A couple of CPP’s clients have recently brought up the topic of Service Level Agreements, and in particular, IT’s response to Incidents and Service Requests and I feel the need to comment.

In one scenario, a client sent me an email trail highlighting an end-user issue.  The first request was submitted by the end-user with relevant information about the issue that was being experienced.  The email was followed promptly 30-minutes later by the well-known “I want it fixed now – damn it”.

This is such a great example!  As IT professionals, our first reaction is to immediately jump in and help the business, copping the “what-ever-it-takes” attitude.  With each immediate response however, we are forming expectations.  This can be perceived as good customer service.

There’s a big problem here though:  Very few IT Organizations have the resources to consistently operate in such an interrupt-driven mode and still keep on track with both operational initiatives and strategic projects.  This immediate gratification cannot go on forever.

The way out of this conundrum is for IT to move to a model where realistic expectations are agreed upon with the business based upon the impact and urgency of Incidents and Service Requests (Priority = Impact + Urgency).  For example:  2-hour response for Priority 1 incidents; 8 hours for Priority 3, etc.

So how do we minimize the perception that IT has decreased its value to the user community?

IT cannot go from immediate gratification to “I’ll get to you tomorrow” overnight — and certainly not without some major backlash.  We need to make this a gradual and iterative change.

Organizations must assign accountability for communicating and negotiating this major shift with the business.  This is nothing short of a full-out marketing campaign executed from the top-down as well as the bottom-up within the organization.