The added value of Service Management for DevOps

The growth in popularity of DevOps has been rapid. What appeals to many developers is that new or updated applications can be put into production increasingly quickly. However, data center managers see risks in DevOps. They wonder whether the desired stability of the processing capacity would be reduced by ITIL® processes, etc., due to the uncontrolled work of application developers in a production environment. This blog post explores this contradiction based on the question of how the value of the business can best be increased.

The value of IT is provided by stable services

This blog post starts from the assertion that the value of IT is ultimately provided by stable services. A good IT service delivers value for the organization which the service is provided to. This can be achieved when the service results in products and services that are provided by the organization itself or when cost savings are made in the creation of these products and services. A bank’s website, for instance, is an IT service that ensures that mortgages are sold and can be used to administrate these mortgages. Any downtime of the site could lead to lower sales and more administrative work. Stability is therefore important. The success of ITIL can be explained by this necessity. By making strict agreements on tasks, processes and priorities, it is possible to keep many systems in production and resolve incidents as quickly as possible. The capacity for system changes is also important, however. In the current environment of constantly changing requirements from consumers and the political world, organizations must be agile to ensure they don’t miss out on opportunities. If a new sales drive for mortgages is launched, the website must not be an inhibiting factor. This demands focused work on new functionality, and this functionality must not be left unused because a change manager shuns it due to unclear criteria. This explains the emergence of DevOps. Because developers and administrators work shoulder to shoulder, new functionality goes into production as quickly as possible.

Processes are essential for delivering value

More than 30 years of experience in administrating IT services have taught us that it is necessary to make agreements on tasks, processes and priorities. However, the call from the business to implement fast and flexible IT does not fit in with a bureaucratic organization. Especially where the organization is silo-driven, the attitude and conduct of people is largely focused on the technology and on keeping line management happy, and the tooling used is primarily focused on local use. It is therefore important to get back to basics. Processes help with the successful delivery of IT as long as the goals are clear, the outcomes are measured and there is a clear connection to the business objectives. This does not happen by itself, but requires constant attention. Besides the ITIL processes, DevOps teams usually also use Agile, Scrum and other application development methods. DevOps is ultimately about progressing the entire lifecycle of an IT service for a client. It is because of this that many DevOps thinkers consider development-to-production processes as the solution to IT problems. This requires the integration and optimization of development processes and operations processes. From the perspective of time-saving, we see that simplifying the processes and agreed arrangements requires a lot less coordination and is possible because the bulk of the work is handled within the DevOps team. However, this does mean that some basic knowledge of the processes is needed, and in some cases, this can leave something to be desired.

Break out of the traditional organizational structure

Working in line with the DevOps methods breaks out of the traditional organizational structure of an IT department, where teams usually work based on their specialties. The singular power of DevOps arises from the psychological effects of collaborating in a team that has both the ability and the authority to deliver integrated services to the client. When implementing DevOps, it is essential to make sure the spotlight is on teamwork. This means that you must have a common goal that is achieved by people with complementary skills who each share responsibility for achieving the goal. This creates the ability to collaborate as a high-performing team that adds a lot of value to the entire business. A second aspect of the successful implementation of DevOps is the introduction of a healthy form of customer focus into the team. Customer orientation automatically leads to less of an inward orientation. It does have its limits, however, because it can affect the cohesion with other teams in the IT organization. Full independence means that a DevOps team becomes a mini IT organization in its own right. If the customer focus goes too far, benefits of scale may be missed. Collaboration between teams and retention of benefits of scale can be achieved by integrating tooling, establishing and following clear processes and effective agreements, clear and simple KPIs (that really are key), and creating mutual understanding and trading of interests between the various departments. The value of team formation has also been recognized for IT Service Management, but we rarely see that the often necessary adjustments to the organization are made when ITIL and ITSM are implemented. This means that there is often a lack of clarity (and therefore a struggle) about the responsibilities of process managers and line managers.

Processes and performance measurements are inseparable and essential

The average business need is to keep ongoing service provision running and to ensure new or changed services are delivered as quickly as possible. In a DevOps team, we see that measuring and controlling performance on the various work units related to this average business need (management, incidents, service requests, development and implementation of changes, etc.) is essential to add transparency to the time allocations of the team, and to adjust as necessary. Improving and automating the standard activities leads to increased capacity to increase the contribution to the business with new services or to deliver the existing services with less effort. In both ITSM and DevOps, it is important to have an end-to-end vision of the delivery of IT services. For both, it must be clear who the client is and what services will be delivered. This means agreeing on meaningful performance levels across the chain rather than limiting them to the availability of a server or the time taken to resolve a bug in an application. By choosing the right indicators, it is possible to gain insight into the costs and the balance between reliability and the changeability of every IT component. Improvement actions may be implemented based on these measurements to shift the balance towards innovation without sacrificing reliability.

A good IT organization is more than the sum of the parts

We can conclude that to deliver value to clients through services, the IT organization cannot just rely on the skills of individuals and procured tooling, but will also have to focus on developing the organizational aspects. It is not enough to put together a group of talented, motivated, individual employees and to provide them with the technical resources. By using DevOps and IT Service Management supported by ITIL, all members of all teams will be able to collaborate in a process that runs like a well-oiled and flexible machine. Clearly described core tasks and responsibilities, efficiently working and shared processes, and a common focus on delivering services to clients make it possible to deliver the optimum value of IT services for the business.

Written by: Harriette Blaauboer, Ronald Israels en Claudine Koers.

Definition of DevOps

DevOps is a portmanteau of the terms ‘developer’ and (system) ‘operator’. DevOps stands for an approach in which agile IT services are delivered and the responsibility for innovation and management lies with a single team.

Definition of ITIL

ITIL is a set of best practices for optimizing IT infrastructure management. The ultimate aim of ITIL is to deliver the agreed service to customers at an acceptable cost. ITIL does not incorporate any best practices to manage system development.

Definition of IT Service Management

IT Service Management (ITSM) is a processed-based approach to management. ITSM is focused on optimizing the delivery of services that meet the needs of the business. ITSM is provided by service providers through a mix of people, processes and information technology. ITSM enables an organization to deliver the required services and value. ITSM usually uses ITIL processes.

DevOps, SIAM