ITSM and DevOps 101: Your Questions Answered

ITSM and DevOps

BrightTALK recently introduced a new webinar concept – what they’re calling an “Ask the Expert” series – to discuss a variety of popular topics such as cyber reliance, machine learning, IT service management (ITSM), blockchain, etc. And they asked me to kick it off with a conversation on DevOps and ITSM.

The “twist,” and unique selling point (USP), of these new-style webinars is that there are no slides, instead the presenter (me in this instance) simply responds to any number of questions asked by webinar participants (circa 200 people in my session) during the 45-minute event. The main challenge here being that it proved impossible to address all of the submitted questions in just the one session, and thus this article aims to respond to those questions that I was unable to cover during the live event.

Below you’ll find my responses to all of the unanswered questions pertaining to DevOps, ITSM, and leadership. In addition, I’ve also covered the questions that I did get a chance to answer, in case you don’t have time to watch the full webinar recording.

20 DevOps and ITSM Questions

1. In relation to traditional project management process groups (initiate/plan/execute/monitor and control/closing), how does DevOps differ in the integration of these critical phases?

DevOps and ITSM embrace these phases and ensure that delivery is as expected across the entire value stream.

We want to get fast flow with feedback as soon as possible, such that what’s deployed is what was asked for, ensuring benefits for the requestor.

We also look forward to improving not only what we created, but the process flow such that the next request can be performed better, faster, and perhaps with less cost or resources.

Value stream mapping, key performance indicators (KPIs) across the stream, Kanban views of work, team collaboration, and constantly obtaining customer feedback are all part of both approaches.

2. Can an organization that has still not matured itself in the concepts of ITIL/ITSM enough, move into, or adopt, DevOps and do well?

As I mention at the start of the recording, ITSM and DevOps are both blends of a variety of technology practices.

We need a strategy to design against and, once satisfied, we transition that product or software or process into operational use with the goal of continuously improving it.

Take ITIL value streams such as the resolution of incidents – we need to agree the strategy of addressing these and, once they occur, get them resolved as quickly and correctly as possible. The DevOps Handbook has pages of how ITSM and DevOps co-exist and you can continue to mature your organization by adopting DevOps practices.

3. Is it possible to apply a DevOps approach within an outsourced model? And, if it’s possible, what are the success criteria to achieve this?

What really is an outsourced model? Is it not a team of people working with your team to ensure that technology is being managed correctly? DevOps simply asks that everyone appreciates the roles and responsibilities of who is supposed to do what and when, and agrees the why and metrics of each step.

Service integration and management (SIAM) is an excellent example of this, as well as ITSM supplier management. DevOps lets teams communicate over common tools and processes and work together to help the customer organization get great technology.

Success criteria are the same as if internal: mean time to resolution (MTTR), cost, quality, people skills, customer satisfaction, and mean time to maintenance (MTTM).

4. How can continuous integration and deployment be accomplished on cloud-based systems, such as SAP SuccessFactors for example?

DevOps loves cloud! Where else can you quickly create or scale your production environments for people to develop and test before letting things go live? While I do not know SAP; Virtual Clarity does help customers take advantage of deployment, development, support, and management capabilities of virtual, hybrid, or public cloud. This webinar helps explain further.

5. How can DevOps be used to bridge the gap between developers and post-go-live support? It’s a common challenge to find operations lagging behind development.

This is the heart of DevOps: collaboration. No laggards!

The problem is that in non-DevOps or mature ITSM organizations there are a series of silos. Each silo imposes their own controls over the work to accept, which slows things down or makes discussions difficult.

DevOps encourages teams to work together on the support of a product, application, or service. With the service desk you create the way you will respond to incidents and requests, and if you can automate this, then you can add to the self-help portal:

  • “Infrastructure, we need something for our software to run on so please get us IaaS or Cloud-based services”
  • “Security, we want to ensure that what we deploy is safe.”

All of this and more has to happen daily, so the teams need to self-organize and work with common tools. Most importantly they need common KPIs: we both get paid to get things deployed and keep things working. Usually Dev has a different set of objectives than Ops. Change that culture and watch the teams mature.

6. Are there any similarities between CD&CI and DevOps?

Continuous integration (CI), continuous delivery (CD), and continuous deployment (CD+) are all part of DevOps.

Creating development environments that resemble production and then implementing processes and tools to flow that development to go-live as quickly as possible is what makes DevOps fun. We also automate the controls, governance, and documentation of what has been deployed and how to support it. You can learn more about this in the DevOps Handbook mentioned above or read the series at IT Revolution.

7. You mentioned the term “Agile Service Management,” which I assume refers to adapting ITSM frameworks such as ITIL to our current dynamic IT environment with Agile, DevOps, and cloud-type technology… can you recommend a book, forum, or author that covers this “Agile Service Management” approach please?

Firstly, you can read my blog. Next you can go to the DevOps Institute to discover more about Agile ITSM.

The main point of blending these two practices lies in the premise that the best place to create a process is where the work is being performed. Rather than create a heavy process with a large policy and Visio diagram, treat the process and the process steps like a product. Value stream map the process and iteratively improve the steps via the introduction of automation.

8. Do you agree that the (central) IT helpdesk may still be needed to address end-user questions or do you propose another solution? How do you keep the information up-to-date given the very fast changes, and still enable routing and answering questions?

I think that people will always look for people to help them. The question is: why are people calling the IT helpdesk? They aren’t paid to do so and it’s a waste of time.

So, can technology (such as Alexa or ChatWeb) help people? Can artificial intelligence (AI) help provide solutions and even execute them? How smart can your help/service desk become? This is the next challenge.

9. How do you handle user-reported issues with an unclear root cause that may require multiple DevOps teams?

This challenge has existed for a long time and ITSM provides great practices to look at in terms of escalation.

However, the thing that many get incorrect is who owns the incident. Instead, the challenge should be viewed as who owns: coordinating these teams together; finding a counter-measure; testing it; deploying it; and then ensuring it has resolved the issue? This owner now needs to let the teams add a piece of work, on understanding how to not let that issue occur again, to their backlog.

To help, incident logging, ChatOps, value stream and process mapping, wikis, and monitoring and alerting are all tools to consider but you need a strong RACI (responsible-accountable-consulted-informed) matrix first.

10. Adopting DevOps surely puts more pressure on IT security due to the speed of deployment? How do we best manage this please?

Adopting DevOps places more pressure on all aspects of the technology lifecycle. Agreeing change, deploying, fixing, and more.

Security needs to be embedded in the process of creation and testing as early and as often as possible. Tools today like the Sonatype suite or SauceLabs can help get you started.

11. Can DevOps practices be effectively implemented and utilized in smaller organizations with perhaps a lower level of software deployments? In essence, can ITSM still benefit from applying this approach in such environments?

DevOps is NOT only about software deployment.

DevOps is about the culture of using and benefitting from technology in your organization. How do people use it to help customers or themselves? Based on this, leaders need to get the right stuff to the right people at the right time and ensure this can be changed easily as business opportunities change (including regulatory and Brexit impacts).

ITSM is an integral part of DevOps. They’re not separate. DevOps just helps you ask more questions and focus on any waste or improvements you need to make.

12. What’s your view on Agile and DevOps? Does a DevOps team definitely need to use the Agile methodology to operate?

DevOps encourages speed and quality while mitigating risk. It sounds like Agile!

Small chunks of something are deployed when agreed (product, service, application, process). In which case you need to agree that thing and get the team to deliver it right first time. DevOps is a great blend of Agile and ITSM plus other methodologies.

13. In my opinion, DevOps delivers the products and ITSM serves as “after support,” or are you saying wrap DevOps in ITSM?

Yes, wrap it.

Don’t silo the methods, merge them. Then you can deploy fast and safe and always be ready to support. My “support” team is the team that deployed, and they have the skills needed to perform their role.

14. In your view, who are the top software industry leaders that are leading DevOps technology today?

This list is a great start of DevOps influencers.

15. How do you tidy these interactions between ITSM, DevOps, Lean, and Agile to align with business objectives?

I use a Lean concept called Hoshin Kanri.

Agree the strategy, get some key measure of success, and let each team create measures to match. Now flow the work ensuring that success is met or if blocked, then people can swarm to unblock the effort.

It’s not easy and means leaders, staff, and suppliers all need to change their behavior and continuously look as to how technology is being used and managed.

16. What recommendations/advice would you give to managed service providers (MSPs) in terms of helping their clients achieve higher maturity levels of DevOps and ITSM?

I would flip the question: what advice would I give to people who depend on MSPs? They need to be treated as part of the team. They need to share common data. They need to have common processes. They need to collapse the change, fix, and improve lifecycles.

Teams and leadership need constant involvement with agreed KPIs (not service hammers) that allows the team to own their work. SIAM is a great DevOps model.

17. How would you factor in enterprise architecture and solution architecture into this approach?

Why do you separate them? Aren’t they the same? Aren’t they designing the rules of consistency that allow the creation, introduction, and management of technology? They create the high-level and quickly respond to improve.

18. What was the name of the author who recommends redefining/dismantling internal organization IT functions?

Mark Schwartz! And I did not say he recommends this but instead he challenges all technology leaders to think about how they lead and support organizations and teams, and use suppliers in their daily role.

19. DevOps is about continuous integration and continuous deployment, how can an IT organization that leverages an ITIL change process get into a DevOps model? Because the ITIL change process is more focused on risks evaluation and having documented procedures for change implementation, whereas integrating DevOps seems to be risky as there are possibilities that testing is not done properly. How do organizations mitigate such risks?

Change is the process of approval. How does it know to say yes or no? Testing! Testing is the process of risk control. DevOps or ITSM love tests. Run them all the time in your CI, CD, and CD+ environment lifecycles. But look at what happens as things move across the lifecycle and use this knowledge to improve your testing. DevOps encourages flow, feedback, and learning. Learn from your tests on how to control risks and improve quality and performance.

20. What kind of organizational culture change is required to transition the IT team to being DevOps driven?

Leaders must change and then help others to DevOps (or ITSM) themselves. Books like Lean Enterprise, The DevOps Adoption Handbook, or The Phoenix Project can help begin the journey but once started, don’t stop. Keep going!

21. My understanding on DevOps – in a fast changing Retail market, is that we need to keep up the time to market, hence we automate the process. Is this right?

Yes, where it makes sense. The question is always going to be how to remain competitive and cost effective. DevOps helps address this flow.

22. What’s the biggest challenge for a leader of an organization’s ITSM practice related to staffing?

First the leader has to learn their role or skills. The leader must adapt to becoming a coach and letting teams gain the authority to determine the best way to work and deliver. Management 3.0 is an excellent book as well as VeriSM.

That’s all folks…

So, there you have it, all of the pressing questions that webinar attendees wanted to know about ITSM and DevOps answered. Plus you can access the recording of my session here.

If you have any other questions that are not covered here, please post them in the comments and I’ll address them too.

Finally, if you like the format of this new BrightTALK webinar series, you may be interested to know that they have other sessions coming up on the topics of:

  • Cryptocurrencies
  • Machine Learning and Deep Learning
  • Cybercrime
  • Blockchain
  • Managing Change in Cloud-Based Systems
  • Behavioral Finance
  • Licensing as a Service

You can sign up for these here. And remember, all BrightTALK sessions are recorded so you can also access the recordings at any time, here.

Daniel Breston
Daniel Breston
IT Management Advisor at Independent

Daniel Breston is a 50+ year veteran of IT, ex-CIO and principle consultant, multiple framework trainer, blogger, and speaker. Daniel is on the board of itSMF UK and is a Fellow of the British Computer Society. Daniel may be retired, but he will help an organization if requested. Not full-time, but hey!

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