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DevOps: Turbo-Charged by Agile ITSM

Daniel-BrestonWelcome to our third blog looking at Agile service management, by ITSM Zone mentor Daniel Breston.  Read an introduction to Agile here and views from our expert panel here.

DevOps is a collaborative movement that enables organisations to use technology (people, processes and the fun stuff) in a better, faster, safer manner from idea to realisation.  Helen Beal, Director of DevOps at Ranger4, calls DevOps a polygamous marriage between Agile, Lean and IT Service Management (ITSM). Quite a mix! Let’s review this further and see how this marriage can work for you.


Being agile according to MacMillan is the ability to “move quickly and easily; able to think quickly, solve problems, and have new ideas.”  So when applied to software development as a formal term in 2001, the belief was that if we:

  • Improved the requirements process
  • Shortened the time of showing what we had accomplished thus far to affirm we were on the right track
  • Got more people involved in checking us against agreed metrics that mattered
  • Used automation to perfect our processes
  • Reduced the need for documentation but still maintained governance

then all of IT and the organization would benefit.  Unfortunately, we left what should have happened the PMO, Operations, suppliers and even the business customer out of the loop so while we did indeed get more agile, what we produced was not the quality or true need of our stakeholders.

IT Service Management (ITSM)

This movement comes in various flavours like ITIL® or COBIT® and has regrettably achieved a reputation of being onerous, obstructive and unwilling to change or at least to change quickly to introduce something technical.  Partly due to over-created processes and partly due to tools that forced the use of these processes, the movement that really does look from strategy to delivery wrapped in a cycle of improvement has been given a bad rap and is valiantly beginning to fight back.


Manufacturing took many concepts from leadership practices and how to remove constraints along the flow of work using a variety of short feedback loops.  Lean adopted these practices and then adapted them to show how you can continuously improve what you do by allowing the people that do the work to be more in control of what happens and by valuing that contribution. Lean is now being applied in all sorts of industries and IT is a major beneficiary.

The Marriage

So what happens if you blend Agile with ITSM? Could you make a process like provisioning an environment be a sensible mix of change, develop, test, release (approved it is ready) and deploy when needed by request?  What would happen to the processes you now have? Consider that many cutting edge companies have to do this daily.  I agree that not everyone does but what IF you thought you could?  How would that impact what you and how you work or the tools you use?

Now to this mix of Agile ITSM let’s add lean. Lean is based on the pillars of continuous improvement, customer focus and employee respect.  Notice I have not mentioned waste removal.  If you are going to do things better, faster, safer then you have to create a way to improve the how and also mechanism to provide employees the chance to perform these actions with the right help like automation or leadership.

AgileITSM is that marriage of philosophies that creates an atmosphere of:

  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Metrics that Matter
  • Leaders and Employees and Supplier fully engaged
  • Satisfied customers and stakeholders
  • Less cost and wasteful activities
  • FUN!

Customers have seen provisioning processes go from 11 weeks to 20 minutes; right first time from the Service Desk after one month; business process improvement based on technology and reduced support costs of millions of pounds within a year with no loss of jobs.

What does your marriage of movements looks like? Let us know how we can help you achieve better, faster, safer from idea to realisation. Take a course to confirm that all in your organisation have the basics and language to improve your agility in managing services.

By Daniel Breston, Chair of itSMF UK’s London and South East Regional Group, Chief of DevOps Transformation at Ranger4 Limited and one of our Mentors – thanks Daniel!


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