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Author  Nikola Gaydarov – Director IT Service and Project Management, Rüger Consulting

September 4, 2017 |

 4 min read

  • Blog
  • Agile
  • Collaboration
  • DevOps
  • AgileSHIFT
  • ITIL

is Agile IT Service Management (ITSM) an official term and is there a body of knowledge behind it?

The simplest answer is not really. I have seen this term several times over the past few years, but never dug into it until I realized that we need more agility in the current ITSM world.

My own research identified some great material, including the The Agile Service Management Guide by Jayne Gordon Groll. Still, to me Agile Service Management is not the same as Agile ITSM.

I think Agile ITSM is a cultural shift: the idea that you can do ITSM in a more agile-oriented way, but not following so closely Scrum or any other Agile methodology. You can take the best of the two worlds, Agile and ITSM, and put them together.

What can we take from Agile?

You don’t need to go too deeply into the Agile world to gain positive value in service delivery. We just need to adopt and adapt the key points from the Agile Manifesto to achieve Agile ITSM. Those key points are:

  • Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools
  • Working Software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer Collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to Change over following a plan.

I can give you some suggestions for what that means in practice:

  • Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools – means we are human (can change in the near future) and our customers are human, so let’s act like it.
  • Working Software over comprehensive documentation – Deliver, deliver, deliver and don’t be afraid to deliver something that works and can provide value to the customer.
  • Customer Collaboration over contract negotiation – work together with customers and don’t keep them in the dark. They don’t care about SLAs; they want to receive value from you. Have in mind that, sometimes, even broken SLAs are OK for a satisfied customer.
  • Responding to Change over following a plan – this one is really what Agile ITSM must resolve. We have to change with the speed of our business; operational stability is a dream that will never come back, so don’t fight for it too hard.

ITIL and Agile hand-in-hand

As an enthusiastic fan of the ITIL® Practitioner course I would like to list the 9 guiding principles:

  • Focus on value
  • Design for experience
  • Start where you are
  • Work holistically
  • Progress iteratively
  • Observe directly
  • Be transparent
  • Collaborate
  • Keep it simple.

If we take a closer look and match them to the 4 key value points in Agile I think you will immediately find similarities. “Working Software” is the same as “Focus on value”, do the right things, the outcomes that deliver value and can be used by the customer. “Design for experience” touches again the human side of what we do. It is not about processes it is about the customer experience. “Work holistically, Progress Iteratively, Observe Directly, Be Transparent and Collaborate” follow the “Customer collaboration” key point closely. Finally, the famous KISS principle or in short “Keep it simple” speaks out the fact how closely now ITIL and Agile are. Act quickly and deliver value, by “Responding to Change”.

How can we do ITSM in an agile way?

In the past few months, I have tried to provide practical examples of how Agile ITSM can work, such as in Agile Incident Management. You can apply the core Agile values in this core ITSM process, plus some Lean magic and voilà.

The idea is that you can use a technique called the “5 Whys” to investigate and provide feedback to the incident requestor. So, you are putting the actors, not the process, in front; you go for working resolutions that the requestor can use right away and you are in constant (but not over exposed) communication and you can respond to change at any point in time.

What does Agile ITSM need to be successful?

This is a cultural shift, so you need to have management commitment and a strong desire to undergo a long-term transformation of your company. The building blocks you need are:

  • Mature ITSM, based on the best practices documented in ITIL for example
  • Established and working Continual Service Improvement
  • Agile-minded individuals who are ready to share knowledge and act as coaches.

Should Agile ITSM become a best practice framework?

I think we need an official body of knowledge behind this topic, so that it can be improved in an agile way – iteratively and incrementally.

ITIL, DevOps and Agile ITSM

I believe that ITIL and DevOps can work together from different perspectives to allow us to achieve this cultural shift – Agile ITSM. ITIL will provide the framework needed for stable and quality-assured service delivery. DevOps will ensure you have a continuous stream of working improvements. Finally, Agile ITSM can provide guidance for your service delivery and respond to challenges and demands in an agile way.

In the end, I want to stress again that being agile is a mindset and even people like me who have never worked in sprints can have it. Agile is a tool which is as good as the craftsman who uses it.