DevOps does not negate ITIL or ITSM; they can be leveraged for greater agility

DevOps has become a reality in many organizations, stressing the integration of developers and IT operations staff, but it doesn’t mean existing frameworks such as IT service management (ITSM) are no longer relevant.

“The market is demanding that IT go much more quickly,” said Jayne Groll, president of ITSM Academy in a recent webinar outlining how ITSM can support DevOps, which is intended to respond to that accelerated demand by introducing more frequent, smaller releases  and speeding up the release cycle by improving the flow of work from development to operations and into production.

Groll is said it is imperative that the interdependencies between the functions and the need for cultural improvement are recognized. Traditional IT is very much made up of siloed specialists, and those separations need to be broken down. “DevOps does not in and of itself have a single body of knowledge, so it really does support agile, lean and IT service management,” she said. Automation is also a key part of DevOps.

One myth that needs to be dispelled is that DevOps signals the end of IT infrastructure library (ITIL)/ITSM, said Groll. “It doesn’t negate it; it actually validates its necessity.” DevlOp creates a value stream of people, processes and technology, which she said should sound quite familiar to people immersed in ITSM. “It does rely on processes and practices that underpin the entire service lifecycle. It takes ITIL and IT service management to the next level.”

Taking ITSM to the next level involves instilling some lean and agile thinking into the strategy, design and development, transition, operation and improvement of IT services, said Groll. “It’s organizational agility that will help you get to that next level.”

And there are a number of ways agile ITSM can support DevOps, she said.

“Everything we talk about in DevOps is a change,” said Groll, so the first area that agile ITSM can help with is change management. “In today’s very dynamic IT environment, changes are happening in some organizations minute by minute.” This can include internal development or releases being provided by an outside vendor.

Similarly, agile ITSM can also support release management, which Groll said has historically been one of the most misunderstood ITSM processes and has been thrust into the middle of DevOps. Release automation is rising as an emerging practice. In an ITSM DevOps world, release management can be a collaborative process between developers and operations. “It’s become the heartbeat of the IT organization because we have to get comfortable with releasing in a different way than we did before.”

Configuration management has changed as a result of an agile ITSM approach, said Groll. It starts with the developer, especially since infrastructure is now code. In the past, configurations were done through discovery, now it’s very real-time. “Now we’re identifying them at their source at the time of conception.”

Today’s DevOps environment has also meant changes to event management; events are not necessarily emergencies, Groll notes, but anything that’s happening in the infrastructure. While it used to be operators sitting in front of massive dashboards, event management is now taking place simultaneously with development. “There are opportunities for developers and operators to start looking at those dashboards together,” she said. “There is almost a running dialog between development and operations.”

Event management is of course tied to incident and problem management. “The ability to restore service has got to be fast,” said Groll. Agile ITSM has developers and IT operations staff working together to fix problems by leveraging tools such as chat rooms and looking at an incident almost instantaneously. “The point of escalation may not just occur for a major incident, but it may just be for an anomaly.” This can help to find a problem before it affects users. “We really don’t want to be using users as monitors.”

This collaboration leads to shared accountability between developers and operations, said Groll. “It takes away the ‘them’ and ‘us’.”

There are a number of ways enterprises can begin to increase ITSM agility:

  • Assess current agility
  • Reduce handoffs and eliminated bottlenecks
  • Simplify documentation
  • Leverage new technologies and automation
  • Eliminate rework and duplicate activities
  • Capture information at the source
  • Put an operations person on a Scrum team
  • Enable fast and frequent deployments

Most of all, Groll said organizations should avoid a one-size-fits all approach to ITSM and look at models. “You can predefine some of the procedures where you need more governance.” And it’s not matter of starting from scratch. “Start where you are. Don’t reinvent the wheel.”

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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