I discovered espresso martinis quite late in life. At age 48 to be precise. It was a supreme ending to a great lunch at the Groucho Club in Soho, London with the sales director of a trade magazine. My heartfelt thanks to Laurence for introducing me to this nectar. Enraptured by the drink, I promptly requested a cocktail shaker for my birthday and started making my own espresso martinis. As a neophyte mixologist, I was surprised to discover that vodka, not gin or vermouth, was the key ingredient.

Just like espresso martini, IT service management (ITSM) is not exactly what it sounds. It is service management, alright. But IT?

Now, some 70 years after IT got started as an industry, there is a quiet revolution to fold IT into service management. Consider the relatively recent additions by the leading ITSM players of DevOps modules and partners into their portfolios.

ServiceNow was, it appears, first off the starting block, deconstructing the inherent conflict between IT operations (ITOps) and DevOps in a joint webinar with partner Pink Elephant in March 2016. A DevOps module followed in May 2018. Almost simultaneously, Cherwell Software announced its VMware partnership, with extensive coverage in the form of blogs and white papers running to this day. BMC launched its DevOps module in June 2017.

So why the rush, and why now?

From humble beginnings, DevOps has grown as a discipline. I distinctly recall attending a developers’ hothouse in British Telecommunications’ R&D labs in Martlesham, UK, in 2006 as a business stakeholder. The initiative was sponsored by the CIO, Al-Noor Ramji. Back then, Agile was the preserve of just a few IT leaders frustrated by the slow pace of their team’s efforts and attempting to respond to their organization’s demands for speed.

At that point, three years before the term DevOps was coined, Agile was no more than a rounding error in an overall IT budget. It mobilized limited cohorts of enthusiastic risk-takers who were sometimes thought of as misfits by colleagues less prepared to challenge the status quo.

The mantra of scrums, stand-ups and iteration has permeated many of the working practices in the digital world. By making “fail fast, fail often” a badge of honor, teams are empowered to flush out doomed features and entire assignments and to redirect resources to other, more worthy initiatives, stopping “zombie projects” from mushrooming out of control.

Tipping point

As noted by Lori MacVittie at the start of 2017, DevOps was still perceived as having strategic impact by only a small minority: 20 percent of business executives, up a meager three points over 2015. Yet adoption has been much wider and faster. According to RightScale, 84 percent of businesses had adopted DevOps by 2017, a massive 25-point increase over 2013. And enterprises, with 84 percent penetration of DevOps, are leading the way. Today, DevOps has established a substantial and valuable footprint for itself. Importantly, DevOps adopters are looking for scalability — and that is what got the ITSM crowd’s interest: Follow the money.

Scalability and inevitability

In another harbinger of the inexorable evolution unfolding in front of our eyes, the update of ITIL standards, version 4, includes DevOps-friendly components. This will be useful in bringing the skills base of current and new IT practitioners up to speed with the new world.

Embracing DevOps is inevitable for ITSM. But it requires ITSM to redefine itself. Step forward a number of experienced commentators, such as Mozaic, proposing to rechristen ITSM as DSM (digital and dynamic service management). By rethinking the entire operating model of the IT and digital team, DSM is the glue that brings together the DevOps and ITOps groups that otherwise would rather not interact.

Blending ingredients not usually mixed together can make for superior success. The mint espresso martini I tasted at the Bussey Building rooftop bar in South London was certainly proof of that — glorious. No gin or even vodka, but rather coffee-flavored tequila.