At first glance the principles that underpin Agile techniques and the ITIL framework couldn’t be more different. Agile can be seen as being flexible and collaborative (from an ITIL standpoint, chaotic), while ITIL can be seen as being all about process and procedure (from an Agile perspective, bureaucratic).
On the surface, Agile practices provide for a faster speed of delivery and the ITIL Framework, with its focus on process, appears to put on the handbrake. A lot of the perceived incompatibilities between Agile and ITIL come down to mutual misunderstandings.
Agile methodologies, such as SCRUM and Kanban, are extremely structured approaches to product delivery, that promote the principles of self-organisation within clearly defined boundaries. They are processes that are designed to allow teams to work closely together to quickly deliver and sustain products in an iterative fashion.
ITIL is a best practice service management framework of processes, procedures, tasks and checklists. One of the main characteristics of the ITIL framework is that it is not prescriptive, and a pragmatic approach is required for its implementation. The framework can be adapted and adopted as necessary, taking those elements that are appropriate to meet the needs of the business. ITIL is agnostic on the delivery methodology that is used.
Poorly implemented Agile methodologies can become an excuse for chaos, in the same way that a poor implementation of ITIL can be bureaucratic, stifling innovation. Both have the ability to throttle and restrict an IT departments ability to deliver an appropriate level of service to the business.
The key is that it isn’t about whether you implement ITIL or Agile, or for that matter adopt DevOps, COBIT, Lean or any other IT methodology. It is all about delivering an overall approach and strategy for IT being a service provider to the business, and continually reviewing, enhancing, and adapting that approach to meet the changing business demands.
IT people often lose sight of the reason that they are employed, and that is to be an enabler for the business, to allow it to grow and flourish. Agile methodologies have developed to meet business requirements for quicker and faster innovation, while the ITIL framework provides the stability and predictability that a business needs. Sacrificing one for another is a mistake, finding the way to accommodate them together ultimately will facilitate the success of the business.
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