Continual Service Improvement (CSI) is the final stage of the ITIL lifecycle as discussed in online ITIL training. During this process, all the services in the IT service provider are reviewed to identify whether there are any areas that can be improved upon. As discussed in ITIL online courses, the continuous improvement process is applied throughout all stages of the ITIL Lifecycle: Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition and Service Operation. CSI feeds into these stages and information or data from these stages also feeds into the CSI process. CSI is important to ensure that all services keep adding value to the business and its customers.
The continual service improvement (CSI) stage focuses on service improvement that supports business processes. CSI uses a seven step continuous improvement process plan which is critical for CSI and other stages of the ITIL lifecycle.
Seven Step Continuous Improvement Process
This figure shows how the seven step continuous improvement process is aligned with the PDCA cycle and DIKW hierarchy respectively. Let’s take a quick step back and review the definitions of the PDCA cycle and the DIKW hierarchy. The PDCA cycle illustrates the continuous service improvement cycle moving perpetually through the following stages: Plan-Do-Check-Act. The DIKW hierarchy illustrates how data progresses from unintelligible data to information to knowledge to wisdom. Now we can go back to the seven step continuous improvement process.
Step 1: Identify the strategy for improvement
Before an improvement plan is executed it is necessary to understand the need for continuous improvement. The information related to what services or processes need to be addressed and how their performance is to be measured is gathered in the initial phase of ITIL service lifecycle i.e. in service strategy and service design. The information is gathered from a thorough understanding of business objectives and areas are identified that would benefit from continuous improvement. It also focuses on the effectiveness of the continuous improvement plan. This data is then fed into the continuous improvement plan cycle.
Step 2: Define what will be measured
It would be easy to determine which areas to measure by taking the new service level requirement, available funds and IT capabilities into account. IT capabilities are identified in service design stage and implemented via service transition. During the continuous improvement process, a gap analysis is done to identify the opportunities for continuous improvement. If CSI finds that the available tools and resource are not capable enough or if the cost is non-affordable to deliver the desired data, then the measure identified in the earlier step of the continuous improvement plan needs to be revisited.
Step 3: Gather the data
In the next step of the continuous improvement plan, data is gathered according to the goals and objectives of service operation. In order to have raw and quantitative data, monitoring should be in place. The quality of data is critical and it can be gathered through various means – manual or automatic. The data collection method has to be reliable and repeatable in order to collect quality data for continuous improvement.
Step 4: Process the data
Once the data is collected it is important to provide it to the audience in the required format. Critical Success Factors and ITIL KPI play a vital role in processing the data. The raw data is organized and divided according to its categories and operation which makes it easy to process and transform the data into information.
Step 5: Analyze the information and data
In the next step of the continuous improvement plan, the data which has been converted into information is now carefully analyzed to find gaps and its impact on business. The information is thoroughly evaluated taking into consideration all relevant internal and external factors that can directly or indirectly impact the data. The information is converted into knowledge or facts.
Step 6: Present and use the information
The analyzed data is shared with the business stakeholders in a clear and defined manner, presenting them an accurate picture of the results of the improvement plan that is implemented. CSI works closely with senior management and assists them to make strategic decisions and determine the next step to optimize and improve the service through continuous improvement processes.
Step 7: Implement improvement
As CSI has identified the areas that need a change, solutions and remedial plans are communicated to the management to improve the service. A change, thus implemented with continuous improvement sets a new baseline and the seven step continuous improvement cycle begins again.
A review of continual service improvement
We have seen at the end of the service operation stage of the ITIL service lifecycle that service performance reports were generated based on the actual outputs of the services. This is actually the point where continuous improvement starts in ITIL Service Lifecycle. Note that the continual service improvement stage is the only stage that covers and cooperates with all other four stages of the ITIL service lifecycle stages.
Based on the service improvement reports, the continual service improvement stage initiates the service measurement, service reporting, and improvement. This helps to determine the baseline of the services and processes, defining metrics, KPIs, and critical success factors, enables analysis of data and respectively corrective actions are taken to improve the gaps identified in the IT service management. The seven step continuous improvement plan is the critical process of the continuous improvement stage that helps to reach better levels in service delivery and increase the value delivered to the customer.
Based on the processes and taken actions, a service improvement plan is generated as the output of the continual service improvement stage. This plan includes the actions and steps to follow in order to improve identified gaps and weaknesses during the continual service improvement stage.
A culture of continuous improvement is vital for every IT service provider and business that wishes to stay ahead of the game. Stagnating with outdated and inefficient services will ultimately lead to customer dissatisfaction. Furthermore, continuous improvement can save the business money by reducing waste and thereby making services more cost-effective and efficient.