Service Level Management


Take a comfortable seat because this article about Service Level Management is going to be quite in-depth. This Service Management practice is something you need to know really well for the purposes of the ITIL 4 exam. The purpose of the service level management practice is to set clear business-based targets for service performance so that the delivery of a service can be properly assessed, monitored, and managed against these targets. Service level management provides you with end to end visibility of your organization's services.

This is done by establishing a shared view of the services and the target service levels with your customers, so both your customers and you know what to expect. The focus will be on collecting, analyzing, storing, and reporting the relevant metrics to ensure that you're meeting the service levels. You'll want to make sure that you're performing service level reviews to ensure the current services continue to meet your organization's and customer's needs. You are going to make sure that you're capturing and reporting service issues including performance against your defined service levels. Say you want to have 99.999% uptime; service level management is going to measure your performance and see if you are meeting that level.


All of these service levels are going to be written down in what's known as an SLA, or a Service Level Agreement. A Service Level Agreement is a documented agreement between a service provider and a customer that identifies services required and the expected level of service. This is going to tell you what metrics are to be met. The SLA is a tool that's used to measure the performance of services from the customer's point of view. To have a successful SLA, first you want to make sure it's related to a defined service. So, it can't be something that is generalized like just saying, "Customer is happy." What is the customer happy with? They might be happy with the email service delivery. They want it to be fast, but what does fast really mean? You need to make sure you're defining the outcome you want, not just operational metrics. So, if your customer says, "I want the "email to be fast", does that mean if you get it there in five seconds, they're happy, or if you get it there in five minutes, they're happy? You need to be able to define what fast really means. All of this is not just done from an output perspective, but also from an outcome perspective.

You'll also have to make sure your agreement reflects the service provider's and the service consumer's opinions accurately. Because if the customer says, "The email service should be fast" and the service provider says five minutes is fast, but the customer would think that it needs to be five seconds fast, there's a disconnect there. You want to make sure you understand it both from the service provider's and the service consumer's perspective, because that's really what the SLA should be focused on.


The final key to writing a good SLA is making sure you write it simply. Make sure that it's easy to understand by all parties involved. This isn't a contract; it doesn't need to be written with legal jargon. Instead, make it simple and easy, so that anyone who picks it up can understand what you're talking about. When you are writing your SLAs, you always want to be focused on the different relationships including relationship management, your supplier management, the different skills and competencies within your organization, the business liaisons, and the business analysts. All of these are things that are going to feed into your SLA, making sure you understand who's responsible for what, and to what level.

Your service level management is built around various information sources. One of those is customer engagement and the agreement you have. Other things that you have is your customer engagement, where you are listening to your customer’s needs. You are discovering and capturing the information you want from them. You want to get the measurement and the ongoing process discussions with them. Simple open-ended questions are asked to get information, from your service desk or customer liaisons. From these, you can get a lot of the information you need to build a good service level management program.


Afterwards, get customer feedback. It can be in the form of a survey, or simply looking at key business-related measures and metrics. You might need to look at some operational metrics, like server uptime and capacity or business metrics, like monthly recurring revenue, or lifetime value of a customer. All of these can go into this service level management, as something that feeds into this practice.

To see how this affects your value chain activity, look back at the plan activity. In the plan activity, your service level management is going to support the planning of your products, service portfolio, and service offerings. Because all the information you get about the actual service performance and trends is going to feed into all that planning. When you think about it from the improve perspective, service level management can be a driving force for continual improvement and service improvement. This can be seen when talking about the different steps of the continual improvement model of ITIL 4. You measure things, and then see if you've met those targets.


When thinking about engage, service level management ensures you have ongoing engagement with your customers and users through the feedback processes, and continually get information from them for review. From a design and transition perspective, service level management provides an input to the design and development of new and changed services. If the customer wants fast email, that's going to be less than five second delivery, then you need to design a system that can meet that requirement. So, this is going to be an input to that.

In obtain and build, service level management provides objectives for components and service performance, as well as measurement and reporting capabilities for the products and services you use. Obtain and build is going to get a lot of input from service level management. Finally, in deliver and support, service level management communicates the service performance objectives to the operations and support teams, so they know what they're trying to maintain. It's also going to collect information and feedback from them as an input back into the service level management and service improvements that you're going to do in the future.


Service level management is all about these measures and metrics. Setting up the right ones and doing engagement with the customer to make sure you're measuring the right things and seeing if you're going to meet those measurements.


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