ITIL, DevOps and the search for silver bullets

Suited man in cornfield carrying laptop and looking through binoculars toward the horizon

Barclay RaeAnother day, another IT framework – or that’s how it could seem to IT Service Management (ITSM) practitioners in 2017.

DevOps, digital transformation, BRM, SIAM and so on; all of them have relevance and good ideas; but we have to stop thinking that any one framework is going to fix all our problems. There is no silver bullet!

Also, with regard to the more established frameworks such as ITIL® there’s no point thinking “that’s old stuff so won’t work for me”.

Deploying IT frameworks is only one part of what we do as ITSM professionals. The challenge is always having people doing the right things, working well, being managed properly and developing their people skills. It’s about understanding the business, communicating, leading and influencing people, etc. Those are the key criteria whichever frameworks and tools you use.

Indeed, with more IT services being automated – removing repetitive, low value (though necessary) work – people can be better employed, although it also puts more pressure on the touchpoints when they actually engage with people. When that happens, it must be a really high quality experience.

Hearing over the noise

There is, undoubtedly, a lot of noise around Cloud, plus the DevOps and Agile movements, all talking about doing things differently while unencumbered by the ways of the past. While there is value in that, we have to acknowledge that ITSM and ITIL are still relevant and valuable.

Having key processes, governance and business management all relates to being organized, accountable, engaged and collaborative – it could even be called “common sense”.

DevOps is being used more widely in organizations, particularly in businesses that need a higher degree of agility and flexibility. However, even those organizations reach a point where they need to be more organized with processes and systems.

DevOps and ITIL complement each other. Managing operations consistently and accountably, setting expectations, defining what services are, managing change and issues – these universal factors are part of ITIL. No sensible organization could survive without process and control, that’s just a fact.

And it’s a misconception to think of ITIL as “slow-moving”, as it depends on how it’s been implemented in an organization and the necessary governance for that organization. For example, it’s the difference in attitude to risk between a huge bank and an SME media company. So service management can be done using agile and an automated approach where it makes sense to do so.

DevOps provides the “how” to ITIL’s “what”…

ITIL remains the backbone and the unifying force in ITSM and the introduction of ITIL Practitioner has deliberately included DevOps and Agile thinking alongside established ITIL knowledge. ITIL Practitioner has filled in a lot of the gaps and instilled a different way of thinking about how to use ITIL.

Outstanding service management

The bottom line, when selecting frameworks to support your service management work, is about achieving outstanding service management. But what is that?

  • Having dialogue with customers – working on the basis of a balanced, partner relationship
  • Defining what you do to deliver tangible services to customers
  • Implementing basic processes to manage consistency
  • Setting expectations with KPIs and SLAs
  • Running joined-up service desk operations
  • Having key processes to manage incidents and faults
  • Managing change in the context of risk
  • Having clarity about problem management
  • Understanding the technology used and how it relates to the business
  • Providing relationship management and a reporting function.

These elements are all present in ITIL and DevOps and you can do everything in an agile way although – in some organizations – you need a higher degree of control.

Accomplished service management people have adopted and adapted ITIL in an appropriate way for their organization and are also using DevOps principles to improve process flow and create better customer experiences.

Meanwhile control, management, accountability and security: these requirements remain universal.

Read more AXELOS Blog Posts from Barlay Rae

ITIL Practitioner: measuring what matters in ITSM

Getting human to human in ITSM

Meaningful metrics in ITSM: it’s about the business (stupid)

Tackling the rise of bimodal IT and 'two-speed ITSM'


Current rating: 4 (2 ratings)


9 Dec 2017 Wings2i
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Quite an insightful read on ITIL and DevOps...
22 Jun 2021 Nikhil Chavda
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helpful in understanding DevOps and service management
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