NTT DATA Business Solutions
Dirk Fuhrmann | August 1, 2019 | 5 min.

How to Bring Agility in Your Service Management and Why at All?

If we take a closer look at the origin of the word “agile,” the Latin word “agilis” means nimble, active, or mobile. In the complex world of IT, it is important to create a very agile IT in order to respond better and faster to predictable and, more importantly, unpredictable events.

As I already announced in the article on the bimodal working method, we are diving a little deeper into the topic of agile service management here. Brief reminder: DevOps as a philosophy with its 5 principles of CALMS

C – Culture

A – Automation

L – Lean

M – Measurement

S – Sharing

endeavors to ensure the smoothest possible connection between the development and operation of IT solutions. This is supported by numerous approaches, but mainly by the development, further development and application of agile methods (such as SCRUM).


4 Reasons Why It Is so Important to Bring Agility in Your Service Management

It is important to note here that when we talk about agility, we are not speaking of speed exclusively. If we take a closer look at the origin of the word “agile,” the Latin word “agilis” translates to nimble, active or mobile. In the complex world of IT with its drastic increase in changes and the accompanying uncertainties—which some may know as the VUCA world (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity)—it is important to create a very nimble IT in order to be able to react better and more quickly to predictable and, far more importantly, to unpredictable events.

However, we are now facing the challenge of adopting and maintaining the agile methods, practiced in development, in our normal operation. How can we achieve that?

The DevOps Institute has placed its focus in agile service management on the application of agile methods to the design of IT service management processes and their continuous improvement.

But, let’s take a step back first: What do we expect from the use of agile practices? What do we need agility for in IT and in the company?

  1. Quick Start to Added Business Value

Minor changes, for example functional extensions in SAP, can be integrated in operations considerably more quickly and thereby reduce the time-to-market as compared to large releases significantly (Fig. 1).

  1. The Ability to Change

The advantage of implementing changes in incremental steps is that you can counteract early on in the event of deviations from the main target (kaizen principle). This way, the ability to change and, with that, the agility is retained over time (Fig. 2).


A graph showing the development of the business value in relation to time and a graph showing the development of the ability to change in relation to time

  1. Creation of Visibility

Implementing changes in small steps paired with quick feedback to the stakeholders, both internal and external, increases the visibility of changes drastically (kaizen principle). Major, drastic changes are counteracted by implementing them gradually. This creates transparency throughout the entire service lifecycle and builds trust among all persons involved. Changes become comprehensible, and the level of acceptance rises (Fig. 3).

  1. Minimization of Risks

At the start, the risk is very high, for example when changing IT services. However, when using iterative steps, the risks involved in a fallback are usually far smaller. Failing fast is even desired here. The sooner we encounter a risk, the quicker we can learn from it and improve. Opportunities to counteract are used at an earlier stage.

Now that we are familiar with the general advantages of using agile methods, let’s take a look at service management with this knowledge as a basis. To do this, we will transfer agility to the familiar ITIL which, in its current state, has been around for quite some time (Fig. 4).

One graph showing visibility in relation to time another graph showing risk in relation to time.



Kaizen is Japanese and stands for continuous improvement by means of small, incremental changes. It roughly translates to change [kai] for the better [zen].
Kaikaku is the Japanese word for radical change. It is a business concept that makes fundamental, transforming and radical changes in contrast to kaizen, which focuses on minor changes.
(Source: Lean IT Association (LITA))


Let’s Move along the Three Pillars of ITIL V3: Functions, Processes and Roles…

  • The purpose of functions is to form various different teams, including “one-man shows,” that bring structure and stability to an organization.
  • Processes describe how activities are structured and implemented.
  • The purpose of roles is to define responsibilities within as well as outside of processes.

Example of Functions: Agile Service Management and the Service Desk

Our beloved service desk will serve as the example function. Due to its strategically important position as a single point of contact (SPOC), it is instrumental to the success of a healthy IT company. It is up to the managers of the service desk in particular to ensure agility here. They should be able to literally “let go.”

A service desk team that works independently and decides which tasks are to be performed next, thereby initiating improvement measures for its work independently, accelerates all flows of information between customers, internal departments and the service desk team.


ITIL®4 – the Service Desk as a General Management Practice
The service desk is also included in the new best practice framework, but this time in a new category.
The service desk, which is no longer “just” a function but will be declared a General Management Practice in ITIL®4 in the future, is still a central component of service management. The main purpose of the service desk practice has not really changed as compared to ITIL®V3. It still involves recording the demand for incident solutions and service requests.
The service desk is still the single and central point of contact for the service provider and all its users.


Example of Processes: Agile Service Management and Continual Service Improvement

What about processes that are already established? How can we inject agility into them? First off, I have to say that I will probably disappoint you here. The processes themselves will not become agile. But, the process design and process improvement will. The character of a process (“how do I get from A to B?”) would not be the same otherwise.

What would be more obvious than to pick out the process that already visually resembles the familiar circles of evolutionary development, known to many as sprints, of agility and which carries improvement at its core: the continual service improvement process with the Shewhart circle (wrongly referred to as the Deming circle and familiar to many as the PDCA circle) (Illustration 1).

Perhaps you have noticed that the word “continuous” is used frequently in connection with the agile methods and philosophies, for example in continuous integration, continuous delivery, continuous deployment or continuous improvement. Now we have the continual service improvement process. How do continual and continuous go together?

Continual on the Way to Continuous

First, let’s try to work out what the difference is between these two very similar words. These days, “continual” and “continuous” are often not distinguished from one another and used as synonyms. The primary definition of “continual” is “occurring frequently.” The primary definition of “continuous” is “uninterrupted” or “incessant.” It’s simple, isn’t it? Let’s clarify the difference with two simple examples.

Things that are incessant or exist without interruption are “continuous.” For example, the flow of a river and the movement of the planets around the sun are continuous, because they never halt. Things that occur frequently or recur periodically are “continual.” They are not incessant but occur regularly. For example, telephone calls to a busy office and departures from a bus station are continual because they occur regularly but not in an uninterrupted flow.

“Continuous” and “continual” in agile service management: Illustration 2 is to clarify that we are no longer waiting for the one major change in the IT service process to pass through all committees and offices. Instead, we are creating an incessant flow of changes and learning from them.

This does not rule out that processes that have already matured in the sense that they have become established—you are probably familiar with the phrase “This is how we have always done it”—are thrown overboard and the maturing process starts all over again. Quite the opposite: This is what rings in agility. Because the processes undergo agile continuous improvement, we continually adapt the process to the current prevalent conditions time and again, which makes the process agile.



A graph showing maturity in relation to time, considering the baseline and another graph showing maturity in relation to time.

Example of Roles: From IT Service Manager to Agile Service Manager

“Service manager” is usually a generic term for a manager within a service provider. It is often used to refer to a business relationship manager, a process manager and a senior manager who is responsible for IT services. Service managers address the processes of business relationship management, service level management and continual service improvement, for example. (ITIL 2011 Edition – Service Operation). They have a clear understanding of the services that are required in order to provide goodwill.

Agile service managers add agile values and practices to the classic service manager role described. Being experts in business relationship management and service level management, they know how services must be operated in order to meet the business requirements of their internal and external customers.

By applying their agile mindset, agile service managers expand the perceptions of customers and process owners when it comes to understanding the interaction between goodwill and processes. According to the DevOps Institute (DOI), they are frequently referred to as the operational equivalent to the scrum master, who is usually found in software development.

Experience in the area of organizational change management is also important, as many of the tasks this role performs facilitate the cultural change. They are mediator, coach, protector and a real servant leader all in one. A servant leader focuses on identifying the needs of others at an early stage and fulfilling them. This is what drives and motivates them to exert influence and lead.

As I already described in my previous article, communication and cooperation take center stage here. They constitute the link between development and operations management.

As one of the world’s leading IT consulting companies with broad expertise in application management services, NTT DATA Business Solutions understood right from the start that it is important to take agile ways of behaving and thinking into account early on and anchored the principle of servant leadership in its people values.

You, dear customer, and we here at NTT DATA Business Solutions are a strong alliance when it comes to agility. Let’s join hands and generate more ideas for an agile future!

Are you interested in further details? Don’t hesitate – contact us today!

-by Dirk Fuhrmann, Service Delivery Manager Managed Services, NTT DATA Business Solutions AG-
E-mail: [email protected]