Does the rise of DevOps spell the end for ITIL?

Feb 8, 2023 | Devops, ITIL Service Management, Training



One of the most challenging things when writing about DevOps and ITIL is finding the perfect phrases to define both of them. They not only mean different things to different people and organizations but are also implemented & used very differently. Let’s glance through their definitions first.






– An integral philosophy to software development & delivery that aims at unifying development and operations.

  • DevOps integrates software development, testing, and QA to achieve better communication and collaboration among product management, software development, and deployment teams
  • Focuses on Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD)
  • Aligns with lean principles such as managing Work In Progress (WIP), working in batches, and being agile to have a quicker turnaround time
  • Fosters cultural transformation



– A framework with a set of best practices to efficiently provide IT Service Management.

  • ITIL emphasizes service quality and consistency
  • Utilizes a service value system and a four dimensions model
  • Provides the guidance organizations need to tackle service management challenges
  • Aims for higher customer satisfaction
  • Consists of 34 management practices
  • Drives digital transformation

If you take a peek into one of the forums where these ITIL vs. DevOps discussions are going on, you’ll often find two very polarising types of people—conservative ITIL apologists and enthusiastic DevOps geeks. While you drown in the sea of ITSM jargon, you might also come across a few myths about DevOps and ITIL.




DevOps and ITIL are mutually exclusive


DevOps and ITIL are usually considered alternatives to each other. But in reality, they complement one another quite well as their objectives are totally different. ITIL helps an organization streamline its disparate service management through best practices. On the other hand, DevOps improves service delivery by fostering cross-functional collaboration and agile, continuous testing.


DevOps is all about software deployment


We often hear, “DevOps is about deployment and delivery.” DevOps is much more than this. It covers aspects of collaboration, breaking down silos, and encouraging transparency. It strives for cross-disciplinary training so that everyone has a basic understanding of every task. Software deployment is just one aspect of the multi-faceted approach that DevOps follows.


ITIL is enterprise territory


The most common myth about ITIL is that it’s complex and costly for smaller businesses to afford. Organizations can adopt ITIL irrespective of the size of the company. With ITIL’s flexibility, you can start small and adopt only the necessary practices that fit your bill. Small and medium businesses can incrementally adopt ITIL as they scale.


DevOps is an automation tool


DevOps is neither a tool nor an automation engine. It is a philosophy that merges development, quality assurance, operations into a single, continuous set of processes. It also drives automation by identifying gaps and promoting collaboration across functions. But, it is not limited to just automating tasks. DevOps takes a holistic approach to solving first-world IT problems. It bridges people’s issues and solves operational inconsistencies.


DevOps and ITIL is a lot of R’s


Adopting frameworks like ITIL and DevOps methodology results in resource and cost optimization. When the right tool is implemented that is relevant to the business, the realization of the outcome is faster. A thorough understanding of the business objectives with a strong emphasis on the ROI could convince your C-suite management to buy into the idea. If not performed well enough, these steps could lead to DevOps and ITIL burning a massive hole in your organization’s wallet.




The first point you’ll hear from DevOps skeptics is the horror of allowing technology to control most of the authorizations that development and releases dictate. The amount of control that ITIL gives them is not something that can be done away with, they argue.

This aspect of ‘control’ is what the anti-ITIL squad is worried about.

Going through too many CABs, for example, slows down deployment and negates the ‘fail fast and fix fast’ aesthetic of today’s Silicon Valley. The advantage that continuous deployment and superfast environment building gives to developers and admins is significant at this time. This is, in fact, the underlying promise and lure of DevOps – speed. And in a world where ‘move fast & break things’ is like a Biblical reference, speed is not just important. It might mean the difference between a billion-dollar startup and a damp squib.

There is just one flaw in this argument: ITIL was never about control in the first place; it just started being used and referenced that way. One of the first things to imbibe about ITIL is that there is no such thing as ‘best practices.’ It only has a set of rules that give excellent results when applied thoughtfully to an organization.




If your ITIL processes are slowing your deployments and releases down, it’s your adoption that’s the problem, not the framework.

ITIL is a set of guidelines and rules that each organization can tailor to fit their own processes; the sole aim is to give end-users and organizations the best possible experiences and processes (read lower costs and high efficiency).

But like most great ideas, ITIL has been taken out of context and turned into something it isn’t. This is where the latest debate on DevOps and ITIL is coming from—a place that assumes that DevOps and ITIL serve completely different ends altogether.




As Michael Nygard explains in The Agile Revolution podcast, DevOps is not just about continuous deployment and the ‘fail fast – fix fast’ mantra, but more about the working relationship between operations and development on an everyday basis. What is ITIL about, then?

ITIL is the same thing, except it values and treats the relationship between operations and development better.

There is no reason to assume that ITIL isn’t compatible with agile development methods. You just have to tailor the ITIL practices to fit your development and deployment strategies. This ensures that you have the safety and robustness of an industry-recognized ITIL framework with the ability to, in effect, ‘move fast and break things.’




Not at all. On the contrary, DevOps might just be just what the old guard of ITIL needs—a wake-up call to stop thinking about ITIL as a rigid wall of rules.

ITIL can be a perfect way forward for the new-age startup; its tried & tested standards, when combined with the flexibility of DevOps, can result in speed and control, two words practitioners have been wanting to use in the same sentence for a long time.

Maybe now, they can.