Home    ITIL  Index

The Diplomacy of a Service Level Manager

The service level manager in the role of the negotiator must be diplomatic and sensitive but also firm, writes ITSMWatch guest columnist Ami Nahari of BT.
Jul 1, 2009
By

Ami Nahari





In the movie “The Negotiator”, Kevin Spacey portrays a Chicago police negotiator. In a moment of domestic frustration he says, “I talked a man out of blowing up the Sears Tower but I can't talk my wife out of a bedroom or my kid off a phone.” Negotiation between sides is not an easy task. Ask Hillary Clinton every time she returns from the Middle-East.

Like "The Negotiator", the Service Level Management (SLM) manager responsible for managing the process must have technical skills, an understanding of the organization and the Service Delivery structure. But more than any of the other ITIL process area managers, the SLM manager will need to apply people and diplomatic skills.

This article will provide a perspective into using these skills to support the process of Service Level Management, and how diplomacy skills can be exercised, focusing on the negotiation phase.

SLM is defined as the process that documents, negotiates and monitors the quality of the IT services. At first glance, it may appear that this process is more of a “nice to have” than a “need to have”. This is a common mistake many organizations make. SLM is vital, because it is the process that is responsible for customer perception, resulting in customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

Effective SLM results in healthy working relationships between IT and the business. ITIL describes a successful SLM manager as someone who gains the trust of both IT and the business. It is impossible to complete this task without the right skills, including diplomacy and sensitivity. These personality traits will come into play mostly in the negotiation phase, which will be addressed later in this article.

The three stages of the SLM process: documentation, negotiation and monitoring, represent the three stages of a relationship―a lot like the relationship between human beings. During the documentation phase, the SLM manager introduces himself and the services that IT provides, and the customer verbalizes their needs. This is the time to get to know each other.

The second phase, negotiation, is the time when each side is coming out of their shell. There are no uncomfortable silences anymore, no awkward moments, and the relationship is moving into second gear. Successful negotiations mean a stable and healthy environment.

The third phase, reporting and monitoring, is where this healthy environment and relationship is being maintained. The relationship, like a marriage, will experience ups and downs, but a well designed monitoring system will allow communication between all sides. We all know communication is the key for any relationship (Google “marriage counseling” for further information).

Once the process charter is completed and approved by stakeholders, the documentation phase can be initiated. The documentation phase will finalize service level requests and spec sheets. The work is done separately, first with IT and then with the business. This phase is essential for the SLM manager to establish good relationships with both sides. Gaining their trust at this point will be beneficial during the negotiation phase.

I would recommend any SLM manager not to complete the spec sheets and not to continue with negotiations until both the provider (IT organization) and the receiver (customer/business) are satisfied with the list of services and their descriptions.

The negotiation phase of SLM process will strive to achieve an agreement between the provider and the receiver. The objective of the SLM manager is to obtain a win-win situation. If the he or she have done a good job, the business should not assume that he or she is just protecting the interests of the IT organization and vice versa.

Tags:
IT Leadership, ITIL best practices, SLM, BT, Service level manager

    1 2 >> Last Page


Comments  (click to add your comment)

Comments

    Name or nickname

    Email address

    Website

    Write comment
    You have characters left. (Maximum characters: 1200).