Talk to me about Service Level Agreements

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  • Talk to me about Service Level Agreements
  • aka_Gilo

    I have an internal job interview for a promotion (Operations Manager role) coming up and have to do a presentation. I’m pretty much there in preparing it, but have one area I need beefing up: “How do you propose to maintain and enhance BAU / Service Level Agreements?”

    Only ever had to deal with fairly basic SLAs so any ideas or appropriate buzzwords / phrases appreciated. All SLAs I would be managing will be internal, none with external customers.



    Your SLA must describe specifically the service that is being offered.

    Key points with SLA’s is that they are:

    a) supportive of the customer requirements
    b) achievable
    c) measurable

    It must be possible to define KPIs within your SLAs that you can measure to drive performance. It is imperative that by improving these KPIs you are improving the experience for the customer – this is the most difficult part as customer experience is pretty much a perception of service rather than cold hard facts that you can measure. You need to really understand how the customer uses the service to get good alignment of KPIs to customer experience.

    Look for alignment of Service Hours to intended usage times. Recovery times in line with a business impact assessment of loss of service.

    An SLA could combine factual KPIs (number of widgets processed, availability, time to recover etc) with a perception based customer rating, and your reporting would (hopefully) demonstrate a link between the two.

    If the SLAs are all internal, are you able to get hold of some of them? This is a guess, but if you can, at least in the interview you will be able to demonstrate a good knowledge of what is in them. The interviewer will be looking not so much to test your knowledge of SLAs, but of business processes. When you review them, see if any business processes are missing, and could enhance the business practices. Speak to those people who have responsibility both for writing them, and those who have to meet them. They will give you a lot of information as to the current state of the business. Obviously I do not know your business environment, but many of my previous colleagues would have been happy to chat over a coffee break if it was to help with an interview.


    Another point: what happens if you break the SLA? Is there a procedure in place to rectify the problem? Some kind of financial penalty?

    b r

    Best SLA quote.

    “The service should be available when it is needed, couldn’t care less the rest of the time”

    This was from a FTSE100 CEO/Owner in relation to two internal businesses arguing about SLA percentages for the IT services…

    Often organistations get too tied up on percentages (how many hours is 0.01% of a year?), and less on the cost/value of the downtime – and especially if they are internal systems.

    Ho hum

    Tell them you are going to introduce a culture of continual improvement, i.e. always looking for ways to improve the operations of the business that you are responsible for.

    The Japanese call it “Kaizen”


    Premier Icon ourmaninthenorth

    So, in the world I inhabit (telecomms, essentially) SLAs are a fact of life.

    We divide them into two main sections:

    1. Hardware
    2. Services

    Hardware is then divided into two:

    1. Availability
    2. Fault fix

    Fault fixes then have two or three categories:

    1. Respond (pick up phone, log issue)
    2. Restore (software only – temporary fix/patch)
    3. Resolve (full fix)

    Divided this way, it is easier then to determine the KPIs that you measure against.

    KPIs need to be sensible, reasonable, and apply to your customer’s situaiton. there is no point in trying to impose something that is practically irrelevant or unworkable. Instead, you need to agree with your customer at the outset what the KPIs are, and what the failure trigger points are on the SLA.

    Often, we find oursevelves in a situation where we grade the level of failure: minor, major critical.

    You then need to establish how often SLA failures are measured, and whose responsibility it is for highlighting those failuers.

    The world of telecomms relies on a service credits system – essentially, SLA failures equal money off the next bill.

    We then consider (since all my SLAs are external) at what point we get the right to terminate the contract. We usually operate on a material and persistent breach basis (material = so bad we want to walk away now; persistent = not so bad as a one off, but enough of them mean we’re p*ssed off enough to sack the supplier).

    So, if the SLA is internal, then there is likely to be a budgetry alignment somewhere (otherwise why have an SLA). You could introduce a service credits (aka service level guarantee – SLG) regime where there is a re-allocaiton of budget for SLA failures. That ought to concentrate the minds of those whose incomes are performance related…


    Some interesting food for thought there guys – thanks!

    (Banking sector btw).

    CanI just stick pins in my eyes instead?

    Premier Icon mboy

    Tell them you are going to introduce a culture of continual improvement, i.e. always looking for ways to improve the operations of the business that you are responsible for.

    The Japanese call it “Kaizen”

    If you’re working in the banking sector, I’d be surprised if they’re not already implementing CI in some form or another, call it Kaizen, Lean, or any one of the other buzz words or acronyms that get used…

    But if they’re not implementing it already, tell them you will, and then you can employ me to come and make it happen for you as that is what I am good at… 😀

    On a more immediate note, think S.M.A.R.T

    S – Specific
    M – Measurable
    A – Achievable
    R – Realistic
    T – Time Bound

    Make sure any SLA’s that you are implementing, or agree to, are “SMART” is the first key step…


    Of course, you can tailor SLA’s to specific accounts, even departments – give the customers a packrage that really works for them – always a winner! Obvioulsy SLA’s have to be workable to both parties and so negotiating terms can be a stimulating challenge.

    Business continuity and change control will be of great interest if it’s a live trading environment. See if you can throw that in. Demonstrates to them that you are seeing things from a customer perspective.


    Your SLA is only as good as the longest fix time in the chain.

    The key point (as elluded before) is to understand the true cost of downtime against the cost of achieving x% availability

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