ITSM vs DevOps: Are DevOps, Agile overshadowing ITSM frameworks?

In this Ask the Expert, digital transformation expert IsaacSacolick shares his perspective on the impact that DevOps and Agile strategies have on ITSM practices.

Practices like Agile and DevOps are not just driving change, efficiency and collaboration for modern organizations, but they are also starting to overshadow the use of ITSM frameworks, according to Isaac Sacolick, president and CIO at StarCIO and author of Driving Digital: The Leader's Guide to Business Transformation Through Technology.

"ITSM is just a general term applied to defining what IT is delivering in terms of services … and then providing metrics and providing help desk and service calls and things like that oriented around those business services," Sacolick said. "It's a way of better aligning what IT's capabilities are with the language that business users use."

In this Ask the Expert, Sacolick sounds off on the ITSM vs DevOps debate and highlights the practices that help IT run more efficiently in a digital world and explains why IT is moving away from service models.

Editor's note: The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Do you think methodologies like Agile and DevOps are overshadowing ITSM frameworks?

Isaac Sacolick: I do, because if I'm a CIO, my first priority is to focus on how to enable our business to grow, to change with what the market demands are. I am also under cost pressure, so I have to find ways to automate more of what I'm doing.

Isaac Sacolick

I need an aligned IT group internally to keep things stable and secure while I'm making changes at a faster pace than I've ever done before. This is really the heart of Agile and DevOps. Agile is about being able to get teams to align and practice with their business counterparts, focus on short-term priorities, deliver quality changes and deliver things frequently. And then flipping to the DevOps practices: Finding ways for developers and operating teams to automate more of the technology delivery and finding ways to monitor things more proactively. These are the types of things that make IT run more efficiently today.

I would never want to position my IT department as just a service to the business. I like positioning my IT as enablers, as an innovation arm, as solutions-oriented.
Isaac Sacolickpresident, StarCIO

Right now, most organizations are adding more technology and doing more software development than they are taking away from their legacy systems, so they need that efficiency that DevOps brings. That's where I'm going to start out from. If you look at the primary practices that DevOps has, service management is one of them. It is a way of getting feedback from the organization in terms of basic things like requests and incidences, things that they need more of. So, in some ways, the aspects of service management that used to be sort of the foundation of IT are still pillars within the DevOps practices, and I think that's where it belongs.

The CIO has to define an operating model for IT and there are going to be places where describing what the services are and how individuals interact with them is going to be the right operating model. If you need to order a mobile phone through the corporation, if you need access to a particular resource, you need help with a particular application or if you want to order up an enhancement to a particular enterprise system -- these are good places for CIOs to leverage service models as a way of interacting with IT and managing IT.

ITSM (IT service management) has been around for a long time and it largely works when an IT department is a service wing to the organization, where it's relatively stable in what it is doing and every six months, 12 months or 18 months might be perfecting some services or sunsetting some. It works really well in very stable organizations where there needs to be that translation between what businesses are doing and what systems and management needs to happen to perform those. In some ways because of that it's also, in my opinion, a little bit dated. I would never want to position my IT department as just a service to the business. I like positioning my IT as enablers, as an innovation arm, as solutions-oriented. Most IT organizations need to find their way to be partners, and growing and changing the business.

The other part of it is that most organizations can't afford to just perfect services and expect to be able to stay competitive in the digitally driven world that we live in. There's far more change and competition. It's more about orientating ourselves to be able to respond to change, and to prioritize and automate things that are repetitive, rather than thinking through what is the right way to capture services and operationalize things. Those are the two reasons are why we're seeing IT move away from services models.

Read more about the ITSM vs. DevOps discussion.

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