Continuous Service Improvement in IT Service Management – Putting Optimization Initiatives into a Structured Form

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Modern IT Service Management aims to convert the work, tasks, and to-dos of IT teams into standardized services. This way these services can be continuously optimized and be provided faster and delivered more efficiently. Modern IT Service Management is more than just easy access to services for customers and effective, fast, and no hassle execution for teams - it is also about continuous improvement.

Admittedly, "We always want to get better!" is a popular phrase in too many contexts, but it often isn't followed through, because when viewed in the light of day, there are very few obtainable concepts that put the general desire for improvement into an actionable structure.

This is different from modern ITSM. Continuous service improvement is not a pretty add-on, a "nice to have," but an integral part of the overall ITSM approach. Why? In the IT world of our time, nothing is as quickly outdated and obsolete as today's status quo. Continuous improvement means adapting to changing requirements and conditions and keeping pace with the ubiquitous (and high-frequency) changes in complex markets.

Improvement opportunities at all levels

In the popular ITSM framework ITIL, continuous service improvement is understood as a process that permeates the entire enterprise and operates at all organizational levels - from strategy to implementation and delivery - it is firmly integrated into the value stream. All people involved in developing, providing and delivering services can and should contribute to maximizing service quality and effectiveness by constantly keeping their eyes open for potential opportunities. And looking for potential improvement opportunities is second nature to successful ITSM teams.

Good questions lead to untapped potential

When it comes to modern information technology, there is always room for improvement - and in any ITSM team, there are plenty of unanswered questions at any given time. IT is more complex than ever, and (often unpleasant) surprises always accompany complexity.
In which areas has the team recently experienced such surprises? Does it regularly grind to a halt at certain points in a process because bottlenecks are slowing it down? Can additional automation help delegate (repetitive) manual tasks to digital solutions, thereby relieving the team and ensuring greater efficiency? Are the software solutions up to date in terms of functionality, and do they meet all the requirements for modern ITSM processes, or are alternatives now available that perform particular tasks better? What feedback do customers give, and where do they see room for improvement?

There are plenty of potential changes for meaningful and targeted improvements. But how can this be operationalized? And how can an operational approach be reconciled with the organizational vision, and how can it be ensured that a change really does focus on customer benefits?

The Optimization Cycle of the ITIL Framework

The ITIL framework offers a continuous improvement model that helps the team operate in a structured way. It provides seven phases for each optimization initiative while being flexible enough to support both small improvement projects at the individual service level and more extensive projects at the organizational level (alternative ITSM frameworks sometimes have similar proposals).

  1. What is the vision? Optimization should support the company's goals, generate added value for the entire organization and bring it closer to its strategic objectives.
  2. Where are we now? This is about analyzing and documenting the status quo because measurable improvements need a precise reference point as a starting point.
  3. Where do we want to go? The formulation and visualization of concrete targets allow comparisons later on. The team defines key performance indicators (KPIs) that concretely describe the desired target result.
  4. How do we get there? Planning is about the specific course of action most likely to make the initiative successful. Most teams will take an iterative approach (true to the ITIL recommendation). If specific actions can achieve relatively large effects with comparatively little effort, they should be highly prioritized.
  5. Act! In the fifth phase, the team implements the plan, measuring and evaluating whether the work is on track or whether the approach needs to be adjusted after each iteration.
  6. Has the goal been achieved? After implementation, an evaluation of success is needed. What do the metrics look like compared of the starting point? Has the desired result been achieved? Or are additional activities (iterations) required?
  7. How do we keep the momentum going? A successful optimization initiative can give more energy to the team (and beyond) to move swiftly on new initiatives and projects. The team should harness this momentum and draw motivation from it. This is how the culture of continuous improvement is created and solidified.

With the Continual Improvement approach, ITSM teams have a structural tool that promotes consistent optimization cycles with measurable results while never losing focus of the overarching service delivery contexts and goals.

Successful service-oriented organizations use the structure of this process template to shorten the cycle time of their services, increase customer and user satisfaction, enhance customer value, reduce costs, and keep pace with change through continuous improvement activities.

Atlassian tools for ITSM teams

To identify and systematically exploit optimization potential, teams need powerful and flexible tools to map as many ITSM practices as possible digitally - from ticket-based help desks with individual workflows to service level agreements and systematic service request management to extensive automation.

Jira Service Management from Atlassian has, among other things, the official certification as a PinkVERIFY Certified ITIL 4 Toolset and thus fulfils all functional requirements for a professional ITSM.

Want to learn more about Jira Service Management? Can our team show you some key ITSM use cases and practices in a personal demo? Or do you want to know more about the transformation towards professional IT Service Management? Then get in touch with us!

Further Reading

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