Introducing Agile Service Management

April 22, 2016

How do Agile principles relate to IT service management?  And what does it mean for today's IT organisation?

As more and more IT service management (ITSM) methods and frameworks become available, it is easy to concentrate on just one of them - to the point of denying the value of others. This approach can actually cost time and energy, as competition between frameworks is discussed and options are explored. That time could be much better spent on combining and integrating multiple frameworks to achieve the best results at your organisation.

The more frameworks you know, the better! Agile has proven to be one of the most easily integrated frameworks, working equally well with the ITSM giant ITIL and fairly new methodologies like DevOps.

What is Agile?

The foundations of the Agile methodology can be traced as far back as the mid-80’s, but it really took shape in 2001, when 17 software developers released the Agile Manifesto.

Their aims were to:

  • Concentrate on what is practical and facilitates project delivery
  • Acknowledge the participants and dynamics of  development
  • Avoid focusing on planning and documentation
  • Focus on individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Value working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Value customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Value responding to change over following a plan

For some, Agile became ‘the rebel’, an alternative to traditional project management or service management which relies on a set of management and delivery frameworks.

Agile and ITIL: Can David Work with Goliath?

Being so revolutionary, can Agile work with well-established best practices such as ITIL? The answer is yes. In fact, if we use ITIL best practices to shape our services and the Agile approach to deliver them, this could provide the best possible result:

‘At a very high level, Agile ITSM makes complete sense. I have been recommending that people use Agile with their ITSM programmes for many years now, because it such an obvious match’, states Stuart Rance, owner of Optimal Service Management Ltd, and member of ITSM Zone's team of mentors.

The ‘IT alliance’ of Agile and ITIL is also supported by Peter Measey, Director and Co-Founder of RADTAC:

‘ITIL is largely designed to be inspected and adapted. So we can implement Agile thinking (the values and principles) at the heart of how we deliver and manage delivery within the organisation, and then use ITIL as a knowledge cube. (…) Combining Agile and ITIL creates a world class, service delivery capability that has the excellence and robustness of ITIL with the delivery and governance capability to deliver services within short/appropriate lead times.’

Maybe the best summary of how well Agile and ITIL work together is given by Unboxed Consulting’s CEO Richard Stobart: ‘Agile is the catalyst for change, and ITIL helps the organisation deal with it.’

ITSM Dream Team: Agile and DevOps

While Agile does place emphasis on individuals and interactions, its incremental development practices strongly encourage efficiency and speed of delivery, achieved through a working routine that makes it all operational.

Taking this into account, Agile may have found its perfect companion in DevOps. DevOps relies on creating sound working communication between the Dev and Ops teams.  This approach can evolve into an Agile-like cross-functional, autonomous team.

Preventing a rift between the two main teams participating in every IT project’s delivery is DevOps’s primary goal. This can only complement Agile’s results-focused project management approach, based on the creation of perfect routines counting on individuals and interactions and remaining efficient even in an ever-changing environment.

In short, Agile’s ‘agility’ makes the methodology a great addition to any large-scale framework or project-specific approach.

The Benefits of Agile Service Management

Applying Agile thinking to IT service management can deliver real benefits, quickly.  Many organisations achieve sub-optimal results from the ITSM programs because they change too much, too fast, implementing many processes and too much change all at once.

Agile service management takes an more incremental and iterative approach, designing processes in sprints so feedback is received quickly.

Learn more about Agile service management here.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Introducing Agile Service Management”

  1. But - agile falls flat without recognition of a few key things - the role of the product owner (performing both inbound from customer and outbound to customer responsibilities), an emphasis on customer satisfaction, cultutal change tactics, and the involvement of service support. I've found ITIL woefully lacking in all these areas, and agile (including DevOps) far too infrastructure centric. So where is the missing glue to be found?

  2. Hi Ian, absolutely agree - that's why I think agile service management has a lot to offer applying some new thinking to old ideas. Drop me a note and I'll send you a copy of the agile service management guide produced by the DevOps institute, it would be good to hear your thoughts. Claire

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