In many ways the DevOps movement evolved as a reaction against the worst elements of IT service management (ITSM). IT leaders wanted to get from under the yoke of overly complex processes, bureaucracy and red tape to speed up software delivery, and to just get stuff done. Now that DevOps has kicked into full gear at so many organizations, the question remains: What do we do about ITSM?
While the instinct in some may be to completely ditch ITSM or to just let the ITSM team operate in a separate orbit from DevOps practitioners, experts say that would be a big mistake.
“DevOps aims to deliver high-quality software to the business faster and in shorter cycles,” explained Krishna Mohan Reddy, vice president and deputy global head of Cognitive Business Operations at Tata Consultancy Services. “However, it still does not eliminate the need for controls.”
In many ways ITSM is the yin to DevOps’ yang—the two operating philosophies do offer contrasting viewpoints but when the operate in a single system they can be extremely complementary and synergistic.
“Maintaining the proper balance between the ITSM and DevOps helps the organizations to scale and grow and become more organized,” said Sachin Agarwal, DevOps engineer and solution architect for Mantra Labs. Operating at DevOps speeds with ITSM frameworks in place keeps finger-pointing at a minimum and reduces the risks of failed deployments. “Both in harmony will increase the efficiency and reduce the blame-game within the organization.”
As organizations try to figure out how to achieve that harmony, here are some pitfalls they should seek to avoid:
Letting Each Tribe’s Preconceived Notions Hold Back Overall IT Progress
It can be easy to get wrapped up into dogmatic fervor that your particular philosophy is the One True Path for IT success, but that really does nobody any favor. Organizations that want to pick up the best of both ITSM and DevOps need to encourage stakeholders to approach the table with an open mind.
“You need to compromise. A lot of the new, young practitioners in DevOps and Agile will pretty much automatically discount opinions coming from people who have got ITIL certifications,” said Andi Mann, chief technology advocate for Splunk. “And vice versa—a lot of traditional operations and development teams will look at the people in DevOps and Agile and think they’re all cowboys. But they all have something to learn from each other.”
For DevOps practitioners, it’s important to keep in mind that ITSM controls such as service requests, change management or structured management of incidents and problems don’t have to stop a team from delivering quality software at speed, said Troy Vetter, COO of Coda Global.
“In fact, speed and quality are actually helped by being closely monitored. In IT, just like in science, if it isn’t seen, measured, and “reproducible, it doesn’t really count,” he noted. “So, ITSM is actually the perfect complement to DevOps because it aids in the visibility, measurement and reproducibility of key DevOps processes.”
Failing to Address the Elephant in the Room: Change Management
Analyst Roy Atkinson agrees that ITSM has a lot to bring to the table for DevOps workflows. ITSM’s rich history in thinking about and tracking operational best practices offers tons of value in improving the customer experience with the software being delivered. But on the flip side, ITSM teams can’t continue to operate as they did in the past. They need to compromise and learn new ways of accommodating DevOps approaches—particularly in the area of change management.
“Change management has often been where DevOps and ITSM collide,” said Atkinson, who analyzes the service management market for HDI. “The stereotypical Change Advisory Board must radically revise its approach to be in sync with the enormous amount of change that DevOps can produce in a day.”
The good news is that thought leaders in the ITSM world have been thinking hard about this issue and have been evolving practices so they can embed change management controls into a DevOps framework without holding back continuous delivery.
“There is some excellent recent thinking in the ITSM world about how change management can serve its intended purpose without being a roadblock by acting as an enabler of change and being involved all along the way, rather than a bolt-on quality check at the end of the line before the production environment,” Atkinson said.
Maintaining Separate Toolchains
Often times one of the big reasons ITSM will remain a roadblock for DevOps isn’t because the ITSM folks aren’t willing to collaborate, but simply because each team relies on completely separate toolchains.
“You might have a tool that developers use for tracking bugs or product backlog and then there’s a completely separate IT service management tool,” said Donna Knapp, curriculum development manager for ITSM Academy and author of the DevOps Institute’s course on ITSM for DevOps. “So what you end up doing is forcing developers to use some process that’s outside of their norm in order to address issues.”
As Vetter explained, a lot of the knee-jerk DevOps reaction against ITSM has to do with an aversion to the historical view of ITSM requiring manual inputs in monolithic ticketing systems. But the technology of ITSM controls has advanced—it just needs to be appropriately implemented.
“Self-service requests, automation flows and IT orchestration are now our front door to actions, and IT service management can and should be happening in the background, automagically created, maintained and measured by our DevOps tools,” he said.