ITIL Continual Improvement 2021: A needed investment

InvGate December 17, 2020
- 4 min read

While our previous ITIL 4 blogs have covered the IT asset management (ITAM), service desk, and risk management practices, the demands of the coming year place an emphasis on the need to improve things. These improvements could relate to operations, services, outcomes, experiences, relationships, or something else. And, ideally, will be managed and delivered via a formalized approach such as ITIL continual improvement.  

If you’re new to ITIL and/or continual improvement, then this blog will help you to understand what it is and how it helps. Even if you’re not, you might find the coverage of what’s new in ITIL 4, in terms of continual improvement, helpful. Please keep reading to find out more. 

ITIL continual improvement explained 

If you’re familiar with ITIL, then this was previously called continual service improvement (CSI). We have various earlier blogs available to read on what it is and how best to use it: 

If you don’t have the time to read these right now, then here’s the ITIL 4 continual improvement practice definition: 

“The purpose of the continual improvement practice is to align the organization’s practices and services with changing business needs through the ongoing improvement of products, services, practices, or any element involved in the management of products and services.” 

Source: AXELOS, Continual Improvement ITIL 4 Practice Guide (2020) 

And if you think about where most organizations are right now post-pandemic, then you can imagine how much improvement-related change will be needed as they continue to respond to the new ways of engaging and working that will need technology enablement during 2021 and beyond. 

The best improvements are planned and organized 

Of course, we can all spot and address improvement opportunities on the fly. But consider the following three questions: 

  1. Is this the best way to use what will be limited improvement resources in 2021?  
  2. Will the most strategically important improvement opportunities lose out to what appear to be quick fixes?  
  3. Will all the relevant stakeholders and opinions be included when improvements are considered and undertaken?  

The likely answers here are no, yes, and no – and none of these are desirable states from a business optimization perspective. 

To help avoid suboptimal improvement investments, ITIL suggests the use of an improvement register such that ideas can be formally recorded, assessed, and actioned by all the appropriate stakeholders. An improvement record, within the improvement register, will include details about the opportunity/need that include: 

  • What’s affected 
  • The urgency (for improvement) 
  • The costs 
  • The benefits of improving 
  • An improvement owner. 

But this is only a small slice of the guidance ITIL 4 offers for formalizing improvement activities for better operations, services, experiences, and outcomes. 

The ITIL Continual Improvement practice is more than a process 

If you already know ITIL, then you’ll also know that up until the latest version it’s been very process-centric – with incident management, change management, and many other processes front and center in the body of the earlier IT service management (ITSM) best practice guidance. However, with ITIL 4, the focus is now very much on capabilities that encapsulate people, processes, and technology. Plus, on the co-creation of value.  

Hence, it’s the continual improvement practice in ITIL 4 rather than simply the continual improvement process. And the scope of the practice is wide-ranging and includes: 

  • “Establishing and nurturing a continual improvement culture 
  • Planning and maintaining improvement approaches and methods throughout the organization 
  • Planning and facilitating ongoing improvements throughout their lifecycles 
  • Assessing improvements’ effectiveness, including outputs, outcomes, efficiency, risks, and costs 
  • Generating and incorporating feedback on improvements’ implementation and results.” 

Source: AXELOS, Continual Improvement ITIL 4 Practice Guide (2020) 

Bringing this back to your improvements in 2021 

The Continual Improvement ITIL 4 Practice Guide is 33 pages long so there’s a lot of improvement-based guidance being shared in the publication. A key part of “getting things done” in terms of continual improvement is the ITIL Continual Improvement Model shown below. 

The ITIL Continual Improvement Model

22. ITIL 4 CI Model

Source: AXELOS, Continual Improvement ITIL 4 Practice Guide (2020) 

If you know the ITIL v3/2011 version well, you’ll notice that the ITIL version has an extra step – take action. 

It’s also worth understanding that the Continual Improvement ITIL 4 Practice Guide isn’t the only place to find continual improvement guidance. Some would argue that the continual improvement section in the ITIL 4 Managing Professional Direct, Plan and Improve publication is a vital source of guidance given that it walks the reader through the steps of the ITIL Continual Improvement Model. Including what should be in place at the end of each step. For example, at the end of step six “Did we get there?”, there should be: 

  • Verified results from the improvement initiative 
  • A documented improvement review. 

The latter of which is described in the Direct, Plan and Improve publication in a section called “Conducting an improvement review.” 

So, if your organization is looking to improve in 2021 – and we can’t imagine that it won’t be – then the ITIL continual improvement practice will help. Importantly, and you might not have noticed this when reading the blog, it can be applied within any business function in your organization, not just in IT. As per most of ITIL, the guidance is aimed across the enterprise and not just for IT and ITSM. 


Read other articles like this : ITIL

Evaluate InvGate as Your ITSM Solution

30-day free trial - No credit card needed