Sign in

ITIL 4, IT service management and Agile White Paper

White Paper

ITIL 4, IT service management and Agile White Paper

White Paper

  • White Paper
  • Agile
  • Collaboration
  • Problem management
  • Service management
  • Value
  • ITIL

Author  Dr. Mauricio Corona

March 26, 2019 |

 6 min read

  • White Paper
  • Agile
  • Collaboration
  • Problem management
  • Service management
  • Value
  • ITIL

The digital economy is increasing the pressure on organizations across the globe. Whether they are small, medium or large, organizations are trying to keep pace with the adoption of new technology, hoping it will positively impact their business models and create sustainable competitive advantages.

To keep pace with the rapid changes introduced by the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, organizations are constantly looking for new ways to quickly adopt and adapt best practices; one of the most effective and promising approaches is to ‘become agile’.

But what does it really mean to be agile? Or Lean? Or smart? If you want to effectively change the way you are doing your work today, then you need to fully understand what you are trying to be.

So, we need to understand what Agile is.

Agile is an umbrella term for a collection of frameworks and techniques that enable teams and individuals to work in a way that is focused on collaboration, prioritization, iterative and incremental delivery, and timeboxing.

There are several specific methods (or frameworks) that are classed as Agile, such as Scrum, Lean, and Kanban. It originally emerged from the software development domain and later combined with advances in the manufacturing industries to go on to have a considerable impact across many sectors and enterprises. It is a flexible and adaptive approach to work that allows an effective and efficient response to change.

Some well-known agile software development methods are:

  • agile modelling
  • Agile Unified Process (AUP)
  • Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)
  • Essential Unified Process (EssUP)
  • Feature Driven Development (FDD)
  • Open Unified Process (Open UP)
  • scrum
  • velocity tracking.

Organizations are increasingly adopting agile approaches to create and respond to change in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) environment. By becoming agile, organizations normally want to achieve:

  • digital transformation
  • increased competitiveness
  • business models improvement
  • agility in a changing environment to create new products and services.

Now that we understand what Agile means, let’s talk about IT Service Management (ITSM). So, what is ITSM?

What is ITSM?

An important element of understanding this concept is the definition of Service.

A service is a means of enabling co-creation of value by facilitating outcomes that customers want to achieve, without the customer having to manage specific costs and risks.

With goods, value is created directly when the product changes hands. Services are different. Both provider and consumer have roles to play. With IT services, value is only realized when the users act on decisions that have been improved by the information that the IT services provided. So value is co-created by both parties.

Service management is a set of specialized organizational capabilities for enabling value for customers in the form of services.

Therefore, IT service management is the application of service management to IT services.

ITIL 4 and Agile

The ITIL® 4 framework has evolved to reflect Agile practices and ways of working, many of which have a great deal in common with ITIL core concepts and practices. Organizations can benefit from combining both approaches.

A critical success factor for digital services adopting Agile is to efficiently introduce new services based on advanced technology into real environments. In the IT context, organizations are trying to enable their business models by exploring the following areas:

  • Advanced Analytics: for example, predictive analytics, data mining, big data analytics, and machine learning
  • Cloud Computing: considers using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data
  • Artificial Intelligence: computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation.
  • Cognitive Services: cognitive computing contains self-learning systems. These systems involve AI, machine learning, NLP and pattern recognition among several other technologies
  • Social media: enables users to create and share content or to participate in social networking
  • Chatbots: computer programs designed to simulate conversation with human users.

The following table documents many of the ways the Agile methodology and ITIL 4 align:

Agile ManifestoITIL Guiding Principles
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation 

Focus on value
Think and work holistically
Focus on value
Collaborate and promote visibility

Responding to change over following a planProgress iteratively with feedback
Keep it simple and practical
Table 3.1 Alignment of Agile and ITIL 4

Image of key message regarding Guiding Principles

Agile now relates to ITIL and the ITSM world more than ever before. Agile methods focus on shortening and strengthening feedback loops. In ITIL 4, this is a key requirement for enabling the Service Value System (SVS).

Agile thinking is focused on individuals and interactions, processes and tools, working software, and collaboration. Now imagine how this can be used by the ITIL 4 Problem Management practice. Reducing the likelihood and impact of incidents by identifying actual and potential causes of incidents and managing workarounds and known errors.

In Release Management the following similarities with Agile can be found: Agile methods focus on making improvements incrementally at a cadence.

There are different approaches to the way software is developed or that projects are delivered, with the Waterfall and agile methods being the most common.

  • Waterfall methods work well in environments where the requirements are known upfront (and unlikely to significantly change), and where definition of the work is more important than the speed of delivery.
  • Agile methods work best where requirements are uncertain and likely to rapidly evolve over time (for example, as business needs and priorities change or development in support of innovation), and where speed of delivery is often prioritized over the definition of precise requirements.

The Release Management practice makes new and changed services and features available for use. A release may comprise many different infrastructure and application components that work together to deliver new or changed functionality.

ITIL 4 recognizes that Release Management is handled differently in Agile environments.

Image of fig 3.1 service management and-agile release plan


Figure 3.1 Release management in an Agile/DevOps environment

Release management is often staged, with pilot releases being made available to a small number of users to ensure that everything is working correctly before the release given to additional groups. So, when Release Management works together with Change Control (the practice that maximizes the number of successful IT changes) and Deployment Management (the practice that moves new or changed hardware, software, documentation, processes, or any other component to live environments) practices, Agile becomes better coordinated.

Agile and ITIL 4 have many direct relations with additional practices. You can use ITIL 4 Foundation to perform a similar ITIL and Agile matching exercise and begin your journey to becoming more Agile.

About the author

Dr Corona is an experienced IT and ITSM professional, considered as one of the top 25 thought leaders in technical support and service management, and as one of the top 100 influencers in IT service management. He holds 19 ITIL certifications as well as certifications in COBIT, ISO 20000 and 27000, PRINCE2, and MCP. In addition to teaching graduate-level courses in Mexico and conducting scientific research related to digital transformation, Dr Corona is also a well-known international speaker. In 2018 he was appointed as a member of the SDI board as the global chief of transformation.

ITIL 4, IT service management and Agile