How To Bring Agility Into Your Service Management – And Why (Part 2)

Dirk Fuhrmann

Part 2 of a 2-part series about bringing agile methodology to IT service management. Read Part 1.

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the principles and advantages of agile methodology. What about introducing agile to processes that are already established? How can we inject agility into them?

I have to say that I will probably disappoint you; the processes themselves will not become agile. But the process design and process improvement will. The character of a process (“how do I get from A to B?”) would not be the same otherwise.

Example of processes: agile service management and continual service improvement

What could be more obvious than to pick out the process that already resembles agile’s familiar circles of evolutionary development, known to many as sprints? This process carries improvement at its core: the continual service improvement process with the Shewhart circle (see Figure 1), which is wrongly referred to as the Deming circle and familiar to many as the PDCA circle.

Perhaps you have noticed that the word “continuous” is used frequently in connection with agile methods and philosophies – for example, continuous integration, continuous delivery, continuous deployment, or continuous improvement. Now we have a continual service improvement process. How do continual and continuous go together?

Figure 1 (left) and Figure 2 (right)

Continual on the way to continuous

First, let’s try to work out the difference between these two very similar words. These days, “continual” and “continuous” are often used as synonyms. The primary definition of “continual” is “occurring frequently.” The primary definition of “continuous” is “uninterrupted” or “incessant.” Let’s clarify the difference with two simple examples.

Things that are incessant or exist without interruption are “continuous.” For example, the flow of a river and the movement of the planets around the sun are continuous because they never halt. Things that occur frequently or recur periodically are “continual.” They are not incessant but occur regularly. For example, telephone calls to a busy office and departures from a bus station are continual because they occur regularly, but not in an uninterrupted flow.

Regarding “continuous” and “continual” in agile service management, Figure 2 clarifies that we are no longer waiting for the one major change in the IT service process to pass through all committees and offices. Instead, we are creating an incessant flow of changes and learning from them.

This does not rule out that processes that have already matured, in the sense that they have become established – as in, “This is how we have always done it” – might be thrown overboard and the maturing process started over again. It’s quite the opposite; this is what rings in agility. Because the processes undergo agile continuous improvement, we continually adapt the process to the current prevalent conditions time and again, which makes the process agile.

Example of roles: from IT service manager to agile service manager

“Service manager” is usually a generic term for a manager within a service provider. It is often used to refer to a business relationship manager, a process manager, and a senior manager who is responsible for IT services. Service managers address the processes of business relationship management, service-level management, and continual service improvement, for example. (ITIL 2011 Edition – Service Operation). They have a clear understanding of the services that are required in order to provide goodwill.

Agile service managers add agile values and practices to the classic service-manager role. As experts in business relationship management and service-level management, they know how services should be operated to meet the business requirements of their internal and external customers.

By applying their agile mindset, agile service managers expand the perceptions of customers and process owners when it comes to understanding the interaction between goodwill and processes. According to the DevOps Institute (DOI), they are frequently referred to as the operational equivalent of the scrum master usually found in software development.

Experience in the area of organizational change management is also important, as many of the tasks this role performs facilitate the cultural change. Those roles are mediator, coach, protector, and servant leadership, all in one. A servant leader focuses on identifying the needs of others at an early stage and fulfilling them. This is what drives and motivates them to exert influence and lead.

As I already described in my previous article, communication and cooperation take center stage here. They constitute the link between development and operations management.

As one of the world’s leading IT consulting companies with broad expertise in application management services, itelligence understood from the start that it is important to adopt agile ways of behaving and thinking early on, so it anchored the principle of servant leadership in its people values. Are you interested in further details? Contact us today.

This article originally appeared on and is republished by permission. itelligence is an SAP platinum partner.

Dirk Fuhrmann

About Dirk Fuhrmann

Dirk Fuhrmann is service delivery manager for intelligence's Managed Services, as well as an ITSM and ITOM consultant. For more than 10 years, Dirk has been at home in the IT industry. With his enthusiasm for ITSM topics and focus on the customer, he is a reliable contact person for newly emerging trends as well as established standards within the company.