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The supposed incompatibility between DevOps and ITIL

I have, for some time now, been reading up on DevOps. One thing that, for some reason, keeps coming up, is that people seem to think that there is a fundamental incompatibility between DevOps and ITIL. The more I read, however, the more it becomes clear that there is no disparity at all between them. If you have been following my blog for a while, it should be fairly obvious that I have drunk the ITIL Kool-aid. Simply put, I think any operations shop that is not implementing ITIL is doing it wrong.

While I do not believe that ITIL is the be-all and end-all of IT operations, I do believe that if you aren’t even bothering to put basic processes in place, you have no business being in the business of IT operations. I’d much rather see an OK implementation of the Change and Incident processes than see a fantastic recovery plan. If nothing else, it tells me that you’ve thought about more than how to recover from a specific situation.

I hasten to add that, even if you’re not calling it ITIL, you may well be applying the lessons and principles. In episode 40 of the DevOps Cafe, they discussed ITIL and DevOps with Rob England, who was quoted as having said the following:

There’s this thing called Service Management, and guess what – Service Management is Life. There is something called IT Service Management, and that is the Service Management model applied to IT.[…] These [meaning ITIL and DevOps] are patterns of ITSM. […] We’re really under the umbrella of ITSM, whether we like it or not.

Now, that’s all well and good as far as it goes, but the really interesting bit (I think) came a little later in the same episode, where they described that those Ops shops that tend to reject the notion of ITIL and adopt DevOps, tend to already be following the best practices that make up ITIL, applying their craft in similar ways, getting similar results, in terms of the quality and stability of output. The difference was that, rather than seeing themselves as police officers, with the ethos of to protect and serve, they saw themselves as business enablers, there to delight their customers.

Once they understand they simply view their world differently, a lot of that disagreement […] melts away.

That, I think, is the takeaway for me. As I said before; whether you call it ITIL and Continual Service Improvement, or call it DevOps and the Improvement Kata, the similarities are far more important than the differences. From where I stand, DevOps is a natural evolution of ITIL, rather than a competing philosophy.

I’d like to add that, in the same episode, Rob England introduced the idea of kamu, a maori word, meaning to sing in the chorus. He explained it as:

Let’s try to find a world-view that is mutually acceptable. This group sings this verse, and this group sings this verse, and then, the two groups come together to sing the chorus, and that act is the kamu of the song.

That, at least for now, is going to be my goal with regards to DevOps, ITSM, and ITIL, for me, with upcoming blog posts on these subjects. My perspectives will be the verse, while joining in the chorus.

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