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Is your ITIL evergreen?

Group of skyscrapers on cityscape floating on water and linked by network of lines connecting points on the roofs

We are creators, innovators and explorers of new, shiny things. It is part of our role and we love it. Listening to the hype, the latest trends - what ones are worth our time and investment, which ones will stick around (Apple iPhone, Amazon Echo) and which ones will not make it (who remembers HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray, the Amazon Fire phone and Blackberry playbook?). This isn't just software or hardware but ways of working, best practice and standards.

One trend that arrived quietly and made itself very much at home on our phones, tablets and TVs is Evergreen technology. Evergreen technology is technology that is always up-to date, it is updated continually and without (much) notice, for example apps on your phone, software on your TV box. Remember Instagram before Insta stories? It just arrived without warning and changed how we consumed content overnight with one swift update of the app.

Evergreen technology has so many great benefits - quicker bug fixes, security updates, continual new features, no more long, expensive and painful upgrade projects and many more. In essence, it ensures IT services are always relevant to the business and keep up with their changing demands.

Those of us who have ITIL® running through our blood may start to feel slightly panicked by this thought of constant change without notice, and spiralling numbers of incidents and problem records. And this is the main downside to Evergreen technology, and what makes us feel the most uncomfortable - the relinquishing of control. The content of the updates, the timescales to test, the issues (and resolution of these) and the rollback approach will no longer be in our control.

To help you to start thinking about your Evergreen approach, I thought I would summarise a few of our challenges that we, at Essex County Council, have discovered along the way:

  • Operational resources - Evergreen updates are going to be identified, tested, user acceptance tested and released primarily by your Service Operations teams and so you will need to consider how this will be resourced. A great place to start is calculate how much operational resource is used for a two year upgrade project, divide equally per month and add on a bit more! 
  • Proactivity is key - proactive awareness of what is coming up, proactive engagement within IT, proactive user testing and proactive collaboration are just some of the elements that need to be in place to ensure we can reduce the impact to our users. 
  • Evergreen and ITIL do not oppose each other - Evergreen updates will still need change management approval, service transition plans, problem (and incident) management and knowledge management (and more I'm sure). 
  • Making it easy - what systems do you already have in place that you could utilize, to automate and collaborate with? What processes can you take a less risk adverse approach with? E.g. could you not actively investigate any problems that arise following an Evergreen update and instead review these every time another update is released? Now is a great time to re-look at the Service Operations intermediate module to ensure the key purpose of your processes are maintained. 

In our ever increasing world of high velocity IT, we have learnt that because ITIL is a flexible framework, it can complement and co-exist with Evergreen technology. Change, incident and problem management are not going to be any more swamped than they have been previously, and they are not going to be left out in the cold and as we embrace the new shiny things. Instead, emphasis is placed on how we do things, thinking holistically, proactively and innovatively. ITIL advocates, you can breathe easy again.

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