ITSM

What is Agile Service Management?

What is Agile Service Management?

Agile Service Management as a Natural Outgrowth of the Agile Manifesto

What is Agile Service Management in an IT Service Management (ITSM) context? Is it an official term? Is there a body of knowledge behind it? Or, is it just another concept (like “Big Data”) that gets thrown around by a larger and larger group of people who can’t really define it, but know that they should be “getting it” and “doing it”?

The good news is that Agile Service Management is a natural outgrowth of the Agile Manifesto for Software Development—a hallmark principle of software development since the early 2000s. Furthermore, Agile Service Management, as it’s been adapted into IT (think of it as agile and ITSM) can provide your ITSM team with a uniquely productive lens with which to focus service management priorities and functions.    

What is Agile?

Before putting this into context with service management, it’s important to define what is meant by agile. The Agile Manifesto for Software Development and the birth and growth of what came to be known as agile software development methods, was largely a response to the centralization and regulation of software development practices throughout the late decades of the twentieth century.

Published following a conference in Utah in 2001, the manifesto written and signed by all seventeen participants in the conference champions four main principles:

  • Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools
  • Working Software over Comprehensive Documentation
  • Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation
  • Responding to Change over Following a Plan

Conference participants made clear that, while the principles on the right in each of these instances held intrinsic value, the principles on the left were more important in each case. Many of the initial conference participants went on to form the non-profit Agile Alliance, whose primary aim is to restore credibility to the methodology of software development through agile principles.   

So Then What Is Agile Service Management Exactly?

As agile principles were initially outlined as an attempt to codify best practices in software development methodology, it doesn’t take much of a leap to see how they might be applied to ITSM as a practice. But, before we get into putting agile service management into practice or unpacking agile and ITSM together, a closer look at the underlying principles is in order.   

As published by the Agile Alliance, the twelve principles underlying the Agile Manifesto include:

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference for the shorter timescale.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

So what exactly is Agile Service Management, then? Simply put, the answer to this question involves the bringing of these principles to bear on every aspect of ITSM as a practice. But, as they say, the devil is in the details.    

Agile Service Management in Practice

Now that we’ve answered the primary question: What is Agile Service Management?, Let’s get into how you put agile ITSM principles into action. The goals and objectives of Agile Service Management include, as mentioned above, ensuring that agile principles are a part of ITSM from process conception through implementation. Agile principles must influence both process design and process improvement.

Furthermore, practicing agile ITSM means striving for continual improvement across IT’s every function as an organization through the implementation of and adherence to lean principles, designing and producing services that are just scalable enough to ensure customer satisfaction.

Agile ITSM depends upon collaboration, cross-pollination between operational and developmental teams, and excellent communication across the organization.     

ITIL vs Agile—ITIL and Agile and ITSM

The idea that agile principles are in direct competition with the application of ITIL requires a narrow mindset that is best avoided in ITSM. It is possible, necessary even, for ITIL and Agile to co-exist. There will naturally be a modicum of friction between the two, but major conflict can easily be avoided through agreement that Agile ITSM is the common goal. ITIL can provide your organization with a stable framework that Agile can work to help streamline in an effort to increase service levels and execution.

For more tips on how agile can help you scale your service desk, check out our blog.

Measuring ROI of ITSM White Paper hbspt.cta.load(41925, ‘ffc37b75-7f99-408d-9647-d20feb4843f9’, {});


With nearly 15 years of experience in the IT industry, Matt Cox is a lover of creating technical solutions and successful customers. As the Senior Director, Technical Operations, ITSM, he leads the talented team of ITSM solutions engineering, on-boarding, and support teams, working with customers of all sizes and across many different industries to create tailored service management solutions using ITSM and ITIL best practices. Fun fact—he once went hang gliding off a cliff in Ecuador.