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The ITIL Application Management Lifecycle and SDLC

I often get questions on the differences and similarities between the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) and the ITIL Application Management Lifecycle. Is the ITIL framework just another rebranding of SDLC? SDLC defines the organization’s standards for the creation and maintenance of applications. The SDLC can be divided into ten phases during which defined IT work products are created or modified. The phases range from initiation, design, development, implementation, operations & maintenance to disposition. The tenth phase, disposition, occurs when the system is disposed of and the task performed is either eliminated or transferred to other systems.

The ITIL Application Management Lifecycle presents a more holistic, service oriented view. It allows for greater alignment between the development view of the applications and the live management of those applications. This ITIL lifecycle focuses on the overall management of applications as part of IT services. Understanding the characteristics of each phase of the Application Management Lifecycle is crucial to improving the quality of the service delivery.

The Application Management Lifecycle phases are:
  • Requirements – requirements gathered based on the business needs of the organization
  • Design – requirements translated into specifications
  • Build – application and the operational model are made ready for deployment
  • Deploy – operational model and application are put into the existing IT environment
  • Operate – the IT service provider operates the application as part of the business service
  • Optimize- performance is measured, improvement discussed, and more development is initiated if needed.

One important thing to remember is that these phases are CIRCULAR; Optimize feeds into the Requirements phase. Each step of the lifecycle uses business priorities as the driver. The performance of the application in relation to the overall service is measured continually against the Service Levels. Please remember an application is not a service, it is just one component of many that is needed to provision a business service. 
We need to integrate the SDLC activities into the larger context of the ITIL Application Management Lifecycle. It should be similar to the approach in how we integrate a governance framework such as COBIT, or a program methodology such as PMI. We need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each lifecycle; look for integration points and overlaps. They need to both be aligned as part of the overall strategy of delivering valuable IT services to the business. More information on the ITIL Application Management Lifecycle can be found in the Service Operations book, section 6.5.4 page130.

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