So, you’ve finally remembered the fifth of the ITIL v3 IT service management (ITSM) books – ITIL Continual Service Improvement (CSI) and you’re wondering how best to employ this best practice. Although you might have also read the new ITIL 4 Foundation book and noticed that CSI is now simply “continual improvement” - I think we’ll be calling it CSI for quite a while yet though. Especially as the CI acronym is already taken by configuration item. Alternatively, you might have already set a CSI capability up within your organization but are struggling to see any positive returns.
Either way, this blog is for you as we share 10 tips for succeeding with continual improvement.
1. Stop calling it continuous service improvement.
Especially when talking to people who are unfamiliar with ITIL (and thus can’t see through your terminology faux pas). Continuous would mean that you’re always doing it because it denotes a constant state (of whatever it refers to). Whereas continual denotes that there’s a long-term duration but with intervals on inactivity. It also needs to be understood that CSI isn’t a one-time (project-based) thing that accompanies other ITSM-based change such a new ITSM tool implementation.
2. Think of CSI as a capability (not just a process).
Without going into the detail of organizations needing ITSM capabilities, not just processes (which is now recognized in terms of ITIL 4’s practices), CSI demands so much more than the oft-mentioned continual improvement process. This capability is bigger than this process and not only includes a collective mindset that seeks to improve the status quo but also metrics that measure CSI success as a whole? And, while we're pushing my capability POV, remember that it’s your people that will make CSI a success.
3. Don’t neglect any existing improvement capabilities.
Undertake a quick assessment of who’s currently doing what (to improve things). Or has done so previously. Then aim to factor this into your new CSI capabilities, rather than potentially ignoring some good existing capabilities and potentially alienating some future CSI allies.
4. Remember that CSI links to the other four parts of the ITIL service lifecycle.
That ideally CSI should be embedded across Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, and Service Operation. Don’t let it be an add-on and potentially an after-thought that gets forgotten about.
5. Agree on how your CSI capability is going to work in, and for, your organization.
What we mean by this is how you’re going to take what’s included in the fifth ITIL book, and possibly the ITIL Practitioner Guidance publication, and make it optimal for your organization.
6. Get buy-in and the necessary resources for CSI.
We guess this goes without saying, but you’d be surprised at how many organizations start with grand (CSI) plans only to see little activity, and success, due to resource-based limitations. An important thing to note here is to “sell” CSI using business terminology and benefits, not through the use of ITIL language. Also, ensure that someone owns, and is ultimately responsible and accountable for, the capability.
7. Use multiple sources to identify opportunities for improvement.
For instance, identifying metric-highlighted opportunities, taking suggestions from IT staff, or as a result of service-level agreement (or business relationship management) discussions with customers. Importantly, make it easy for all of this to happen. And don’t just keep the details of these identified opportunities on many different pieces of paper, create a CSI register.
8. Start by addressing business pain points.
It’s no different from problem management, in that if you can use CSI to make life better for colleagues and/or customers, then you’ve a sure-fire way to elevate its importance through demonstrated success. Longer-term, establish robust prioritization criteria for using your potentially-limited CSI resources on the initiatives that will make the most difference to your organization.
9. Ensure that CSI activity is focused on things that deliver business benefits.
This might sound an odd thing to mention but it could be that the undertaken improvements only improve IT operations (or services), with no impact on business operation and results. Or, even worse, the IT “improvement” has a negative effect on the business.
10. Prioritize resources, as well as the improvement opportunities, by limiting work-in-progress.
With this, we're referring to the unfortunate scenario when there are a lot of CSI initiatives “in flight” but very few close to completion. Also, seek to break down opportunities into smaller “chunks” that can be used to deliver benefits more quickly than with waiting for a 9-month initiative, say, to finally deliver. Ultimately, it’s not about how much you’re doing with CSI but how much you're achieving.
So, that’s our 10 tips for CSI success. Interested on more?
Read ITIL Continual Improvement: A needed investment and Why your IT department needs Continual Service Improvement.