Colliding the Worlds of DevOps, ITIL® and Agile

Change is the order of the day, and now more than ever, the pace of business and technology change is accelerating. Businesses and customers are looking to IT service providers to be more responsive and deliver more frequent service changes with higher quality, which results in services that deliver more value to the business. ITIL is the de facto global framework for delivering and managing technology as a service to the business. Agile is a methodology for speeding the development and deployment of applications (using techniques and processes such as Scrum). DevOps is a philosophy or way of working that has the potential to realize greater benefits and faster delivery through such agile methods.

The Overlap

DevOps overlaps across all of the ITIL service lifecycle phases. Application development (Agile) intersects ITIL service design through service transition. Application management runs through all of the ITIL lifecycle. While service operation initiates at service design through continual service improvement.

 

DevOps

DevOps is a “value add” approach to Agile development emphasizing:

  • The continuous involvement and engagement of operations teams with internal development teams throughout the development lifecycle
  • The engagement of operations teams as early as possible during the formulation of the vision and charter for the service solution
  • Operations teams’ input to the technical and application requirements for the service and advice on the feasibility of the proposed release schedule
  • Improved deployment frequency thereby enabling faster time to market of new or improved application functionality changes
  • Lower failure rate of new releases, more frequent fix updates and faster recovery time in the event of a change failure
  • The application of service automation to accelerate common “process models” such as a standard change or routine release update

ITIL

These notions of collaboration, optimized communication and business responsiveness are not foreign to ITIL. In fact, the ITIL framework stresses the need for early involvement of technical management and application management functional teams in the phases of service strategy, service design and service transition. ITIL is very clear that service operation functions—technical infrastructure teams in particular—should provide early advisement to the design and development team on the supportability and fitness of the application to the live environment. They should also provide input on the technical architectures for the “service solution,” including service architecture, application architecture, network architecture, information architecture, database architecture and so forth.

The Power of Joining Forces

Application management staff (being responsible for the entire lifecycle of all applications—not just those developed in house) should be engaged very early in the life of a service. In fact, they should be the ones to work with the business, the person assigned as the business relationship manager (BRM) and the service owner to identify, define and document the complete “service solution” requirements and ensure these are captured in the service charter for the new or changed service being considered.

According to ITIL, application management teams should work closely with development groups who stay focused during service design and service transition on rapid development and deployment of applications that are a part of the total service solution. While agile development focuses on the speedy development of activities across service design and service transition, application management manages the app across the entire service lifecycle from strategy through design and transition (working with development) and on into operation and continual improvement. This approach ensures that the service solution (which contains the app) not only launches well but continues to perform during live operations to meet the needs of business customers and users.

Like DevOps, ITIL is also very keen on the use of “models” and the application of service automation to increase efficiency, speed execution and lower costs. What ITIL emphasizes, however, is that to be successful, an IT service provider must first be strategy- and process-driven before it can realize the maximum benefits of automation. The standard change or release “model” must first be documented and analyzed, the “gaps” must be taken out, and the process and interfaces must be streamlined and automated. Only then will maximum benefits be achieved.

There is no question that ITIL is the core of industry best-practices for IT. But IT service providers must benefit from and incorporate the best complementary practices as well—including Agile and DevOps—that have shown to improve alignment with the business and customer, raise the quality and performance of IT services, improve the throughput of delivery, and lower overall IT costs.

To continue reading on this topic, see my white paper, The Intersection of DevOps and ITIL®.

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