How to Get the Service Level Agreement (SLA) Right

A Service Level Agreement (SLA), in very simple terms, is a contract that binds an enterprise and a service provider, and which covers the details of the equipment and/or services that are to be supplied by the latter during the tenure of the contract. Of course, SLAs do not mean anything unless they can be measured and executed. Conversely, when defined and enforced appropriately, SLAs ensure that the process runs smoothly, clients are happy and that business objectives are met. It is needless to mention that SLAs vary depending on the unique needs of the enterprise and the agreement with the service provider.

To get the SLAs right is challenge in itself. Organisations need to indulge in a thorough analysis of their business objectives and technological needs, before engaging in discussions with their potential IT outsourcing partner. As an enterprise, you should first have clarity on which processes need to be outsourced and which ones need to be run in-house. If the management decides to keep some processes in-house, there should be clarity on how the processes within the enterprise will be integrated with the outsourced processes.

Rolling out a formal procurement process in the form of a Request for Proposal (RFP) could be your first step towards getting the SLAs right, as your RFP enables you get in touch with IT service providers who are financially stable, experienced, certified and have flexible SLAs. If your network requires integration of any sort, you may also want to enquire about the provider’s product integration skills and details of associated experience.

Confidential reports on availability and performance form an integral part of SLAs. However, the frequency of reports varies from contract to contract and depends on the trust levels between the provider and the enterprise. More often than not, the frequency of the reports is more in the initial stages of contract, which gradually decreases to monthly or quarterly depending on the trust bestowed by the client.

An enterprise can be sure of efficient IT managed service offerings only when it is actively engaged with the provider, which simply implies that SLA parameters and deliveries should be checked to ensure that the agreed SLAs are met at all times. This definitely requires more interaction with the service provider, especially in the initial stages of the contract.

Contrary to the popular opinion, SLAs are not always about uptime and resilient networks; it is about making customers agile. It is about helping customers keep up with the latest technology trends such as social media and mobility.