Service level agreements (SLAs) are used by just over half the UK's top companies to monitor IT departments, but there are deep concerns about their effectiveness.
Fifty one per cent of companies surveyed recently used SLAs - contracts between IT departments and the business - and their adoption is set to grow by about 20 per cent over the next two years.
But critics say SLAs cannot work if the relationship between business and IT functions is flawed. Alan Greenberg, director of Tertio, which commissioned the research, pointed out that only 60 per cent of IT departments consult the business when they construct SLAs. ?There is a gulf between the IT and business side. The business doesn?t understand the changing technology and the problem of staff retention and the IT department is not managing services in a way the business understands.?
But Greenberg believes SLAs are still important. ?SLAs are essential," he said. "Some IT departments say ?I don?t want to be measured', but if a company does not have one in place then the business side has higher expectations of what can be delivered and will see the IT department as a black hole for money. With an SLA, the IT department can turn round and say, ?to deliver that level of service, this is how much it will cost.?"
The survey highlighted the problem of non-IT people failing to understand the language of SLAs.
?SLAs are often written in terms of what they can monitor and measure,? explains Greenberg. ?The information which comes from the underlying platforms is very component based - for example, the availability of a rooter or a hub. It is difficult to translate what component impacts on what service.?
However, Greenberg believes that the relationship between IT and business is improving. ?In the past two years there has been a change in the attitude of IT directors. 89 per cent of IT directors want to support the business with IT. They are setting up the IT department as much more service-based towards the business. They are worried that if they do not their department will be outsourced.?
A further problem highlighted by the survey was a failure to monitor SLAs on an ongoing basis. Some 43 per cent of companies only review their SLAs once every year and 12 per cent of companies have no personnel dedicated to monitoring SLAs at all.
?Most business environments need to monitor their SLAs every three month,? insisted Greenberg. ?Banks, because of their infrastructure and reliance on IT, need to look at SLAs monthly."
The research, carried out by Metrica for software house Tertio, was based on 106 telephone interviews with network and IT professionals from the UK?s largest 2,000 companies.
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