ITIL & DevOps Go Together Like…Cupcakes & Cowboys?

In a recent episode of MasterChef, the reality cooking show that pits home chefs against one another, Newton, a rancher from Texas, and Tom, from Hawaii, square off. Newton notes to the camera that he hopes they get to cook a “big ol’ steak”, meanwhile Tom is hoping they do not have a steak assignment.  He assumes Newton to be “a one trick pony” where given any other dish, he will be victorious.

Their challenge is revealed: a cupcake. Newton, in his cowboy boots, 10-gallon hat, and giant belt buckle, proceeds to craft an espresso chocolate cupcake with chocolate chips topped with chipotle-bourbon pecans. Spoiler alert: Newton wins and Tom, although disappointed, feels good about losing to the cowboy who made a “damn good cupcake”.

What does this have to do with Service Innovation?  There’s a lot of talk out there saying if you’re DevOps, or even Agile, you don’t need ITIL. Are these people saying that if you can cook a steak, no one cares whether you can bake a badass cupcake? Why not do all of it? Why not use the pieces of the methodologies that complement each other? Haven’t we learned that nothing works by the book every time and that everything needs to molded and tweaked for the business, the situation, the culture?  Sometimes we need a grill, and sometimes we need a baking mixer.

I’m an ITIL nerd, I’ll admit it, even if it’s not cool to say it.  I’ve been in IT Service Management for 20 years. But I also love me some Agile AND DevOps! Why?

  1. The Product Owner: Game changer. Period.
    Those of us who have been in IT Service Management have been dying to get someone on the hook to represent the business to IT.  Someone who says what we should work on, what we’re doing wrong…and what we’re doing right for a change.  The Product Owner smells gloriously like a Business Relationship Manager but where the BRM was always expected to be a big office exec who could make mandates and lay laws down, the product owner is someone the business respects and can wield a similar power while handing out high fives, advocating for IT and forcing development teams to fix technical debt and do problem management. Genius!
  2. Continuous Delivery of stuff the business both wants and doesn’t even know they want.
    Are you kidding me?  I love it when I turn on my smartphone and it says one of my favorite apps have been updated.  Do I read the release notes? Hell no. I go out there and see what new features the development fairies have bestowed upon me. Sometimes I’m meh but sometimes I am pleasantly surprised at something that worked funky having a new, better way to perform and other times I get something I didn’t even know I wanted from the app but it’s life changing. We want our business to be just as excited about what we are releasing and they should get it now, not 3 or 6 months from now when we’ve built so much crap into the release that the new and cool thing has become old news and we’ve introduced a bunch of confusion and likely a pile of bugs.
  3. Testing, I mean real testing!
    When I first saw the testing that can be built into Dev Ops engines a choir of angels sang “Hallelujah” in my head. If Change Management is technically about protecting the production environment and the best possible availability of critical services isn’t Dev Ops the Change Manager’s dream come true? Plus, who wants to be in all of those post implementation reviews for critical incidents caused by things WE did to ourselves? I’d rather be working on something more interesting, thank you very much.

Too many people think of IT Service Management as Operations.  The magnificent thing about IT Service Management is not, in fact, in the Service Operations and Service Transition areas, but in the Service Strategy and Service Design activities.  IT is a business – it costs money, it has a customer, and those customers pay a ton of money for IT.  The art of good ITSM is helping IT say who we are, what we do, how well we do it, and when we fall outside of those commitments, how we deal with it.  We put in tools and right size our processes to give the business what they expect, help our teams meet our commitments and show the data to make great decisions to do better.

No need to be a one-trick pony. We can improve, dazzle and delight together. Let’s show the business that we can be strategic, and innovative, yet stable and responsive when needed. We can flambé a great steak and bake a badass cupcake all at the same time.