By Antony Dutton
One of the challenges in implementing ITIL in established organisations is that they already have processes and procedures in place for the business. A new company or division of a company however is in a position to determine the services required from IT, agree service levels with the business and then implement them.
Even though some established organisations have Service Level Agreements in place, ITIL can give suggestions and guidelines to enhance the service provided.
Many organisations have processes in place – many of these having evolved from verbal to paper to system based agreements.
Often implementing a service management software system can be the opportunity to review those processes and put improvements in place based on ITIL. Sometimes it may be as simple as sticking with the process that is working and automating parts of it.
If you are coming from a paper-based system, one of the huge advantages you get immediately from putting in a service desk software tool is that you will get some level of automation. How quickly you can implement and make process gains depends on how easily configured the system is. You need to be able to change rules and change work flows easily depending on feedback from the business.
A flexible system is far easier to automate. The key to good management of a help desk solution is to be able to choose your processes and workflows that are repetitive, automate them and free up your resources for more skilled work. Successful automation allows you to restructure your resources so that you can place lower skilled resources on the front line that pass issues that cannot be resolved quickly to more skilled people.
The first challenge is to define what services you will provide. This is the same whether it is an internal business unit or external customers. Understanding what is needed to provide that service then naturally flows. For example, how many resources are needed? If there are problems or the service needs to be changed, how will I respond?
Once services are defined, service level agreements (SLA) must be established and these set expectations. For many customers, the SLA is often “yesterday or as soon as possible”. The challenge for IT is in understanding all the parts needed to provide that service. What is often overlooked is the flow on agreements that must be in place. You need to understand who are your partners and suppliers that are involved in the service chain and how will they meet your requirements before agreeing to any SLA with the business.
Agreeing service levels without knowing all the facts to deliver a service is a recipe for failure, but unfortunately this is all too common.
For example, if you are providing an email service, supported by an email server. In the event of server failure, your agreement with your supplier is to fix or replace within 24 hours. However, if your customer needs their email back within 1 hour, there is a high likelihood that you will be 23 hours outside of your SLA. In this case, other resources must be considered, such as a backup email server. With the additional server, the cost to provide your email service must increase – based on your customer requirement. The decision then is placed back on your customer with the facts of providing the service. Traditionally, your customers might have had the view that “it just needs to be working” and disregard the cost to deliver the service.
This puts the focus and onus back onto the business: “if I want this, then I have to pay this much for it”. Traditionally, business/customers say “but this should just happen, I’m the customer and it just needs to work”. But they’re not looking at how much they are paying for that service. ITIL best practice highlights the need to get the facts before making any commitments.
Communication between IT and your customers is vital. Merely looking at the business / IT interfaces without going back through the components of the service chain is not good practice. Today, as businesses evolve and more stringent needs are required, process reviews are taking place and agreements renegotiated with customers.
About the Author: Antony Dutton is CEO of Aaromba Technologies. Using best of breed technology and methodologies, Aaromba provides solutions to improve sales and marketing including CRM software, Service Management Software and customer service with ITIL Service Desk and Service Desk Software.
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