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ITSM Processes

ITSM & DevOps: Friends or foes?

By Jeroen Boks on November, 21 2019

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Jeroen Boks

Chief Information Officer

You’ve heard of DevOps. You know it means that development and IT operations will work together more. The goal is to make better products for customers faster, and to be more aligned with business goals. So far, it sounds pretty great. But something doesn’t sit well. Because what about your service department? You work towards a better experience for the same customers. How do you keep your services relevant with DevOps at the wheel? Will DevOps be the end of ITSM?

How to keep up with DevOps

Of course we don’t think DevOps is going to end your service department. DevOps is essentially just a collaboration between Development and Operations. The goal is merely to improve the alignment between how IT products are created by development and how Operations runs them once they’re out in the real world. But service department representatives are often on their guard when DevOps is mentioned in the organization. Why? Because you don’t want to be left behind, or lose your seat at the table. It’s great that DevOps want to be more efficient, but your services need to be able to keep up. And how will you make sure your services match your customers’ demands if DevOps just go their own way?

So, what’s the solution? It’s easier than it sounds. Make sure you join in. And this is more than just going with the flow because you can’t fight the current. There are serious benefits to ITSM-DevOps collaboration.

One team, one goal

What’s your main goal as a service department? Helping your customers. And what’s the main goal of DevOps? Helping those same customers. In fact, one of the reasons why DevOps even exists is to improve customer experience with better alignment. But customer experience, that’s your service desk’s area of expertise! So what do you do? You hop on that DevOps train and change the destination to the ITSM DevOps department.

ITSM + DevOps = a complete story

DevOps is about breaking down silos. The word says it all. You go from Development and Operations to a single team. But here’s the problem: DevOps could become just a new, bigger silo. This is where ITSM can make the biggest difference. DevOps is all about the product, you’re all about the service. And the main fear you might have with the DevOps silo is that they’ll make products you can’t support with great service. So what’s the solution? Once again, it’s working together. As long as you’re breaking down silos, why not break down another little wall? The wall between product and service. Between DevOps and your service department.

Why bring ITSM and DevOps together?

Even though ITSM and DevOps serve the same customers, the way they work is very different. DevOps creates and manages a product, and their main goal is to keep everything up and running. They’re responsible for the product as a whole, but usually they focus on a few changes or improvements at once. They work according to Agile methods. In ITSM on the other hand, you get questions about everything, all the time. Your work is unpredictable enough as it is. Agile has a lot to offer your line of work, but in the end you also need guidelines to create more structure in your teams’ work. You probably use the ITIL framework, which may seem slow and complicated to your colleagues in DevOps. So how do you unite the two teams?

There are two main problems that service desks face when they aren’t all that close to DevOps. The combination is a bit of a paradox, because things at DevOps tend to move both too fast and too slowly, depending on who you ask and when you ask them.

Here’s what happens: DevOps have their own pace and plans to work with. They work on products and features, usually according to the demands of key stakeholders. Meanwhile, your service desk is the place where customers go when they have issues or need help with existing features, or when existing features don’t provide what they need.

Can you tell where this is going? The two tracks aren’t always in sync. For instance, DevOps releases new features much faster than they used to before they started to team up. The result? Your service agents receive questions they can’t answer yet. Plus, the answers are always changing, so you can’t rely on past experience.

At the same time, sometimes it feels like you’re waiting for DevOps forever. This happens when you get calls, particularly recurring calls, about features that need to be fixed or functionalities that you don’t offer yet. You send a request to DevOps, but they’re working on other things, so it seems like (and sometimes it really is) ages before anyone finds the time to help you out.

How do get your service desk and DevOps in sync?

At first glance, bringing the two new silos of IT together seems like a pacing issue. But you don’t actually need to work on the same things at the same time, and the question isn’t which branch should be in control. It’s really pretty simple: Collaboration requires communication. DevOps is actually great news for your service desk, provided that people at the service desk know what’s going on. DevOps should let the service desk know what they’re working on and what the expected release date is. If anything changes, the service desk need to know about that too.

At the same time, service management and even service agents will have to communicate their needs to DevOps. If customers have issues you can’t solve with the means you have available, make sure DevOps knows what problems you see out in the wild. And provide the information they need to prioritize. Information from IT services is valuable for DevOps: it enables them to pay more attention to what your customers are really asking for, and provide a better product as a result.

So, what’s the lesson here? DevOps is nothing to be afraid of. DevOps and ITSM would both benefit greatly from working together more, so both parties can be more efficient and provide better service to your customers. There is no battle for survival: everybody wins.

Improve collaboration even further

In this blog, you read how different parts of IT can collaborate better. Want to spread the trend even further? Take a look at these blogs and improve collaboration with other service departments.

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