IT services management director explains why SLAs fail

Service level management key contributor to successful service level agreements.

Poor-quality or ineffective service level agreements (SLAs) are usually the direct result of inadequate service level management (SLM), according to itSMFA's director of publications Karen Ferris.

Speaking at the IT Service Management Forum Australia (itSMFA) last week, Ferris explained the pitfalls and missteps that can lead to ineffective SLAs.

According to Ferris, SLAs can fail for a variety of reasons, ranging from over-complex documentation to unrealistic or unclear goals and expectations.

But whatever the reason the cause is usually a fault of the underlying management structure.

"It's not the SLAs themselves that fail - they're just documents. It's the actual service level management (SLM) process itself that lets us down."

One way to almost guarantee a poor SLM implementation, Ferris said, is to implement SLM for the wrong reasons.

"If you're on a SLM journey or looking at improving SLM, [you need to ask yourself] what is the driver for your organisation?"

According to Ferris, one reason SLM is often poorly implemented is when the management style is adopted by organisations with no need for it.

For example, if your organisation is looking at adopting SLM merely because a consultant recommended it, you are implementing SLM for the wrong reason.

"That's not a driver for doing SLM," Ferris said.

On the other hand, an organisation with poor customer satisfaction is a perfect candidate for SLM.

Likewise, organisations which outsource IT services should consider SLM a far greater priority than organisations which handle IT in-house.

Even organisations that are a perfect fit for SLM should be aware that while SLAs can help improve the quality of IT services in places that quality is lacking, it can also create boundaries where before there were none, Ferris says.

"Where you may have had shared responsibility. sharing of ideas and free-flowing communication, you could be replacing that flexibility with some rigidity."

And one of the key reasons SLM fails is if it's implemented too selectively, or at the wrong place in an organisation's management structure.

"SLM is the key interface between technology and the business. SLM in the wrong place in the organisation can make or break the relationship with your customers," she said.

"SLM has to be at the forefront of your organisation, [and] needs to sit horizontally across all the components that make up delivery of service."

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