Comments on the June 2010 itSMFI Board Talk: we need shared services

Having finally had time to read the June itSMF International Board Talk [corrected URL], I must say it is good to see the International Executive Board (IEB) continue to pursue transparency and governance. Perhaps itSMF can climb out of the hole it finds itself in. It remains to be seen whether the results will match the rhetoric, but so far so good. There is one area where I take a differing view: the IEB's attitude to providing services to emerging chapters.

The Board Talk does a great job of laying out what the IEB is and is not for. I'm surprised to learn that this isn't clearly defined in the organisational constitution and related policy documents, but then they are not public so how would I know.

Some of the best bits are an emphasis on cost cutting within the itSMFI and a reduction in reliance on revenue from APMG and OGC, something that I highlighted recently as a possible conflict with the supposed independence of itSMF and itSMF's purported role as a user representative body on the IQB and other bodies. Thank-you itSMFI for addressing that.

Where I don't agree with the Board is in its approach to services provided to the Chapters. Alex Kist has done a whitepaper that lays out two views from chapters:

More established chapters, who helped found the IEB, expect it to provide a range of services aimed at coordinating activities that involve multiple chapters. They expect the IEB to manage the itSMF brand and enforce its use. The IEB should not, however, be involved in the running of National Chapters who are autonomous entities

Newer chapters expect the IEB to provide prescriptive direction to them about how to manage their chapter, run events and marketing, and chapter governance. The IEB is often expected to produce the services that are offered by the National Chapters

The IEB regards these two views as conflicting. I don't, and I'm not sure how many Chapters do either. I think the itSMFI should do both, and if they did I wouldn't have a problem with the itSMFI talking more funds from chapters in return for more value delivered.

1) There is a tremendous body of IP within the established chapters about running a chapter, which should be transfered to the newer chapters. So absolutely itSMFI should be providing prescriptive direction: templates for constitutional documents, for processes and procedures, for conference planning, for websites... Why on earth they have to reinvent all that on their own is beyond me.

2) Even more bizarre is that fifty-going-on-seventy chapters all separately manage memberships and subscriptions, build and operate a website, distribute international communications, produce a newsletter, run a conference.... The inefficiency and inconsistency is staggering. Of course itSMFI should be doing that centrally, to provide economies of scale, and consistency and quality of delivery. It is a no-brainer.

We understand that the USA, UK and a few other chapters get precious about not wanting international interference and not wanting to fund foreign chappies. There is no reason why a chapter could not opt out by having their own newsletter, managing their own conference etc but this is no reason NOT to have the service provided centrally for the majority of chapters who don't want to be doing this themselves, perhaps provided as a service at cost.

There is one area where the chapters just have to pull their heads in and comply: the fact that there is no central list of itSMF membership, no central mechanism for authentication, and most of all no central shared knowledgebase is downright embarrassing. If we are truly a forum, then having individual national islands of identity and IP is just daft. A few whitepapers is not enough: why can't I access the newsletters of other chapters, or the contents of the members-only areas of their websites? At long last we have an international newsletter on its way: that's a start towards IP sharing. A truly international website would be the end.

I had the hilarious suggestion by one correspondent that we don't need the new international newsletter because we have Service Talk (for the majority of you who don't know what that is, it is the itSMFUK's own newsletter, available to UK members). Even if I had access to Service Talk, which I don't, it is written for a UK audience. It is nice

to know that the USA aren't the only source of world-ends-at-the-sea parochialism. We need to be one itSMF worldwide, with our own local initiatives set within the context of international sharing and cooperation. Any country, no matter how big, that doesn't see it that way might find their access to the brand jeopardised by we minnows on the full International Board. It's a flat earth now, as certain large economies are painfully noticing.

So I hope the IEB will see that the differing views between the established chapters and the newbies between them paint the full picture of the world's expectations of the itSMFI. Pandering to the old boys club might be a mistake.

On a final note, David Cannon said nice things about our recent meeting at the itSMFnz National Conference in Auckland - we did get on well and we see eye to eye on a lot. How can a skeptic not like a presentation that compares IT to the Mafia putting dead horses in beds. As he says in the Board Talk his expectation is that I will continue to be annoying and I plan to fulfill that expectation where I believe my information to be true. The IEB are heading in good directions and I hope to play a small part to help keep it that way.




Re "chapters". The principle behind a chapter is that it represents a country. How matters are organised within each chapter is up to them. It would be presumptuous to assume that one size fits all & force an unworkable structure on any country. When I was CEO of UK & International and assisting many of the chapters to get started I used to explain to them the different models that existed, e.g. Oz was State-based with some activities driven from national HQ, others in co-ordination with each state; US seemed to be evolving into city-based; UK and NL were pretty national in focus for most things. Clearly for a country like Singapore or Hong Kong, a single national entity was logical.
However, within UK there were/are regional groups that hold free-to-members local meetings, as well as special interest groups with a subject-matter or market sector focus. Although a member notionally belongs to a specific region there is nothing to stop them from joining in any of the activities of another region. So there is enormous scope for each chapter to establish an internal structure, with or without financial implications, that is suitable for their specific needs - geography, maturity, culture, etc. If a national chapter isn't establishing a suitable structure then it is up to the members to ensure that one is. After all, itsmf is a members' organisation. Unfortunately, members are human beings and so you will get the usual petty jealousies and vested interest rearing their head - nothing's perfect and most chapters evolve.
Re support/reuse. Again when I was in post, I would share with new and emerging chapters as much collateral as I could - much of which came from the UK rather than International which had few resources. This was done in a spirit of philanthropy but was often negatively portrayed by petty-minded individuals as the UK trying to rule the world - all they were doing was sharing. I also made attempts to share resources like websites, etc, recognising that new chapters didn't have the resources to hit the ground running. Several new chapters did avail themselves but most chapters felt the need to do their own thing.
Those of us who have been involved with itsmf since the early days have often said that if we knew interest in ITSM, ITIL and itSMF was going to take off the way it did, then we would have done things differently. But hindsight is always perfect, while mostly we have to live in the world that exists.
No one pretends that the itsmfi model is perfect, but it is what it is and everyone has to try to make it work.

Of course, it is still an organisation run by the "soft squidgy resources", affectionately known as people, who all bring their individual and national quirks, characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, prejudices, aspirations, etc to the table. Many of the challenges that the current board are wrestling with are the same ones I spent the best part of 8 years on! Plus ca change!

Yup! that's so true....

Aidan's comments are absolutely correct. Both he and now I, have re-iterated this enough times. I am afraid that petty jealousies, paranoia and egoism really is a blocker to good progress being made in our world. Let's try to put egos back in the box where they belong.

Whether or not we have a single model for structuing the services itSMF's membership so desparately want, or a particular chapter, is immaterial, as long as they get the services we ought to provide and its done to protect the organisation and the members in law, then that's fine. Even better if we can just recognise and accept that no "one size fits all" soulution is required, applicable or available!

We do though, need those soft squidgy things called people to be able to adapt and flex to meet ever changing demands placed upon the movement and on ITSMs. ITIL encourages us to adopt, adapt and if do-able, improve on what's gone on before - so lets simply follow that mantra. Those in Governance or in single line processing will probably not get this!

Someone once said to me that if you put 10 ITSMs in a room and ask them a question, you'll get 15 different answers, lots of hot air, plenty of self righteousness, tons of aggression (dressed up as assertion) and very little action - if any! That's how the outside world sees it and us. One wonders, if this is the view then, whether or not ITSM really can be a force for the future in business terms.

We need to work on our game and collectively as Chapters if we are to get anything tangible done.


Why do itSMF UK bosses get a sudden injection of massive common sense when they leave? Is it just because they no longer have to toe a party line? Seriously I do appreciate everything Keith and Aidan have done to move itSMF on to a different level of professionalism.

I want, if I may, to tie this in to the thread about Malcolm's new book, because I think Rob touched on something there that is quite important. There is a formal and commercial, and possibly inherently short term, leadership in the ITIL world that operates in parallel to the ITIL Thought Leadership world where many of us feel more comfortable.

It is very easy to blame a nameless "them" or "Castle ITIL" for all the woes of the world, but we all bear a responsibility.

James Finister

A nice one James and thanks

A nice one James and thanks for your comments. Of course, there has always been common sense from the staff employed by the various itSMF organisations and for sure in my own mind. this is absolutely nothing new! :-)

If the business warrants good decisions or even better, decent action then it will get it provided of course that the ITSMs who are on our various Boards and who really control what we try to do, think at a higher business level and much better strategically. If they can and do, then i'm sure things will improve over time.

As for toeing the line - I don't think neither Aidan nor I could ever be accused of doing this. I have never trancended the law or any financial regulations if that's what you mean, and nor have I any interest in doing so, which might imply us toeing the line but rest assured certainly from my perspective at least, it was all about running the business properly as a business and not as had been in the past, like a Parish Council.

You will know that we have had some difficulty in itSMF, and in particular in itSMFI, which up until Sharon Taylor took on the Chairmanship, was at one stage abusing both the very generous and mostly free support given to it by UK Chapter, whilst at the same time attempting a "command and control" approach with them and the other Chapters - those who led on this, know who they are! Why some individuals went down this path, God only knows but it wasted a lot of time, effort and importantly well earnt money! Thankfully, we (Sharon's IEB and UK Chapter) managed to stop this ridiculous egocentric behaviour and attitude and we did this by behaving professionally and at a business level and reminding people that we were all ultimately accountable to the members.

I wish the movement well for the future and I truly hope that it manages to keep the itSMF in whatever guise it takes from here on in, at a business level.

One thing that Skep says in the discussion trail, does need correcting though. The full Board of itSMFI does comprise representatives from each and every recognised Chapter (all 50 or so of them). They appoint the IEB members who are charged with running the day-to-day operation of the company (the IEB) in which all of the Chapters interests are equally vested but rest assured, the Chapters have overall and ultimate control.

Yup! We all bear a responsibility... Even Skep!

Keep in contact - i'm on LinkedIn somewhere if anyone wants to get hold of me.


Main problem remains: City

Main problem remains: City chapters are 100% controlled by national chapters. They generate revenue, but they do not see any return.

itSMF chapters should work like PMI Chapters : City-based instead of country-based.

Great proposition!

In Spain we don't even have City Chapters. We have regional groups that are called, for example "Catalonian Committee"... so we are a committee that works for a region.

ISACA has city based chapters (I belong to the Barcelona Chapter, for example), but we are forced to belong to the nearest chapter... we don't have freedom to choose which chapter to belong. (For example, I would love to belong to the Valencia or Madrid chapter, but I'm forced to be at the Barcelona chapter).

... How could we promote the idea of City chapters in itSMF?

Antonio Valle
G2, Gobierno y Gestión de TI

What country

What country are you referring to? I doubt it works like that in many of the 50+ chapters.

There can be one and only

There can be one and only one itSMF chapter per country.

For the rest of the cities of each country, there can be local interest groups, local committees, etc. They all talk to the national chapter, who talks to itSMFI.

It is different from PMI chapters, where you can have as many as you want per country, and they all talk directly to PMI.

The 11th commandment

"There can be one and only one". Who are you? Moses? Where's the tablet of stone? There can be whatever the membership decides there can be. If we had a constitution we could modify it. There are rumours of secret rules of incorporation somewhere. At any rate the Board is made up of the elected representatives of each Chapter. Your grasp of the democratic process and the workings of incorporated bodies could be better.

"There can be whatever the

"There can be whatever the membership decides there can be."

That's not true. itSMFI only recognizes one chapter per country. There is no way one can have two official chapters in a single country.

Or do you know of an exception to that rule?

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