER TREGOE – THE CROWD ARE ON THE PITCH…

A great session from Steve White at Kepner Tregoe. Steve hosted an interactive whiteboard session on defining proactive problem management. For me and for the other delegates I spoke to this was the highlight of the day. More like this please itSMF! It would have been interesting to perhaps walk through some real life scenarios and discuss options with the audience using this open forum approach.

PINK ELEPHANT – A HEARTY PERFORMANCE

Unfortunately I missed parts of Vawns Guest’s session but from what I saw and feedback from others Vawns gave a passionate lesson on the relationship between incident, problem and availability management.

OASIS HEALTHCARE – END-TO-END ACTION

This was an interesting case study from Mike Evans from ITS and Rich Starkey from Oasis Healthcare.   The double act provided a before and after picture of progress at Oasis Healthcare, a network of over 200 UK dental practices. It was also great to see an organization sharing business benefits and return on investment for their project.

Is Honesty The Best Policy?

An interesting point was made during one of the sessions regarding honesty with problems – i.e. do we tell the customer we’re experiencing a problem?

There were mixed views on this – do we keep our problems to ourselves for fear of the organization using it against us or do we openly admit that, we’re human, mistakes happen and we’re doing everything we can to resolve it?

In my view – How an organization answers this question gives a good insight into their culture and maturity. I’m sure that at times there are perfectly good reasons for keeping schtum – but I think honestly is the best policy.

Whether you are trying to run trains on time, hosting services in a datacenter or delivering fruit and vegetables– a bit of honesty from your provider strengthens the relationship and gives the impression that you are not just being fobbed off.

Wrap-Up

Overall I would definitely recommend this seminar, some interactive sessions with lots of questions. I look forward to attending future itSMF seminars this year (further info here).

Finally, Colin Rudd asked the audience if there was interest in rejuvenating the Problem Management SIG and the response was positive – contact itSMF to learn more.

Photo

Event Listing: Proactive Problem Management, itSMF UK, 8th Feb, London

Chelsea Football Club
Chelsea Football Club

What?

itSMF UK Seminar – Proactive Problem Management

“Problem management is often the most under used process, and is described by some as the “If we only have the time” process. In reality it is a process that if used correctly adds real value to the business, and supports all of the other service management processes. To get there, there is a need to invest both time and resource – the very things that problem managers have little of.

“This seminar is targeted at problem managers who want to improve their approach and understanding of problem management by adopting a more proactive focus in order to deliver more successful outcomes”

When?

  • Wednesday 8th February 2012, 9am – 4pm

Where?

Who?

  • itSMF UK

Agenda

  • ‘Incident, problem and availability management – the new holy trinity’ Vawns Guest, Pink Elephant
  • ‘IT service delivery from a third party – jumping from reactive to proactive’ Mike Evans, ITS & Rich Starkey, Oasis Healthcare
  • ‘Are you communicating problems or having problems communicating?’ John Griffiths, Fox IT
  • ‘Is the cloud a ‘problem’ for problem management?’ David D’Agostino, Service-Now.com

Further Info…

IT SmartDesk: When Everyone Can Work in IT Support

I recently spoke with Maff Rigby of ITSM start-up IT SmartDesk.

Maff recently presented a session at the itSMF UK conference entitled ‘Social IT – how social media is turning ITSM on its head’. The slides from Maff’s session can be found here.

Facebook Meets IT Support

In a nutshell, during his itSMF session Maff suggested ways in which Social concepts could be used to our advantage in ITSM. These included real time chat and collaboration, using live feeds and activity ‘walls’, harnessing new technology to notify customers or users of issues and using modern collaboration techniques such as wiki’s, crowd sourcing and tagging.

IT SmartDesk is positioned as ‘Social IT Service Management’; using IT SmartDesk I can invite anyone to join me on the system, they can share what they are currently working on, log incidents, ask questions, follow an incident, log bugs and generally join the conversation and collaborate. It’s Facebook meets small IT team support.

IT SmartDesk is aimed at small teams or businesses seeking an online solution, Maff and his team have initially focused on logging incidents and bug tracking – but for me the real key differentiator with this offering is the type of user who can collaborate and provide support.

IT Support for IT Savvy Companies

Traditional ITSM solutions are based on a certain number of IT users who support the larger customer base. E.g. I’ll buy 5 concurrent users for my service desk system to support hundreds or thousands of my customers or users.

IT SmartDesk have turned this model on its head and have priced the system by total number of people logging into the system. They have wisely recognized the market trend that IT support does not have all the answers and many companies are providing support to IT savvy users. With IT SmartDesk anyone in the company can jump in and collaborate. The IT support operator changes from gatekeeper to curator.

The paint has only just dried on this new tool, but from what I have seen so far I found the system to be blindingly obvious to use, easy on the eye, fun to use and clean. Let’s hope they can keep it that way as the feature set expands.

I look forward to keeping track of IT SmartDesk over the coming months.

Further details can be found here > www.itsmartdesk.com

Screenshots below, click to enlarge.

Notifications
Notifications

 

Dashboard
Dashboard

 

Answer Question
Answer Question

Vendor Booths at Conferences Need a Shakedown

Vendor Booths at Conferences Need a Smack Down
Time for a new model?

I was lucky enough to attend the first day of the ITSMF conference in London yesterday. Having spent most of the day in the exhibitor lounge I can’t really comment on the speakers and content, but the whole event was very well organized and it seemed to have a great atmosphere, great networking and great people.

I have previously attended this event as a vendor so it was interesting to see the other side of the fence. Getting people to your stand is an age old problem but the disconnect between vendor booths and delegates seems to be getting worse, especially for tool vendors. This is not a criticism of the ITSMF conference per se, but conferences generally.

Exhibitor Booth – A Twenty-Year Old Concept?

The rest of vendor marketing seems to have moved along with the times with the introduction of email, web seminars and to a degree, social media. But with the exception of electronic swipers and polluting hashtag streams – has the conference vendor booth concept really progressed in twenty years?

The ITSMF team did a good job of delivering a compelling agenda with varied content and speakers. But most of the exhibitor lounge seemed to be disconnected from the delegates like awkward boys and girls at a teenage disco. We’re in the same room, we have shared interests but I’m not sure where to start…

In dating terms the current exhibitor booth model is like a nightclub – your luck in finding a suitable date is strongly dependent on serendipity; who is there at the time and who you happen to bump into. Whereas exhibitor booths should be closer to speed dating – aligning customers with problems with pain with solutions.

I don’t claim to have an answer for this issue, but one idea that springs to mind is breaking the traditional vendor hall into themes as chosen by delegates prior to the conference. So for example some key themes might be consumerization of IT, doing more with less / accountability and maturing your operation.

Exhibitors could populate ‘zones’ dedicated to certain subjects and delegates with an interest in that topic could immerse themselves in what the industry has to say, and offer. For exhibitors – If you don’t feel confident speaking about the key concerns of the industry – what are you doing at the conference?

Permission

I believe the disconnect can be boiled down to permission. The marketing guru Seth Godin refers to permission based marketing; the tectonic shift between outbound and inbound marketing. I strongly recommend Seth’s book for anyone trying to grapple with modern marketing, it is very readable and accessible (The much hyped clue-train manifesto remains half-read on my bookcase gathering dust next to ‘A brief history of time’).

Outbound marketing refers to ‘if you throw enough at the wall something will stick’; cold calls, leaflets, advertising. Inbound marketing refers to getting found by prospects and ‘earning their way in’ by providing value.

Let’s start a conversation based on something I know you are interested in, have a brief discussion, then we can both walk away from the show knowing we have something of interest to talk about in the future. I have your permission, a topic of conversation and a common interest. I don’t think swiping my badge in exchange for jelly beans whilst you tell me about your latest release constitutes value.

An intangible part of the conference process is networking, catching up with old colleague in the industry and having a bit of fun. Daft toys , in nothing else, are a bit of fun and good ice breaker. However if I were a marketing manager looking to justify my attendance at such a show it has to be based on hard economics.

These conference are important. Many people in the industry get great value from them. Exhibitor booths are an important part of the financial model of a conference – either the exhibitors need to up their game or the model has to change.