The Real Value of SLAs

It’s really quite remarkable just how many organisations struggle to implement Service Level Agreements (SLAs). They’re documents that lie at the very heart of service management. They are absolutely fundamental. So why is it so difficult? Why are they not given the priority they deserve?

Well, first of all, they are an agreement and that means there has to be a dialogue!

To draw up an agreement between the internal customer and the internal service provider one has to agree and understand what the service is intended to achieve; what business objectives does it help deliver; and to ensure that specific and measurable service targets are agreed, measured and reported on.

A good starting point would be to begin the dialogue with a review of the current de-facto service levels and to gather the information about the business drivers so that the customer is reassured that these are fully taken on-board as discussions continue and the SLA takes shape.

Second of all, the SLAs have to add value to all parties and in particular to the IT service provider. I have seen many instances where SLAs have been written and now gather dust in a filing cabinet unlikely ever to see the light of day again.

Examples of “adding value” might include the ability to respond to interrogations such as: which SLAs are scheduled for review? Which customers are dependent on this SLA? If I have to change an operational level agreement (OLA) or an under-pinning contract, which SLAs will be affected?

In my experience, the greatest value of all that comes from the SLA dialogue is the increased understanding of the importance of the Service Design stage of the service lifecycle. Service reviews often reveal weaknesses in the current service brought about by poor design. The lessons learned here not only lead to improvements in the particular service under review but can lead to improvements in the service design process to the benefit of all future services.

There are few tools out there to support SLA management. We have such a tool (Smart-SLA) in our bag that helps and plans to extend its functionality to include OLAs and under-pinning contracts. Details can be found on our website: