ITIL, Agile and Ops

by Melinda BallouSo what about agile and ITIL? What about applying agile to long-term maintenance, service and change requests post-deployment? Recently, I've been receiving a flurry of calls and have been advising clients about the need for...


by Melinda Ballou

So what about agile and ITIL? What about applying agile to long-term maintenance, service and change requests post-deployment? Recently, I've been receiving a flurry of calls and have been advising clients about the need for coordination and leverage between agile, ITIL and operations efforts and engagement with change requests and long-term application support.

Given the expenditures and focus on service management and software maintenance (with 80+ of expenditures on the operations side), it makes perfect sense to try to increase "agility" - to improve speed to effective execution on service management in order to support key business needs in a more dynamic way - and efficiency. Just as it makes excellent sense to better "chunk" and prioritize development initiatives to more quickly focus on more important business initiatives to achieve quick return, we see the same pressing need with regards to service management and change requests in operations. 

Improving efficiency in these environments is all the more pressing, given how much is spent over the lifetime of software in operations and how grossly ineffective and poorly prioritized decision-making can be about which service requests to engage in next (as one example).

In the past two weeks, I've spoken with clients from a variety of industries that are beginning to take their agile approaches to development and business requirements evolution and focusing in an agile way on service management and operations, along with ITIL.

Just as we have seen a confluence between agile and "waterfall" approaches - despite on-going low level disconnects and appearance of dichotomy between them - similarly, coordination between ITIL 3 and leverage of agile in ITIL and operations environments brings benefits to both sides and can help to bridge the business/development/operations divide with a combined, hybrid process strategy.

Most commonly in the past, I have seen agile approaches successfully leveraged for development teams and also in helping to coordinate IT with the business stakeholders. As organizations are increasingly looking to make stronger "Devops" transitions and more functional approaches to the transition from development to provisioning, deployment and operations for their software projects and programs, I have seen a simultaneous rise in the ways in which agile is beginning to be incorporated into operations.

Granted, the maturity for adoption of agile is much less for operations teams than it is for development. For some savvy organizations, business leaders themselves are benefitting from the feedback loop benefits of agile interactions to drive business collaboration - operations teams have lagged, typically.

Now, however, we are seeing an inexorable rise in interest and understanding from operations teams about the benefits of agile. As we consider appropriate areas for coordination, the consistency of ITIL 3's approach to change management can provide threads of coordination to knit together disparate sprints or what can be fractured approaches to agile coordination.

At the same time, the iterative feedback loop that exemplifies agile collaboration becomes a key opportunitiy for disparate operations/development/business teams to communicate and better target scarce resources as they seek to do more with less. (Typically, we see a number of organizations seeking to do more with "nothing". )

In the context of a world where resources remain volatile, constrained, or invisible, the ability to chunk service requests into smaller, iterative pieces and to prioritize those in the context of key business needs is resonant with agile - agile exemplifies this pressing need for collaboration for operations teams with their colleagues earlier in the lifecycle food chain to hone their efforts for business "agility."

So what about your company? Are you pushing the envelope for agile and moving into operations? Are you augmenting ITIL with agile? Or are your operations teams resistant to what they perceive as the chaos that ensues with agile approaches? How are you incorporating differing process strategies into your business, development and operations teams to enable collaboration?  How busted are communications across your teams?

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