The previous article gave a brief overview of Service Level Management, discussed its purpose and benefits, and provided the most common definitions. However, today we would like you to take a deeper look at processes related to the SLM, who and how handles them, and what kind of challenges you should expect once starting a journey in Service Level Management.

What impacts the choice of an SLA type?

You might be interested in who and to what extent can impact and negotiate requirements from a customer side. As customers of some IT services, are we involved in the SLM process as well? The answer depends on the type of IT service you consume, whether it is an out-of-the-box or a tailored solution.

Out-of-the-box service is a predefined solution that does not involve customers in the service design phase and does not require significant configuration – it is ready to use right away. This type of service is used on a daily basis, including, for example, Netflix subscription, network services, and so on. The out-of-the-box solution is built based on marketing and business analysis and assumption about potential customers’ needs and is designed to target an extensive audience. An IT Service provider that is about to launch this type of service may also prepare an offer of different service levels and functionality. However, they are also pre-packaged and do not usually presuppose significant changes and negotiations. So from the SLM perspective, in this case, a customer accepts SLA by choosing the offered service combination rather than actually negotiating it. It is also called a service-based SLA.

Example: Google services, Netflix, network services

And what about tailored services?

Tailored service is a unique IT solution designed for a specific purpose and requirements stated by a single customer. In this type of IT service, every process and step is made with a consideration of customer needs and feedback – this allows maintaining the service on a level that is as close to customer expectations as possible.

Therefore, the SLM process for tailored IT solutions is also very extensive and involves many more representatives from both customer’s and provider’s sides on a different level compared to out-of-the-box solutions. In this case, we might deal with customer-based or multi-level types of an SLA depending on the service complexity.

SLM life cycle

Once we know the type of service, we can focus on SLM processes step by step from the start of the project till the very end.

  1. Designing an SLA framework (deciding on a proper SLA model: service-based, customer-based, or multi-level)
  2. Determining, documenting, and agreeing on requirements for new services and producing SLRs (collecting and analyzing requirements from a customer, whether an offered service can meet the expectations)
  3. Negotiating, documenting, and agreeing on SLAs for operational services (ensuring SLA is beneficial for both sides, clear, and understandable)
  4. Monitoring service performance against SLA and producing service reports (gather service statistics from previously agreed tools and prepare periodic service reports to track service performance)
  5. Conducting service reviews and introducing improvements within an overall service improvement plan (reviewing service performance together with a customer, preparing a Service Improvement plan, and ensuring both sides are involved and contribute to it)
  6. Withdrawing SLA if needed (when service ends)

Referring to these steps as a life cycle can be confusing. You might think that if a service is in the operation phase, there is no need to repeat all the steps except monitoring and conducting reviews. However, when we talk about a tailored IT solution, remember this is continuous cooperation and close interaction between a customer and a provider. That leads to a constant reconsideration of service and, as a result, to minor modifications or even significant changes. So, after the service review, there might be a need to repeat all steps from the cycle to implement changes.

Who is in charge?

There are usually the following two main characters in this story:

Service Level Manager – responsible for all the activities already discussed and described, such as managing and negotiating agreements, monitoring the SLM process life cycle, and so on.

Process Owner – responsible for more global and strategic aspects of SLM, such as:

  • Ensuring there is meaningful input from the customer into SLM processes,
  • Ensuring SLM processes not only function efficiently as an independent unit but also in relation to other processes in the organization,
  • Ensuring SLM processes stay sufficient and up-to-date in terms of technologies, costs, customer and organization needs.
SLM main challenges

As it usually happens in the IT world, Service Level Managers and Process Owners face many challenges. Let’s discuss some of them:

 

Setting up only a meaningful SLA and KPIs

In complex IT projects, there is a great temptation to set up an SLA and KPIs for every process and level for better monitoring and representation. However, we should remember that we need only informative and meaningful data to help us evaluate the service and work on its improvement – not measuring as much data as possible.

 

Setting up measurable SLA

Another important thing is to create clear and understandable SLAs, establish adequate performance metrics that are easy to use, and prevent both sides from misinterpreting and manipulating the data.

 

Keep it running

It might be assumed that Service Level Management is a one-time action performed only during the launching of a new service and that a Process Owner is not needed anymore once all SLAs are signed and the project has already started. However, IT services are repetitive, and so are SLM processes. All steps from the SLA life cycle are repeated periodically (frequency must also be defined and agreed upon) and play a crucial role in service improvement activities.

 

Identifying proper customer representatives

One should remember that customer staff of various levels have different expectations and goals to achieve using a particular IT service. This includes end-users using an application on a daily basis, data admins managing the data, and sponsors of the service – all of them have different perceptions. A Process Owner’s job is to collect business requirements from all involved customer representatives.

 

IT representation

We have already mentioned customer-side representation during the SLM management. But it would be a colossal failure if we did not say how significant the technical involvement is from the provider’s side to ensure customer expectations are delivered.

In conclusion, it is no longer a secret for you who participates in SLA negotiations, what the whole process looks like, and who is responsible for it on different levels. Moreover, now you are familiar with a few common challenges of SLM and what to do to handle them.

 

Bibliography:
  1. ITIL Service Design 2011 edition Best Management Practice
  2. ITIL 4 Service Level Management Axelos.com
  3. https://docs.microfocus.com/SM/9.60/Hybrid/Content/BestPracticesGuide_PD/ServiceLevelManagementBestPractice/Service_Level_Management_roles.htm
  4. https://www.invensislearning.com/blog/service-level-management/

Author

  • Natalia Miniailo
  • Service Manager
  • She started her professional adventure of supporting and delivering services four years ago. She joined Craftware in May 2022. Well-built communication with people in the team and with the client is the most important thing for her. In her private life, she likes spending time with her cat and a glass of wine, learning new languages and going for walks.

Editorial study
Jarosław Kozak
Text revision
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