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Making service management agile

Blog posted by: Karen Ferris, Director, Macanta Consulting, 10 February 2017.

Making service management agile

The IT Service Management (ITSM) mindset in 2017 needs to shift, both culturally and in ways of working that are about breaking down barriers and silos.

Karen FerrisThis means embracing agile service management and moving away from long-term projects of process and improvement. Yes, that means looking to DevOps, lean and agile but not forgetting the role of ITIL®.

Ultimately, it’s about delivering what a business or organization needs. And that could involve forming a dynamic team of people that focuses on a particular piece of work but then changes personnel for the next one. The benefit of this is iterative process improvement with fast delivery and results. The team’s focus is relevant to current business needs rather than being guided by a long-term, “set in stone” project plan.

Time to question traditional ITSM?

Traditionally, ITSM has concentrated on continual service improvement (CSI), based on particular processes and change management; collecting feedback and coming up with improvements in a project plan spanning six to 12 months. Unfortunately, for customers, this approach is just too slow.

Conversely, agile service management is about making improvements iteratively (i.e. in small bites), getting the business and analysts involved and forming a team that will decide priorities among the improvements. You agree on what it’s all going to look like when finished and then ask: “What do we do in the next two weeks?” Agile talks of sprints of 2-4 weeks and you don’t want to make a sprint much longer than that.

When you’re clear on what to put into the sprint, everyone is then working to the same endgame and improvements arrive on a regular basis without the customer waiting six months to see results.

New skills for ITSM professionals

If they don’t have the skills now, ITSM professionals in 2017 need to understand agile principles and a Scrum approach: things like daily stand-ups, planning for sprints, holding retrospectives at the end of sprint while continually learning and feeding back. It’s about learning how to improve communications, build the right team, break down silos, agree priorities and get the job done.

It’s encouraging to hear a lot more conversation happening about – and more ITSM people using techniques like – the Kanban board: having a white board with movable sticky notes showing what needs doing. Being able to move the notes around is a great visual guide to what people are working on and what’s been completed. It’s a powerful tool to visualize, see the backlog and prioritize.

And for those ITSM professionals who are wondering where ITIL fits in, I can assure them that agile approaches are complementary. What’s in ITIL remains relevant today to ITSM and to those people who are learning complementary, best practice approaches.

The newest “kid on the block” – ITIL® Practitioner – has absolute relevance to this and is getting a lot of good feedback from the community for its content. And this has called upon other practices and approaches – such as lean, agile and DevOps. For example, one of the nine Guiding Principles of ITIL Practitioner, Observe Directly, is based on Gemba (the location where value is created) in lean.

Agile approaches have been long-adopted in software development; now is the time for more people in ITSM to change their mind-set and see that such approaches are just as relevant to them.

See our ITIL and ITIL Practitioner sections for more information.

Read more AXELOS Blog Posts from Karen Ferris

ITIL® Practitioner - Design for Experience

Observe Directly: how to avoid the "watermelon effect"

ITIL Practitioner: Organizational Change Management

Top 10 reasons why ITSM practitioners should welcome ITIL® Practitioner

Why Organizational Change Management is important for ITSM


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