Service level agreements (SLAs) are commonly used to document customer expectations when entering into a contract with an information technology (IT) vendor. A well-designed SLA should be designed to protect both parties by eliminating any ambiguity concerning the contracted services.
Providers need to use reliable software tools to make sure they meet the requirements spelled out in the agreements. A monitoring tool like IDERA’s Precise for Applications can be instrumental for ensuring the appropriate levels of system performance and availability.
The Many Costs of Missed Service Level Agreements
IT providers need to ensure that they can meet the levels of service defined in their SLAs or risk facing financial and other repercussions that will hurt their standing in the industry. Failure to meet the agreed-upon service levels threatens several immediate and long-term outcomes that most organizations want to avoid.
Most SLAs include financial penalties that are enforced when service levels are not met. The penalties can be substantial and in cases where a provider consistently underperforms, may negate the potential financial benefits of the deal. What appeared to be a profitable contract can become a financial burden if its terms cannot be met.
Failing to deliver on service level agreements does nothing to foster the kind of good feelings that lead to return business. Customers are liable to look elsewhere for their IT needs when SLAs cannot be met. They certainly will not be motivated to increase their association with a provider that cannot fulfill their agreements.
The long-term effects of an inability to meet SLAs may be the most detrimental impact to the offending provider. As word circulates throughout the industry that a provider cannot be trusted to meet its agreements, prospective customers will search for other solutions. Business reputations that took years to build can rapidly crumble under the weight of multiple failed SLAs.
Crafting Attainable Service Level Agreements
How service level agreements are written can have a tremendous impact on their ability to be successfully fulfilled. Providers need to address the following customer concerns and incorporate them into the SLAs they offer.
Uptime and downtime
Customers want assurances that systems will be available 99.99% of the time. Routine maintenance windows should be defined to conform to the client’s business needs.
If support services are not available around the clock, their availability needs to be clarified in the SLA. Customers need to know who to contact and when they are available if they have issues with the provided services.
Response and repair times
Customers want to be assured that their issues will be dealt with promptly. Providers need to make sure they can meet these expectations or address their failings with SLA credits.
Not all contracted services are equally important to a given customer. In some cases, partially available services may be enough to satisfy agreements without triggering penalties. For this reason, different services may need to operate under individual SLAs.
Credits are offered for failure to meet all or parts of an SLA in the form of financial compensation or additional services.
The way notification of outages or issues is made with the service needs to be specified in the SLA. Deadlines may need to be met to trigger SLA credits.
Customers should be able to terminate the agreement in response to multiple violations.
The key to a viable SLA is to offer customers valuable services without falling into the trap of over-promising and under-delivering. Well-crafted agreements will result in mutually beneficial relationships where both parties achieve their goals. Providers need to be realistic when evaluating their ability to provide the services their customers expect.
Application Monitoring to Help Meet Customer Expectations
Precise for Applications is a valuable solution for ensuring that SLAs and customer expectations are successfully met. The tool supports monitoring SAP, PeopleSoft, .NET, Oracle Apps, and Java/J2EE transactions from a single user interface.
Providers can gain the necessary visibility into their customers’ business-critical applications and address issues proactively before they result in SLA-impacting outages.
Precise helps teams locate the root cause of problems in complex database application systems so the issues can be successfully resolved the first time. Alerts can be generated by email or in the interface when system performance does not meet designated thresholds.
Precise also provides capacity planning data that can be used to ensure system growth does not outpace available resources.
Business-oriented application SLAs can be set in the tool to align objectives with performance management. Monitoring usage patterns as they pertain to SLAs give support teams an advantage when attempting to ensure that all agreements are met.
Teams can start using Precise with a free 30-day trial that unlocks all of the tool’s functionality. SLA management in the application realm will never be the same.