Continual Service Improvement (CSI) - Thoughts on Measuring, Value and Risk

The best practice approach and the Seven-step Improvement Process for Continual Service Improvement (CSI) begin with identifying the vision, mission, goals and objectives of the business.  In order to measure with appropriate targets these outcomes and objectives must be quantified. If you cannot measure it you cannot improve it.  First and foremost in order to perform ongoing CSI for a service we must identify the service.  That is just common sense right?  Yet how many discussions take place in Sales, in Development, and in Operations about whether something is or is not a service.  Collectively everyone in the lifecycle has a mission to meet the outcomes of the service or services that are being provided. 

Measuring and Reporting
For CSI to be successful we measure and monitor and report upon a service end-to-end.   When measuring and reporting IT managers will generally report availability in terms of percent with such things as 99% availability on a server or other component level.  If we can get the end-to-end percentage that is of course the target. But even if we look at the percentage of the server in conjunction with the availability of the network, the storage and all of the other elements in the end-to-end service, IT managers have to shift their normal way of thinking, monitoring and reporting and reflect results that the business and all others in the lifecycle can understand.  Instead of reporting on percentages, a report that states that there were two outages this week affecting the ABC service, resulting in 2,500 orders being delayed at a cost of $$$ is a report that is generated in terms of the business and business outcomes.  

Value is only realized when the outcomes have been achieved. Each function, each component and each process activity adds value but is not in and of itself the “service”.  To measure and improve, service outcomes must be identified and quantified.  This gives everyone in the lifecycle a clear target and direction so that we can begin to work together and break out of our silos.   Identifying services and service outcomes is needed, but the true value of CSI comes from having a system, including people, processes and technology for ongoing monitoring, analyzing, reporting and most importantly taking action to improve on the outcome.  CSI must be embedded in an organizations culture with clear ownership, accountable roles and responsibilities, workflow and targets.  Periodic reports and reviews will ensure that actions are identified and most importantly taken.

Silos - CSI – RISK!
Ongoing Continual Service Improvement can be applied at a very granular or broad level.  Feedback loops are the key to success.  We can measure people, process, speed, technology and more at every stage and at every level.  If we do not take that feedback and align it with the strategic business initiatives it won’t matter how much you improve at the local level. Without this alignment it is likely we will miss the mark for required business outcomes.  An IT Director can work on CSI with his networking team and get that network screaming.  It might be the fastest network in the world but if the application consistently fails the question has to be, how much time, money and resources were spent on that network?  Did the organization really need all of that?  Maybe and maybe not.  CSI performed in isolation does not tend to serve the end result that is needed.  The key is to shift the perspective.  Do we really need to look at how to make the “network” best in the world or should we look at what we can do at the network level that will improve the end-to-end value and business outcomes?  We could have the right intention but the wrong objective.  CSI efforts are trending in development in order to produce code deployments faster than ever before.  Brilliant!  But, if we increase outrages velocity at the development stage these improvement efforts are not likely to produce the end result that a service provider hopes for.  Again, is the objective to have bigger better faster development or is it to produce improved velocity and throughput to respond to changing business requirements?  If it is the later, then perhaps we need to consider the CSI effort throughout the value stream.  Consider your approach and inspire your organization for ongoing Continual Service Improvement with enthusiasm.  Success is possible!

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