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ITIL v3 Continual Service Improvement – CSI Part 6 of 6

March 27, 2008

Continual Service Improvement
Continual Service Improvement (CSI) is concerned with maintaining value for customers through the continual evaluation and improvement of the quality of services and the overall maturity of the ITSM service lifecycle and underlying processes.

CSI: The Continual Service Improvement Model
CSI combines principles, practices and methods from quality management, Change Management and capability improvement, working to improve each stage in the service lifecycle, as well as the current services, processes, and related activities and technology.
CSI is not a new concept, but for most organizations the concept has not moved beyond the discussion stage. For many organizations, CSI becomes a project when something has failed and severely impacted the business. When the issue is resolved the concept is promptly forgotten until the next major failure occurs. Discrete time-bound projects are still required, but to be successful CSI must be embedded within the organizational culture and become a routine activity.
The CSI Model shown in Figure provides a way for an organization to identify and manage appropriate improvements by contrasting their current position and the value they are providing to the business, with their long-term goals and objectives, and identifying any gaps that exist. This is done on a continual basis to address changes in business requirements, technology, and to ensure high quality is maintained.

CSI: Key processes and activities

  • 7-Step Improvement Process
  • Service Measurement
  • Service Reporting

CSI: 7-Step Improvement Process
Step 1 – Define what you should measure
A set of measurements should be defined that fully support the goals of the organization. The focus should be on identifying what is needed to satisfy the goals fully, without considering whether the data is currently available.
Step 2 – Define what you can measure
Organizations may find that they have limitations on what can actually be measured, but it is useful to recognize that such gaps exist and what risks may be involved as a result.
A gap analysis should be conducted between what is or can be measured today and what is ideally required. The gaps and implications can then be reported to the business, the customers and IT management. It is possible that new tools or customization will be required at some stage.
Step 3 – Gather the data
This covers monitoring and data collection. A combination of monitoring tools and manual processes should be put in place to collect the data needed for the measurements that have been defined.
Quality is the key objective of monitoring for CSI. Therefore monitoring focuses on the effectiveness of a service, process, tool, organization or CI. The emphasis is on identifying where improvements can be made to the existing level of service, or IT performance, typically by detecting exceptions and resolutions.
CSI is not only interested in exceptions. If a Service Level Agreement is consistently met over time, CSI is also interested in determining whether that level of performance can be sustained at a lower cost or whether it needs to be upgraded to an even better level of performance.
Step 4 – Process the data
Raw data is processed into the required format, typically providing an end­to-end perspective on the performance of services and/or processes.
Processing the data is an important CSI activity that is often overlooked. While monitoring and collecting data on a single infrastructure component is important, it is key to understand that component’s impact on the larger infrastructure and IT service.
Step 5 – Analyze the data
Data analysis transforms the information into knowledge of the events that are affecting the organization.
Once the data is processed into information, the results can be analyzed to answer questions such as:

  • Are we meeting targets?
  • Are there any clear trends?
  • Are corrective actions required?
  • What is the cost?

Step 6 – Present and use the Information
The knowledge gained can now be presented in a format that is easy to understand and allows those receiving the information to make strategic, tactical and operational decisions. The information needs to be provided at the right level and in the right way for the intended audience. It should provide value, note exceptions to service, and highlight any benefits that have been identified during the time period.
Now more than ever, IT must invest the time to understand specific business goals and translate IT metrics to reflect an impact against these business goals. Often there is a gap between what IT reports and what is of interest to the business.
Although most reports tend to concentrate on areas of poor performance, good news should be reported as well. A report showing improvement trends is IT services’ best marketing vehicle.
Step 7 – Implement corrective action
The knowledge gained is used to optimize, improve and correct services, processes, and all other supporting activities and technology. The corrective actions required to improve the service should be identified and communicated to the organization.
CSI will identify many opportunities for improvement and an organization will need to determine priorities based on their goals, and the resources and funding available.
The 7-Step Improvement Process is continual and loops back to the beginning.

CSI: Service Measurement
Service Measurement
There are four basic reasons to monitor and measure, to:

  1. validate previous decisions that have been made
  2. direct activities in order to meet set targets – this is the most prevalent reason for monitoring and measuring
  3. justify that a course of action is required, with factual evidence or proof
  4. intervene at the appropriate point and take corrective action.

Monitoring and measurement underpins CSI and the 7-Step Improvement Process, and is an essential part of being able to manage services and processes, and report value to the business.
Many organizations today measure at the component level, and although this is necessary and valuable, service measurement must go up a level to provide a view of the true customer experience of services being delivered.

CSI: Service Reporting
A significant amount of data is collated and monitored by IT in the daily delivery of quality service to the business, but only a small subset is of real interest and importance to the business. The business likes to see a historical representation of the past period’s performance that portrays their experience, but it is more concerned with those historical events that continue to be a threat going forward, and how IT intends to mitigate against such threats.

It is not enough to present reports depicting adherence or otherwise to SLAs. IT needs to build an actionable approach to reporting, i.e. what happened, what IT did, how IT will ensure it doesn’t impact again and how IT are working to improve service delivery generally.
A reporting ethos which focuses on the future as strongly as it focuses on the past also provides the means for IT to market its offerings directly aligned to the positive or negative experiences of the business.

CSI: Key Roles and Responsibilities
a CSI Manager is responsible for the overall CSI activities within an organization, the majority of the detailed improvement related work is carried out within each of the lifecycle stages, processes and activities.

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