Agile, DevOps and the role of the IT Service Management Broker

Agile, DevOps and the role of the IT Service Management Broker

Service Transition has become the glue that holds an IT Department together, providing the link between Applications and Operations.  However, with the emergence of Cloud computing, Agile delivery techniques and the concept of DevOps, Service Transition is becoming increasingly strained.  The role of the IT Service Management Broker helps address the challenges experienced by Service Transition.  In this article we explain IT Service Management Broker role and how it can benefit an organisation.

If I take a simplistic look at the typical IT Department (see Figure 1) then this model has not actually changed.  Infrastructure and Applications are
still required and still need to be developed, tested, supported and maintained.  There is still a Corporate layer looking after things like IT Finance, IT Risk, IT Projects and Programmes, and IT Architectures; the pervasive Security layer ensures compliance with regulations, standards and policies, the security of physical and virtual assets, and the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data; and an equally pervasive Service Management layer assuring that the IT Systems are designed, introduced and operated in an efficient, effective and economic manner.

Obviously, the new complexity impacts all these areas and in this article I will build on a new concept that has arisen over the last few years, namely that of an IT Service Broker.  This term has been utilised to cover a ‘role’ in the IT organisation that takes business requirements and identifies various solutions available to meet that requirement.  It is also being adopted by some software vendors to be a tool that can be used to join up various IT solutions.  I’m not sure either is brokering a ‘Service’, more like IT Systems or IT Solutions but I won’t open that debate again here.  What I want to cover is the increasing need for what I have described as the IT Service Management Broker.

The IT Service Management Broker

Fundamentally this IT Service Management Broker is a role within the IT Service Management team that ‘brokers’ between the other areas of the IT Department.  This may involve working within the Agile teams to help them navigate the IT Service Management processes, or working with the Project Management Office to adapt the Project Governance Model to accommodate Agile, or identifying changing demands on the Infrastructure teams that support Agile delivery, this role has becoming a necessity.  As a broker the role acts as a trusted agent, facilitator, navigator, orchestrator, and integrator making sure that the required outcomes are achieved in a timely manner, with the minimum level of bureaucracy.

Any person taking the role needs to have certain attributes that make them a ‘go to’ person for those that need help, guidance and support, e.g. good interpersonal and problem solving skills.  They need to have knowledge of the workings of the IT Department (the people, processes, tools, and data) and have enough gravitas to be able to negotiate amongst the parties, and also to propose changes to the workings where necessary.

The role is very much a service role and it is important that it is not seen as a project role or an overly technical role, and at the same time they should ensure that they do not get pulled in to the low level details of changes or forced into making changes that are not necessary.

Being able to look at processes and identify the minimum viable approach is essential which in turn often means taking a more tolerant approach to risk, for example many organisations have a set of non-functional requirements that have to be delivered before projects can progress, but in Agile software engineering a looser approach is needed and so the IT Service Management Broker should perform a quick risk assessment to see how much of the non-functional requirements are actually required.

In my experience this broker role is an adaptation to the roles in a service introduction function to assure that systems are designed, introduced and operated in the best ways possible.  In several organisations where iCore have helped introduce this role we have been able to work with the IT Service Management Broker function to adapt where necessary, and to keep this adaption to a minimum.

EXAMPLE

The need for the Agile software engineering teams to be able to deploy code into production at an ever increasing rate did not need the anticipated major overhaul of the Change and Release Management process.  It simply required the change type definitions to be reviewed and adjusted to enable the code deployments to be considered ‘standard change’.  The brokering of this change also meant that the Agile software engineering teams had to adhere to the policy for standard change in order for them to move to continuous deployment mode.

Benefits

The introduction of this role is actually a major catalyst for change within the IT Department identifying areas for service improvement, the removal of ‘fat’ in processes, mitigating or addressing vulnerabilities in the design, introduction and operation of IT systems.  The role can also help with the management of the changes to the operating model necessary within the IT Department, e.g. culture, communication, ways of working, terminology.

The growing notion of the eco-system within IT requires greater collaboration amongst all parties involved, and the broker role will become a major facilitator for this through encouraging open communications, information sharing, early warning, and a fix-first/settle later mind-set.

The IT Service Management Broker will increase the productivity of the software engineering teams, reduce risk to service delivery and improve general satisfaction with the IT Department by removing perceived blockers and becoming more proactive in identifying areas for improvement.  This can lead to the introduction of greater automation, self-service, AI, and knowledge tools to remove the need for manual IT intervention at all.

This brokering role will also provide a solid foundation for any new employees, suppliers or providers by being able to explain “how things work around here” and providing a point of contact should anyone need to understand more.

Introducing the IT Service Management Broker role

There are a couple of up front areas that need to be looked at first before you introduce the role, namely understanding your service delivery processes and Agile software engineering practices to see how they need to adapt; and identifying the right people to perform the role.

You should be clear on that problem that you are trying to address here and should consult key stakeholders to identify the outcomes that will be expected from potentially introducing this role.  iCore utilise a combination of the Kepner Tregoe problem solving method with the use of visual ‘use cases’ to help identify what is perceived to be wrong and what is perceived to be the solution to this.

iCore have developed a readiness workshop to get everyone on the same page; a readiness assessment for what may need to adapt; and a role specification for a IT Service Management Broker which could all provide a good starter for ten.

When you are ready to introduce the role then start off with a good pilot system / product team and I suggest you adopt an ‘agile’ approach to the role for the first 2-3 months.  This means a focus on the individuals and interactions; delivering outcomes (not copious amounts of documentation); collaboration and communications; flexibility to adapt and enable change.

 

iCore can provide you with independent insight to your existing processes, helping you understand where there may be challenges within your ways of working and supplying pragmatic recommendations for improvement aligned with your specific business needs.

 

iCore provides consultancy and pragmatic approach to delivery helping many organisations to change their IT Service Delivery to adapt to new and emerging technologies, frameworks and working practices. iCore consultants have practical Service Management experience, working in technology departments for top 250 companies.

 

If you would like to discuss how iCore can help you then contact us on +44 (0) 207 868 2405 or email us at info@icore-ltd.com