MeToo: ITIL® goes agile – a little – maybe

Quo Vadis ITIL® with the Update 2018?

At this year’s beginning I received a notification from Axelos, the rights owner of ITIL®.

The English Crown has commissioned Axelos Limited to market, train and certify the best practice methods described in ITIL®.
ITIL® is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited

This email included an invitation to participate in the discussion and exchange of knowledge within the Axelos community for an ITIL® update (ITIL®-2018) scheduled for 2018 (!)

Furthermore, Axelos asked three „existential“ questions – for answering by video clip (approx. 1 min)

These questions were as follows: (see also ITIL® Video Competition):

  1. „In your experience in service management, do you agree that everything is ultimately based around ITIL® principles?“
  2. „How has investing in adopting and adapting ITIL® in your organization made a difference?“
  3. „How is ITIL® still relevant today, and how does it complement other frameworks?“

Furthermore, Axelos mentions on its website that it has already joined forces with practitioners and „masterminds“ from all over the world to „gain insights into current trends and challenges“ – according to the original wording.

It is important to know that Axelos has no choice but to rely on external support. Axelos is, as mentioned above, an „ITIL® Marketing and Certification Agency“. For example, Axelos commissions external experts to review ITIL® literature if it is submitted by the publishers to ITIL®.

I do not know if and how many certified ITIL® trainers Axelos employs internally.

The „right“ masterminds

Thus, one can only hope that Axelos has brought the „right“ masterminds and practitioners on board as input givers for the 2018 update – otherwise it would stew in its own juice. A little hope makes a statement on the Axelos website (ITIL® Update 2018). There you will find a notice that the update should include practical instructions on how to implement ITIL® in conjunction with practices such as DevOps, Agile and Lean.

It is to be hoped that Axelos has also brought in the input of different experts with contradictory opinions – besides, it should be opinions with comprehensive know-how from ITSM as well as the mentioned areas DevOps, Agile and Lean.

And last but not least, it is to be hoped that Axelos has the competence to consolidate these opinions and to leave the ITSM/ITIL® comfort zone.

The current state in the industry

From my experience, I can say that some organisations where ITSM meets agile methods are already very advanced in this area:

  • For example, agile structures have been established, similar or strongly based on SAFe or Less, in order to adapt or extend them as far as possible to the ITIL® life cycle Phases Service Transition (see DevOps) and Service Operation.
  • Other organizations rely largely on cloud-based IT and push NoOps approaches. These approaches then make up many parts of the ITIL® life cycle phases Service Transition and Service Operation.

Axelos could collect the experiences and approaches of such companies and include them as best practices in ITIL®. Moreover, one should be aware of the strong expectations in the industry. Many companies are experiencing great internal resistance when it comes to improving the efficiency of ITSM processes using agile methods and DevOps practices. Reason for this resistance is that the upcoming agility may lead to profound changes in the organization’s structures. Thus, these companies hope for convincing and plausible arguments and comprehensible guidelines for the introduction of agile and lean practices.

What you can expect from the ITIL®-Update 2018….

However, I don’t think Axelos‘ goals for the ITIL® 2018 update are that ambitious. Because on its website Axelos assures that the core elements of ITIL® are planned to remain in place. This shall also apply to existing certifications that are planned to remain in existence – no premature recertification costs will become due.

Besides of the fact that this is a kind of investment protection, it should also be clear that the group of people in question could turn to other frameworks or could do without any certification at all.

The alternative would be agile concepts or frameworks (SAFe, Less), which would only be supplemented by ITIL® Best Practices.

Note by the author:
There was a similar situation at „Prince2 Agile“. In my opinion, it was basically easier to integrate agile procedures into a project organization and thus into temporary structures. However, the opinions regarding „PRINCE2 Agile“ are divided. Some are happy that they are allowed to call themselves „agile“ after the PRINCE2 certification – others consider the agile extension to be set up for PRINCE2 and arbitrary – up to „Agile Buzzword Bingo“. 

And coincidentally, this seems to suggest the third question (see above). Perhaps it is no coincidence that the third question is that ITIL® complements other frameworks. Then Axelos would have accepted the diminishing importance of ITIL® – or the increasing importance of agile approaches in the ITSM area.

On the other hand, the 2018 update should contain specific instructions on how to use ITIL® in conjunction with the buzzwords Agile, DevOps and Lean.

…. and what not

On the basis of my experience, I believe that it is not promising in the long term to adopt agile structures and DevOps concepts over-the-top without adapting structural changes in the organization. This becomes clear to you at the latest when you take a closer look at agile frameworks like SAFe or LESS. The use of these frameworks requires far-reaching restructuring in conventional organisations with a matrix structure if, for example, value streams and development streams are to be introduced as described in SAFe.

Even if such frameworks focus on software development, organizations can extend them to ITSM processes or customize their ITSM processes.

It will be interesting to see how Axelos plans to introduce agile concepts while leaving the church in the village and leaving the ITIL® batch carriers in their comfort zone.


So you should not sit back and wait for an easy to implement 2018 update of ITIL®, which clearly states how „agile ITSM® with agile software development“ can be agreed upon.

There is no doubt that salvation does not always consist in the introduction of agile approaches. In times of DevOps, Cloud Computing and NoOps, however, all IT managers should ask themselves to what extent they rely on ITSM best practices (and corresponding certifications) that have proven themselves in the past and have been further developed by third parties.

Since agile transformation is a question of international competitiveness, an alternative would be to drive forward the agile transformation in one’s own organization – and to build up the corresponding competencies in one’s own organizations.

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