10 tips for writing better Service Level Agreements
1. Ensure all key terms are clearly defined eg SLA scope, customer and provider responsibilities, reporting, service expectations, performance indicators, escalation, remedies and penalties. Make sure you understand them. If you do not, or have queries – ask!
2. Include the option to change the SLA in the future. Businesses and technology change rapidly. So if the SLA is to remain relevant, it will need to be updated as required.
3. Include the provision for regular SLA reviews. Six-monthly would be ideal, but failing that - annually, to manage changing circumstances.
4. Make sure you have a 'get-out' clause. It is important to be able to terminate the SLA under certain conditions eg exceptionally poor performance, major problems, significant changes to services.
5. Include performance-monitoring criteria within the SLA. Plus, include automatic penalty credits for non-compliance of performance. Better to build this into the SLA from the start, than negotiate each time it occurs.
6. Writing the SLA should be a joint effort between customer user and IT staff and the service provider. Input and agreement from all is required. One party should not dictate or force SLA terms on the others!
7. Allow sufficient time to prepare, negotiate and agree, a comprehensive and relevant SLA. The quality of the SLA is improved by not rushing and taking more time, whatever the project time pressures.
8. Look out for exceptions within the SLA. Ensure you understand them and their potential impact on the overall SLA.
9. Look out for third party components within the SLA. Ideally, one service provider would provide the entire service. However, there may be input or reliance from other third parties. So check who is responsible for what, and whether it is included or excluded from the SLA.
10. Carefully review your SLA. Make sure it is easy to understand by all – even non-technical users. Does it cover everything? See our SLA Checklist. Does it meet your business and service requirements? Are you satisfied with it?