Agile Service Management – a mindset as well as a framework

Feb 8, 2023 | Business Portfolio, IT Management & Governance

According to “The Agile Service Management Guide”, Agile Service Management involves: “adapting Agile and Scrum values and practices to IT Service Management (ITSM) processes, process design and improvement activities.” Yet, elements of the Agile Manifesto can appear to contradict with tenets of the IT Service Management. For example, the favouring of:

  • “Individuals and interactions” over “Processes and tools”
  • “Working software” over “Comprehensive documentation”

However, this would be misinterpreting the Manifesto, as its aim is to ensure that just enough IT Service Management elements, i.e. processes, tools, and documentation, are implemented “to ensure the successful and optimised delivery of outcomes such as “individuals and interactions” and “working software”.

It can be argued that there are similarities between the principles that underpin the Manifesto and those of ITSM. For example, the IT Service Management principle: “focus on customer outcomes” aligns with the Agile principle: “satisfy the customer through the early and continuous delivery of valuable software”. However, such alignment does not necessarily translate into agility across the entire service lifecycle.

Fundamentally Agility is a mindset that enables an organisation to be able to move quickly and easily, to think quickly, solve problems, and have new ideas. The need for agility has always existed, but the difference today is that the pace of change is much faster; these days, change often takes place over a period of days or weeks rather than months or years. Consequently, this is prompting service providers to re-engineer their ITSM processes as they seek to:

  • Reduce cycle times
  • Speed up experimentation and learning
  • Respond quickly to feedback and changing customer requirements
  • Expand value streams to include customers, suppliers and partners
  • Support knowledge workers
  • Improve communication and collaboration
  • Automate workflow

Agile Service Management offers more practical solutions to these challenges that can be found in more traditional IT Service Management approaches. According to the “The Agile Service Management Guide”, Agile Service Management: “Ensures that ITSM processes reflect Agile values and are designed with “just enough control and structure” in order to effectively and efficiently deliver services that facilitate customer outcomes when and how they are needed”. In practice, this means ensuring ITSM:

  • Does “just enough”
  • Starts light
  • Add weight only when needed
  • Takes away weight when possible

Agile concepts such as minimum viable product’s, Scrum and Kanban boards are easily learnt and can be effective in enabling Agile Service Management. However, organisations sometimes realise limited value from such adoptions. The reason being is that whilst they may be adopting Agile concepts, they are not truly embracing the agile methodology. The Critical Success Factor required to be Agile is an Agile mindset, i.e. one that enables an organisation to be able to move quickly and easily, to think quickly, solve problems, and have new ideas. Without the right mindset, the adoption of Agile concepts will provide limited value. Mindsets, i.e. the established set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people, are often deep-seated and are notoriously difficult to change. There needs to be a compelling reason for people to change!