Service Level Management
Introduction and Objectives
Service Level Management is the process by which the quality of the IT services offered is defined, negotiated and supervised.
Service Level Management is responsible for finding a realistic compromise between the customers' needs and expectations and the costs of associated services, such that these are acceptable to both the customer and to the IT organisation.
Service Level Management must:
- Document all the IT services offered.
- Present the services in a way that is comprehensible to the customer.
- Focus on the customer and the customer's business and not the technology.
- Work closely with the customer to propose realistic IT services that match the customer's needs.
- Establish the necessary agreements with customers and suppliers in order to offer the services required.
- Define the key IT service performance indicators.
- Monitor the quality of the agreed services with the overall goal of improving them at a cost acceptable to the customer.
- Prepare reports on the quality of service and service improvement plans (SIP).
The main benefits of good Service Level Management are:
- The IT services are designed with the real goal in mind: meeting the customer's needs.
- Communication with customers is enhanced and misunderstanding about the characteristics and quality of the services offered are avoided.
- Clear and measurable objectives are set.
- The respective responsibilities of the customer and the service providers are clearly established.
- Customers know and accept the quality levels offered and clear protocols of action are put in place which can be used to tackle any deterioration in service.
- The constant monitoring of the service allows the weakest links in the chain to be identified so they can be improved.
- IT management knows and understands the services offered, facilitating agreements with suppliers and subcontractors.
- The Service Desk personnel has the necessary documentation (SLAs, OLAs,etc.) to enable fluid dealings with customers and suppliers.
- The SLAs help IT management to calculate costs and justify prices to customers.
In the long term this results in improved service and the resulting satisfaction of customers and users.
The main difficulties when implementing Service Level Management may be summarised as:
- A lack of good communications with customers and users, which means the SLAs agreed do not meet their real needs.
- The service level agreements are based more on the customer's wishes and expectations than on services that the IT infrastructure can offer with an adequate level of quality.
- IT services are not properly aligned with the customer's business processes.
- The SLAs are excessively long and technical, thus failing to fulfil their primary objective.
- Insufficient resources are dedicated to service level management as the management views it an extra cost and not an integral part of the service offered.
- Communication problems: not all the users know about the characteristics of the service and the levels of quality agreed.
- Compliance with SLAs is not monitored adequately or consistently, making it difficult to improve the quality of service.
- There is no genuine commitment in the organisation to the quality of the IT service offered.