The “fine print” in a service level agreements gain prominence only when disaster strikes. If you have failed to read the document completely or have failed to appreciate the true implications of the clauses, you could find yourself in difficulties and plunge your enterprise into a disaster situation. So, if you have not read the SLA in detail, or dwelt long and hard on the implications, it is time to do so.
Service Level Agreements are designed to operate ‘as desired’ in “Business as Usual” scenarios. They define “Minimum levels of service” that can be expected from the service provider delivering a service. These agreements, further, set out remedial actions/penalties that can be imposed if the performance is below the agreed standards. It is in essence a legal contract between the service provider and the service user. Consequently, the service provider is at pains to ensure that the data center is up and running and the metrics for downtime, latency and all other measurements that have been promised are met without a glitch in normal circumstances.
But do these SLA remain operative in disaster situations? It depends on what the SLA says. If your service provider has adopted a traditional style SLA it is all about speeds and feeds. It will not take into account complete business events. It does not focus on the user as an important stakeholder in ensuring the success of the provider’s business. A well-drafted SLA must consciously blend IT and business factors to must provide competitive advantages to the user enterprise. The user’s success must tie in with the provider’s success and any feedback received from the user must fuel further improvement in the services.
Customers can obtain optimal service levels in all kinds of situations by sticking to a few simple principles of SLA management. Both parties to the agreement must regard the SLA as:
- A communication tool. Users and service providers must communicate repeatedly to ensure that there is complete clarity and understanding.
- A conflict prevention tool. Both parties must agree to realistic levels of service and must have clear guidelines on what to expect or deliver.
- A living document. The agreement must be frequently reviewed and formal procedures described must be meticulously followed and any renegotiations must be done at frequent intervals to ensure that the relationship remains healthy and thriving.
- An objective basis for evaluation. It must provide adequate quantitative and qualitative measures for determining levels of service, provided and received.