Thought Leader Spotlight Series: Ollie O'Donoghue

Jenny Hernandez

blog graphic Ollie O Donoghue-1.png

This entry is written as part of the "Thought Leader Spotlight" blog series, which aims to highlight some of the most influential and well-respected minds in the IT industry.

I first found Ollie through the Twitter universe, and I was very intrigued with his knowledge of IT Service Management and his passion for ITSM, cloud, and automation. I wanted to learn more about his work, and have him answers questions on the industry’s most popular topics.

But first - let’s learn more about Ollie.

Ollie O’Donoghue is the Senior Research Analyst for HfS Research, with over 5 years of experience in the IT industry as a research analyst and practitioner. Before becoming an analyst, Ollie worked as an IT professional in a large public sector organization. It was during this time that Ollie’s passion for the industry developed into thought leadership.

During Ollie’s time at HfS, he came to understand the importance have utilizing a broad knowledge of business models, including service management, in regards to his research. When asked about HfS, he stated, “What’s so cool about HfS is the candid and unflinching approach analysts take to understanding real business challenges and the services and solutions that will help companies survive in the modern economy.”

The following answers during this interview were Ollie's opinions of his own:

How has HfS Research help shape your personal brand?

For me, HFS has really broadened my reseaerch horizons, for example, I now have the opportunity to sit with an automation expert and see the intricacies of artificial intelligence (AI) and really understand how these technologies are impacting companies across the globe. Or spend time with analysts that understand how approaches like Design Thinking will revolutionize the way we build and use technology. What’s key for me is taking all of this amazing knowledge on board so I can apply the same thinking in my coverage area – IT Services. A huge part of this is about engaging with companies and really getting to grips with their pain points, challenges and ambitions, and working with them to make sure they follow the path that’s right for them.

How did you first react when someone gave you the title of ‘thought leader’?

It’s a huge compliment and I am always grateful for the kind words, but it still feels odd to me because there are usually so many other people involved. For example, I now have the pleasure of working alongside HfS’s Chief Data Officer, Jamie Snowdon. Now if you could describe anyone as having their finger on the pulse of the industry, it’s Jamie. He has so much data at his fingertips that he can really get to grips with what’s going on out there and deliver some tremendous insight to our clients. So obviously I try to learn as much as I can from him and, when he’s not looking, steal some of his data to support my writing.

The point is that anything like this is really the result of a huge line of conversations and collaborations that mean I’m never singularly a “thought leader”. That’s not to say I’m not grateful for the title and regularly brag about it to friends and family.

You recently published the blog, “Technology: Terminator or Salvation?” A blog discussing the impact technology has on employment. Do you believe the use of automation and virtual agents now will potentially cause an issue for employees in the future? 

Yes, this blog’s a bit of a rant after a recent event I attended. My main point in the piece is that we often spend too much time focusing on the negatives technology might bring, instead of building a more balanced view.

Of course there’s going to be some disruption, and there have been some great pieces produced by HfS that give us an idea of the scale that we might see. But I just don’t buy into the idea that it’s all doom and gloom. Realistically I think the likelihood of automation replacing all of the tasks the modern service desk professional completes is really slim. Instead, we’ll see technology supplementing and augmenting work, either by reducing human involvement in rules-based and formulaic activities, or by supporting the use of data analytics to shift reactive support models to a more proactive footing.

Perhaps I’m a little more on the optimistic side than most – I look forward to these technologies moving in and taking over some of the work that I don’t particularly enjoy doing. But I think it’s also important that we don’t ignore the need to change the way we work in a more general sense. The new workforce coming around the corner have far different expectations of work, and have different experiences with technology. So, while today we talk about technology taking over jobs, tomorrow the challenge might be that we’re not automating enough to make certain tasks and jobs appealing enough to bring on the next generation of workers.

You were featured as one of 20 of the best ITSM thought leaders according to the SunView Software blog. Is there anything from your highlighted work that you’d like people to know more about?

You can see a lot of my work on the HfS website, which follows an innovative Freemium model, so you can get your hands on a lot of stuff for free. I spend a lot of my time covering the IT Services space and I am working on building my service management experience into our coverage. But I’m an insatiably curious chap, so you can find me researching and writing about anything from automation capabilities for the modern enterprise to the increasingly challenging expectations driven by the digital economy. A piece I’m currently working on seeks to bring these factors together as a thought experiment to see what the future service professional looks like, by understanding where new technologies and digital approaches will impact the role. It’s a big piece of work, but it’s a great way to tie in what I’ve learnt at HfS with my old days as a service professional.

Just from viewing your Twitter account, it is quite apparent that you thoroughly enjoy talking about cloud and automation. What excites you about discussing these topics and how does this impact the IT Service Management community?

Automation and cloud both fit in neatly with my IT Services coverage area, and they also happen to be essential to the modern digital business - so it’s very difficult to get me to shut up about them. If we look at that from an ITSM point, the evolution of both cloud and automation have transformed service management toolsets, and are likely to continue doing so in the future.

Where they differ is that cloud-based and software-as-a-service ITSM tools are now very common, despite some initial concern from enterprises many years ago. Automation still has to win over hearts and minds to some extent, particularly as capabilities develop and its scope broadens. To give you an example of what I mean, I’ve presented at events about a broad range of topics, but I’m almost always asked to comment on what automation means for service desk jobs. I’m always asked, “how safe is my job?” and “what skills do I need for the future?”

Of course, there’s a much larger conversation to be had when answering those questions, but it’s clear that people are concerned about automation and its impact on what they do. I think a big part of our job as analysts is to help inform the industries we cover – so you tend to find me tweeting a lot about automation at the moment as I try to put some context around how these technologies will impact the IT Services space.

50 Questions for Building ITSM Requirements

Which chat topic on Twitter has shown to be the most resonant for your IT staff listeners?

We are in a data driven world now, and I tend to bring in data to back up any of my opinions. I think people have become more discerning about the content they consume and in the analyst business that means you need to bring data to the party. I tend to see a microcosm of this on twitter, my most popular tweets always tend to have a statistic or a graph in them somewhere.

HfS is great at bringing data into the conversation, and they have some great data tools in the pipeline that could be real game-changers for the analyst industry.

HfS Research is hosting The Future of Operations Summit Event coming up in September at Chicago and the Road to OneOffice event in December at London UK, are there any important topics you are covering while at the event? Are there any future events that you will be speaking at?

I try to get along to as many events as I can, they’re great places to meet business leaders and thought leaders and understand some of the key trends at work out there. The trouble is, I’m surrounded by some very talented speakers and presenters at HfS, so I tend to find myself more often in the audience than on the stage at the moment.

HfS events have a tremendous reputation amongst our clients and, certainly in my opinion, manage to get a great balance from both analysts and business leaders. Of course, it would be fair to say I’m a little biased, so you may have to come along to one and see for yourself!

What legacy would you want people in the IT Service Management industry to remember you for?

It’s difficult to say what my legacy would be, and I’m certainly hoping I have a few more years to build one up! My hope is that I’m known in the industry for bringing data into conversations that can otherwise be hyped up beyond recognition. I’ve done this a few times, particularly around automation in the ITSM space at a time when most of the commentary focused on a dystopian service management future, when the reality is far from it.

Unfortunately though, I suspect people are more likely to remember me for some truly dreadful jokes in presentations!

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