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Nancy Louisnord | December 01, 2020

Agile ITSM Framework 101

Technology changes rapidly, every day there are advancements, updates, and changes. Out of these rapid-fire changes, the agile methodology was created. Agile began in the software development world and, as the name suggests, quickly became a staple of IT service desks.  

You may have heard about agile – certainly anyone in the tech space has seen the term thrown around before – but there are a few things to know before you can put it into practice. Agile is about more than just thinking on your feet and eliminating overly cumbersome processes but reframing the way your team thinks to deliver faster, more streamlined outcomes.

Gartner Report 3 Steps to Agile IT Service Management EasyVista

What is Agile ITSM

Agile is a term that is often misused and misunderstood. Simply put, agile is a philosophy or a set of guidelines for your work. These principles don’t necessarily tell you how to complete specific tasks but does help guide you in making decisions.

In 2001, the Agile Manifesto was developed and is comprised of the following four values:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Agile is a mindset that fosters flexibility and adaptability. Much like world-famous boxer Muhammad Ali, the instincts of the service desk must adapt, bob, and weave, constantly moving and changing so as not to be knocked down by a challenger. Like Ali, the service desk must be agile enough to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”

As new technologies and developments are released and refined in rapid succession, the organization must be flexible enough to quickly respond to the changes in customer demands.

A simple example of a company who kept an agile mindset is Netflix. When RedBox and Blockbuster were still in their primes, Netflix began using technology to meet users where they were with mail-order movie rentals. When technology began to adapt, Netflix pioneered the streaming industry, and further innovated by creating their own original content, leaving competitors like Blockbuster or RedBox in the dust. This same adaptability was made possible by people and processes within the IT service desk – the ability to understand and adapt to new technologies and the needs of the customer change rapidly and keeping up while getting ahead is all part of the agile mindset.

Unlike ITIL, the agile ITSM framework is not a set of uniform processes. You likely won’t find any articles on change management the agile way, or a specific set of uniform rules to be considered agile. Rather, agile is a mindset that requires a cultural shift in the organization to foster and embrace change. Agile ITSM is simply the adaptation of the agile mindset within the service management sphere.

Benefits of Integrating Agile with Service Management

Agile service management has several benefits. For example, in recent reports, 71% of organizations say that agile approaches and agile ITSM framework are allowing them to better manage changing priorities. Likewise, 65% of organizations with an agile mindset feel that the approach helps them come into overall business alignment and another 62% say that the agile methodology means they’re able to increase the delivery speed of their software products.

Additional benefits of agile include:

Improved Workflow

When you are focused on keeping things as agile as possible, your workflow will naturally change. Adopting an agile mindset means realizing that not all incidents need to be resolved as quickly as possible – rather, prioritization can deliver more value to clients.

Typical service management processes, like incident and problem management for example, can show what is stopping or slowing work down so that priority items can be resolved as they impact customers, while lower priority items can be put on the back-burner until the team can handle tackling the issue.

Improved Feedback Loops

A feedback loop is a process in which the outputs of a system are circled back and used as inputs. Naturally, when using the agile methodology, feedback loops are improved because they become shortened and amplified.

For example, using the agile ideology as technology is rolled out and tickets are being worked, feedback is constantly being fed back into the process, helping to refine and improve these loops.

Continual Experimentation and Learning 

In service management, the environment is typically not encouraging of risks. But, with agile ITSM framework, risks are rewarded, and time is allocated on a daily basis to find improvements and test possible issues in the system. This helps everyone from developers to service desk agents have the opportunity to reap major rewards and continually refine, experiment, and learn. This continuous improvement can benefit everyone in the business, beyond the IT department.

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ITIL vs Agile—ITIL and Agile and ITSM

If you have any experience working within the ITIL framework, chances are you are wondering how ITIL and agile can coexist, let alone come together. While it is true that ITIL and agile are not always the best of friends, they certainly are not mortal enemies.

For a refresher on ITIL, ITIL provides detailed practices and processes for service management and IT service management software that focuses on aligning IT services with the needs of the business. This framework may seem rigid, and it is true that the agile manifesto seems to be in direct opposition to ITIL processes -- but in reality, there is still room for flexibility afforded by agile methodology in ITIL.

It’s not that difficult to approach ITIL with an agile mindset. You can implement the ITIL process incident management with the agile mindset, for example. This means you pick the best option for your organization for each part of the set up. ITIL is quite suitable for an adjusted implementation but is known for being rigid and complex. However, that’s not the starting point; the starting point isn’t that organizations would implement each aspect of ITIL to the letter. ITIL has always been to apply this way of working that suits your own organization, which is how it can be paired with agile for a more flexible result within the framework of ITIL’s guided processes.

How to Make Your ITSM Organization Agile

Going agile sounds like an easy thing to do, but it requires a commitment from the entire service management team to consciously shift the mindset. For some organizations, the old way of thinking may have been in place for decades, so a shift may seem simple in concept but more challenging in practice.

To begin with agile ITSM framework, start by comparing your current services to how they might align with new agile values. Then, work with the service desk team to keep them flexible in those newly aligned services. This will require a commitment of the IT service desk to work closely with end-users with the value creation process beginning long before the provision of IT actually begins. For some, this means flipping normal processes on their head and working backwards, but it will become more natural over time.

Agile ITSM in Practice

In practice, there are several ways to make service management more agile and to include the agile ITSM framework. Including:

  • Working closely with customers and understanding their needs and the tools they use
  • Providing the right people the right place to resolve issues
  • Making sure everything you do adds value for the customer
  • Making processes flexible
  • Designing, implementing, and improving services step by step
  • Keeping services and operations straight forward
  • Making incident management more agile

In short, agile ITSM in practice is all about putting the user before the process. Once the mindset has been shifted in the service desk, a cascade of agile processes will follow.  For example, thinking of the end-user above the processes may help your team decide on a self-service portal or other automation technologies.

In the year of the pivot, thinking agile has helped service desks around the world keep organizations running. Even if you are new to agile, it is never too late to shift your mindset and change the culture of your service desk.

To learn more about how to make your service desk more agile, request a demo with our experts today!

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Nancy Louisnord

Nancy Louisnord is the Chief Marketing Officer of EasyVista, responsible for the company’s global and regional marketing programs and product marketing strategy. She has more than 14 years of global leadership experience in the ITSM software industry, bringing numerous software companies into new markets. She is a sought-after presenter at conferences and contributor to several leading industry publications. Before joining EasyVista, Louisnord served in leadership roles with TOPdesk and Daffodil Consulting. In addition to her expansive experience in the B2B software industry, she has a proven record of creating and executing digital marketing strategies and improving the customer service experience.