HPE Software is now Micro Focus
HPE Software is now Micro Focus
IT Service Management

ITIL and Agile: when two giants collide

ITIL and Agile: when two giants collide

 Honored Contributor... michael_pott  Honored Contributor...

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.


Have a nice day,

Michael Pott (@michaelpott


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About the Author


Product Marketing Manager at Micro Focus.

Absent Member.

Michael, thanks for the post. Agile and DevOps have been hot topics at Pink16 this week. The OpenGroup was here talking about IT4IT and the 2.0 versions interaction with agile - http://blog.opengroup.org/2015/10/22/it4it-reference-architecture-version-2-0-an-open-group-standard/. If you have further comments on this, please let me know. Alignment with SAFe was also discussed. Interestingly, I just listened to an Agile PPM webinar from Vivit that also discussed SAFe.

For everyone, I recommend downloading the pocket guide (which was being given away here at the event). https://www2.opengroup.org/ogsys/catalog/g154.



New Member...

Interesting thoughts, but of course ITIL can be Agile.
As Agile is used in the “Plan-Design-Build” stages and helps to accelerate the business with new capabilities.
The ITIL concept helps to protect the business by focusing on service availability which is leveraged by the “Operate” stage.
In the spirit of ITIL’s continuous improvement, we can go faster without compromising '(Agi)quality".


 Honored Contributor...

@mzbslv: Absolutely agree - ITIL can be agile ... and I like the term "(agi)quality"  :-).

@chuck_darst Yes - Agile, DevOps, Lean IT are all on top of mind these days. Btw, there is also an IT4ITTM Agile Scenario in https://www2.opengroup.org/ogsys/catalog/W162 which talks about Agile and Lean IT in a reference architecture context.

New Member...

@Michael:  Thanks, FYI: I thought of the term "Agiquality" because:
-  "Agi(qua)lity"  includes "Agility"
- "(Agi)quality"   includes " Quality"
- "(Ag)i(qua)lit(y)" includes an anagram for "ITIL"
but also...
- "Ag(iq)ua(l)it(y)" includes "Agua" or "Aqua"  and "IT" (=> "water" which is vital (to stay a)live, also in "IT")! 
Maybe farfetched, but I think all ingredients are included and expressed by this word. :-)
Let's start promoting it!


I don't think ITIL will come to an end soon.  Agility and flexibility is what drives the companies to adjust to the market.


Thanks for the article

Absent Member.

Interesting post, but I think we need to remember that the Service Desk does FAR more than IT.  Agile will certainly mark a shift, but you need to look at the bigger picture before driving that last nail in the old ITSM coffin.


the two are not mutually exclusive. Each client will address their own needs by drawing on the best aspects of both. Suppliers need to understand the unique requirements and adapt.


The ITIL framework adoption is institutionalised and seen as slow cumbersome and inflexible. . Dev ops is seen as a panacea but the structure in the organisation required to support the culture change is not clear and the tools landscape supporting  it from hpe's factory is also ambiguous. 

 Honored Contributor...

Thanks for all the comments. Yes, the service desk does far more than IT, and the two (ITIL and DevOps) are not mutually exclusive. And, I am almost sure there will be no ITSM coffin to drive a nail in ... whether it is ITIL, DevOps or other frameworks/approaches, (IT) services need ITSM - in one form or the other. One question is how ITSM will evolve?

Frequent Contributor.

Well, interesting... DevOps. It takes some time to say it instead of ITIL. And I think that's where this whole dream isn't going to come threw _that_ fast: it doesn't calculate with the human factor: people all ower the world adjusted their thinking to ITIL and now suddenly some high-level hypothesis about everething becoming fast, shiny and perfect. I don't know. Yes there's definitely a need for something greater then the old framework. I don't thing this is the one. Or it should be at least a bit more practical. We saw the big picture: let us see some examples please.

New Member.

ITIL is still very much important, but not as important as it was, say, 5 years ago.

Our tools need to move on though, to support new processes and potentially new modules.

Absent Member.

Interesting thoughts.  I do not think this will be the end of ITIL. Infact, DevOps and agile can complement and improve efficiency and effectiveness of ITIL processes.


Designing processes is the easy part.  Getting people to adopt them is the hard part.  IT4IT will probably help bridge the gap between the two. 

New Member..

Several major corporations face the political collision embraced by the conversation here.  I am more interested to find the lessons learned from said collisions wherever we can find someone to describe the internal resolution of governance.

 Honored Contributor...

Good discussion on the DevOps theme - I really appreciate every single comment.

@Prince joseph ... Thanks for your observations.  While it is true that ITIL is a weighty framework, our customers have found great value in it. This is particularly true for core applications that role out revisions slowly. I think the validator of this is its continued evolution versus being dropped in the ~20 years it has been around. We support this with tools like HPE Service Manager. Here is blog post from 2010 asking your question http://bit.ly/1SfQpjd.  

As for DevOps, yes it is getting a lot of talk right now. Again our customers are finding value in rethinking delivery through a ‘devops’ lens.  What DevOps does is align the team to the business goals and objectives, across the silos.   Applying the principles of lean manufacturing and reducing WIP, eliminating error prone manual steps through automation of testing, deployment, configuration and feedback all lead to higher velocity and quality.  In fact, through automation, compliance and auditability can be significantly better in team that is managing a CI/CD pipeline. 

Our portfolio of tools have been dedicated to helping IT teams with automation and collaboration for the past 20 years.   Whether it is helping to automate functional testing to automating data center management.   Here are a few examples of recent innovation:

  • HPE Service Virtualization: to help isolate and define a CI/CD pipeline
  • HPE Lean FT: to enable scripted functional testing leveraging BDD and other testing frameworks
  • HPE StormRunner Load: enabling cloud based load testing as an integral part of the CI/CD pipeline
  • HPE Codar: managing the continuous delivery pipeline, enabling infrastructure as code
  • HPE ALM (which has a current public beta that showcases pipeline management)

@dkara ... I am not sure we will say DevOps instead of ITIL, it is probably too early to think about this. I think there is a lot more before this can happen: change in mindsets/thinking, organizational change, tools etc ... but I think it is an interesting journey ahead of us and and opportunity to leverage the best of both worlds. I am sure we discuss one or the other example at the EMEA Software Customer Forums in May. Check the ITSM agenda for details.

@Stuart Crann ... it is hard to tell whether ITIL is less or more important. I think it is and will be an essential cornerstone to achieving service excellence. I just retweetet an interesting article: Is ITIL Dead?

@Arun_1 ... I also think that this is an opportunity to demonstrate that ITIL does not equal slow.

@Pádraig Farrell ... yes, I see a pattern here, which is not surprising it all needs to go hand in hand with change in mindsets and organizational change. And I think you are spot on with mentioning IT4IT; it certainly can help bridging the two.

@demena ... yes like Ops alone this more than ever requires the discussion and management of change - in the organisational sense. Could be worth another blog article.

Absent Member.

Technical progress is unstopable 


I think its still important, and will continue to be important. This conversation is very interesting to follow! Look forward to reading more.

Respected Contributor..

Think this is not the end of ITIL (yet). But it can get some improvements