Getting your arms around the concept of service-level management can be tricky. Too often the tendency is to assume SLM begins and ends with the crafting of service-level agreements. But SLM takes into account how multiple components work together, and this holistic view is critical to meeting business demands.To explore the ins and outs of SLM, Network World is hosting a multicity technology tour on the topic, visiting New York; Chicago; Richardson, Texas; and San Francisco beginning Feb. 4. Rick Sturm, president of Enterprise Management Associates, and I will be joined on the tour by leading SLM vendors, including Computer Associates, Compuware, HP, Metilinx, Micromuse and Smarts.By its definition, SLM is the process of managing network services so they consistently meet client requirements. SLAs are merely the contracts that help you guarantee delivery of those services.To develop an SLM process, you first need to understand what your client expects of you, whether that client is the end user, a whole department or a business partner. Once those expectations are known, you can start to match them with the capabilities of your network.The resources that will be called into question include, but are not limited to, personnel, bandwidth, infrastructure, applications and budget. Do you even have the money to supply the level of service the client wants? Obviously it is important to know the answer to that question up front, but that's just the first step.Say the client wants to roll out CRM. How do you calculate if the project will strain your staff and make it hard to live up to other service levels to which you have committed?And if the project involves real-time multimedia or other bandwidth-intensive traffic, can your network hold up? Will the additional traffic tax other applications? Will you have to renegotiate some service contracts? Upgrade your servers? Your routers? Will you have to get new licenses for applications? Or can you make do with what you have?Careful analysis might just show that the amount you'd spend to get your network up to speed might be better spent on outsourcing.These considerations are just some of the many that get rolled up in a comprehensive SLM strategy. Too often the critical questions get put off until after the client is depending on you to provide service. Join the SLM conversation at a city near you.To register for the event,\u00a0click here.