The standard measure of performance across telecom, mobility and IT is the service level agreement (SLA). It embodies commitment between two parties to maintain a specified level of technical, financial, or operational performance. SLAs exist between vendors and customers and they exist between service delivery teams and internal customers.

Some SLAs are well defined and true to their intent while others rely on buzzword language to mask lack of substance. The ‘best effort guarantee’ is one such performance claim that masquerades as a service level agreement. These claims are common in sales presentations and product materials and, frankly, they sound solid. The term ‘best effort’ invokes a sense of commitment, while the term ‘guarantee’ implies that the commitment will be fulfilled each and every time without fail. Put the two together and it’s bound to be a winner, right?

The reality is that best effort guarantees are red herrings. The term ‘best effort’ lacks measurable substance and guaranteeing something the lacks substance is meaningless. True SLAs possess four key elements: (1) definition, (2) measurement criteria, (3) compliance monitoring, and (4) performance remedy.

When establishing desired performance criteria and evaluating performance language, dig deep into the four SLA elements to understand the substance guiding technical, financial, or operational performance. Examine each SLA element for the presence of clear and measurable objectives and actionable remedy should performance fall short. The intent behind best effort guarantees may be genuine, but intent is not a viable alternative to true service level agreements.

Photo of Tim Colwell
Timothy is Executive Vice President of AOTMP®

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