James West was a bit concerned about the reluctance that hung over the HITS show. Then he realised that this feeling was quite understandable given what is about to happen in the market.
There was something not quite right at the recent HITS (Helpdesk and IT Support) Show. The vendors were there, the turnout strong and the pre-requisite early summer sunshine had too many people thinking about the Olympia exits. All the elements were in place for a bumper event, yet the visitors seemed a little reluctant to be drawn into conversations, the vendors less willing to make lots of noise about their products. This all seemed very strange. After all, this HITS was supposed to raise the curtain on the new world of IT services, the talk of which has dominated the market since last year’s show.
So does the muted nature of HITS prove that predictions of a new dynamic and integrated IT support function were not only outlandish, but just plain wrong? On the contrary, it is likely that the stuttering nature of this year’s event indicates that a major change is already taking place and all parties involved are feeling disorientated by the decisions that they will soon have to make. Buyers are beginning to understand the complexities of an expanded IT service function and their points of reference are being shattered. It used to be that when you were attending a trade show, you went with the goal of finding new ways to quickly and efficiently deal with incidents. No chance of such a simple approach now that IT is being pulled closer to the centre of the business, and the role of each professional is being rigorously tested. IT support may become part of a wider operational support desk, or it may become an ultra specialist customer service-style desk with the majority of process work being handled through self-service. IT support professionals may find themselves becoming consultants to help the business align IT objectives, or they may have to work more closely with the users to help develop new services. These are just a couple of examples of the changing face of IT services and there are many more possibilities, many of which have not been thought about yet.
Given this turmoil, it is no wonder that IT staff are feeling a bit punch drunk and uncertain of the future now. Some will pioneer these changes, some will wait to see what the right direction to take is, but there is no denying that the market is changing and the cosy environment of the HITS show will be forever transformed.
As difficult as it is for IT professionals to make firm buying commitments, the quandary of the vendors also contributed to the unease at HITS. The vendors all know that the pool of potential IT support customers is fairly limited, and they also recognise the potential for IT service technology and process in a wider business context. Just like the practitioners, with no clear roadmap to say exactly what functions are most suited and what products customers will require, the vendors are creeping out of their comfort zone and are desperate not to take the wrong path.
HITS 2005 will in future be seen to represent a key marker in the evolution of IT services because it represents the time when, at long last, the market has been given no choice but to climb out of its slumber and into a programme of change. It is clear that IT services possess huge potential to transform business performance but apart from a few brave souls, the participants have been content to maintain the status quo. Not only has this attitude stifled innovation, it has soured the reputation of IT services to such an extent that instead of other business functions seeking the expertise, IT services has a major educational job on its hands to convince other parties what it can do for them.
It is impossible to make the following statement without sounding bias, but it was plain to see for anyone who attended HITS that Sunrise had the busiest stand not located next to the main entrance. Kudos to the savvy marketing team for recognising the need for people to rest at these events and snagging the adjacent seating area. Although this undoubtedly brought more people into the vicinity, there is no denying that the appeal of an advanced product such as Sostenuto is strong today. As outlined earlier, the challenges IT professionals face today are far different to those encountered as recently as five years ago, yet so many of the products at HITS were based on tired architectures and ideas. Sunrise is clearly the biggest benefactor of the increased interest in flexible, web-based products at the show, but there were a number of smaller players at the event who have entered the market in the last few years with interesting products. This injection of new blood is welcome, because new ideas and technology will further shake up the cliquey feeling which has hampered IT services for many years. So let’s hope we have a few more HITS shows that are not quite as right as this one.