The Key to Service Success: Operating Level Agreements

Pillar Two: Identify the key parties in the chain

Before a solution can be set in place to meet the customer’s key business requirements, it is necessary that each of the parties to the process is defined, and that the pain points within and between each process are identified. Failing this, a rigorous and cohesive e2e business process will remain a mirage. Therefore, initial stakeholder engagement is required, followed by identification of all parties that contribute to the overall process, documentation of the end-to-end process, and the establishment of the visibility and accountability that defines how value is delivered, from initiation to delivery to the customer.

In many cases, open discussions can uncover the lack of clarity of internal partnerships with respect to role accountabilities and their contribution to the end-to-end process. Without clear visibility, processes often breakdown, deliverables are delayed, and quality becomes compromised. This results in heavily diminished value to the end user and the inability of the service provider to meet service expectations.

These need to be identified and addressed upfront to generate quick wins for the organization, and to prevent the perpetuation of poor practice. Taking a closer look into the overall e2e process will further highlight pain points in processes and sub-processes, and identify opportunities for change, improvement and cost savings.

Pillar Three: Establish consensus, and document the requirements

Key to the e2e flow of business processes is the creation of an environment that fosters internal business units working in partnership. Once this environment is in place, the business can set out to obtain awareness of how success is collectively defined.

Defining clear business needs and managing expectations, while capturing the necessary requirements, will bridge the divide between the output of one internal business unit versus another’s to the e2e process. Building this solid foundation allows the process to flow through from start to finish with a common understanding by the parties, and with a teamwork philosophy embraced.

The by-product of mutual consensus is a comprehensive and clear set of documented requirements to which all service providers will adhere regardless of their role within each intermediary process. This common ground, between internal business units, enables an organization to meet its own obligations, and to provide the required handoffs to the service provider in a timely manner. It also serves to prevent the value erosion promised by the outsourcing agreement, and thereby achieving a true balance between internal and external service providers.

Pillar Four: Recalibrate what “good” means

A deep understanding of the customer’s requirements is necessary to meet delivery expectations and to drive maximum value out of any outsourcing arrangement. However, it is insufficient to just define the initial client requirements. Business circumstances and requirements shift with time, and better knowledge of the various processes at play is an iterative process. Hence, an essential component of this process is the ability to re-assess what “good” means.

This can readily be done by painting the e2e picture, reconsidering the previously defined requirements, and returning to the stakeholders to gain buy-in and feedback (perhaps through a workshop with the parties together and engaged to garner support and obtain feedback).

The result is a cohesive set of internal service descriptors aligned to meet business requirements. This, in turn, enables the primary client to negotiate a tight set of service levels to drive the right behaviour from the external service provider. Many of the previous failings (e.g., poor process, delays to deliverables, and poor quality) can then be minimized, with improved services delivered to the end user.

Pillar Five: Embed ownership to service descriptors

To ensure sustained value is delivered to the end user, ownership must be embedded with the key stakeholders by defining the governance relationship, identifying the responsible and accountable parties in the escalation process, and actively reinforcing the service descriptors to the OLAs. Then, the business is positioned to embrace the e2e business process and continually drive up service delivery.