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The Need for Speed: Soup Up Your ITIL Engine with Agile, Lean, and DevOps Approaches

Posted by on May 10, 2018

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Service desks are feeling the pressure to go faster than ever before. As modernization pushes your enterprise to rapidly respond to changing customer and market demands, your IT team must accelerate delivery of new products and services to meet a growing list of requirements.

You may feel that the pace of change is too much for traditional methods like ITIL®. Some contend that following the ITIL framework is too cumbersome to meet today’s need for speed. But what if it’s possible that ITIL isn’t to blame?

Many would agree that the processes ITIL describes still hold value and validity today. And that it remains a powerful tool for managing risk, particularly when managing substantial changes in complex environments. Arguably, the only time ITIL becomes a problem is when it’s misapplied—or applied too rigidly.

When you apply ITIL exhaustively or literally, it can slow you down. But ITIL was never intended to be followed to the letter. If you “adopt and adapt” it to your environment and needs—as it was intended to be used—ITIL provides a trusty engine to propel even your most aggressive initiatives. And just like any engine, you can customize it with additional components that deliver greater speed and performance.

If your IT service desk is more focused on your ITIL maturity score than on meeting business objectives, and your changes are taking too long to roll out, it isn’t necessarily time to toss out ITIL. But it may be time to make some mods. By supercharging ITIL with Agile, Lean, and DevOps concepts, you can build a finely tuned engine capable of the acceleration and responsiveness you need.

Get Your Engine Running Lean (and Mean)

Mod: Identify the value

Creating value for the customer lies at the core of Lean. And this same concept is echoed in ITIL’s “focus on value” principle. Instead of attempting to comprehensively implement ITIL, determine where the greatest business value lies. What does your customer need most? And how soon will they need it?

Remember that value is always defined by your customer, not you. Make sure that the services and upgrades you’re rolling out deliver tangible benefits and solve real problems. Otherwise, you’re just spinning your wheels. If you concentrate your efforts on activities with the greatest value to your customer, you’ll always come in first.

Mod: Eliminate the unnecessary

ITIL’s “keep it simple” principle isn’t that different from Lean’s focus on waste minimization. You get lean and mean by scrutinizing your current workflows. Use value stream mapping to pinpoint and remove wasted effort. Eliminate anything and everything that isn’t needed to deliver your product or service to your customer. While some elbow grease is required, your efforts to reduce complexity and eliminate unneeded steps will come back to you in both speed gained and dollars saved.

Satisfy Your Need for Speed with Agile

Mod: Focus on outcomes

Going faster accomplishes nothing if you’re veering off course. You must start by understanding your enterprise’s overall objectives; then you can develop your road map around achieving them. Let data-driven KPIs and metrics be your dashboard, keeping you focused and on track. And while you’ve got your pedal to the metal, don’t forget to be on the lookout for continuous improvement opportunities to tune your performance for quicker finish times and better outcomes.

Mod: Roll out smaller changes more frequently

When you need to be nimble, you need to lighten your load. You can’t be weighed down by heavy releases and bundled changes. When you push out smaller changes more often, you’re able to go faster, not to mention reducing risk from a systems perspective and gathering valuable feedback. Use this information to make needed course corrections along the way instead of waiting too late in the race. The ITIL recommendation to “progress iteratively” acknowledges the power in making necessary shifts early and often.

Shift into Automatic with DevOps

Mod: Automate where possible

While automating everything may not be how you roll, you can make a move in that direction. Automate as many points in the change management process as possible. Implement automated testing and monitoring earlier in the release lifecycle, so that issues can be caught and addressed sooner rather than later. And when you can, push changes into the pre-approved standard change category. By involving your change advisory board only when absolutely necessary, you’ll shift into high gear and go faster.

While some may argue that ITIL is a relic of the past, it still has plenty of miles left in it. By souping up your approach with Lean, Agile, and DevOps practices, you can increase your speed and efficiency to deliver greater value and better outcomes.

Want even more ways to go faster? Read the "5 Ways to Fast Forward IT Service Management" playbook.

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