ITIL 4’s continual improvement management practice – remember, it was continual service improvement (CSI) in ITIL v3 – is a recurring organizational activity performed at all levels to ensure that an organization’s performance and outcomes are always aligned to changing stakeholder expectations.
It’s a critical part of the ITIL 4 service value system (SVS) because, if used effectively, it will enable your IT organization to adapt and flex to the needs of the business – becoming more proactive by anticipating future trends and optimizing services, operational performance, and outcomes.
This blog looks at how to inject ITIL 4’s continual improvement practices into your day-to-day IT service delivery and support environment and offers up five helpful tips.
All too often, we’re so focused on making things better that we overlook the great work that we already have in place. And by missing out on these existing improvement activities you’re missing a trick – so, look for localized pockets of awesomeness to see if you can expand or build on them. Things to look for include here:
By taking a step back and looking at what you have in place already, you can adapt existing best practices and replicate or even improve them across other areas of IT or even the business.
As long as we provide IT services and support there’ll always be opportunities for improvement. Look for the painful services. You know the ones:
Another approach is to look for process-driven pain points and opportunities, for example:
By picking up and addressing something that is genuinely causing pain to the business, you’re more likely to be seen as adding value – and the more value you add, the more people will want to support and help with continual improvement. This is particularly true in the case of process issues within the incident management and change control management practices because they’re so visible to the business.
One of the aspects of continual improvement that sets it apart from most other ITIL 4 management practices is the focus on proactive activities as well as the day-to-day slog.
Continual improvement isn’t just about fixing current pain points, it’s also about being more future-facing and looking to make strategic improvements over time. What does that mean? In short, it’s time to get proactive.
Talk to your support teams. Ask them what the “future them” wants. Are they worried about technical debt? What about the new technology coming down the pike? Also, ask your support teams about any future requirements they have and add them to your growing list of action items and improvement plans.
OK, so you’ve started looking for areas to improve as well as identifying the current pain points and you’re starting to get a list of actions. But looking through your list, how do you know what to action first? If everything has the same priority, what do you start with?
It’s time to get organized by creating an improvement register. Scared? Don't be. An improvement register is simply a prioritized list of improvement actions. And creating your improvement register doesn’t have to be complicated. Start by placing it somewhere central and accessible – like the IT department intranet, SharePoint, or wiki. Then create your list of improvement actions, including a high-level priority and some notes on timings.
Please also make sure that you include the service affected, a short description of the improvement idea (because what makes perfect sense to you might not necessarily make sense to everyone else), and the teams involved.
Voila! (Please pardon my French.) You now have an official improvement register in place!
Just do something. However small. In fact, small is good. Small bursts of improvement that are repeatable are going to add the most value because they can be easily slotted into the day job.
In between each chunk of improvement activity, allow for periods of consolidation and stability such that you can check that all your good work has had the desired results and is understood by key stakeholders. By taking the time to check that your improvement has had the desired impact, you’re also enabling your people to adapt to new ways of working.
Finally, gather any feedback and build it into your next round of improvement activity so that the service or performance (and outcome) gets better and better over time.
Done well, embedding continual improvement into your ways of working can help you stay aligned to the business and increase user engagement. The reality is, the sooner you start with continual improvement, the easier work – and everything it involves – gets.
What are your favorite tips for continual improvement? Please let me know in the comments!