If you’re an experienced IT manager, you’ve probably had to create service-level agreements. Heck, you’ve probably created dozens. But when was the last time you thought about what an SLA really is? Or what it can be – an effective and efficient management tool. It’s probably been a while, right?
Reviewing what it is and how to create one is instructive – even if you’ve created hundreds of them.
What Are Service Level Agreements?
What is an SLA? It’s a written document between a service provider and a client. The client can be internal or external. It doesn’t matter. It has no set length. It can be short, long, or anything in between. Some may be as short as one page. Some may be as long as one hundred pages.
A typical agreement describes the services to be delivered, the level of service quality in qualitative and quantitative terms, and the remedies if the requirements aren’t met. It also includes the parties’ roles and responsibilities.
A service level agreement also describes the monitoring details, the problem-resolution procedures, the way reporting occurs and when, and the metrics used to judge performance. Metrics typically cover things like technical quality, service availability, and service satisfaction.
Create Service Level Agreements – Not A Contract
Contrary to what some people think, an SLA is not a formal contract. Nor is it a legal straight jacket signed in blood. Managers who think this way are doomed to have their projects fail.
Instead, think of it as a working process designed to define and balance business requirements with available resources. Savvy managers consider it as a list of targets and goals they can use to drive the quality of a project.
Developing an SLA when outsourcing service desk providers or IT help desk support is critical. It sets the tone of the provider/client relationship, defines the expectations around the services offered, and highlights the potential gaps and problems in service delivery, among other things.
Steps in Developing An SLA
You don’t need to be a lawyer, nor do you have to take months to create one. If you keep it simple and follow a checklist, you can create one fairly quickly.
Below is a checklist we have put together for you to use. Feel free to adapt it to fit your needs:
- Define the service you want to outsource
- Determine what you can measure
- Describe your business need and metrics
- Obtain your baselines/set service targets
- Decide on how you will monitor and review performance
- Determine your reporting procedures
- Identify the project’s business owner/manager
- Prepare the service agreement document
- Review it with the service provider
- Revise the document as needed
- Obtain approval of all the parties involved.
You should create a simple document in the beginning and when things change, you can always expand on it.
Action Point: Pick a project you might like to outsource. Then develop a checklist based on that project.
Selecting The Right Metrics
Selecting the metrics is a crucial step in the process. Using metrics the right way builds team morale. Using them the wrong way erodes morale. So choose the metrics carefully and use them judiciously.
You should also set up periodic, review sessions with all business heads and the service provider. Good times to do that are when the environment changes, the client’s needs or expectations change, the workload changes, and/or when better, more precise metrics and processes become available.
Developing a good SLA can make or break an outsourced IT help desk project. So take the time to get it right. It will set the project’s tone and expectations early on and drive the project forward.
And if something breaks down, you have the remedies for the problem spelled out in black and white.
We have another post for you that can serve as a guide to developing a good SLA
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