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ITIL Lifecycle: Continual Service Improvement (CSI)

The Continual Service Improvement (CSI) module is one of the qualifications within the ITIL Service Lifecycle workstream. This module focuses on the principles and techniques from the Continual Service Improvement stage of the ITIL Lifecycle but does not go into detail about specific processes.

CONTINUAL SERVICE IMPROVEMENT (CSI) involves all stages of service management. It is intended to improve the whole service in an organization in a continuous manner. In this stage, the Seven-Step Improvement Process is established as the primary process of this ITIL lifecycle.

CSI uses a metrics-driven approach to identify opportunities for improvement and to measure the impact of improvement efforts. Although CSI is a phase of the life cycle 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.

Service Measurement

Service measurement and service reporting are small processes invoked by many other IT service management (ITSM) processes. They are necessary for the execution of other processes and are executed by those processes throughout the service lifecycle. As necessary components of services, service measurement, and service reporting are developed along with the services.

The objective of service measurement is to identify and collect information that identifies and quantifies the service value-add and contributes to organizational goals as well as indicators of service risks, issues, and improvement opportunities enabling informed governance and planned action.

Establishing measurements is essential in achieving success in continual improvement. All processes should be measurable for objective assessment.
      Service Measurement needs to consider three elements when it comes to measuring services:

  1. Availability
  2. Reliability
  3. Performance

Measurements can help an organization assess the project's current status, identify improvement areas, and assess the changes made. Services must be measured according to their reliability, availability, and performance.

In order for the IT service, plan, process, or other activities to succeed, Critical Success Factors (CSFs) must be established first. It is ideal not to have more than five CSFs for each process for manageable results.

In order to measure if the CSFs are achieved, the organization can use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). It is ideal to use not more than five KPIs in the initial stage for a low maturity level. KPIs can be qualitative such as user experience or quantitative such as cost. It is important to check if the KPI is relevant to the goals, accurate, and useful.

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Metrics refer to the scale of measure, which allows the organization to determine what needs to be measured such as the average cost of evaluating a change or the reduction in the percentage of ineffective changes.

- There are three types of metrics: process, technology, and service.

- Process metrics are measured in terms of KPIs and CSFs to evaluate the quality, value, compliance, and performance of the process.

- Technology metrics refer to the management of service areas through monitoring systems such as performance and availability. Service metrics assess the end-to-end service results and performance from process and technology metrics.

Objectives, Scope, and Purpose of CSI

It is crucial for any organization to continuously search for improvement to enhance the entire service lifecycle, including the CSI for improved capacity and cost-saving.

There are four primary objectives of the CSI

1. Suggest opportunities for improvement by assessing and evaluating process measurements.
2. Make certain that process measurements are enough and accurate.
3. Assess achievements in the service level in comparison to the Service Level Agreement (SLA).
4. Enhance the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of IT services without compromising quality.

The two primary purposes of CSI are the following

1. Continuous support for the organization with IT services as a proactive response to the fast-paced changes in the business including management, processes, and third-party suppliers.
2. Find new ways to improve the effectiveness of the service, process, and cost.

The following are the five main scopes of CSI

1. All areas of the service lifecycle starting from SERVICE STRATEGY to SERVICE DESIGN, SERVICE TRANSITION, and SERVICE OPERATION.
2. The general condition of IT service management.
3. Placement of IT services in accordance with the business development of CSI value measurement and performing a survey to measure user or customer satisfaction.
4. Development and capacity level of the organization and members by performing compliance audit and development evaluation.
5. Continuous enhancement in all areas.

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The Deming Cycle

W. Edwards Deming is highly respected for his well-known management philosophy, which results in increased productivity, a more competitive status, and higher quality. He developed the 14 points that managers must focus on during the Service Lifecycle.

-  In order to improve quality, he recommends the Deming Circle or Cycle, which is especially used in CSI.

-  The four important stages of the Cycle are: Plan, Do, Check, and Act, after which a stage of consolidation will avoid the Cycle from falling back. The main goal of adopting the Deming Cycle is to achieve stable, continuous improvement. This is a basic principle of CSI.

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The Goal of the Deming cycle

The goal is Continual Service Improvement. This relates to the services provided by the organization and also to the processes used to deliver those services. The Deming Cycle may be used to improve, for example, an online ordering service or the Service Level Management process within an organization.

Activities in the Deming Cycle

1. Plan – Planning the Improvements. Measures for success are agreed. Gap analysis is undertaken and a plan produced to close the gap through a series of step improvements.
2. Do – Implementation of Improvements. A project is instigated and conducted to implementation to close the gaps identified in the Plan phase. The project may include a number of step changes to improve a service or process.
3. Check – Monitoring, Measuring and Reviewing. The results of the implemented improvements are compared with the measures for success identified and ratified in the Plan phase.
4. Act – Improvements implemented. The improvements that have been identified are fully implemented.

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The Seven-Step Improvement Process

The Continual Service Improvement (CSI) Process or 7-Step Improvement process explains how to measure and report on service improvement.  There are close links between this process and the Plan, Do Check, Act cycle, which should feed into the Service Improvement Plan or SIP.

 - It is extremely important to baseline in order to find out where we are now so that any improvements or deficiencies can be measured against the original marker.

 The 7 steps include:

1. Identify the Things to Measure 
During the initial stage of the service lifecycle, the strategy and design must have already established this knowledge. CSI will then begin its cycle from the start. This will help the organization to identify the standard situation for both the IT and the business.

2. Identify the Things that You Can Measure
This step is related to the CSI activities of defining where do you want to be. By figuring out the new service level needs of the business, the IT capacities that have been already determined via the Service Design and implemented through Service Transition, and the available funds, CSI could perform a gap analysis to determine the prospects as well as answer the important concerns of how to get there.

3. Data Gathering
Data must be collected first in order to determine if the efforts have resulted in the desired outcome. You can collect the data based on the objectives identified. At this step, the information is still raw and conclusions are still yet to be determined.

4. Data Processing
In this step, the data is processed in accordance with the CSFs and the KPIs are determined early on. The time constraints should be coordinated, irrelevant data could still be rationalized and made consistent, and data gaps are figured out. The main objective of this step is to process the information from several different sources. After rationalizing the data, you can now start the analysis.

5. Data Analysis
In this step, data becomes information as it goes through the analysis process to determine service trends, gaps, and business impact. This step is often ignored or forgotten in the excitement of presenting data.

6. Presentation and Utilization of Information
In this step, the response to the question “Did we get there?” is prepared and communicated in whatever manner necessary to present the different stakeholders with a precise picture of the outcome of the change efforts. Information is presented to the stakeholders in a manner that will reflect their requirements and will help them in making decisions for the next steps.

7. Implementing Corrective Action
The information gained through the previous steps will be used to make some improvements in the changes. Managers must determine the issues and provide solutions. The rectifying actions, which should be taken to enhance the service, should be communicated clearly to the organization. After this step, the organization can set up a new baseline and the cycle will start again.

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Last updated: 03 Apr 2023
About Author

Ravindra Savaram is a Technical Lead at Mindmajix.com. His passion lies in writing articles on the most popular IT platforms including Machine learning, DevOps, Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, RPA, Deep Learning, and so on. You can stay up to date on all these technologies by following him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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