ITIL is a framework of best practices that support the delivery of quality IT services. ITIL provides a systematic approach to IT service management helping businesses manage and mitigate risk, improve customer relationships, create cost-effective practices, and stabilize the IT environment for better progress, scale and change.

Poor implementation of IT processes lead to a rift between traditional IT organizations and its leaders. However, there is no universal approach or one flawless solution to define and implement IT service management processes. Businesses need to evaluate business goals and budgets, resource constraints, and organizational culture to determine the right processes that are most practical to adopt.

ITIL guidelines and processes that suit the business needs facilitate a connection between business and technology. ITIL includes five basic publications with best practices for each part of the IT service lifecycle:

1. ITIL Service Strategy—outlines business goals and customer requirements

2. ITIL Service Design—transitioning strategies into action items to help the business

3. ITIL Service Transition—implementing services within the business environment

4. ITIL Service Operation—defines key processes connected to IT service management

5. ITIL Continual Service Improvement—helps ITIL users evaluate and bring in IT service improvements

ITIL Continual Service Improvement – Overview

Continual Service Improvement is the fifth and final stage in the ITIL life cycle. It helps to ascertain the improvement opportunities by keeping an eye on the many service applications and processes introduced during various stages of the ITIL lifecycle. Once the IT service is chosen, designed, built and maintained, Continual Service Improvement’s job is to support and develop the services and processes.

Continual Service Improvement (CSI) uses a metrics-driven methodology to identify opportunities for improvement and to measure the influence of improvement efforts. Although Continual Service Improvement is a phase of the lifecycle and is acknowledged in a separate ITIL publication, Continual Service Improvement can be operative only if it is assimilated throughout the lifecycle, building a culture of continual improvement. Continual Service Improvement should ensure that all partakers in service delivery comprehend that recognizing opportunities for improvement is their responsibility.

A significant mission for Continual Service Improvement is to identify which metrics, out of the thousands that are formed daily, should be supervised. This is done by identifying the critical success factors (CSFs) for each service or process. CSFs are imperative for a process or service to succeed. It is recommended that each process or service identify no more than three to five critical success factors (one or two in the early stages of a service or process).

To conclude whether critical success factors are present, it is important to identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that denote the degree to which the critical success factors are present. Each critical success factor has to be measured by no more than three to five KPIs (one or two in the early stages of a service or process). Although most KPIs are quantitative, it is important to consider qualitative KPIs, such as customer satisfaction, as well.

Significance of Continual Service Improvement for an organization

It is really important to know why an organization calls for a continual service improvement plan. The key reasons are:

Continual Service Improvement - Overview

Continual service improvement (CSI) focuses on improving the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the IT services that are delivered to clients. It measures and monitors the performance of the IT service provider. It helps to check if the IT services are aligned and re-aligned with the varying business needs by identifying and instigating ways for service improvement.

Continual service improvement plan encompasses a seven-step process that has activities occurring across multiple stages of the service lifecycle. It augments the business value and focuses on the complete effectiveness of the IT service, the alliance of services to the business requirement and development of advanced IT process.

A fruitful continual service improvement plan delivers value to the business which can be regarded as:

Objectives of Continual Service Improvement (CSI)

Activities accomplished by Continual Service Improvement plan

CSI is applicable across the entire ITIL lifecycle.

A continual service improvement plan is an onus towards maintaining and improving the existing services. It emphasizes on regular assessment and re-assessment of the processes and functions of IT service management.

From ITIL to Next-Gen Service Management

Continual service improvement is built on the Plan-Do-Check-Act approach developed by W. Edwards Deming. This is applied in the CSI approach, as follows:

CSI uses a 7-step process to monitor how data is gathered and used:

If continual service improvement is carrying out its role as it should be, there will be improvement suggestions coming from all areas of service delivery. If an organization is not likely to have adequate resources to implement all of the suggestions, it is necessary to take note of the improvement opportunities, understand the impact, scope, and resource necessities, and place in order, their implementation. Continual service improvement uses the CSI register as a tool to document, analyze, and strategize for improvements.

As organizations depend more on IT services, it is imperative that IT organizations continually gauge and improve their IT services and the IT service management processes that support those IT services. A formal, hands-on continual service improvement (CSI) practice is essential to meet and accomplish service level agreements.

To implement CSI, establishments need to inculcate the right attitude and drive the right behaviors until they turn out to be second nature. IT providers must set in a culture of measurement that constantly tests the value, quality, performance, and agreement of the services within their portfolio and implement improvement inventiveness that result in the sought after business outcomes.

By description, alignment requires bringing together two distinct entities, often with contrasting goals and objectives. However, in today’s multifaceted IT environment, it is more challenging to understand the difference between an IT service and a business service. Along with this alignment, IT must become a fundamental part of the business. Instead of having disconnected goals and objectives, there must be a single, integrated business operation that operates with fitting technology.

Continual service improvement for IT is recognizing an IT area that is significant for the business and looking for ways to improve it. ITIL defines CSI as a stage in the lifecycle of a service. Continual service improvement ensures that services are aligned with the varying business needs by identifying and implementing improvements to IT services that sustain the business processes.

Continuously monitoring the performance of the IT service provider and then improving the processes, services and infrastructure enables increased efficiency and effectiveness.

7-step improvement process

The 7-step improvement process in ITIL is combined with the Deming Cycle and the DIKW (Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom) model. Enhancements can be made across the ITIL lifecycle with each phase of the lifecycle support providing feedback to the other phases for collective and coordinated improvements.

Distinct attention should be given to the commercial value of improvements because all establishments have to recover the cost of the services delivered in order to sustain. Financial management models and metrics pertaining to ROI, TCO, VOI, and ROA help here.


Continual Service Improvement is the fifth publication in the ITIL series, but this does not mean that this is the last stage of the ITIL lifecycle. It should rather be a fundamental part of every stage. If you have areas demanding improvement, you can follow the CSI process, revel in quick wins, and validate to the business that it can trust IT. This will open doors and empower businesses to further work on strategic initiatives which is the service strategy component of the ITIL lifecycle.

Implement a continual service improvement program so that you can take optimum advantage of your IT capabilities and resources. Find ways to make IT even more effectual, beneficial, and cost-effective so that it can carry on to drive business value. Continual service improvement will also help you determine value with metrics. By applying a continual service improvement program, you can develop standards and maturity assessments.