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ITIL® Service Level Management – Managing Expectations and Delivering Customer Satisfaction

As the global recession continues to bite and competition becomes increasingly fierce, it’s more important than ever that IT departments provide both value for money and high levels of customer satisfaction.

Whilst achieving this is never easy, implementing ITIL® aligned Service Level Management will go a long way towards ensuring that technology divisions can successfully and cost effectively deliver quality services to their business.

ITIL Best Practice

ITIL is the Information Technology Infrastructure Library® – a best practice framework which provides a systematic approach to the delivery of quality IT services. The ITIL Service Lifecycle consists of five stages, which follow the natural lifecycle of an IT service: Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and Continual Service Improvement.

Service Level Management

IT Service Level Management (SLM) falls under the Service Design stage and is arguably the most important ITIL discipline of all. SLM not only ensures that current and future levels of IT services are documented and agreed upon, it also makes certain that they are consistently achieved and improved upon. For as Donald Porter (V.P. of British Airways) once said, ‘Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.’

Service Level Management is the primary interface with the business and as such, plays a vital role in managing client expectations (after all, you get what you pay for) and achieving high levels of customer satisfaction. Service Level Managers must therefore be skillful negotiators, with a talent for effective communication. Service Level Management is greatly dependent on a number of other ITIL processes too, and Service Level Managers typically collaborate extensively with their counterparts in Availability Management, Capacity Management, Incident Management, Problem Management, and Financial Management.

Key SLM Activities:

  • Identification of business requirements
  • Translation of business requirements into tangible IT specifications
  • Establishment of service scope including hours of operation, availability, service support provision and service performance
  • Creation and ongoing maintenance of the IT Service Catalog, which contains customer information on available IT services and pricing
  • Creation, negotiation and refinement of Service Level Agreements (SLAs), which are agreements between the IT Service Provider and the customer, describing the service, agreed Service Level Targets, and the responsibilities of the IT Service Provider and the customer
  • Creation, negotiation and refinement of Operational Level Agreements (OLAs), which are agreements between the IT Service Provider and other parts of the same organization (e.g., agreed Incident resolution times between the Service Desk and IT Support)
  • Creation, negotiation and refinement of Underpinning Contracts (UCs), which are contracts between the IT Service Provider and Third Party Service Providers
  • Implementation, monitoring and ongoing management of SLAs, OLAs and UCs
  • Measurement of SLA performance and the provision of management information
  • Gap analysis of business requirements and current service
  • Formal identification of Service Improvements (SLM is the cornerstone of Continual Service Improvement)
  • Planning for service growth in consultation with Capacity Management
  • Costs of services and recovery of costs in partnership with Financial Management

Benefits of Implementing ITIL SLM

Implementing an efficient Service Level Management process will result in a demonstrable increase in customer satisfaction and a significantly greater value for the business. This is achieved through:

  • Better understanding between the business and IT and increased visibility of IT contribution to the business
  • Improved expectation management by agreeing upon service and measuring, monitoring and reporting on it
  • Enhanced understanding of both IT and business roles and responsibilities, which boosts productivity and lowers labor costs
  • Cost effective IT services, which are specifically designed to meet Service Level Requirements and focus on business priorities
  • Continual Service Improvement, a proactive approach that also allows IT services to change and adapt as and when the organization requires, resulting in increased business flexibility
  • More accurate infrastructure sizing based on clearly defined Service Levels
  • Improved ability to mitigate and even avoid costs associated with excess or insufficient capacity
  • Greater overall discipline in supporting internal and external IT services


About this author:

Angel Prusinowski

Angel is a leading ITIL® instructor at Ashford Global IT.

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