Agile ITSM – the old made new

During the last six months, I was searching for something new and fresh with regard to the IT Service Management implementation framework, methodologies, etc. This has proven to be a challenging task since, as we all know, as a framework ITIL  has been  on the scene for a long time and even though some people don’t like it, still it is de facto the norm for most of the IT companies out there. So, being there, shopping for ideas I went to an Agile Engineers conference here in Sofia. The event was good, although I was not really a representative of the target group. What struck me in this event, though, was how much software engineers need processes for their day-to-day work. One of the examples given showed that via Scrum sprints a QA process can be created. Well, they did not call it a process, but it had predefined inputs, output, trigger and customers, so…

Anyway, this started my research on how ITIL can help Agile Software development, so that in the end we have one great ITSM capability. While I was reading about Agile principles and methodologies like Scrum and Kanban I started thinking, “Wait there are some interesting ideas here and most of all, if one takes a higher look at Agile and ITIL, they are not so different”. They both pursue customer satisfaction by delivering value via quality structures and insist on effective and efficient communication. So, in my head I started inventing the Agile ITSM – a combination between Agile Software Development and ITIL.


Agile ITSM

It turned out I was beaten by some very smart people few years ago, so I started reading their approach for Agile ITSM. I got my own ideas on top of what was written, but in general there were some great guidelines on how to approach this topic.

Here is a brief overview:

  1. Take the principles from Agile and put them in practice in your ITIL processes
    1. Short delivery cycles of value, even for processes yes
    2. Predictability of deadlines and results
    3. Customer Satisfaction via communication and involvement
  2. Based on 1. make Agile Process Design and Agile Process Improvements
  3. Don’t make ITIL a second Agile stream
    1. You can use Kanban and even Scrum for agile process design and improvement, but for me one must again take just the principles, not hard core follow these methodologies as in software development

In the end, if we assume that you adopt and adapt Agile in both software development and IT, then you can put a nice label saying, “We are doing Agile ITSM”. Well, it is not that easy, but it is a big step forward.

Can you take something from ITIL towards software development?

Yes, you can. My suggestion, as written in some of my previous articles, is to use the processes within Service Transition to control the speed of acceptance, the value delivery and both the technical and people side of the changes. I also can add here that whenever software development moves to service delivery it will need Service Operation processes as well. You can, of course, start with the purpose of each lifecycle phase and then go for the processes. I often suggest you have one process called Service Transition as a starting point, the key here is to have a step between Design and Operations.

As you can see my view on Agile ITSM is based on the idea of merging first key Agile principles and then going for the methodologies and processes. Only if this merge is bi-directional you can enjoy a healthy long-term agile environment. If you do it only in one direction, then most probably you will fail.

Is the change too big?

No, you will continue to do your software development with Agile methodologies, but if needed, you can append Service Transition and Service Operation from ITIL. From delivery side, you can take over the shorter delivery cycles and predictability, so that your customers don’t wait for 12 months for a full-scale CSI improvement, but get it portion by portion each quarter. Thus, quality and timely feedback will be provided and customer satisfaction will rise.

Did I mention DevOps?

In short, I see Agile ITSM very close to another modern topic – DevOps. It might sound strange, but I see Agile ITSM as the governance model, where the core principles of the company IT Service Management will be defined, and DevOps as one of the practical implementations of this model. DevOps can work or supplement, depending on where you are and what you do.

I hope that with this short article I’ve managed to show you what my thoughts on the subject Agile ITSM are. I did not go into detail, but this will nonetheless happen in my next posts. I strongly believe that this is the modern way to deliver services to your customers. Starting where you are and building on value are key principles here. If you are great at software development and ITIL, then this next step will be logical and easy. The old can be made new..

Author: Nikola Gaydarov
Nikola has been in the IT sector for almost 10 years. He started his career in HP Global Delivery Center back in 2007 and since then has been involved in many different roles: technical consultant, operational manager, transition manager and ITSM implementation consultant. During these years he has worked both domestically and in Western Europe.