Dick Benton, a principal consultant for GlassHouse Technologies, has worked with numerous Fortune 1000 clients in a wide range of industries to develop and execute business-aligned strategies for technology governance, cloud computing and disaster recovery.
In my last post, I outlined the third of seven key tips IT departments should follow if they want to begin building a better service strategy for their internal users: create your own menu of services. That means identifying what services you will offer and building a service catalog of offerings. Expanding on that idea, today’s post will focus on the fourth step: advertise the Ts and Cs. IT must develop a simple and easy-to-read list of the terms and conditions (Ts and Cs) under which services are supplied, and include these in the service catalog and in the service level agreement (SLA) that should be provided with each service delivery.
The Ts and Cs spelled out in each SLA should appear in the introduction to your service catalog as Ts and Cs. Having said that, it is critical that you provide a separate SLA document that both IT and the individual ordering the service formally sign off on (albeit electronically). This formalizes the Ts and Cs under which the services are supplied and, equally importantly, the Ts and Cs under which the services are received.
What Terms and Conditions Should Cover
The Ts and Cs (in the SLA) should consist of three key components: 1) the policies governing delivery of the services; 2) the procedures involved in the service provisioning and delivery; and 3) the roles and responsibilities of both IT and the consumer during the life cycle of the service. The prudent CIO will socialize the Ts and Cs and seek consensus with all stakeholders before including these in the service catalog, and subsequently, in each service order’s SLA. This becomes the business foundation for the order, delivery and consumption of the Internal Cloud Provider’s (ICP’s) services.
Policies are always a delicate and often contentious subject. They lock management into a position from which a retreat is nearly impossible. Management is keenly aware of this restriction on their decision-making flexibility, and will often resist policies unless they are clearly the responsibility of others or renamed as “guidelines.” In addition, consumers see policies as bureaucratic at best and “weasel” conditions at worst. It behooves the prudent CIO to minimize policies and ensure that all assumptions have been made explicit and the attributes against which service delivery is measured are called out.
The major policies required will include but not be limited to the following:
- Formalization of all delivery metrics. You don’t want to wait for an event to have a discussion on what is meant by acceptable response time; you don’t want to wait on a delivery complaint to discuss what is a reasonable time to provision; and you don’t want to wait on a disaster to discuss recovery time objectives (RTO) and tolerable data loss under a recovery point objective (RPO)
- Formalization of roles and responsibilities
- Calling out the manner in which exception conditions will be identified and communicated
- Formalization of how the cost of services deployed will be reported and funded
Policies can blend into procedures when we discuss the steps needed to order a service, and the necessary authorization and clearances required by the organization’s Risk Management group. Procedures do not need to be detailed in the SLA, but they should call out at a minimum the key steps and gateways the process must work through, along with the roles and responsibilities involved in each step or gateway. The major functions requiring a procedure outline include but are not limited to the following:
- The manner in which a service is requested (possibly Web-based selection)
- The process for providing a quotation and draft SLA in response to a selection of service (may be entirely automated or a manual process)
- The process for quote acceptance or revision of a service order
- The manner in which the service selection will be authorized (signoffs or e-notifications)
- The procedure to actually provision the service requested, possibly automated workflow-enabled
- The manner and frequency in which usage and metrics will be reported
- The procedure, default and by request for service end-of-life
Building Good Relationships
The Ts and Cs in the service catalog and replicated in each SLA, become the business contract between IT and the consumer, governing the manner in which series are selected, provisioned, delivered and funded. The Ts and Cs’ hidden but most significant impact is that they provide IT with an invaluable reputational enhancement tool by formalizing the delivery of consumer satisfaction against empirical criteria (instead of emotional reaction). Ts and Cs and SLAs are mission-critical components of the ICP deployment model.
In our next post, we’ll look at building the service order process.
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