Services, Organisations, and Service Level Agreements – Part 1

In Service Desk Express 9.0 the new Services module was introduced which, in conjunction with the Organisations and Service Level Agreements modules, allows service delivery companies to manage the delivery of their service catalogue. These new modules are not for everyone – indeed there are a couple of performance issues with these modules that should not be overlooked – but for those looking to implement the functionality, this series of posts are hopefully for you.

I hope to cover all the aspects/features/functionality associated with these modules using examples. As always, I will try and make the examples as realistic as possible.

Services

The easiest module to get your head around is the Services module. The Services module should list the services you, as a service provider, are making available to organisations to consume. As a first pass I would suggest that you start very top-level – for example:

  • Account Support Service
  • Application Support Service
  • Email Support Service
  • Hardware Support Service
  • Mobile Support Service
  • Network/Connectivity Support Service
  • Printing/Scanning Support Service

The decision as to whether you need to go any lower than this depends primarily on whether different applications say, have a different SLA’s. It may also depend on how you have defined your Categories (Support Subjects).

The key fields within Services are:

  • Name – The name of the service.
  • Description – A general description of the service.
  • Activation Date – The date the service is first available.
  • Retirement Date – The date when the service will no longer be available.

Organisations

The way you set up Organisations depends entirely on how you have set up your Companies and Departments. Most Service Desk Express solutions I have seen have been internally focused. As such they will probably have a single Company as this makes reporting much much easier and in my opinion is an excellent idea unless you have a really really good reason not to. They also tend to have a lot of Departments. Service Desk Express allows your Organisations to be Company, Department or Company/Department based. The table below shows which solution is best suited to which criteria:

Situation Solution
1 More than one Company and within each Company Departments can have different SLA’s for a given Service. Organisations should be based on Companies and Departments.
2 More than one Company and within each Company all Departments have the same SLA for a given Service. Organisations should be based on Companies.
3 One Company and all Departments have the same SLA for a given Service. Single Organisation based on the single Company.
4 One Company but different departments can have different SLA’s for a given Service. Organisations should be based on Departments.

If you are in Situation 1 I feel for you as this is the same situation that I have to manage and it can get a little complicated. The more common situation is 3 or 4. So what I will cover in this post is Situation 4 which is the more complex of the two.

OK, so let’s say that we have Scenario 4 with an internal service desk servicing six departments: Sales; IT; Marketing; Facilities; Finance; and HR. Now, let’s say that Finance require a tighter SLA on the Applications Support Service then any of the other departments but only during March each year. We can create six appropriate Organisations each linked to their respective Department as per the screenshot below:

Organisation

Service Level Agreements (SLA’s)

SLA’s allow you to specify conditions under which they are applied, resulting in a given Due Date and Time, and appropriate milestones. They are actually quite straightforward but there are a couple of little gotchas that you just need to be aware of. Let’s walk through the creation of a SLA that would deliver a one-hour response, 24 hour recommended fix and a 48 hour absolute fix.

Urgencies…Priorities…ITIL…Argh!!!!

The first thing you need to be aware is that the SLA module does not contain the fix durations – another module does that. In days of old (i.e. pre Service Desk Express 9.6) this was the Urgency module. So if you are using Service Desk Express 9.2 or below then, to create the SLA mentioned above, you would need to create a new Urgency form that included the Duration, Recommended Fix Duration, and Response Duration fields similar to the one shown below and create the appropriate record as shown:

48HR Urgency

Now notice here that the duration fields are WORKING hours not literal hours. This is important. So, in the example above, our 48HR literal fix time equates to 20 working hours because our work schedule is 10 hours long (0800-1800).

When BMC released Service Desk Express 9.6 they bowed to significant customer pressure that the Priority should drive the fix durations and that Priority is derived based on the combination of Urgency and Impact. What this means is that if you are using Service Desk Express 9.6 or above then you would need to create a new Impact, Urgency, and Priority record to achieve the same effect. By the way, this is not a bad thing it is just that it makes life more complicated when trying to explain all this in a blog post! Anyway, piccy below:

48HR Priority

So now that we have our Urgency (or Priority depending on what version you are using), we can now go ahead and create our SLA as shown below:

48HR SLA 01 48HR SLA 02 48HR SLA 03

So notice a couple of things. In the first piccy we have the following fields:

  • SLA ID – A unique name for the SLA.
  • Description – A freetext description of the SLA.
  • Start Date – The first date this SLA can be selected. You will NOT get the option of selecting this SLA unless the current date and time is between the Start Date and End Date fields.
  • End Date – The date this SLA can be selected.
  • Type – You can select either Service Level Agreement, Operational Level Agreement, or Underpinning Contract. What matters is that this field is purely for reporting purposes.
  • Status – You can select either Active, Draft or Disabled. The record MUST be Active to allow you to select it for NEW tickets. Existing tickets CAN have an SLA with a status of Disabled and these will still process as normal.
  • IT Owner – The Support Staff member who owns this SLA. Again for reporting purposes only.
  • Module – You can select either Incident, Problem Management or Change Request. The SLA will only work in the module selected here.

The second piccy shows the Criteria. This SLA has no criteria which means it will be available for all circumstances. We will use this screen later when we want to check if the current month is March!  The third piccy shows the Goals. This is simply the selection of the appropriate Priority or Urgency that we created above. The final piccy shows the Milestones screen:

Milestones

Milestones is an interesting choice of title here. Normally, we strive to achieve milestones. In the case of BMC’s SLA Milestones these are events that you hope you DON’T achieve! Essentially they are how you monitor your tickets in real-time. A single SLA can have multiple milestones which once hit perform an specific action (usually sending an email or reassignment). One thing to bear in mind when creating these is that no two rules can have the same name and as such it is worth prefixing the rulename with the SLA ID. Below are screenshots of two you might create:

1) 48HR – Ticket Within 90% Due Date

48HR Milestone 01

2) 48HR – Ticket Passed Due Date

48HR Milestone 02

*** DO NOT GET CARRIED AWAY ***

It is really easy to create loads of milestones to monitor everything and depending on just how carried away you get one or two things are likely to occur:

  • Your staff will get information overload and receive so many emails that they will create rules in Outlook to ignore them!
  • Your system will come to a grinding halt as there are performance issues with creating too many milestones!

Next Post

OK, so enough for now – this post is more than long enough. Hopefully this will get you started on how to set up your Service Catalogue, Organisation structure and Service Level Agreements. In my next post in this series, I will cover SLA Criteria (such that we can finish our example); linking Services, Organisations and SLAs;  and of course how to turn SLA Management on in the first place including the biggest gotcha of all!

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