Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Service Level Management – The Gap between Delivery and Expectation


At some point in the delivery of service to your customers the formalization of a service agreement has either been implemented or in other cases may have only been discussed. In either case identifying what makes the service function is going to be paramount in order to identify and eliminate gaps in the ability to deliver a consistent customer experience.


The customer you support operates through processes which in one way or another are reliant on IT services. Effectively the SLA is the clarity for the customer deliverables. Think of this in these terms, your service is supported by something. Take this diagram for example, even if you remove one or two columns you still might be able to support the service but inevitably at some point there won’t be enough support to keep the thing from falling over. From an IT perspective we need to know what all the ‘columns’ are.

As an IT unit we now understand what is making this service work, for the most part. The next question we have to ask ourselves is how well is the service operating?

Think about the level of reporting your IT organization currently leverages. Does it report on the service as a whole or the underlying components of the service. Before I get too far ahead of myself while thinking about the output as a service is important we must not forget to remember that there are pieces which make it operate. This also includes understanding how our OLA’s and any underpinning contracts (UC) work to support them as well where they exist. We should be able to report on our ability to provide this service weekly. This way should there be something which might impact the delivery of service we are in a position to respond quickly to address any concerns. If these don't exist in a formal way they are likely being done via best effort and should be documented to review for improvements from a consistency perspective down the line.

Customer satisfaction can be a tricky thing to gage, so the next part will require good dialog with your customer.

Some might say that satisfaction is in the mind of the beholder. A potential gap may exist when we (IT) report against what we think services are doing and what the customers experience truly is.  In some cases the gap is larger than we originally thought. For example we showed that there was no outage at site x last month but in reality there were several outages that were never reported. This is where good discussion with the customers allows your Service Level Manager, or someone accountable to that role to ensure that we are reviewing the way we provide this service. While our customer may not need to know how we provide service we need to be able to better understand the challenges that face our customers so we can address them and work towards providing a consistent customer experience.

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