IT Governance

Service Level Agreements: The Time of Your Life(cycle)

The service level agreement (SLA) is one of the fundamental tools in the IT service management kit. Similar to a contract but decidedly distinct, it manages service expectations between provider and customer. In a post at his blog, Joe the IT Guy gives a helpful refresher on SLAs and their value, so that you can start writing and distributing them with renewed gusto.


SLAs dictate the qualitative and quantitative commitments that service provider and customer are willing to make during the life of the service. Since they are not bound by legal concerns like an actual contract, they are written in natural language that anyone can understand. As a result of these factors, the great value of SLAs is that they provide inarguable transparency.

Joe however makes a strong point of saying that SLAs should not be used as tools of punishment. In other words, the SLA should not dictate penalties for one party not holding up its end of the bargain. The SLA’s purpose is to create a meeting of the minds—and not to put a dangling guillotine over top of that meeting. Let a formal contract discuss penalties if really needed.

About how to create an SLA, Joe says it should contain at least five main sections:

  1. Description of the service(s)
  2. Quantitative/qualitative description of the expected service standards
  3. Duration of the agreement
  4. Roles and responsibilities of each party involved
  5. Evaluation criteria and key success metrics

He goes on to share some examples of SLAs written right and wrong, such as these:

Wrong: Supplier responsibilities

Provision and maintenance of 1000 network-enabled Xerox 4000 PR16-879723 printers.

Right: Supplier responsibilities

We’ll provide a managed color printer service across 1000 locations.

As you can see, technical language is often unnecessary, and it may even inadvertently pigeonhole some aspects of the service. Be mindful of your writing, especially when using an SLA template. SLAs must be a perfect fit to the occasion, so be prepared to modify your templates a bit each time.

You can view the original post here:

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