Assess ITSM with CAIR

Are you planning to assess and improve ITSM processes in 2018?

4 things you must do to maximise ROI in ITSM process assessment.

IT leaders assess and improve ITSM processes for a variety of reasons. All of them are valid, but it's worth thinking carefully about the primary motivation for an assessment before you start.

Why? Because when handled well, every assessment can and should be a springboard for:

  • Long-term process improvement
  • Efficiency and effectiveness gains
  • Less waste and rework
  • Higher staff morale and engagement
  • The foundation of a culture of continual improvement

For each reason to assess an organisation’s processes, there is a danger of closing down our thinking and vision so that we find only what we are looking for and miss some of the benefits listed above. As the saying goes, ‘for a person with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail’.

Some Reasons to Assess and Improve ITSM

  • Assess to benchmark (establish how well we do things today, in comparison to internal or external measures or maturity models)
  • Assess as a first step in undertaking a general process improvement project
  • Assess to address perceived issues with one or more specific processes
  • Assess to address perceived issues with IT services as a whole, as a result of customer comments or customer satisfaction metrics

Potential Drawbacks

  • Sometimes, benchmarking efforts fail to take the logical next step of addressing the issues they find. Also, benchmarking is sometimes set-up with too narrow a scope and an over-dependence on metrics and objective data – effectively ignoring the knowledge and observations of IT staff and their willingness to engage with improvement efforts.
  • Assessment should almost always be a first step in undertaking a general process improvement project. But the amounts of data brought to light need to be categorised, prioritised and reported so that the improvement process delivers the biggest possible return on investment. Ideally, categorisation takes place automatically as a part of the assessment process (a Zeno feature, by the way).
  • When processes are assessed to rectify specific issues it’s possible to miss the real underlying causes of process problems. If you go in thinking you already know the answer, you will most probably find the answer you’re looking for – but it may not be the right one. A better approach is to form hypotheses, analyse assessment data, then test the hypotheses based on evidence.
  • A similar problem arises when we assess and improve ITSM processes in response to customer comments or customer satisfaction metrics. Listening to the voice of the customer to understand issues is an excellent way to do things, but we need to exercise caution when customers propose solutions. They pay us to be the experts, so we should use our knowledge of the big picture to discover and remove root causes, rather than just reacting to the loudest complaints.
ITSM Assessment in Progress

Avoiding the Pitfalls

So how can you avoid these pitfalls and maximise ROI in assessment and improvement projects? One way is to use the CAIR framework – which is a common-sense approach to the complete cycle of assessment and improvement, methodically (but very quickly) moving through stages of Contextualise – Assess – Improve – Re-calibrate.

Using the CAIR model to assess and improve ITSM processes and organisations

Context, Assessment, Improvement, Recalbration

'C' is for Context

The Context phase makes sure that stakeholders agree on the scope and vision for the assessment, and then does some planning. It includes activities such as

  • understand business objectives for the project
  • paint the big picture of possible underlying causes by asking initial open questions such as ‘what works well around here? What doesn’t work well?’
  • decide which IT elements will be assessed
  • establish the methods for an ITSM maturity assessment and who will carry them out
  • understand organization-specific customizations needed in the assessment process
  • define the details of the project

'A' is for Assessment

This phase sets out to find evidence, interview people and observe work in progress. Technical skills are useful but insufficient. Interview and listening techniques, establishing empathy, and the ability to formulate and test hypotheses are all put to use.

Tools are important for this assessment stage and the following stages – which is why we developed Zeno assessment software to make assessment faster, more effective, and more intuitive. Minimally, people need to know which questions to ask, how to rate and categorise the answers, how to capture comments and use them to generate reports, and how to apply basic statistical analysis. Zeno covers all of these bases and more.

Sorry to interrupt, but if you would like to hear more about Zeno’s launch and be among the first to use its features, you can sign-up here (no credit card details or any financial or other commitment is required to join the wait list):

Zeno: Powerful process improvement made simple

'I' is for Improvement

Communication is an important part of the communication phase. When reports and recommendations are accessible, attractive and meet the needs of various audiences, it’s easier to gain wide support for improvement activities.

More technical aspects come into play once communication is clear. This includes CSF and KPI design, managing change, and building roadmaps.

It’s vitally important that momentum isn’t lost during this stage. Zeno includes a Process Tracker which is used by a process owner or other CSI professional to track improvements, estimate new maturity and capability scores, and report on progress.

'R' is for Re-calibration

Re-calibration is about managing the new environment created by the improvements that have been made. One critical feature is to ensure that no negative unintended consequences are taking place.

15 Elements of an ITSM Maturity Assessment

Much more detail and a splendid infographic can be found here: A Visual Guide to ITSM Maturity Assessment. The infographic identifies 15 elements of a successful assessment.

If you would like to hear more about Zeno’s launch and be among the first to use its features, you can sign-up here. No credit card details or any financial or other commitment is required to join the wait list:

Zeno: Powerful process improvement made simple

About the Author Dan McCarthy

Dan is the co-founder of Zeno. He likes finding new ways to improve processes and working life in general.

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