Libraries and information centers today are very different places from those that existed at the beginning of the 20th century, and very different as well from the libraries of only 25 years ago. Education for library and information science has striven to keep pace with all the myriads of changes. Within the last 100 years, fortunately and necessarily in order to retain its relevance, professional library education and practice has evolved from the centrality of teaching and writing the “library hand” to providing modern curricula such as services for distance learners and Web-based instruction using course management systems such as Blackboard, WebCT, and so forth. Along the way, the library profession has often been first not only to accept but also to adopt and apply the technological innovations now common to modern civilization. One of the newest trends involves the “I-Schools” where information is taught as the overarching discipline with librarianship just one of the programs in a larger college offering programs in informatics, information science, information architecture, knowledge management, and so forth. Throughout, library and information science educators have paved the way to the acceptance of innovation in libraries and information centers by instructing students to use and apply new technologies.
End users have expectations regarding services and support, and the quality thereof, provided by the supplier. They compare their expectations to the received service to assess the service quality (Coye, 2004).
In order to ensure that the service supplied by the service provider meets the expectations of end users, a successful service level agreement (SLA) is required. Quality SLA’s clearly define, amongst many other elements, the commitments and responsibilities of the IT service provider and end users within the service delivery processes (Larson, 1998). One method of measuring the success of SLA’s is by using service metrics with regard to the availability, reliability, serviceability, response, and user satisfaction of the SLA (Larson, 1998). Therefore, the success of the SLA depends on a clear, common understanding of the services and service quality between the service provider and end users. Furthermore commitment, trust, and cooperation between all parties is necessary to achieve success with SLA’s (Hiles, 1994). However, in this paper it is argued that all these soft issues can only form a basis when sound relationships are established and maintained between the IT service provider and end users (Leonard, 2002).
This paper aims to determine how the establishment of a sound IT-end user relationship can add value to the SLA for both the IT service provider and the end users, and increase the success of SLA’s.Top
Problem Background And Research Approach
According to Parish (1997), the benefit of an SLA is that the identification of accountability in the service delivery process can be determined more easily, even when more than one service provider is involved in the process. Therefore, commitment from service providers and end users in the service delivery process can be determined. Secondly, the SLA will promote a focus on the quality of service required by end users to support their business needs. Thirdly, it will enable the service provider to clearly identify the key service needs of the end user organization to ensure that the business operations of the end user organization are operating at optimal level. Finally, a successful SLA will enable the service provider and the end users to implement correct service metrics to monitor the quality of service, which will enable them to perceive any service problems in advance and implement contingent plans. According to Lehr and McKnight (2002) the service metrics can be described as the commitments from the IT service provider to guarantee the quality of service delivered to end users at the agreed service level stated in the SLA.
According to Hiles (1994), the reasons for unsuccessful SLA’s are insufficient service definition, poor measurement of service quality, inconveniently large documentation of SLAs, a lack of mutual understanding and, most commonly, a lack of commitment from the end users.
According to Leonard (2002), commitment and mutual understanding form, amongst other soft issues, the basis of any sound relationship between end users and IT professionals. Leonard (2002) states that an IT-end user relationship consists of physical and abstract elements which impact on the soundness of the IT-end user relationship. It is, therefore, argued that the elements of the abstract dimension of a sound IT-end user relationship contribute to the successfulness of the SLA. The most important elements that play a role in this regard, are a supportive culture, commitment, and cooperation (Leonard 2002). On the contrary, it is argued that a lack of commitment from end users and IT service providers will result in a poorly drafted SLA due to an unclear service definition and a lack of proper service quality metrics. Pratt (2003) has indicated that poorly drafted service elements in the SLA will create a poor picture of the services provided by the service provider from the point of view of the end users, resulting in an unsuccessful SLA.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Videoconferencing: Conducting a conference between two or more participants at different geographical sites by using computer networks to transmit audio and video data.
Course Management Systems (CMS): Computer software system that provides a course shell with a number of integrated tools that may include chat software, threaded discussion board, online grade books, online testing, and other classroom functions.
Information Literacy: An integrated set of skills and the knowledge of information tools and resources that allow a person to recognize an information need and locate, evaluate, and use information effectively.
Distance Education: A planned teaching and learning experience that may use a wide spectrum of technologies to reach learners at a site other than that of the campus or institution delivering the course.
Digital Libraries: Organized collections of digital information.
I-Schools: A group of schools/colleges that focus on the discipline of information with programs in information architecture, information technology, information science, knowledge management, librarianship, and other disciplines associated with the production, organization, and use of information.