There is a fundamental mismatch between the service level agreements signed by IT departments and business units and the business objectives the SLAs are meant to deliver.

Too many SLAs are IT-centric and not compatible with business objectives, according to new research from analyst group Forrester.

It found that the majority of IT departments work with IT-centric metrics like network and server availability, or number of incidents reported, and that even on these metrics, many IT departments are failing to meet event these requirements.

The research, sponsored by Compuware, found that more than a quarter of IT departments with SLAs do not meet the conditions laid out in the agreement.

In addition, 41 per cent of respondents agreed that their insight into service levels is basic and they don't provide SLA information to executives on a regular basis.

Some 40 per cent of those surveyed agreed that their service level reporting lacks information that executives have requested.

Michael Allen, European director of IT service management at Compuware said, “Business expectations being too high is cited as the reason for IT not meeting expectations a quarter of the time. But an SLA is supposed to be an agreement reached by both parties to the same thing.”

Allen called on IT departments to promote business focussed metrics and SLAs. "Technical metrics, network and server uptime etc, which are important to businesses, are not really important to end-users."

Jean-Pierre Garbani, principal analyst at Forrester said, “The ultimate judge of IT and business alignment is the end-user. If alignment is viewed as conformity to user expectations in terms of availability, performance, usability, and accuracy, then monitoring end-user performance is the only way IT knows that it is meeting these expectations."

Forrester found that 87 per cent of the respondents were using end-user experience monitoring tools for at least some business-critical applications, but the survey suggested these tools were not being used to spark pre-emptive action before end users were aware of problems.

Some 64 per cent of those surveyed said that they only know that end-user are experiencing performance or availability problems only when end a complaint is registered with the help desk.

Compuware's’s Allan said IT departments should be able to act before complaints hit the help desk. If IT departments were monitoring the end user experience through measuring end user response times they would know as soon as a problem occurs, he said.

“They can set parameters so that as soon as a response time say falls below a second for a particular transaction, IT is alerted and can start investigating the problem. In terms of business process change for IT this means getting away from managing in silos and instead managing based on the service being provided to the business user.”

The survey also highlighted the problems many IT organisations have in doing root cause analysis on many of the issues they face.

“The complexity and proliferation of applications makes the identification of root causes very difficult when application performance problems are being analysed,” said Allan.

Sixty-seven percent of the enterprises surveyed were extracting data from multiple systems to understand their service-level performance, and 48 per cent revealed that they must assemble their reports through several hours of manual data aggregation.

“The only way IT directors can address this is to look at IT management tools that consolidate reporting and provide a single dashboard view of performance versus service level agreements,” he said.

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