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Continual Service Improvement (CSI) – The Most Important Service Management Process

By | February 25, 2014 in ITIL

Continual Service Improvement in ITSM

Sometimes people ask me which service management process they should implement first, or which process is the most important. They probably expect me to give the typical consultant’s answer of "it depends", but I don’t because there is one clear and obvious answer. Every IT organization that wants to implement service management should start with continual service improvement (CSI). (Yes, CSI doesn't always mean Crime Scene Investigation!)

I’ve never come across an IT organization that does nothing at all to manage their IT services. They all manage incidents, changes and releases, and they all monitor the infrastructure and design new solutions to meet business needs. I have carried out ITSM assessments for organizations that insist they have no capacity management or availability management, and discovered that technical staff are actually doing most of the required work, they just haven’t formalized the process and they don’t measure and report what they are doing.

What do you think would happen if you attempt to “implement” a process such as problem management or availability management without first really understanding what work is currently being done, what outputs it is creating, how effective it is, and what resources it is using? The most likely outcome is that you would design a process that conflicts with existing activities, that people won’t accept the new process, and that the overall effect will be to reduce service quality rather than improve it.

Many people think that implementing continual service improvement involves lots of bureaucracy and extra work, but it can actually be done as a very light-touch process, with lots of value and little additional work. Here are the key things that you need to do:

  • Create a continual improvement register. This can be as simple as an excel spreadsheet. It enables you to capture all the suggestions that people come up with so that you can compare the costs and benefits and pick the improvements that offer the best ROI. The continual improvement register also enables you to track the status of outstanding improvement actions, to ensure they make progress.
  • Review what reports you are creating. Make sure that these reports are useful to the people you deliver them to. Often you can save time and cost by eliminating reports that aren’t creating value, and this will also generate goodwill among technical staff who don’t like creating reports that nobody uses. Then you can define the new or updated reports you really need to understand how well your processes, services and technology are working.
  • Make sure you are measuring the things that matter to you. Since you have already defined what reporting you need, it should be fairly easy to identify what needs to be measured.
  • Carry out regular assessments of your services, processes and technology. You could do this yourself or you could get external consultants to help you, but make sure the output includes benchmarks against industry norms and best practices that you can use to help identify improvement opportunities.

These simple steps will provide the framework you need to continually improve everything you do as an IT organization. By measuring and reporting the things that matter and carrying out regular assessments you will identify the improvements you need, and by managing your improvement register you will ensure that these improvements are correctly prioritised and that the ones you decide to implement are managed to completion.

It is really easy to start, and the benefits can be enormous. At first you may not notice the impact, but as CSI becomes embedded in your culture the IT organization will become more efficient, more effective and will deliver higher quality services to your customers.

I worked with one organization that implemented CSI and some years later the parent company asked outsourcing companies for proposals to take over from their in-house IT. After they had selected a preferred bidder, the chosen outsourcer reviewed the existing IT organization and withdrew, because they couldn’t improve on the efficiencies that were already being achieved.

If you want to be a world-class IT organization then start implementing CSI now, you will reap the benefits for many years to come.

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Stuart Rance

About Stuart Rance

Stuart is an ITSM and security consultant, working with clients all round the world. He is one of the authors of ITIL 4, as well as an author of ITIL Practitioner, ITIL Service Transition, and Resilia: Cyber Resilience Best Practice. He is also a trainer, teaching standard and custom courses in ITSM and information security management, and an examiner helping to create ITIL and other exams. Now that his children have all left home, he has plenty of time on his hands for contributing to our blog - lucky us!

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