How is ITIL® Practitioner relevant in a DevOps world? The 9 Guiding Principles and the Three Ways

How is ITIL® Practitioner relevant in a DevOps world? The 9 Guiding Principles and the Three Ways

ITIL is being challenged by ‘shiny new’ philosophies, methodologies and frameworks that have recently laid claim to the work practices of service management professionals.

Clare CottrelBut how valid and viable are these new approaches and how do they relate to the ITIL® framework that is turning 26 this year?

This was the issue highlighted by itSMF CEO, Barclay Rae, in his opening statement to the recent itSMF UK event, ‘ITIL Practitioner in a DevOps world’. The event was aimed at connecting practices of ITIL, often viewed as ‘process heavy’, with more agile approaches, specifically DevOps.

As the speakers and the delegates agreed, ITIL Practitioner could be the solution.

Launched by AXELOS in February 2016, ITIL Practitioner makes use of three core skills - metrics and measurement, communication, and organizational change management - which are more readily associated with agile philosophies such as DevOps and Lean. It utilizes nine guiding principles which have always been implicit in the ITIL framework but which are now brought to the fore with the new certification.

As Stuart Rance explained in his presentation, these guiding principles directly relate to ‘The Three Ways’, the principles underpinning DevOps.

The first of the Three Ways is ‘flow’ or ‘systems thinking’. This encourages practitioners to think of everything in terms of the end-to-end flow rather than the individual processes, hence discouraging a siloed approach. Stuart used the analogy of temporary speed limits on a motorway: slowing the flow of traffic in order to lessen the stopping and starting - which ultimately provides a more efficient and quicker journey for all. The same applies to service management. There is no point optimizing one link of a chain if another link within the chain is not efficient.

The best way to visualize this, according to Stuart, is a simple Kanban board to ‘stop starting and start finishing’.

Flow relates directly to at least two of the ITIL Practitioner guiding principles:

  • Work holistically to always think about the end-to-end chain
  • Focus on value to always have value for your customer in mind when thinking about the flow.

The second of the Three Ways is ‘feedback’. This reminds practitioners to talk to internal and external customers at every stage in a project, not just to run tests once the development work is done. This enables practitioners to understand where their work is coming from, which helps them understand the flow.
Feedback relates to the following guiding principles:

  • Observe directly - actively seek out feedback from the source
  • Be transparent - encourage visibility, feedback and learning as exemplified by blame-free post-mortems. This can involve quite a cultural change
  • Collaborate to enable feedback and flow. As Kaimar Karu (Head of Product Development and Strategy at AXELOS) said in his talk, organization-wide collaboration is essential to support value delivery.

The third of the Three Ways is ‘experiment and learn’ which encourages starting with a hypothesis and testing thoroughly before implementing. This is echoed in ITIL Practitioner’s core skill, measurement and metrics, which states you can’t understand what you can’t measure.

Changes also need to work on a cultural and social level, rather than simply as a collection of statistics. We need to remember that, when speaking to customers, we should speak to them about what they care about to ensure the measurements we are making are the measurements that matter. Process alone is not the objective; there should be a purpose behind every process. ITIL Practitioner provides a number of tools and templates in its guidance to help with experiments and learning.

Experiment and learn is also echoed in the following guiding principles:

  • Design for experience - reinforcing the need to experiment to ensure the outcome makes sense to the customer
  • Start where you are - allows practitioners to think about what they need to change to learn and move forward
  • It is preferable to make one change at a time to best understand the effect the change is making, which ties in with the principle progress iteratively. This also encourages changes to be rolled out as and when they are ready, in line with DevOps and Agile practices
  • We also need to keep it simple to encourage effective learning, better feedback, and increased flow.

Another main component of ITIL Practitioner and ITIL as a whole is the CSI Approach. It encourages practitioners in fast-paced environments to remember the purpose of their work.

There are many similarities in the objectives of ITIL and DevOps and, ultimately, both aim for the same thing: business success. ITIL Practitioner manages to link DevOps practices back to the core values of ITSM, and make the principles of both work together. But it’s not just about combining processes and methods; a cultural change also needs to happen. This is never easy but ITIL Practitioner should help to change some of the process-heavy ITSM practices back closer to the intent of best practice guidance, and help ITSM professionals move forward in a practical, efficient, and relevant way.

As Barry Corless said in his presentation, people were ‘screaming’ to have a course that showed them how to do it. And now they have one.

See our ITIL Practitioner and ITIL Practitioner Guiding Principles sections for more information and watch this space for more research from AXELOS around the synergies between ITIL and DevOps.

Presentations from ITIL Practitioner in a DevOps World

Barclay Rae - itSMF UK Update (PDF, 1.7MB)

Stuart Rance - DevOps, ITIL Practitioner and the Three Ways (PDF, 3.7MB)

Barry Corless - ITIL Practitioner/DevOps (PDF, 1.3MB)

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ITIL Practitioner Guidance

ITIL® Practitioner Guide

The ITIL Practitioner Guidance accompanies the qualification and provides a practical guide to putting ITIL theory into practice.

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