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How to establish Service Level Agreements from scratch

October 17, 2008

Although it might be possible to conduct a comprehensive review of absolutely everything in the IT environment across all lines of business, this is neither desirable nor necessary. What is most important is to identify those capabilities that the business itself sees as critical and also to look for areas of IT that are considered to be particularly weak. These areas can be elicited from the business using a number of techniques such as user surveys, group discussions and management reviews.

Using these as a starting point, you should be prepared to take a notes, sit down with individuals in the lines of business and find out the answers to such questions as:

  • What services are they using? It is important to get the business perspective on this (Example: ‘I use the sales tracking service’), but given the history of technology components rather than services being delivered, do not be surprised if individuals refer to ‘systems’ or ‘databases.’
  • What are the expectations on each service? For example, are any activities seen as business critical, and what impact does this have for service delivery (Example: ‘I couldn’t do without e-mail on Friday, that’s when we send out the supplier reports’.)
  • Are particular services unsatisfactory, and are there any problems which have a negative business impact? (Example: ‘The colour printer hasn’t worked for 2 weeks, so we haven’t been able to send out brochures’.)
  • What is the status of each service in terms of project delivery? (Example: ‘The quality of customer data is poor and we were promised an upgrade 2 months ago’.)
  • How is the IT department perceived in terms of each service? (Example: ‘Generally when there’s a problem with the software somebody comes to fix it straight away, but if it’s hardware, you have to wait a week’.)
  • Are there dependencies between services? (Example: ‘If there are problems with inventory management then we can’t process orders fast enough’.)
  • Are there opportunities for service improvement? (Example: ‘If the sales system was down every Tuesday evening rather than Saturday evenings that would be great, because it’s the busiest time for online orders’.)

It is important to focus on those services that are considered ‘core’: these are the ones the business cannot do without to support its day-to-day activities. Achieving a consistent level of information is very important – one person’s critical system will be unimportant to others, so be prepared to analyse the results, revisit areas that are unclear and broker an agreement between different lines of business.

The result of the exercise is a high-level picture of business expectations of the services it deems critical, how well those expectations are being met and the priority services to focus on. You should be prepared to present the results back to the business, for review and feedback. While the results may be disappointing in some cases, this serves to further the dialogue; also, quite frankly, it leaves the IT organisation with no place to hide. Once the priority services have been identified and agreed, there will be little excuse for not treating them.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jason Garret permalink
    December 26, 2008 9:10 pm

    Agentless service management is the way forward. Take a look at JaxView wsm tool for SLA policy enforcement

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