5 Practical Tips: Service-Level Agreements (II)
In the March edition of our series “Practical IT Tips” we reported on the need to define metrics in service-level agreements. This month, we have two more tips for you: agreeing on uniform measuring methods and defining clear ancillary conditions together with your service provider.
Tip 2: Avoid disputes over methods: agree on the uniform measuring methods and procedures to use
For most metrics defined within service-level agreements for IT services, appropriate protocols or measurement tools are available on the market to assist in determining whether these service levels have been met. As different results may be obtained depending on the measurement procedure and tool, it is advisable for the service level agreement to set out which service levels are to be met and in what way, but also to establish – with binding effect for both parties – the method by which to determine whether the contractually agreed service level has been met. This will ensure that subsequent disagreements between the parties over the meeting of contractually agreed service levels do not involve any dispute over methods – a dispute which is likely to be almost impossible to resolve.
It is important, however, for both parties to reach a binding agreement not only on the relevant measurements methods but also on other parameters of the measurement procedure: the service-level agreement should therefore set out when the measurement of particular service levels is to take place; if continuous measurement is not envisaged, then specific measurement times and intervals should be set. Intervals for measuring response times should, of course, take account of fluctuations in system load so that measurements are taken at times of both high and low system load. This can then be adapted as desired, for example to ensure response times for certain groups of transactions are measured at certain distinct times. Finally, it is advisable to include several measurements in the overall assessment of whether agreed service levels have been met.
Where numerous values relating to specific transactions are to be measured and combined into a value that will be agreed as a service level, the many values obtained must be weighted and then aggregated to obtain a single value and this procedure must also be contractually agreed.
Tip 3: Cooperation not confrontation: define ancillary conditions for the service provider
In addition to the service-level agreement provisions setting out the specific service levels to be met and the measurement procedure to be used in each case, the agreement must also stipulate the ancillary conditions that have to be in place so that the service provider can meet the agreed service level. These ancillary conditions not only include the client’s duty to participate and provide materials but also certain exceptions which may be system-related (test systems), function-related (batch functions) or event-related (scheduled/unscheduled maintenance) and which are not intended to form part of the assessment of whether the specific service level has been met.
For inquiries or further information: Please contact Prof. Dr. Joachim Schrey
Practice Group: IT, Outsourcing & Data Privacy
Already available: 5 Practical Tips: Service-Level Agreements (1/5)