What is agile? Agile FAQ

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Agile is a well-known buzzword. But what does agile working entail exactly? How does it relate to service management? And what about its relationship with ITIL?

In this FAQ, we answer four of the most frequently asked questions about agile working.

1. What is agile?

Simply put, agile is an approach to software development that helps teams be more flexible and deliver customer value faster. But most importantly, agile is a mindset.

The agile mindset is similar to that of a jaguar: its instinct is to survive. And to survive, a jaguar needs to be agile enough to react quickly to the movements of its prey.

For organizations, it’s just as important to be agile – especially now, in the age of digital transformation. Organizations need to be flexible enough to quickly respond to modern technologies and the ever-changing demands of the customer.

While agile working originated in software development, its mindset is applicable to all fields.

2. What are the benefits of agile working?

The main reason that agile was introduced into software development was to make large organizations more flexible.

For smaller organizations, responding quickly and meeting their customers’ needs is fairly easy. But large companies are typically a lot less flexible. They often use a waterfall approach for projects: a plan or design needs to go through different departments and management layers before it can be executed. The result? An unwieldy organization that’s slowed down by complicated processes and lacks innovation.

Agile working, on the other hand, strives for the least amount of bureaucracy possible. It makes organizations flexible, reduces response times and focuses on customer value rather than on hierarchy.

In addition, agile working empowers employees: the power to take initiative isn’t with the manager, but with the experts. In an agile working environment, you want employees to share knowledge, act on creative ideas, and come up with solutions – not just follow orders.

Agile service management means applying the agile mindset to IT service management. Nothing more, nothing less.

3. What is agile service management?

Agile service management means applying the agile mindset to IT service management. Nothing more, nothing less. To make this work, the original four agile values simply need one adjustment. With agile service management, instead of focusing on software, you focus on services:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software services over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The idea is that you keep to these principles when designing and delivering services. Sounds straightforward. And in a sense, it is. But how do you apply agile service management in practice?

4. How does agile service management work with ITIL?

At first sight, agile and ITIL look like totally opposing concepts. Agile is all about flexibility and ITIL is an extensive framework that offers guidance and best practices for all five stages of the IT service lifecycle. But it’s definitely possible to pair agile service management and ITIL. You just have to do it right.

Most organizations are still built on older versions of ITIL, which don’t offer much flexibility. This outdated approach to ITIL attaches great importance to everything the agile mindset believes to be less important: individuals and interactions over processes and tools.

But the latest iteration of ITIL, ITIL 4, focuses less on prescriptive processes and more on guiding principles for delivering value. Unlike ITIL v3, ITIL 4 doesn’t tell you exactly which steps to take to deliver a service but focuses more on why you’re delivering that service – to provide value to your customers. A perfect match with the agile mindset.

And, while ITIL does have a reputation for being rigid and unnecessarily complex, that was never the starting point. The idea behind ITIL wasn’t that organizations would implement every aspect of ITIL to the letter. The message of ITIL was always: make sure to apply the framework in a way that best suits your organization. Or: adopt and adapt – a piece of advice that clearly aligns with agile working.

Ready to bring back speed, flexibility, and customer focus to your IT department?

Download the agile service management e-book to learn everything you need to know to make your IT department more agile – from seven common pitfalls of agile transitions to making your Service Level Agreements more flexible.