Twenty years ago, I started my career as a software developer. Software development was still very much considered a novel field with lots of teething problems. I often heard the comparison made with more mature industries. “All those bugs you leave in the software, can you imagine such low-quality standards in the aviation industry?” People felt that software engineers still had a lot to learn.

A TOPdesk Magyarország ügyvezetőjének írása. A magyar verziót elolvashatja itt.

Quite a few things have changed. One of the most visible transformations to the outside world is the approach to project management. Software engineers used to implement specifications that were first written down in lengthy documents. After the implementation, testers tried to find the mistakes before the product was shipped.

This way of working did not work out well for most software products. Reality is more volatile than the authors of specifications can anticipate. The inflexible process from specification to shippable product failed to make customers happy. An agile approach is all about the result: working solutions and happy customers. Many software developing companies successfully introduced this new way of working.

Agile everywhere

Interestingly enough, the young and immature software development industry has become a role model for the more traditional sectors. Suddenly agile is adopted everywhere. Whole organizations have made the strategic decision that everything needs to be done in an agile manner.

The awareness that working solutions and happy customers are more important than processes and contracts is the justification for this change. This especially sounds appealing when working in service management.

What does Agile actually mean?

Agile, in the end, is about achieving better results. Being agile does not equal Scrum or any other fancy sounding processes you might have heard of. Sure, it can be a good idea to implement a structure that has been thought through by people with experience. But it is important to realize that you are not going to be agile by just implementing yet another process.

Being agile means that colleagues know what everyone is working on instead of only communicating via their boss. Being agile means that colleagues will help each other instead of sticking to their task list and job description. Being agile means that your customer is actively involved while working for him instead of only having upfront contract negotiations. Being agile means to be flexible and change course when necessary, even though expectations were different at the start of a project.

Agile vs ITIL or Agile and ITIL

That all sounds nice but at a service desk, customers are calling to report incidents. If the caller can’t send an email, he doesn’t want to be involved in a flexible agile approach. He just wants to be able to send out his emails as soon as possible.

Agile does not mean that you have to abandon proven and successful processes like incident management. Agile and ITIL are not mutually exclusive. Agile can help you to improve existing processes even further, for instance by involving the customer more with the help of a self-service portal.

Perhaps agile can bring the greatest benefits to processes where you experience trouble in delivering working solutions and making customers happy. In a process like ITIL’s change management, where lots of people need to collaborate and the duration is longer, an agile approach is likely to improve both the result and the satisfaction of your customer.

How to get started?

It of course helps to involve people who already have experience with working in agile. So, if possible, discuss your situation with someone who can be an agile coach. This person doesn’t need to be there full time, but consulting a coach a few times in the beginning certainly helps to get things started.

At TOPdesk we have already been using agile for a long time in software development. Recently we started to implement agile as well for other departments. Some things I learned and would like to share:

We use the Kanban method. It is simple to learn and an effective way to make a project’s progress transparent to everyone.
Every day we have a standup. This is a 5 to 10 minute meeting where everyone tells what he or she did yesterday and will do today. It helps to keep everyone up to date and involved.
Do not worry about getting everything right from the start. Do evaluate every two weeks or so and be agile about the process! Change what you and your team think needs to be improved.
I am happy we adopted agile in the whole organization and I am confident it can help your service desk as well!

Insterested in more?

We have a Hungarian e-book about Agile Service Management or you can also check out our English blog to find more content on this topic!