Many IT departments are failing to meet their own service level agreements, according to a recent survey from Forrester.

The research, sponsored by Compuware, found that more than a quarter of IT departments with SLAs do not meet the conditions laid out in the agreement. In addition, 41 percent of respondents agreed that their insights into service levels is basic and they don't provide SLA information to executives on a regular basis. On top of that, 40 percent of those surveyed agreed that their service level reporting lacks information that executives have requested.

Forrester believes that often the business unit has expectations out of the reach of IT, and says that the reason for the mismatch in expectations in the use of SLAs is that these agreements are IT-centric and not compatible with business objectives. It found that the majority of IT departments work with IT-centric metrics like network and server availability, or number of incidents reported.

"26 percent of the time, IT are failing to meet their SLAs," said Michael Allen, European director of IT service management at Compuware. "Business expectations being too high is cited as the reason for IT not meeting expectations a quarter of the time.

"But an SLA is supposed to be an agreement reached by both parties to the same thing," he added. "So one wonders how they can say that. It is down to IT measuring the success of business objectives. Technical metrics, network and server uptime etc, which are important to businesses, are not really important to end-users."

Forrester thinks that there is still too little co-ordination and dialogue between IT and its business colleagues. "The ultimate judge of IT and business alignment is the end-user," said Jean-Pierre Garbani, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester. "If alignment is viewed as conformity to user expectations in terms of availability, performance, usability, and accuracy, then monitoring end-user performance is the only way IT knows that it is meeting these expectations."

The survey found that 87 percent of the respondents said they are using end-user experience monitoring tools for at least some business-critical applications, but in a later question, 64 percent of them admitted that they know end-user are experiencing performance or availability problems only when end-users register a complaint to the help desk.

"41 percent of respondents don't even provide reporting to executives, so how can IT remain relevant when it is not communicating to the business about service delivery?" asked Allen. "Unfortunately, IT often only finds out about problems from helpdesk calls from users, and not the system management tool."

Allen argued that IT needs to get a handle on end-user perceptive, especially as more and more companies are rolling out end-user experience policies.

"When an application is unavailable, a user may go away for hour or so, and then come back, before reporting the problem," he said. "Indeed, performance problems (such as slow network or internet connection) often go unreported."

"Of the 321 respondents who have SLAs in place, 45 percent said they were monitoring end-user experience," said Allen. "42 percent are monitoring some user experience, while 8 percent are considering it, and 4 percent said they had no end-user monitoring systems."

"53 percent said it was challenging to monitor end-user experiences," he added.

"86 percent of the people surveyed say end-users report problems when all of the infrastructure monitoring lights are green," he continued. "IT is often monitoring its silos, checking the server is up and running, and therefore traditional monitoring is not sufficient."

He believes that IT has a 'golden hour' to fix issues, in order to reduce business impact and "enhance user opinion of IT."

Forrester meanwhile says the main points the survey raises are:

    Service-level metrics are still very IT-centric and demonstrate little business alignment.

    Measuring the quality of service is not automated to the extent it could be.

    Most enterprises probably do not understand end-user experience monitoring and the software that is currently available.