Examining KPI (key performance indicators) in service level management

Anyone that’s intimately familiar with any type of management effort (even outside the area of technology) is surely familiar with the concept of KPI or key performance indicators.  They (KPI) are the benchmarks that measure how successful and type of action or deployment actually is.   With regards to service level management, there are various key performance indicators that one can use to evaluate ongoing IT operations.   KPI’s should be referenced on an ongoing and continual basis in order to ensure that standards and goals are being met and/or addressed properly.  While the concept of using key performance indicators in such a manner is a relatively simple idea to grasp, it is slightly more difficult to put it into action. 

One of the central players in both service level management as well as identifying KPI’s is a service level agreement (SLA).   The service level agreement is akin to a blueprint which covers all the details associated with the management, monitoring, assessment, and utilization of any particular organization’s IT assets.  Through the establishment of a comprehensive SLA, a realistic strategy for SLM can be determined and instituted.

What are some examples of Key Performance Indicators in service level management?
According to ITIL ® (or Information Technology Infrastructure Library), which is a recognized authority in IT practices, methods, regulations and standards, there are a number of key performance indicators to consider with regards to service level management.   These KPI’s mostly deal with how well an IT organization is meeting the goals and requirements laid out in their clients’ SLA.

Because the goals and objectives present in the service level agreement are so clearly stated it is fairly easy to collect key performance indicators.  These include items like; the actual number of SLA-related issues that have been reported over a specific period of time, as well as how many SLA’s need to be / have been renegotiated or might require alterations.  Other obvious KPI’s to take note of are how clientele requirements are being met in terms of both specific requests, and overall satisfaction.
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These combined key performance indicators should be in alignment with what are known as critical success factors (shortened to CSF).   In service level management, a person’s overall success can be measured by their ability to meet or exceed these CSF’s.  Aside from actually giving your customers what they’re paying you for, devotion to established service levels and the ability to supply cost-effective services is an absolute must.   It is imperative that an organization meet any and all relevant industry-wide standards. 

Individuals have long been using KPI’s to structure workflows, establish expected duties and outline how well business objectives are being met, this is not news.  But, it should be noted that consistently failing to meet key performance indicators is most likely a sure sign that there is some miscommunication, flaw or unforeseen development which is unaccounted for in the active SLA.  In cases like this, a complete reevaluation of a service level agreement might be necessary; this is especially true if one is already managing a dedicated, dependable and ethical team of professionals.

What’s the point of utilizing and relying on Key Performance indicators to enhance service level management?
Despite the tendency of most IT managers to focus solely on the processes and functionality of their network and system, at the end of the day, the most important facet of service level management is meeting the demands of the business they’re servicing.  This applies to both situations where IT is simply another department in a larger organization as well as those that might offer independent 3rd party services.  The world is becoming increasingly dependent upon web assets, and businesses are certainly no exception to the rule in this regard.  In fact, those businesses which are unable to justify their IT budgets are essentially misusing the technology that they are in possession of.  To put is simply, adherence to service level management standards by way of key performance indicators is not only a great way to monetize one’s IT assets; it is the only way to do it effectively in the long term.

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