You know that we live in a world where technology supports every aspect of the business. And if you’re currently developing or revising your organisation’s IT strategy then you are probably finding that the task is not a particularly quick or easy one. No doubt you will have invested a considerable amount of time in getting it right, knowing that your IT strategy has a material impact on whether the business succeeds or fails.
A pain point for any IT strategist is a lack of confidence in being able to prove that core service level objectives (SLOs) are met. Measurement is key here because only by measuring and reporting can you tell what’s performing well and what isn’t. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it! The systems and processes you put in place, which must be properly supported by your IT team, must be measured and reported so that you can implement continuous service improvement (CSI). Only then can you prove the value that your IT systems bring to the business.
Organisations use service level objectives as a benchmark of reliability for their IT systems. SLOs are often expressed in percentages to describe how good the service reliability was during a specific time period, based on specific service level indicators (SLIs). For example, if your end users expect a particular system to be available 99.95% of the time, your SLO is 99.95% uptime and your SLI is the actual measurement of your uptime. SLOs recognise that service reliability contributes to UX so remember that setting measurable reliability targets will help you monitor and create a positive end user experience.
There are a few pitfalls to avoid when setting out your SLOs. A lack of measurement, lack of technical capabilities and blindly over complicating everything will all have a negative impact so do consider the following:
-Have the correct metrics and indicators in place
Your systems need to provide the level of reliability expected by your organisation and end users. How you measure this varies depending on the organisation but some metrics and indicators may include incidence response time, number of incidents (split by severity) number of ticket logs, target fix times and uptime by service (measured by the number and length of incidents) as a few examples. SLOs differ depending on your end users and the nature of your business but they should all be simple and realistic. It is no good setting an SLO of 100% reliability when errors and outages inevitably occur. On the other hand, if you find you’re consistently smashing your SLOs each month, you could always revise them upwards.
-Align your technical team
Do you have the technical capabilities in-house to achieve your SLOs or do you need to outsource? Your tech strategy will have helped you identify this so whatever decisions you make, your SLOs must reflect the technical capacity and resources available to your organisation. If your IT team cannot deliver on your SLOs then you risk failure to comply with SLAs to customers because tech issues prevent your employees from doing their jobs.
-Engage your key business stakeholders
You need to get your key stakeholders on board and help them understand your SLOs. Keep in mind that your targets should be based on your business’ needs but must also align with the technical capacity you have available. Your stakeholders might push back on some SLOs if they are keen to try and achieve near-perfect reliability of your services. However, identifying and explaining any technical gaps or requirements to outsource – and how you plan to address these issues – will ensure that you put the right SLOs in place.
-Don’t make things overly complicated
The temptation exists to get carried away and set too many SLOs by over complicating SLIs when defining your targets. Instead of setting one SLI for each component that comprises a critical journey, think about how you can aggregate them so that they are relevant as a single SLI. Your SLOs and SLIs should be focused on your end users and their requirements so that your tech is helping them to be as productive as possible.
-Change things up
Your IT strategy is an evolving document and will change over time – just like your SLOs should. SLOs cannot be left as they are year on year because they will fall out of synch with changing end user requirements and won’t help your business grow. The frequency with which you revisit and revise SLOs will depend on your organisation and its goals.
By keeping all of the above points in mind, you will be better prepared to use the resources and technical capabilities available to you to create, refine and achieve your SLOs. If you are looking for further information, AzteQ can help your organisations achieve its SLOs through its bespoke CUBe framework.