Tag Archives: ITIL

Agile Transformation: The Minimum Viable Operation (MVO)

Introduction

As more and more organisations adopt Agile practices like Scrum to deliver complex projects, old traps and organisational challenges seem to get new clothes and terminology to doom these initiatives.

Enterprise IT, and IT professionals in general, have a reputation of being too product-centric.

Whilst Scrum is one of the best known manifestations of Agile principles and values, deserving the credit for fostering a collaborative and dynamic backdrop for IT and non-IT professionals to work together, it has a natural tendency to become product-centric.

The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – a core concept in an Agile project – remains product-centric, regardless whether you replace the P of Product with the Ps of Processes, People and Partners.

The problem is amplified when the “product” is not aimed at external consumers, like the apps that you run in your smartphone, but at internal and external corporate stakeholders that will need to change their ways of working to use the new “product”.

Organisations rely on a complex interactions and workflows in order to operate. Large organisations go further and rely on defined processes to orchestrate these interactions. These processes are usually interdependent and managed by different areas.

Initiate a complex IT project in this scenario and give each process owner the hat of a Scrum “Product Owner” and the result is very likely to be the same as 30 years ago: each one will develop their own product, taking into considerations the needs and requirements of their own process silos, ignoring the inter-dependencies and the impacts on other areas.

Add a multi-supplier environment, where parts of the operation have been outsourced to external companies, ignore contracts and the enterprise is fully equipped go down its route to delays, additional costs or even complete failure.

The good news is that there is a way to avoid the trap and use the best of Agile and Scrum in a transformation program.

Think about the Minimum Viable Operation (MVO) that would allow the organisation to test new ideas, tools, ways of working, people, suppliers and partnerships. Think about the internal and external dependencies and try to identify that minimum set of Ps that would allow the organisation to go-live with the concept.

An example in the IT Service Management (ITSM) area, traditionally process-centric, may illustrate the concept.

IT Service Management Background

IT Service Management is based on a set of interdependent processes. Change Management, Configuration Management and Service Portfolio Management are three of the processes described in ITIL, the most well know framework of IT Service Management processes.

Whilst Service Portfolio Management look at how IT Services and resources enable the business from a strategy perspective, Change and Configuration look on a more granular and technical level, accounting for and protecting the specific components required to deliver those IT Services.

Configuration Management maintains a database, known as Configuration Management Database (CMDB), with information about those components and how they are related to the IT Services.

Change Management deals with many different types of change. These changes are categorised so that the most effective workflow can be selected. Regardless of their type, all changes are recorded and assessed with regards to the exact components that need to be changed, and potential impacts to other components and services that rely on those components.

The integration and inter-dependencies between Change, Configuration and Service Portfolio Management becomes clear during change approval. At this point of the Change Management process, it is not possible to make an informed decision unless there is information regarding the components being changed (as informed by Configuration Management) and the impacted services (from Service Portfolio Management).

This shows how Change Management is dependent on CMDB and Service Portfolio information.

Scenario

Suppose a large organisation wants to transform its IT Service Management practices to boost agility in Enterprise IT and decides to start with Change Management as there is an internal perception that the process is bureaucratic and is hindering agility. Suppose the transformation program includes adopting a new IT Service Management tool and re-designing other processes, apart from Change Management itself.

The organisation decides to adopt an Agile Transformation approach, based on a roadmap. The roadmap establishes three releases, with the first one delivering the Minimum Viable Operation (MVO) for the new Change Management.

The MVO for Change Management (mvCHG) should be defined in terms of:

  • the Minimum Viable Process (mvProc): a self-contained sub-set of Change Management activities;
  • the Minimum Viable Product (the traditional MVP): the minimum set of functionalities required from the tool to support those activities;
  • the Minimum Viable CMDB (mvCMDB) and the Minimum Viable Service Portfolio (mvSP): representing the minimum set of data and information required for the process to work;
  • the Minimum Viable Resources (mvR): as the minimum set of internal and supplier resources and services to perform the required activities, according with the new roles and responsibilities.

After some consideration, the organisation decides to define mvCHG around the Standard changes, as these are low risk, low impact, repeatable changes.

Because Change Management is dependent on the data from the CMDB and the Service Portfolio, the mvSP is defined as only those services for which there are standard changes, and the mvCMDB is defined as containing only the Configuration Items (CIs) associated with the Standard changes.

The mvR identifies the teams and suppliers involved in delivering Standard changes, which also helps to determine if contractual changes are required to support the MVO.

The MVP identifies the minimum features required to support the operation of Standard changes, like  to be able to select a Standard changes from a catalogue.

For the second release, the organisation decides to expand the operation to all patching changes, which requires the CMDB to be populated with all CIs that require patching.

For the third and last release, the organisation decides to operate all other types of change, including Normal and Emergency changes.

Conclusions

Enterprises don’t want do adopt Agile development, they want to become agile themselves. This is achieved by adopting Agile values and principles in all business functions, not only IT. Agile values and principles, supported by agile practices, lead to agile decisions and actions.

The Current Operation can be transformed into an Agile Operation though an Agile Transformation.

An Agile Transformation gives an organisation the opportunity to experience Agile values and principles during the transformation journey itself, preparing them to become agile.

Scrum is traditionally used to develop “products” such as software and process documentation. However, Scrum can also be used to deliver transformation.

It is possible to avoid the natural tendency of Agile Development to become product-centric and the natural tendency of IT Service Management to become process-centric.

The MVO allows an organisation to experience new practices, tools, partnerships and ideas as a complete and integrated system, whilst considering all aspects of the operation – not only the Product – and laying solid foundations for future expansions of scope and business value.

ITIL and ITSM in Multi Modal Application Development World

The ITIL framework and the IT Service Management practices have expanded beyond service desk and IT operations a long time ago. ITIL V3 (2007) brought visibility to the full lifecycle of a service, talking about strategy, design and transition of services much before they become operational.

Sadly, a good amount of people did not get it and also did not realize that the technical solution, which includes the application and all the underlying technical infrastructure required to host and manage it, is part of the service. As a consequence, they do not realise that designing and developing an application is part of designing and developing a service and defining the development methodology is part of defining how the service will be managed throughout its lifecycle.

Putting it in different words, these people think that ITIL and IT Service Management are constrained to IT operations and supporting services. They do not recognise the full lifecycle of a service and, therefore, do not recognise that the real scope and applicability of ITIL and IT Service Management practices include design and development.

As far as development methodologies are concerned, Agile and Waterfall can and should be used side by side and collaboratively. I suppose that after wasting millions in failed Agile projects, some organisations will realize that both methodologies have their applicability and the decision to use one or another should be based on a good understanding of the specific circumstances and the pros and cons of each methodology. As these methodologies also represent different ways by which an IT organisation (service provider) engages and interacts with its clients (business areas), more mature IT organisations will develop both capabilities and will invite business stakeholders to participate on the decision taking.

As far as service management framework and high level practices are concerned, an incident will require a quick fix and a problem will require root cause analysis, regardless of who does it and how fast it needs to be done. Changes and new features will still need to be tested before deployed and released, regardless of its size and whether test is manual or automated. Risk will still require to be managed accordingly with its impact and likelihood.

We should avoid to think that universally desirable characteristics and behaviours – such as automation and collaboration between application development and IT operations teams – are exclusive of the latest IT movements, e.g. DevOps. These things have always been part of good service management culture.

We should also avoid to think that virtue is in the extremes. Extremes may be useful to help us understand present contexts and new concepts. But adopting them as targets is not only unwise, it is a sure recipe to keep spending millions in failed IT projects.

Combining SIAM and DevOps for Digital Reimagination

CEOs are under increasing pressure to move their business into the digital world, reimagining the business model to take advantage of the Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) digital forces that are redefining the way organisations interact with their customers. They also expect CIOs to act as a business leader, taking a business-focused approach to leading the IT function and contributing to issues and subjects beyond technology.

The challenge requires not only leveraging new technology, but new ways of working within the IT function and new sourcing strategies.

This has led to an increasing interest and relevance of DevOps and Service Integration and Management (SIAM) in recent years.

Whilst DevOps recognises the importance of integrating development, quality assurance and operations into a seamless mechanism to deploy faster and more reliable software solutions and services, SIAM is the response to IT organisations that seek to rip the benefits of a multi-vendor environment, integrating services sourced from carefully selected IT providers.

But would SIAM and DevOps work together?

To answer this question, let’s take a further look at the key drives and characteristics of each of these approaches.

DevOps emerged from a group of professionals dissatisfied with the results of the silo behaviour that arises from the way roles and responsibilities are traditionally split between development, test and operations teams. Project delays, unreliable solutions and services, high defect rates in production, lack of flexibility, low performance and high cost are amongst the issues that DevOps wants to address.

The most important characteristics of DevOps are the understanding of the business behind IT, the change in attitude in the IT professionals and the use of technology to automate service operations and the develop-test-deploy model.

The change in attitude refers to the way the different IT teams engage, interact and see each other. Most organisations have already realised that trust, integration and understanding of the business do not happen naturally. They need to be fostered and continuously nurtured.

Some critics of DevOps argue it is just an excuse to combine distinct and specialised roles into the same person. It is important to note that, although in small organisations the same person may need to perform all roles, the DevOps principles are also applicable to medium and large size organisations.

On a different perspective, Service Integration and Management (SIAM) emerged from an increasing number of companies opting for an increasing number of IT service providers, to improve cost transparency, reduce risk and take advantage of best of breed solutions and services.

Although not immediately evident, the issues that rise from a multi-sourced environment are now encouraging clients to place increasing importance on the SIAM role.

SIAM aims to address issues such as contractual gaps and overlaps, broken processes and communication channels, conflicting interests and performance targets, distinct governance mechanisms and the lack of end-to-end service ownership that ultimately lead to value leakage and customer dissatisfaction.

The UK government has also adhered to the trend, having included a guidance on SIAM to chief technology officers.

Some of the most important aspects of the SIAM role are the coordination of people, processes, technology and data, and the governance across multiple suppliers, to ensure effective and efficient operations of the end-to-end service delivery to the business user.

DevOps and SIAM converge in addressing current business and IT challenges and targeting people and attitude as primary drivers of performance and value. Whilst DevOps addresses the cons of functional specialisation and the spread of responsibilities across different IT teams, SIAM deals with the additional challenge of spreading services across multiple vendors.

DevOps bring fresh air and enthusiasm to build more dynamic, collaborative and intelligent ways of working, leveraging peoples knowledge and the use of technology to automate routine tasks.

SIAM complements DevOps bringing in Service Management and Contract Management capabilities.

Recent SIAM implementations take advantage of the full service lifecycle approach introduced by ITIL 2007/2011, replacing the traditional support-centric approach of previous implementations.

They also use ITIL and Enterprise Architecture concepts to ensure there is no ambiguity in the definition of service elements, so that a robust and comprehensive framework of contracts, agreements and governance mechanisms can be put in place to clearly link each service element to the vendor that owns it.

SIAM and DevOps are thus two sides of one coin. Combined they can bring in the benefits of innovation, collaboration and best-of-breed sourcing required by CEOs to realise their digital business strategies, and by CIOs to reimagine the IT function beyond the traditional technology perspectives, improving value and customer experience whilst reducing time-to-market and operational costs.

salt and pepper smallSIAM and DevOps are like salt and pepper: they are different things that work very well together.

An Introduction to Service Integration & Management (SIAM) Matters

Service Integration & Management (SIAM) is all about delivering business value in an environment where vital IT services are going to be or have already been outsourced to multiple external service delivery organisations.

From a process and tools perspective, SIAM includes the deployment of ITSM and service management in a multi-sourcing – and, usually, global – environment, where relationships are driven by formal contracts and service delivery organisations are competitors in the market.

My intention with this blog is to share my knowledge, experience and thoughts with other IT professionals and consultants that, just like me, would benefit from a discussion forum around this theme.