Reporting and the Service Management Plateau

The problem with reporting is that quite often we think of it AFTER we are providing a service. We may speak to what the service can do in terms of expectations (SLA, SLR or OLA) beforehand, however the nuts and bolts of how the service is “doing” hasn’t really be thought out in detail. This may lead to some reporting inaccuracies which are their own challenge.

The title of this blog speaks of the service management plateau, by this I am referring to the way that we continue to manage our services, day in and day out, for the most part as effectively as we planned. The challenge is that when we want to take service to the next level we seem to hit an invisible barrier, or there are areas for improvement that seem just past our grasp. The reason for this is not that we are not doing the right things; one of the reasons is that we are continuing to look at this from the same perspectives month after month. The invisible barrier is the things that we didn’t take into account when we look at our current service challenges. One of these is the way we report on the service we provide.

The first inclination is to start gathering information in vast quantities so that we can make better decisions and identify where we can make some improvements, the more information we have the better right? Well, in my opinion while being able to pull information is great if we are not doing anything with it we are no better off that we were before we started collecting volumes of information.

One of the other challenges with reporting is that it has to actually reflect the customer experience. This is why starting simple and validating the data with those that it actually impacts is so important. For example let’s assume we start with the number of service outages (critical incidents) and their duration. In our initial reports it looks as though the service has been available 100% for the past 2 months, no critical incidents and no outages. Now we need to present this information to our customers and validate the accuracy, depending on the organization this may already be happening but if it’s not, starting a good dialog on how to improve service delivery is important.

After meeting with our business they tell us a different tale about their service altogether. From their perspective the service has been unavailable every Tuesday morning for 10 to15 minutes. The business continues to outline that they have seen this issue before, and generally it goes away after a few moments so they haven’t escalated it for the past couple of months. Which correlate to the fact that that there have been no reported critical incidents….

This breakdown in process is a problem. The dialog which has now been generated, however, has given us a unique opportunity to enable improvements in many areas. It will now allow us to find areas for escalation improvement within the incident process, it will allow us to tailor the way we look at our infrastructure for this service through monitoring, and it will help us to determine how problem management could get involved to assist in root cause diagnosis for these Tuesday outages.

It is in these small steps that we can continue to make improvements and then discuss them with those who matter most – the business.