The vision for IT service management has changed over the years. For a long time, ITIL was the standard, but ever since the famous Agile Manifesto was released in February 2001, many new methodologies have been created and successfully implemented. 

ITIL: A Brief History

Before the Agile Manifesto was released, most software developers followed the ITIL framework. ITIL is a library comprised of several books that describe and guide the practices of various aspects of IT. It was written in the 1980s by the British Government's Central Bureau of Computing and Telecommunications (CCTA) as a set of recommendations for best practices for all IT departments of government bodies. ITIL soon attracted interest from the British private sector, which saw in this work an opportunity to improve the efficiency and quality of IT service providers. It was also appealing because these practices were not linked to any supplier but focused instead on the user's point of view.

In 2000, a year before the Agile Manifesto was released, the second version of the ITIL framework, ITIL V2, was published. It contains extensive documentation composed in 7 main books. At the time, this version was the standard for the management of IT services and processes and was adopted by several large companies. Everyone wanted to implement and sell ITIL to the market.

ITIL still has a large following. Currently in version 3, which was launched in 2007, it consists of 26 processes and functions meticulously addressed in five main books:

   1 - Service Strategy

   2 - Service Design

   3 - Service Transition

   4 - Service Operation

   5 - Continuous Service Improvement

ITIL in Day-to-Day Business

Today, the adherence of large companies to the ITIL framework is still very prevalent. Many IT managers have adopted ITIL within their organizational roadmap. This is because it is a very descriptive work composed of several milestones provided in its vast documentation. ITIL describes the means of measuring and reporting the level of services provided and standardizing processes to ensure efficiency and quality.

This is not to say it isn't costly for organizations to adopt ITIL. Experts estimate that it takes most large enterprises up to 5 years to implement ITIL. Because of this, the endeavor should be treated as a long-term project whose main goal is to foster positive organizational change.

The Influence of the Agile Manifesto

For several years now, however, ITIL has not been the only option. In 2001, 17 representatives from the most diverse types of software development process methodologies gathered at a Ski Resort in the Wasatch Mountains in Utah with the goal of finding a viable alternative to the highly descriptive and documented processes that were very common at the time. Their meeting resulted in the now widely implemented Agile Manifesto. 

In the same way that the adoption of ITIL had strong market adherence, the Agile methodologies, mainly influenced by the Agile Manifesto, have influenced many companies. Unlike ITIL, the Agile Manifesto is composed of only 12 principles - not books - whose main goal is to simplify software development processes and also to identify what is most important in software development and services. Broadly speaking, the Agile Manifesto may be summarized as follows:

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

Currently, the companies that have benefited most from Agile methodologies are the newest companies, because they perceive in Agile a way to quickly maximize their efforts and deliver new features that add value to their businesses and products, thus accelerating financial return as well as customer satisfaction.

A practical approach to this may be seen in ROI. In Scrum, the ROI represents the benefits achieved from an investment versus the cost incurred for each feature developed. In this way, business operators can measure and maximize their ROIs so that features that are most relevant to customers are delivered first.

Some of the most famous and successful IT companies in the world began their efforts by betting on Agile. Their success only confirms that Agile methodologies have transformed and continue to transform the vision we have of IT today.

Suggestions for Agile Implementation:

It's important to note that companies who have used ITIL to govern their IT processes in the past can still benefit from the use of Agile Methodologies. In fact, ITIL may coexist well with Agile. Adopting one approach does not mean abandoning the other. Both ITIL and Agile are customer-focused, but each one uses a different approach to address the same goal. The most practical way to deal with this difference, to start, would be to integrate some of the ITIL RFCs already implemented within Agile.

  1. Prioritize the Backlog during CAB Meetings: use daily meetings to prioritize change requests instead of holding weekly CAB meetings. 
  2. Change Manager becomes Scrum Master: The Change Manager becomes the SCRUM Master, attending daily meetings showing the progress of each feature for the current Sprint.
  3. Continuous Improvement to optimize Business Agility: The ability to quickly adapt to business changes is essential for organizations. Focusing on delivering well-defined features and minimizing the amount of work in progress makes it possible to measure the speed of each change. The use of Sprints and Burn down charts help us visualize speed.
  4. Automated Testing: Automated testing as a strong Agile practice facilitates scope changes and the introduction of new features to be implemented. In this way, it is possible to monitor the state of the system with the changes introduced besides facilitating operations from an ITIL process perspective.
  5. Pull Requests and Code Review Instead of CAB Meetings: Pull requests as a code review tool can replace CAB meetings, as it anticipates the discussion of which features will be required to execute a particular feature delivery.

Companies' eager adoption of Agile practices indicates a response to the new challenges faced in the IT world today: the ability to implement new ideas and adapt without "getting stuck" in long processes. Agile's pillar of quick response to change provides a solution. Nonetheless, does ITIL deserve a place at the table? The answer is yes. ITIL can help companies organize the fast changes introduced by Agile. In the end, both ITIL and Agile are useful.


Paulo França

Paulo França is a Back-End Software Developer at Avenue Code. He has been working with Java for more than 10 years, is enthusiastic about Agile development, and is experienced in working with Scrum teams and all that is relevant in improving the process of project development. He likes to continuously research and gain hands-on knowledge of new technologies.

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