All matters concerning ITSM and it’s use within business

SLM Maturity Assessment Tool

This is a quick and easy tool that I designed for Hornbill. It’s got 15 questions in total and takes just a few minutes to complete. The results will provide you with a SLM maturity score between 0 – 5 enabling you to:

  • Identify and understand the SLM maturity level your IT department is currently operating at
  • Discover where to focus your IT effort to realize the benefits of SLM
  • Download some of my recommended practical resources based on your SLM maturity score

Click on the image to be taken to the tool on the Hornbill website.

I hope you find it fun and easy to use – leave a comment and let me know what you think.

SLM – The heartbeat of ITSM

SLM – The heartbeat of ITSM

This was my recent presentation topic at the itSMF UK event on Service Level Management held on 7th December. For me its a huge topic at the moment, particularly as it’s an area I know well, but also because there seems to be such a demand for basic information, knowledge and guidance in this area.

My reference to ‘heartbeat’ is aimed at showing that what SLM does is provide a living pulse to the rest of the ITSM processes and working practices we all know and love (or maybe hate..). In other words SLM is both a driver and regulator of what we do and deliver. Without the living business mandate we get from defining services and SLAs, our ITIL/ITSM processes have little direction or value – certainly to our customers and also to our staff, who need to see a clear relationship between what they are doing and the businesses that pay their salaries.

In IT we like having systems and models, methodologies, frameworks and lots of acronyms – ITIL gives us plenty of that. What we seem to miss however, is the simple fact that we need to start by talking to and working with our customers, to understand what they need from us and then build our models etc around this – not the other way round. I know that’s not the intention or the stated content in our ‘best practice’, but that’s the way it often seems to be interpreted and used. So the messge is getting lost in the methodology.

Many organisations are still resistant to the whole idea of SLM, SLAs or defining services, often using the excuse that the ‘business isn’t interested’. No wonder, if the nature of any previous SLA project has resulted in IT-centric techno-babble and what IT thinks or judges to be important or interesting… Often this is seen by customers as arrogant and patronising. See my previous presentation on value from IT – are SLAs a waste of time?

However if you are going to do proper SLM then its essential to start by engaging with your customers and investigating and agreeing on what their important outcomes and ‘moments of truth’ are – i.e. how and when the technology is needed to deliver. We then work back from there to build our ITSM processes and structure – or in reality re-adjust our existing structure to support this.  I’ve recently written more practical guidance on this in a white paper on Service Catalog, (sponsored by Hornbill Systems).

I’ve had conversations recently where SLM/SLAs have still been rejected by the IT department, yet they also want to improve the quality and value of their reporting and how they are perceived by their businesses – there’s a direct connection there…! What I do also see, fortunately, are many more organisations now waking up to the reality that SLM is vital to their success and how they can demonstrate their value – pity this has taken so long.

One reason for this is that SLM is (rightly in some ways) perceived as being low level and operational – i.e. how we respond to things going wrong. The introduction of BRM (Business Relationship Management) into the framework at a more strategic level is therefore a positive move (although the concept of good account management has been around for many years).

However both BRM and SLM to me should be seen as the central nervous system of IT and ITSM – otherwise we are simply running complicated corpses rather than fully functional beings.

More on this on ITSMTV – ITSM in practice


ITSM on One Page…!?

What are the basics?

Recent client and industry research work has given me a lot of good new exposure to some of the emerging areas of ITSM, notably Social Media, Cloud and of course the ever developing Service Catalogue/service definition area. Interesting to see a lot of new activity and approaches in this area, particularly with concepts like OBASHI and other new ways of consulting and matching business demands with IT ones.

There is a need for more innovation and real grasp of the life and spirit of Service Management, and its good to see a lot of activity and interest developing in the market. However we are always in danger of getting away from the key source of what ITSM is all about – business and services, delivered by people.

I recently did a presentation where I wrote some new slides as well as digging out some old ones and came across some stuff which included my ‘ITIL/ITSM in one slide’ concept. I really think we have to be able to describe and paint a picture of what ITSM is and what it does and delivers in a simple and understandable format, so here goes:

So to me any CIO should be able to to answer these basic questions, which ITSM should deliver:

Does our IT organisation deliver what the business needs?
Can we demonstrate this?
Would our customers agree?
As such ITSM should simply be:
  • To have an agreed set of business goals that IT is working towards
  • To measure and review performance against these goals
  • To develop and deliver services, with appropriate process, systems and organisational structures to ensure that the goals can be met
  • To ensure that suitable people are in place with appropriate skills to deliver the services to meet those goals
  • To constantly review performance and make relevant adjustments in resources, processes to ensure that IT is able to meet the goals
  • To constantly review progress with the business and to regularly review and amend the goals as necessary
  • To ensure that performance – and success in meeting the goals – is suitably publicised and understood across the business
Barclay Rae
Tel: +44 (0)7885 629308

Positive Services and SLA’s!

Lets accentuate the positive…

I spend a lot of time, and have done for many years, talking to and working with organizations who are trying to set up IT services and Service Level Agreements.

Usually what’s involved is for me to provide a good amount of information and ‘know-how’ on how to approach doing this, accompanied by loads of encouragement and support – in order to give the client both the understanding and the confidence to drive this through.

For me the assimilation of this ‘knowledge’ has come through the medium of many prolonged and difficult projects – generally where negotiation or communications have failed and/or expectations have in some way been missed

Like many in the industry I have of course compiled a lot of this information together in written form to try to provide as much advance expectation of this things that go wrong – much of this is available. However recently, one thing occurred to me that I really hadn’t thought of quite so explicitly before:

All of our SLAs (and often services) are described and defined in really negative terms…

The SLA small print

If you go into a shop or say a car showroom, the sales person doesn’t immediately start telling you about the liability associated with the product, or how often it is expected to fail, or when you might expect it to be unavailable.

The car salesman doesn’t start to tell you about the car’s handling faults before they’ve got you interested, or if you are buying clothes they wouldn’t tell you that the clothes
you are interested in were made using slave labor, or that the material is cheap so won’t last more than 5 washes…

If you are trying to sell something then you need to (emotionally) engage your prospect first before you give them any bad news. Ideally if they are interested and sold enough on the positive aspects of the product, then they will accept the negative ones. However if you start out by focussing on the down-sides, you may not get the chance to sell the up-sides and will lose your prospective customer.

Of course I’m not suggesting that sales should be devious and not mention negatives, and we need to be open and honest about what we are selling. However, in terms of emotional response, first impressions count and are lasting, so it makes sense to start off trying to win people over.

It’s much easier to give them bad news once they’ve emotionally engaged, rather than trying to sell them something that they’ve already discounted. I know – it’s basic sales technique.

So what’s this got to do with IT and SLAs?


We tend to write and present SLAs and service descriptions that simply refer to how we react and manage issues, or how long it will take us to respond (or not) and how long our service is available (or not). We don’t often write SLAs that tell our customers how much we are doing to help them do their job, or how fast/efficient/cost effective the service is, or how it delivers value to them.

This of course is easier said than done as often IT services aren’t the most exciting or engaging of ‘products’ to sell. However we should be trying to present and define our services in as much of a positive and user-engaging way as possible.

So how can this help with SLM?

By far the biggest hurdle to climb in developing SLAs is getting people on-side, on-board, on-message – and to ‘buy-in’. Everyone will tell you that the ‘business isn’t interested’, ‘we can’t get them involved’, ‘they don’t want to know’ etc.

Well maybe it’s no wonder if any previous attempt to look at this has resulted in a turgid list of negative and dull IT support tasks and responsibilities that say nothing about the customer’s business.

We need to present information on our services and service levels in a format that engages and enthuses people where possible – we can start on this by focussing on the positive – i.e. what does the service deliver in terms of value to the business and / or our customer’s ability to do their job?

Sure we will need to include information on support and what happens when things go wrong, but we really also should be thinking about how we can get customers on-side with us – so lets be radical and start with the positive…!

So as an example – rather than saying:

We provide you with Email services that will fail at some point. When they do we react pretty well and won’t make your life miserable for too long (although we can’t say for how long)

Why not say:

Your E-mail service helps you to communicate instantly and globally with your customers and contacts, wherever and whenever you need to. We help each employee to make an average of 400 email contacts per day, as well as managing your schedule in synch with your on-the-go PDA. Your IT dept also delivers this at very competitive cost compared to domestic services and with high standards of security and safety. If you have any issues with this service please contact our award-wining service desk for support… etc etc.

OK maybe I’m just dreaming but the message has got to be: lets be positive

Barclay Rae
Tel: +44 (0)7885 629308