Creating an IT Support SLA that actually works



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10-Apr-2018 11:50:00

In my last piece, I talked about Problem Management and how it is often confused with Major Incident management. In fact, while the two are linked, they are very different beasts. However strong your Problem Management, you must be ready for business critical incidents.

Do you have a Service Level Agreement in place but struggle to see the value? Perhaps you or your organisation have concerns about having an SLA at all? Whether you are outsourced or in-house, having a meaningful agreement in place is the foundation for a successful partnership. Here’s why it’s important and how to make it a useful tool.

A SLA should at least:
• Set realistic but ambitious expectations.
• Outline categories of service.
• Include performance evaluation criteria and metrics.
• Set out the responsibilities of both parties.
• Set out support availability and response times.
• Include maintenance downtime allowances.
• Is actually agreed upon by both parties.

1. Review your current SLA

Are you are doing enough to deliver outstanding customer satisfaction? There is no point in having an SLA that is too easy, but likewise, it must be achievable. How far away are you from hitting your KPIs? Which areas need improvement and which areas are you already over-delivering on? These are questions to ask yourself and your customers.

2. Define your descriptions of service

Outline the purpose of the support desk service. Describe the scope and the specific business processes that your team supports. Clearly outline what is at stake for each department.

Quantify the potential business losses for downtime, these can be reputational as well as financial. They might also vary according to department and specific times. For example, Payroll is business critical at month-end, but it might not require such tight fix rates at other times. I have had clients with debt management systems that cost millions per hour during downtime. This was clearly a high priority for the business and, therefore, the SLA!

3. Define the SLA terms

Define the duration of the SLA, the roles and responsibilities of both parties and include exceptions where needed. Does the business need the same availability on holidays and weekends? Do you need to provide round the clock cover or cover in other time zones than the one in which you're sat right now?

Response times can be one of the sticking points for many IT support desk SLAs. Some customers might worry about signing an agreement that promises to fix X within 8 hours. 'Does this mean it will always take 8 hours to get the fix?' Consider including a minimum and maximum time limit to allay these fears.

4. Set out your measurable KPIs

We covered IT Support Desk metrics recently. Identify the most meaningful metrics to help you monitor performance against your SLA. Ensure those goals are ambitious but achievable. While desk metrics alone are not fully conclusive, they can help keep you on track.

5. Review, refine and revise

Although you have defined a set duration for the SLA, the contents can be improved over time. Be ready to adjust SLAs periodically. This might be monthly or quarterly depending on the business.

Whether you are reading this because you have no SLA at all or because you realise it needs reworking, I hope these tips help you set out in the right direction.

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Pete Canavan
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About the author

Pete Canavan

Pete Canavan is Support Services Director at Plan-Net. An accredited ITIL Service Manager, he has a proven track record in IT with special expertise in the Legal & Financial Services industries.

With two decades in the IT field, Pete has acquired extensive experience in business relationship development, service transformation, project and people management, training and client/supplier relations.

Pete's other passions, besides Plan-Net of course, are his family and football.

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