While more and more IT organizations have grown their IT processes' maturity based on ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) and other industry frameworks for IT service management (ITSM), related initiatives have been focusing on improving service quality for key processes like incident, problem, change, knowledge and catalog management. With the emergence of new methodologies like Agile Software Development and technologies like the cloud came the call for more agility in addition to quality. Delivery speed and frequency suddenly became the name of the game.
While these methodologies and technologies allowed Development to deliver applications faster and more frequently than ever before, it seemed like IT Operations was not able to keep up with the pace of the higher delivery rates of services. This situation created a breeding ground for questions and blog articles around whether ITIL was still viable. Today we know: ITIL can play a major role when combining service quality and reliability with agility and speed.
ITIL, as a best practice framework for IT service management, provides a foundation for the governance of IT from both, a business and customer perspective. Its focus is on continual measurement and improvement of quality of the IT services delivered. Agility was and is not necessarily the focus according to the books.
Bimodal IT looks like a promising approach for injecting agility into IT (processes) but runs the risk of being a temporary, transitional phenomenon which may disappear in the future because businesses and their customers are looking for stable and agile services, not one or the other supported by two modes of IT delivery.
DevOps could be the more sustainable concept and approach for bringing these two apparently disparate worlds of Development and Operations - stability and agility - together.
What is DevOps?
DevOps promotes the collaboration and communication between Development (Dev) and IT Operations (Ops). The goal is to automate application delivery and related workflows (design, build, test, ...) to significantly cut down the time for releasing applications at a high rate while at the same time not sacrificing reliability.
Does this mean the end of ITSM?
Maybe it does spell the end of ITSM and the service desk as we know it today. I believe there will be a new - a lean, fast and agile - service desk in the future. “Patterns and processes that emerge from DevOps are the inevitable outcome of applying Lean principles to the IT value stream […and] ITSM practitioners are uniquely equipped to help in DevOps initiatives, and create value for the business,” according to Gene Kim, thought leader and co-author of The Phoenix Project in his article Trust me: The DevOps Movement fits perfectly with ITSM.
What is the role of the new service desk?
How can IT organizations move away from the traditional IT approach to become more agile? There is no silver bullet, and I am sure there are many starting points. From my perspective, two areas with great potential are:
Obtain faster change rates and cycles through automation
Engage the service desk earlier in the service lifecycle, during design and testing of new applications for example, to capture the knowledge for service support and application improvement via knowledge management
Automation: The service desk can greatly benefit from things like cloud automation. It can accelerate routine tasks, capture reuseable deployment patterns for standardization, enable repeatability and finally reduce errors by automating processes like change and release management.
Knowledge management: Engaging the service desk early in the lifecycle can mean, for example, tracking problems and known errors during the testing phase of an application. For issues not resolved before a release to production, knowledge articles can be created. In turn, during Operations (in production), data from incidents and problems can be analyzed to improve the quality of the next application release. Big data analysis can automate large parts of the related service desk tasks by identifying clusters and patterns in incident data, which then can be acted upon. This all helps with effectively building the knowledge database right from the beginning and enables sharing of knowledge between Dev and Ops teams during all phases of the lifecycle.
This short article cannot even get close to comprehensively cover such a subject matter like DevOps and the Service Desk. I hope it raises awareness for DevOps and what it can mean for ITSM and the service desk. DevOps, in my opinion, is a great opportunity to deliver and support IT services with high quality and at high speed. ITSM and the service desk offer many starting points to benefit from agile development and cloud automation. Development on the other hand can learn a lot from and leverage from incident, problem, change and knowledge management areas where IT service management has been traditionally very strong.
DevOps seems to be an ideal symbiosis for heralding a new era of agile development, delivery and support.
But to be successful, there is more to consider. DevOps - like ITIL - requires a sustained effort across people, processes and technology. And it demands a radically new way of thinking—a shift in mindset within and across organizations. One of the questions to answer might be then: How do you effectuate a required shift like this?
ITIL and Agile - when two giants collide ... a new star can be born: DevOps.
What are your thoughts on DevOps and the Service Desk? Do not hesitate to drop me a line in the comment section below.