Striking the Balance Between Traditional ITSM and DevOps

Does DevOps mean the end of traditional IT service management schema? Or is it merely another corporate trend that will burn out in time? While technology experts debate which of these two will be the sole survivor, a third opinion has crept to the foreground: Are these really mutually exclusive concepts? Could these two elements merge into a single holistic paradigm and offer modern businesses more value than if they'd chosen one or the other?

Where DevOps and ITSM Differ
Before we break down how these two ideas come together, let's discuss their defining features, strengths and weaknesses. First, as technical as its processes may seem to outsiders, DevOps simply represents a shift in how businesses organize enterprise IT. Instead of placing software developers and IT operations in separate silos, DevOps combines the two for more comprehensive and immediate problem resolution, thus giving rise to the continuous delivery model - or perhaps in response to its demand from customers. ITSM, based off an ITIL framework, is the highly scalable architecture by which IT professionals carry out solutions. ITSM uses a system of checks and balances and reporting hierarchies to plan, design, and release user services like relevant changes to a configuration or responses to customer help desk inquiries. Whereas DevOps redefines IT agility and flexibility, ITSM regiments processes to ensure that they've met all the requirements for a secure and complete deployment of services. What about criticism for either? As DevOps is a cultural change, it doesn't bring any inherent value but the means to extract value through intelligent implementation. ITSM through ITIL, on the other hand, has been misconstrued as too orderly to adequately enable agile DevOps.

How DevOps and ITSM Split the Difference
With the right technology underpinning IT operations, the DevOps and ITSM principles perform well in tandem instead of working against each other. Take a feature like automated dependency mapping through an advanced CMDB, for instance. In a traditional ITSM workflow, IT service professionals would need to check a proposed change against every asset in a given network to ensure its release wouldn't compromise stability. The combined power of both developers and operations team members under DevOps seem like the perfect environment to perform this task, but such a low-value activity could easily detract from other higher-value duties. Yet according to ITSM best practices, establishing and maintaining security for users tops the list for IT must-haves; hence, the DevOps and ITSM conflict. Automate this process and a new pattern emerges. By simply assigning a change to automatically relay data on possible discrepancies, DevOps not only complies with ITSM best practices, but is also lowers risk by removing the chances of human error fudging the results. Better still, automated dependency mapping or regression testing frees up IT professionals to strategize and coalesce a system for accelerating change modifications if the CMDB returns with bad news.

Other features deliver similar results: codeless change management, for example, allows DevOps teams to open change advisory boards up to co-workers with a relevant knowledge base even though they may lack the coding talent to oversee or edit proposed changes. Expanding to service desk offerings, the ability for DevOps teams to utilize an ITIL framework to create self-service libraries and convert resolved tickets into actionable user-facing resources saves IT professionals time - and labor costs for their employers - while protecting IT services from succumbing to avoidable errors or even data breaches caused by holes in configuration. Yes, DevOps and ITSM can live in perfect harmony, but it's up to the business at large to adopt and integrate an advanced service management suite that will act as the glue that binds them together.

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