Agile and ITIL can learn much from each other

Governance & Assurance

July 12, 2017

Renai LeMay is CTO Group’s Advisory Delivery Manager. He is certified across Project Management, IT Service Management and Agile methodologies.

It’s not hard to understand why many Agile and ITIL specialists view each other’s approach with a kind of mild horror.

At first glance, the two methodologies would appear to be diametrically opposed.

Agile methodologies such as Scrum focus on the rapid delivery of business value through short, sharp iterations of product development. Agile teams are small, self-organising, largely unstructured and feature a blend of multi-functional staff who work across disciplines.

IT Service Management approaches such as ITIL are very different.

ITIL lays out a highly structured path to the stable, reliable and predictable management of IT services on an ongoing basis. It features a large number of tightly defined roles, processes and tasks and encourages adherence to its framework, to ensure IT organisations are aligned with business needs.

Sounds like a case of chalk and cheese? Integrating these two very different worlds seems like it would be fraught with difficulty.

However, when you start getting into the nitty gritty, it quickly becomes apparent that Agile and ITIL have much to offer each other.

For starters, Agile‘s ability to identify business requirements on an emergent basis and rapidly iterate the development of processes may help to take a huge chunk of risk out of the process of getting ITIL into a major organisation, as well as offering the potential to stand up essential IT services much more rapidly.

Giving ITIL’s Business as Usual teams responsibility for the Continuous Improvement of processes they operate, and allowing them to self-organise to achieve this aim, would be of fantastic benefit to many ITIL shops, as would identifying the potential overlap between roles such as the Scrum Product Owner and the ITIL Process Owner.

And it’s not just Scrum which would be of benefit to ITIL.

The DevOps approach aims to bridge some of the ‘silos’ which can popup in an ITIL world (especially the divides between Development, Operations and Testing teams). Kanban, while initially designed for inventory control, has much to offer many styles of ITIL Service Desk.

From the other side, ITIL’s structured approach helps fill in some of the gaps in common Agile methodologies. Scrum, DevOps and Kanban might be the latest cool kids on the block, but they are still effectively building on and refining many of the foundations laid down by ITIL over the past few decades.

These foundations have proven extremely resilient over time; it’s usually best not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

In addition, ultimately ITIL has the potential to incorporate these methodologies into a larger, more holistic enterprise IT framework, perhaps supporting the single, business-facing IT organisation that the increasingly popular Service Integration approach aims to establish.

That sounds like an outcome any major organisation would be interested in.

Interested in ITIL? Stimulated by Scrum? Post your thoughts below on how they can come together, or send a comment to Renai directly or through social media.