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Build a Continual Improvement Program

Don’t stop at process standardization; plan to continually improve and help those improvements stick.

  • IT managers must work hard to maintain and improve service quality or risk performance deterioration over time.
  • Leadership may feel lost about what to do next and which initiatives have higher priority for improvement.
  • The backlog of improvement initiatives makes the work even harder. Managers should involve the right people in the process and build a team that is responsible to monitor, measure, prioritize, implement, and test improvements.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • Without continual improvement, sustained service quality will be temporary. Organizations need to put in place an ongoing process to detect potential services, enhance their procedures, and sustain their performance, whatever the process maturity is.

Impact and Result

  • Set strategic vision for the continual improvement program.
  • Build a team to set regulations, processes, and audits for the program.
  • Set measurable targets for the program.
  • Identify and prioritize improvement initiatives.
  • Measure and monitor progress to ensure initiatives achieve the desired outcome.
  • Apply lessons learned to the next initiatives.

Build a Continual Improvement Program Research & Tools

1. Build a Continual Improvement Program – A step-by-step document to walk you through building a plan for efficient IT continual improvement.

This storyboard will help you craft a continual improvement register and a workflow to ensure sustained service improvements that fulfill ongoing increases in stakeholder expectations.

2. Continual Improvement Register and Workflow – Structured documents to help you outline improvement initiatives, prioritize them, and build a dashboard to streamline tracking.

Use the Continual Improvement Register and Continual Improvement Workflow to help you brainstorm improvement items, get a better visibility into the items, and plan to execute improvements.

Build a Continual Improvement Program

Don’t stop with process standardization; plan to continually improve and help those improvements stick.

Analyst Perspective

Go beyond standardizing basics

IT managers often learn how to standardize IT services. Where they usually fail is in keeping these improvements sustainable. It’s one thing to build a quality process, but it’s another challenge entirely to keep momentum and know what to do next.

To fill the gap, build a continual improvement plan to continuously increase value for stakeholders. This plan will help connect services, products, and practices with changing business needs.

Without a continual improvement plan, managers may find themselves lost and wonder what’s next. This will lead to misalignment between ongoing and increasingly high stakeholder expectations and your ability to fulfill these requirements.

Build a continual improvement program to engage executives, leaders, and subject matter experts (SMEs) to go beyond break fixes, enable proactive enhancements, and sustain process changes.

Photo of Mahmoud Ramin, Ph.D., Senior Research Analyst, Infrastructure and Operations, Info-Tech Research Group. Mahmoud Ramin, Ph.D.
Senior Research Analyst
Infrastructure and Operations
Info-Tech Research Group

Executive Summary

Your Challenge

  • Even high-quality services and products need to be aligned with rising stakeholder expectations to sustain operational excellence.
  • Without the right leadership, commitment, and processes, improvements in service quality can be difficult to sustain.
  • Continual improvement is not only a development plan but also an organizational culture shift, which makes stakeholder buy-in even challenging.

Common Obstacles

  • IT managers must work hard to maintain and improve service quality or risk performance deterioration over time.
  • Leadership feels lost about what to do next and which initiatives have higher priority for improvement.
  • A backlog of improvement initiatives makes the work even harder. Managers should involve the right people in the process and build a team that is responsible for monitoring, measuring, prioritizing, implementing, and testing improvements.

Info-Tech’s Approach

  • Set a strategic vision for the continual improvement program.
  • Build a team to set regulations, processes, and audits for the program.
  • Set measurable targets for the program.
  • Identify and prioritize improvement initiatives.
  • Measure and monitor progress to ensure initiatives achieve the desired outcome.
  • Apply lessons learned to the next initiatives.

Info-Tech Insight

Without continual improvement, any process maturity achieved around service quality will not be sustained. Organizations need to put in place an ongoing program to maintain their current maturity and continue to grow and improve by identifying new services and enhancing existing processes.

Purpose of continual improvement

There should be alignment between ongoing improvements of business products and services and management of these products and services. Continual improvement helps service providers adapt to changing environments. No matter how critical the service is to the business, failure to continually improve reduces the service value.

Image of a notebook with an illustration titled 'Continuous Improvement'.

Continual improvement is one of the five elements of ITIL’s Service Value System (SVS).

Continual improvement should be documented in an improvement register to record and manage improvement initiatives.

Continual improvement is a proactive approach to service management. It involves measuring the effectiveness and efficiency of people, processes, and technology to:

  • Identify areas for improvement.
  • Adapt to changes in the business environment.
  • Align the IT strategy to organizational goals.

A continual improvement process helps service management move away from a reactive approach that focuses only on fixing problems as they occur.

Info-Tech Insight

Make sure the basics are in place before you embark on a continual improvement initiative.

Benefits of embedding a cross-organizational continual improvement approach

Icon of a computer screen. Encourage end users to provide feedback on service quality. Icon of a crossed pencil and wrench.

Provide an opportunity to stakeholders to define requirements and raise their concerns.

Icon of a storefront.

Embed continual improvement in all service delivery procedures.

Icon of chevrons moving backward.

Turn failures into improvement opportunities rather than contributing to a blame culture.

Icon of a telescope.

Improve practice effectiveness that enhances IT efficiency.

Icon of a thumbs up in a speech bubble.

Improve end-user satisfaction that positively impacts brand reputation.

Icon of shopping bags.

Improve operational costs while maintaining a high level of satisfaction.

Icon of a magnifying glass over a map marker.

Help the business become more proactive by identifying and improving services.

Info-Tech Insight

It’s the responsibility of the organization’s leaders to develop and promote a continual improvement culture. Work with the business unit leads and communicate the benefits of continual improvement to get their buy-in for the practice and achieve the long-term impact.

Build a feedback program to get input into where improvement initiatives are needed

A well-maintained continual improvement process creates a proper feedback mechanism for the following stakeholder groups:
  • Users
  • Suppliers
  • Service delivery team members
  • Service owners
  • Sponsors
An efficient feedback mechanism should be constructed around the following initiatives:
Target with an arrow in the bullseye. The arrow has four flags: 'Perceived value by users', 'Service effectiveness', 'Service governance', and 'Service demand'.
Stakeholders who participate in feedback activities should feel comfortable providing suggestions for improvement.

Work closely with the service desk team to build communication channels to conduct surveys. Avoid formal bureaucratic communications and enforce openness in communicating the value of feedback the stakeholders can provide.

Info-Tech Insight

When conducting feedback activities with users, keep surveys anonymous and ensure users’ information is kept confidential. Make sure everyone else is comfortable providing feedback in a constructive way so that you can seek clarification and create a feedback loop.

Implement an iterative continual improvement model and ensure that your services align with your organizational vision

Build a six-step process for your continual improvement plan. Make it a loop, in which each step becomes an input for the next step. A cycle around a dartboard with numbered steps: '01 Determine your goals', '02 Define the process team', '03 Determine initiatives', '04 Prioritize initiatives', '05 Execute improvement', '06 Establish a learning culture'.

1. Determine your goals

A vision statement communicates your desired future state of the IT organization.

Your IT goals should always support your organizational goals. IT goals are high-level objectives that the IT organization needs to achieve to reach a target state.
A cycle of the bolded statements on the right surrounding a dartboard with two bullseyes.

Understand the high-level business objectives to set the vision for continual improvement in a way that will align IT strategies with business strategies.

Obtaining a clear picture of your organization’s goals and overall corporate strategy is one of the crucial first steps to continual improvement and will set the stage for the metrics you select. Document your continual improvement program goals and objectives.

Knowing what your business is doing and understanding the impact of IT on the business will help you ensure that any metrics you collect will be business focused.

Understanding the long-term vision of the business and its appetite for commitment and sponsorship will also inform your IT strategy and continual improvement goals.

Assess the future state

At this stage, you need to visualize improvement, considering your critical success factors.

Critical success factors (CSFs) are higher-level goals or requirements for success, such as improving end-user satisfaction. They’re factors that must be met in order to reach your IT and business strategic vision.

Select key performance indicators (KPIs) that will identify useful information for the initiative: Define KPIs for each CSF. These will usually involve a trend, as an increase or decrease in something. If KPIs already exist for your IT processes, re-evaluate them to assess their relevance to current strategy and redefine if necessary. Selected KPIs should provide a full picture of the health of targeted practice.

KPIs should cover these four vectors of practice performance:

  1. Quantity
    How many continual improvement initiatives are in progress
  2. Quality
    How well you implemented improvements
  3. Timeliness
    How long it took to get continual improvement initiatives done
  4. Compliance
    How well processes and controls are being executed, such as system availability
Cross-section of a head split into sections with icons in the middle sections.

Examples of key CSFs and KPIs for continual improvement



Adopt and maintain an effective approach for continual improvement Improve stakeholder satisfaction due to implementation of improvement initiatives.
Enhance stakeholder awareness about continual improvement plan and initiatives.
Increase continual improvement adoption across the organization.
Commit to effective continual improvement across the business Improve the return on investment.
Increase the impact of the improvement initiatives on process maturity.
Increase the rate of successful improvement initiatives.

Prepare a vision statement to communicate the improvement strategy

IT Implications + Business Context –› IT Goals
  • IT implications are derived from the business context and inform goals by aligning the IT goals with the business context.
  • Business context encompasses an understanding of the factors impacting the business from various perspectives, how the business makes decisions, and what it is trying to achieve.
  • IT goals are high-level, specific objectives that the IT organization needs to achieve to reach the target state. IT goals begin a process of framing what IT as an organization needs to be able to do in the target state.

IT goals will help identify the target state, IT capabilities, and the initiatives that will need to be implemented to enable those capabilities.

The vision statement is expressed in the present tense. It seeks to articulate the desired role of IT and how IT will be perceived.

Strong IT vision statements have the following characteristics:
Arrow pointing right. Describe a desired future
Arrow pointing right. Focus on ends, not means
Arrow pointing right. Communicate promise
Arrow pointing right. Work as an elevator pitch:
  • Concise; no unnecessary words
  • Compelling
  • Achievable
  • Inspirational
  • Memorable

2. Define the process team

The structure of each continual improvement team depends on resource availability and competency levels.

Make sure to allocate continual improvement activities to the available resources and assess the requirement to bring in others to fulfill all tasks.

Brainstorm what steps should be included in a continual improvement program:

  • Who is responsible for identifying, logging, and prioritizing improvement opportunities?
  • Who makes the business case for improvement initiatives?
  • Who is the owner of the register, responsible for documenting initiatives and updating their status?
  • Who executes implementation?
  • Who evaluates implementation success?
Match stakeholder skill sets with available resources to ensure continual improvement processes are handled properly. Brainstorm skills specific to the program:
  • Knowledge of provided products and services.
  • Good understanding of organization’s goals and objectives.
  • Efficiency in collecting and measuring metrics, understanding company standards and policies, and presenting them to impacted stakeholders.
  • Competency in strategic thinking and aligning the organization’s goals with improvement initiatives.

Enable the continual improvement program by clarifying responsibilities

Determine roles and responsibilities to ensure accountability

The continual improvement activities will only be successful if specific roles and responsibilities are clearly identified.

Depending on available staff and resources, you may be able to have full-time continual improvement roles, or you may include continual improvement activities in individuals’ job descriptions.

Each improvement action that you identify should have clear ownership and accountability to ensure that it is completed within the specified timeframe.

Roles and responsibilities can be reassigned throughout the continual improvement process.

Info-Tech Insight

Create cross-functional teams to improve perspective and not focus on only one small group when trying to problem solve. Having other teams hear and reframe the issue or talk about how they can help to solve issues as a team can create bigger solutions that will help the entire IT team, not just one group.

Consider assigning dedicated continual improvement roles

Silhouette of a business person.
CI Coordinator

Continual improvement coordinators are responsible for moving projects to the implementation phase and monitoring all continual improvement roles.

Silhouette of a business person.
Business Owner

Business owners are accountable for business governance, compliance, and ROI analysis. They are responsible for operational and monetary aspects of the business.

Silhouette of a business person.
IT Owner

IT owners are responsible for developing the action plan and ensuring success of the initiatives. They are usually the subject matter experts, focusing on technical aspects.

3. Determine improvement initiatives

Businesses usually make the mistake of focusing too much on making existing processes better while missing gaps in their practices.

Gather stakeholder feedback to help you evaluate the maturity levels of IT practices Sample of the End User Satisfaction Survey.

You need to understand the current state of service operations to understand how you can provide value through continual improvement. Give everyone an opportunity to provide feedback on IT services.

Use Info-Tech’s End User Satisfaction Survey to define the state of your core IT services.

Info-Tech Insight

Become proactive to improve satisfaction. Continual improvement is not only about identifying pain points and improving them. It enables you to proactively identify initiatives for further service improvement using both practice functionality and technology enablement.

Understand the current state of your IT practices

Determine the maturity level of your IT areas to help you understand which processes need improvement. Involve the practice team in maturity assessment activities to get ideas and input from them. This will also help you get their buy-in and engagement for improvement.

Leverage performance metrics to analyze performance level. Metrics play a key role in understanding what needs improvement. After you implement metrics, have an impact report regularly generated to monitor them.

Use problem management to identify root causes for the identified gaps. Potential sources of problems can be:

  • Recurring issues that may be an indicator of an underlying problem.
  • Business processes or service issues that are not IT related, such as inefficient business process or service design issues.

Establish an improvement roadmap and execute initiatives

Build a continual improvement register (CIR) for your target initiatives

A CIR is a document used for recording your action plan from the beginning to the end of the improvement project.

If you just sit and plan for improvements without acting on them, nothing will improve. CIR helps you create an action plan and allows you to manage, track, and prioritize improvement suggestions.

Consider tracking the following information in your CIR, adjusted to meet the needs of your organization:



Business value impact Identify approved themes or goals that each initiative should apply to. These can and should change over time based on changing business needs.
Effort/cost Identify the expected effort or cost the improvement initiative will require.
Priority How urgent is the improvement? Categorize based on effort, cost, and risk levels.
Status Ensure each initiative has a status assigned that reflects its current state.
Timeline List the timeframe to start the improvement initiative based on the priority level.
CI functional groups Customize the functional groups in your CI program

Populate your register with ideas that come from your first round of assessments and use this document to continually add and track new ideas as they emerge.

You can also consider using the register to track the outcomes and benefits of improvement initiatives after they have been completed.

Activity: Use the Continual Improvement Register template to brainstorm responsibilities, generate improvement initiatives, and action plan

1-3 hours
  1. Open the Continual Improvement Register template and navigate to tab 2, Setup.
  2. Brainstorm your definitions for the following items to get a clear understanding of these items when completing the CIR. The more quantification you apply to the criteria, the more tangible evaluation you will do:
    • Business value impact categories
    • Effort/cost
    • Priority
    • Status
    • Timeline
  3. Discuss the teams that the upcoming initiatives will belong to and update them under CI Functional Groups.
  1. Analyze the assessment data collected throughout stakeholder feedback and your current-state evaluation.
  2. Use this data to generate a list of initiatives that should be undertaken to improve the performance of the targeted processes.
  3. Use sticky notes to record identified CI initiatives.
  4. Record each initiative in tab 3, CI Register, along with associated information:
    • A unique ID number for the initiative
    • The individual who submitted the idea
    • The team the initiative belongs to
    • A description of the initiative

Download the Continual Improvement Register template

Activity: Use the Continual Improvement Register template to brainstorm responsibilities, generate improvement initiatives, and action plan


  • List of key stakeholders for continual improvement
  • Current state of services and processes


  • Continual improvement register setup
  • List of initiatives for continual improvement


  • Continual improvement register
  • Whiteboard/flip charts
  • Markers
  • Laptops


  • CIO
  • IT managers
  • Project managers
  • Continual improvement manager/coordinator

4. Prioritize initiatives

Prioritization should be transparent and available to stakeholders.

Some initiatives are more critical than others to achieve and should be prioritized accordingly. Some improvements require large investments and need an equally large effort, while some are relatively low-cost, low-effort improvements. Focus on low-hanging fruit and prioritize low-cost, low-effort improvements to help the organization with rapid growth. This will also help you get stakeholder buy-in for the rest of your continual improvement program.

Prioritize improvement initiatives in your CIR to increase visibility and ensure larger improvement initiatives are done the next cycle. As one improvement cycle ends, the next cycle begins, which allows the continual improvement team to keep pace with changing business requirements.

Stock image of a person on a ladder leaning against a bookshelf.

Identify “quick wins” that can provide immediate improvement

Prioritize these quick wins to immediately demonstrate the success of the continual service improvement effort to the business.


Keep the scope of the continual improvement process manageable at the beginning by focusing on a few key areas that you want to improve.
  • If you have identified pain points, addressing these will demonstrate the value of the project to the business to gain their support.
  • Choose the services or processes that continue to disrupt or threaten service – focus on where pain points are evident and where there is a need for improvement.
  • Critical services to improve should emerge from the current-state assessments.


From your list of proposed improvements, focus on a few of the top pain points and plan to address those.


Choose the right services to improve at the first stage of continual improvement to ensure that the continual improvement process delivers value to the business.

Activity: Prioritize improvement initiatives

2-3 hours

Input: List of initiatives for continual improvement

Output: Prioritized list of initiatives

Materials: Continual improvement register, Whiteboard/flip charts, Markers, Laptops

Participants: CIO, IT managers, Project managers, Continual improvement manager

  1. In the CI Register tab of the Continual Improvement Register template, define the status, priority, effort/cost, and timeline according to the definition of each in the data entry tab.
  2. Review improvement initiatives from the previous activity.
  3. Record the CI coordinator, business owner, and IT owner for each initiative.
  4. Fill out submission date to track when the initiative was added to the register.
  5. According to the updated items, you will get a dashboard of items based on their categories, effort, priority, status, and timeline. You will also get a visibility into the total number of improvement initiatives.
  6. Focus on the short-term initiatives that are higher priority and require less effort.
  7. Refer to the Continual Improvement Workflow template and update the steps.

Download the Continual Improvement Register template

Download the Continual Improvement Workflow template

5. Execute improvement

Develop a plan for improvement

Determine how you want to reach your improvement objectives. Define how to make processes work better.
Icons representing steps. Descriptions below.
Make a business case for your action plan Determine budget for implementing the improvement and move to execution. Find out how long it takes to build the improvement in the practice. Confirm the resources and skill sets you require for the improvement. Communicate the improvement plan across the business for better visibility and for seamless organizational change management, if needed. Lean into incremental improvements to ensure practice quality is sustained, not temporary. Put in place an ongoing process to audit, enhance, and sustain the performance of the target practice.
Build a Continual Improvement Program preview picture

About Info-Tech

Info-Tech Research Group is the world’s fastest-growing information technology research and advisory company, proudly serving over 30,000 IT professionals.

We produce unbiased and highly relevant research to help CIOs and IT leaders make strategic, timely, and well-informed decisions. We partner closely with IT teams to provide everything they need, from actionable tools to analyst guidance, ensuring they deliver measurable results for their organizations.

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