• Trevor Wilson

Service Level Management Gets Real

About SLAs
Recognising the watermelon SLA effect

I mentioned in a previous article of mine that in my opinion, whilst ITIL® 3 served a purpose and clearly motivated through setting a standard (or more accurately a de-facto standard), ITIL 3 did not focus on the practical side, whereas ITIL 4 clearly does take a more practical approach.

Something that is practical is music to my ears. And, do I like truthfulness - absolutely. And, do I NOT like claims of achievement based on superficial, meaningless targets - absolutely.

ITIL 4 service level management recognises the need to engage and listen to the requirements, issues, concerns and daily needs of customers along with recognising the “watermelon SLA effect”. This is something that I myself always ranted on about well before ITIL 4, i.e. when delivering ITIL 3 courses, so ITIL 4 has become my best friend.

Students who have attended my training courses will clearly recall that I often raise such points in class, for example, service desk/incident management teams who claim that they have achieved their performance targets, e.g. demonstrating that 90% of incidents were closed within the agreed service level agreement (SLA) this month. However, when we take a more forensic look at these closed incidents, we find that these related to the clock being wrong on the desktop, well it clearly is tough at the top in the life of the IT provider! how do we sleep at night? So, what about the 10% that we failed to close within the agreed SLA? To learn that the 10% we failed to close had significant impact on the business. What we have here is intrinsic (e.g. built in) goals confused with contextual (relative) goals.

Where the customer becomes extremely frustrated and understandably annoyed is when they see the IT provider producing meaningless metrics, e.g. although a system availability of say 99% appears to be impressive, it is not impressive in the eyes of the customer if during the unavailability period the business were attempting to run key transactions. This being the case the customer is going to become extremely dissatisfied. I wonder how the IT provider would feel if during this unavailability period the finance department was trying to run payroll for the IT staff but were unable to - would IT still believe they have achieved their goal this month?

So, in conclusion, if the IT provider thinks they are doing a great job (e.g. the reports are all green) and their customers are dissatisfied with the service received when the IT provider doesn’t notice this, this is known as the “watermelon” SLA effect, e.g. its green on the outside and red inside. Metrics and measures should be a truthful reflection of the customer’s actual experience and satisfaction of the service as a whole and not in part.

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