SLA's, OLA's, Contracts and Self-Service - Where are the Hotspots?

You may remember a few articles ago that we covered the the basics of the "business adapter" layer and talked about process standardization, in the context of Service Delivery.

Click here if you need a refresher.

In today's article we explore the topics of Service Level Agreements, Operational Level Agreements, Contracts and something critical that's invasive on your ability to deliver a defined service to your business - technology enabled self-service.

We have highlighted additional quality links for you to click through to - if you need to know the detail about the three terms, and the differences between them.

HotSpot #1 - Correctly Defining Your SLA.

It is ESSENTIAL that your SLA is clearly and correctly defined, drawn up, agreed to and implemented in the knowledge that your Service delivery Organisation is geared up to deliver to these specifications - from day one. In your Customer's eyes a Service Delivery organization is often only as good as it's last mistake. With the focus firmly on the ability of your delivery organization's capability to execute to agreed standards - you really are in the spotlight from day one. Many delivery functions may temporarily 'gear up' to assure delivery to standards in the early days/weeks. This over resourcing may seem excessive but it will help to overcome minor teething challenges in the early days - especially when you execute against items in the SLA for the first time in the 'real world' e.g. month end SLA reporting.

To assist in the clear definition and agreement to the SLA - most delivery organizations now temporarily employ the services of an "intelligent business representative" - someone who has all round knowledge of the business operation that can critique the content of the SLA and ask tough questions in advance of the SLA being signed. The business representative will assist in clearly drawing up the SLA in business terms; something that usually the business has little time (and inclination) to do in-depth and, if we're honest, something that the IT Service Organization often struggles with due to a lack of detailed business process knowledge. Overall, this is an extremely effective way of 'future thinking' and often prevents issues before they impact your business... and your own organizations credibility.

HotSpot #2 - The hidden 'Overlap' between OLA's and Contracts.

Like it or not - there are conflicts of interest and hidden overlaps (in terms of people and time) between your OLA's and Contracts (delivered by Vendors).

This is an area that the next version of ITIL will help to resolve since the forthcoming new books will be written to address the very real challenges of internal V's external sourcing, when to outsource and operating in a multi-sourced environment.

The key overlap lies with your internal technical and service folks. Oftentimes they are drawn between two simultaneous pressures:- servicing the internal OLA's and supporting/liaising with suppliers against their contract delivery. If you view your organizations people/staffing structure and place a yellow dot against anyone involved in OLA's and then place an orange dot against anyone involved in supporting suppliers (in their ability to deliver agaisnt their contract) - then you may be surprised just how much this pressure is apparent in your organization. Ask your technical support manager to perform the same exercise and he may tell you a more interesting story!

To address this pressure you may wish to review:- separation of duties, assurance of vendors call on internal people's time and the extent that this overlap actually exists in your organization.

Hotspot #3 - The Control of Technology Enabled Self-Service.

Finally, we come to a more modern phenomenon - the evolution and rapid integration of self-service technology. This is the technology that your businesses true-end Customers use everyday to fulfill their requirements (in full or in part) as a result of dealing with your business.

Pseudo-Technology organizations have been breeding in business units like rabbits around such applications as automated ticketing, ARU's, Booth's and loyalty card systems for the past five years now. Get back-to-the-floor for a day and ascertain what percentage of your IT support team effort is spent on underpinning or indirectly supporting these pseudo business/technology organizations. Perhaps it's time that your Service Delivery Organization re-gained control and absorbed the pseudo-technology resources (from the business areas) back into the core of your IT / Technology Division?

Additional (and useful!) Resources:-

Steve Morgan – PTS Consulting - an excellent presentation pack on Operational Level Agreements; how difficult they are to implement; OLA content and How to Implement OLA's. (via the itSMF):-

SLAs and Internal Contracts - an article from "beneath the buzz"; "Forming clear agreements for services and projects, the basis for accountability, teamwork, and resource management"; what goes into SLA's and Contracts:-

Microsoft – Technet - Service Level Agreements; an excellent resource; in depth details of SLA's and Operational Level Agreements:-

Online Self-Service – Excellent Article; benefits of Self Service; Self Service Myths:-

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