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Chris Powderly, Support & Services Manager, Allens
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Support is often the forgotten partner in any DevOps initiative. Where we have come a long way in making sure development partners well with operations to get new releases up and running in a smooth and always faster manner, ITSM support professionals still feel like the wallflower at the continuous delivery/deployment party. The customer experience will, however, gain a lot from an awesome choreographed dance routine between ITSM and DevOps, so it is time for ITSM to become a star instead of a wallflower.
There are multiple stakeholders to consider with any new release, and they all have their own priorities and tasks. Development will be producing code as fast as they can to fulfill business needs. Operations will have to make sure the new releases are being deployed smoothly while existing services remain stable, all while minimizing downtime and keeping a fast pace. Security will have the accountability of minimizing or even eliminating risks, which usually means slowing things down. The business, on their end, will want to make sure the customers are happy, so they have everything to gain from increased speed while keeping up the quality. And then there’s the ITSM support professionals who will not only be following up on existing incidents, but now will encounter incidents about these new and faster releases, making knowledge management and getting out of a reactive approach ever more important.
Conflicting interests, you might say at first glance. Look at a dance party; everyone will have different backgrounds and styles. I have a classical ballet and a ballroom dance background, while others might have tap dance or hip-hop dance schooling. But, in the end, we all just want to have fun at the party. When it comes to the business, development, operations, and support, don’t we all just want to create a magnificent customer experience? Knowing the common goal is that first, ever-so-important step to a great partnership.
Wanting to have fun at a dance party is great, but how do you know the dance moves and even which foot to start the dance with? Or in other words, how do we make the collaboration work, because having a common goal is not enough. You have probably heard the following repeatedly: “Assumptions are always wrong.” Mostly, that is right, however, the one assumption you should make in any collaboration is that you and the others do not understand each other. Even if you use very similar words, or they at least sound familiar, it is always best to assume you are speaking different languages.
DevOps and support typically use their own frameworks or best practices that each have their own emphasis. Where DevOps uses Agile, ITSM typically uses an ITIL approach. These different backgrounds make a great collaboration hard, if not impossible, at least at first glance. It’s like if I were to dance a waltz with a hip-hop dancer; it does not matter how experienced we both are as dancers, someone is bound to be stepping on someone’s toes.
When DevOps and ITSM professionals speak about their assumptions, that makes collaboration so much smoother. It is easy to assume that Agile and ITIL are contradictory, because ITIL is more process oriented and Agile talks about “individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” However, Agile never said individuals and interactions without processes; the emphasis is just more on the first part.
ITIL 4 introduced some great changes to get to better collaboration between DevOps and ITSM. There is a clear shift from processes towards realizing outcomes. The guiding principles give us practical handholds to get the DevOps-ITSM party going:
Bidirectional communication lines will give you all the insights you need. Development and operations know when something is going to happen that will impact the customer experience and which customers are involved. The other way around, support will get direct feedback on any new features or services—good if value is being perceived and bad if things do not work as expected or in case of bugs. Master this communication loop, and you will immediately see positive effects on your customer experience.
All in all, DevOps and ITSM are better dance partners than you might think at first glance, and when there is enough communication without assumptions, they are very complementary to achieve that common goal of a magnificent customer experience. So, ITSM professionals, don’t be a wallflower and wait to be asked to dance. Rather, be the star. Tap on those DevOps professionals’ shoulders and be part of the dance party.
Nancy Van Elsacker Louisnord is one of HDI’s top 25 thought leaders in technical support and service management. She is also a customer and employee experience expert, a public speaker, and a contributor to several leading industry publications. Follow Nancy on Twitter @NancyVElsacker.
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