How to Create Better SLAs and ITSM Outcomes

SLAs
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Your service level agreements (SLAs) should play an important role in your IT department’s IT service delivery and support ecosystem, especially in agreeing on the contractual and working relationships with customers. It doesn’t matter if customers are internal or external. Or if they’re viewed at an organizational level, as discrete lines of business, or even as individual teams.

However, if you’re currently unhappy with your SLAs and how they help or hinder your IT service delivery and support, or if you don’t have effective SLAs, then this article is for you.

If you’re currently unhappy with your SLAs and how they help or hinder your IT service delivery and support, or if you don’t have effective SLAs, then this article by @ArielG_ is for you. #ITSM #ServiceDesk Click To Tweet

6 tips for better SLAs

1. Start where you are. This ITIL 4 Guiding Principle applies to so much IT service management (ITSM) improvement. In this case, create a solid baseline for new SLAs, and service level management, by assessing the SLAs you already have and how you’re performing against them. This includes what you offer (service-wise) so you can at least see if you’ve everything covered for critical services. If you don’t have a service catalog to map SLAs to, then talk to your IT service desk and your customers. Both will give you a steer on which services are really important.

Sometimes the SLA performance reporting doesn’t tell the whole story… Here @ArielG_ shares his top tips on how to avoid watermelon SLAs and overall improve your service level agreements #ITSM #ServiceDesk Click To Tweet

2. Talk with your customers about their perceptions of performance. Sometimes the SLA performance reporting doesn’t tell the whole story. So, it’s a good idea to ask customers how they think you’re doing. For example, to identify issues related to “watermelon SLAs.” Where the performance measurements are always green, but from the customer perspective it’s red (and failing) everywhere – so, like a watermelon, the SLA is green on the outside but red inside. By talking directly with customers, you can identify any issues with SLAs, and service level targets, and ensure that they’re addressed.

3. Make sure that you’re SLA targets measure the right things. To quote industry authority Ivor Macfarlane, “If we measure the wrong things, do we get better at the wrong things?”An SLA should map to business objectives and, for it to be fit for purpose, it must deliver a tangible service that adds value. So, ensure that SLAs are lined up with the rest of the business. Again, there’s a need to go out to talk with your customers. Ask them about their key goals and tailor your SLAs accordingly.

An SLA should map to business objectives and, for it to be fit for purpose, it must deliver a tangible service that adds value – @ArielG_ #ITSM #ServiceDesk Click To Tweet

4. Ensure that SLAs are understandable by both parties. An SLA (which is a great example of terminology that the customer might not understand) should be a plain-language agreement between you and your customer that makes it easy for both parties to understand:

  • The services that will be delivered
  • The responsiveness the customer can expect
  • How performance will be measured.

So, ensure that your SLAs have clearly defined all the key terms and, wherever possible, employed business – not technical – language.

Ensure that your SLAs have clearly defined all the key terms and, wherever possible, employed business – not technical – language, says @ArielG_ #ITSM #ServiceDesk Click To Tweet

5. Keep things simple. Keep SLAs customer-centric and “to the point.” Lots of pages of technical content will not only alienate customers, but people will also likely not refer to your SLA and it will therefore add little value. If you’ve standard corporate templates for documentation, then use them for SLAs such that they look consistent and are easier to navigate.

6. Plan for change and continual improvement. Circumstances change over time, so build in regular reviews to ensure that SLAs continue to be fit for purpose. Both businesses and technology can change rapidly, so an annual review should be scheduled as a minimum. But it’s also good to have more regular discussions on needs and not just performance – for example, in monthly service review meetings. In addition to addressing any issues, these service review meetings are a great opportunity to check-in with customers to get a preview of anything that might cause existing SLAs to change.

So, that’s my six SLA tips. What else would you add to these based on your own experiences of good, bad, and ugly SLAs?

Need help in creating your SLAs? Please check out this post.

InvGate Founder & Chief Evangelist at

Ariel is a driven executive with 15+ years of experience, passionate about technology and innovation, and Endeavor entrepreneur since 2013. Proven leadership in building successful businesses from startup to success, with the ability to blend market research and analysis with technical innovation to deliver winning solutions.

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