Five steps to a successful IT SLA

IT service level agreements play a crucial role in everyday tasks of IT support but hammering out an effective one is no mean feat.

IT managers are challenged to continually improve performance, accelerate incident response times, reduce system downtime, and simultaneously cut service costs in his or her IT support operations. The way to ensure both the IT support team and the end user are clear on agreed performance levels is to develop  an IT Service Level Agreement (SLA).

An IT SLA is a contract between IT support and an end user within the same organisation. Typically, IT SLAs establish a clear understanding of service parameters by defining the services extended, the quality standards that must be adhered to, and the timelines within which the services must be delivered. Operational level agreements (OLAs) and underpinning contracts (UCs) are agreements that the IT support makes with internal departments and with vendors or partners, respectively. The OLAs and UCs act as constituents of the final SLA that the IT support team draws up with the end-users.

IT service level agreements play a crucial role in everyday tasks of IT support. And they help you allocate the optimum number of resources to manage the service offerings. It's no surprise, then, that the absence of IT SLAs may lead to:

  • Lack of clarity between departments about their roles

  • Increase in the time taken to communicate, log, and resolve issues

  • Lack of service efficiency

  • Increased system downtime

  • Dissatisfied end users and customers

To ensure IT advantages, use these five steps to draw up great SLAs.

Define your SLA scope

This defines the exact manner in which services are delivered within the agreed upon time frame. It also outlines the work flow and assigns roles and responsibilities to IT support and all the other departments/vendors involved.

Set response and resolution times

Based on a ticket's priority, you'll need to define the response and resolution time. Priority levels can be categorised into critical, high, medium, and low based on a ticket's level of business impact.

Create ownership and escalation points

The agent/technician who makes the initial contact with the end user assumes ownership of the ticket until its resolution. A ticket that remains unresolved past its resolution time needs to be escalated. Therefore, you must clearly map each escalation level with a predefined resolution time and assign responsibility to the right person.

Monitor performance and measure compliance

Use appropriate tools to monitor performance and measure SLA compliance by using key performance indicators. Also, generate SLA non-compliance reports periodically to identify gaps. Then, you'll be able to plug these gaps either through training programs or by redefining the SLA.

Establish change control in IT SLA

Keep your SLAs open to changes and modifications to progress with evolving business and customer needs. Both your IT and end user should agree upon a standardised process to authorise changes to be made and document them in the SLA.

IT service level agreements create a unified vision for your business by getting your IT to work in cohesion with other departments/vendors and ensure the best service delivery to end-users. So set your SLAs on track and be on your way to achieving IT efficiency.

Nirmit Glennon is marketing analyst at ManageEngine