Service Level Management
Planning Service Level Management correctly requires the involvement of almost all the levels of the IT organisation. And, if this were not already complex enough, the active collaboration of the IT service customers and users is also essential.
The main goal of Service Level Management is to define, negotiate and monitor the quality of the IT services offered. If the services do not match the customer's needs, their quality is deficient or their cost disproportionate, your customers will be dissatisfied and the IT organisation will be responsible for the consequences.
The whole prior planning process must be focused on answering the following questions:
- What services should we offer our customers?
- What are your customers' needs?
- What is the appropriate level of quality of service?
- Who is going to provide these services and how?
- What will the key indicators be for the services provided?
- Do you have the necessary resources to provide the services offered with the agreed levels of quality?
The answer to each of these questions must be written in documents, some of which will be internal and others of which will be available to customers. We will describe these documents briefly below.
First of all, Service Level Management must make a catalogue of services available to the whole organisation, particularly the Service Desk and the sales force.
This catalogue of services must describe, in layman's terms, the products and services offered together with general indications of the level of service offered, such as availability, response times, etc.
Preparing this Service Catalogue can be a complex task as it is necessary to align technical aspects with business policies. However, it is an essential document as:
- It serves as a guide to customers when selecting a service to match their needs.
- It delimits the functions and commitments of the IT organisation.
- It can be used as a sales tool.
- It avoids misunderstandings between the actors involved in service delivery.
However, in most cases, no matter how detailed and complete the Service Catalogue is, the complexity of the services offered requires extensive and time-consuming negotiations with the customer.
The results of this interaction/negotiation should be incorporated in the Service Level Requirements document (SLR). This document should reflect the customer's needs and expectations regarding:
- The functionality and characteristics of the service.
- The availability of the service.
- The interaction between the service and the IT or other infrastructure.
- The continuity of the service.
- The service quality levels.
- Service implementation time and procedures.
- The scalability of the service offered.
The information contained in the SLR must serve as a basis for preparing internal documentation allowing definition of "how" the service is to be delivered and "who" will be responsible for it.
The Service Specification Sheets must contain:
- A detailed description, with all the necessary technical details, of how the service is to be delivered.
- What will the internal indicators of performance and service quality be?
- How will the service be implemented?
If delivery of the service requires interaction with the customer's IT services or places technical demands on the customer's infrastructure, this information must be recorded in an "external" specifications sheet which will need to be agreed with the customer and the customer's technical managers.
The Service Quality Plan (SQP) must be the master document for internal management of the services provided and contain detailed information on all the IT processes involved in providing the services.
Depending on the requirements set out in the Service Specification Sheets an overall plan is drawn up allowing resources to be assigned to the IT organisation. Using these specifications clear goals are also set, based on the chosen performance indicators, and it is ensured that the levels of quality offered match customers' needs and the organisation's commitments.
If the internal resources are considered inadequate or if it is deemed appropriate to outsource a portion of the services the SQP will be used as the guiding document when drawing up contracts with external service providers.