ITIL originated in the 80s to address the growing complexity and cost of running IT services. After more than thirty years, and one, two, three, four versions later, we have arrived at a place where ITIL v4 continues to show the value of this framework.
About a decade ago, DevOps entered the IT landscape to marry software developers and IT operations. And many in the IT-sphere began asking: Will ITIL remain relevant?
Allow me to answer that for you from a different perspective. I work with companies every day who would like to implement Microsoft Azure in their business. They often already have an ITIL framework in place, but they want to leverage DevOps and are unsure how to get there. They may also become stuck because they are used to thinking a certain way and need an external partner to incite change.
It is in these situations that TAS brings them a solution leveraging ITIL and DevOps. We implement a new structure in their business through DevOps while maintaining the best practices they already leveraged with ITIL.
A recap of ITIL v4
The ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) framework standardises IT services, from planning to deployment and maintenance. ITIL v4 is the latest IT service management (ITSM) framework designed to help businesses improve their IT performance.
ITIL addresses service management from four perspectives:
- Information and technology: Considers how data can be shared and transferred more effectively across a company’s department, teams and suppliers.
- Value streams and processes: Examines how you can prioritise important processes based on business value.
- Organisations and people: Analyses how IT can work with employees to create an effective IT function.
- Partners and suppliers: Focuses on improving relationships between IT organisations, outside service providers or vendors, and customers.
A modern understanding of DevOps
DevOps came about in 2007 and has continued gaining traction among IT professionals ever since. It is a framework that breaks down communication barriers between developers and operations teams.
The goal of DevOps is to speed up release cycles by finding ways to reduce the time between software development and deployment. IT teams can produce more features in less time, which can also enable faster business growth.
DevOps follows a continuous life cycle comprising six key phases, which are: planning, building, continuous integration and deployment, monitoring, operating and continuous feedback. IT teams go through these phases for each release by deploying new features and updating products as needed.
Do ITIL and DevOps inherently conflict?
ITIL and DevOps do not necessarily conflict with each other. ITIL provides IT operations with a framework for driving IT service management, while DevOps gives IT development the ability to automate software delivery. Yet, they both have differences worth considering:
Role in business
ITIL is a framework with specific rules and guidelines that govern the software lifecycle in ITSM. Think of it as a set of instructions on what to do. On the other hand, DevOps promotes collaboration and communication between the development and operations teams; it focuses more on how to do something.
Approach to software delivery
ITIL is a systematic approach to reducing costs and risks, managing IT services, and fostering the growth and sustainability of a business. In contrast, DevOps focuses on optimising processes for the development and operations teams to work and communicate dynamically.
The goal of ITIL is to standardise ITSM and ensure robust IT delivery within the organisation. It focuses on setting clear roles and responsibilities. DevOps’ focus is primarily on smoothening collaboration and communication to ensure excellent delivery of software releases.
How ITIL and DevOps complement each other
While ITIL and DevOps have their differences, they can expand upon each other to deliver better IT services. A company would be wise to leverage both ITIL and DevOps to maximise the benefits of improved efficiency and communication.
One benefit of leveraging ITIL and DevOps is that it can provide your company with an agile team experienced in IT operations development who communicate directly with the business-user community to understand their needs.
ITIL’s critics argue that it follows a siloed set of processes, which happens to be the opposite of how DevOps functions. Bringing the two together can alleviate this issue as the flexibility of DevOps can add to the ITIL framework for enhanced business outcomes. Communication is also a strong reason for leveraging ITIL and DevOps in conjunction; they can strengthen the links between development and IT operations throughout the software development lifecycle.
The key to effectively leveraging ITIL and DevOps is to take the best practices from each to bridge the gap between old-school procedures and agile thinking.
Use Case: ITIL Change Management and DevOps
A common area of conflict is in the application of ITIL Change Management when in a DevOps driven environment. ITIL Change Management is often considered counter-intuitive to the rapid continuous improvement approach of DevOps. Leveraging the ITIL concept of a ‘standard change’, the two frameworks can complement each other and find a middle ground. A standard change is essentially a type of change that is considered to be low risk, low cost, repeatable, proven, documented and subsequently ‘pre-approved’. Generally speaking, standard changes require less documentation and can usually be implemented immediately after submission. As DevOps is skilled in dicing large complex changes into smaller rapid changes, the two frameworks can meet together at this point.
Prior to this, some homework should be completed first:
- Read and understand your organisation’s change management process and policy. It always helps to understand where someone is coming from and how you can maximise the use of a framework.
- Read the integration documentation available for your organisation’s service management tool. A critical success factor will be whether you can automate the creation and closure of standard change requests.
- Understand clearly the types of standard changes that you will need to make as part of DevOps. Start by listing them out and then ensure work instructions or documentation is in place that describes how the change is implemented (or rolled back). This is necessary even when the change is implemented by scripts.
- Have an open discussion with management and the change advisory board (CAB) and be transparent on how utilising standard changes will benefit the business. It often helps to provide age analysis and effort analysis data to show return on investment.
- Ensure decisions are captured in meeting minutes and actions are followed through, such as creating standard change templates in your organisation’s service management tool.
With the organisation in agreement, DevOps teams can continue doing what they do best:
- If available, build and deploy scripts that will create, update and close standard change requests within your organisation’s service management tool at appropriate times in the DevOps deployment. If this is not available, DevOps teams should be trained in how to manually create and apply standard change templates; even in this scenario, the reduction of change management process overhead is demonstrable.
- Review the standard changes that have been implemented each month, ensuring that your organisation’s change management process has been correctly followed. You may also identify new standard changes that can be templated to further optimise the DevOps and change management practice integration.
The following diagram shows how the two frameworks can work together. Leveraging your DevOps skillset to script change management record administration will reduce overheads and ensure correct and timely engagement with the process:
How TAS combines the right components of ITIL and DevOps to deliver Azure
We often leverage a combination of ITIL and DevOps when deploying Azure Managed Infrastructure as a Service. To dive into more technical details of an example use case, you can read this blog.
If you are looking to accelerate your digital transformation initiatives by improving agility and collaboration, then a combined ITIL and DevOps solution could be your next steps. Integrating application development with IT operations can improve the speed of releases and deliver a robust cloud solution in Azure while maintaining high-quality processes.
Visit our services page for more on our ITIL and DevOps capabilities.