itSMF Norway Conference 2016: Different as Always

Firstly, my personal thanks to Freshservice for sponsoring my trip to participate in this year’s itSMF Norway conference. It’s a conference I have been to several times before and is always a good experience. One of the things I like most about it is that it’s always the same and yet always so different each time.

Every year the good things remain – nice hotel (and back to the old one this time after a flirtation with a new place in 2015), well organized, plenty of good food and drinks, and lots of good company – providing both intellectually stimulating discussions and also good laughs and relaxation. Not sure which category I should put a discussion on the relevance of partial differential equations to service management scale changes at 2 a.m. before – but thank you Charles Betz for that new experience.

As well as repeating previous success formulae, and since a key objective is always to reflect current thinking and future trends, the topics covered change and development each year to reflect the changing ITSM world we live in – and to reflect the organising committee’s expectation of what that world might be like in the future.


Also, for 2016, the event was a month later in the year – and you can see from the pictures what a difference a month can make to how Norway looks. Both pictures were taken from my bedroom window in the same conference hotel on different years! I felt there was a change of just about the same magnitude in the content too.

The ITSM landscape has changed a lot in the last few years – and that was well reflected. Instead of a wide range of talks on various ITIL processes and how to implement or perfect them, the range of topics has widened considerably. There was more mention of DevOps than ITIL this year – a sure sign that we are thinking outside the old Operations box and finally getting that elusive handle on the bigger picture of service concerns – not talking what or how or when – but talking about what, how AND when. Maybe there is hope for the future?

Of course, even itSMF Norway isn’t perfect and if I were a picky person I might mention a couple of things. One is the perpetual challenge that classy conferences in small countries will always have – is this conference aimed at Norwegians with some guest international speakers or is it, at least to some extent, an international conference. Of course they want it to be both, but sometimes you can see the challenges. Keeping that new DevOps focus, it shows how harder it is to be certain about ‘why’ in real life than it sounds in the training courses. One result was a lot of streams and some agonising over which talks to hear and which to be missed.

For me, of course, my choice of talks was limited to those in English, but even so I had some hard calls to make, I regret I had to miss Dave van Herpen, Barclay Rae, Simone Moore, Tobias Nyberg and others that I know would have been good talks. But the ones I did see were all very worthwhile and informative. From a professional perspective I really appreciated Christian Nissen and Mark Smalley explaining Cynefin framework– something I will make an effort to learn more about, and I discovered a really cool new way to learn about actually doing problem management through a hands-on game from Sim4people – worth checking out!

There is only one way to end this look back though. Almost certainly the highlight for many came from a brave decision by the organisers. The event opened with a keynote about a topic that really matters – one a long way from mainstream ITSM. Dr Geeta Sekhon from the UN spoke about the issue of human trafficking. This, again, showed how the itSMF Norway organisers are consistent in their ability to be different. They quite rightly used the occasion to make us see our IT concerns in a bigger perspective – worries about IT incidents and availability were put firmly in their place after the heartbreaking examples of human tragedy that Geeta presented  – kudos, thanks and admiration to Geeta and the organisers for their perception and perspective.