In February I started a journey to find out if and how Agile and ITIL can be combined. In my first blog ‘Agile and ITIL: friends or foes?’ I concluded that you can combine Agile and ITIL, but that I am looking for a concise way of doing that in order to answer questions like how to deal with SLA’s and fixed resolution times when you’re also working with a product owner prioritizing a backlog. Do you still need a problem manager and centralized problem management if you work with Scrum teams that are self-organizing? Or more fundamentally, can you be agile and have processes at the same time?

In my mission for finding answers, I decided to explore the world of Agile Service Management and become a certified Agile Service Manager. In this blog I would like to share with you my learnings on Agile Service Management.

What is Agile Service Management?

Agile Service Management is an agile version of IT Service Management (ITSM), focusing on having all ITSM processes reflect the agile values and are designed with ‘just enough’ control and structure.

It is done in two ways:

  • Agile process design is about designing new processes in an agile way, by starting small with a minimal viable process and asking for feedback in order to determine to what degree the process is adding value. Based on that feedback, the process is improved in iterations and more control and structure is added until feedback indicates that it’s ‘just enough’ and the process is delivering its maximum value.
  • Agile process improvement is about continuously improving processes to make sure that they keep adding maximum value and keep having ‘just enough’ structure and control. By regularly auditing and reviewing processes, feedback is gathered for determining whether changes are necessary in order to increase the value of the process.

Agile Service Management claims to align with other frameworks such as Kanban, Lean, Scrum, ITSM, DevOps, Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery.

How do you create an agile process?

Agile Service Management defined an approach for creating agile processes that are very much based on Scrum. They recommend having a process owner for each process, who is managing the process backlog. Work is done in Sprints, that have a predefined set of events (process planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective) and the purpose of a sprint is to deliver a working and potentially releasable process increment.
The work is done by an agile service management team that, like a Development team in Scrum, is cross functional, self-organizing and accountable for the work as a team. The Agile Service Manager is the equivalent of the Scrum Master, as he or she is facilitating the team and helping the organization understand Agile.

In short, the Scrum guide is sort of copied to a process team, that creates processes in much the same way as developers create software. For me, that is a bit of a disappointment, because that doesn’t feel like Agile Service Management is really adding anything new. Especially as it is not going into any depth about ways to combine ITSM processes and the Scrum Framework.

What is the benefit of Agile Service Management?

I see value in a more agile approach to process management, by not creating huge, bureaucratic processes upfront, but by starting with a minimal viable process and increasing it based on feedback from the people using (or auditing) the process. From that perspective, the link with ITSM and ITIL is clear, but it’s too bad that Agile Service Management doesn’t offer a vision on the degree to which they believe current ITIL processes are already agile.

I also see value in applying concepts of Lean to processes by focusing on eliminating waste and creating a process containing ‘just enough structure and control’ to service its purpose. Same goes for Kanban, which can be used to support the Process team in making their own work visible. However, the concept of Lean is not new and ITIL itself already tried to incorporate that aspect via the CSI lifecycle.

The link with DevOps, Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery is vague to me, though I can imagine that this concept requires processes to be defined in order to allow Dev and Ops to work together and if so, they can best be defined in an agile manner.

Is Agile Service Management the missing link between Agile and ITIL that I am looking for?

Agile Service Management is a mindset the combines agile way of thinking and the world of process management. It certainly provides some interesting insights, but doesn’t really get into depth on how you can make Agile/Scrum work in an organization that is traditionally governed by ITIL or how you can make DevOps work in a Dev world that works Scrum and an Ops world that works ITIL.

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