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Why automation can help IT get out of the ITIL straitjacket


Kees blog ITIL.jpg


By Kees van den Brink


The new style of business that IT needs to support is marked by continuous innovation, small, fast steps to keep an edge in the marketplace, and experimentation. Today IT needs to be fluid and move faster than ever. However, traditional IT best practices like ITIL were created in a different era—before cloud, mobile, etc. How can IT departments grounded in ITIL rise to today’s challenges?


The answer is by embracing automation. An example of this is using the learnings from DevOps to find the best opportunities for automation.


DevOps for both Fluid and Core IT

DevOps stresses cooperation and speed, and recognizes even in its name that you can’t, or shouldn’t, separate software development from IT operations. The beauty of DevOps is that works well with long-proven ITSM and ITIL practices that are still essential to the core IT functions—as long as you apply an integrated value chain model focused on the consumption and delivery of services.


The IT4IT based value streams most useful for IT to focus on, for now, are:  Strategy to Portfolio, Requirement to Deploy, Request to Fulfill, and Detect to Correct. Using these value streams we can apply Lean Principles to identify waste and find automation opportunities. Another benefit of the end-to-end nature of the IT Value Chain is its ability of identifying cross-process optimization, something not possible when focusing on just one (ITIL) process. When it comes to identifying waste, keep asking “why.” For example, does every incident need a process that involves a number of people, or should it go straight to whoever can resolve it? Or do we really need to run each change through the Change Advisory Board, or can some not just be a record for analysis using pre-approved change types based on standard requests?


Putting theory into practice

Each value stream is based on a set of capabilities that work together. Implementing a capability successfully within an organization means the organization becomes competent and these competencies are what is needed to realize value. But, what will generate the biggest return?


The best use case for applying the value streams will vary from company to company, but embedding a private cloud into IT operations is a common occurrence these days.


ITIL graphic.jpg


Implementing the private cloud solution will impact a number of existing business process, with “Service Request Fulfillment” and its automation the most important in this case. It’s important to note that almost all surrounding processes—configuration management, service level management, etc.—are already available in an organization, and might not be fully automated yet, but the automation is certainly able to trigger these processes as they are. Once this is established, further steps in these processes can be automated. So in this case I do not mean just automating the provisioning of, for example, a virtual machine in a private cloud, but taking it a number of steps further.


After all, it does not make sense to be able to provision a virtual machine in minutes, if afterwards (or even before) days are spent in administrative functions to ensure the virtual machine can be used. For example, automating related operational processes, like Configuration Management (registering and updating CI’s automatically), Change Management (registering, updating and closing a Change automatically), Asset Management (creating and updating the status of an asset automatically), Event Management (enabling monitoring automatically so events will be generated and adding automatic remediation to the most common types of events) etc. will reduce the manual effort spent and enable the provisioning of the virtual machine further but at the same time the related processes are still used. Using this approach, Core IT (which can still benefit from a framework like ITIL) and fluid IT now use the same service management, bringing the two into closer alignment.


Leverage ITIL where it works

By introducing automation, you are not ditching ITIL—a framework that’s been tested by time and many use cases. Instead, you are leveraging what works, where it works, and automating processes that have traditionally been choke points. More than automation for its own sake, it’s an end-to-end way of looking at IT.


To borrow an analogy from the realm of science, we still need Newtonian physics from hundreds of years ago to get a spacecraft to the moon, but rely on Einstein’s breakthroughs to keep the clocks on the quickly moving spacecraft in synch with the clocks here on earth.


Ready to start your journey? Keep these tips in mind:

  • Think lean: reduce waste, collaborate and automate
  • It is about the end result (IT Service), not the individual process
  • The new type of automation reduces manual work
  • The human factor cannot be replaced
  • Ask the “why” question a lot
  • Start with small steps


To learn more, read our ebook, Ignite Innovation in IT on how to take an IT4IT approach to brokering services, accelerating application delivery, and delivering cloud services.



Kees van den Brink.jpgKees van den Brink is a solution architect for HP Enterprise. He helps customers across Europe improve and standardize their IT operations. Kees is an active member of the IT4IT consortium ( Follow him on Twitter at @kvdbrink01.



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