Are DevOps and ITIL Mutually Exclusive?

One of the most common objections to the adoption of an agile infrastructure is the fact that the organisation has invested significant time and money in adopting ITIL, and this would have to be abandoned. For example, a DevOps philosophy uses change as a primary driver, whereas ITIL is often viewed as regarding change as, at best, a necessary evil.  There is too often a position where DevOps and ITIL are facing firmly in opposite directions, each believing that their approach is the only effective one.

DevOps is essentially a philosophy intended to improve collaboration between Development and Operations teams. It is often pitched as being a mechanism to bring Operations teams into the Agile fold, but this should not mean the end of ITIL.  In fact, abandoning ITIL would be a serious mistake in most organisations attempting to adopt DevOps.  However, without any change, there would be irreconcilable differences between DevOps and ITIL.  DevOps should be regarded as a means by which the ITIL processes within an organisation can be improved.  DevOps should be regarded as a philosophy within which ITIL provides a structure.

Perhaps two of the best examples DevOps philosophy influencing ITIL structure are Change Management and Incident Management.

Change Management is one of the most contentious areas in many IT organisations. The Change Management Process, usually governed by a Change Advisory Board, is one of the biggest bottlenecks in an IT organisation.  Change, or the lack of it, was one of the initial catalysts in the creation of the DevOps movement, as Development wanted more and faster changes and Operations wanted to minimise change to keep systems running.

So how do we reconcile these two views? The most effective approach is to retain the process of change but to make simple changes such as more frequent CAB meetings and insisting that meetings are held in person drive big changes in behaviour.  Some organisations remove the option to ‘Reject’ a change altogether, replacing it with ‘More Information Required’ to make the Change Owner consult with the CAB.  DevOps also espouses the use of as many standard changes as possible to remove the need for CAB involvement.

The main goal of the change in philosophy, is to improve collaboration and communication between stakeholders, and to create a pro-active approach to consultations, rather than a reactive one.

The other ITIL discipline that has often suffered from lack of communication between different IT groups is Incident Management DevOps makes some simple changes, perhaps the most notable of which is putting Developers on call. This bolsters confidence in the Operations team, as they see their colleagues putting themselves into the front line; but it also has a beneficial impact on developers, as they can see first-hand the impact of their coding, and how supportable it is.

So, in essence, DevOps and ITIL are not mutually exclusive, in fact, they are mutually beneficial. ITIL can be modernised and enhanced with the adoption of a more agile DevOps philosophy, and DevOps can benefit from the adoption of a structured framework to manage its activities and bring service delivery rigour.



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