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November 13, 2014

Unraveling the Mystery of SLAs

Kevin Gibson
Director, Transformational Services
ConnectWise, Inc.
How to Write SLAs for Technology Providers

Service level agreements (SLAs) are a common struggle among MSPs. Because SLAs are used to differentiate and support value in service delivery, offering one you can’t live up to can be detrimental to your business.

We’ve solved the mystery of drafting effective SLAs and broken it down into seven steps that make it easy to get started.

Set Expectations

Your SLA should clearly outline what your clients can expect. The key is to balance their desires with your realistic workload. When you’re clear on expectations, you’ll be able to measure and manage the user experience in a meaningful way.

Make sure you have the automation tools in place to handle the data collection and reporting for you. Solutions like LabTech provide enterprise monitoring and SLA reporting for IT environments of any size.

SLAs at their BestGet My Guide

Clearly Define Your Service Offering

Make it clear exactly what you’re offering your clients. Does your service offering include applications or network capabilities? What will your responsibilities be? Keep your SLA detailed and specific so everyone is on the same page from the beginning.

Develop a Framework

Map out all of the data elements you’ll need to launch your SLA. This can be a resource-intensive process, so don’t hesitate to rely on a best-practices framework like the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) to maximize your efficiency. By automating as much of the process as possible, you’ll save time and create a smooth workflow.

Monitor Compliance

Deploy tools that can monitor SLA compliance automatically and keep you up to date on any issues that may arise. Define, prioritize and track the progress of each aspect of your SLA and monitor the SLA operational level requirements (ORLs) to make sure you’re on track to meet client expectations. Limit the scope of your ORLs to keep them manageable and useful.

Establish Thresholds

Make sure your SLA includes thresholds that alert you of issues before they impact the agreement. Keep assessing your own performance so you’ll know you can realistically meet defined expectations and keep tabs on sales/marketing to make sure no one’s promising unachievable conditions in the SLA just to close a sale.

Automate Reporting

By automating your SLA reports, you’ll be able to provide your clients with real-time performance reports. You’ll want to make sure your tools offer integrated reporting engines and provide full transparency into agreed-upon metrics―ideally in real-time. Clients typically want up-to-the-minute information and will not be happy waiting on reports to be emailed to them once a month.

Plot Your Success

Keep monitoring in place to see how you can adjust and improve your SLA measurements. By implementing dashboards, you can provide management with focused and actionable views of real-time service assurance.

Before committing to an SLA, know your operational readiness and where you might need improvement. Armed with that knowledge, you’ll be able to develop an SLA that can be implemented and supported strategically. Understanding how to interpret the SLAs will make it easier to effectively implement systems and develop training around successful workflows.

Managing and reporting on your SLAs takes time and effort, but it gives your clients the kind of service-centric approach that makes them feel like they’re your first priority. Clients will feel secure in the relationship because they can verify pre-defined expectations at any time. This reality isn’t impossible to achieve; with the right tools, processes and planning, it’s feasible today.

Easy Steps to Effective SLAs

Learn secrets to creating service level agreements that back you up—not into a corner.

Kevin Gibson Director, Transformational Services
ConnectWise, Inc.

Kevin is an avid racer whose need for speed carries over into his role at LabTech Software. As co-creator of LabTech Ignite®, he’s always thinking of ways LabTech can work faster, so you don’t have to.

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Easy Steps to Effective SLAs

Learn secrets to creating service level agreements that back you up—not into a corner.