SLM: What's in it for IT?

I have been asked several times recently why IT should want to get involved with service-level management. What are the benefits?

Most people have little trouble recognizing the costs an IT organization might incur by implementing SLM. They also do not find it to be a great intellectual leap to recognize that there could be some associated risks. But some find the benefits of SLM harder to grasp.

This is an important question and is something I always address in my seminars, so the answer seems obvious to me. When I was recently asked about the benefits, my first reaction was to retrieve the most relevant newsletter article and send it to the person asking. However, when I searched my files, I was surprised to discover that I had never addressed this question in any of these SLM articles. While space does not permit an in-depth look at the answer, I will give a brief overview now.

There are many benefits from SLM, but they can be distilled into two key points: achieving higher client satisfaction and delivering greater value to the business.

Client satisfaction can be very elusive. If clients' expectations are not met, they are not going to be happy. However, satisfying clients can be a tricky thing. Many are conscious of what their expectations for service are, but in negotiating service-level agreements (SLA), the clients are forced to define their requirements. The level defined in the SLA becomes their expectation. Now it is much easier to meet their expectations and to show that those expectations have been met.

Delivering greater value to the business is something of an all-encompassing goal. Broadly, it can be said that business value is realized by either reducing costs or increasing revenue.

Let's look at just a couple of the ways in which SLM can help to drive down costs. First, by embracing SLM, it is possible to achieve more efficient operations and thus reduce operating costs. Also, when SLAs are established, there is a clear objective for the level of service to be delivered. Without SLAs, IT managers are forced to try to second-guess their users' requirements for service. This second-guessing often results in overstaffing and overprovisioning (that is, building an environment with significant excess capacity). With a well-defined SLA in place, this guesswork, and associated costs, can be held to a minimum, resulting in savings to the business.

IT is often not thought of as a contributor to the revenue side of the business. However, with SLM it can make a contribution. SLM can provide a competitive differentiator, leading to more deals. Remember that SLM is more than just an SLA. It is a process for ensuring the required level of service is delivered effectively and efficiently. Applying that concept to e-business or e-commerce, it is possible to recognize how it can result in more transactions being completed, rather than lost to competitors.

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