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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Service levels for improving quality of delivery

Service Level Management (SLAs) 

Introduction  


Not only enforcing, even complying to SLAs is also very tedious when the agreement lack relevance and practicality. That said, it is important to have one in place to orchestrate the quality of the service delivered by the provider. For instance, what is the relevance of having a page load time of < 2 seconds when the internet speed of users is in doldrums? There are many such examples related to IT and ITES industries that could make us understand the gravity of the strategic gaps that SLAs would often possess. Having seen the best of both worlds, it is an undeniable fact that there goes a lot of work in defining and designing the SLA terms. In this writeup, I bring up the best practices in formulating metrics that effectively navigates stakeholders to reach project success 

Framework for designing an SLA

Since the design of KPIs support the measuring of quality of a service, it is pertinent to design them in the direction of improving the quality of delivery and not necessarily to only evaluate vendor. Often, misunderstood as punitive measure, SLAs create tension between the parties resulting in an impediment to the successful project implementation. Hence, to mitigate such challenges, KPIs shall be designed following project (business) goals. Moreover, such carefully designed measurable terms would help in better monitoring and cost control. Hence to set the tone before diving into the framework, let's look into the criteria in designing KPIs 
  • Again reiterating the need to focus on the business goals and project objectives 
  • SLAs are to be consistent with the project phase and are to be timebound, measurable (practical) 
  • Should have a clear Responsibility and Accountability matrix 
Coming to the best practices guide for defining KPIs, following broad framework would help any industry representative in formulating an effective terms in the agreement 

Service Level Goals: 

In short, service level objectives touch on the area of value creation from the project and management can see this in two different ways. First shall be the value that it intends to derive from the investment in the project, and the second is the value proposition that it offers to the stakeholders by completing the project. Considering these perspectives in designing the service levels would add tremendous value because this sets the tone for an effective implementation 

For example, Industries intended to invest in the Internet of things (IOT)  technologies would like to derive value by increasing operational efficiency, improving interoperability, data storage and analysis. On the other hand, this means convenience, low cost and usability to external stakeholders

Defining SLAs

This step is the heart of the SLA framework as this would cover the attributes, Metrics, measurement and Enforcement methods of the process. Going into each of the above parameters in detail





Attributes: In this step, the management identifies the measurable parameters in the agreed services (or the scope of work). These parameters often provide a quantifiable measure of quality of service, which help the stakeholders understand for compliance. Deployment minutes, Downtime and uptime percentages are few examples of measurable KPIs of IT applications 

Metrics: Assigning a standard of measurement to the attributes defined in the previous step along with a range of compliance, provides a better picture for both parties. For instance, indicators like lower performance, higher performance and violation are some of the standard measurements against a baseline

Measurement: Measure the parameter performance to place them in the designated buckets. In doing so, it is important to note that the measuring activity shall be accurate, reliable and consistent. Although it is tedious, there are plenty of automated tools in the market for monitoring and measuring the metrics. At times, feedback collection, survey will also be effective in understanding the level of performance 

Enforcement: Linking the service quality to the payment is one of the most common option in enforcing the SLAs. While penalising service provider is inevitable in this method, it should also be a good practice to incentivising the higher performance is needed 

Based on the feedback from measurement and enforcement, revisiting the earlier two steps would be helpful. Adopting an agile methodology in this workflow is also suggestible, as most of the IT projects are following the same framework

In conclusion, considering the above practices in formulating the SLAs would bring harmony to the project as this result in a win-win for both service provider and consumer. Please contact us for more any support regarding the above subject. We are happy to assist


Sai Hari is a consulting professional who primarily practices in the area of strategic planning, sales growth, process improvement, IT Project and risk management. Besides associating with the verticles like E-Governance, Food, beverages, retail, and E-Commerce, he also helps startup entities to get off the ground. He can be reached at hariprasadvvs@outlook.com for any productive discussions

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