The amount of time that organizations lose as a result of problems with email, remote network connection, and equipment failure never ceases to amaze. Yet, how many organizations have effective service level agreements that can be relied upon to restore operations to full effectiveness in the agreed amount of time?
Organizations need to ensure effective service level agreements are agreed with service providers.
Many organizations suffer from unplanned outages that can cause no end of disruption. Email can often be the bane of our lives, but, when it is unavailable during business hours, it causes even more problems. The rise in home working means more people are using virtual private networks, but without this we are unable to access our corporate networks, and usually email as well. To mitigate these (generally unavoidable) problems, we have service level agreements (SLAs) with service providers to ensure the services are returned to being fully operational as soon as possible.
A SLA is not just an agreement between a customer and its service provider, but should also exist between service providers. A lot of organizations contract to a service, but the service provider may sub-contract part of that service, and any SLA is only as good as the lowest common denominator.
There are a number of elements that can be expected to be present in every SLA. Initially, the baseline requirements should be identified so that all parties know and understand the service to be delivered. Measurement of the service needs to be defined, along with the detail of any thresholds to be applied. If there is no measurement identified, there is unlikely to be agreement as to whether or not the promised level of service has been achieved.
Penalties are an important element of a SLA – if the service provider is not given an incentive to deliver the service, the effectiveness is reduced. This could be applied in terms of an incentive for delivering the service rather than penalties for not delivering, but one or both must be incorporated.
When choosing a service provider to deliver IT services, it pays to perform due diligence on not only the first-line provider, but also second-line (and possibly even third-line) providers to ensure that any SLAs offered are achievable, and do not have the potential for significant down-time that would result in loss of customers or an inability to function effectively.
Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)