7 Steps to Continual Service Improvement (CSI) Success

Posted by on May 09, 2016


Jarod Greene In the following article, Jarod Green, VP of Service Management Strategy at Cherwell Software and former Gartner IT service management (ITSM) industry analyst, discusses the importance of Continual Service Improvement (CSI), and a seven-step approach to implementation. Jarod has more than 12 years of ITSM industry experience, and has published numerous white papers, research articles, and blogs, and delivers innovative IT-focused presentations at events around the world.

The Importance of Continual Service Improvement for Any Organization

There’s no shortage of industry averages and benchmark surveys for service desk leaders to consume for decision support. The pursuit of these metrics, however, presents a challenge for many IT organizations, because service excellence is a contextual, moving target. There are many variables that determine IT performance relative to other organizations – mainly budget, resources, vertical industry, and business goals and objectives.

That is why continual service improvement (CSI) is so important. Whether your IT organization performs under, at, or above par, the goal is to continuously improve IT service support, so to better meet the needs of the business. The reality is, you’re never done improving because requirements, goals, and objectives are never static. As those things change, so should the IT organization. This isn’t to say CSI is easy, but it can be applied regardless of the size or maturity of your service desk. It doesn’t have to be a demanding or overwhelming process.

Last year, Dave Jones of Pink Elephant discussed CSI in a webinar and provided a comprehensive, step-by-step guide. While breaking down continual service improvement into a multi-step process is useful for managers, it doesn't change the “continual” aspect of CSI. "The whole point about continual service improvement is that it's continual," Jones confirmed. Recognizing the cyclical nature of CSI is essential for any organization that’s trying to implement continual service improvement. Accordingly, one of Jones’ key messages is that "Everyone has responsibility for continual improvement. This means CSI has to be treated like any other practice and any other process within business."

Tweet this: Recognizing the cyclical nature of CSI is essential for any organization that's trying to implement continual service improvement

Let's review the seven steps that comprise Jones' (and Pink Elephant's) approach to continual service improvement:

Step 1: Define your CSI goals and strategy

Jones explained that this should be based on the business and IT vision—the strategy, goals, and objectives. The questions you should be asking: What business outcome am I trying to achieve? What are the existing and future business requirements? This step is about positioning yourself for the future and setting the stage for the entire continual service improvement process. It isn’t just about saying what you need to measure but why you need to measure it – that’s the strategy.

Step 2: Define the metrics to focus on

This process should be based on what your existing tools and resource capabilities are. Ask yourself, "What are our current processes, and how do we want to measure those?" Jones advised to "Make sure all of the reports that [you] generate and all of the time [you] consume are actually being used in a meaningful way."

Step 3: Gather the data needed for continual service improvement

You've already identified what you're going to measure and how. Now measure it and organize it. Take the data, Jones says, and "Bring it all into one place so that you can do something constructive with it." In this step, you should also "implement new monitoring procedures—this could be one of the first continual service improvement initiatives."

Step 4: Process the CSI data

After you've gathered your data, address your findings. This step is all about "taking the data and turning it into information that makes sense and provides the ability for analysis."

Step 5: Analyze the information in the context of continual service improvement

Identify the trends you find in your data—both negative and positive trends. It's essential that you document and report on these trends. "One of the most challenging mechanisms you will have is to measure your achievement against perception," Jones says. Compare your continual service improvement findings against your overall business strategy—your policies, standards, legal requirements, business imperatives, and so forth. There are four main activities that fall within this step:

  • Service Strategy analyzes the results associated with implemented strategies, policies, and standards.
  • Service Design analyzes the current results as well as trends over a period of time and helps to identify opportunities to improve the design and improve the delivery of the end-to-end lifecycle.
  • Service Transition analyzes the results of the service evaluations that include release and deployment activities.
  • Service Operation analyzes the current results of design and project activities.

Step 6: Present and use the information in a meaningful way

Often, this is one of the most overlooked aspects. David's main point here is to "Know your audience! Your CEO or CFO potentially don’t need technical detail. What they do need is an overall view on what you’ve achieved, which services operated, which services didn’t operate, which users are unhappy." Present your information in a useful and understandable manner—whether you’re presenting to the CIO or the CFO. It's also important to conduct QA on your reports—make sure they are accurate and clean.

Step 7: Implement continual service improvement

Simple and straightforward, David recommends treating your "improvement initiatives as formal programs and projects." Take it seriously, and involve your entire team. For Jones, CSI implementation is a matter of turning “knowledge into wisdom”—translating technical knowledge into practical knowledge. That's how organizations successfully improve their processes.

While there's no guaranteed formula for CSI success, Jones' and Pink Elephant's seven-step approach offers a measured and logical method for those looking to implement continual service improvement. And, once you’ve gone through all the steps, go right back to the beginning, and do it all over again. After all, it's continuous.

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