SLA’s in Recruiting Series – Part 2: Key Steps in Establishing a Service Level AgreementComments Off

This is a 2 part series on Service Level Agreements, and includes:

Part 2:

Before establishing a service level agreement, it is important to consider the overall purpose and benefits, as well as assess the overall readiness for your organization. Overall, SLA’s can be an excellent tool in improving communications, managing expectations, clarifying responsibilities and building the foundation for a win-win relationship.

The key steps in establishing a Service Level Agreement include:

  • Gathering background information
  • Ensuring agreement about the agreement
  • Establishing ground rules for working together
  • Developing the agreement
  • Generating buy-in
  • Completing pre-implementation tasks
  • Implementing and managing the agreement

Gathering background information. Both the customer and the internal business partner need to start by gathering information so that each has a solid basis from which to negotiate. Before eliciting commitments from their service provider, customers should carefully review and clarify their service needs and priorities. And before making any commitments to customers, service providers should examine their service history and determine the level of service they can realistically provide. In addition, service providers should assess customer satisfaction to clearly understand customer concerns and establish a baseline for assessing service improvements.

Ensuring agreement about the agreement. The two parties to an agreement often have different views about the role of the SLA and what it can realistically accomplish. Both sets of views may be valid, yet sufficiently different as to cause a breakdown in SLA negotiations. Before any SLA development work is done, it is advisable for the two parties to hold an open discussion to ensure that they have a basic level of agreement about the agreement. If they don’t -and until they do- any further SLA effort may prove futile.

Establishing ground rules for working together.  In this critical, but often overlooked step the SLA developers focus not on the agreement, but on the process by which they will work together to create the agreement.

Develop the agreement. This is but one step in the process of establishing an SLA; it’s not the entire process. In this step, the two parties create a structure for the SLA document and then discuss, debate, negotiate and, over time, reach agreement about the contents of the agreement. In doing so, they may each solicit assistance, input or feedback from the others in their own organization. The duration of this step typically varies, depending on the developers’ previous experience with SLAs, their familiarity with the key elements of an SLA, the demands of their other responsibilities, and the state of the relationship between the two parties.

Generating buy-in. The result of Step 4 is a draft of an agreement, not a completed agreement. Before implementing an SLA, all members of both parties who have a stake in, or responsibility for, the success of the agreement should have an opportunity to review the draft, raise questions, and offer suggestions. Using this feedback, the developers can conduct further negotiations, gain the necessary approvals, and finalize the document. In addition to generating buy-in, this step improves the quality of the final document.

Completing pre-implementation tasks. This step entails the identification and completion of tasks that must precede SLA implementation. Such tasks might include, for example, developing tracking mechanisms, establishing reporting processes, developing procedures for carrying out stated responsibilities, communicating expectations to staff, providing pertinent training.

Implementing and managing the agreement. An agreement that is not managed dies upon implementation. Management responsibilities include providing a point of contact for problems related to the agreement, maintaining ongoing contact with the other party, conducting service reviews, coordinating and implementing modifications to the SLA, and assessing and reporting on how the two parties can further enhance their working relationship.

Establishing and implementing agreements is neither a quick or easy process. Communication and buy-in are required to implement a solid SLA.  Be clear about the intent and purpose of the agreement prior to making a decision to use them.  And, if you are not going to measure the results or drive accountability, save your time and don’t create or execute a SLA within your organization.

About Jason Buss

Talent HQ’s creator and editor is Recruiting & Diversity Leader, Jason Buss. Talent HQ is a premier online news and information channel for the Recruiting and Human Resources community.

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  • Posted on: Friday, May 30th, 2008