SLAs – Are They Just a Defence Mechanism ?

Continuing with my thoughts challenging existing IT practice I thought I’d have a stab at the Service Level Agreement (SLA). As usual, all points are made in an attempt to provoke debate.

The SLA is a contractual issue that I have spent many hours debating – and I have often questioned the point. When the SLA agreement is located and dusted off, the relationship is already on the brink of failure. Whilst proving a point by finding the relevant SLA measure and illustrating that it has not been breached, thereby claiming the technical victory – the customer is usually still unhappy.

Response Time Measure

I never really understood the Response Time measure – how difficult is it to answer the phone? A defined measure for Resolution is also logically impractical. A P1 fix in 4 hours promise reads well but in reality, how can it be possible to estimate the resolution of a catastrophic failure?

Internal SLA Measurement

I find internal SLA measurement particularly hard to understand. If I had said to a fellow Director ‘everything is ok with the stores being unable to trade because I am within my SLA’, my career may have been considerably shorter. The only measure of internal credibility is whether people shout or smile at you in the corridor. Quoting an internal SLA only perpetuates the failure of IT to achieve business integration.

The only real use of an SLA is to illustrate the selection of a level of response and therefore a cost, the Gold, Silver, Bronze service choice. However why would I sign up to something that, in effect, says we’re going to try not quite as hard?

All I really want from a supplier relationship is to know that all parties will work as hard as they can, bringing in appropriate skills to solve the issue as quickly as is practical and possible.

The best measure of internal and external success is a happy customer. Discuss…

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