ITIL is a framework that provides an organization with best practices for operating IT services in support of business needs. DevOps, on the other hand, is less clearly defined and structured. One simple way to think of it is that it promotes closer harmonization between IT operations and development teams to increase time to market and reduce costs. ITIL and DevOps are not competitors, and it is not necessary for an organization to choose one over the other.
ITIL is based upon a clearly defined glossary and a set of processes that accomplish the various needs of an organization. ITIL is formally structured, encourages auditability, and takes a customer-centric view of an organization’s outputs. DevOps blends two roles that are historically thought of as separate in an organization: software developer and IT operator. With these differences in mind, organizations commonly perceive ITIL and DevOps as mutually exclusive. That isn’t always the case.
An ITIL methodology won’t limit a DevOps approach
ITIL does not require nor restrict any specific development methodology. In fact, ITIL recognizes that different organizations face unique situations and might benefit from different approaches to development activities, depending on the circumstance. It would be perfectly acceptable for an organization that has adopted ITIL to also use DevOps techniques where beneficial and relevant. As long as it’s managed properly, there will be no negative affect to service management and the organization is likely to benefit from such an approach.
ITIL and DevOps don’t always overlap, and that’s OK
ITIL recognizes that DevOps is not appropriate for everything that an organization does. In some cases, there are good reasons why boundaries exist between development and operational staff. For example, an organization might not want the developers of a payroll processing application to also be the same staff that is generating the payroll. As such, organizations should not assume that any of these frameworks and methodologies are a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Both ITIL and DevOps are appropriate in certain situations, not all.
Look for areas where activities align
Methodologies and approaches such as ITIL and DevOps don’t exist in a vacuum. Organizations must consider how they work together and areas where they don’t. Organizations that contract out their customer development work are likely to get limited benefits from DevOps approaches. Organizations should look for areas where approaches like ITIL and DevOps cover similar ground, and should look to align their activities. Both IT operations and development staff often implement changes. Rather than each group using their own unique tools to track and manage changes, they should work together within a common toolset.
Viewing ITIL and DevOps as mutually exclusive tends to make things more difficult for an organization that has both IT operations and development activities, and is under constant pressure from the business to deliver within budget and meet tight timelines. Rather than viewing ITIL and DevOps as competitors, organizations will often benefit in areas where the similarities and harmony between the two approaches can be exploited to provide a competitive advantage.