When service level management and industry-wide IT standards collide…

For years, IT had languished in the obscurity, separated from the actual decisions and processes that drive businesses.  Up until several years ago, most organizations simply saw their IT department as a group of individuals that would service their computers or network if it there were any problems.  That’s right people; IT used to be a maintenance position in most companies.  However, things are different now, because even megalithic businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on items like web services and sales.  In other words, technology is starting to take center stage alongside conventional business processes and logic.  This of course, is what service level management is all about; it provides IT with the tools and acumen to perform alongside traditional business concepts.
What’s service level management supposed to achieve?   First off, whenever a company or IT –intensive organization decides to adopt a system of service level management they start by taking inventory of their current assets.  This would include all IT assets internal and external, on-site and off-site.  Then, a service level agreement (SLA) would be constructed, which is meant to perfectly align the goals, desires, aspirations, and realities of any business with that of its supporting IT department.  From a technical point of view, a SLA must take technological advancements (over a certain amount of time) into consideration as well.  This is largely because technological change is very rapid in our society and a new advancement tomorrow may be able to cut or completely eliminate costs in another area, meaning the company itself saves or profits.  It should be noted however that service level management should not be used as an organizational or control tool by upper management per se, it is only a way to demonstrate to how certain technologies can be used to non-technical individuals (in a boardroom meeting, for example).
Service Level Management Certification
A service level manager has a very intensive set of responsibilities.  They have to not only constantly monitor the entire system that they’re responsible for, and make sure it’s assisting in profit retention / generation, but they also have to keep track of their IT employees, ensuring that they’re on task as well.   The bottom line is that being a service level manager is a very difficult job, and requires a keen intellect, as well as experience, leadership, business knowledge, and instincts. 

But what about industry standards in IT, how would these assist or conflict with service level management?  In most cases, service level management will be in perfect alignment / agreement with any and all industry-wide standards (with regards to IT).  Management of, and/or implementation of, 3rd party services / applications / vendors however, might not adhere to current (industry-wide) IT standards that are in place.  Another glaring problem is the fact that service level management is often so “cutting-edge” that it may be months or even years before standardized IT literature catches up.  To put it simply, an organization uses industry standard IT protocols to get their system up and running in peak condition, but service level management is a method for breaking new ground or utilizing known IT assets in an unexpected manner.

In reality however, the established IT standards always catch up and implement new developments, it just takes time.  Until a fairly detailed cross section of the many typical uses for service level management have been studied, catalogued, tested, and refined, there may be missteps between what we would refer to as, “industry-wide standards” and current business technologies.  One (hypothetical) possible problem area is that of certification.  If a company implements a highly successful and profitable set of (their own) standards in service level management, they might lose their ITIL (or similar) certification.    Of course most organizations will opt for the profits over certification every single time, but not if they are reliant on their certification for attracting new clientele or for boosting their company’s reputation / visibility.  Hopefully, the certifications and standards gatekeepers will take items like service level management (which is a golden opportunity for a lot of businesses) into consideration before they flatly suspend compliances with industry-wide standards and/or certification proceedings.

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