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How Do You Get DevOps and ITIL to Work Together?

by Marisa Vesel, on Oct 2, 2019 8:40:00 AM

Organizations understand that DevOps is synonymous with Agile development. But on the other hand, Operations is often still conceptualized in the old school way: separate and apart from the Development process. While it's increasingly rare to see code "thrown over the wall," it's still very common to see organizations think about DevOps ("Development") and ITIL ("Operations") in fundamentally different terms.  

This isn't to say organizations don't see a connection; they do. It's just that many times, this connection is cursory: there is a need to transition applications from one to the other. But that's as far as it goes. And that is a mistake. To be most effective, companies need to know how to get DevOps and and ITIL to work together. 

Companies that continue in the old ways will create a backlog on the Operations side, and they will fall behind the competition. 

To get the full benefits of Agile, DevOps and ITIL need to work in partnership, a seamless pipeline with a single goal of getting applications to market as quickly and efficiently as possible. Below, we share some best tips for how to make that happen. 

members of different teams sending a build through the development process

Misconception of ITIL  

Oftentimes, ITIL is seen as inflexible and rigid. The common thought about ITIL’s underlying key features is that is a methodology with well-defined, documented processes and procedures with a focus on documentation and control. In comparison, DevOps culture is often described as collaborative, experimental, and Agile. The contrast in perception gave rise to the belief that these two methodologies are too different to work together. 

In fact, the two can, and do, work well together. The idea of of ITIL as rigid is a misconception. ITIL is not a set of strict-rules to follow but rather is a set of best practices to help guide organizations. These best practices can be adapted and implemented as organizations see fit. When ITIL inside of an organization is rigid and inflexible, this is a misinterpretation of how the key processes work or the poor design and implementation of them.  

Change Your Understanding of Problems and Incidents 

In general, issues on the Development and Operations sides are often considered different. DevOps is known for the speed and responsiveness to issues, whereas ITIL has a linear problem-solving process. Incidents are seen as ITIL issues that arise through a report desk, whereas problems are a series of incidents added up overtime. Rather than seeing problems and incidents as separate, related incidents should be merged together into a single situation. Instead of waiting for several incidents to pile up into a problem, issues should be tackled as a situation. At the end of the day, no matter what name is used, issues are simply a problem within the pipeline.  

When companies merge incidents and problems, data become visible to members of various teams. ITIL and DevOps can work together to solve situations-increasing resolution time. ITIL supports DevOps with analysis, issue detection, and collaborative resources.  

Review Current Internal Processes  

When wanting to integrate DevOps and ITIL together in the same work environment, there is no need to upend all your processes simultaneously. Trying to change too many processes all at once can end up in a mess. Instead, review what your organization is currently doing, and see what can be improved.  

To begin reviewing your current internal processes, all stakeholders in a particular value stream should be interviewed in order to identify waste, toil, barriers, and bottlenecks. Here are some examples of improvements that can be made within the workplace: 

  • Build automated testing into pipelines 
  • Set aside time to make improvement-related changes 
  • Prioritize improvements on end-to-end value 
  • Share knowledge and delegate standard changes across teams  

checklist of development processes and their solutions

Starting with a few process changes at a time can help ensure that transitioning to DevOps and ITIL is smooth and successful.  

Start Automation Operations Where Possible  

A major component of a DevOps workplace is automation. Automation allows repeatable tasks to be done easily, quickly, and predictably. In an interview with InedoJody Dorchester of Ronin Software discussed how Operations can use the principles by “pushing left” to integrate automation.   

Shifting left includes integrating Continuous Delivery (CD) into you existing pipeline. Currently, CD is not as widely adopted as CI but is key to shifting left. To begin, you’ll want to start by automating your current manual processes.  CD begins with development, building, and unit testing, eventually extending to automating functional, integration, performance, and security testing.  

Dorchester utilized Inedo’s BuildMaster to keep deployment downtime to a minimum and keep up with the pace of the Agile development teams. In his work environment, the Operations team is responsible for authoring the deploy of applications, whereas the Development team operates the builds on an ongoing basis. The Development team creates the build but is removed from the day-to-day deployments. This allows an increase in speed for releases and an increase in collaboration between teams 

ITIL and DevOps Can Be a Winning Pair

If your organization has both DevOps and ITIL, they can seamlessly work together in the same workplace environment. By making sure there is communication, collaboration, and respect for both methodologies, issues can be solved quicker and applications can be deployed faster.  

Inedo DevOps tools maximize developer time, minimize release risk, and empower stakeholders to bring their vision to life faster. All with the people and technology you have right now. 

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