Services, Organisations, and Service Level Agreements – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series I discussed how to create the Services, Organisations and Service Level Agreements (SLAs) necessary for our example of an internal service desk servicing six departments with the Finance department requiring a tighter SLA on one of the services then any of the other departments during March each year.

In this post, 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.

SLA Criteria

We said that we wanted to provide our Finance department with a tighter SLA during March each year. How do we go about doing that? Well the first thing we need to do is create the new Urgency/Priority and SLA that we want to offer as shown below:

24HR Priority 24HR SLA 01 24HR SLA 03 24HR SLA 04

Another Gotcha

We need to add a SLA Criteria that checks if the month the call was opened was March. Problem – SLA Criteria can only check the values of fields within the module they are configured for (i.e. in our case Incidents) and don’t allow for any expressions. Solution – Create a field to hold the month the call was opened and populate it on save using a CSBR as shown below:

Month Opened

Conditions
Expression 1 Comparison Operator Expression 2
{TR,Month Opened} Equals {NULL}
Actions
Field Value
Month Opened {MATH, DATEPART(MONTH,GETDATE()) MT}

You MUST add the field to the forms used otherwise you will get an error – Input string not in correct format. It CAN be hidden though.

Now in order that this SLA is only offered during March we need to configure an SLA Criteria as shown below:

24HR SLA 02

Notice that this criteria only considers the March clause NOT the Finance department clause. That comes later when we link Services, Organisations and SLAs. You could include the Finance department clause but then you would need to keep changing you SLA if, for example, another department wanted the same SLA.

In this example, given all the hassle of creating a field and CSBR, you could choose an alternative solution of selecting the 24HR_MARCH SLA and configuring the Start and End dates to only include March. The problem here of course is that you need to create one for every year which is a little painful. What is more, it wouldn’t have given me the opportunity to explain SLA Criteria ūüôā

Service Organisation SLA Links

Now there’s a mouthful! Service Organisation SLA Links (LINK) are what they say on the tin – the way to assign a SLA to a service consumed by an organisation. They are accessible from the Service, Organization, and SLA forms via their respective tabs. In our example above we want each¬†department to¬†use our Standard 48HR SLA for the¬†service of¬†Application Support. Now we could create a separate LINK for each Organisation but we don’t need to. If we open the Service form, find our Application Support service and click Add on the SLA/Org tab we can create a LINK as shown below:

LINK 01

What the record above says is “Offer this SLA whenever the Application Support Service is selected.” This is fine for what we want at the moment. Now what we need to do is create another LINK for the Finance Organisation to provide the 24HR SLA against the Application Support Service as shown below:

LINK 02

Thus your Application Support service should look like this:

Service With LINKS 01

Now, when anyone logs a ticket against the Application Support Service between April and February inclusive, the only option will be the 48HR SLA as shown below:

Select from SLAs 01

However, when a member of the Finance department log a ticket against the Application Support Service during March, a choice of either the 24HR SLA or the 48HR SLA will appear as shown below:

Select from SLAs 02

…assuming you have turned the functionality on!

Service Level Agreement Rules

Yes that’s right – out of the box the SLA functionality is NOT turned on. To enable Service Level Agreements you need to click on the Service Level Agreement Rules item in the Service Level Management tab. Then from the Enable SLAs window that appears check the box to enable SLAs as shown below:

Enable SLAs 01

So here is the kicker and this is absolutely WOEFUL!

You have to manually enable the SLA functionality for each group by logging in as that group and turning it on by checking the box as described above! Imagine what that is like on 126 Groups! Scripts to the rescue…

SDE_SetDefaultSLARulesForAllGroups.sql

The above script will turn on SLA Management for every group!

One Final Issue!

SLA’s are NOT mandatory out of the box. What this means is that if one of your Service Desk Agents decides to close the Select From SLA popup that appears to select the SLA, no SLA is populated at all. If you want to enforce SLAs you MUST make your SLA ID field selectable (i.e. NOT readonly) and write a Client Side Business Rule (CSBR) as shown below:
When an Incident is Saved

Conditions
Expression 1 Comparison Operator Expression 2
{TR,SLA ID} Equals {NULL}
Actions
Method Module Form
Display Message Incident Current Form
Exit Rule if ‘OK’ clicked Checked

Summary

Hopefully, throughout these two posts I have given you an idea of what the art of the possible might be using the SLA modules available with Service Desk Express. As always, comments, positive or negative, are always welcome.

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 Рthis 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!

SLAs in percentages; urgency in minutes!

If, like me, you get given figures like networks must be up for 95% of working days, and then told to report on that, you may find this post helpful. Recently, I spent some time trying to work out how to account for this in Service Desk Express and here is what I reckon:

Ok, so lets say that for a given service the percentage uptime required is 95.00%. That means that the percentage downtime allowed is 5.00%. We will also assume that the number of hours per week in your work schedule is 37.

Consequently, the number of minutes downtime allowed per week = (number of hours per week in work schedule * 60) * percentage downtime allowed = 111 minutes.

Now at this point you have to take a bit of a guess as you need to know roughly how many incidents you are likely to have per week for this service. For the sake of arguement we will assume 5.

Thus your downtime in minutes allowed per incident and consequently your duration for urgency = Downtime (minutes) allowed per week / Number of expected incidents per week = 22.2

This may have a few limitations but it allows you to bridge the gap between the people writing the SLAs and those implementing the Service Desk Tool!