Doing more for less with ICT services – Vega’s guide for
achieving ICT service excellence
In May 2010 the UK’s new coalition Government announced an
additional £6.2bn of efficiency savings to be funded from the
2010-11 budget. This announcement is only a taste of things to come
with 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) promising even
further radical cuts to address the scale of the national budget
deficient. Savings are expected to be made from across all areas of
the UK Government including a reduction in IT spending as well as
the immediate re-negotiations to achieve cost reductions from the
major suppliers to government. This article has been produced to
act as easy to use checklist for those in public service looking to
ensure value for money government services.
The Cabinet Office-based Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG) was
created to spearhead delivery of these savings. More recently, the
Minister for the Cabinet Office, who also co-chairs the efficiency
board, met with the CEOs of the 19 largest Government suppliers,
challenging them to help cut the cost of services provided to
As a guide to those government senior managers responsible for
managing and delivering their organisation’s ICT departments (and
consequential furtherance of the Operational Efficiency Programme
agenda, Vega consultant James Henry provides his top five tips to
delivering ICT service efficiency whilst ensuring the business is
Tip 1 – Baseline the complete current service provision
This sounds obvious, but all too often Vega has worked in
environments where this was not the case.
The value of a documented service baseline should not be
underestimated. It can be a relatively short exercise which can
yield significant savings. If this has never been completed, you
are likely to discover that your organisation may be paying and
supporting services that the business no longer use or
A baseline of all current ICT services should be stored in a
document commonly known as a Service Catalogue, which should
contain ‘the six serving men’ – the who, where, what, why, when and
how of each service.
Tip 2 – Ascertain what levels of service you are getting and
Your organisation should consider the follow questions for each
- What service levels are you paying for on an annual basis?
- For what benefit?
- When was the service contract last reviewed or negotiated?
- Are service review meetings held, and, if so, are they
- When was the business requirement for each service last
advertised in open competition?
Review contracts, service level agreements (SLA) and invoices.
Results of the review can also be stored in the Service
Tip 3 – Establish what services and associated levels are
needed for the business
Test each service against current and future business
requirements. For each service, your organisation should consider
the follow questions:
- What do Service Users and Customers now need?
- Are the stated Service Users’ needs really ‘needs’ and not
- Is this what they are receiving? If not, why not
- Does the business requirement still exist for each service in
- Is your organisation paying annual maintenance on a service
that adds no value to the business?
Discussion with service customers (normally the champion of the
original service request who paid/pays) often highlights that
strategic business requirements have changed, either by design or
evolution. Unless services are reviewed frequently, misalignment
can result in inefficiency by promoting a culture of working around
extant ICT service solutions, rather than with them.
Discussion with ICT service customers and users should be
documented into structured documents commonly known as Service
Level Requirements (SLR)
Tip 4 – Negotiate to align services to the business need
Collaborating with service customers, contract and commercial
staff to review the SLRs against contracts, SLAs, billing and
accounts is the first step in preparing to negotiate with service
Challenge all service suppliers to match your service
requirements at their best price. It is almost certain that a
better deal can be negotiated.
Service suppliers will want to retain your business, especially
in the current economic climate. Suppliers will not want to risk
losing your business to competition, so may be willing to concede
some profit in order to retain to your custom. It is a well known
adage that it is far more cost-effective to retain an existing
client than to win a new one.
If the relationship is damaged, yet the business requirement
remains, the SLR should be advertised in open competition. Clearly,
if the business requirement no longer exists, the service should be
Be reasonable. Threatening and ‘pulling the contract’ on service
suppliers should only be used as a last resort. Remember, you will
only get what you pay for; if the service supplier is barely
covering cost, they may not be as attentive as you would like and
service quality will almost certainly diminish.
Tip 5 – Monitor and manage service delivery
In order to achieve true ICT Service Level Management
excellence, organisations must continuously monitor performance of
services. This needn’t be manual, exhaustive or completed at ‘grass
root level’; it should be tailored to the scope of each service and
its criticality to the business. Agreeing the level of useful
reporting with the service customer, users and supplier is widely
accepted good practice. Typically, service reports include:
- Key performance indicators (KPI) as defined in the contract /
- Service-specific performance volumetrics
- Service management metrics – number of service incidents,
changes and releases
- Forward schedule of change
- Major incidents – to include SLA breaches and the remedial
actions that all parties are taking to prevent reoccurrence.
A schedule of regular, periodic Service Review Meetings is also
considered good practice. Representation from Service Managers,
Service Supplier Account Manager(s) and Service Users is common to
ensure all stakeholder perspectives are covered. These meetings
provide invaluable opportunities to discuss and review service
issues with the key stakeholders. They enable you, as a Service
Manager, to discuss service performance, continuous improvement and
further opportunity to evaluate if the service provision aligns to
current service level requirements. It also allows account managers
to discuss future service developments with you.
As the harsh economic reality bites, we all – both domestically
and in business – have an obligation to make sure we achieve
lasting best value in everything we buy. This is of paramount
importance in the Public Sector as all government departments need
to ensure tax payers’ money is spent wisely.
This top 5 Guide is meant to act as an aide memoiré when your
organisation considers its approach to meeting ICT based
operational efficiency targets.
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