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Live or Die by IT Service Level Agreements

Live or Die By IT Service Level AgreementsIT service firms live or die by their IT service level agreements (SLAs). The big firms can afford to get it wrong once in a while; the small ones cannot.

Your SLA has several important components: 

  1. The definition of the service: “Ensure network up-time.” 

  2. The measurement: “A percentage of time that the network is available for use.” 

  3. The standard and the period: “The network is available for use 24/7 at least 99% of the time as measured every two weeks.” (Please note that this allows almost three and a half hours of downtime every two weeks. Ninety-nine sounds great in IT service level agreements until you look at what it really is.)

  4. The penalty: “Failure to meet this service level will result in a refund of ten percent (10%) of all charges for this two-week period.”

IT service level agreements should address every service for which you have contracted. This can include

  • Network Management

  • E-mail Management

  • Break/Fix

  • Applications Portfolio Management

  • Help Desk

  • Batch Services

  • Etc.

Guaranteeing high standards is fairly easy if you use long enough measurement periods and are careful to include non-business hours in the calculation.

Once you have IT service level agreements in place, someone must be responsible for monitoring it personally at least twice a day, every day. This can be the receptionist, an intern, or anyone whose hourly rate is relatively low. 

You will also probably want an SLA dashboard for each of your clients. This is not rocket science. There are commercially-available software packages that you can use such as Dashboard Zone or iDashboards. One user even created a service dashboard in Microsoft Excel

Your dashboard is also a sales tool. Invite the prospective client into the office and show him or her the dashboard that is up and running full time on the CEO’s desk. The message is crystal clear: “We take IT service level agreements seriously.” 

One well-known mega firm’s service dashboard was actually too successful. Many of its clients wanted the firm to implement a dashboard for their own use. As a $20 billion global firm, it had to comply but regretted the time taken away from its programmers’ other activities. You, on the other hand, may have just made a new sale

So what’s in your firm’s IT service level agreements? And how do you keep track of all of the data? Please let us know in the Comments area below.

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Creative Commons Image Source: flickr Robert Couse-Baker

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