Development Areas Have Achieved Agility. And Operations?

It’s no secret that business demands on IT for new projects and deliverables have considerably increased in the last years. With the introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT)—which places business in all industries in an ‘adapt or die’ situation—and with customers/consumers used to faster evolution and increasing automation in the services they use, it is challenging for many businesses to follow the pace of this now ever-changing environment.

Development Cycles Have Been Shortened

As a matter of fact, IT projects and new developments have considerably shortened the time they spend in the pipeline. From historically taking an average of 6-12 months to be released, new developments now see the light of production in about 4 weeks after having started. The approach might be different than before though; now IT doesn’t wait until they have a whole system to release it, but rather release one functionality at a time and they continually upgrade the service that the customer uses. This concept is already well known as ‘Agility’.

Agile Has Proven to Be Successful

The ‘Agile’ approach adopted by IT Development teams since a few years ago has definitely paid off by helping them to walk ahead of other players, and moreover, to keep up the pace with the business. Time to market is no longer the goal; now it’s “time to value”. Businesses are more ambitious, and customers do notice the difference between competitors and buy the service, not only that comes out first, but the one that offers the highest value.

Retention is also another factor that plays a part here; an unhappy customer can no longer be forced to stay until the contract ends (with a few specific exceptions). Service providers can no longer afford to force people to use their service for a period of time; if customers are unhappy, they have plenty of options to pick from. Therefore, services have to be updated continuously (hence the focus on user experience), user feedback has to be gathered and acted upon, and new enhancements have to be constantly planned and released. SCRUM and the Agile approaches have provided many benefits to IT and businesses in regards to this.

Have Operation Teams Fallen Behind?

The black fact of this reality is that everything that is released into production has to be supported and maintained. It sounds simple, right? But it’s not that simple. How do you keep stable an environment that is—and that must—continually changing? IT Operation teams have focused on keeping stability, which is normally achieved after a few weeks of releasing a new service. In this era it seems that you can’t ever get an IT service 100% stable anymore; as soon as you’re getting it mastered, it changes. And it gets frustrating; I’m afraid this is life in IT Operations.

A very important milestone that IT Operations achieved for the sake of stabilizing operations was the so called ITSM (IT Service Management). Simply explained, ITSM is the adoption of several processes that span across multiple silos to manage the services that the customer uses, from strategy, to operations, to continual improvement. It’s quite simple, mostly common sense; but gets complex when you add the variable of continuous integration and continuous delivery coming from Development teams in response to business and market changing needs. Now it’s about keeping stable something that by nature is always changing, yet without preventing change and evolution from happening, and without sacrificing security and other business stakes.

ITSM Processes Have to Become Agile

ITSM processes were introduced in part to provide a controlled environment, where rules were defined, followed and enforced; and with this Agile fashion it seems that those processes are an obstacle for business goals to be realized. Most IT organizations might not want to recognize this, but it’s true—ITSM processes are preventing, in many cases, business value realization to be achieved to its full extent. But it doesn’t have to be that way! ITSM is not the enemy of Agile; rather, it’s the perfect complement, as long as it’s correctly managed and adapted.

Who Is Responsible for Making ITSM Processes Agile?

Let’s be practical. Who should take the initiative of transforming rigid processes that block business needs to agile ones that stream value creation? Well, I can answer with another question: Who defined those processes in the first place? Process Owners! Agility is not something that is born from a process. Agility has its source in the mind of an individual who thinks agile. It’s not really processes that have to become agile; it’s people’s mindsets that have to evolve! Big minds achieve big things, and agile minds will make processes agile.

The DevOps Institute, as part of its DevOps certification offerings, has created CAPO: Certified Agile Process Owner, which teaches current ITSM process owners how to think agile in order to transform their current processes into agile processes that respond to business demands, boosting the capability of IT to deliver value to the business, other areas in IT, and the market. What is best, it’s a certification program, so process owners can actually get certified as Agile Process Owners. This is for sure a game changer for companies looking for IT professionals to take over their old processes and turn them into agile ones.

Written by Manuel Garcia

IT consultant with experience mainly in training services and a wide focus on customer satisfaction and value creation.

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