Last month, the 17th annual itSMF Australia Annual Conference (LEADit) took place in Melbourne. Malcolm Fry—an IT industry legend, author of numerous books on ITIL® and service management, and a Cherwell Ambassador—gave one of the keynote addresses. We had the pleasure of speaking with Malcolm about the conference, the IT service management (ITSM) industry in Australia, and how he thinks art can change the way we think about IT.
Malcolm, you speak at a number of IT service management related events around the world. What was the itSMF event like and what stood out for you?
It was a gathering of roughly 600 people. It was an extremely well-attended event. ITSM has a fairly small environment in Australia and the Far East, but the folks have a very positive attitude.
What did you talk about in your keynote address and why?
I talked about IT service management and took a fresh look, which I did through looking at nine works of art. One of the artists I looked at was Seurat, who is known for his pointillist pictures, literally painting with dots. His pictures are very flat, and there’s not much behind them, but when you look at the idea behind the picture, you get a different picture of the work, i.e. lots of data is not always a good thing.
We also looked at Stephen Wiltshire who was born in London to West Indian parents. As a child, he was mute and did not relate to other people. Aged three, he was diagnosed as autistic. He had no language skills and lived entirely in his own world. He was five when he went to school, and it was then as a 5- year-old that his amazing talent was unearthed to draw to scale from memory. For example, he once flew over New York in a helicopter for 15 minutes and was able to draw a complete picture, to scale, of New York from memory. We all have talents, and we must make the best use of them.
I used all these paintings and artists as a way to explain different points at the itSMF Conference. And then I went into the main presentation, which was about looking at ITIL in a different way—because the books are really all the same. But what happens if you look at the books in a different way? There is no right way to adapt to ITIL. There’s no one thing you have to do first. It’s more abstract, which is one of the reasons I used the works of art.
We also talked about Salvador Dali—the painting “Swans Reflecting Elephants.” The whole idea of Salvador Dali is that the quality of the painting is immaculate, beautifully done. But it doesn’t make any sense at fist. With this picture, some people see the elephants first, and some see the swans first just like some targets make sense while others do not make sense.
I think my presentation was well received because it wasn’t just the same old slides—bullet point one, bullet point two, bullet point three. With something like this, you never know what kind of reaction you’re going to get.
Can you provide some key take-aways for those who weren’t able to attend the itSMF Conference?
Basically, my take-away is that ITIL is meant to be a framework. It’s not fixed. Just stand back and look at it again for the first time, and don’t look at just what’s put in front of you.
In my book ITIL® Lite: a road map to full or partial ITIL implementation, I talk about four different types of processes that have to be done in service management. The first one is “actions”: incident management, change management—those kinds of things. You have to do those whether you follow ITIL or not. Then there’s “influencers,” those which influence “actions.” The next one is “resources,” which provides the resources so the “action” can deliver what it’s asking for. That’s talking to the customers. Then there’s “underpinnings,” which includes management and coordination basically. Look at the processes in these four ways, and you’ll completely change the way you think of service management and ITIL. IT has to be able to think differently.
Did you find anything different about the ITSM industry in Australia versus other parts of the world?
I’ve been asked this question before, but I don’t think there’s any real difference. The reality is that IT service management is very similar all over. That’s partly because everyone is following similar standards.
What you do find in Australia, is some very interesting thinkers. In general, I don’t find much difference, though their originality of thought sticks in my mind as does their energy.
Any other highlights from the itSMF conference?
The keynote speaker before me was Jason McCartney, an Australian Rules Football player who survived the 2002 Bali bombing. Tall, handsome guy and a genuine Aussie hero.
If you had to summarize this event in 50 words, what else would you say?
As I said before, it was a very well-attended event. The thing I like quite a lot about the event is the energy, the clarity of thought, the willingness to look outside-the-box, and just a very friendly exhibition area. I hope they invite me back next year.
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