The Outsourcing Continuum, Part VII: SLAs

You will want to be careful about invoking this part of the SLA, because it means that you will have to find another vendor and retrain your staff which can be very time consuming and expensive. You will have to determine if the cost of changing is better than frustrating them continuously by having a system that is not up and usable.

Problem Resolution Procedures

The second part of an SLA addresses how problems are resolved when things go wrong. It may be a critical problem where the system is totally down or just a minor inconvenience. In either case, you will want to know what is being done to fix the problem. You should have your vendor provide you with a set of priority definitions as they apply to problems, i.e., what does critical mean, what is severe, etc. Along with those definitions you should also get a resolution time frame, who to contact to report a problem and how often you will be updated on progress toward a solution to the problem.

If the problem is not solved in the agreed upon time frame, what do you do? The SLA should contain an escalation procedure including contact information.

The last thing contained in a good SLA is a list of the reports that you can expect to receive that tells you how well the vendor is providing the service levels. These may be just a couple of email reports on a monthly basis or they may be detailed analysis of every aspect of the service. It doesn’t really matter how you receive the information, just make sure that you get something that lets you determine if you’ve gotten the levels of service you expect and are paying for.

Most vendors will be willing to supply you with a SLA. This is one way they can compete in the marketplace and can point to the SLA as their commitment to their customers. If a vendor isn’t willing to supply most or all of the service levels and problem resolution procedures, you may have to consider whether their support structure is able to provide you with the kind of service you can rely on to support your business.

Mike Scheuerman is an independent consultant with more than 26 years experience in strategic business planning and implementation. His experience from the computer room to the boardroom provides a broad-spectrum view of how technology can be integrated with and contributes significantly to business strategy. Mike can be reached at [email protected].