IT Quality: Where to Start?

Gene Rogers

The most frequent comment I get when discussing IT Quality is, "I want to improve but I just don’t know where to start". I can empathize with the comment. It can be overwhelming when you look at the various IT areas (Architecture, Development, Infrastructure, Security, Support, etc.) to find a place to begin. So, where to start?
My advice is to start at the very end of the IT value chain and work backwards. The end of the value chain is the point where services are being delivered to the customer. This is the place where you will make the biggest impact.
You don’t need any special tools or training to get started. All you need is a spreadsheet and the answer to these four questions:
  • What services do I offer?
  • Who is the owner of those services?
  • What is the service level agreement (SLA) for those services?
  • Am I getting better or worse on the SLA?

Follow these 5 steps and begin your journey to IT Quality:

  1. Make a spreadsheet with 4 columns
  2. In the first column, list ALL the IT Services you currently offer. The list could include stuff like email, online storage, wireless, cell phone, software, etc. Don’t leave anything off the list. (By the way, if you have more than 25 or 30, you have to many…but that’s another article)
  3. In the second column write down the name of the person that "owns" that service. By "owning" I mean the person responsible for the day-to-day operations of the service. If you have trouble identifying an owner ask yourself this question, "who would I call if the service is down". There’s your answer. The service owner is responsible for future service improvements.
  4. The third column is for the Service Level Agreement. List the service level agreement for each service. Don’t have a service level agreement for every service? Well then, you have just identified your first improvement area. It is critical that each and every service have a service level agreement…and not one that you just made up. A true service level agreement is one that is based on what the customer expects and on what you can deliver. Measuring and monitoring service levels is foundational for creating IT quality.
  5. If you have Service Level Agreements, place an arrow in the fourth column for the direction the SLA moved from the previous month (Up is usually better, down is usually worse, but there are exceptions, however.)
Congratulations, you have just created a measuring and monitoring systems for your services!
In the next article we will discuss how to enhance your new measuring & monitoring system plus learn best practices for creating service level agreements.