Firefigher or a busy fool? Continual Service Improvement

A recent webcast ‘How to make CSI the Practical Reality’ reminded me about the frequent discussions around Continual Service Improvement and its ability to be put into regular business activities as oppose of one-time ‘nice to have’ projects you will never get a budget for.


Everyone who knows ITIL have heard of the 7-step service improvement process which, as greatly noted by the presenters of the mentioned webcast, is in fact, a 8-step one.
What we tend to forget about is tackling the service improvement challenge before jumping straight into metrics and data gathering – we should first make sure what we are trying to achieve is in line with strategic direction of the organisation we want to improve.

Sounds obvious, but let’s re-iterate The Continual Service Improvement process would then consist of the following steps:
0 – Identify strategic direction (speak to Client’s Senior Management and listen carefully what their goal and motivations are). If you don’t understand what the clients treats as SERVICE IMPROVEMENT you will either end up fire fighting lots of small, but urgent aspects of the service or become a busy fool, implementing changes which are not seen as necessary. Either way, this will not be seen as an effective CSI.
1 – Define what you SHOULD measure (focus on things that will help to identify the areas for improvement and confirming the strategic direction of the service)
2 – Define what CAN you measure (obviously the difference between what we should and can, may alter the data gathering process)
3 – Gather data (probably most challenging and time consuming stage, where CSI has a great field to explore various sources, level of detail and available tools)
4 – Process data (steps 4 and 5 are often called ‘turning data into information) which simply means changing raw numbers and graphs into collated form that could influence future decision process
5 – Analyse data
6 – Present the information (convey the information in the way your stakeholders would understand). A simple, but good example can be found here.
7 – Implement Corrective Action (simple as that, isn’t it?)

To be most effective in CSI we should aim to focus improvement activities where the biggest benefits will be seen. Once this problem is tackled, we could take care of the smaller ones. Single page, high-level dashboards (as above) tend to appeal to Senior Management to understand the overall health of the Service.

Service Improvement Implementation may have a tendency to start like a regular project but we want to aim to make it part of Client’s BAU processes. As per mentioned example this could be achieved by enforcing and monitoring CSI Principles:

  • set targets for processes improvements with accountable service leads
  • define a clear terms of reference for process owners
  • support measurement and reporting activities
  • rollout the 7-step process and make it a BAU discipline
  • ensure business benefits are identified as early as possible with each new initiative
  • make sure the Client’s vision and strategic directions are clear

Sounds simple, but how realistic is continual thinking about service improvement in times where IT services are constantly pushed to deliver more for less. A challenge? Or silly dream?

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