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Service level agreements: painful but necessary

It’s true: information technology service level agreements (SLAs) are boring to read and may make your eyes cross as you try to drill into their miniscule details. They are also a crucial part of the contracts you have with your technology service providers.

That’s because an SLA describes in detail what precisely you’re paying for (level of service). It also establishes how that level of service will be measured to ensure that the right parameters are met. An SLA also lays out remedies should service levels not be achieved.

The repercussions of getting an SLA wrong

Given the importance of today’s cloud-based services, it’s easy to see how getting an SLA wrong can quickly affect your business operations and negatively impact performance, which in turn hurts your bottom line.

Such repercussions can range from painful to devastating — application and/or network downtime, lost data, security breaches, violations of compliance regulations, service lock-ins, unanticipated costs, etc.

Along the way, you’ll face unhappy customers, some unhappy enough to never return and ding your reputation as they depart, as well as employees frustrated by their undermined productivity and loss of morale.

It’s complicated

Making sure your SLAs serve your needs has become even more complex as your organization engages multiple, often cloud-based technology services, each one with its own SLA.

This multiplicity of SLAs is both inevitable and necessary, since each of your technology services has unique availability and performance thresholds, and often unique metrics used to determine whether these thresholds are being met.

There’s not much you can do about this unless you engage an independent SLA management service (alongside your actual technology services) to manage your several SLAs and monitor service levels.

Another option involves turning to a single technology services provider that offers a range of services so broad that it can address all your needs and also integrate your various service SLAs into a single, customizable service level agreement.

Understand what’s in your SLAs

Regardless of the approach you prefer, I urge you to take the time to understand what your SLAs include. This is how you’ll know what you’ve actually bought, what responsibilities your service providers have undertaken to ensure you get what you’ve paid for, and what responsibilities your organization has agreed to when you sign that service contract.

In my next post, I’ll dig into what elements to look for — and insist on — in your service level agreements.

Until next time,
Tim

Tim Burke
Meet the Author

Tim Burke is the President and CEO of Quest. He has been at the helm for over 30 years.