tisdag 25 juni 2013

Why an SLA does NOT give you IT Service Management

IT Service Management .... what does it stand for? If we take a quick look at Wikipedia it says that it "refers to the implementation and management of quality IT services that meet the needs of the business". What does that actually mean? That IT should implement something AND manage it in a way that meet the needs of a business. So what are the business needs then? Well, how long is a rope?

That a business has goals i guess is a no brainer. But what are the business needs? What is IT's contribution in this? if we take a closer look at business goals, where do we end up concerning IT? If the business is using IT to try to achieve their goals, IT should measure the business ability to do so. Is it not the only thing that matters? If business is achieving their goals to a certain level, IT's responsibility should be to provide better ways of doing just that or more. Try to wright that in an SLA. 

If the business has a target and that target is reached, is everything OK? it should right? Even if IT did a terrible job it is still good, or? Is it only OK if the business targets was reached but if they where not it is ITs fault?

IT need to stop acting like we are a grocery store and as long as people buy the groceries everything is OK. If our store customers comes home, tries to cook a dinner and it tastes awful would they blame the grocery store? Of course not. Why? Because we did not promise it would, and why would we? We are in the grocery business, not cooking business, right? But what would happen if we, as a grocery store, suddenly said that if you purchase your groceries from our stores your dinner will taste grate. Do you think we would get any complaints? I think we would drown in complaints. So lets apply some SLA to this grocery scenario. In the SLA we wright about store availability (open hours to do purchases) and bags for carrying, variety of available recipes with instructions, warranty of certain groceries etc. Would the dinners taste any better? I guess not. Even if we actually deliver every part included in our service the food would probably not taste better that the chefs ability to cook. The goal here is to have good tasting food but what are the needs? One customer is a decent chef but cant read so every time he cooks he mixes in the wrong ingredients and the result is a dinner that tastes bad. Another customer gets everything right except the heat on the stove so everything gets burnt and tastes awful. Same goal but totally different needs.

So how do we solve this? With an SLA? An SLA that is IT centric (availability, response times etc.) will never ever be in the interest or main focus of a business. So how about an SLA that is business centric? Well now we are getting somewhere, or? Lets do as in our grocery store and promise good tasting food. That should do it, right. I guess not. The question is how do we measure the chefs ability to cook. If we can quantify that in any format or way we are getting someware. That would help us to see if IT's improvments actually improves what really is in the business focus and interest, their ability to cook. Service management is about caring, behavior and culture, not about availability and response times.

One thing that we can decide on, and count on to happen is that the goals and needs of a business will always change. As soon as we have helped somebody with one thing another thing will appear as a new week point that needs to be managed/handled/improved. Today almost everything, in one way or the other, involves IT. Does that mean that we will have to deal with everything eventually? I do not know but i know one thing, an SLA will not give you IT Service Management so if you are pursuing that, start by going to your business and ask them if there is something that they think you could do to make their life easier when trying to acomplish their goals and then really try hard to do it. Then you are actually doing Service Management even without and SLA.

3 kommentarer:

  1. Hi Mika

    great thoughts!

    As an addition to you views:

    The business goal is making (more) money in some ways.

    A business analyst breaks down that goal into strategic needs, e.g. rationalising logistics, redesign of the product, increasing staff skills. Take for example the last one:

    The business need is increased skills. The strategic decision may be online courses for the staff. We then arrive to the requirement to IT to support that, by means of delivering a service package to enable that.

    For the IT organisation the business need is simply to manage that IT service. And here we actually CAN define an SLA with availability, capacity, security, continuity, etc.

    So I feel that there still is room for SLA within Service Management.

  2. Absolutely, good point. I do not say that an SLA is useless. I just say that the traditional way a SLA is used does not give us IT Service Management. We need to stop measuring IT outcomes and start to measure business outcomes and IT´s contribution to that. Then the followup is actually interesting from a business point of view. Thanks for your comments.

  3. I agree, but the business outcome measurement does not necessary have to be done on the IT side - I'd say it should be the business analyst's job to do that - and then it is not an SLA measurement anymore, but something else. For what I know, there even might already be a name for this measurement. Would be worthwhile to find out.