Agile has become increasingly popular and is now a major force in the development world. It originated from the development world, of course, ad is gaining dominance in other domains. Service management is no exception, but many wonder how agile service management is a thing and why this is so.

Let’s take a look at why, as well as taking examine the difference between agile and Scrum, and whether ITIL and agile can be used at the same time, and where to begin using real-life examples. And, we’ll take a look at how agile can improve your service delivery.

What is agile?

Agile is one of today’s most popular buzzwords. It’s also a widely misused and misunderstood term. So first get back to basics: what exactly is agile? In 2001, the software branch introduces the Agile Manifesto for Software Development. The manifesto is made up of four values: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools; working software over comprehensive documentation; customer collaboration over contract negotiation; and responding to change over following a plan.

The creators of agile turned these four values into 12 principles, the principles aimed at software development while the agile mindset applicable to all branches. The most important reason to introduce agile to software development was to make large organizations more flexible. For smaller organizations, it’s easier to respond quickly and meet their customers’ demand. These smaller companies don’t have a set organizational structure.

Large organizations are usually a lot less flexible and often use a waterfall approach to development projects. In such an approach, the plan goes through several departments and management layers before it can be executed. The result? An unwieldy organization.

Conversely, agile is a mindset built on flexibility. The agile mindset is much like a jaguar’s life path. A jaguar’s instinct is to survive. It must be dexterous and agile enough to react quickly to the movements of his prey. It must bob and weave as required and tackle challenges every day, always responding to opportunities as they arise. For organizations, it’s just as important to be dexterous and agile as the jaguar; bobbing and weaving as required of their environment and obstacles, especially as technologies and developments follow priorities in rapid succession.

Your organization needs to be flexible enough to quickly respond to new technologies and the ever- changing demands of your customer. In not, disaster may be quickly around the corner. An obvious and infamous example is Eastman Kodak. For nearly a century, no company commercialized the camera as successfully as Kodak, whose breakthroughs included the Brownie camera in 1900, Kodachrome color film, the handheld movie camera and the easy-load Instamatic camera. But Kodak’s downfall started with the advent of digital photography and all the printers, software, file sharing, and third-party apps that Kodak has mostly missed out on. While it tried to expand into pharmaceuticals, memory chips, healthcare imaging, document management, the magic never returned. While still in business, Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

Another example is Blockbuster. The video-rental chain survived the transition from VHS to DVD but failed to adapt to digital and streamlining. When Netflix started sending videos through the mail, cable and phone companies started offering video-on-demand, and Redbox started renting videos Blockbuster had no response.

An agile mindset is about being flexible and creating shorter response times for your organization. When you work agile, you strive for the least amount of bureaucracy and the greatest amount of possible change. Agile requires employees to share knowledge, act on creative ideas and come up with solutions. The initiative is not with the manager, but with the professionals.

How does agile work?

Agile has no manual; it simply requires a cultural shift, the most important of which is that your organization must embrace the change. In a traditional model, developers try to keep changes to a minimum, creating a plan to keep this as close to it as much as possible.

With agile developers assume that plans will change. For example, most organizations do not follow the same plan for long period of times. Even with goals in mind, changes occur. Agile working means continuous improvements are possible with updates and changes constantly be addressed, but that also means work is never done.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is one of the most popular agile frameworks, but how does it relate to agile? Scrum was born in 1986 when Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi published their piece, “The New New Product Development Game” in the Harvard Business Review.

In this article, the authors conclude that projects in small multi-disciplinary teams show the best results. With this in mind, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber created a development method for the software branch in 1996 and Scrum was born. It is a cost-free framework for software development, making it easier for organizations to develop and maintain products in complex, dynamic environments. Scrum is an answer to the rapidly developing technology industry and the changing demands of customers. Scrum is the starting point where developers learn by doing and use findings to determine next step.

How does Scrum work?

Scrum works best for small self-managing teams of three to nine people working within a step-by-step method. The team delivers a new or improved product or functionality, within a set period of time (two weeks, for example). These short “sprints” force you to constantly work with realistic deadlines.

You gain transparency, inspection and the ability to adapt. Risks also are manageable over the short term, but you’re not going to make a long-term plan with an extensive risk analysis. With each step forward, you can determine what hurdles need to be overcome, scenarios can be followed to do so and what the impact of each is. With this information you can adjust the course of your team’s work as needed.

Short sprints ensure that it’s transparent what your team accomplishes, and at the end of the sprint you also can show your customer what you’ve done. Thus, the customer provides your team with feedback that your team can use to formulate the next sprint. This ensures that the product you make is something the customer is really happy about.

What is agile service management?

Agile service management is nothing more than the application of the agile mindset to IT service management. Since IT is falling deeply in love with agile, many are beginning to wonder if it is possible to happily marry agile service management and the watertight ITIL. When we compare the four basic values of the agile manifesto with ITIL, it doesn’t seem possible. At first sight, ITIL seems to attach great importance to everything the agile mindset believes to be less important: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.

ITIL implementations mostly focus on process descriptions and systems with the goal to steady quality of services over comprehensive documentation. ITIL, however, often goes hand-in-hand with extensive process documentation. It took five books with a total of 1,300 pages to explain the 26 ITILv3 processes.

Laying down contractual agreements and meeting them is an important part of ITIL service level management. Making SLAs is one of the main goals for many organizations and it’s often the most important criterion for managers or customers to judge the IT organization.

ITIL is about predictable processes. If you think out all the steps in advance and execute them accordingly, you’ll always achieve your desired outcome. Agile and ITIL are not exactly a match made in heaven. They are different and they also complement each other. Agile is a philosophy, a set of guidelines for the work. Agile principles help you make decisions in your everyday work, but it doesn’t tell help you complete specific tasks. ITIL is a framework, a collection of procedures that work in practice. As opposed to agile, ITIL describes how to do your work in detail. Thus, a nice marriage. A path and a protocol.

Being agile with 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.

But the way you implement ITIL could very well be agile.