Process Management is a key discipline for any organization committed to Continual Service Improvement (CSI). Process Management helps define, visualize, measure, control, report and improve processes so that they are efficient, effective and consistent. Process Maturity is an indication of how well the process has been developed deployed and is capable of continuous improvement. Assessing the maturity of the ITIL® process provides the Process Owner with an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their process and importantly where CSI focus should be applied to further mature the process. The IPAF assessment makes use of available public domain ITIL® Self Assessment techniques to provide an approach that can easily be adopted by all organizations.
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The benefits of ITIL® Self Assessment are that they provide a baseline against which future improvements can be assessed and measured. The Self Assessments are easy to schedule and can be repeated as and when required. The ability to perform ITIL® process assessments and use these to establish the baseline measurements and benchmark(s) for future comparison are key tenets of the Continual Service Improvement (CSI) model. In the marketplace, there are many service management consultancy groups that provide ITIL® process assessment services and offerings. Many companies perceive these to be their only viable option. Typically, this belief is based upon a view that they do not have the internal skills, expertise or tools to execute an assessment for an exercise that is considered overly complex and resource intensive. The need to develop an in-house competency is becoming more important for organizations truly committed to CSI. ITIL® process assessments should be performed and repeated on a periodic basis and therefore in today’s economic climate a more cost effective and flexible alternative is required from that available in the external marketplace.
This article documents the approach undertaken by some of the major IT Service Providers to develop an “ITIL® Process Assessment Framework” (IPAF) that provides a simple, low cost and modular methodology that delivers comparable results to their customers and clients. The methodology employed exploits in-house ITIL® skills and utilizes existing available industry best practice publications, tools and reference material and adds additional value by providing a balanced and holistic view of the organizations ITIL® process maturity by focusing on 4 key dimensions –
- The Process Management perspective
- The Process Maturity perspective
- The Customer perspective
- The ITIL® perspective
The IPAF methodology has been used extensively to assess the process maturity of the ITIL® process environments across Organizations. This article therefore benefits from the learning gained and provides you with an introductory insight on how to successfully establish the IPAF methodology to deliver a successful in-house led ITIL® process assessment exercise and thereby identity opportunities for improvement. Some of the obvious advantages are –
- Improved staff satisfaction as the organization is seen to trust and exploit the skills, knowledge and expertise of its people.
- Greater acceptance of findings and recommendations as these are based on a thorough understanding of the internal infrastructure and process environment.
- Greater cross team co-operation in improving the overall ITSM capability.
- Increased ITIL® knowledge and understanding for those who have participated.
Continual Service Improvement (CSI) embraces every aspect of the ITIL® service lifecycle and can be applied to provide a sustained improvement in IT performance. The most important aspect of understanding how to improve is by knowing what to measure and understanding how those measures can be assessed, analyzed and used as a basis for delivering improvements. The ability to measure improvements and provide a “before and after” comparison is essential in being able to demonstrate the benefits of CSI and the value delivered.
ITIL® process assessments are the mechanism used to create these measures for your ITIL® process environment. These then help identify the desired CSI improvement activities that can improve process maturity and the organizations overall IT service management capability.
- Assessments are the formal mechanisms for comparing the organizations current ITIL® process environment against established industry performance standards and criteria for the purpose of identifying shortcomings, differences and gaps.
- Comparing the current ITIL® process model against external industry references creates the benchmark against which the organization can compare its existing maturity with industry norms. This provides guidance and direction in ensuring resultant CSI activities reference and leverage acknowledged industry best practice.
- The measures and results from a well structured ITIL® process assessment create the baselines and benchmarks against which the progress of CSI activities instigated as a result of the assessment can then be demonstrated.
The Continual Service Improvement Model as per ITIL® Outputs and Outcomes from an ITIL® Process Assessment Framework (IPAF) align with the CSI Model
- Assessments are an effective method of answering the question ‘Where are we now?’
- Establishing a benchmark to compare against industry norms identifies the shortcomings, differences and gaps within the existing ITIL® process environment and defines the target for ‘Where do we want to be?’
- The findings and recommendations from an assessment formulate the process improvement plans to determine ‘How do we get there?’
- The original outputs from the assessment created the baseline measures and benchmarks against which a repeat assessment can demonstrate improvement and answer the question ‘Did we get there’
The benefits of the IPAF and CSI approach based upon the ITIL® principles are as follows – Simple
- The IPAF framework provides an easy to understand implementation approach to performing ITIL® Process Assessments.
- The IPAF utilizes existing public domain reference materials and tools to support assessment activities and uses standard desktop office products for the creation and production of baseline and internal benchmarking measurement and reporting.
- The Current State Assessment (CSA) provides the recipient Process Owner community with an easily understood but comprehensive assessment of each ITIL® process „on a single page?.
- The IPAF enables process assessments to be delivered in-house without the need for expensive consultants. The aim of the IPAF is to deliver a comparable standard of content and value when compared with the external market.
- The IPAF approach leverages existing in-house (ITIL practitioner and project management) skills and expertise. No additional skills need to be developed or contracted in.
- The IPAF framework can be used to perform ITIL process assessments against specific processes or the full ITIL process environment.
- The investment in time and effort in establishing the IPAF is protected. The IPAF supports and encourages periodic assessments utilizing previously delivered supporting materials and reporting frameworks.
- The IPAF utilizes existing public domain reference materials and tools. The only additional expense would be for any additional reference publications not currently available in-house.
- The modular design provides flexibility in the scheduling, co-coordinating and execution of the required assessment activities.
- The IPAF is not resource intensive. The modular approach has been designed so that the workload for assessment activities can be spread and shared across a number of roles within the IT service management function.
- The IPAF modular approach to ITIL process assessments provides an holistic and balanced view of overall process maturity by gaining input from ITIL practitioners, Customers and the use of existing best practice as reference points.
- The CSA provides the stimulus for both tactical and strategic CSI initiatives. At the process level it can highlight quick win opportunities. The CSA’ when viewed in aggregate can highlight significant gaps in the organization overall IT Service Management capability that require „step change? improvements to be driven through.
Remember, what cannot be measured, can never be improved.
It is recommended that the personnel who lead an IPAF assessment and CSI projects are qualified to the Management Level (V2 Manager) or Expert level (V3).