Continual Service Improvement

1Introduction 2Serv. Mgmt. 3Principles 4Process 5Methods 6Organization 7Consideration 8Implementation 9Issues AAppendeces

4. Continual Service Management Processes



Service Level Management (SLM) is critical for CSI. SLM activities support The 7-Step Improvement Process in that the SLM should drive what to measure, defining monitoring requirements, reporting Service Level Achievements and working with the business to understand new service requirements or changes to existing services. This provides input into CSI activities and helps prioritize improvement projects. Even though SLM is critical for many organizations it is often one of the least mature processes.

Service Level Management can be described in two words: building relationships. That is building relations with IT customers, building relationships between functional groups within IT, and building relationships with the vendor community who provide services to IT. Service Level Management is so much more than simply a SLA.

Many people have worked in organizations where management and/or the business refuse to sign any document that will commit anyone to a level of service.

This leads many organizations to think that they cannot implement Service Level Management, but they are wrong. You can still build relationships with your customers by meeting with them on a consistent basis. Share with them your Service Level Achievements, and discuss any future new services or requirements. Having knowledge about what they need doesn't necessarily mean they get it, but it is surely better than not knowing what they need at all.

Even without any formal SLAs or OLAs, an organization can still strive to improve the services they provide to its customers. Every organization already has three types of SLAs in place whether they know it or not. The first is an explicit SLA and this is one of the goals of SLM, to get a formal document that clearly defines the service provided, levels of service, quality of service and cost of the service. Everyone understands their responsibilities. The second type of SLA is the implicit SLA. This is based on how you have provided service in the past. If you provide good service the customers expect good service. If you improve on your service, then this becomes the new minimal level expected. Also if you have provided poor service in the past then your customers will actually expect poor service. Implicit SLAs are difficult to manage. The third type is psychological SLAs. They are often associated with the Service Desk where we publish information to the end users often by putting a sticker on their monitor or other piece of equipment that basically says: 'If you need help, please call xxxxxx'. In the mind of the end user this creates a psychological agreement in that all the end user has to do is call the Service Desk and they will get help. We all know how there are still some Service Desks and help desks that provide less than ideal help.

CSI plays a part in all three types of SLAs. If they are formal, then it will take a more formal approach to service improvement. If they fall in the other areas it may be less formal, but still very important and improvement opportunities have to be reviewed.

Service Level Management is essential in any organization so that the levels of IT service needed to support the business can be determined, and monitoring can be initiated to identify whether the required service levels are being achieved - and if not, why not. SLM is a cornerstone of CSI. Why embark on any service improvement initiative if the customers and the business are satisfied with the levels of service received? Because business requirements change!

4.6.1 Goal for SLM
The goal for SLM is to maintain and improve the IT service quality through a constant cycle of agreeing, monitoring and reporting upon IT service achievements and instigation of actions to eradicate poor service - in line with business or cost justification. Through these methods, a better relationship between IT and its customers can be developed and maintained.

First, what is quality? Is a RolexTM watch costing thousands of pounds necessarily a better product than a Timex watch costing less than fifty pounds? Both products are leaders in their market segments and both are very good products in their own rights. The major difference is the price. The answer to the above question lies in the goal of the customer. If the customer wants to impress their friends, then a Rolex is probably a better choice but if the customer wants to keep track of time to keep up with their busy schedule of picking up the kids, appointments etc. then a Timex is probably more appropriate. A good enough definition of quality is 'fitness for purpose' and fits very well with the above example.

The SLM process is created in the Service Design stage of the lifecycle and is fully documented in that publication. It is important the CSI is involved in the design of SLM to ensure that measurable targets are created from which to identify potential service improvements.

4.6.2 Service Improvement Plan
The SLM process is one of the triggers for a service improvement plan (SIP) as part of CSI and can be the result of the service review activity. A SIP is a formal plan to implement improvements to a process or IT service. A SIP is managed as part of the Continual Service Improvement process.

Where an underlying difficulty has been identified which is adversely impacting upon service quality, Service Level Management must, in conjunction with CSI (and possibly using Problem Management (see Service Operation publication) and Availability Management (see Service Design publication), instigate a SIP to identify and implement whatever actions are necessary to overcome the difficulties and restore service quality. Further guidance on this and the specific techniques that might be used can be found throughout this publication. SIP initiatives may also focus on such issues as user training, system testing and documentation. In these cases the relevant people need to be involved and adequate feedback given to make improvements for the future. At any time, a number of separate initiatives that form part of the SIP may be running in parallel to address difficulties with a number of services.

Some organizations have established an up-front annual budget held by SLM from which SIP initiatives can be funded. This means that action can be undertaken quickly and that SLM is demonstratively effective. This practice should be encouraged and expanded to enable SLM to become increasingly proactive and predictive.

If an organization is outsourcing its service provision to a third party, the issue of service improvement should be discussed at the outset and covered (and budgeted for) in the contract, otherwise there is no incentive during the lifetime of the contract for the supplier to improve service targets if they are already meeting contractual obligations and additional expenditure is needed to make the improvements.

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