Investing in data and continual improvement for business recovery

Colleagues in an office analysing data on a screen

2021 has seen an increase in demand for automation and continual, minor improvements to managed IT services.

For many of the companies I’ve worked with, this involves providing continuous updates to ITSM platforms to improve efficiencies and provide dashboard and reporting facilities. This sometimes means extracting data from an ITSM tool and combining it with other business information to give a more visible picture of performance within the business.

This has led to an increased interest in data covering a range of areas such as reporting on the number of service tickets in a given period, service catalogue and telephony statistics.

And this influx of information is feeding into a more dedicated approach to continual improvement in service management.

A trend towards continual improvement

In every organization there are always the “natural improvers”, looking at the environment around them and seeing what can be done better, regardless of role or responsibility or whether their action has a process name or not.

However, I’m now seeing a distinct move towards assigning people deliberately to an ITSM improvement function.

This is probably driven by pressure put on IT leaders by senior business management; partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic but also through a more acute awareness of having structured processes and practices for a remote working world. Business leaders are recognizing the importance of, and potential for, technology to make work easier and more effective.

Consequently, continual improvement has gone up the agenda – and communicating the fact this is happening has made the reporting and dashboard elements crucial. Having the data both visible and captured in one place heightens the engagement and interest among people across an organization.

Continual improvement and ITIL 4 

With a greater emphasis on someone owning the “continual improvement hat” this is where the ITIL® 4 guiding principles come into play: when establishing what needs to improve, the guiding principles offer a foundation. Iterative progress and promoting visibility are key here, principles to build your reporting on. A “focus on value” ensures that subsequent improvement focuses on the areas which make the most impact. Then one simply “optimizes and automates” the areas identified.

I have seen an increase in focus on team and delivery efficiency as well as identification of areas worthy of automation. This can range from simply defining request processes better, adding workflow to ITSM tools and automated implementation. The time savings free humans from the mundane tasks to focus on service provision.

The principles within ITIL 4 are simply common sense. This makes presenting them easy without needing to rely on buzzwords to have an effect on people. My personal experience is that they are received positively, especially as results start to show.

Getting the board on board

Reporting areas of improvement to board level needs to be two things: not too IT-oriented and immediately useful to board members.

It also has to be specific: for example, identifying inefficiencies in onboarding new employees. This is where management information becomes essential when making investment and resources decisions. Having this model in place will ensure reporting veers towards relevance rather than just being for the sake of IT.

This is also important if an organization is expanding its enterprise service management capability. It allows senior leadership to say: “This part of the organization has got its act together, so what about you?

The increased pressure for relevant data is now creating a virtuous cycle. The flow of information, results in a desire and requirement to improve, which, in turn, translates to lots of small, continual improvements, including more insightful data.

For organizations doing this, the focus on improvements and targeted investment will help them as the economy recovers from the global pandemic. Those that haven’t are likely to encounter some difficulties.

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