There seem to be lots of arguments at the moment between advocates of ITIL, Agile and DevOps methodologies, as to the relevant merits of each in today’s modern Cloud enabled world. Is ITIL archaic and bureaucratic? Is Agile just another excuse for chaos? Are DevOps mavericks? What seems to be lost in these discussions, is the customer.
While ITIL is a framework for service management and therefore is all about providing the customer with the best experience from IT, it is all too often bogged down by the processes that have been implemented.
ITIL is designed to be implemented in an agile and pragmatic way, adapting continually with the demands of the business, but getting caught up in the detail of the processes frequently means that the actual customer experience, and value to the business is forgotten.
How many times does a developer come to make a release only to come up against the brick wall of a Change process that delays the implementation of the new functionality. Or a member of staff request a new piece of software that has to go through a convoluted approval process before it is implemented, only for it not to be required any more.
Agile and DevOps have successfully grown up from a desire to find a new and improved way of driving business value. However, the approaches that they provide, seem to derive from a very bottom-up way of thinking about the business rather than being top down, customer-first. They are very much focused on providing business value as quickly as possible in an continuous, incremental fashion, on the assumption that the release will be small enough to be tested well and any inherent issues will be minor and easily managed.
When an Agile incremental release of a product is pushed out, functionality starts being used. Regardless of the size of the release issues can be encountered by the users that requires support. The users will, by default, contact the Service Desk as their single point of contact, which, at a minimum, allows the issue to be triaged. To do this effectively the Service Desk should be aware of what has been changing, and be armed with the knowledge to deal with a reported issue. Some issues will be routed to the application team, who then have to decide what to do with the issue.
This is where the Agile approach starts to unravel and the benefits of IT Service Management come to the fore. Which issues are causing business damage? Which are the most time critical? Which can be deferred? How much time should be spent on this issue at the cost of moving the product forward? Who is responsible now for engaging with the user? How does information get fed back through to the Service Desk?
The ‘S’ in ITSM stands for Service and not Process, and successful service management, always comes with a fundamental understanding of who the customer actually is and what their requirements are, and not applying process for process sake. Applying an ITSM understanding to both Agile and DevOps can lead, assist, and benefit delivery and lead to a successful engagement with the customer. ITSM will act as the glue tying all elements of an IT department together ensuring that they work as effectively and efficiently as possible, all the time being flexible enough to adopt new ways of working for the benefit of the business and the customer.
Forgetting that the only reason that an IT department is in existence is to service a business and its customers (both internal and external) is a recipe for disaster. IT departments must always start with a customer first approach and never forget who their customer really is.
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