Sunday, April 15, 2018

Bringing Continual Service Improvement to Life

If you are thinking about implementing ITIL® processes and you ask the question, ‘where do I start?’, congratulations – you have started down the Continual Service Improvement (CSI) path. Likewise, if you are looking at improving your services, applications etc., then you have also started a Continual Service Improvement activity.

Continual Service Improvement: Organizations talk about it and think about it, but in reality, often do not plan for it, schedule it, allocate resources to it or monitor it. Improvement initiatives are often reactionary in nature to a specific event and are not proactive in nature. Implementing a CSI practice requires management commitment and participation to move from a reactive to a proactive practice. Whether improving services, service management processes or the service lifecycle itself, there will be a cost to implementing a CSI practice; however, there is a much greater cost to not implementing the practice. Organizations will spend tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars and even millions of dollars to develop and implement service management processes; yet, they don’t have any plan on how to continually improve the processes. This paper will discuss the scope of CSI and where to start improvement initiatives.

Implementing CSI can be done in different ways, and the correct way is dependent on exactly what your organization wishes to accomplish in the short term and the long term and then aligning your improvement initiative to business goals and strategies. The scope of CSI in IT address three primary areas of IT Service Management:
 • IT Service Management Processes
 • IT Services
 • IT Function and Life Cycle Management

My recommendation is to start with improving IT Service Management Processes first, as improving the processes will lead to improving your IT Services. As an example, for many organizations, if they review their Incident Management data they will discover that around 70% of major incidents are change related. This percentage is too high and ultimately has a negative effect on the availability of many IT Services. Even though ITIL V3 is made up of five core books, the reality is that when starting on any CSI initiative, most organizations need to address pain points first in order to show value and gain the support of the business and functional groups within IT. There are often some quick wins with some low hanging fruit that will provide immediate improvement without having to develop and implement a full process.

Processes Improvement – Where Do I Start?
For many organizations, process pain points are usually found in Incident Management, Problem Management and Change Management. The lack of mature documented processes often drives organizations to consistent firefighting, reacting to events that are often self-inflicted, such as a high number of failed changes; incidents that are escalated to the wrong support groups; or a total lack of Problem Management to identify and remove errors from the infrastructure that often cause a high number of recurring incidents.

Change Management is a control process and thus it is important to obtain a level of maturity that provides the IT organization with the efficiency and effectiveness of managing changes in order to protect the production environment. There are often some quick wins with low hanging fruit that can provide some immediate improvement without having to develop and implement a full process. This could be creating a Request for Change (RFC) form if one does not exist.

Incident management is a data gathering process, so it is important to ensure that all incidents are logged into the appropriate tool and that there is a consistent priority model used for all incidents so that you can find improvement opportunities. An organization may discover that they handle priority 1, 2 and 4 really well; however, they have a tendency to breach more on priority 3. Developing assignment and escalation procedures can provide a quick win for Incident Management.

For Incident, Change and Problem Management it is important to start providing some level of management reporting to understand the health of the process. It is also important to realize that Change and Incident Management are customer-facing processes that provide a lot of IT visibility to the business and thus have the ability to create a positive or negative perception of IT.

Another quick win is the documentation and agreement of Operating Level Agreements (OLAs). OLAs need to be in place to support any existing Service Level Agreements (SLAs), Service Level Targets or Service Level Objectives. An OLA between the Service Desk and the rest of the IT functional groups such as the desktop, database, or application groups is often a good first step to ensure that there is a consistent handling of incidents through the Incident Lifecycle in order to meet any agreed to response and/or repair times.

You can use the below diagram to start your continual Improvement journey in a simple framework. You identify the Improvement opportunity, plan the tasks that need to happen, Implement the tasks/changes and review the progress and goals & strategic objective achieved.

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