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How often can you change in Continual Service Improvement (CSI)?

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blog-img-pdcaChange. It’s a thorny issue for IT service management. Each new update to a service management process needs to provide business value, but how do you balance this against the benefit of settled workflows, consistency, structure and everyone knowing their role?

The aim of Continual Service Improvement (CSI) is to make processes, functions, resources and IT services more efficient and effective. CSI is as much about a mindset, ethos and underpinning culture as it is about a framework and improvement structure. Without understanding, buy in and belief, it will be an uphill struggle and one that may not realize the benefits originally envisaged.

Changing processes continuously does not provide enough time to gauge the impact (benefit or even drawback) of the changes. This period of reflection is included within the ‘Plan – Do – Check – Act’ or PDCA decision framework William Edwards Deming is credited with creating.

PDCA was coined to help improve quality and service, but it does not have a specific timeframe attached to it. As the business landscape has become more competitive and IT resources come to play a more crucial role in helping enterprises remain ahead of other companies in their market, so the pace of change has increased. The advent of the digital age has dramatically increased the speed of the supply chain, with this benefit in speed of delivery comes and even higher risk of failure and maybe even more serious, the potential for the repeat of that failure. CSI and agility within this area is more than ever vital to the heart beat of an organization that wants to deliver first class services to its customer base.

Innovations around cloud computing, automation and agile development have increased the speed at which new IT tools and services are created and updated; projects that previously would have taken place over months or years are now being completed in weeks.

So how often should you look to make a change? How long is a piece of string?

The answer is that it all depends on your particular business needs and how quickly you can see the impact on the service from the change. An e-commerce website can make many changes, and quickly, as it can use web analytics and data from its website performance tools that any change can be immediately monitored and reported. For IT service management, the results of a change will take longer to come to fruition. And, you’ll need data to prove the effectiveness of a change. The formula that needs to be addressed is business need vs benefit vs impact vs risk.

CSI has the potential to create much more business value for the organization, but it relies on having access to clean and accurate data in the first place. This use of data for decision making and establishing how much benefit has been created is essential, yet it should not be used instead of making changes. I have seen teams suffer from “analysis paralysis” where they made no changes and spent their time arguing over what the data meant or devoted so much effort to potential projects that were so large in scope they did not start in the first place.

The pace of change is a challenging one to get right, as there is no “one size fits all” guidance that companies can look to. What does set the pace is how quickly the data from changes can be generated and used correctly and productively for decision-making.