Contrary to popular opinion, DevOps and ITIL 4 are not mutually exclusive but can complement one another to deliver enhanced business value. Senior Consultant and Facilitator Stephen Howard explains what this relationship looks like, the benefits it brings and how organisations can approach the implementation process.
In today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, and with digital transformation on the rise, circumstances dictate a new perspective on two pillars of modern IT: DevOps and ITIL 4. Rather than viewing them as opposing forces, organisations should be recognising and nurturing the synergy that exists between the two. Committing to this relationship can enable all manner of organisations to achieve greater agility, efficiency, and customer-centricity, ultimately driving business success.
Here we’ll explore the fundamental concepts, benefits and best practices associated with this integration of DevOps and ITIL 4. This includes practical steps you can take to unlock the potential of this power duo, with an emphasis on key principles such as collaboration, communication, and continuous improvement.
What is DevOps?
DevOps is a software development approach and cultural philosophy that seeks to break down barriers between development (Dev) teams and operations (Ops) teams. It emphasises the need for close collaboration, communication, and shared responsibilities throughout the software development lifecycle, from planning and development to deployment and operations.
Unlike ITIL, DevOps doesn’t have a formal best practice guide for teams. However, most agree that DevOps is a means to deliver business value by moving from traditional siloed and sequential development and operations processes to a more iterative, collaborative, and automated approach. By promoting cross-functional teamwork and continuous development, DevOps enables organisations to deliver software applications more rapidly, reliably, and efficiently.
What is ITIL?
ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is a widely adopted framework for managing IT services and aligning them with business goals. Offering a set of guidelines, best practices, and tried-and-tested processes, ITIL provides a comprehensive and systematic approach to managing IT services efficiently and effectively throughout their lifecycle, from strategy and design to transition, operation and continual improvement.
ITIL guidelines cover everything from incident management to change management, with the key objectives being to improve IT service quality, enhance customer satisfaction, and optimise IT service delivery and support. All that said, it’s important to note that ITIL is not a strict rulebook but more of a roadmap for understanding and managing complex IT processes. It should give you the context you need to organise your IT teams and make good decisions.
DevOps versus ITIL: which approach should you choose?
Popular opinion in IT circles typically says you must pick one approach over the other. However, this ‘either/or’ view is often based on a lack of understanding around the true nature of ITIL and DevOps.
For instance, ITIL is frequently viewed as rigid and bureaucratic, prompting a trend of IT departments eschewing the framework in favour of DevOps. But they still need to do aspects of IT service management, such as operations, support, governance, and costing. These functions are integral to any business, and when ITIL is used appropriately – i.e. as guidance rather than a rulebook – the framework can streamline operations.
Similarly, while DevOps promotes automation and continuous improvement, the heart of the practice is more about transitioning away from old silos and working together collaboratively. So even if your team is yet to fully adopt automated delivery and continuous improvement, embracing a culture of mutual respect and blamelessness can significantly enhance business metrics.
The truth is, DevOps and ITIL can coexist in an organisation’s operational infrastructure. In fact, a mixed approach is not only possible but imperative in our rapidly evolving context.
Why is the relationship between DevOps and ITIL so critical for projects?
It’s only by bringing the strengths of both ITIL and DevOps to the table that organisations are empowered to achieve optimal results in terms of agility, efficiency, and service quality.
Here are some key benefits of an integrated approach:
5 benefits of DevOps and ITIL collaboration
- Collaboration and alignment: DevOps and ITIL promote collaboration and alignment between development and operations teams, breaking down silos and fostering a shared understanding of objectives and priorities. This collaboration ensures that project goals are aligned with IT service management principles, resulting in more efficient and effective project outcomes.
- Speed and agility: DevOps emphasises rapid and iterative development and deployment cycles, allowing organisations to respond quickly to changing market needs and deliver new features and functionalities at a faster pace. ITIL, on the other hand, provides guidelines for managing and controlling these changes, ensuring that they are implemented smoothly and minimising disruptions. The combination of DevOps and ITIL enables organisations to achieve the desired speed and agility while maintaining stability and control.
- Quality and stability: ITIL focuses on service quality and stability by providing processes and best practices for incident management, problem management, and change management. By integrating DevOps practices with ITIL, organisations can ensure that the rapid changes and deployments associated with DevOps are managed effectively, reducing the risk of service disruptions and ensuring a stable production environment.
- Continuous improvement: Both DevOps and ITIL emphasise the importance of continuous improvement. DevOps promotes continuous integration, delivery, and feedback loops, enabling teams to gather insights and make iterative improvements. ITIL’s continual service improvement practice provides a structured approach for assessing and enhancing IT services over time. The integration of DevOps and ITIL facilitates a culture of continuous improvement at both the project and service management levels.
- Customer-centricity: DevOps and ITIL share a customer-centric focus. DevOps aims to deliver value to customers quickly and consistently, while ITIL emphasises customer satisfaction and the alignment of IT services with business needs. By combining these approaches, organisations can ensure that project outcomes meet customer expectations and deliver business value.
“DevOps and ITIL, two pillars of modern IT, are not opposing forces but complementary allies. Together they form a powerful partnership that blends agility, speed and innovation with stability, control and service excellence.”
12 steps to integrating DevOps and ITIL
As organisations strive to deliver enhanced business value, embracing and nurturing this relationship is vital. Unlocking the synergy between the two requires a systematic and collaborative approach.
Here are robust steps to practically guide the implementation process:
- Assess current state: Evaluate the existing DevOps and ITIL practices in your organisation to identify strengths, gaps, and areas of potential integration. Understand the organisational culture, processes, and tools currently in place.
- Define objectives: Clearly define the objectives and desired outcomes of integrating DevOps and ITIL. Align these objectives with business goals, such as improving service delivery, enhancing customer satisfaction, or increasing operational efficiency.
- Foster collaboration: Establish cross-functional teams comprising members from development, operations, and service management. Encourage open communication, collaboration, and shared responsibility among team members to bridge the gap between DevOps and ITIL.
- Identify common processes: Identify the processes and practices in DevOps and ITIL that can be aligned and integrated. For example, change management, incident management, and release management can be areas of focus for integration.
- Develop a unified process framework: Create a unified process framework that incorporates the essential elements from both DevOps and ITIL. This framework should outline the sequence of activities, roles, responsibilities, and required deliverables for each process, ensuring a cohesive and integrated approach.
- Automation and tooling: Evaluate and implement automation tools that support both DevOps and ITIL practices. Automation can streamline processes, reduce manual efforts, and improve efficiency. Choose tools that are flexible and capable of integrating with existing systems.
- Establish metrics and measurements: Define key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics that align with the integrated DevOps and ITIL framework. These metrics should focus on both operational aspects (e.g. deployment frequency, mean time to restore) and service-level indicators (e.g. customer satisfaction, service availability).
- Training and upskilling: Provide training and upskilling opportunities to team members to ensure they have the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively operate within the integrated DevOps and ITIL environment. This includes training on new tools, processes, and collaborative practices.
- Pilot implementation: Conduct a pilot implementation of the integrated framework in a controlled environment. Gather feedback, monitor outcomes, and make necessary adjustments before scaling up the implementation.
- Continuous improvement: Embrace a culture of continuous improvement by conducting regular reviews, gathering feedback, and implementing lessons learned. Encourage teams to share insights, suggestions, and innovative ideas to drive ongoing enhancements and optimisations.
- Communicate and evangelize: Communicate the benefits of the integrated DevOps and ITIL approach across the organisation. Share success stories, demonstrate improved outcomes, and highlight the value of collaboration and alignment between DevOps and ITIL.
- Iterative implementation: Implement the integrated framework in incremental phases, focusing on specific processes or areas of improvement. This allows for manageable changes and facilitates ongoing adjustments based on feedback and results.
Remember, the implementation process may vary based on organisational needs, size, and complexity. It’s essential to tailor the steps to your specific context and continuously evaluate and adapt the integration to achieve the desired outcomes.
The integration of DevOps and ITIL 4 creates a formidable alliance, combining collaboration and agility on the one hand, with control and process on the other. In an environment of rapid, constant technological change, understanding and nurturing this relationship is increasingly critical. By leveraging the strengths of both frameworks, organisations of all sizes will be better placed to navigate the complexities of the modern business landscape with confidence, achieving optimal outcomes and gaining a competitive edge.
To find out more about how PM-Partners can empower your teams to achieve optimal results, or to boost critical knowledge and skills with our DevOps Fundamentals or ITIL® 4 Foundation Certification course, contact us online or call our team on 1300 70 13 14.