Feature

Wake-up call: maintaining an SLA

Take control of the service you get

The phrase "CRM solution" should be licensed as a form of sleeping pill. Just look how the heads around the boardroom table droop at the sight of it splashed across Powerpoint. But, nevertheless, CRM has sneaked onto the company "must-have" list. Like the strategic five-year plan, you would be laughed off the pages of the analyst's report if you do not do it.

You get CRM, and in one fell swoop you prove you care about your customers' feelings and the quality of service you provide to them, whether you want to or not.

But a darker issue is creeping up. Never mind the service you provide, what about the one you get? Have you ever thought about the quality of service provided by the IT infrastructure and the outsourced services that run your company, which enable you to have customers in the first place?

Everyone has targets and objectives for providing the best service they can, and these are commonly drawn up between IT providers and their clients by corporate managers in the form of service level agreements (SLAs). A recent IDC report on quality of service found 96% of managers said they have SLAs in place.

The problem is that SLAs are set at boardroom level, and they are not having any effect on the quality of service being given by the IT function. The report found only 50% of IT managers could say if they used SLAs.

Here lies the age-old problem: this lack of communication between the board and the communications room makes a mockery of any promises made about quality of service. If half of IT managers do not even know they have given assurances to achieve certain levels of service, what do the other half think? Is anyone getting the quality they need to drive a company forward and provide the best service possible to its customers?

Guaranteed to grate further is the fact that the US has pretty much got this problem under control. Almost as a matter of course they deploy service level management (SLM), a strategy which monitors performance and availability against agreed SLAs. Simple real-time reports can then be produced that are as understandable for the non-executive director as they are for the head of systems. However, business-oriented SLMs are required as SLAs are purely technical.

US companies have put a bridge over the troubled waters of separating business and technology by passing control to a third party who can talk to both sides and make sense of and give value to the SLAs that have been applied. Thus a company can monitor the quality of service it is getting, anticipate problems and replace the weak links in its infrastructure network.

The IDC survey confirms the UK has a communication problem on the issue of quality of service. It showed 100% of business managers assumed some form of SLM was looking after their valued SLAs. Only 35% of IT managers were able to confirm that was the case.

If you are working to SLAs and you know about them, you have half the battle won. But to show you are doing your job properly and are providing a high standard of service, SLM, whether it is by a third party or in-house, needs to be applied now.

The time has come to make SLM the acronym that everyone, especially service providers, wish we had not invented.

Contributed by Nicolas Kourim, president of Clariteam, mailto:nkourim@clariteam.com"

Summary of SLM

SLM is a set of rules that allows you to see how your IT is performing. To achieve SLM, you must:

  • Define the business processes you want to look after

  • What are critical resources that are impacted by the processes? eg users, IT infrastructure

  • What are the measurements you want to define? ie performance, response time

  • See how all these variables will effect your business, measure and take action.

  • When you have measured - you take action.


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    This was first published in January 2001

     

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