As a consultant, there is a common question I am often asked as to whether an organization should adopt an ITSM framework based on ITIL or if they should pursue a DevOps implementation. (A common variation on this is ITIL vs Agile.) The question itself means that we’ve probably done a poor job explaining the some of the fundamental aspects of these complimentary approaches. In the end, you may adopt elements of one, the other, or both.
ITIL vs DevOps – from 100,000 feet
From a 100,000 foot view, ITIL is a framework of best practice for the management of IT services encoded in a library of publications. DevOps is a cultural movement best associated with software development practices to improve flow, feedback, facilitate effective knowledge transfer, and embrace experimentation and learning. An excellent primer on DevOps is found in the book, The Phoenix Project. We offer a business simulation by the same name based on the book.
Generally, when someone asks me the question about ITIL vs DevOps, I try to get an understand of their current situation and what they are trying to accomplish. Usually, when we talk through a few things, it’s easier to determine where to start. A general rule of thumb would lead me to say that a more development-oriented shop should start with an exploration of DevOps principles and a shop which rarely is concerned with internal development might start with a better understanding of the ITIL framework. Notice that I say “start” in this assessment. The truth is, most organizations of any significant size will benefit from consideration of certain principles of both efforts. ITIL has also focused of late on intentionally showing more love toward modern software development approaches. (Not that ITIL didn’t embrace these modern practices before, but not all the approaches were spelled out in their publications.)
ITIL vs DevOps – Asking the right questions
A more specific approach for an organization might follow this line of questioning:
- What are your pain points?
- What are you hoping to accomplish by implementing DevOps or ITIL?
- Can you define what success would like like in your implementation?
- Explain the culture of the organization. Do you embrace experimentation and appropriate risk-taking or do you prefer rigid process with little room for deviation?
- What are your development goals?
- What are your operations goals?
The answer to these questions will generally guide you to a starting point. If you need help from there, please contact us and we can discuss the best way to move forward.