ITSM for high-velocity teams

A guide to continual service improvement

Every company encounters turbulence when implementing and operating services. It’s often less visible inefficiencies that impair competitive advantage, cost time and money, and degrade the user experience.

Recognizing areas for improvement and making incremental changes is the core principle of ITIL continual service improvement (CSI). This guide discusses how and why modern IT teams implement CSI as an ongoing step in their IT service management (ITSM) process.

What is continual service improvement?

CSI aims to optimize IT services while remaining aligned with evolving business needs and industry standards. As the last step in the ITIL service lifecycle, CSI follows the transition of new or changed services to the production environment.

In CSI, IT teams collect data such as incident reports and feedback. They analyze the data and identify opportunities to improve processes, services, knowledge, and the user experience.

Key concepts of continual service improvement

Collaboration drives effective CSI, and smart businesses foster an environment focused on identifying opportunities and implementing incremental improvements instead of finding fault. Using a proven framework to approach CSI can help IT teams maintain momentum.

The PDCA cycle – plan, do, check, act – is one of the most commonly used and effective approaches to CSI:

  • Plan: Teams conduct a gap analysis on an area identified for improvement. Then, they plan how to overcome that gap, such as improving the knowledge transfer from developers to service team members ahead of an integration.
  • Do: The team completes the plan. This could include implementing a knowledge base and automating tasks at specific milestones.
  • Check: The team tests, monitors, and measures the results of the plan based on the goals it collectively outlined. One example is having solutions for 75% of incoming service tickets associated with an integration anticipated and documented in the knowledge base.
  • Act: The team tests the improvements before implementation and incorporation into the overall ITIL life cycle.

Benefits of continual service improvement

Businesses that implement CSI often realize benefits within IT and across the business as a whole, including the following:

  • Enhances overall service quality.
  • Resolution times decrease.
  • Customer satisfaction improves.
  • Costs decrease due to greater efficiency and improved knowledge sharing.
  • Historical data becomes available.
  • Competitive advantage increases.

ITSM software, such as Jira Service Management, helps IT teams automate the CSI process, measure the success of improvement initiatives, and increase efficiency.

Seven-step CSI process

The seven-step CSI process helps teams structure and implement continual improvement. The method outlined below offers an IT-specific approach that can accommodate complex initiatives. It breaks down the planning phase to consider business goals, available resources, and stakeholder communication.

1. Identify a strategy for improvement

To begin the CSI process, pinpoint areas for improvement. For example, a recently modified service may have resulted in login issues for users. Teams can develop a strategy by aligning the area for improvement with business goals, customer needs, and available resources. This ensures the team stays focused on areas supported by the overall goals or product roadmap. For example, the team may choose not to improve services scheduled for sunsetting.

2. Define what you can measure

Identify key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics based on available data and budget constraints. The accessibility of available data may affect resource allocation and expenditure for improvements. Teams must balance the value of the data against the cost of collecting it.

3. Collect data

Information can come from any source, including support incidents, customer feedback, and project history. Mature development processes can include automated data collection, such as incident statistics. Teams may still need to gather some data manually, such as customer reviews and user feedback.

4. Process and analyze data

Organize data to provide the most meaningful insights. For example, if a team wants to improve the uptime of a specific service, it might compare the total time to resolution for all incidents related to that service. Teams may need to clean data to eliminate extraneous or inaccurate information.

Once the data is ready, teams can derive conclusions. They may discover, for example, that the target services passed testing metrics during integration, but other overlooked services caused compatibility issues.

5. Present findings

Presenting the findings aids in gaining support from stakeholders and team members. Visual presentations help tell the story of the current state versus the expected results of the planned improvement and are easy for everyone to understand.

6. Implement improvement initiatives

Teams then define and act on the steps necessary to implement improvements. This includes establishing the tasks, responsibilities, and timeline.

7. Review and continuously improve

New technology, changing resources, and increasing pressure to deliver more services increase the risk of encountering problems and gaps. A standardized practice of reviewing and continuously improving helps teams identify and eliminate issues earlier.

CSI best practices

The most important practice is establishing a culture of continuous improvement. A collaborative team environment that focuses on pain points without assigning blame empowers team members to share ideas and offer solutions. Suggested focus areas can come from anywhere, including end users, stakeholders, and team members.

Document and share improvements with stakeholders to foster confidence in the team and its services. This also helps mitigate lingering negative attitudes toward past issues.

Every IT team experiences unexpected problems at times. Proactive improvement based on data is the mark of a mature company.

Use Jira Service Management for continuous improvement

Team collaboration is at the heart of continual service improvement because it allows businesses to move past problems and incrementally improve their services. With modern ITSM solutions, like Jira Service Management, teams can manage CSI initiatives with integrated end-to-end processes.

Jira Service Management natively integrates with Jira Software and Bitbucket to support the ongoing continuous improvement process with ITSM software features. It supports the seven steps outlined above by allowing teams to manage incidents, streamline requests, collect data, and share knowledge in a centralized format.

Read the complete guide to ITSM for more information. Learn more about how developers use Jira Service Management.

Continual service improvement: Frequently asked questions

What are some challenges in CSI?

CSI challenges are similar to those found in other projects, such as resource availability, time, data collection and availability, and integration into standard operating processes.

Obtaining information from partners about issues with their products can be tricky, and stakeholders often focus on new features. Resistance to change is also common. Building a collaborative approach can alleviate many of these challenges, helping team members recognize the benefits of CSI.

How does CSI differ from other phases within the ITIL framework?

ITIL is a service lifecycle designed to align changes in the production environment with business goals through service strategy and service operation plans. ITIL often begins with the Change Advisory Board (CAB), which determines what changes to implement and includes an ITIL service strategy. It ends with new or changed services successfully implemented in the production environment.

CSI originated as part of IT service management (ITSM) as a focused area of continuous improvement. It aims to identify rectifiable issues in the development process and production environment. The IT team, rather than the CAB team, determines these improvements, which must align with business goals.

How can a company start implementing CSI?

Initiating CSI efforts begins with a shift to a collaborative, problem-solving mindset. Follow the steps outlined in this article while keeping a few things in mind:

  • Keep it simple: Look for low-hanging fruit and address issues the team has the bandwidth to improve.
  • Collaborate: Focus on the solution, not who caused the problem.
  • Define KPIs: Focus on KPIs that available data can measure.
  • Conduct improvement: Like any other IT project, execute using tasks, responsibilities, and knowledge sharing.
  • Share improvements with stakeholders: This will build their confidence in the team and its services.
  • Make CSI an ongoing part of the ITSM process: This allows IT teams to measure long-term improvements and overall success.