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11 November 2010 | Aidan Lawes Blog
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Conference Musings
This week Aidan talks about the sessions that he attended at this year's itSMF UK conference in London...

  Aidan Lawes

Another conference survived – though I have to confess it gets harder every year to punish the ageing body with late nights (early mornings really) and a mix of work and socializing. I guess the best thing about the reduction from 3 to 2 days is that there only 2 nights of punishment! As always, it was terrific to meet up with many old friends and acquaintances, some reappearing on the scene after a gap of several years. There was a really significant overseas contingent with representatives from 20+ countries around the globe. It is great to know that my ramblings are read in so many places and I thank everyone for the kind words that so many offered me. [Don’t forget that if you like the blog you can vote for Aidan in the Computer Weekly awards –Ed.]

Of the sessions that I attended, there was the usual mixture of some really good ones and some that were not quite all that they could have been. The latter ones were most often let down by a lack of dynamism and panache in the presentation (important when you are struggling with the effects of 3 hours sleep!), rather than in the content. The opening keynote from Sir Ranulph Fiennes was exceptional; the man is clearly hard-wired in a totally different manner to most of us but he has achieved so much that no other human being has even approached. The relaxed, self-deprecating and humorous manner of his delivery was just wonderful.

The panel session with what the IT Skeptic would no doubt identify as the “Castle ITIL” mafia was a mix of positive and negative news.

First the positive. The team involved in the update of the material gave a brief overview of the work that has been completed and the changes that have been made. Bearing in mind the very specific and limited scope of the project – no changes that invalidate existing material or introduce new concepts – it appears that a good job is being done. Most of the annoying issues such as inconsistencies within and across the volumes have been addressed. Each volume now has the same structure; every process has a purpose and objectives section; every process has a flow definition; linkages between processes described in one volume but vital in another have been articulated more clearly; great attention has been paid to definitions so that terms are used consistently. As expected from the scoping statement, the most significant changes have been made to the Service Strategy book, where radical restructuring has led to a (hopefully) much more understandable and lucid exposition of the concepts and processes involved at this level. In speaking privately to a number of the authors, several expressed a little bit of frustration at not being able to make other changes to aspects which they uncovered during their work, but were deemed to fall outside the scope of the project. As with any project, it is essential to avoid scope creep, or the costs escalate and the outcome becomes hazier. Hopefully all these issues are being logged and will be evaluated by the change team for possible inclusion in the next edition.

So, while I am sure that the resulting edition will still be the subject of much criticism and opprobrium from many – particularly those who can’t seem to accept that such a work can never be “perfect” nor provide all the answers to every possible question or situation – I was encouraged by what I heard and am sure that it will be a vast improvement on the current one.

On the negative side, there seems little hope of progress on moving the qualifications forward in a sensible direction. The official line that Multiple Guess exams are rigorous, meaningful and true tests was maintained, albeit with less conviction from some parties. The over-riding driver of “internationalization” holds sway. This conveniently allows relevance and quality to be pushed aside in favour of cost and ease of implementation for APMG. The tired old canard of not having sufficient local language competence in various markets was trotted out. If there is market demand for exams in a particular language, what more compelling business case could companies have for investing in up-skilling their people in order for them to provide the local expertise to mark or even set exams?

In my view, localization has to mean more than simple translation. First, translation is never going to be 100% accurate in terms of the subtle shades of nuance and meaning that is inherent in some MCQ tests. Second, the constant mantra that ITIL is non-prescriptive advice that needs to be adopted and adapted seems to be at odds with exams are almost entirely focused on the words as defined in the book. Cultural and other factors mean that, in many cases, the answer as defined by the examiners may well be entirely wrong for the candidate’s organization. If a candidate has to write down an answer containing a rationale for a given approach, the examiner can exercise their acknowledged competence and judgment to award an appropriate mark.

It is one thing to have tests that are common across the globe when dealing with situations that are black and white – as is the case in many technical scenarios – but it is quite another when dealing with subjects that are far more subjective in terms of applicability and implementation. Equivalence does not have to equate to replication.

There were some other aspects relating to the qualifications that cropped up, either in sessions or in conversation with other attendees, and I’ll air some these in next week’s blog.

Elsewhere in the conference, I caught a provocative and challenging session from Jan van Bon, with whom I don’t always agree, but for whom I have respect as one who challenges the status quo and seeks to drive the industry forward. It set me to wondering if there could ever be a “club” for mavericks, since by definition they are always likely to be at odds with the rest!

Apparently it is not only acceptable to solicit votes for the blogging award, but almost de rigueur to do so. If my ramblings entertain, stimulate or even irritate you, feel free to cast your vote my way.


Aidan has made it through to the final stages of the 2010 Computer Weekly blog awards and now needs your support to push him over the finishing line. If you have enjoyed reading any of his blogs then please show your support by voting for him below before the 15th November 2010.


                                            Vote Here 


                   Category 2 - IT Consultant and Analyst    

                                             *      Aidan Lawes Blog     *

                                                 Any feedback and comments are always welcome!! 


13th November 2010

"The latter ones were most often let down by a lack of dynamism and panache in the presentation"

So typical of IT conferences these days. Do convention organizers even check the credentials of speaker? So many speakers are just so dry and outright boring. No charisma, no enthusiasm, no excitement.

When conventions are held at exciting places like theme parks, casinos, or resorts, it's little wonder that you find delegates at the baccarat table instead of the "How ITIL and ISO 20000 compare" lecture.

With such a dry topic as service management (and dare I say ITIL), speakers really need to step up and deliver something that will really grab the audience.

The IT industry public speaking need to get some serious exposure to decent public speaking guidelines...and then implement them.

Rod Weir


(ITIL® is a Registered Trade Mark of the Office of Government Commerce in the United Kingdom and other countries.) 

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