The Zen of Service Level Agreement Metrics – Emphasis

A series of my posts over the next weeks will look at the art of designing service level agreement metrics and SLAs. And I will try to distill this art into some key practices that have worked for me over multiple contracts – sitting on both sides of the table. We start with today’s cup of tea: Emphasis.

Zen Habit #1: EMPHASIS


Less is more

Bring focus and emphasis into the Service Level Agreement Metrics that you design. Don’t spread yourself thin and define multiple metrics across multiple dimensions. A sea of metrics will only lead to an average mediocre performance across the board.

Picture yourself after you define service level agreements and the ensuing SLA Management:

  • Do you see yourself trying to follow through on all these metrics every month?
  • How will you answer the question “do these metrics depict the true nature of our business?” ?
  • How will you decide which SLA metrics to focus on?

Ask yourself:

  • What happens if your provider is not doing well on one metric but well on the other? Is that good? Is that the behaviour you want?
  • Are you sure that the SLA metrics are not correlated with each other?
  • Which of these metrics will you use to drive your service improvement?

Sometimes the hardest part is not letting go of SLAs, but starting all over

You might have measured reams of metrics every month over the past years. And now you are trying to focus on the few that will drive the performance of your service.

How will you decide which metrics to focus on in your new service definition? Start by studying the business that your IT serves – which measures serve them best? Get to the root of your SLA definition.

  • Is it speed of reaction? Then measure the speed at which your provider implements small development jobs. Measure Function-points / week.
  • Is it predictability of budget? Then measure how accurate your provider can estimate.
  • Is it reliability of service? …… get the drift.

Add the above to your Service Level Agreement Checklist. Be extremely picky and choose the SLAs which comprehensively mirror the style of your business. In this way, when you drop the non-essential SLAs, your business client still supports the key ones that you have chosen to keep.

Learn to let go, but stay on top of your SLAs

As you define your new SLAs and move towards a new managed service, move away from measuring the inputs of the service. Start measuring the outputs of the service in your Service Level Agreement. Don’t measure your managed service by the speed at which your service provider onboards a team member. Measure your provider by the speed at which they delivers, and the reliability as per budget planned.

And finally stay on top of what you have decided to measure – if you have chosen your SLA metrics well, your laser focused attention on these metrics can lead to step changes in the service you offer.

photo credit: ecstaticist via photopin cc


  1. […] This is a continuation of my series of posts on the Zen of Service Level Agreement Metrics. […]

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