«Agile» is the new must-have-attribute in all approaches, when it comes to moving into the digital future. Because “agile” promises the classic Gordian knot: better, faster and cheaper. Waterfall sounds old-fashioned and bureaucratic. Agile stands for open, creative, courageous and successful. New methodologies like DevOps, SAFe or the new kid on the block VeriSM are now the most sought-after management models in enterprises. COBIT, ITIL and classic project management methods have done their job, but they are far away from meeting the current challenges of the digital future. At least, these are the many responses from organizations that are struggling with the current management approaches to deal with the new reality.
So, it is not surprising that now even in the «Service Management » industry there are attempts to put a touch of agility into it. Because «agile» is the new «sex-sells», there are offered today new training courses, e.g. Certified Agile Service Manager from DevOps Institute. Also we from Glenfis are an accredited partner of the DevOps Institute and are offering CASM trainings. But what is sold here as a «Agile Service Manager» Training is indeed a Process design training, based on agile approaches like Scrum. The so called «Agile Service Manager» is the Scrum Master for ITSM Process design.
But Service Management is not process design in a first place. Service Management is all about planning, designing, implementing, delivering and supporting of Services with the purpose of delivering value to the business by realizing benefits, optimizing risks and optimizing resources. Of course, processes are important and needed. But does agile designed and implemented processes automatically lead to agile service management and service delivery? I have my doubts.
There are currently many evolving technologies in the areas of service development and service provision. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, automation and Continuous Integration, Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) are key technologies that penetrate classic service management tasks. DevOps is currently the most common methodology to close the gap between developers and operators (link). With Shift Left, all the requirements of the service operation should be tipped in the forefront of the requirements of the developers. So once realized in the solution, the developer may only press CI/CD-button and an automatic procedure is ensuring the integration, testing and implementation. Ultimately, there is no need for any additional operations – at least, that’s the vision. Not seldom developers speak a bit spitefully about DevOps is equal to NoOps. In fact, the idea is, that the combined Dev and Ops teams are building a new collaboration team which take full responsibility of building and delivering of Services: you build it, you own it, you support it.
Now – how does Service Management fits in this new world? Especially when you consider ITIL® V3 Edition 2011 with its 24 to 34 processes (depending how you are reading the books), there are no organization and service management experts who seriously want to consider their full implementation. In fact, the big number of processes have fragmented the area of service management, that the implemented processes often produced additional silos. And having these processes under control often results in bureaucracy. You cannot see the forest for the trees.
There are sure additional practices needed, which are not covered by DevOps today. For example, Services must be delivered, fulfilled and supported in the day to day operation. But how can this be done in an «agile» way?
How to adapt the Agile Manifesto to Service Management?
The «Manifesto for Agile Software Development» is seen as the 10 commandments in the software development Bible. In fact, there are only four recommendations, which needs to be considred. These four recommendations are read like a vow and are often referenced.
Because the Manifesto has been defined within and for development teams, we should use the spirit and try to translate it in our service management view.
It could be like this: In our Agile Service Management work we have come to value:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools: Interactions with our customer, users and partners are much more important than just using (to hide oneself behind) processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation: Delivering stable and reliable services that create customer and user experience is much more value than producing comprehensive documentation.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation: A happy customer is much more important than comply somehow negotiated Service Level Agreement (see also our blog: Service Level Agreements Fulfilled. Customer Unhappy)
- Responding to change over following a plan: In our rapid changing world, we always respond to business requirements instead of insisting on previously defined and now outdated plans
These principles are not new to service management organizations. These are the basic ideas and values behind ITIL and Service Management and will hopefully be shared to all students by good training providers. But when it comes to the bottom um Service Management, people see only the fragmented processes. Each process has its purpose – but the big picture how to achieve the principles and the value often get lost.
So how can «agile» bring more value in the Service Management approach and is it still necessary? I like the blog post from Steve Denning where he discussed the question What Is Agile?. Agile is not only reserved for software development, but is a basic attitude on how to work. Agile behavior can therefore also be used in service management. If we want to be successful with agile and truly reap the benefits of what we expect to get from agility, then we need to embrace agile throughout the full value chain.
That’s why I like the concept of Value Chain which is in the heart of DevOps. Because speed and flexibility are key in today’s business and IT, we need to better understand the customer needs and applying service design thinking. We do not need to think in processes, but in value flows. We must understand the tasks to be done to deliver value from the beginning of the flow until to the end. We must understand and identify the main value chains in our service organization.
But Value Chains are not by default also agile. Important here is that there is a common and agreed mission about always focusing on delivering value to the business. This needs to be shared within the entire service management team. There is team spirit and culture of communication and passion needed with short feedback loops and everybody’s willingness to allow changes for the customer’s competitive advantage. Through chaining the practices within the value stream, the activities follow always a shared goal and mission with satisfying customer is highest priority. The seamless collaboration within each practice and the entire value stream must be reviewed at regular intervals and adjusted as needed. The goal here is to let the value stream flow as smoothly as possible without queuing.
Concept: Agile Service Management Value Chain
The following approach is a suggestion from my side, which I have not shared yet with other experts. I want to throw a stone into the water here to trigger the discussion. The model is far away to be finished. However, I have been inspired by the different methods, in particular by IT4ITTM from the Open Group where I have used basic thoughts and adapted my diagrams.
The Agile Service Management Value Chain consist in my view of the following three Value Streams:
- Service Innovation: The main purpose and goal of this value stream is to achieve competitive advantage, business innovation, and improved operational effectiveness and efficiency by exploiting information technology developments. Service Innovation can be called the Value Stream where today the DevOps methodology is used.
- Service Fulfillment: The main purpose and goal of this value stream is to ensure that services and service levels meet current and future needs by creating improved outcomes, increased confidence, trust in IT and effective use of resources.
- Service Support: The main purpose and goal of this value stream is to achieve increased productivity and to minimize disruptions through quick resolution of incident; and to increase availability, to improve service levels, to reduce costs, and to improve customer convenience and satisfaction by reducing the number of operational problems.
The big advantage is to keep focus on the value streams instead of getting lost in the various processes which are confusing today service management organizations. The main purpose of the agile service management chain is to deliver value and outcome to the business and to ensure transparency in all their activities.
There are important supporting practices which are needed throughout the whole agile service management chain. I rather call them practices instead of processes, because they can be implemented less formal.
The following four practices are important supporting activities in the value chain:
- Financial & Resource Management: Resources includes people, technology, information and financial assets. They are needed throughout all three value streams. Financial transparency is key in this practice.
- Service Asset & Configuration Management: this is a key practice well known from ITIL, where the information and configuration assets need to be planned, controlled and provided in all three value streams.
- Information Security & Data Protection: Information is the currency of the 21st century and must be protected from cyber-attacks. The security and data protection requirements must be considered in all practices within the three value streams.
- Governance, risk and compliance: GRC are in the accountability of the governance board and management of every organization. This must be ensured within all three value streams
An important aspect here is also the concept of continual service improvement (CSI). This can be seen as the retrospective within each value stream and across all value streams or the entire value chain. But also the three ways from the DevOps movement shall be used to learn, understand and increase the flows, creating short feedback loops and a culture that fosters experimentation, taking risks and learning from failure. This is different from the pure lean approach, which is focussing only on waste. Understanding that repetition and practice is the prerequisite to mastery and that enables continuous improvement with the freedom of creativty and renewal. And here is where the mentioned certified agile service manager (CASM) may be demanded. With his agile, Scrum approach to design and re-design practices and processes he should define them with just enough control and structure.
The Agile Service Management Value Chain is representing the operation model of a service organization and is not limited to an IT organization. So, it should be easy adaptable for any enterprise service organization as well. It is important that there is a clear accountability in the top management for the whole value chain.
The following value streams are now more detailed. Each single value stream should be assigned to an accountable manager with leadership and coaching skills to ensure seamless integration of each practice.
Service Innovation Value Stream
The Service Innovation Value Stream reflects main practices out of Service Strategy, Service Design and Service Transition. I have identified the following 4 main practices, which must be coordinated and integrated:
- Service Demand & Portfolio Management: In an agile way, new demands from Business and from Lifecycle-Support needs to be reviewed, evaluated, proposed and monitored. Every new or changed service is linked to a service blueprint (conceptional service)
- Requirement Management: For every agreed service proposal, the requirements need to be identified and analyzed. Besides the functional requirements, all the non-functional and operational requirements need to be identified. Here practices from Availability Management, Capacity Management, Risk & Compliance Management, Information Security Management and Business Continuity Management can be used. To each of the requirements, a test case must be specified.
- Development & Test: The solution can be either sourced, procured or coded inhouse. But the service must be developed based on the requirements and test need to prove the acceptance.
- Release, Integrate & Deployment Management: The practices from Release & Deployment Management can be used here. Integration will be a more and more important challenge for organization because multiple external services and suppliers need to be orchestrated and integrated. Infrastructure are often used directly in the integration scripts as a line of code.
How to get an agile Service Innovation Value Stream: The common vision and goal of this value stream is: to achieve competitive advantage, business innovation, and improved operational effectiveness and efficiency by exploiting information technology developments. Th focus needs to be always on business innovation. Agile team needs assembling a portfolio to meet the business needs from different sources and to deliver against the business demand by focusing on the business impact first. This will help to define the product backlog and to prioritize the user stories to be developed. To meet the continuous delivery goals, testing needs to be closely integrated into the development process, allowing a quickly and consistently deploy of service.
As already mentioned, this value stream is currently implemented in many organizations using DevOps methodology.
Service Fulfillment Value Stream
This includes business services and service requests as well. I have identified the following 4 main practices, which must be coordinated and integrated:
- Service Portal & Catalogue Management: All new services from «Service Innovation Value Stream» and agreed external services from different providers (like cloud providers) must be consolidated and integrated in an internal service catalogue. Within the user portal, each user can see all services he can have access too. He will see all subscribed services, service reports and costs and can manage them.
- Service Agreement & Subscription: The user can request a service which may involve a workflow for getting financial and functional approvals. The service agreements and costs are transparent and with the subscription the agreement is done.
- Service Orchestration & Delivery: After successful subscription, the service mast be made available. If there are components to be deployed or delivered, automatic fulfillment procedures (standard changes) must be started. This can include external suppliers (for example a PaaS-environment for developers).
- Service Monitoring, Reporting & Chargeback: Service usage will be monitored and tracked. This can include different sources from integrated IT-Services in the hybrid environment. The service reporting practice needs to consolidate the usage and make reports available to the users.
How to get an agile Service Fulfillment Value Stream: The common vision and goal of this value stream is: to ensure that services and service levels meet current and future needs by creating improved outcomes, increased confidence, trust in IT and effective use of resources. In an agile world, we are living with dynamic changing service catalogue items and service delivery partners. We are moving to a world of more automated services and configured when ordered. The Service Portal needs to support the customer and user experience regarding timeliness, reliability and transparency. Fulfillment processes are based on automated workflows and needs only be managed by exceptions. Workflows are constantly optimized for consumption.
Service Support Value Stream
The Service Support Value Stream reflects the normal service support practices of today. Even if services are developed and delivered more stable, there will issues to be solved. A lot of new technology is coming in this field like chat bot and machine learning which enhance current supporting activities. These practices need to be implemented to increase the productivity and to minimize disruptions through quick and sustained resolution.
I have identified the following 4 main practices, which must be coordinated and integrated:
- Event Management: This practice is well known in ITIL and should support in detecting irregular system behavior. With the usage of AI functionality, failures should be prevented and solved, before a user get notice of the problem.
- Incident Management: This practice is sure still an important one in the future. Also, a service desk might be used besides of chat bots to get user issues registered and solved as quickly as possible. Ticket integration with involved suppliers should be automated and the progress needs to be tracked.
- Problem Management: Recurring problems must be analyzed and their errors identified. Existing error-databases from involved suppliers can be integrated to faster find the root causes.
- Change Management: Identified Errors need to be corrected using change management practices.
How to get an agile Service Support Value Stream: The common vision and goal of this value stream is: to achieve increased productivity and to minimize disruptions through quick resolution of incident; and to increase availability, to improve service levels, to reduce costs, and to improve customer convenience and satisfaction by reducing the number of operational problems. Within this value stream, the focus must be on predictive and automatic triage. Here, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will be new technologies to help to prevent incidents and proactive resolutions. A close DevOps collaboration is needed to prioritize solving processes. The user must always have a sincere feeling that his issues are taken seriously and resolved to his satisfaction.
Conclusion to Agile Service Management
As mentioned, this is not a complete model of Agile Service Management. But what do you think: would it help to use the concept of Value Chain to better transform traditional Service Management organizations in a more agile and hopefully value delivering service management organization?