Ebony and Ivory - Agile and ITIL

Today technology has been integrated into almost every aspect of business and continues to grow in importance with every new innovation. It is impacting organizational structures, business processes, how and what products and services we offer to our customers.  This tidal wave of change is increasing in complexity and velocity.  These dynamics are shaping the strategies we must employ to manage our IT environments.

Given the changes that are happening in the digital world today, support organizations have had to look at how to enhance and speed up the traditional waterfall approach to management of our IT infrastructures.  ITIL and Agile are not contradictory of each other. Agile development provides opportunities to assess the direction of a project throughout its development lifecycle.  It is a methodology on how to deliver projects, that is iterative, adaptive and an incremental approach to project management which can be used for almost any type of project.

ITIL is about best practice in IT Service Management. It’s a holistic collection of processes and functions on how to define, design, transition, run and continuously improve services and the processes that support their delivery.  ITIL’s perspective is from the operational point of view, recognizing that value to the customer is delivered during service operation and therefore operational requirements must be engaged as early as Service Strategy. ITIL is neutral about what types of tools or management methodologies are used, which means that ITIL and Agile are complementary and not competitive.

From a design perspective, both usually have a starting point of an approved business case and gather business requirements.  One in the form of a Service Level Requirements document, the other in user stories.  Both then prioritize these requirements or improvement opportunities ensuring they align to customer needs and the overall business strategy.

During the transition phase time boxed sprints are employed.  Normally the sprint will start with a sprint planning meeting and daily standup meetings, which help to track progress and to eliminate impediments. The sprint ends with the sprint review meeting, where the new or changed service is formally accepted. There can also be a Sprint Retrospect Meeting, which results in lessons learned for the next sprint.

In ITIL the change transition planning and support process gets employed to oversee coordination and prioritization of resources.  Moving into change, SACM and release and deployment controls are utilized to insure that intended outcomes are being realized and risk assessment are being properly review, along with accurate recording of data, information and knowledge. This will normally finish with a post implementation review where the change is accepted into operations and lessons learned can be recorded for future changes.  In speaking with a number of my students, it’s in the actual deployment and the operational phases where they are still working on the integration of methodologies. They incorporate Agile in the Strategy, Design and large parts of the Transitions stage, but in the Operation stage, the rigor of the ITIL concepts is still a requirement when integrating older applications and systems with new that are still prevalent in real world situations (off the island).  This helps to safeguard service availability, security and continuity while Agile ensures the quickened pace to deliver new capabilities to the business. This ties in with creating a culture of ITIL’s continuous improvement, while looking to move forward with greater speed, without compromising quality.

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