Why would you want to attend a conference that takes you away from your work and costs several hundred or thousand dollars?
That is a very good and important question. You may only have the opportunity to attend either a training course or a conference in a year and a training course looks so much better on your CV, doesn't it? Or does it?
Training, while important to your current employer, addresses an immediate need. Your employer has identified a need for you to have a particular skill set, or you have convinced them during your annual review process, and so it is signed off. "Go and find the training course you need" (before the training budget is slashed).
Conferences probably come from the same budget as your training, so it is fighting for the same opportunity. However conferences are often not going to address an immediate need. They address a long-term desire. Attending a conference will allow you to meet, talk to and listen to other people in similar roles as you, but in different organisations. You will learn about the mistakes they have experienced, the improvements they have made and the ideas that this will spark will enable you to often identify improvements in your current workplace. It will also enable you to network with other people and talk to those people throughout the year. I've never met somebody at a conference who has said that they are happy to talk about things when everyone is back at work, and not meant it. If they are at the conference, they generally enjoy their work and want to grow and help others to grow. So when you get that sticky piece of work and are not sure who to talk to, call upon your network. Someone will have been there before or will be happy to think and talk it through with you.
Conferences are also where vendors are. These are not the terrible people that your mother warned you of, but the people who have products that will probably help you in your job and help keep the cost of your conference down to a level that means you are more likely to be able to get it signed-off. By talking to these people, you will learn about different ways of doing your job, different products to ease the way you do your job or you may even be able to talk to a subject matter expert in the product you currently use to understand what you could do differently, or why you should push to get the latest version in your organisation.
Conference attendance also, in my view, looks better on a CV. It demonstrates maybe not enthusiasm, but enjoyment of your role or skills, and a desire to improve. That is more important in the long-term than a 3 - 5 day course, unless you need to plug an immediate gap.
So get along to the local conference of your choice. There may only be one a year in your country, or there may be several and you have to pick and choose. Many conference organising teams will also be happy to help you justify your attendance if you ask.
I find that the itSMFnz annual conference, and the branch meetings, are a valuable asset for all of the reasons above, so maybe I'll see you at one of those?
As a follow up to my Beginner’s guide to meeting etiquette blog, Stuart Rance asked for thoughts on online / phone meetings.
We don't want meetings like this, do we?
So, where to start? Well, again in no particular order :
Let me know what else should be part of meeting etiquette. Let's change this meeting filled world!
Ah! Meetings. Whether we love them or hate them, we all have to attend them. So why do so many people get it so wrong?
A tweet from Kirstie Magowan, which in turn referenced an article written a year ago by Greg Savage called No, you are not ‘running late’, you are rude and selfish, got me thinking about how few people understand or consider meeting etiquette. Having to then cancel a meeting with somebody today, I thought I would share my thoughts with the hope of gathering your feedback and compiling a definitive set of meeting etiquette rules.
In no particular order:
What have I missed out? What should be included? Let me know your thoughts and let’s see if we can change the world, bit by bit.
I'm currently putting myself through training on ISO20000 which is the international standard for IT Service Management and am learning about the audit requirements. Reading through the types of audit and the steps that should be undertaken reminded me of something an old boss (old as in previous, not ancient) taught me when we were about to be audited for ISO9000 re-certification. It stuck in my head and so I thought I would share it with you in the hope that it helps you with your next audit.
Why do we get audited?
I pay a membership fee to a certain international hotel group, so that I get preferential rates, upgrades, etc. You know the deal. I'm sure that if you travel a fair bit for business, then you are a member of something similar. When you join or renew, they provide you with a free night in any hotel. Great deal. They also provide you with points, which you can redeem as vouchers to pay for accommodation.
Now, I have tried to book two rooms, for two nights, so that we can be tourists in a lovely part of this great country, en famille. I contacted the hotel I wanted to stay at and they were more than helpful. They could provide us with the exact rooms I wanted, at a good rate. Unfortunately, the hotel are unable to provide the booking for the freebie over the phone. I have to do that on line. This is where it falls apart. To reclaim the vouchers, I have to decide if I want to reclaim them in USD or EUR. I'm in New Zealand, so am not interested in these currencies. I considered it would be easier to contact the freephone number and book it all over the phone, because I wanted to make sure I knew how many vouchers I would need, and how much it would cover. The helpful young lady overseas advised that I couldn't use both on the same booking but changed her mind after I requested to speak to a manager. Trying to complete the booking got very complicated due to language differences, so I will try again tomorrow.
Now I am not here to tell you that any particular French hotel group is wrong or right in the way that they operate, but this seems like a prime example of how companies can get customer service wrong.
If you are going to offer special deals and freebies to paying customers, then it should be easy for them to reclaim them. I spent 20 minutes talking to people before I lost the will to continue. I shall try again tomorrow. However why should I need to go through this? Why not offer the customer a simple way for them to reclaim the offers? Why not allow the front desk the ability to take a booking and the computer system handle the promotional codes.
The trouble is, I have seen this type of thing on too many Service Desks as well. You want a new piece of software? You go to the Service Desk and ask them. I have seen Service Desks where they use tools to provide a Request Catalogue, and work flow the request to all parties concerned. This makes life easier for the customer / user. However I have seen situations where the customer / user is passed from pillar to post and left bemused and frustrated.
How do we get this right? This will sound easier than it is. Bear with me.
Firstly, it is about understanding what your customer (I use the term for ease, instead of customer / user - I know it annoys some skeptics, and I wouldn't want to do that). If you know what they want, you can try to provide them with a simple or easy way to achieve that.
Next, understand what you can or cannot deliver. What are the services that you provide? What do you rely of others to provide? Where are the lines of delineation? Do you need OLAs (Operational Level Agreements)? I would recommend against them, as it creates a non-team spirited approach.
Make sure you have a simple way of passing information between dealing groups. Once you understand how you will do it, by all means use a tool if it is justified. Please don't jump at the first big-named tool you see because you have read good things about it. Work out whether it will deliver what YOU want and need. There are many very good ones out there that cost very little.
Once you have this worked out, understand how you can measure whether what you deliver is actually delivering what the customer wants. And the cycle continues.
So why does it seem so hard in areas and industries whom we are supposed to look up to?
Is it me?
Not so long ago I came home to a notice from daughter number 2's school. The school was planning a beach trip to participate in an "Education Outside The Classroom" programme. We are, of course, expected to pay for this, on top of the "voluntary donation" that we are expected to pay each year. That isn't my issue. What I am concerned with, is the fact that one sentence says: " Chidlren will be carry their own packed morning tea...." Chidlren??? They "will be carry " will they?
So this is by the people who are paid to educate our children? What steps are put in place to perform quality checks on the work that the educators perform? By the look of this note, and some of the notices / posters around the place, none.
So, Is it me? (I fully expect that I have misspelled words or even made grammatical errors, so no chocolate fish for spotting them)
However, what quality checks do we put in place within our workplace? Do we check that the communications we send out are accurate and timely? Do we check the quality of the builds we do when handing over a new PC to a customer, or a new server? How many changes fail due to errors - do you know or measure it?
There are many quality checks that we ought to be making on a daily basis, but don't. The time has come to start to improve in this area.
Checklists are essential, yet so often overlooked, because we are so busy. +Rob England has made a good start with his Basic Service Management site which I recommend, but I would recommend you to think, write and review your own as well, to make sure that you check your own and your team's work.
Remember, it's all about perception.
Communication. Essential when keeping customers updated and informed and also for gathering feedback. It's a two-way thing.
During a normal day's work, keeping that communication flow going is relatively simple. Talking to people, whether formally or over a coffee, is what we do. Giving information is part of life and work too. No biggy.
However the time that you really have to focus on it because it is easy to forget, is when you are busy. If all around you is melting, and you feel that everyone and everything is on-top of you, communicating properly can slip off the desk so easily.
How do you get round this?
The simplest method to ensure that you do what you are supposed to do, and when, is to have a checklist on your desk, or stuck to your wall, but in sight at all times. Then, when the world turns to custard, you know what you are supposed to be doing.
It can be so easy as a Service Desk co-ordinator to get side tracked and forget to call back a customer when you said you would. You don't always need technology to help with this - write a sticky note and put it where you will see it. This may be your screen, telephone handset or your coffee cup. If it's important, leave yourself a few. You might feel daft, but you won't be letting down your customer. If you are an SDM / BRM / Major Incident Manager / Somebody who is responsible for updating stakeholders during major incidents, make sure you have a checklist right in front of your eyes at all times, so that you know who you need to update and how often. They will thank you for updates saying "It's still being worked on, further updates will be provided in 30 minutes" but get really annoyed if nothing comes out, even if you have nothing.
So just have a clear, clean sheet of paper stuck to your desk, or somewhere you can always see it and use it. It might just make your work life easier.