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Agile and ITIL: Friends or Foes?

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Last updated on
26th May, 2022
03rd Nov, 2017
Agile and ITIL: Friends or Foes?

Today, many IT organizations are expanding their IT businesses using ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) and other valuable industry frameworks for ITSM (IT Service Management). They are focussing on improving their service quality. In addition to quality, companies are trying to build agility, with the emergence of new technology and methodology like Agile Software Development. 

Recent reports from emphasized upon the factors that organizations measure during work in IT industry. The following image shows the statistics of the aspects, as measured by the organizations.

Even after the use of these methodologies and technologies to speed up delivery, IT operations were not able to get on with the fastest delivery rate of IT services. So industries carried out many discussions regarding the combination of ITIL and Agile- Is it possible that both can coexist within an organization? Can ITIL and Agile play major role after merging service quality with agility and speed? Will Agile and ITIL together becomes friends or foes? The article has tried to address this as precisely as possible. 

ITIL provides a framework for the governance of IT from the business and customer outlook. ITIL is referred as the best practice framework for IT service management (ITSM). It focuses on continuous measurement and improvement in the quality of the IT services delivered to the customers. According to the ITIL course, ITIL includes 9 guiding principles as follows:

  • Focus on value
  • Design for experience
  • Start where you are
  • Work holistically
  • Progress iteratively
  • Observe directly
  • Be transparent
  • Collaborate
  • Keep it simple

Agile is a set of processes for software development which fulfills customer requirements and solutions from the cross-functional teams. Companies need to adopt the key points from the Agile Manifesto to achieve Agile ITSM. The key points are as follows:

  • Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools
  • Working Software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer Collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to Change over following a plan.

If these Agile practices are matched with the 9 principles of ITIL, you will find some striking similarities. ‘Working software’ is an equivalent to ‘Focus on value’- which means develop the right things, the valued software can be used by the customers. The ‘Keep it Simple’ principle clearly explains how close ITIL and Agile are! This principle suggests to act quickly and deliver quality, which is the same as ‘Responding to change’.   

One of the main hurdles in the integration of Agile and ITIL is the truth that ITIL follows sequential framework, whereas Agile is an iterative approach where Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) are constructed and updated in a very short period cycle. This may create instability. However, businesses and their clients look for stable and agile IT services.

DevOps can be the solution for it. It is a more endurable approach for bringing these two contrasting approaches to enable stability and agility (Development and Operations), together. DevOps is based on the combination and communication between Development (Dev) and IT Operations (Ops). DevOps provides technical practices to produce a software. The goal behind DevOps technology is to automate an application delivery and workflow of the processes (planning, design, implementation, testing). 

In future, there will be a lean, fast and agile IT service management. According to Gene Kim, thought leader and co-author of The Phoenix Project- “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”.

Essentially, considering the diverse perspectives, Agile and ITIL can exist without some major conflict. Agile and ITIL can very much go hand in hand, because this combination allows IT organizations to have a new culture called, Agile ITSM. ITIL will offer a framework for stable and quality-assured service rapid delivery, whereas DevOps will ensure to provide the continuous stream of improvements. Due to the alliance of Agile/DevOps and ITIL principles, Agile ITSM can provide guidelines for service and the speediest delivery in an Agile way! 



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