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Working Together: ITIL and DevOps

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In physics there’s the multiverse theory, which basically states that there are an infinite number of universes and we live in just one of them. In our universe, everything operates according to our laws of physics. Whether you’re in the Milky Way Galaxy or the ridiculously distant GN-z11 galaxy, everything generally operates on the same rules.

If there are multiverses, however, physicists theorize that different universes could potentially have different rules, which would make for very different physical environments. 

It can sometimes feel like ITIL and DevOps are galaxies (or universes) apart. Look at how they’re often described. Old vs. New. Traditional vs. Agile. Process vs. Culture. 

How about this one: Do they coexist as different galaxies in the same universe? Or do they exist in entirely different universes? 

That’s the question we’re examining today.

The Standard Model of ITIL®

ITIL® is part of a suite of best-practice publications for IT service management (ITSM) that describes a lifecycle approach to the strategy, design, transition, operation, and continual improvement of IT services.

ITIL® functions based on its own laws, that are predicated on 26 processes and four functions that promote the needs of the business. In the ITIL® galaxy, each stage of the lifecycle exerts influence on the others and relies on them for inputs and feedback.

The question then might be: Are the universal laws of ITIL® different than DevOps? Yes and no.

The Universal Laws of DevOps

DevOps has its own creation story that begins with culture. Read any “What is DevOps?” post. DevOps starts with a culture of collaboration and communication between development and operations (hence the name, DevOps).

The values of the culture manifest as a set of laws and practices, which you can see in what managers expect from their DevOps teams. After all, the collaborative structure should resemble its organization. One of the most obvious places to view this cultural difference lies with use of automation. DevOps is synonymous with concepts like continuous integration and continuous deployment, focusing on automation, measurement, and sharing culture.

From the definitional point of view, it might be difficult to see whether we’re talking about a multiverse or universe scenario.

Two Galaxies, Same Universe?

First, many feel that ITIL® is too rigid and has too many requirements, that most organizations don’t have the bandwidth to implement. In addition, ITIL® has a waterfall-type approach, where processes follow sequence and all aspects of a service must be considered during design before deployment. Conversely, DevOps is seen as nimble and responsive in delivery of services, supposedly failing fast, often, and small.

ITIL® is seen more as relevant to “keeping the lights on.” Its approach to design and transition is strong on controls. DevOps is also seen as very supportive of cloud and orchestration technologies, something that ITIL® mentions but sometimes fails to directly demonstrate its alignment.

Two Entirely Different Universes?

ITIL® doesn’t specifically state that control is of more importance than speed, however, it is certain that the more you loosen control, the more ITIL® processes lose their structure. For example, ITIL® change management process has a strong emphasis on control and stability, rather than speed in deploying solutions to meet business needs.

Separation of concerns is also seen to be how ITIL® structures its processes, but functions such as Application and Technology Management have a role in design, transition, operation and improvement of IT services, meaning that, much like what DevOps stands for, collaboration is an essential part of ITIL®..

In addition, ITIL® prescribes an adopt and adapt approach which means that you implement it based on your organization’s culture. Once again showing that the culture dictates the workflow, rather than the other way around.

Conclusion: Two Galaxies, Same Universe

DevOps can work hand-in-hand with ITIL® with regard to bolstering the service delivery (design and transition) aspects, and aligning IT culture to today’s reality.

In this case, DevOps becomes the culture driver providing the velocity required by the business to meet customer needs, underpinned by ITIL® which provides structure and control to ensure that new and existing services continue to provide value to the business and the customer now and in the long term.

However, many organizations are still siloed, bureaucratic, or heavily regulated (or all three). Cultural change might not be able to override the latter where room for agility or financial bandwidth for frequent change is not in place, meaning ITIL’s framework is more readily acceptable as opposed to DevOps.

In the meantime, we are still looking at ITIL® and DevOps as different galaxies in the same universe. They work on similar physical rules with the same elements, but possess environmental differences that make them distinct.

Finally, it’s hard to resist saying that our ITIL® and DevOps online training courses are out of this world.

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CBT Nuggets has everything you need to learn new IT skills and advance your career — unlimited video training and practice exams, virtual labs, validated learning with in-video quizzes, accountability coaching, and access to our exclusive community of professionals.

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CBT Nuggets, through EXIN, is an AXELOS Accredited Training Organisation (ATO) for ITIL® 

ITIL® is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited.


Not a CBT Nuggets subscriber? Start your free week now.

CBT Nuggets has everything you need to learn new IT skills and advance your career — unlimited video training and Practice Exams, Virtual Labs, validated learning with in-video Quizzes, Accountability Coaching, and access to our exclusive community of IT professionals.

Learn more about the CBT Nuggets Learning Experience.


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