Perfecting the art of SLAs: Interfaces

There is alignment between the interfaces and the challenges faced (discussed on the previous blog) when creating and managing SLAs.

On the previous blog we mentioned getting support teams to put pen to paper to confirm roles and responsibilities. To achieve this we need to work with them, as they could be faced with certain challenges preventing them to sign off the certain OLAs. Rather than dictating what the support arrangements should be for the teams, it would be more realistic to identify what is possible now for them to offer, what can be possible moving forward, and what assistance will they require. The focus should be on end to end delivery, and this will ensure the SLAs are continued to be met and that all support teams are clear on what needs to be achieved.
In my experience, the following have been key interfaces:
Service catalog
How good is your service catalog? How up-to-date is it? We want to work towards having SLAs for all services within our catalog. I’ve seen my clients take the approach of identifying the most critical services within the organization and having SLAs for each service. Then for all non-critical services having a skeleton/ bare essentials SLA which offers nothing but a standard level of support. However, this approach will be dependent on the organization and the customers being served.
Steering groups and senior management
The SLAs should be signed off from senior members within the IT organization. They need to promote their backing to the tasks being carried out. The SLAs could be approved as part of a planned meeting or regular steering groups that will be arranged on a frequent basis to go through such matters. Customer perception will be improved by having senior members within IT get involved in the sign off.
Service reporting
Reports will be a major deliverable and input into the SLM process. Firstly, what can we report on? If we can’t measure it, and therefore can’t report on it, then it should not be set as a service target.
SLM will have to interface with the relevant support team in terms of reports. I would expect reports to be generated from the support team and/or 3rd parties, as part of the agreed OLAs and UCs. These reports should identify whether the targets have been met, and if not, the reason why? This will all serve as input into the SLM process to discuss with the customer.
Its important remember that pictures may not tell you the accurate picture. Let’s take an example. Below is a chart covering 3 customer based SLAs over a reporting period covering 4 months.

Green – Target Met   Amber – Target threatened   Red – Target breached

On the face of the chart it seems that HR has received a great service over the last reporting period. It also seems that Legal has not received a good level of service as on a number of occasions the SLA has been breached or threatened.
Now, have we considered the possibility that the reason that the HR SLA has never been breached is because the targets are set too low and therefore IT are always able to meet it.
Also, the SLAs for Legal may have been breached or threatened, but Legal are actually very happy with the service. It seems that the targets are set too high. Lets take an example of what these targets could be:
1.      Target too low – you set an availability target of 60% in an SLA and you are constantly achieving 70%, the target might be achieved but the target is still too low for the customer.
2.      Target too high – you set an availability target of 99.9% availability and you are currently offering 96.5%. You are failing the target, but the customer is very happy with the availability.
So we have looked at some of the key challenges and interfaces when perfecting the art of SLAs, but it does not end here. This will be a continuous process within your organisation to work on until you see the full benefits.

Hitesh Patel

*ITIL® is a registered trade mark of the Cabinet Office

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