Service Level Agreements - The Good And The Bad Essay Sample
Service Level Agreements
A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is part of a contract which exactly defines the services to be provided by the service provider and the required standard or level for these services. Generally, SLA is part of a managed or outsourcing services agreement, or can also be used in facility management agreements and in other agreements for service provision (Gillian, 2002). Once you have chosen the right service provider to your business, it is therefore time to negotiate a solid Service Level Agreement (SLA). Service Level Agreement is a very critical part of the contract between a customer and the service provider because it clearly describes the levels of provided services and the metrics used to make sure that the service provider delivers full value (Srishti, 2011). As you negotiate your Service Level Agreement, you should therefore pay attention to the following five essential elements namely: specification of each service to be provided; details about the system, security, and network standards and infrastructure to be maintained for your service by the service provider; SLA changes; SLA enforcement and monitoring; and the procedures for prompt and safe return of your data upon sensitive termination.
The first element is the specification of each service to be provided by the service provider. Your Service Level Agreement should codify all service parameters and for each service establish required minimum performance levels. This will as a result enables you get an affirmation from your service provider concerning service performance levels, for instance uptime/ service availability, transaction throughput time, mean time to respond to a trouble call, and the mean time to restore in case of problems with the service (Judith, 2014). You should also make sure that your Service Level Agreement includes each service’ functional description, rather than just the name of the provider for it. This is very crucial because it protects you when the updates to the provider’s infrastructure occur to alter your service functionality which can cause a capability depended to be deleted (Tim, 2012).
A detail about the system, security, and network standards and infrastructure to be maintained for your service by the service provider is the second component of SLA. These should be described in detail by your Service Level Agreement in order to understand the service you are buying. For example, if the provision of electrical power is part of your Service Level Agreement, ensure that it clarifies your estimated monthly bill; this is because some providers can play games with the cost of power. Your SLA should further include your rights to audit the providers’ compliance and also conduct at least once a year onsite inspections. In addition, your Service Level Agreement should require that the service provider should immediately inform you of any discovery of unauthorized loss of your data or disclosure, or even when unauthorized disclosure or loss has occurred. You Service Level Agreement should also obligate the service provider to supply indemnification if they have caused your data to be inappropriately accessed or lost.
The third component is Service Level Agreement (SLA) changes. The SLA should include a mechanism through which you can tune regularly in response to new technologies and the changing business conditions. You will benefit from building a formal review of your Service Level Agreement at least manually so as to use new information and experience to revise it.
The fifth component is SLA enforcement and monitoring. You and the service provider should work on the aspects of each service to be measured, how to measure it, and how to monitor those metrics. The service provider should provide regular access to service quality metrics and reports so that you can monitor service security, availability, and performance. The Service Level Agreement should therefore include an escalation process that facilitates quick resolution of issues and should also contain provisions under which your service provider can be penalized for violating agreed-to-service levels. And ensure that you can terminate services in case of failure to perform (Tim, 2012).
The procedure for prompt and safe return of your data upon sensitive termination is the fifth component. The Service Level Agreement should affirm your ownership of the data you will store on the systems of the service provider, outline the timeframes and the means that the service provider will ensure the return, or/ and obligate your service provider upon service termination destroy their copy of your data.
Therefore, a successful Service Level Agreement (SLA) is all about trust. SLA works best when it comes out of a collaborative effort between the customer and the service provider that can be trusted. Trusted collaboration of this kind will uncover the most cost effective manner the IT capabilities of your service provider can be put to work for your business. The success of SLA depends on the mutual understanding with the provider for regular communication, who is responsible for what, and continual awareness on how the SLA contributes to your business value (Tim, 2012).
A well written SLA can be a very valuable tool since it helps both consultants and their clients get what they want. However, there is plenty of room for errors; the following are five problem areas when crafting Service Level Agreement. It includes lack of organizational readiness, length and language, lack of support, poor customer focus, and unrealistic performance targets (TechRepublic, 2002).
Lack of organizational readiness. The first responsibility of an IT consultant is determining why your client is interested in developing Service Level Agreement. With this information, you will establish the projects scope. Lack of scope and purpose can cause problems as you begin. The greatest challenge in the organization will come from IT department most likely. Understanding the corporate culture and the willingness of the employees to change is very important. Implementing Service Level Agreement will drive a real change in culture with emphasis on service. The company can be in for an uphill climb if its IT employees are not prepared to give explanations for poor service or make some changes in order to provide better services in future.
Length and language. Certain components are essential to a good Service Level Agreement; duration, service standards, a description, evaluation criteria, roles and responsibilities should all be in the agreement. But including the required ingredients is only the first step. When writing a Service Level Agreement, it is possible to think it as just a contract than what exactly it really as an agreement. It can be easy to state terms of service and want to specify other specifics and exclusions. But if the client’s customers have problems in reading it or believe that the document is filled with too much legal jargon, they will not be able to understand or follow the terms stated. If the SLA is too long like a novel, IT and customers will be less likely to refer to it or even follow the specified terms.
Lack of support. Lack of support from the service providers, external and internal is a difficult obstacle to overcome when building Service Level Agreement. When working on the agreement and the customers of the client indicate their requirements, supporting mechanisms know as operating level agreements (OLAs) should be already in place. For instance, if the customers need fifteen minutes response time for an incident of high severity, the IT department in the organization should have processes in place to support the requirements of the customer.
Poor customer focus. It is very easy for IT service providers to describe the deliverables in terms of the systems instead of services offered. Many IT employees provide support for things like work management systems, customer information systems, mainframe platforms, databases, workstations, and Microsoft NT servers. Therefore, the job of a consultant is to help in reminding IT people that the reason for their existence is to support the customer.
Unrealistic performance targets. Performance target can derail a successful Service Level Agreement from two sides, IT and customer. SLA should be written with the customer in mind, and it should be ensured that targets are specific enough to provide requirements that are meaningful. SLA must include targets that can be achieved by IT. When advising clients on performance targets, it should be ensured that they are able to measure what they are committed to. If IT cannot measure a target, not aware on how to measure a target, or have no plans of trying to measure a target, then they should be suggested to not to include that target in the Service Level Agreement.
Techrepublic (2002). Want to derail your SLA? Make these five mistakes. Accessed April 10, 2015 from <http://www.techrepublic.com/article/want-to-derail-your-sla-make-these-five-mistakes/>
Tim B. (2012). IT Service-Level Agreements: Pay Attention to 5 Essential Elements. Accessed April 10, 2015 from <http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CB4QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.questsys.com%2Ffiles%2FtlsSLA.pdf&ei=nGMnVcu9OdPmaqK1gagF&usg=AFQjCNGiPXhKtbEOWHtkhxtRGVIVph-Aiw&sig2=zIAwwz4Mkln0t3sG3yJ0JA&bvm=bv.90491159,d.d2s>
Srishti A. (2011). Essential Components of Service Level Agreement in Outsourcing. Accessed April 10, 2015 from <http://outsourceportfolio.com/essential-components-of-service-level-agreement-in-outsourcing/>
Judith M. (2014). Essential elements in an internal SLA. Accessed April 10, 2015 from <http://searchnetworking.techtarget.com/tip/Essential-elements-in-an-internal-SLA>
Gillian C. (2002). Service Level Agreements. Accessed April 10, 2015 from <http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CB4QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.city.ac.uk%2F__data%2Fassets%2Fpdf_file%2F0007%2F133936%2FService-Level-Agreements.pdf&ei=jmcnVfTCNcPoaI-8gPAI&usg=AFQjCNGlUjWYhfsjM4kja3zsAeIuRzyIyA&sig2=CiFfh4VS7qygds8_Arx8Bg&bvm=bv.90491159,d.d2s>
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