Who is your ideal ITIL/ISO 20000 Service Level Manager?

Having the right person in the right position is one of the goals of management. And that’s logical – incompetent people lead to poor results, and every manager gives his best to avoid that. But, besides having competent people, there is one more important thing for every company – having satisfied customers. Well, that’s usually not so easy. There are many parameters that influence customer satisfaction. But, let’s focus on a service – particularly, on support once the service is in the live environment.

I think we could agree – that’s an important aspect of customer satisfaction. But, let’s go one step further: the quality of the delivered service and the right people in the right place. Here I mean the person responsible for the quality of the delivered service – the Service Level Manager. That’s the connection between service (quality) and personnel, i.e., the right person in the right place.

Why is it important?

To clarify the importance of the Service Level Manager role, let me show you the opposite, i.e., undesired scenario. One or more customers are using your services. But, no one knows whether the services are delivered according to the agreed service levels or how efficient the organization is on a support level (e.g., resolving incidents or fulfilling service-related service requests). The customer doesn’t have a dedicated contact person, nor do they receive any reports. What do you think – how long will you keep this customer using your services? Not for long, I’m sure.

The customer is not the only one interested in the quality of the delivered service and achievement of agreed service levels. Don’t even try to ask your own management about their interest – trust me, they care. Here I don’t mean only top management, but managers on all levels. For example, the Incident Manager aims to resolve incidents within the agreed resolution time, the Change Manager is responsible for implementing changes as agreed with customers, the Business Relationship Manager would like to have customers’ requirements implemented and make sure that relationships with the customers remain at the highest level at all times, etc. Here we can see that there are various teams involved in the delivery of a service. Therefore, it’s very important to have someone with overall responsibility and coordination of all activities. The Service Level Manager is the right person.

ISO 20000 sets requirements for the implementation of the Service Level Management (SLM) process, but it doesn’t describe the characteristics of the Service Level Manager. ITIL provides you with SLM recommendations, and it gives some more details regarding the Service Level Manager. Let’s see what the usual characteristics of the Service Level Manager are.

What are the characteristics?

As you can see, the Service Level Manager’s responsibility is twofold: one part is responsibility related to delivered services, and the other one is managing the relationship with the customer. Therefore, the ideal Service Level Manager has to excel in various fields:

Management – that’s the Service Level Manager’s daily job – to manage the inside as well as others outside the company. There will be several teams involved in keeping the status quo of the services, as well as for reporting or incident solving. Add changes happening from time to time, or new functionalities, etc., and life gets complicated. Managerial skills are crucial to “keep the momentum going.”

Analytics – one of the important elements in the Service Level Manager’s life are reports. Here I mean producing reports, communicating them with the customer and/or own management, and using them for improvements. It’s important that the Service Level Manager knows how to read and interpret them in order to communicate, escalate, and create improvement initiatives.

Soft skills – working with people (be it internally, or external from the company) requires a set of skills that are better known as “soft skills.” These are skills that are not related to expertise, but that are necessary to perform the job. Communication is mentioned below, but there are many others. Here are some of them:

  • Problem solving
  • Critical observation
  • Conflict resolution
  • Adaptability
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Time management
  • Leadership skills
  • Skills to deal with unexpected situations
  • Negotiation skills

Communication – although this belongs in the category of soft skills, it’s one of the most important characteristics of a Service Level Manager, and that’s why I’m mentioning it separately. Communication goes in several directions:

  • Inside own organization
  • With customers
  • With management of own company
  • With Business Relationship Management
  • Organizational capabilities

And, the list could continue. The point is that the Service Level Manager needs much more than knowing the services. Usually, it’s more important to have strong management or soft skills, for example, than being an expert on the service (there are other people on the delivery team with deeper knowledge about the service).

For the sake of efficiency

Consider yourself as a customer. In addition to being satisfied with the delivered service (from both a quality as well as a service level point of view), you would like to have someone to talk to. That includes being able to inform yourself regarding different service-related issues (e.g., number of resolved incidents, achievement of Service Level Agreement targets, etc.), but also where you can place your complaints or compliments. Then you would be confident that there is someone who manages that service.

It’s the same with your customers. They have the same preferences, which means you have an obligation to find your ideal Service Level Manager – because satisfied customers will pay your bills. Unsatisfied ones might pay one or two, but certainly not for the long term.

If you would like to check your compliance with ITIL or ISO 20000, use our free  Gap Analysis Tools.

Advisera Branimir Valentic
Branimir Valentic
Branimir is an expert in IT service management (consultancy, training and tools), IT governance (training and consulting), project management and consultancy in IT and telecommunication. He holds the following certificates: ITIL Expert, ISO 20000, ISMS Lead Auditor and PRINCE2.