The ITIL 4 continual improvement model is what in ITIL v3 was called the ‘continual service improvement (CSI)’. It is a recurring organizational activity performed to make sure the organization is aligned with the stakeholders expectations. The continual improvement model is part of the Service Value system (SVS).
What is the continual improvement model?
The continual improvement model provides simple and logical steps for an improvement initiative at any scale. It can be seen as a guide to help sustain improvement initiatives, from the very beginning to the end. The model has an iterative approach, which means it divides the work into manageable pieces with set goals. Using the model increases the possibility that ITSM initiatives turn out to be successful. The continual improvement model puts focus on customer value and makes sure that all improvement initiatives are linked to the organization’s vision.
The model is applicable to very small initiatives like service or operation improvement, but also to organizational changes. The approach is always the same, the techniques can differ depending on the size of the initiative. The continual improvement model is shown in the image below.
How to use the continuous improvement model?
Depending on the type of improvement you are planning, the steps of the improvement model can vary significantly. Important is however to follow all the steps for each improvement. The steps are:
- What is the vision? The improvement should support the organization’s goals and objectives at all times. It should also link individual actions to the future vision, in order that it really can be seen as an improvement.
- Where are we now? In order for an improvement to really impact, it should have a clear starting point. The step ‘where are we now’ helps you to assess your current situation, from a technical, human resource and user’s perception perspective.
- Where do we want to be? This step helps you visualize your improvement initiative. Here you set your Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and the objectives of the improvement initiative.
- How do we get there? The fourth step helps you plan. The continual improvement model advises to work iteratively, however with some initiatives this might not be needed and another approach will suffice.
- Take action! Execute the plan that you created in the fourth step. A measurement process is key in this step as it will help you stay on track. To execute the plan you can use any type of approach that you think fits best (waterfall, big bang or small iterations).
- Did we get there? Check and confirm the progress and the value of the improvement initiative. If the desired result has not been achieved, additional actions need to be taken (often in a new iteration).
- How do we keep the momentum going? If the initiative is a success, use it to build support and momentum for next improvement initiatives. To do so, share the success both internally and externally. If the initiative failed to achieve success, make sure to use it for your ‘lessons learned’. This way the initiative did create value, even though it was not a success.
Three tips to apply the continual improvement model
If the continual improvement model is embedded well in your way of working, it will help you stay aligned and increase user engagement. To help you do this, make sure you look for the right initiative to take on, be proactive and stay organised!
There are always opportunities for improvement, especially in IT services and support. To understand what type of improvement initiative you like to perform, you have to start to look at the pain points. Improving these services, will help you create the biggest benefits.
Pro-activity will help bring the results of the continual improvement model to light. Continual improvement is not just about fixing current pain points, it is also about being more future-facing. Processes are not static and will change, if you are ahead of this change you will be in a more comfortable position.
Create a register for all the improvements you are planning to make. This will help you prioritize and know what things to focus on next. A register for improvements can be very simple, a shared document with the improvement, time-frame and explanation will do!
The 7 ITIL guiding principles applied to the continual improvement model
The 7 ITIL guiding principles and the continual improvement model are key to the ITIL service value system (SVS). Both are applicable to all of the other SVS components and together they ensure that the SVS as a whole operates with integrity and agility. Applying the continual improvement model can optimize services and maximize success.
The guiding principles are a great help in planning and managing an effective improvement. That is why it is strongly recommended to keep each of the principles in mind while establishing the continual improvement practice.
All the 7 ITIL guiding principles are applicable and relevant at every step of an improvement initiative. The level of applicability of the principles at every improvement initiative, however, may vary.
Some guiding principles are extra relevant to specific steps of the continual improvement model. To know what principle to keep in mind at which step of the continual improvement model, see the following overview.
We also created a clear overview of the 7 ITIL guiding principles that you can keep as reference. Download it here for free! For more information on how to get ITIL 4 certificated, check out what we offer!