Don’t Settle for 99% SLAs
Technical availability is widely known in the SLA arena; and “five 9s” is the gold standard. But SLAs are also important tools for setting performance expectations in professional services, consulting and outsourcing relationships. The difference between SLAs in these relationships and traditional technical SLAs is that they guide task and activity completion, workflow performance, customer experience interactions and engagement plan integrity. Deliver on-time, on-budget and in the expected manner. There’s one additional difference as well – these SLAs should all drive towards 100% performance.
A 100% performance SLA may seem unrealistic due to forces outside of a vendor’s control; and issues will arise from time to time. So, how is 100% performance achieved? It requires companion SLAs that include separate time intervals to complete the activity cycle. For example, suppose an outsource vendor is managing mobile device ordering with carriers on behalf of an enterprise. The statement of work identifies the requirement for the outsource vendor to place all orders with carriers the same business day when approved requests are received by 3:00 PM ET. The standard SLA may indicate that this requirement will be met 99% of the time. If 100 requests are placed in a measurement period and 99 orders are completed on time, the SLA is met by the vendor, but there’s still one request that technically never has to be fulfilled and the vendor is still in compliance with the SLA. This is where the companion SLA comes into play. Adding a secondary measure that indicates 100% of orders will be placed within two business days, for example, ensures that the entirety of the outsource commitment addressed.
Requiring professional services, consulting and outsourcing vendors to meet 100% of requirements with complete SLAs drives intended outcomes and desired performance throughout the relationship.
Timothy C. Colwell is a telecom management industry thought leader exploring the impact of technology as a business accelerator and social capital enabler.