Service Level Management (SLM)

ITIL offers a framework of structured, scalable, best practices and processes that organizations can adopt and adapt to fit their own operations. 

What is Service Level Management (SLM)?

ITIL Service Delivery Framework

Service Level Management (SLM) is one of five components in the ITIL Service Delivery area. It is arguably the most important set of processes within the ITIL framework. SLM processes provide a framework by which services are defined, service levels required to support business processes are agreed upon, Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Operational Level Agreements (OLAs) are developed to satisfy the agreements, and costs of services are developed.

Executing Service Level Management processes permits IT staff to more accurately and cost effectively provision identified levels of service to the business. The processes ensure business and IT understand their roles and responsibilities and empower the business units.

In the end, business units are justifying to senior management the levels of service needed to support business processes, not IT. And the built-in continuous improvement processes ensure that when business needs change, supporting IT services change with them.


Service Level Management activities

Identifying business requirements by working with business units

Establishing the scope of services, timeliness, hours of operation, recovery aspects, and service performance

Translating business requirements into IT requirements

Developing and maintaining a service catalog, including costs for different tiers of service performance

Performing gap analysis between business requirements and available services

Determining the costs related to services such that service goals satisfy business needs at a price the business can afford

Drafting, negotiating and refining SLAs with the business units, ensuring business requirements are met and agreement from all parties involved

Implementing SLAs

Measuring SLA performance, reporting results and adjusting as necessary

Benefits of Implementation

Why Should I Implement Service Level Management? 



Immediate benefits to implementing SLM processes include:

  • Enabling a better understanding between business units and IT
  • Setting more accurate service quality expectations and effectively measuring, monitoring and reporting service quality
  • Clearly delineating roles and responsibilities
  • Providing the necessary flexibility for business to react quickly to market conditions
  • Creating more accurate infrastructure sizing based on clearly defining service levels
  • Avoiding or mitigating the costs of excess or insufficient capacity
  • Providing discipline in supporting internal or external sourcing of IT services

Service Level Management teams have close ties to business processes and customer management, Financial Management for IT Services, and Capacity Management. Capacity Management provides performance data to the SLM team for SLA sizing. Service Level Management passes information about service gaps and interruptions back to Capacity Management for capacity assessment and implementation of required changes.

Vityl Capacity Management supports Service Level Management by:

  • Gathering historical and real-time data on service performance
  • Determining current levels of service to use as a starting point in SLA negotiations
  • Providing the performance data required to make informed decisions regarding SLAs
  • Allowing you to experiment with multiple scenarios to determine resources needed to meet business unit goals
  • Determining whether SLAs are sustainable on current hardware or if upgrades are required
  • Tracking and reporting service performance against SLAs on an ongoing basis
  • Proactively alerting IT of impending bottlenecks so they can be resolved before impacting service performance

Implementation Steps

As with all major projects, proper planning is key. Fortra recommends following these steps for implementing ITIL Service Level Management:

1. Gather the data.


Identify a SLM manager and form a team to spearhead the implementation. The team must perform several duties:

  • Assess current state. Discover where and to what extent CM work is being performed today and document current reports, distribution lists, policies and procedures.
  • Inventory tools and software currently used for monitoring, capacity planning, performance management, and charge back, all of which support SLM processes.
  • Collect budget details that pertain to capacity management work.
  • Perform a gap analysis to reveal areas that require process improvements, training, or software.
  • Develop a project plan to migrate to the new organization based on required changes you uncovered.

2. Build the plan.


The implementation plan should:

  • Establish the three major components of capacity management - people, processes and tools.
  • Outline the costs necessary to sustain the new organization and build a preliminary budget.
  • Determine where the service level manager should be placed in the organization, ideally reporting directly to the CIO, IT Director or within the service management group.
  • Describe workflow, including data inputs, information outputs, and work processes.
  • Allocate sufficient time for training the people performing the work.
  • Identify any necessary work to acquire, consolidate and/or implement capacity and performance tools.

Be sure to communicate the organization and its processes to the rest of the company, preferably through your internal corporate communications team. Once the project plan and budget are complete, they should be submitted for approval.

3. Execute the plan.


You will want to execute the project plan in a series of steps:

  • Assign the staff.
  • Document and publish the processes. This is an important step that will likely take considerable time during initial implementation.
  • Acquire and implement the tools. Ideally, a single tool would be used to provide the data and reporting necessary for accurate reporting of service performance.
  • Inventory IT services and build a service catalog. Be sure service definitions meet Financial Management's requirements, such that utilization data can be obtained and associated to a particular service.
  • Identify, develop, negotiate and implement SLAs and OLAs. Close work with business units is required. SLAs and OLAs should be a page or two in length and include:
    • Parties involved
    • Start, end and review dates
    • Scope of the agreement
    • Description of the services provided
    • Roles and responsibilities of each party involved
    • Hours of operation
    • Service availability
    • Service reliability
    • Support
    • Throughput, transaction times and/or response times
    • Change turnaround targets
    • Security requirements and considerations
    • Service continuity
    • Service costs and how they are charged
    • Service reporting
    • Service incentives and penalties
  • Identify any required services not currently provided by IT and resolve any contradictions in service requirements vs contingency recovery time, for example.
  • Define metrics to measure success. Be sure to tie your metrics to business value, not technical measures. Metrics should be few in number, yet succinct and to the point.
  • Build training materials and execute the training plan. Develop the training materials based on the processes you drafted and test staff members to ensure retention.
  • Implement reporting and exception processes and procedures. Two types of reporting are necessary. High-level reporting, used to keep management informed, often takes the form of a dashboard, using colors to depict service quality. Be sure to report both current status and how it is trending. The second type of reporting is more detailed for use by the SLM team to identify problematic service areas.

4. Initiate the ongoing work of SLM.


Begin the reporting process. Include the ability to:

  • Automatically alert the SLM team when services are in danger of missing performance targets due to bottlenecks or sudden spikes in demand.
  • Automatically alert the SLM team when trends show performance is approaching agreed-upon limits, so that corrective actions can be taken to prevent service outages or poor service performance.

    Schedule monthly or quarterly review meetings to discuss service performance results. Initiate any changes required as a result of unforeseen business events or changes in business priorities.

5. Post implementation review.


Document lessons learned and identify any changes that should be made to the process to facilitate future process migrations. Perform a post-implementation audit 6-12 months after completion to determine if the new processes are being adhered to and if you're getting expected results.

Getting Started

Take the Next Step

Read the guide: 

Getting Started with Capacity Management
Learn what you need to get started with a capacity management practice and how to choose tools to support this aspect of ITIL. 




Explore the software:

Vityl Capacity Management Software
See how Vityl Capacity Management helps with capacity planning, performance monitoring, IT analytics, and more.  
Watch a Demo >      Product Info >


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            ITIL Components:
            Business Relationship Management
            ICT Infrastructure Management
            Application Management
            Security Management
            Service Delivery
                  - Service Level Management (current)
                  - Financial Management
                  - Capacity Management
                  - Availability Management 
                  - Continuity Management
            Service Support
                  - Incident Management
                  - Problem Management
                  - Configuration Management