Managing Service Availability: Enlisting Customers’ Help May be Your Best Bet

Ideally, as part of the service reports your customers receive, the measure of service availability over the last reporting period should be provided. Whenever I make this statement in a course, attendees often ask, what’s the best way to manage service availability?

This is a question that most often comes from those faced with a lack of effective monitoring or reporting tools within their organization. For most services deemed critical, there are good tools in place to measure availability, but for non-critical services, it is much more difficult for organizations to justify the expense of monitoring and reporting systems.

For those faced with the challenge of managing service availability with ineffective systems, you might find that enlisting your customers’ help could work for you. First, ask your customer to make note of any times when a service is unavailable. Then, once an incident is logged, ask your customer for their time stamp. Why is this important? The levels of availability cannot be measured based upon when an incident is created and resolved because the date stamp recording the incident will not accurately reflect the time the service became unavailable or its duration.

Now, what if the service you provide is organization-wide? In that case, the method outlined above won’t work without making prior arrangements with your service customer as to how a reading will be taken and reported. You may also want to conduct some on-site IT training to ensure your customer understands the classification of unavailability, otherwise you could have a number of users calling in, each quoting a different time. If that’s the case, you could agree with your customer to report an estimated time in which the service went down by averaging all the times reported to you.

With any approach there will be challenges, and enlisting your customers’ help requires trust. Of course we would all prefer to have sufficient monitoring and reporting systems in place, but we have to be realistic. Having a customer to assist with measuring service availability helps ensure near-accurate recording of downtime, and is a better system than one relying on guess-work reporting inaccuracies.

 

Hitesh Patel

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