DevOps plus – delivering services not just products

DevOps plus – delivering services not just products

Akshay AnandDelivering value to a customer doesn’t begin and end with a product and its features – it also requires service.

In the IT development world, recognizing the need for service means cultivating skills in service management. This is where turning to ITIL® is important for understanding customer orientation and how to deliver and support a service of which product is a part.

But this cuts both ways: ITIL practitioners in organizations are also having to collaborate and align their activities with DevOps software development approaches.

Developers, value and service

What do we mean by “value” for a customer?

In fact, what customers value changes during the lifespan of a product: for example, when looking for an application the value is in the details of the app, the media reviews and links to buy the product; next, value comes from the product’s features and functionality after purchase. Then, when the product breaks, the value comes from the support the customer receives.

That’s three definitions of value already – and developers must recognize that fact. If they don’t acknowledge that now, they soon will through the painful experience of having to react to the customer’s expectation of value.

So, while developers will embrace the concept of a minimum viable product – having the smallest set of product features that can be shipped – they need also to buy into minimum viable service: in other words, do customers expect chat, phone and email support? Do they want notification of patches and updates?

Customers will explicitly buy a product but implicitly buy the expectation of a service. And delivering this requires an iterative approach to service and service management as well as the delivering a product.

How to be accountable for service

The DevOps ethos in tech start-ups imposes accountability for service on themselves. But who is occupying the role of service manager that ensures, for example, that developers aren’t pushing out new code without having awareness of its impact on service? In DevOps-led start-ups the service manager could be the CEO, talking to the customer, understanding requirements and interfacing when things go wrong. Equally, it could be the product owner.

What many IT Service Management (ITSM) practitioners know now – and developers would benefit from knowing – is that you can use ITIL for service management without it being a heavyweight burden. Above all, it will enable development leads, their team and the product owner to identify, design and manage services the customer needs; simultaneously, it will address the issue of bad or non-existent processes and service management practices.

Taking an example from the 9 Guiding Principles in the ITIL Practitioner best practice guidance, you can keep it simple, focus on value and start where you are to achieve minimum viable change management. In practice, that means making changes transparent (i.e. calendar them), define the change priorities and decide what changes are pre-approved (while keeping governance for riskier changes).

Then how, you might ask, do you apply it into DevOps? That, as they say, is for next time!

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