Do we need an SLA for VIPs

By ITIL® from Experience©

"Very Important Persons" (VIP) usually include executives from IT and the business (e.g. CIO, CxOs, directors). Given that they have a powerful bark, the common thinking is that it is better to keep them happy and avoid a complaint.

As a result many Service Desks manage VIP requests with an enhanced sense of urgency. Some even assign their highest level of priority to their requests as if it is a crisis. Alerts are often put in ITSM tools to ensure that Service Desk Analysts treat them with a sense of urgency.

Some Service Desks even have a separate phone number for VIPs. A private direct telephone number that jumps the Call Center's Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) queue so that it is answered immediately. However, as the word gets around, people ask to be added to the VIP list so that they can use the "special" telephone number for better service. Simply assigning the highest level of priority based on the individual who called is not utilizing resources effectively and disrupts work patterns. People are mobilized to address requests from VIPs regardless of the impact on the business or consideration to the other incidents affecting the business that are logged by non-VIPs.

For example, in one organization everyone dropped what they were doing when the CEO needed help. All his requests were managed with the highest level of priority simply because "He" called. One day he called the Service Desk because he was having trouble loading music on his iPod. Even though he told the Service Desk Agent that he was asking for a favor since his request was not business related, everyone was mobilized as if a major incident happened. This caused unnecessary Service Level Agreement (SLA) breaches as other requests were ignored until his music was loaded.

Priority of service should be driven by the impact to the business and urgency of the situation and not based on the user's position in the organization. Thus, the incident from a surgeon who cannot print the directions to a friend's cottage is less of a priority compared to the incident of a nurse who cannot monitor a patient’s vital signs in the Intensive Care Unit due to a faulty connection.

ITIL® does not mention VIP or User-Based SLAs1 even though many ITSM tools have the functionality to do so (e.g. Marval MSM, Axios assyst). Caution should be used not to implement a Customer-Based SLA2 and a separate point-of-contact to address deficiencies in the support process and capabilities.

If management is concerned that VIPs are not properly served it can take a pro-active or a reactive approach.

To be pro-active, meet each VIP to verify that the current SLA meets their needs. The opportunity can be taken to present a priority matrix with corresponding response and resolution times. It helps clarify expectations and informs them that incidents with the highest impact to the business will be addressed first (see We need SLAs. Should we start with Service Level Requirements). It is also a good time to discuss the costs required to deliver enhanced services to VIPs. If they demand an enhanced service, investments required to build the support organization’s capabilities to meet these commitments can be discussed.

The reactive approach is to let the VIPs experience the service like every other user and thus, it enables them to understand their users' level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. When a VIP complains, first address their issue and then schedule a post-mortem review meeting and discuss the points mentioned previously. However, this approach usually leads to more drastic changes to operations since the focus of the review will be on fixing deficiencies often resulting in being mandated to implement a VIP SLA.

Of course, then there is reality. The CIO and senior management may not care about these best practices. However, these points can be used to ensure that an informed decision is made. However, the biggest problem with VIP SLAs is that once a VIP is not satisfied with the VIP service, operations will need to create a V-VIP, then to a V-V-VIP SLA and so on…

Last modified on: 2016-11-28

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ITIL Process > Service Level Management (SLM)

1. ITIL® mentions three (3) types of SLAs: Service-based, Customer-Based and Multi-Level SLA. See Sections, Service Design, ITIL® v3, 2007 Edition p. 67 -or- Section 4.4.3, Service Deliver, ITIL v2, p. 34
2. Customer-Based SLA “is an agreement with an individual customer group, covering all the services they use. For example, agreements may be reached with an organization’s finance department covering say, the finance system, the accounting system, the payroll system, the billing system, the procurement system, and any other IT systems that they use. Customers often prefer such an agreement, as all of their requirements are covered in a single document. Only one signatory is normally required, which simplifies the issue. ITIL® Service Design, 2007 Edition, p. 68


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