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Thoughts from my first itSMF National Conference

Last week’s trans-continental junket to Perth for the Australian itSMF National Conference was well worth the time, effort and cost. Quite apart from the award, it was wonderful to meet some great people who were kind enough to give me career-related tips and advice; and who made me feel like one of the bunch, even though it was my first itSMF conference. Isn’t it interesting that a room full of IT professionals can get together and share information with each other but transferring knowledge within our own organisations is still so difficult?

The conference had six streams, or tracks, of sessions and at times it was hard to choose. I was bound to miss out on some of the good stuff, but there were a few sessions I really wanted to highlight because they were so relevant, and in some cases, inspiring.

Karen Ferris, one of the first presenters at the conference, spoke about sustainable change. One of the greatest challenges we have is unlearning the way we’ve done things, and then maintaining the new way. “It’s about creating a culture FOR change.” The only way to approach it is to remember that we’re dealing with people, and when we’re implementing a new system for knowledge management—or anything else—people will react differently. Let’s face it; sometimes we seem irrational. By accepting that we go through a lifecycle of emotional responses to change and then managing those reactions, by taking a balanced approach to measuring and motivating that change, we will have greater success.

Rob Stroud facilitated a panel discussion on high value metrics. There was a lot of good info but the one key point I came away with is to wrap process around key metrics—what happens when a certain metric is reached? In simple IT operational terms—when a critical device reaches a nominated threshold, a fault is logged and escalated to engineering. That’s process around a metric and the same logic can be applied to lots of scenarios, operational and otherwise.

Paul Edwards spoke on the second day with a session called Meaningful Reporting. How many trees are you printing on every week? How many reports are you handed and filing in the bin, or stashing without reading? Yeah, I thought so. Lots. This is one area that really suffers from “this is the way we’ve always done it”. So if you’re required to supply a bunch of reports, here’s a challenge for you: start maintaining a reports register. Log the rationale behind each report, the person (or role) who usually receives it, the data source and algorithm, and it’s lifecycle. If it becomes obsolete, mark it so in the register and stop printing it. If someone screams for it, you’ll easily be able to go back and recreate it. (That’s the scream test, by the way.)

Rob England (aka the IT Skeptic) breathed new skepticism into current service management models and espoused an agile approach for creating change in digestible chunks—something I’ve always believed in.

Other notable presentations were by keynote presenters Dr Fiona Wood and Pauline Angelico. Fiona talked about leadership and motivation, as it has applied to her career as a burns surgeon. Along with pursuing the dream of achieving scarless healing, she has raised six children. Six! Some mornings I struggle to tie my shoes after hustling two children out the door. Pauline discussed the environmental impacts of our production and consumption of tech devices. Manufactured obsolescence is tricking us, people. Tricking us! (Steve is my overlord, though, and a new MacBook is what I will have one of these days.)

Attending the conference has certainly broadened my options and my thinking, but it’s also helped to pinpoint my focus.

If you went to the conference, what did you get out of it?