One of the most important elements of successful ITIL implementation is ‘continuous improvement’. Put simply, this requires that ITSM teams regularly make time to review internal processes and existing services for the sake of driving optimization. This allows them to keep delivering better results to customers while achieving strategic value with greater speed and efficiency.
Previously, this was covered in the ITIL v3 module, ‘Continual Service Improvement (CSI)’. Though it no longer has a dedicated module, continual improvement is central to ITIL 4’s ‘Service Value System (SVS)’. It is continually applied in all areas used to create or manage services, ensuring they can continue to evolve however possible while remaining fully aligned with business priorities.
How does the continual improvement process work?
Generally speaking, there are several points to keep in mind when it comes to continuous improvement in IT service management:
- Don’t start from scratch – Before you can make improvements, you need a clear idea of the current state of your business and services. Look at individual elements that can be improved quickly and efficiently. It will be much easier and cheaper to adapt and replicate current best practices rather than working completely from the ground up.
- Highlight issues – Take the time to look at your biggest pain points. These could be consistent sources for complaints, legacy applications, non-user-friendly software, and so on. You may also have processes that produce constant errors or areas where there is a lack of clarity over how to utilize services or respond to certain requests. Needless to say, if you want some quick wins, this will be where you need to start.
- Be proactive – Continuous improvement is about looking for opportunities to improve. This applies to both day-to-day management and long-term strategy. Do you have a future-facing mindset? Do you have plans to incorporate future technology or changing customer demands? The more proactive you are, the easier it will be to stay ahead of the competition.
- Prioritize – What are your biggest value creators? Which improvements will help your business the most? Make a list of your biggest priorities and create an ‘improvement register’. This list of tasks should be made publicly available and include information such as what services are affected, what data is required to perform improvements, and so on. This will help keep improvement work going while also ensuring resources are focused on what will produce the most benefit.
- Get started – Once you have a list of what to focus on, begin integrating improvement activities (however small) into your daily and long-term schedule. Be sure to make time to review the effectiveness of your improvements. Lastly, you will want to keep stakeholders updated for the sake of generating feedback for your approach.
The Continual Improvement Model
The ITIL SVS contains the ‘Continual Improvement Model’. Formerly covered in ITIL v3 CSI, this model helps drive improvements while keeping them aligned with stakeholder priorities. It provides a structured approach to improving processes and gives practitioners a high-level guide to boosting the likelihood that ITSM improvement initiatives will turn out successful.
There are several steps employed for each improvement initiative:
- What is the vision? – Improvement should always be focused on supporting the organization’s goals and objectives. Stakeholders will also want it to be linked to their strategic vision, or they may not consider it an ‘improvement’.
- Where are they now? – Where are you starting from? Assessing the current situation from technical, user, and human resource perspectives can help guide your efforts and avoid having to start from scratch.
- Where do we want to be? – Now, it’s time to visualize the results of your improvement initiative. Set your key performance objectives and start defining tangible objectives for your initiative.
- How do we get there? – This step is about planning how to get from A to B. The SVS Continual Improvement Model advises an Agile approach, with practitioners working towards iterative goals. However, this rule is not set in stone as it may be unsuitable for certain initiatives and businesses.
- Take action – Now, it’s time to execute your plan. You will need clear metrics as well as a tracking process in place to keep you focused. You can use whatever approach best fits the situation, whether you prefer waterfall management, Agile, or anything else.
- Did we get there? – Take a look at the progress you’ve made and how much value was created by your improvement initiative. If your ideal results were not achieved, does any additional action need to be taken? Will you be creating a new improvement project?
- How do we keep the momentum going? – A successful initiative can help build momentum and support for future work. Remember, the process is continual, so keeping teams and stakeholders happy is essential. Even a failed initiative can leave you with value-creating lessons to use later on.
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