Finding the balance between Agility and Service Management  

5 minutes
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Anyone who has worked in IT aware of the buzzwords that constantly rain down on us, each one promising revolutionary results. ITSM veteran Paul Wilkinson calls them ‘the shiny new things that really help. Many of these buzzwords fizzle out as quickly as they appeared (remember object-oriented programming or Smalltalk?). Some methodologies though, like agility, evolve into best practices. But only after undergoing significant changes.  

Applying agile to all business functions: good idea or not?

Agility is one such buzzword that has become a lived practice because of its numerous benefits. But even in this case, it first required setting up boundaries and developing a practice. Agile is not a magic solution for every challenge in IT and digital transformation. Some people tried to apply agile techniques everywhere, but it caused more problems than it solved. As a result, they caused a rise in turnover during a shortage of skilled workers. 

Some things in IT can’t and shouldn’t be done in an agile way, including the customer relationship and, above all, the user relationship. This is where service management comes in! Despite its former negative reputation due to process bureaucracy, it is essential when it comes to satisfying customer and user needs. 

Agile cannot go without Service Management

The user still has the same concerns and challenges regarding IT which manifest themselves in questions like ‘I can’t’, ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I need’. Of course, service portals, AI and chatbots can answer such requests. But their underlying processes behind must first be defined and optimized before they can be automated! That’s why, despite Scrum and DevOps and Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), we still need Service Management. 

Service Management refers to the optimization of practices in service design, service portfolio management and IPCC (incident, problem change and configuration management). DevOps and SAFe acknowledge that these practices don’t work without Service Management. But some agile fans believe that if they focus on doing one thing for a long time they can neglect the others. In reality, a holistic view is needed to bring an agile competitive edge to businesses that depend on flexible yet stable IT systems.  

The industry has now recognized the dilemma. ServiceNow has addressed this problem by extending the lying eight of DevOps with an additional loop for services:

infinity loop devops

Agility & ITSM, the perfect match

In practice, it turns out Agility and ITSM complement each other beautifully. ITIL 4 provides a comprehensive guide to this:
customer to service management

The following 5 ITIL 4 components are key for the transformation of an IT dept into a digital enabler:  

  • Strategy (left): Digital & IT Strategy (DITS) 
  • Flow (top): Create, Deliver & Support (CDS) 
  • Velocity (top): High Velocity (HVIT) 
  • Value (right): Drive Stakeholder Value (DSV) 
  • Control (bottom): ITIL 4 Direct, Plan and Improve (DPI) 

In addition, ITIL 4 supports the connection of DevOps and Service with the 6 activities of the value chain: Engage, Plan, Design & Transition, Obtain/Build, Deliver & Support and Improve. 

By integrating Agile, DevOps, and Lean with Service Management, we can effectively deliver digital services and products that are fast, flexible, and reliable. 

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Markus Schweizer

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Markus Schweizer
Principal Strategy Consultant

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