What is a service level agreement?
A service level agreement, or SLA, is a record of understanding about provision of services, and commonly address definitions of services, measurement of performance, management of problems, warranties, and the like.
To ensure that SLAs are fulfilled consistently, they’re often designed with certain SLA performance metrics in mind. Internal departments — particularly IT departments — often adopt the use of SLAs with their internal customers, the end users within the overall organization. SLAs allow quality of service to be benchmarked so changes or improvements to services can be made when necessary.
Benefits of Implementing SLAs
Implementing SLA performance metrics associated with IT service management allows youto do several things:
- You can compare real-time measurements against baselines and historical trends in order to detect underlying problems that need to be solved.
- You can learn to predict potential problems associated with your IT infrastructure’s availability and performance before they become major issues
- You can align your IT services with business objectives to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
With SLAs, not only can you keep on top of problems and solve them before they become unwieldy and sap productivity, but you can keep records that demonstrate your IT service desk performance and that can help you when dealing with management concerning budgets and personnel issues.
The Keys to Successful SLAs
Successful SLAs require processes for ensuring clear communications between the parties involved. Ensuring good communications requires:
- Clearly-defined responsibilities of the provider (the IT service desk) and the end user
- Executive and management buy-in to the SLA concept
- Procedures that are defined and measurable
- Defined procedures for escalation when problems are more difficult than first thought
In other words, SLA performance metrics should be designed so that they can be measured. Performance may be measured in many ways, such as time to resolution, cost, or end-user downtime.
Assessing Your Current SLA Performance
Collecting metrics isn’t exciting, but it’s the best way to prove you’re meeting SLA goals.
The first step in assessing current SLA performance is defining your goals in numeric terms. Different service desk procedures can be defined in SLA terms so that their performance can easily be measured against target performance goals. For example, an SLA may say that 95% of the time, a high-priority problem should be assigned to a technician within one hour of notification of the problem, and should be solved within 24 hours of notification. Periodically, you evaluate your high-priority problem statistics and determine if you reached your assignment and resolution goals at least 95% of the time.
How to Improve SLA Performance
Improving SLA performance requires that you define your SLAs with measurable goals, collect metrics, and take an honest look at whether those goals were met. If they weren’t met, you have to dig down and find out why. Maybe it’s because the service desk is understaffed, or maybe it’s because there were circumstances that were unforeseen when you defined your SLAs and targets.
Choosing IT service management software that allows you to set SLA targets, be notified of incidents that are in breach of SLAs, and that automatically triggers defined actions when SLA targets are missed can make it much easier to spot where there are problems so you can do something about them.
Samanage, leading provider of cloud IT service management software, includes features that allow you to improve SLA performance with minimum hassle. You can set SLA goals in terms of minutes, hours, or days. It also allows you to see in real time when incidents are in breach of an SLA, as well as SLA breach history, which can help you define problems so they can be solved. Finally, Samanage lets you define automated alerts and actions you want triggered when an SLA target is missed. In short, there is no easier way to get a handle on your SLA performance.