The Future of IT service management

Kaimar Karu, head of ITSM, Axelos



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17 November 2014 | 0

The future of IT service management lies in more data-driven decision making processes, where the illusion of control is removed for the reality of influence and people are enabled to operate within a strong framework, but still free to make decisions.

These were central themes in the key note presentation to the annual itSMF conference.

Kaimar Karu, head of ITSM, Axelos, in his presentation on the future of IT service management warned of falling foul of HIPPO Syndrome, or the highest paid person’s opinion, instead of properly informed decision making. Karu also introduced a number of concepts such as Kanban, which emphasises the flow of work through an organisation or department, instead of the volume. This allows any group to tailor the work to capacity, instead of overloading and causing failures.

Another concept Karu described in this context is that of Cynefin. This is a Welsh word that describes the evolutionary nature of complex systems, including their inherent uncertainty. The concept divides into four key sets, chaotic, complex, complicated and obvious.

Much of what is happening in IT currently is resulting in complex systems which are emergent practice. However, some of the emerging technologies come under the heading of chaotic because what is happening is so new that there is little precedent and so are governed by novel practices which are not well developed. As both mature they can become complicated, but often are refined into good practice. Some mature to come under the heading of obvious, and can result in best practice.

Within these complex, adaptive systems said Karu, you must help people to make decisions, by finding out where they are within cycle and helping them toward good or best practice.

“If you treat people as cogs in a machine, you will fail — your organisation will fail,” said Karu. “You can’t control, you can only influence.”

Instead of the illusion of control, said Karu, where you plan to rule out failures, instead build resilience.

This resilience in an organisation is heavily dependent upon people, and so respect is a key issue. Karu said organisations must trust and respect people and realise that even though what they do might sometimes appear at odds with the overall goal, most people do things for what they think are good reasons. Karu maintains that organisations must dispense with stereotypes and give people credit for their outlook and approach. This will facilitate the transformation necessary for organisations who want to become lean and agile through a process of continual improvement.

Continuous service improvement
This continuous service improvement (CSI) means that change is brought about through a number of small changes.

“Don’t have a big bang change — do them slowly, with the easy stuff first to prove value and demonstrate success,” said Karu, “then progress to the harder stuff.”

Karu said that IT service management, along with project management skills, should be included in academia whenever anyone is studying computer science. This would mean that students emerge with real world skills to implement technology, as well as develop it.

Speaking to TechPro, Karu expanded on a question from the floor of the conference. The question was asked about using ITIL in a DevOps environment. Karu was adamant that ITIL and DevOps are not just compatible but are based on the same principles. Equally, he asserts that PRINCE II can be used in an Agile development environment.

“In IT we like to brand ourselves and be in one camp or another, because it keeps our life interesting,” said Karu.

When the term DevOps was coined, it drew inspiration from various sources and it became about communication to get people working better together. But although there was some awareness of ITIL and PRINCE II, some of it was a reaction against ITIL, he said.

DevOps and ITIL
“DevOps and ITIL are essentially about the same thing, but DevOps addresses some areas more specifically and focuses more on communication and collaboration — something which is in ITIL but the books don’t put it on the cover.”

ITIL is often seen as too rigid, said Karu, but this is generally something that comes from a lack of understanding. There is nothing in ITIL that mandates organisations to use all of the processes and gateways it specifies. But those familiar with ITIL and its implementation, Karu argues, know that it is more of a mix and match to suit the organisation, focus and purpose.

There are improvements coming in ITIL that will help users to find information more easily on a theme, such as cloud computing, to make it more accessible and be used as a reference instead of having to digest the whole thing, reported Karu.

The more mature people in the Lean, Agile and DevOps communities, he said, are now acknowledging that ITIL is a basis for DevOps and that you cannot do one without the other.

ITIL gives you the structure and the frameworks, and DevOps gives you the method for how to make things happen.

There is a whole generation of IT admins out there, said Karu, that have come from development companies and they are unaware of ITIL because development led organisations often don’t care about ITIL.

These people are competent, but they are reinventing the wheel every day because they don’t know about ITIL, said Karu. Scaling Agile is a huge concern in that community at the moment.

There is a framework that has been developed to allow that called SAFe, the Scaled Agile Framework.

Scaled Agile Framework
“It is built in a slightly weird way of trying to scale a small thing into a larger environment, but coming from the bottom up. It still has challenges with actually being able to scale.”

“However, there are a lot of things in PRINCE II that actually answer many of the questions that Agile people have about how to scale.

“But again, PRINCE II is not on their radar and they are reinventing the wheel, and with testing and learning and testing and learning, maybe in three years’ time they will have something which is similar to what we had in PRINCE II 10 years ago.”

“That is funny and painful,” said Karu.



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