Update: ITIL 4 vs DevOps

Which is Better: ITIL 4 vs. DevOps

Published: July 2, 2020
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When it comes to succeeding in the world of IT management, optimization and evolution are critical. You must be willing and able to adapt your approach, not only to maximize its effectiveness but also to leave your company with enough enterprise agility to continue evolving in the face of future issues and opportunities. 

Achieving this requires a mixture of day-to-day management, IT governance, and contingency planning. All of these elements have become integral parts of the world’s most popular methodologies and frameworks for IT management, though that doesn’t make choosing between them any easier!

Two of the biggest and most demonstrably effective contenders are ‘ITIL 4’, the newest iteration of the ITIL framework by AXELOS, and ‘DevOps’, an organic and fluid approach supported by an active practitioner community. Both certainly have their benefits, as well as their proponents, which leaves many potential practitioners wondering which is better. Is there even a clear winner? 

Sadly, there is no straightforward answer to these questions. Many organizations pick and choose aspects of both approaches rather than one or the other, while for some businesses making a firm choice is the most beneficial option.

It all ultimately depends on the circumstances, goals, and requirements that have driven you to want to adopt an IT management framework. So, how do you choose whether ITIL or DevOps is right for you?

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ITIL 4 vs. DevOps: the basics 

Before jumping into making a decision about which of ITIL 4 or DevOps will best suit your needs, it’s important to understand what each approach is intended to be used for:

  • ITIL 4 – Service management processes, whether internal or external, are what drive IT. ITIL is designed around the idea of continual service improvement, with its best practices emphasizing quality and consistency. ITIL 4’s modules look at this from a variety of perspectives, with the role of an ‘ITIL Master’ being to oversee them as part of a cohesive management structure.
  • DevOps – DevOps is more of an idea than a strict set of rules. In a nutshell, it aims to improve the relationship development (Dev) and operations (Ops) teams, having them share insight, tasks, and goals to optimize the IT lifecycle. DevOps cultures have several common elements, such as frequent testing, continuous delivery, continuous integration, and widespread automation for the sake of efficiency and reliability. Most importantly, DevOps is about creating cultural change, establishing permanent environments of flexibility and collaboration.

As you can see, there are differences even on a general level. However, there are also several similarities. 

Perhaps most importantly, both choices evolved based on feedback from experienced practitioners who are aware of the benefits offered by different frameworks. This has always been an element of DevOps and was also one of the first points addressed by AXELOS when it first announced ITIL 4. As such, you should not assume you need to choose one or the other, as both are designed with integration in mind.

Do ITIL 4 and DevOps work well together?

ITIL 4 and DevOps work excellently together. This is partly because of their non-mutually exclusive goals, with one focusing primarily on service optimization and adding customer value and the other on cultural elements of software development and operations. They each have tools and best practices that the other lacks, and so utilizing both of them to create a more beneficial structure overall has become a popular choice.

It is also worth pointing out that ITIL 4 was designed specifically with integration in mind. A lack of adaptability with other frameworks had been one of the largest points of contention that practitioners had with ITIL V3. As a result, AXELOS made this a priority, revealing that ITIL 4 would be able to work with the likes of DevOps and Lean almost as soon as it was announced.

Are ITIL 4 and DevOps only suited to specific company types?

As easy as this would make choosing one over the other, both DevOps and ITIL 4 are designed to suit organizations of all sizes, industries, and so on. It helps that almost every business on the planet now relies on IT, as does the fact that scalability is often an inherent factor in long-term success. With this in mind, much of ITIL 4 and DevOps’ best practices were made universally applicable.

That being said, it is also true that many companies adopt new best practices incrementally, while others do not have the resources to invest in multiple methodologies at once. Rather than focus on what kind of organization you are, it would be better to try and get a handle on what your goals and requirements are, as this will make the process of choosing the most appropriate option much simpler.

Do ITIL 4 and DevOps cover multiple disciplines?

Modern IT is a lot like modern medicine: just as many doctors choose a specialty, IT professionals will usually focus on a specific area within a wider IT operation. ITIL 4 and DevOps are well-suited to this kind of diversity, as each can incorporate a comprehensive variety of IT roles.

Remember, DevOps itself is fundamentally concerned with collaboration. It is not just about having teams work together more often but also helping them share relative concerns and expertise to create more effective pipelines. Everyone within a DevOps culture also shares responsibility for the end results. ITIL, meanwhile, has a variety of modules suited to a number of disciplines and areas of concern. This makes it easy for students to choose where to specialize and focus their studies accordingly.


Are ITIL 4 and DevOps future-proof?

Up until recently, the norm for IT management frameworks was that they would be updated once every few years, with each static version covering any developments that occurred since the previous installment. However, given the rate of evolution seen in IT over the last few years, as well as the startling ease of communication between professionals looking for new ideas, this has become an antiquated approach.

Luckily, both ITIL 4 and DevOps have bustling communities of practitioners. Users regularly share insight, practices, and ideas online, between businesses, and even at dedicated conferences. New and organic developments can quickly become ingrained in the community as a whole, allowing practitioners to keep their knowledge cutting-edge without having to wait for new releases.

In the DevOps sphere, this helped bring about developments like ‘Rugged DevOps’ and ‘DevSecOps’. ITIL 4, meanwhile, was designed to enable AXELOS to update it incrementally. By utilizing a largely open-source model, AXELOS can incorporate new elements as part of a continuous process. In short, both methodologies are prepared to keep evolving in the future.

ITIL and DevOps also encourage practitioners to continually reexamine processes within their IT structures and pipelines. Practitioners are always looking for ways to improve and are well-prepared to take advantage of future opportunities.

Are ITIL 4 and DevOps both worth the investment?

There is certainly no shortage of success stories for both ITIL and DevOps. Each has proven to trigger increased efficiency, reliability, and overall ROIs for IT operations across the board. Not only do they optimize management, but they also steer IT governance in order to better support major business goals. Most importantly, they establish permanent systems for improvement and evolution, whether via the community of DevOps or the open-source model of ITIL 4.

To get a better idea of whether the costs involved will be worth the returns, it will be a good idea to examine the respective benefits of ITIL 4 and DevOps

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Which one is right for me?

Choosing DevOps can be the right decision if:

  • You feel there is little collaboration or communication between teams and departments
  • Undetected bugs keep causing issues prior to or after the point of release for new code
  • There is no speed or reliability in fixing issues
  • Too much time is being wasted on tasks with outdated methods
  • An environment of siloed teams has created a blame culture 

Choosing ITIL 4 could be the right decision if:

  • You have a poorly defined lifecycle for identifying, creating, releasing, and optimizing necessary services
  • You are struggling to adapt to new opportunities or thrive in the modern high-velocity environment of IT
  • Your IT operations have a lack of focus on stakeholder needs
  • There is no set service-level agreement outlining what customers can expect from your services

Choosing either could be suitable if:

  • You want to improve communication and alignment between IT and management
  • You want to improve collaboration between various elements of iT
  • You need to increase efficiency across your operations

Ultimately, the best choice will depend on your exact situation. How many potential candidates would you want to train? What are your goals? To determine what kind of arrangement would suit you best, you may well want to speak to an e-learning specialist.

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