End User Is 'Ultimate Judge' of IT/Business Alignment, Says Forrester

Ann All

I've written in the past about the difficulty in creating appropriate SLAs in outsourcing agreements and how an over-emphasis on SLAs can often be counterproductive. Turns out many of the same issues can put a strain on the relationships IT staff have with their business colleagues.


According to a recent study by Forrester Research, the main reason for missing SLAs is that business units have unrealistic expectations. The inflated expectations can be attributed to the old IT/business divide, according to a Techworld story about the research. Forrester found that most IT departments use IT-centric metrics like server or network availability, despite the fact these metrics mean little to business units.


According to the research, IT departments fail to meet SLAs 26 percent of the time. Forty-one percent of respondents say they possess only basic insights into service levels and don't regularly provide SLA information to executives. Perhaps most worrisome, 40 percent of them acknowledge that their service level reporting lacks information requested by business executives.


Says Michael Allen, European director of IT service management at research sponsor Compuware:

... an SLA is supposed to be an agreement reached by both parties to the same thing. So one wonders how they can say that. It is down to IT measuring the success of business objectives. Technical metrics, network and server uptime, etc., which are important to businesses, are not really important to end-users.

For some tips on closing the IT/business divide, I tracked down a blog in the archives that advises IT to position itself as a business service supplier rather than a technology supplier. Divide IT activities into service portfolios based on infrastructure, users, projects and management, then express all IT costs in service-to-business terms, suggests the Cutter Consortium. Assess performance, budget IT and charge business units for services in business terms, as well.


Another piece of advice is to involve business leaders in technology governance, a strategy employed to good effect by Bill Piatt, the CIO of International Finance Corp. who was featured in a recent strategy+business article about "practical visionary" tech execs.


Another issue highlighted in the Forrester survey is a lack of feedback from end users. Although 87 percent of respondents say they employ end-user experience monitoring tools for at least some business-critical applications, 64 percent of them admit that they typically know end users are experiencing performance or availability problems only when users register a complaint with the help desk.


Fifty-three percent of respondents find it challenging to monitor end-user experiences, and 86 percent of them say users report problems when infrastructure monitoring lights are green, notes Allen. He says:

IT is often monitoring its silos, checking the server is up and running, and therefore traditional monitoring is not sufficient.

The end user is "the ultimate judge of IT and business alignment," says Forrester analyst Jean-Pierre Garbani. He condenses the three major points of the research:

  • SLAs often have little business value.
  • Measuring the quality of service is not as automated as it could be.
  • Most enterprises probably don't understand end-user monitoring or the monitoring software that is currently available.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jul 2, 2008 1:17 PM Jed Simms Jed Simms  says:
What's the cash flow SLA for the Finance department? It may be that all due bills are met and there is a positive cash balance in the accounts.But, as an end user, I am only concerned that I get paid on time and in full.SLAs need to be focused on the end user concerns (Get paid) rather than the technical measures (have cash on hand)SLAs need to move up the business value chain and relate more directly to the real business concerns.This can also remove some of the noise. If your machine is down but it does not affect your outcomes, then it is not such a problem. Reply
Jul 2, 2008 7:11 PM MD CIO MD CIO  says:
I agree 100%. Every year, I issue an organization-wide survey to ALL end users. They are asked how strongly they agree or disagree with the following statements: In general, the IT does a good job meeting my needs and IT responds quickly to my requests. Satisfaction is defined as the percentage of respondents who answered agree or agree strongly. The results for the two questions are averaged together to produce an overall satisfaction rating which is published for the world to see. Responses are anonymous, but I ask whether the user is staff, supervisor, or department head and track how each group of users responds. I find this feedback to be invaluable, and a great way to hold myself accountable. Reply
Jul 3, 2008 12:23 PM Ian Bruggemann Ian Bruggemann  says:
As an end user I must say it becomes very frutrating when the IT department is not "End User" focussed.(I have workrd on both sides, "End User" and in IT. When I did the IT relief the first thing I did was open the doors, take down the blinds and got all IT people out amongst the "End Users". THose that could not take the heat left.)IT personnell must understand that the averge "End User" is not PC or IT savy and what may appear to an IT person as a complaining "End User" is in reality a person who cannot perform their job because of IT issues and they have pressures put on them from their superiors.In the past the IT department has been a "Closed Shop".In todays business world all barriers need to be taken down and all IT people need to get out and talk with the "End User" and find out what their "Real" issuea are and fix them.Doing this will raise the profile of the IT department as being a true "Service" department. Reply

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