The ability to achieve positive outcomes after IT disruptions (yes, they can improve the relationship between the client and provider!) will hinge on the most important piece of insurance your organization has, the Service Level Agreement, or SLA. Service Level Agreements are contracts that outline how a service is delivered to a client, made popular decades ago in the telecommunications industry. With the rise of cloud-based providers—and the fact that over 90% of businesses use the cloud—the importance of SLAs has multiplied. They are so important because when there are disruptions or failures, a realistic and clear SLA can be the difference for a service provider between keeping a client and losing them; and for the client, it provides the foundation for a trusting relationship regarding a crucial function for their business. A Service Level Agreement is a binding arrangement — usually initiated by the provider — that sets the expectations, timetables, and priorities for services or applications being provided by an IT company to its client, defines acceptable parameters for continuous and efficient provision of these same services or applications, and further provides for some form of SLA Reporting. This agreement requires the provider to measure and meet minimum uptime thresholds and other requirements on a periodic (usually monthly) basis in exchange for a fee. SLA Reporting documents uptime statistics, issues that have been addressed, and other information pertinent to the provision of services or applications, usually online in the form of a dashboard. When constructing an SLA for your client, here are some basic components you should include:
The more 9’s the better… this refers to the “Table of Nines”, a calculus used to determine the accepted measure of your reliability as an IT provider… “uptime”.Typically, uptime (also known as availability) is measured by “Nines”. This measurement is the total expected uptime within a given period of time, calculated out to a specific percentage. You will see in this table that the more “nines” you have, the better. However, maintaining the top level of uptime efficiency is challenging, so setting reasonable expectations and response mechanisms in your SLA is crucial to maintaining something equally as valuable as uptime, and that is trust. Try this calculator to see what your “9X% Factor” is in projected downtime: https://uptime.ly
With an appreciation for your client’s application availability concerns now in mind, you can choose to either ignore them and haggle over contractual details during your SLA negotiation – or you can proactively address their concerns. Ignoring them isn’t a good idea; demonstrating that you understand your client’s concerns and addressing them before your client even needs to ask is the client-focused approach to SLA negotiation. This will get your relationship with your client off on the right foot.
Beyond the basic components listed earlier, here are some key SLA benefits that you should consider addressing:
So why should you plan to include an application status page in the service level agreement template you put in front of new customers?
Even though the customer may not think to ask for it, providing a self-service communications tool like an application status page that customers can use to directly access information about the current status of your application, be reminded of the application’s otherwise excellent track record, and elect to automatically receive SMS, Twitter and/or email alerts at the end user-level provides an alternate version of the application downtime story. By including an application status page in your standard service level agreement template, you are letting customers know that not only will your application be up and running > 99% of the time, but also for that unfortunate less than 1% of the time they will not have to wonder what’s going on—the inconvenience of application downtime will not be compounded by a time-consuming, confusing communications process.
Sources: CIO.com, Upwork.com
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