View from the Director’s Chair April 2013: Service level agreements: do they help or hinder?

This month’s blog concentrates on a particular topic which formed the main focus of our last IT Community of Practice meeting. I’d like to thank all those who contributed their ideas and suggestions on this, many of which are reflected in the summary which follows. 

IT Services uses SLAs for some of the enhanced, chargeable, services it provides to schools and departments and is looking at how these could be used for the standard core services as well.

IT Services is also reviewing the ITS Help service and is considering changing the priorities and expected response times for dealing with faults.  We are also looking at using more of the processes and terminology detailed in the ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) framework.  In addition, the current workflow management (Remedy) needs to be replaced.

In the new tool, we will be looking at separating reports of faults (something that impacts your ability to work or “incidents” in ITIL terms) from “requests” for something new or a change (e.g. new telephone extension, coordinating PC and phone moves when moving office, new software installation) as the expected response times could well be different between the two.  For example, a request for assistance with an office move should be made in good time before the move takes place, whereas a non-working PC should be looked at promptly.  Some requests for new services could also involve working with other University departments or teams and are really subject to project management methodologies.

The suggested new Priority, Response and Resolution targets are:

Priority

Target Response

Target Resolution

Critical(Reserved for Major Incidents) Immediate 100% within 1 working day
Urgent 100% within 1 working hour 80% within 1 working day
High 100% within 1 working day 80% within 3 working days
Normal 100% within 2 working days 80% within 5 working days
Requests for services As agreed As agreed

 

These are likely to be challenging targets for IT Services but, looking at historic data from the ITS Remedy system, we are not that far short of meeting them.  However, under the proposed prioritisation scheme, more tickets will not be in the “Normal” priority which will mean that a quicker response is needed.

IT Services note that some teams (e.g. the Digital Development Team) are dependent on IT Services to deliver some of their own services and that this impacts on service delivery levels. It may also be useful for other University departments to provide SLA’s.

Frequently, customers don’t know where to route queries for University IT systems (e.g. finance, student records) and so think that they need to contact IT Services in the first instance. To help with this, ITS Help are happy to pass calls on for you, but in the event of a misrouted ticket, the recipient of the query should be able to route the request to the correct service owner.

Some other questions that IT Services are considering include:

  • The possibility of having different SLAs for staff and students
  • Dealing with 24/7 support requests
  • Could IT Services have different response rates for those with service contracts (e.g. desktop support contracts)?
  • Some things that IT Services might see as a request actually might prevent another department from delivering their service
  • Are there any penalties for not meeting the SLA target?
  • What about the 20% of tickets that aren’t resolved within the target resolution period?  How quickly will they get resolved?
  • What are sensible lead times for requests?  Last minute requests divert resources from other work, some of which may have been scheduled with other customers
  • When (and by whom) can the priorities of incidents be changed?
  • For both incidents and requests, customers need to be informed of expected turn round times.
  • When IT Services staff close a ticket because they think that the incident or request is resolved, the customer needs to be consulted and informed.
  • For requests that will involve a charge, customers need to be provided with an estimate in advance so that they can make an informed choice on whether to commission the work.

 

IT Services also note that service level agreements are two way – there should be certain requirements on the customer such as providing reasonable access to a PC to investigate and fix a problem.

 

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