Posted by: Adam Deane | 30/06/2010

BPM: Holidays and SLAs

Back from my holiday.
I’ll spare you the details, but I’ll just say that that it involved sun, beach, great food and a lot of relaxing…

BPM on holidayAs you know, the English law forbids us from smiling, wearing shorts or going anywhere without an umbrella, so I took my chances and flew abroad.

Some people start their trip by trekking through forests, some try to cross great deserts, some even risk their life making their way through dangerous villages.

My trip was even scarier… My trip started at Heathrow airport.

For years Heathrow has had a bad reputation.
The check-in queues, the security queues, the boarding queues, the queues for other queues…

If you managed to get from the check-in to the plane in less than 2 hours, you felt as if the gods were smiling on you.

Over the years we’ve learnt to accept that the security checks will take a lot of time.
Heathrow was one big strategy game. The big race…

As soon as I’d finish checking in, the race was on for the security checks. There is no time to dawdle.. must be alert…. which queue is the shortest?.. that one.. no, that one.. that one is moving faster… let’s get it… keep looking calm… come on.. come on..

Officially, Heathrow advises to check in 3 hours prior to departure.

So imagine my amazement when I got through in 10 minutes. 10 MINUTES!!!!
Not just security.. the whole deal.. from the tube station, through the check-in counter, through the security checks… in 10 minutes.

It turns out that Heathrow has decided to take the whole SLA issue very seriously…
They’ve thrown buckets of money and resources at it. Everything but the kitchen sink..

Terminal 5 is very impressive. Clean, quiet, friendly. Dozens and dozens of check-in counters… some with no queues at all.
Security checkin… there are dozens of scanning machines.. more staff than passengers… amazing…

And just to annoy you, they’ve set up a big “How are we performing” board with KPIs and SLAs
Bloody typical !!! Designing SLAs when things are running well..
Where were you a couple of years ago? Ah?

heathrow performing

Heathrow is a good example of organisational SLAs.
I rarely see an organisation that decides “let’s set a strategic SLA and allocate resources to meet the SLA”
Most organisational SLAs are usually set at 90% of the time it takes the existing staff to do it today.
The common concept is “We are striving to be better”, but without allocating the resources or effort to actually do it better.

Looking at Heathrow’s SLA board, I was reminded of Ashish’s blog about SLAs driving mediocre services
Although I believe organisations should use SLAs, I rarely see an organisation that sets them properly.

Even Heathrow’s SLA board was a bit smug… Look at us.. We are above 90% of the SLA… I would have appreciated it more if they would have shown one area that was below 90% SLA and then said that they will do their best to raise their effort there… (but maybe I’m just whinging…)

SLAs need to be set as a target of the required level of organization performance. Organisations need to allocate resources to meet these SLAs, not set SLAs based on the existing resources.

For years Heathrow had a SLA of 3 hours. It was based on the ability of the existing staff to complete the procedure. Suddenly the SLA is 10 minutes. What has changed? Rethinking, Rebudgeting, Resources.

holidaySo there I was. Finished the security checks. 3 hours before departure. What do I do now for 3 hours?

Typical Heathrow! Can’t do anything right. Maybe I’ll buy something to eat at the at that Sushi shop…

Maybe I’ll be lucky and there is a queue….


  1. Very Nice.

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