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Get a service level agreement organised

Do not get ripped off in an outsource agreement the staff notice it first

The success of the Service Level Agreement (SLA) is also observed closely by your staff. We have seen in our outsource work that staff notice only too well whether their original employer is getting value or just being ‘ripped off’ and often have great fun when it does go wrong. This keen appraisal of how it works in practice impacts upon their own motivation and their relationships with both you and the outsource organisation. This excerpt from an interview gives an indication of how staff can view the situation:
The supplier had people who knew the sites, knew the systems, and so they put a sensible bid in, but the (clients) have always been screwed over contracts, we don’t have a contract team of professionals who know how to handle them (the suppliers). A classic one was colour printers in certain areas, that would not work, couldn’t get colour printing, and in the end there was a lot of banging on the table ‘you said in the contract that you would get us colour printing’ and the outsourcer turned round and said ‘the contract says we will get you colour printers, we did not say they would print in colour (laughs)! So my old company always got screwed on contracts because they didn’t understand what they were reading.

and it happens all the time…

Royston

Do you have a feasible project?

Is your project feasible?

The best way to find out whether your project is feasible is to complete a Feasibility Study. This process helps you gain confidence that the solution you need to build can be implemented on time and under budget. So here’s how to do it in 5 simple steps…
Completing a Feasibility Study
A Feasibility Study needs to be completed as early in the Project Life Cycle as possible. The best time to complete it is when you have identified a range of different alternative solutions and you need to know which solution is the most feasible to implement. Here’s how to do it…
Step 1: Research the Business Drivers
In most cases, your project is being driven by a problem in the business. These problems are called “business drivers” and you need to have a clear understanding of what they are, as part of your Feasibility Study.
For instance, the business driver might be that an IT system is outdated and is causing customer complaints, or that two businesses need to merge because of an acquisition. Regardless of the business driver, you need to get to the bottom of it so you fully understand the reasons why the project has been kicked off.
Find out why the business driver is important to the business, and why it’s critical that the project delivers a solution to it within a specified timeframe. Then find out what the impact will be to the business, if the project slips.
Step 2: Confirm the Alternative Solutions
Now you have a clear understanding of the business problem that the project addresses, you need to understand the alternative solutions available.
If it’s an IT system that is outdated, then your alternative solutions might include redeveloping the existing system, replacing it or merging it with another system.
Only with a clear understanding of the alternative solutions to the business problem, can you progress with the Feasibility Study.
Step 3: Determine the Feasibility
You now need to identify the feasibility of each solution. The question to ask of each alternative solution is “can we deliver it on time and under budget?”
To answer this question, you need to use a variety of methods to assess the feasibility of each solution. Here are some examples of ways you can assess feasibility:

  • Research: Perform online research to see if other companies have implemented the same solutions and how they got on.
  • Prototyping: Identify the part of the solution that has the highest risk, and then build a sample of it to see if it’s possible to create.
  • Time-boxing: Complete some of the tasks in your project plan and measure how long it took vs. planned. If you delivered it on time, then you know that your planning is quite accurate.

Step 4: Choose a Preferred Solution
With the feasibility of each alternative solution known, the next step is to select a preferred solution to be delivered by your project. Choose the solution that; is most feasible to implement, has the lowest risk, and you have the highest confidence of delivering.
You’ve now chosen a solution to a known business problem, and you have a high degree of confidence that you can deliver that solution on time and under budget, as part of the project.
Step 5:
It’s now time to take your chosen solution and reassess its feasibility at a lower level. List all of the tasks that are needed to complete the solution. Then run those tasks by your team to see how long they think it will take to complete them. Add all of the tasks and timeframes to a project plan to see if you can do it all within the project deadline. Then ask your team to identify the highest risk tasks and get them to investigate them further to check that they are achievable. Use the techniques in Step 3 to give you a very high degree of confidence that it’s practically achievable. Then document all of the results in a Feasibility Study.

After completing these 5 steps, get your Feasibility Study approved by your manager so that everyone in the project team has a high degree of confidence that the project can deliver successfully.

SERVQUAL – measuring service quality

When determining whether service delivery is meeting service expectations, it is useful to seek the views of service users. Quite often, an organisation will use a SERVQUAL questionnaire to gain the views of service users.

SERVQUAL (Service Quality) is a self-administered questionnaire designed to measure how customers view/judge service quality. Parasuraman et al (1994) defined service quality as the degree of discrepancy between customers’ normative expectations for the service and their perceptions of the service performance.
Parasuraman made the assumption that customers judge service quality by making a comparison between their expectation of the service that they should receive and their perceptions of the service that they actually receive.

Differences between expectations and actual performance are referred to as ‘gaps’. The SERVQUAL instrument can be used to measure any or all of the following five gaps.
Gap 1: Consumer expectation – management perception gap
Understanding the difference between consumer expectations and management perceptions of customer expectations.
Gap 2: Service quality specification gap
The different service standard between management perceptions of consumer expectations and service quality specifications.
Gap 3: Service delivery gap
The difference of service performance between service quality specifications and the service actually delivered.
Gap 4: External communication gap
The difference of communications between service delivery and what is communicated about the service to customers.
Gap 5: Expected service – perceived service gap
The difference between expected service and perceived service from customers’ point of view. Based upon these gaps, five behavioural dimensions of service quality have been identified and are now used in most studies using the SERVQUAL approach.

The 5 Service Quality Dimensions.

  1. Tangibles – Physical facilities equipment and appearance of personnel
  2. Reliability – Ability to perform the service with the promised dependability
  3. Responsiveness – Providing a prompt service
  4. Assurance – Knowledge and coutesy of employees
  5. Empathy – caring and individualised attention to customers

Users of the SERVQUAL questionnaire rate questions on a Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree). The SERVQUAL instrument comprises 22 statements used to assess service quality across the five dimensions outlined in Table 2 with each statement used twice – once to measure expectations and once to measure perceptions.
I have attached an example of a generic SERVQUAL questionnaire as a PDF feel free to use. Also I have set up an free on-line version that you can use for your own assessments – you can find it here:SERVQUAL Questionnaire