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What is Continual Service Improvement?

Continual Service Improvement (CSI) uses a metrics-driven approach to identifying opportunities for improvement and to measure the impact of improvement efforts. Although CSI is a phase of the lifecycle and is documented in a separate ITIL publication, CSI can be effective only if it is integrated throughout the lifecycle, creating a culture of continual improvement. CSI should ensure that all participants in service delivery understand that identifying opportunities for improvement is their responsibility.

ITIL Continual Service Improvement

An important task for CSI is to identify which metrics out of the thousands that are created daily should be monitored. This is done by identifying, for each service or process, what the critical success factors (CSFs) are. CSFs must be present if a process or service is to succeed. It is recommended that each process or service have identified no more than three to five CSFs (one or two in the early life of a service or process).

To determine whether CSFs are present, it is necessary to identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that represent the degree to which the CSF is present. Again, it is recommended that each CSF be measured by no more than three to five KPIs (one or two in the early life of a service or process). It’s important to keep in mind that, although most KPIs are quantitative, qualitative KPIs, such as customer satisfaction, need to be considered as well.

CSI is based on the Plan-Do-Check-Act approach developed by W. Edwards Deming. This is implemented in the CSI approach, as follows:

  • What is the vision? What is our long-term objective?
  • Where are we now? What are the current values of our KPIs?
  • Where do we want to be? What are the desired KPI values?
  • How do we get there? What’s the plan?
  • Did we get there? Do the KPI values after implementation of the plan meet our objectives?
  • How do we keep up the momentum? Let’s go back to the beginning.

CSI uses a 7-step process to guide how data is collected and used:

  • Define the objectives.
  • Determine what to measure.
  • Collect the data.
  • Process the data.
  • Analyze the data.
  • Present and use the information.
  • Implement improvement.

If CSI is performing its role properly, there will be improvement suggestions arising from all parts of service delivery. The organization is unlikely to have enough resources to implement all of the suggestions, so it is necessary to capture the improvement opportunities, understand their impact, scope, and resource requirements, and prioritize their implementation. CSI uses the CSI register as a tool to document, analyze, and plan for improvements.

7-step Improvement Process

The 7-step improvement process in ITIL is integrated with the Deming Cycle and the DIKW (Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom) model. Improvement can be made across the ITIL lifecycle with each stage of the lifecycle support giving feedback to the other stages for collaborative coordinated improvements.

Continual Service Improvement
  1. Identify the strategy for improvement
  2. Define metrics
  3. Gather data
  4. Process data
  5. Analyze data
  6. Use the data for improvement decisions
  7. Implement improvements

Special attention should be given to economic value of improvements, because all organizations have to recover cost for service delivered in order to exist. Financial management concepts and metrics pertaining to ROI, TCO, VOI, and ROA help here.

BMC's Complete Guide to ITIL