In this interview Mike shares a great vision of where to take the forum and changes being discussed to the itSMF’s founding chapter.
Q. ITSM Review: Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Mike Owen: My background is primarily in marketing and then general management. The first 15 years of my career were spent working in various companies including Time Warner, BT, Lloyds Bank, Barclays Bank and Grant Thornton – mostly in sales and marketing roles. After I did my MBA, I then worked for a national NHS authority as head of strategic planning. For the last 10 years I’ve worked across the commercial, non-for-profit and public sectors in various operational director, interim CEO and consultancy roles, specializing particularly in business-to-business sectors and membership organizations. I’ve worked with professional membership bodies such as The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, trade associations, and general business groups like Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.
What interested me about the role at ITSMF UK was the opportunity to join an established membership body operating in a vibrant, exciting sector that IT clearly is – but where there was a fresh management challenge and an opportunity to further develop the organization, build its profile and help shape a new wave of growth. I’ve previously been MD/CEO of three small member-based enterprises – including one in the field of facilities IT – and I have always liked the shared ethos of membership bodies, but where there is still a commercial imperative to make things happen and develop for the future.
What are you making of the world of IT service management (ITSM) so far?
I’m finding it very interesting so far! I’m learning quickly and meeting lots of new people. Although I’m new to ITSM, I actually see that as quite a good thing as it means I’m inclined to ask questions that perhaps some more technical people might not. It also makes me more interested in looking for the context of how ITSM fits in with the rest of IT and wider business management.
A few things that have particularly struck me so far are:
- ITSM is quite process and operations focused. Certainly, it is very valuable for people working in ITSM to have good models and frameworks to indicate effective practice and how to carry out tasks, but I wonder if there is a need to increase focus on wider and more strategic areas affecting IT and service delivery – like business strategy, IT architecture planning, operational process design, business structure and culture, staff skills/job design, relationship management with partners/suppliers, client satisfaction measurement, risk management, service quality management and so on.
- ITSM currently appears to revolve substantially around ITIL. Although this is, of course, a well established and proven approach, I don’t think one framework can fully suit every organization out there; in my opinion the field needs to be seen more as an overall suite of different tools and methods to suit different contexts and a constantly changing IT environment. Other models already exist, of course, for example ISO 20000, COBIT, SIAM, Lean IT, and DevOps, but I think more needs to be done to present – and develop – ITSM as a discipline with a larger, richer, more flexible set of concepts, tools and methods.
- There is a lot of potential to take ITSM beyond the IT department and relate it to wider business functions. I definitely get the sense that more and more people working in ITSM consider that the field needs to be seen in a broader and more holistic light than has been the case historically. As IT is nowadays such a key driver and enabler of business strategy, operational processes and customer-facing products/services, I think perhaps ITSM needs to relate to that wider frame of relevance more, not just serve as a template for running and delivering internally-focused IT operations more effectively.
Do you think ITSM is in danger of becoming irrelevant?
Not totally, but it seems to me that ITSM does need to broaden its outlook. ITSM needs to adapt to manage today’s more complex environment and wider developments – for instance, issues like cloud computing, social media, BYOD, big data and the huge growth of mobile. If it doesn’t, ITSM may possibly run the risk of withering into an outdated set of processes. IT often places too much emphasis on technical or operational processes. How many people in IT currently stop to think “how does this process link to our customers?” It’s pivotal that IT understands that it needs to have an outward, not just inward looking view of how to define the services that they are managing.
So in your opinion the future of ITSM lies outside of IT?
ITSM’s heritage is in the IT department, but I would say, yes, its future lies more outside of IT than in it. I believe that the future of ITSM is more to help organizations manage and deliver their overall customer/market-facing services and operations where they have a high dependency on sound and effective IT. Today, ITSM is more often than not about running internally focused IT operational services. Tomorrow has the potential for ITSM to evolve to be more about running IT-enabled, externally centred business/customer services. As such, ITSM professionals will need to work more closely with marketing and service operations colleagues and complement their deep technical/IT knowledge with wider business knowledge. In time, perhaps the sector will lose the “IT” from “ITSM”, but we need to careful we don’t stretch ourselves into being too generic!
So with regards to ITSMF UK, what do you see as the biggest challenge you have to face in the next 12 months?
Well, we need to continue operating a good day-to-day service for our members, of course, but there’s also a need to refresh the organization and put it in a strong position for the longer-term. This year, priorities for us include improving the efficiency and effectiveness of how we do things; improving our engagement with members; starting to develop and enhance our services and benefits to members; and building our marketing, profile and connections within the ITSM sector. ITSMF UK has a very valuable role to play in the sector – as the leading membership body for organizations, managers and staff involved in ITSM. Like any organization, we just need to keep moving and adapting to suit the world around us.
How do you intend to provide better value to your members?
Overall, itSMF is about providing value in several ways: particularly: boosting professional knowledge and learning to help organizations and their staff get better results from ITSM; networking and sharing between ITSM professionals; providing news, information and objective guidance about ITSM matters; helping to develop and promote ITSM as an overall discipline; and bringing together and representing the different parts of the ITSM sector. We’ll be looking to steadily build value on all these fronts and we’ll be seeking to do this in some cases by working in partnership with other professional bodies and groups in the sector.
Furthermore, we’re moving away from a “one size fits all” membership approach to presenting a more tailored offer and service approach to the different parts of the community. For example, we’ll be doing more to provide value to and support senior ITSM managers and leaders in our member organizations. We’ll also be doing a lot more online.
What can we expect to see from ITSMF UK over the next 6 months?
We’ll be moving forward on all the development areas I referred to earlier, but the areas of marketing and member communications will see some of the earliest changes. For instance, we have already introduced a much better Forum website whose functionality we will be developing steadily over the coming months – including expansion of our online reference resources. We’re refreshing the look and feel of our communication materials and tools and we’re revamping the editorial approach to our main publication, ServiceTalk to integrate it better with online media and cover ITSM issues, news and topics in greater depth.
The other major thing happening in the next six months, of course, is our 2014 Annual Conference and Exhibition. We’re also continuing to run our wide range of regional meetings, specialist topic seminars, and advanced masterclass events.
We’ve also started successfully to expand our membership base – that’s both our number of member organizations and the number of individuals registered to use our Forum’s facilities.
In the past resource has been an issue for ITSMF UK, how do you intend to achieve all these planned changes and updates?
By running a tight ship and moving forward in a careful but steady manner. We’ll prioritize what we do, always staying close to what members want, and we’ll work with our members and external partners as effectively as possible. I should stress that you don’t need to have lots of people to do more things. It’s about better utilizing the talent you have and involving members and appropriate external partners where necessary.
We also want to do more to facilitate and encourage more ‘peer-to-peer’ member activity and more support between members themselves. A membership body like ITSMF UK shouldn’t just be about a central office doing things for members ‘out there’: a Forum is equally about members networking and sharing with each other directly. That’s the beauty of a body like ours and something we want to expand further, making more use of our website and social media.
What’s happening with the Big4 agenda? Will you be planning a Big4 for 2015?
The Big4 agenda has been about trying to stimulate discussion, support and information around a particular set of ITSM topics that members told us last year they were particularly concerned about: back to basics, skills, managing complexity, and ITSM and agile. The initiative has been very useful, with activity ranging from dedicated seminars, online discussions, and articles in ServiceTalk and, of course, shaping many of the sessions at our upcoming 2014 Conference.
Of course, though, there are always many, more topics and issues on the minds of ITSM professionals at any one time and the Forum always needs to relate to those wider topics too.
In terms of thoughts about 2015, it’s a bit early to tell how we’ll approach the initiative next year, but certainly we’ll be minded to keep it as a useful way to help engage with members and assist in focusing our activities.
You mentioned the ITSMF UK Annual Conference and Exhibition, what can we expect from the event this year?
Well, we’re very confident it’s going to be another great event – the premier exhibition, conference and awards event for the UK ITSM sector! Still three months ahead of the event, we’re already delighted with the level of bookings – from delegates, sponsors and exhibitors. We’ve got a wide range of major and leading organizations who will providing speakers this year, including: Aviva, EE, Barclays Bank, BSkyB, Telefonica, Axelos, Capgemini, Deloitte, Tata Consultancy, and the NIHR Clincial Research Network. The conference will have over 30 separate presentations and workshops and the ITSM Exhibition will have over 40 exhibitors from major product and service providers across the ITSM sector. I’m really looking forward to the event.
What can we expect from ITSMF UK in the future, above and beyond just the next 12 months?
What I can say at this stage is that we will continue the journey I outlined earlier of steadily building the Forum and adding more and more value to both members and the wider ITSM sector. We need to be realistic, it’s going to take 18 months to two years to do everything we want to best fulfill the role of being the leading membership body for organisations, managers and staff involved in ITSM. Everything will come in steady steps, but the overall goal is to better support our members, to help people adapt and succeed in this new age of ITSM, to represent the ITSM community, and help promote the overall value of ITSM.
It’s an exciting mission for ITSMF UK. Everyone at the Forum is motivated by it and we view the future, with all our members, with a great deal of confidence.
The ITSM Review team welcomes Mike to his new role and looks forward to collaborating with itSMF in the future.