Americas

  • United States
sandra_gittlen
Contributing Writer

Is now the time for service level management?

Opinion
Feb 19, 20033 mins
Data Center

* What came out of the Service Level Management Tour?

The more I hear about service-level management, the more I think it’s a smart idea. And certainly, as companies are holding off on gear and application expenditures, it’s a project that just might get a stamp of approval.

For the past two weeks, I’ve moderated our Service Level Management Technology Tour events across the U.S. And in every city, I’ve talked to IT pros about their SLM plans.

Many say they are getting pressure from their boards and executive committees to become a profit center – to show exactly what contribution to the bottom line they are able to achieve.

The pressure, they say, is for both hard and soft dollars. They must prove that they are streamlining processes companywide and saving money on gear and applications.

More and more, they are realizing the only way to achieve this twofold goal is to implement SLM tools from vendors such as those that were on our tour – Computer Associates, Compuware, HP, Mercury Interactive, Metilinx, Micromuse, Smarts and Visual Networks.

And they are also figuring out that they can’t just report on the connectivity status of their networks, but the actual end-to-end performance of the applications running across those networks.

It’s a daunting challenge, as everyone on the tour conceded, including presenter Rick Sturm, founder of Enterprise Management Associates. Rick has written two books on the subject: “Foundations of Service Level Management” and a Buyer’s Guide for SLM tools.  He says that the two biggest problems people face in rolling out SLM is managing expectations and amassing too much information.

On the expectations side, he warns that you have to do your homework upfront – communicating at all times with the departments you are serving. Make sure you’re both speaking the same language and that your SLAs don’t get bogged down in jargon. He says it’s important to only include in the SLA what you both can monitor, not things that are impossible to follow up on. He also says to set benchmarks to check in on the SLAs and tools that allow both parties visibility into the applications and infrastructure covered under the agreement.

On the too much information side, he says to be precise about what you are hoping to monitor and don’t throw in extra stuff. Also, as you’re sending agents across the network, use a representative sample, don’t try to roll out agents to every single server and end user in the network. Make sure you take time to roll through your SLM software checklist to guarantee it is only gathering information on what you need, not excess processes. Otherwise, you’re wasting valuable resources.

Once you’ve got your SLM project in place, set up a way to check client satisfaction. One attendee said that she sends out an electronic survey to her clients that lets her measure response to their service. She says this adds to the automated information she is constantly gathering on the IT department’s processes.

What do you think? Is now the time for SLM? Let me know at sgittlen@nww.com