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Let's Shake on It: Implementing a Service Level Agreement

Securing a Service Level Agreement

What is a Service Level Agreement? (SLA)

Think of a SLA like a contract; it will contain agreed-upon standards and standard operating procedures for your team in providing services to your client. SLAs keep your organization accountable and set clear guidelines for what customers should expect from their IT services, defining for customers what to expect from their services, and creating a foundation for mutual accountability between your business and your customers. Service Level Agreements can be developed for internal customers as well, such as an IT help desk's levels of service for the personnel they support.


Benefits of a SLAs

  • Improve customer service and contribute to long-term customer loyalty and engagement
  • Facilitate communication and understanding between your business and your clients
  • Define procedures
  • Provide a basis for conflict resolution
  • Documented agreement
  • Mutually accepted

 

Putting Together a Service Level Agreement

Build Internal Commitment. What you put into your SLA you must adhere to. Make sure that your entire IT service desk staff and support groups are ready and willing to commit to the SLA.

Get to know your customer. Your team will understand how to best help your client with their IT needs if you thoroughly understand your client.

Identify participants. Identify all stakeholders, including clients, IT service desk staff, outside organization that may assist the service desk, important individuals or decision makers, etc.

Set up support metrics. Establish guidelines within your IT service desk team for responding to various issues, assigning different situations/cases different severity levels. Once you have defined severity levels; assign cycle times (how long it takes to resolve a case) according to the level of severity of each particular case.

Create a Rough Draft. The following are examples of important elements of a SLA:

  • Introduction
  • Service goal
  • Definition of terms - not everyone will know the terms used; define terms to the lowest common level
  • Service delivery elements (e.g. business hours, methods for requesting service, service tracking procedures, environments supported)
  • Escalation procedures
  • Telephone, web and email response times
  • First contact resolution by the IT service desk (e.g. IT service desk level 1 will resolve at least 70% of all cases received)
  • Reporting methods
  • SLA contract periods
  • Examples of cases by severity level and type
  • Sample of customer satisfaction survey questions

 

Getting Everyone on Board

After creating a rough draft, present it to your managers and IT/customer service teams to obtain their feedback, approval and confirmation to proceed. Once your team is on board, it is time to meet with your customers to review the Service Level Agreement and get their feedback. Make sure you are ready to explain your reasons for certain decisions regarding items included in the SLA (e.g. response times, severity levels, etc.). Should your customers request alterations to certain items in your SLA, it is important to listen to them, as they will probably be fair. Once you come to mutual agreement with one of your customers, you will be well on your way to SLA success with all of your customers.

For more information on preparing Service Level Agreements for your business, Giva provides much more in-depth coverage of this subject in our whitepaper Implementing Service Level Agreements, which you can view online or download for free.

Value in Healthcare Information Technology (HIT)

Healthcare Information Technology

In a digitized world, one of the greatest conveniences is health information technology (HIT). Considering nearly everyone in the US is a consumer of healthcare, there are numerous benefits to adopting electronic health records. The evidence report, Costs and Benefits of Health Information Technology, outlines a few. Health information technology is a means of electronically storing, recording, accessing, or transferring a patient's medical records. This includes health and medical history. Not only is this paperless and perhaps more reliable, but it allows for "clinical decision-making and disease management." It also allows for prescription filling, test ordering, and care reminding. For example, the system can provide alerts for necessary patient vaccinations or send a prescription to be filled at a pharmacy convenient to the patient. Overall, health information technology improves the efficiency of healthcare - a highly profitable, nationwide business.

However, adopting HIT is costly and requires change in the organization. It is considered an investment, but perhaps a necessary investment in terms of economic advancement. In non-financially focused studies concerning adoption of HIT, areas of improvement included increased productivity by the healthcare provider, improved patient safety and, subsequently, fewer adverse drug events (ADE) and time spent in hospitals to treat ADEs, and better physician decision-making. For example, the ability to reduce the "ordering of redundant clinical laboratory tests could produce an annual savings of $35,000 in laboratory charges." It is economically beneficial to improve the efficiency of healthcare.

In a day and age where nearly everything is digitized, it is only fitting a business as widely used as healthcare should follow suit. Adopting health information technology will improve provider efficiency while increasing consumer centeredness. Electronic health records are more personalized, more organized and more efficient. Although implementation of HIT is an expensive adjustment, benefits for both provider and consumer are apparent. Healthcare efficiency is important to society as a whole.

With efficiency of digital access to healthcare records comes the necessity of increased data security measures. The Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, known as HIPAA, was passed to establish a national framework for security standards and protection of confidentiality with regard to health care data and information. Fortunately, Giva makes HIPAA compliance very easy for our customers. The data center, hardware and software infrastructure of Giva's cloud help desk & customer service software meet the very strict HIPAA compliance regulations. See 7 Key Elements of Giva's HIPAA-Compliant Cloud Help Desk Software for Electronic Health & Medical Records.

Report Analyzes Extent of Data Breaches in California

Interesting reading from the NYT this morning:

"The constant drumbeat of data breaches won't cease anytime soon, according to a new report from California's attorney general, Kamala D. Harris.

There were 167 data breaches reported in California last year, an increase of 28 percent from the 131 data breaches reported the previous year. The information of more than 18.5 million California residents was compromised in 2013, a significant jump from the 2.5 million compromised records in 2012.

Those numbers were skewed by two widespread breaches last year. At Target, personal records for 41 million people were compromised, and at LivingSocial, hackers gained access to 50 million records. According to the attorney general, each of these two breaches put 7.5 million California residents' information at risk.

The majority of breaches — 53 percent — were because of malware and hacking, while a smaller number, 26 percent, was attributed to the physical loss of a computer or device. The report reiterates what many already knew: There is much more information to be stolen through hacking than physical loss. The vast majority of the 17 million records compromised in California last year — 93 percent — were attributable to malware or hacking, whereas only 1.15 million records were compromised by the physical loss of an electronic device."

 

Read more at data breach study in California.

Are your cloud applications HIPAA Compliant?

HIPAA Security For Help Desk, Change Management, Customer Service

Long before the commercial success of the Internet, Brian J. Fox invented one of its most widely used tools.

In 1987, Mr. Fox, wrote Bash, short for Bourne-Again Shell, a free piece of software that is now built into more than 70 percent of the machines that connect to the Internet. That includes servers, computers, routers, some mobile phones and even everyday items like refrigerators and cameras.

On Thursday, security experts warned that Bash contained a particularly alarming software bug that could be used to take control of hundreds of millions of machines around the world, potentially including Macintosh computers and smartphones that use the Android operating system.

The bug, named "Shellshock," drew comparisons to the Heartbleed bug that was discovered in a crucial piece of software last spring.

But Shellshock could be a bigger threat. While Heartbleed could be used to do things like steal passwords from a server, Shellshock can be used to take over the entire machine. And Heartbleed went unnoticed for two years and affected an estimated 500,000 machines, but Shellshock was not discovered for 22 years.

Many of the commercial tools that individual users and large corporations depend upon are built on top of programs that are written and maintained by a few unpaid volunteers in what is called the open-source community. That community, along with big companies like Google, adjusts and builds new things on top of older work. 

Sometimes there are flaws in that code. And over the years, the flaw becomes part of all sorts of products.

The mantra of open source was perhaps best articulated by Eric S. Raymond, one of the elders of the open-source movement, who wrote in 1997 that "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." But, in this case, Steven M. Bellovin, a computer science professor at Columbia University, said, those eyeballs are more consumed with new features than quality. "Quality takes work, design, review and testing and those are not nearly as much fun as coding," Mr. Bellovin said. "If the open-source community does not develop those skills, it's going to fall further behind in the quality race."*

Giva is a HIPAA compliant cloud provider for IT Service Management, Customer Service and Change Management. We reduce risk for companies by protecting their data and helping them exceed regulatory requirements. Naturally, we address vulnerabilities like Shellshock.

Give us a call to talk to one of our experts about how we address Shellshock and other vulnerabilities. Or, feel free to learn more about Giva HIPAA compliance on your own. 

* Attribution to the NYT

Experts Say 'Bash' Bug Is a Major Vulnerability

You may have heard the news about a vulnerability in Bash called Shellshock. Bash is a command processor that allows a user to conduct actions through a command-line interface for Linux environments. If the Shellshock vulnerability is exploited, a threat actor with access to a Linux server can run arbitrary commands. Many questions are emerging around how companies can protect their employees and customers.

We can help. Giva is a HIPAA compliant cloud provider for IT Service Management, Customer Service and Change Management. We reduce risk for companies by protecting their data and helping them exceed regulatory requirements. Naturally, we address vulnerabilities like Shellshock.

Give us a call to talk to one of our experts about how we address Shellshock and other vulnerabilities. Or, feel free to learn more about Giva HIPAA compliance on your own. We look forward to discussing this matter with you.

We take security seriously.

IT Help Desk + Customer Service in the Cloud

Watch our eHelpDesk and eCustomerService virtual demos and discover the Giva difference for yourself!

Join Giva for a live demo of our cloud applications to see the Giva difference.

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Twenty Tough Questions to Better Qualify Any Cloud Vendor

How can you more quickly qualify and evaluate any cloud vendor?

This white paper is designed to reduce the complexity of the cloud buying process by providing twenty penetrating questions to ask cloud vendors to become a more informed buyer. Customers interested in purchasing any cloud service (for example, IT help desk or customer service) encounter a myriad of problems and obstacles during the purchase process. The white paper provides practical "how to" advice to help avoid mistakes that even the most experienced professionals make that cost a lot of time and money. Use these questions to poke and prod at your list of cloud vendors.

How to Optimize Your Help Desk/Customer Service/Call Center Staff

Methodology for Optimizing Help Desk & Customer Service/Call Center Staffing to Save Money

 

This is an outline of the White Paper:

Call Flow Design - Understanding the Different Strategies

  • Gate Keeper Model
  • Call Sorting Model
  • Tiered Structure: Specialist Model
  • Tiered Structure: Generalist Model

Financial Impact of the Various Models

How Many Help Desk Staff Are Required For Your Call Volume?

  • Determining Direct Labor Requirements
  • Determining the Number of Potential Direct Labor Hours Available
  • Utilization Rate
  • Sample Formulas

Measure/Forecast Customer Service First Call Resolution Cost Savings

Measure and Forecast Cost Savings Attributable to Increases in First Call Resolution

 

Giva's first call resolution excel calculator tool allows CIOs and VPs of Customer Service to accurately forecast the cost benefits of programs to increase first call resolution such as using a knowledge base, investing in level 1 training, hiring more skilled level 1 personnel, etc.

The direct benefit of improved FCR is significant cost savings. Although hard to quantify, the indirect benefits are equally compelling:

  • Mean time to resolution is decreased, improving end-user productivity
  • Customer satisfaction increases
  • Up-tier resources can concentrate on higher level tasks, optimizing system performance and speeding other projects to ROI and completion
  • Job satisfaction improves for both Level 1 and Level 2 engineers
  • Relations between teams improve
  • Level 1 credibility builds, increasing utilization and opening the door for additional FCR opportunities

Cost Savings of First Call Resolution (FCR) Improvement

Help Desk First Call Resolution (FCR)

Techniques to Improve First Call Resolution

First call resolution (FCR) is one of the standard help desk metrics to evaluate performance because resolution timeliness is a major factor in customer satisfaction. It is an important metric to measure the success the help desk is having resolving routine requests.

This white paper contains a case study of a client who engaged on-site help desk services with CDC Global Services. The client was receiving 3,000 calls to their help desk per month due to a desktop, server, and messaging migration and their FCR dropped as low as 35%.

 

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