Continual Service Improvement
4. Continual Service Management Processes
4.5 BUSINESS QUESTIONS FOR CSI
The business needs to be involved with CSI in decision making on what improvement initiatives make sense and add the greatest value back to the business. There are some key questions that will assist the business in making decisions about whether a CSI initiative is warranted or not.
The following questions are often asked from a business and IT perspective. Not understanding some of these questions can lead to challenges, perceived poor service or in some cases actual poor service:
- Where are we now? This is a question every business should start out asking as this creates a baseline of data for services currently being delivered.
- What do we want? This is often expressed in terms of business requirements such as 100% availability.
- What do we actually need? When Service Level Management starts talking with the business they may realize they don't really need 100% availability 24X7.
- Service Level Management plays a key role in working with the business to provide answers to the business questions.
- What can we afford? This question often moves the business from looking at what they want to what they actually need. As an example a large financial organization wanted to move from 99.9999% availability to 99.99999% availability and found the cost was going to be £900,000.
- What will we get? This is often defined in a SLA. Defining the service as well as service levels.
- What did we get? This is documented through monitoring, reporting and reviewing of service level achievements.
Before starting, it is important to remember that CSI activities cannot take place for a service that does not exist yet; the service has to be operational to identify improvement opportunities. However, don't overlook the fact that CSI can be actively engaged in identifying improvement opportunities on the elements that were involved in building or modifying a service. CSI activities can be executed within Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition as well as Service Operation.
Where are we now?
A baseline must be established for all future measurements to be meaningful. Measurements may often reflect a single snapshot or a point in time but analyzing these snapshots over time will give us the trends we need to identify areas of improvement. The first snapshot is the baseline, the starting point. It is essential that the same measurements be used consistently to establish trend patterns.
What do we want?
This question provides the best answers when the business and IT work in partnership to identify what the business wants from IT services. The compiled list can be akin to a wish-list of all the nice things that the business would love to have. Here are a few samples:
- One hundred percent availability guaranteed
- Unlimited capacity
- Sub-second transactional responses
- Polite and courteous technicians
- IT staff that understand the business
- Inexpensive provision of IT services
- Stable, fault-free infrastructure.
It is important to also identify the reasons behind what the business wants. These reasons must be valid and failure to address them may result in difficult times ahead for the business. Here are a few sample valid reasons:
- Compliance to new/upcoming legislation, can be legislation from other countries as well
- Satisfying business customer demands
- Strong competition
- Financial or fiscal constraints
- Age and/or state of the IT infrastructure
- Eroding or lack of confidence by investors
- Supply-chain management
- Global events.
This question will require a few iterations to complete. It is important to identify long- and short-term goals and objectives for the business as a whole as well as for each major business units. Table 4.16 maps the goals and objectives and the reasons for the 'want' to help ease the process.
|Department||We want ...||To support our goal or objective of .||The reason is to address ...
|Sales||Improved availability for web services||Improve web servicevavailability by 25%||Lost sales
Cost of working incidents
|Marketing||Improved availability for web services||Improve use of web for marketing initiatives by 40%||Reach a larger potential
Gain knowledge of customer
perception of our business
Current web marketing surveys
are always breaking down
|Table 4.16 Mapping wants, goals and reasons |
What do we need?
This question is similar to the 'what do we want' question and is actually a fine-tuning activity of the outputs identified in Table 4.16. The first step is for the business and CSI to prioritize the 'wants'. This exercise can be emotionally charged as people might be reluctant to let go of any 'wants'. Deciding on the priority must be based on rational, well-defined criteria. That is why goals and objectives are also identified - to give the business the opportunity to really address the most important goals and objectives based on the vision and mission of the organization and of the departments.
It is therefore important to start at the top and understand the priorities of the organization's senior executives (CEO, CFO, COO, CIO etc.). Once they have established the priorities in terms of goals and objectives for the long and short term, their subordinates will, in turn, prioritize their goals and objectives based on that list.
A recommendation is to ensure that a detailed analysis of services has been conducted and that the business and IT clearly understand what the mission-critical services are. This doesn't mean that only mission-critical services are reviewed as a part of CSI, but we don't want to lose focus on these. Incident Management, Problem Management and Change Management talk about assessing the impact
on the business and the urgency to get it done when determining the priority. CSI should be no different and should use a similar rating scheme albeit with different parameters.
There are many factors that can go into choosing what improvement projects to work on in what order. Below are some of the driving factors.
- Support of business strategy and goals
- Support of IT strategy and goals
- External drivers such as regulatory requirements
- Cost to implement improvement
- Quick wins that can be realized
- Ease of implementation.
Policies must be established for such cases to determine the answers to such questions as:
- Who decides which is first?
- Should an escalation path be identified?
- Which (vital) business function is more important than the other?
- What happens during critical business periods?
What can we afford?
Most business and IT organizations have a budget they need to work within. If an organization is working from a zero-based budget, i.e. every project has to go through a review for ROI or other standards to obtain funding, there are still questions that have to be answered. So a part of the determining what improvement projects to work on first will have to do with the cost of the improvement project. Is the business going to fund the improvement or is IT going to fund the improvement?
From a service management perspective, it is imperative that Service Level Management and Financial Management work together to understand the ability to fund from IT or work with the business to define what the priority is for funding of improvement projects.
What will we get?
It is important that CSI ensures that IT works with the business to clearly define what the requirements and output are of any improvement project. It doesn't do any good for IT to guess what the business needs. This leads to perception problems for both the business and IT.
What did we get?
Service Operation will do the actual monitoring and reporting on the achieved service levels. Based on the results and any gaps to the desired results, CSI working with the business will identify improvement opportunities.