The other day during a #itsmbig4 twitter chat the subject of SLA’s as they relate to CSI came up, which got me to think about this topic a little further.
So where does this tie in to CSI? As the name suggests we are always looking to improve service but in order to start doing this effectively we need to discuss where we are today with all our stakeholders in IT and the business. To simplify this discussion on some level let’s look at this from 3 basic stages in SLA maturity; No formal SLA’s, SLA’s established in IT and formal SLA’s established with the business.
In this stage of the game IT has services which they are supporting, likely with a best effort mentality. The level of service to your business may be considered adhoc as there is no direction on how best to provide support for a multitude of services. From a CSI perspective you really need to understand which service(s) is critical to the business in an effort to prioritize them from a support perspective. Just because there is no formal SLA established, doesn’t mean that there isn’t one in existence on some level. Your support teams may just ‘know’ that the corporate website is a critical service and treat it as such. I would imagine that the business has some expectation either way that the service is going to be available for them to utilize. Even if you initially have no agreements, building a framework of dialog will allow you to improve delivery to service through an understanding of what the business needs are.
The challenge here is that the SLA is an IT assumption on what they believe the business requires. There may be an expectation from IT that all services require a standard uptime of 99% for example. This may be valid to a degree however the challenge is that we still are making assumptions on what the business needs without engaging them directly. Being able to do that will allow IT to adjust their OLAs to ensure effective service delivery.
In some cases we may have formal SLA’s set up with our business. The challenge here is that we ensure not only that we manage these in a balanced way but that they are constantly reviewed to remain valid over time. A balance support means that it can become very easy to bulk up on your incident management to ensure that issues are resolved as quickly as possible but make sure that you are looking at the cause of these issues in the first place. As I have mentioned before issues which repeat themselves can have a negative impact to the business even if they seem small and insignificant. Ten repeat issues which last 10 minutes are the same as a major outage which lasts 100 minutes. When you have a strong understanding of the service and are supporting it in an effective way you will be better able to agree to terms of service with comfort that you can cover what you agree to. All too often we set an arbitrary target for some level of 99% and we tend to coast once we maintain that level. The CSI question should ask what we are doing to continually improve our service delivery. We should think about reviewing the SLA’s with the business on a regular timeframe as their requirements of the service may change.