It is remarkable how much ITIL bashing I have heard and read about since its 2011 revision was released a few years ago. 

Transforming into the digital world and with practices such as DevOps, Continuous Delivery, and Value stream mapping, many question if ITIL is still relevant today?

Of course it is!! Let me try to explain this in some detail and share my top 3 reasons why ITIL will also remain relevant in 2018 (and likely beyond as well)

Reality in the digital age is the ever-increasing customer expectation that digital and mobile services do what they need, but also that they will always be there, wherever and whenever they are needed. This impacts Dev as well as Ops.

As a result, companies are searching for and creating new innovative services for consumers, for industry and government. At the same time organizations are also continuously working on improving the structure and process for making sure that incidents, problems, service requests, and service changes are handled in the most efficient and effective way possible so that user experience and expectations are met continuously and fast. In the digital world expectation is to up 24/7.

Let’s explore this a step deeper.

IT is required and desires to deliver value to its internal or external customers (and wants to do this as fast as acceptable by them). Since ITIL v3, the value of an IT service has been defined as a combination of Utility and Warranty as the service progresses throughout its lifecycle.

Utility on the one hand is defined as the functionality offered by a product, application, or service to meet a particular need. Utility is often summarized as “what it does” or “its level of being fit for purpose”.

Warranty on the other hand provides a promise or guarantee that a product, application or service will meet its agreed requirements (“how it is done”, “its level of being fit for Use”). In digital-age wording ensuring digital and mobile services will always be there, wherever and whenever they are needed.

I read another interesting article a while ago that stated that Dev only produces 20% of the value that a service creates for its internal or external customers. That 20% is the actual functionality, or what the application does. This is the utility of the service, application, or product as explained above. The other 80% of the value of the service is created by Ops, ensures the service will be usable according to the customer’s needs, and will continue to be usable throughout its entire lifecycle. This is what ITIL calls warranty of the service.

Warranty includes availability, capacity, continuity and security of the service that must be implemented and maintained long after the deployment is finished and Dev moves on to their next project, or sprint.

So in the end, Ops has accountability for close to 80% of the actual value of the service for internal or external customers. That’s a lot!

Looking at DevOps, being a cultural and professional movement focusing on better communication, collaboration, and trust between Dev and Ops to ensure a balance between responsiveness to dynamic business requirements and stability, it looks more than natural that it is more Dev and must earn trust of Ops in this setting. If accountability is spread 80%-20%, then it is normal to me that the one that takes the highest risk, seeks the most trustworthy partner. Ops will seek stability and predictability to deliver the required warranty. To establish trust between Dev and Ops the handover between the two needs to be “trustworthy”. The way to establish this includes:

  • more transparency and accuracy in release and coding progress
  • more automation within the delivery process (the more manual activities in the delivery process, the lower the level of trust will be)
  • mutual understanding and respect of each other’s needs and expectations to be successful

Therefore, Lean IT and Value Stream Mapping, practices like Continuous Delivery and Continuous Deployment, all become a subset or a building block within a DevOps initiative.  DevOps is often an organic approach toward automating process/workflow and getting products to market more efficiently and with quality.

Often in bigger enterprises, applications or services tend to be highly interconnected. There is a desire to have a better decoupling and use of micro services, but for many this will take another decade or even longer to ultimately there (if at all). Dev teams often work and focus on individual applications or services, but in reality, these applications often interact with others within the production environment. Ops has the accountability to ensure services and applications remain available and functional at all times with quality.

This often means finding a workaround quickly at the front line so customers can continue working, assessing the overall impact of a change in production holistically, identifying failure root cause, etc. This all aligns nicely with what ITIL has been designed for: Best practices for managing, supporting, and delivering IT Services. There is no way the need for such practices will fade or become irrelevant in the near future, especially not in larger enterprises. On the contrary, with the introduction of new platforms (like public or private cloud, containers, IoT, or virtual machines, etc) we will see an increasing number of silos and teams, because often Dev team center around specific platforms.

Their deliverables form the micro services and applications of tomorrow, spread over multiple platforms. Ops need to ensure these services are of quality and delivering value to all customers. This requires discipline, communication, collaboration, tracking, planning and learning across all silos/teams…. ITIL still remain the best reference point for establishing such practices.

Big companies often with legacy in coding will only remain successful in the digital age if they find a good blend that fits for them between Agile, DevOps, ITIL and Lean IT. I am mentioning only these explicitly because they benefit a great momentum at present, but in fact, companies should explore best practices available and find the best blend that works effectively and efficiently for them, and ensure buy in from those affected.

This last aspect is key: teams need to build a common understanding of how DevOps is enabled by Agile, ITIL/ITSM, Lean and maybe other best practices.  It is not just about a tool, automation or continuous delivery but how we go about doing this that is key.  You need to promote, inspire and educate teams on how these practices can be used together to enable them and the company for success. 

To finish let me share my 3 reasons why ITIL remains valid into 2018:

1) ITIL remains providing a stable foundation/reference point in the evolving enterprise

Flexibility, elasticity and scalability remain key attributes of contemporary IT departments. Creating and maintaining this level of agility relies on having clear processes, a clear and accurate understanding of the current IT configuration and of course a good service design. The core principles of ITIL have been refined to help organizations establish these attributes within their technology systems, ensuring that there is a steady foundation for IT operations. Having this stable environment makes it easier to adjust the service management setup without running into any problems.

2) ITIL provides the required stability and value warranty within evolving enterprises

Businesses face more pressure than ever to maintain constant uptime around the clock, and all innovations in the world are useless if businesses are losing productivity because of system availability issues. ITIL continues to provide the reliability and stability needed to maximize the value of new technology strategies in today’s digital world. While organizations are in their digital transformation journey, they will have to support multi-speed, multi-risk, multi-platform environments and architectures. ITIL, under regular evolution and updating itself, continues to provide proven, common sense best practices to deliver stability in evolving, heterogeneous environments.

3) ITIL remains the de-facto reference set of best practices for IT service management (ITSM) that focuses on aligning IT services with the needs of customers

If you pick and choose, adopt and adapt what you find in ITIL you will learn that a lot of the content is “common sense”. Common sense will never go out of fashion.

Just be aware and accept that the need of and value to a customer goes beyond just the delivery of (isolated) functionality into a production environment.

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