Is it possible to integrate ITIL 4 with LEAN and Agile Frameworks?

The modern, fast-paced business environment requires IT and digital teams to release innovative and reliable smaller products, faster and more often. Traditional IT frameworks can’t cope with the business needs provoked by this “4th Industrial Revolution” resulting obsolete and inefficient for the majority of the cases.

ITIL has been updated to the new ITIL 4 version to respond to the new business exigencies and to improve usability and integration providing a common vocabulary within departments and teams.
But the ITIL v4 framework provide any guidance on how to integrate it also with other Agile methodologies?

Yes, ITIL 4 is equally applicable to all service organizations and has to work across multiple other best practices, in fact, it is a complementary framework to other ways of working, like Lean, Agile and DevOps.

Let’s discover in more details why is erroneous to define ITIL 4 as a “traditional” rigid waterfall IT Service Management framework!


Three Reasons why ITIL 4 pairs with  the Agile culture: the ITIL guiding principles

1. The holistic approach and the Creation of Value

ITIL 4 provides a holistic approach to the co-creation of value with customers and other stakeholders in the form of products and services. The holistic approach and the creation of value are the first two of the 7 ITIL guiding principles (focus on value, keep it simple and practical, think and work holistically, start where you are, progress iteratively with feedback, collaborate and promote visibility, optimize and automate).

The ITIL guidance underpins that no creation of value is possible without a smooth and easy communication among users, stakeholders and providers that are all involved in the optimization of the final output which, only with communication and cooperation, will generate the desired outcome.

The necessity of putting the focus on value avoiding to create unnecessary capabilities is a core principle from LEAN Management where products are meant to be delivered Just In Time (continual flow of small packages produced in the exact agreed number and delivered at the exactly agreed scheduling) in order to avoid waste (calculated in production expenses, deliverables and human working hours) and to enhance quality.


2. Start where you are

ITIL prescribe to “Start where you are“: in order to deliver a new final product successfully, you can’t manage everything all at once if your organization hasn’t the necessary capabilities (knowledge, economic resources, mental attitude etc). There are processes to be respected and implemented step by step in order to deliver a final service which will reach successfully the desired outcome.

This principle is clearly explained by Kevin Kasunic Manager of Business Transformation at the Walt Disney Company in a famous white paper where he explains how he led the company IT team towards the adoption of the ITIL Framework, you can download the white paper here.

The philosophy that stands behind this principle is not a unicum, in fact, DevOps culture suggests to start where one is and with one has got. DevOps is in part based on ITIL and Lean principles that’s why DevOps and ITIL represent two methodologies that could be integrated very efficiently and effectively.


3. Keeping it Simple and Practical and relays on feedback!

Following the Agile Manifesto, an agile organization is based on individuals (internal and external to the organization) and interaction instead of processes and tools: the focus is on the continual delivery of working software in order to be ready to likely requests for change.

Again, the ITIL guidance results to be fully compatible with the Agile mindset in fact by ”keeping it simple and practical” is possible to continually deliver working packages which will reach the desired outcome because the final product/service is obtained by “progressing iteratively with feedback”.

With keeping it simple and practical, the ITIL guidance suggests not to produce a solution for every exception, focalizing only on the exceptions that have the highest chance to realize instead. You will deliver simple and quick solutions that will immediately show value.

This is outcome-based thinking and requires to have a holistic view of the organization processes, procedures, projects and aim. Moreover, avoiding to work on the overall output at a time and choosing to work on manageable smaller chunks helps to address all the exemptions/requests for change raised by the users through their feedback.

Progress iteratively with feedback allow to quickly deliver working software which can be easily and iteratively improved until to reach the final output; the final output has been tested and tailored during any iteration by the final user with the scope of receiving a product/service capabilities to help him to achieve the final outcome.


After this short analysis of the main ITIL 4 Guiding Principle, is it quite clear that ITIL is a complementary framework to other ways of working, like Lean, Agile and DevOps?

Although at a first glance ITIL & DevOps could appear at the antipodes, actually these two IT methodologies have more in common that one could expect; integrate ITIL with DevOps is a quite smooth process that could guarantee a very effective and modern way of delivering software and services.