Mike Lane takes a look at how ITIL responds to a customer world in which services need to be available 24/7 - ITIL's answer? Continual Service Improvement.
There is the old adage “The city that never sleeps”… which I’m sure we can all attest to still hearing. But it’s not just New York, London or Paris which feature in those conversations nowadays, in an era of globalization, the whole world seems to be continuously abuzz… wherever you are, whatever time of the day or night, there’s somebody demanding a product or service. Never mind 7-11, in the new millennium, it’s all about 24/7.
21C organizations are being relentlessly challenged to keep pace with changes in the way, shape, and form of market demand – and ultimately satisfying ever-fickle customers who switch provider at the drop of a hat. It’s not enough to reach a pinnacle of customer satisfaction and service provision, internally and externally, and park there, assuming nobody is going to come along and steal your thunder, and more importantly your customer… No. You have to keep evaluating your performance, keep innovating, and essentially, keep improving, because if you’re not doing it, I can promise you that somebody else out there is. Getting competitive advantage is one thing, holding on to it is another.
Information technology lies at the heart of every contemporary organization. As with market demand for a business’s products or services, the demand for IT Services is unquenchable. In fact, it’s not a case of mutual exclusivity, today more than ever before, the demand and delivery of IT services needs to align to the demand and supply of the organization. So how do you ensure then that not only are your IT Services available 247 if needed, but that they continue to evolve and better meet demand on an infinite and perpetual basis… Good question, and the answer has another 7 in it.
There is no question that ITIL is the world leader when it comes to IT Service Management frameworks and besides being able to empower your organization to deliver IT services 24/7, it doesn’t stop there. The service lifecycle defined by ITIL includes a dedicated phase, focused specifically on improvements related to IT Services. This phase, called Continual Service Improvement, abbreviated to CSI as it is commonly known, comes ‘ready-made’ with a 7 Step Improvement process. The objective of this 7 Step improvement process is to define and manage the steps needed to identify, define, gather, process, analyze, present and implement improvements.
When it comes to implementing ITIL, it’s certainly not just a case of drop and go… CSI is built into ITIL, asking questions of both business and IT for improving IT services in the organization. The ITIL CSI approach, which drives alignment of service improvements with business needs, essentially asks ‘How do we keep the momentum going?’ by continually questioning:
- What is the Vision (Business vision, Mission, Goals, Objectives)
- Where are we now (Baseline assessments)
- Where do we want to be (Measurable targets)
- How do we get there (Service and process improvements)
- Did we get there (Measurements and Metrics)
The 7 Step Improvement process is an integral part of ITIL’s CSI approach, following the Plan > Do > Check > Act cycle, the tried and tested continual quality improvement model from Deming, with each step (below) a systematic rung on the ladder to interminable improvement:
1. Identify the strategy for improvement
What is the vision? What is the Business Need we are trying to satisfy? What tactical and operational goals do we need in place to meet business objectives? What is our Strategy for achieving these? Why do we need to improve?
2. Define what you will measure
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it, and if you can’t manage it, you can’t control it. (Example: Service levels, Customer satisfaction, supplier performance…)
The CSI approach and 7 Step Improvement process go hand in hand, and there are typically 3 types of CSI metrics:
- Technology metrics - measure components and applications eg. System availability
- Process metrics – measure overall health of a process eg. Compliance
- Service metrics – measure end to end performance of a service eg. Transaction response time
3. Gather the data
Who will collect the data? How and when will it be collected? What criteria will be used to evaluate the integrity of the data?
4. Process the data
The transformation of data to meaningful and useful information. How frequently does the data need to be processed? What should the reports look like? How will you know the data is accurate? What tools and systems will you use?
5. Analyze the data and information
Converting information to knowledge. Looking for trends. Looking to identify whether targets and SLAs have been met. Looking for areas and opportunities to improve.
6. Present and use the information
Presenting the assessment summary and recommended actions to the business and stakeholders, including customers, senior IT management, internal IT, and suppliers.
7. Implement improvements
Implementation of corrective actions. In ITIL 2011 a CSI Register was introduced for recording of all improvement initiatives, their relative priorities and specific information on each such as size, duration and the expected benefits.
When it comes to the ITIL Service Lifecycle, they say the better the Strategy the more cost effective the delivery will be, the better the Design the less need for rework, the better the Transition the less chance of failure, the better the Operation the happier the IT customer will be, and for CSI, it is said that the better the CSI activities the better the business will be, and I most certainly have to agree!
For me, if I were looking to stay ahead of the pack when it comes to IT Services, I would be looking for a systematic, integrated way to keep improving. ITIL 2011’s exactly what I would turn to, thanks to CSI and the 7 step improvement process. Simplistically one could say that CSI continually converts Service performance reports (Inputs) into Service improvement plans (Outputs), but it’s more than that. CSI sustains the creation and maintenance of customer value through better design, introduction and operations of services. CSI is all about ensuring the evergreen achievement of value for the customer through the delivery of services which are continually improving both their utility and warranty to meet ever-changing and demanding customer and business needs. By utilizing the 7 step improvement process within ITIL CSI, there is no doubt in my mind that you will keep improving your services, 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year!
Additional reading available at https://www.axelos.com/itil